Sezione Storica – Fondo Cartografico Losardo – Sala IX (Tav. I)

Italia Antica (1500 ca.) (showcase, Hall IX) (pl. I)

A XVI century copy of a map made by Claudius Ptolemy, the geographer and astronomer from Alexandria of Egypt, with a representation of Ancient Italy. Claudius Ptolemy conceived an equidistant conic and homeotheric projection, as well as a geocentric theory (known as the Ptolemaic system), in which all the astronomical concepts known until then were collected. The model placed the earth at the centre of the universe and the sun, the planets and the stars around it. In fact, the Ptolemaic system prevailed for nearly fourteen centuries, until it was supplanted by the heliocentric model of Copernicus.

Ptolemy was the founder of plane and spherical trigonometry. He also wrote a Geography, where he collected the geographical knowledge available up to his time. Moreover he also provided ideas, such as the determination of the coordinates or the construction of the grid, for the creation of cartographic documents.

The drawing (590×450 mm), with a marginal graduation but lacking a real scale, is definitely a XV-century transcript of a  Ptolemaic code (which will probably inspire even the XVII-century copy by Magini). It features a large number of placenames and ethnonyms in Latin, which recall the main ethne of Italy and the major cities of the ancient times – mostly Roman, but also some Greek ones.

The perspective of the Italian peninsula is deformed: Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica are just a backdrop for the representation, characterized by a lively and pleasant chromatism.