Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene / Alexandria on the Indus (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

There are maps and there are Maps

Maps are a most fascinating tool to use when travelling or simply when sightseeing from your own chair. They have been very useful for me when trying to retrace Alexander’s footsteps in a time when our modern roads did not exist and we had to rely on what the landscape had to offer with its rivers, deserts and mountain passes.

Finding our way back in time is particularly difficult when it comes to cities, most of all ancient cities that have been built and rebuilt over and over again. Such a city certainly is Rome and I find it quite exciting to learn that the best map of Rome was created in 1901 by archaeologist Rodolfo Lanciani. His map is terribly detailed since it covers buildings from antiquity up to the 19th century. It is not surprising that it is huge, 5.20 x 7.30 meters and it has been published as 46 separate sheets over a period of eight years!

It makes you wonder why such a precious document together with all Lanciani’s sources of documents, photographs, and sketches has been kept behind closed doors at the National Institute of Archaeology and Art History in Rome. Luckily, times have changed and the Italian government has made the maps available for research and most of the material has been digitalized. The Maps of Rome can be consulted by everybody at MappingRome and the other pertaining documents are freely available online as well.

It is so clever that Lanciani color coded his maps. He used black for the antique and medieval constructions, red for the sections from before 1871 (unification of Italy) and blue for the additions made after 1871. It is always a puzzle to even imagine where ancient buildings stood and the space they occupied as we are walking through today’s Rome or any other city, meaning that his work is very meaningful.

The idea of creating a full map of Rome is not new, of course, but it is quite surprising to learn that such a map on grand scale existed as early as the third century AD. It was called Forma Urbis Romae – a name Lanciani kindly reused for his own map – and measured roughly 13x18 meters. Only fragments of that ancient map have survived, some 1,186 bits and pieces of marble.

It is important to realize that Lanciani lived at the time when Rome became the capital of the newly unified Italy. There was much open and unused space that quickly would be turned into profitable building projects, much to Lanciani’s dismay as surviving ruins from the old city would be destroyed in the process. As he witnessed how many of the newly excavated ruins were exposed, he had a unique opportunity to incorporate them in his map.

Another great and inspiring mapmaker was Giambattista Nolli, who in 1748 created a map showing Rome from a bird’s eye perspective. His work was so meticulous that modern satellite maps still line up with his outlines and basic floor plans.

The digital version of Lanciani’s map is not final. It requires a few corrections and several updates with those ruins that were discovered after his lifetime. Eventually the antique black layer of his map will be broken down to match subsequent historical periods.

As a result, we will be able to enjoy a picture of Rome as it was and evolved over the centuries to become what we know today!

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