Image+animation/creative editing by EL



Miletus to Alexandria

Intermediate period

Alexandria to Byzantium

Byzantium to Fiorenza

The expanded World






Anaximandre at the start of the Greek era of cartography the early 6th cent. BCE and Ptolemy at the end in the early 2nd cent. CE






The geography of the Greek era of cartograpy: from Miletus (Anaximandre, 6th cent. BCE) to Alexandria (Ptolemy, 2nd cent. CE) and through the Middle Ages to Constantinople (Planoudis/Andronicus II Paleologos, 13th-14th cent.) and then to Fiorenza/Florence (Chrysoloras, 1409)







The scaled world by the Ionians, 6th cent. BCE





Anaximandre - the scaled world

Hecataeus - the scaled world with the three continents
















Dicaearchus - the introduction of a orthogonal reference axes for the positioning of places with their distances (in stadia) from the axes centered at the Rhodes




Eratosthenes - the map with the orthogonal reference frame







Eratosthenes - the measurement of the size of the spherical earth









Crates - the spherical model of the earth with the known Oecumene and the hypotheses of the (unknown) Perioeci, Antioeci and Antipodes separated from Oecumene by the torrid zone













The names in the Greek era of cartography: in light-blue are those directly related to cartography; in green are the supporting contributors; in violet the navigators; in pink the narrators; in white those with relevant touches
















Al Idrisi - the culmination of Arab cartography from the High Middle Ages recalling the Ptolemy's Geographia tradition. A derived map from Idrisi's Tabula Rogeriana mid-12th cent. Source: BnF









One of the oldest manuscripts of Ptolemy's Geographia: the Vatopedi Codex Gr, late 13th - early 14th cent.















The expansion of Oecumene from Anaximandre / Hecataeus, 6th cent. BCE to Alexander the Great and Eratosthenes, 4th and 3rd cent. BCE to Ptolemy, 2nd cent. CE






Longitude determination through navigation, combining the duration of sail, distance with time in association with eclipses of the moon and stellar orientation - Animation EL

The periods

Majors - The majors of the Greek contribution to World-cartography is covering the period from the Ionians of Miletus with Anaximandre and Hecataeus to the Alexandrians with Ptolemy and his masterpiece Geographia

See Ptolemy

Next is the re-emerge of Geographia after almost a thousant years in silence and its becoming "operational" thanks to Maximus Planudes at Constantinople and the closing of the majors with the transfer of Geographia to Fiorenza/Florence by Emmanuel Chrysoloras

See Ptolemy+

Minors - In the next period, of the Rennaisance and the Age of Enlightenment, the contribution of the Greeks to World-cartography is internationally classified in its (relatively speaking) minors, including Nikolaos Sofianos, the portolan-makers of the Venetian school (e.g. Xenodochos, Sideris, Millo) and the 17th-18th scholars of the Modern Greek Enlightenment (e.g. Meletios, Notaras, Rigas, Gazis)

See Enlightenment

Despite the classification of this Greek cartographic presence in the minors of World-cartography, for the modern Greek history associated with the national regeneration of the Greeks it is considered of highest importance for the formation, in 18th cent., of a cultural base that led, at the early 19th cent., to the national independence and the creation of a new state for the Greeks

See 19th Century


Most of the images are composed by EL in the context of relevant lectures on Ancient Greek cartography


E. Livieratos 2008, 25 Centuries of Cartography and Maps. A tour from the Iones to Ptolemy and Rigas (el) Thessaloniki: Ziti Publishers, p. 263, 210x281 mm, ISBN 978-960-456-076-9. It is the second revised edition of the 1998 book with almost the same title. Contact: sales<at>; info | sample


















Vimatistes (Bematists)/step-measurers [ more ]



Angular measurement instruments

Orthogonal directions implementation on the ground


Heron - the precursor of theodolite (left) and the dromometron for the measurement of distances at sea (right)














































Ferjan Ormeling, Utrecht, ICA Secretary General, at the Vatopedi Monastry in Holy Mount Athos, in front of the Ptolemy's Geographia Vatopedi Codex Gr, 2006

The Greeks

The Greeks offered theory to geography and cartography but also a pragmatic foundation following the previous knowledge of the civilisations to their South-East. The concepts of the spherical shape of the earth, the observations and measurements, the size of the spherical earth, the scale, the reference system used in positioning, the parametrised connection of the convex earth spherical surface with the concave celestial spherical surface, the orientation, the representation under projection on the plane, the scaled representation on a model-sphere, even the introduction of proper terminology together with the extension of criticism into geographic and cartographic reasoning, the concept of altases, the assignment of coordinates (i.e. pairs of numbers) to geographic features for their placement on a referenced spherical and/or plane surfaces, are some of the ideas the Greeks have introduced and developed from the 6th century BCE to the 2nd century CE. Two key personalities of this long Greek era of cartography are both representatives of its last period: Strabo and Ptolemy. From the first we learn what happened in the preceeding period since he is the only survived source of knowledge in cartography concerning persons and achievements before him and from the second we heired his monumental Geographia the text with which the Renaissance-World learned how to make maps with numbers, as it is made so far


The ancient historic presence of Greeks in the course of cartography is classified in the following periods:

Miletus to Alexandria

The long way of Ancient Greek cartography starts and ends in the periphery of the Greek world, if postulating as metropolis the land and sea around Athens: the kick-off was in Miletus by the disciples of Thales

Anaximandre is the man who started the seven-centuries-long way, followed by Hecataeus. The trip concluded with the apogee of Geographia the masterpiece by Ptolemy, written in Alexandria: a work which for the first time assigned numbers (digits) to the textual description of the earth's surface together with toponymy and thematic atributes to geographic places. With Ptolemy the representation of the earth, as shaped spherical by Aristotle and sized by Eratosthenes, transforms from textual to literaly digital!

Anemologion/the definition of the wind-directions: Aristotle's standard (left); Timosthenes' standard with the addition of geographical directions (right). After the introduction of the compass in the Mediterranean its combination with the anemologion improved navigation technology associated with the use of the portolan-maps on board

Intermediate period

In the intermediate period, between the Miletians and the hellenistic Alexandrians, featured and less knowledgeable milestones of thought, contributed in forming what it is considered today as the foundation of cartography which we follow and use so far. From Anaximandre to Ptolemy the list of names and achievements is long, as it is long the list of references on the issue, with most representative the volume on Greek cartography of the series of the foundamental editorial project on the History of Cartography edited by J. Brian Harley and David Woodward 1987, Vol. 1; Chicago: University Press



Marinus - the normal cylindrical projection


Alexandria to Byzantium

After Ptolemy's Geographia, the work culminating the Greek cartographic thinking since Anaximandre, the now dominant medieval cartography is based on a new perception of the World and Cosmos shadowing the preceeding Greek reason and developing a different type of symbolic representation (here the term shadow has a schematic rather than an evaluative meaning) with some bright exceptions from the Arab contribution in cartography

The Greek presence in the field of cartography submerges, for historically obvious reasons, together with Ptolemy's Geographia which, although referenced in medieval texts (cf. P. Gautier Dalché), it is now evidently ignored in the cartographic representations since it does not belong to the dominant thinking of the period

Byzantium to Fiorenza

The Greek cartographic legacy comes back in the mid-late 13th cent. when Maximus Planudes, a scholar-monk at the Holy Saviour in Chora Monastery at Constantinople, "discovers" Ptolemy's Geographia under Andronicus II Palaeologus. The cartographic implementation of Geographia in Constantinople starts the long period of its enormous impact in the new cartographic thinking of the West for the coming centuries, especially after its transfer to Fiorenza/Florence and the translation of this Ptolemy's masterpiece into Latin (1409), under the supervision of the prominent Byzantine scholar Emmanouel Chrysoloras

Ptolemy's Geographia translated into Latin, Florence 1409, under the aegis of Emmanuel Chrysoloras

The expanded World

With Ptolemy's Geographia the known World of the Greeks since Anaximandre / Hecataeus and Eratosthenes is now expanded, always to the East, with almost 7,000 places defined on the surface of the spherical earth with their coordinates (longitude - latitude), their toponyms and the description of the geographic region they belong

The Ptolemy model will change only after the Great Discoveries in the second half of 15th cent.

A relevant book (in Greek): E. Livieratos 2008, 25 Centuries of Cartography and Maps. A tour from the Iones to Ptolemy and Rigas. Thessaloniki: Ziti Publishers, p. 263, 210x281 mm, ISBN 978-960-456-076-9. It is the second revised edition of the 1998 book with almost the same title. Contact: sales<at>; info | sample