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Tabula Peutingeriana

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Tabula Peutingeriana

The Tabula Peutingeriana (Latin for "The Peutinger Map"), also anglicized as Peutinger's Tabula and the Peutinger Table, is an illustrated itinerarium (road map) showing the cursus publicus, the road network in the Roman Empire. It is kept at the Austrian National Library in Vienna. The original map upon which it is based probably dates to the 4th or 5th century and was itself based on a map prepared by Agrippa during the reign of the emperor Augustus (27 BC – AD 14). The present map is a 13th-century copy and covers Europe (without the Iberian Peninsula or the British Isles), North Africa, and parts of Asia (the Middle East, Persia, India).



The Tabula is thought to be the distant descendant of a map prepared under the direction of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, the friend and ally of emperor Augustus. After Agrippa's death in 12 BC, that map was engraved on marble and placed in the Porticus Vipsania, not far from the Ara Pacis in Rome. That early imperial dating for the archetype of the map is also supported by Glen Bowersock, based on numerous details of Roman Arabia that look entirely anachronistic for a 4th-century map. Therefore, he also points to the map of Vipsanius Agrippa. This chronology is also consistent with the presence on the Tabula of Pompeii, which was never rebuilt after the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79.

The original map, of which this is a unique copy, was last revised in the fourth or early fifth century. It shows the city of Constantinople, founded in 328, and the prominence of Ravenna, seat of the Western Roman Empire from 402 to 476, which suggests a fifth-century revision according to Levi and Levi. The presence of certain cities of Germania Inferior that were destroyed in the mid-fifth century also provides a terminus ante quem.

Map description

The Tabula Peutingeriana is the only known surviving map of the Roman cursus publicus, the state-run road network; it was created by a monk in Colmar in 1265. It is a parchment scroll, 0.34 m high and 6.75 m long, assembled from eleven sections, a medieval reproduction of the original scroll. It is a very schematic map: the land masses are distorted, especially in the east-west direction. The map shows many Roman settlements, the roads connecting them, rivers, mountains, forests and seas. The distances between the settlements are also given. In total no less than 555 cities and 3,500 other place names are shown. The three most important cities of the Roman Empire – Rome, Constantinople and Antioch – are represented with special iconic decoration. Besides the totality of the Empire, the map shows the Near East, India and the Ganges, Sri Lanka (Insula Taprobane), and even an indication of China. It shows a "Temple to Augustus" at Muziris, one of the main ports for trade to the Roman Empire on the southwest coast of India. In the West, the absence of Morocco, the Iberian Peninsula, and the British Islands indicates that a twelfth original section has been lost in the surviving copy; it was reconstructed in 1898 by Konrad Miller.

The table appears to be based on "itineraries", lists of destinations along Roman roads, as the distances between points along the routes are indicated. Travelers would not have possessed anything so sophisticated as a modern map, but they needed to know what lay ahead of them on the road and how far. The Peutinger table represents these roads as a series of stepped lines along which destinations have been marked in order of travel. The shape of the parchment pages accounts for the conventional rectangular layout. However, a rough similarity to the coordinates of Ptolemy's earth-mapping gives some writers a hope that some terrestrial representation was intended by the unknown compilers.

The stages and cities are represented by hundreds of functional place symbols, used with discrimination from the simplest icon of a building with two towers to the elaborate individualized "portraits" of the three great cities. The editors Annalina and Mario Levi concluded that the semi-schematic, semi-pictorial symbols reproduce Roman cartographic conventions of the itineraria picta described by Vegetius, of which this is the sole testimony.


The map was discovered in a library in the city of Worms by German scholar Conrad Celtes in 1494, who was unable to publish his find before his death and bequeathed the map in 1507 to Konrad Peutinger, a German humanist and antiquarian in Augsburg, after whom it is named. The Peutinger family kept the map until 1714, when it was sold. It bounced between several royal and elite families until it was purchased by Prince Eugene of Savoy for 100 ducats; upon his death in 1737, it was purchased for the Habsburg Imperial Court Library (Hofbibliothek) in Vienna, where it remained. It is today conserved at the Austrian National Library at Hofburg in Vienna.

In 2007, the map was placed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, and in recognition of this, it was displayed to the public for a single day on 26 November 2007. Because of its fragile condition, it is not ordinarily on display.

Printed editions

The map was copied for Ortelius and published shortly after his death in 1598. A partial first edition was printed at Antwerp in 1591 (Fragmenta tabulæ antiquæ) by Johannes Moretus, who would print the full Tabula in December 1598, also at Antwerp.

Jan Jansson published another version in Amsterdam, c.1652.

In 1753 Franz Scheyb published a copy and in 1872 Konrad Miller, a German professor, was allowed to copy the map. Several publishing houses in Europe made copies. In 1892 William and Northgate published a copy, and in 1911 a sheet was added to show the missing sections of the British Isles and the Iberian peninsula.


Tabula Peutingeriana Wikipedia

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