If You Happen To Be In New York City

New York University’s Institute For The Study Of The Ancient World is hosting an exhibition that speaks to those of us who love maps and the ideas they represent in historic as well modernistic terms. (GPS-guided navigation systems, we love you, but this is about your ancestors). Those ideas can be as simple as “Getting From Here To There, In Hindsight,” which might have been a subtitle to this exhibition:

Measuring and Mapping Space will explore the ways in which ancient Greek and Roman societies understood, perceived, and visualized both the known and the unknown areas of their world. It brings together more than forty objects, combining ancient artifacts with Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts and printed books that draw upon ancient geographic treatises. Together, they provide a fascinating overview of Greco-Roman theories of the shape and size of the Earth, ancient methods of surveying and measuring land, and the ways in which geography was used in Roman political propaganda. A specially designed multimedia display examines the increasing importance of modern technologies in mapping the ancient world.

Thanks to John Noble Wilford, writing in The New York Times, for this description:

Long before people could look upon Earth from afar, completing a full orbit every 90 minutes, the Greeks and the Romans of antiquity had to struggle to understand their world’s size and shape. Their approaches differed: the philosophical Greeks, it has been said, measured the world by the stars; the practical, road-building Romans by milestones. As the Greek geographer Strabo wrote at the time: “We may learn from both the evidence of our senses and from experiences, that the inhabited world is an island, for wherever it has been possible for men to reach the limits of the earth, sea has been found, and this sea we call ‘Oceanus.’ And whenever we have not been able to learn by the evidence of sense, there reason points the way.”

Strabo’s words will greet visitors to a new exhibition, “Measuring and Mapping Space: Geographic Knowledge in Greco-Roman Antiquity,” which opens Friday at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, at 15 East 84th Street in Manhattan. The show runs through Jan. 5. Roger S. Bagnall, director of the institute, an affiliate of New York University, said the exhibition would not only cross ancient borders and cultures but also modern disciplines. “Our exhibitions and digital teams,” he said, “present a 21st-century approach to the ancient mentality concerning geographic space and how it is represented.” The show brings together more than 40 objects that provide an overview of Greco-Roman geographical thinking — art and pottery, as well as maps based on classical texts. (Hardly any original maps survive; the ones in the exhibition were created in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance from Greek and Roman descriptions.)

Read more of his article here.

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