THE MAPPING OF THE EARTH
Our division of the world into continents derives from the practice of dividing the Oikoumene into a part east of Egypt, or Asia, and a part west of Egypt, which was further divided into two parts by the Mediterranean, the part north of the Mediterranean being Europe and the part south of it being Africa.
Europe and Africa were parts of the world west of meridian 29°50’E, the Western Axis of Egypt (known to the ancients as the meridian of Alexandria). Europe was further divided by parallel 45°12’N. Europe was considered as extending as far north of this parallel as it extends south. Since the dividing line between Africa and Europe was parallel 36°00’N, the northern half of Europe was understood to extend to 54°24’N, which is the parallel of the northern coast of Germany on the Baltic Sea.
Parallel 45°12N was selected as the horizontal axis of Europe for several reasons. First of all, it marks the middle line between the Equator and the Pole, with an adjustment of 12 for the correction necessary in trigonometric calculations, because the Earth is not a perfect sphere: in a geoid the degree of longitude at 45°12N has the length that it would have at latitude 45°00N if the Earth were truly a sphere. Secondly, parallel 45°12’N marks the lower course of the Danube and the course of the Po. The mouth of the Danube was considered placed at 45°12’N, 29°50’E, on the meridian of the Western Axis of Egypt. The mouth of the Danube was one of the fundamental geodetic points, being the SW angle of the geodetic square of 10° by 10° used to map Scythia and the NW angle of the rectangle of 4° by 10° used to map the Black Sea, according to the geographical system followed by Herodotus.
Meridian 8°14’E was considered the extreme western limit of Africa and Europe. This meridian was placed three units of 7°12 east of the Western Axis of Egypt (29°50E)–each representing 1/50 of the earths circumference. This meridian was seen as running from the point where the Equator intersects the western coast of Africa to the point where the same meridian is intersected by latitude 63°00’N, taken as the extreme northern limit of the Oikoumene. In other words, meridian 8°14’E, as the extreme western limit of Europe and Africa, ran from the point Atlantis to the point Thule. Europe and Africa to the west of this meridian were considered an appendage, peninsulas and islands. In Greek mythology, meridian 8°14’E is the western limit of the world, beyond which there is the land of the night, the land of the dead. Herodotus still speaks of Africa and Europe to the west of meridian 8°14’E as unmapped and unknown.
The portions of Africa and Europe to the west of meridian 8°14’E were considered as belonging to a different part of the world, the area of the Outer Sea (Atlantic Ocean). To understand this aspect of ancient world cosmology, we must visualize the northern hemisphere as projected on the four faces of a cube (as in a Mesopotamian ziggurat) or on the four faces of a pyramid (as an Egyptian pyramid). For the people of Egypt and the Near East, their world belonged to the face of the pyramid or cube that included the bulk of Africa and Europe, extending for 90° from the meridian of the peninsula of Malacca to meridian 8°14’E. Areas to the west of the basic meridian were considered to be beyond the edge, on a different face of the projection of the hemisphere, a face that included an Atlantic world that was composed mostly of water and of islands. This fact is the background of the myth of the sunken continent of Atlantis reported by Plato. The next face included North America from the Florida coast to Alaska. The following face included China and Asia from the Bering Sea to the meridian of Malacca.
In terms of the division of the 90 degrees of longitude that comprised the Oikoumene, there were two radically different conceptions. The overall concept of a division of the earth’s circumference into 360 degrees originated in Babylonia. Superimposed over this sexagesimal system was a conception based on decimal reckoning, which permitted to Egypt to assume a privileged position on the face that represented the Oikoumene. According to this conception the Oikoumene was not divided into nine segments of 10 degrees each as in the Babylonian system, but into 12½ units of 7°12 each. The reason was that it allowed half a unit to be reserved for the breadth of Egypt, while the remaining twelve units comprised the rest of the Oikoumene—three units to the west of Egypt and nine such units to the east of it. This conception was adopted as official by the Persian Empire, because by it Persepolis, being three units of 7°12 west of Egypt, came to be the center of the Oikoumene. This Persian conception was adopted by Herodotus. But even though Herodotus view was influenced by Persian accounts, it was in perfect agreement with Greek mythology.
Hellenistic geographers, because they had lost this universal vision, were able to develop conceptions that were more practical in terms of the Old World. They extended the limits of the Oikoumene to include Western Africa and Western Europe and to include China. For the area that concerns use here, Ptolemy duplicated the extension of the Oikoumene west of the Western Axis of Egypt from three units of 7°12 to twice as many. According to his system, the western limit of the Oikoumene is meridian 13°22W. This meridian can be considered anchored on the Canary Islands (Isla Alegranza: 29°28N, 13°29’W) which have the advantage of being close to the basic latitude of 30°00’N. The westernmost meridian of Ptolemy permits the mapping of the western coast of Africa from the Pillars of Heracles to latitude 12°N, and it permits the inclusion of all of Europe up to the eastern limit of Iceland. (Dalatangi Lighthouse: 64°48N, 13°50W). Ptolemy placed his meridian 0° (henceforth referred to as 0°P) at the Canary Islands, called by him Fortunate Isles, and counted the degrees east from it. But as a concession to the Babylonian system, he counted each unit of 7°12 of longitude (representing 1/50 of the earth’s circumference) as 10°, while making the Oikoumene 3 such units wider both on the east and on the west. Thus by adding six units of ten degrees to the existing twelve Ptolemy came up with an Oikoumene of 180°P (equivalent to 133°12’ of our degrees). The meridian of the Western Axis of Egypt became meridian 60°00P. The older meridian of the extreme west, 8°14’E, became meridian 30°00P.
I have explained that the so-called T-O-maps provide the ancient mathematical frame for the geography of Europe. It may be expedient that, in order to dispose of the deep-rooted prejudices of our contemporary scholars, I repeat that these maps do not manifest the geographical ignorance prevailing during the Dark Ages of Europe. These maps appear in manuscripts written between the Carolingian Renaissance and the introduction of the printing press for the simple reason that practically all the manuscripts of ancient Latin authors that we possess date from this period.
These maps make clear that the geography of the Old World west of Egypt was based on meridian 29°50’E, the Western Axis of Egypt (the so-called meridian of Alexandria). This area was divided by parallels perpendicular to the mentioned meridian. The southern limit was the Equator and the northern limit was parallel 63°06'N, obtained by doubling the original extension of the Oikoumene from the Equator to parallel 31°30'N, the latitude of Behdet in Egypt and the northern limit of the Oikoumene in the sky.
In latitude Europe extends from 36°00'N to 63°00'N.
The area west of Egypt was divided into two parts by the Mediterranean. The area south of the Mediterranean was called Africa or more exactly Libya, and the area north of it was called Europe. The dividing line between Europe and Africa was parallel 36°00'N, at times changed to 36°12'N for the reason that I have explained.
Originally the western limit of the mapped area west of Egypt was placed at meridian 10°04’E, the so-called meridian of Carthage, because this meridian fits the geography of Africa: it marks the westernmost point of the Atlantic Ocean in the Bight of Biafra, near the Equator and the easternmost point of the western coast of Tunisia, at the point where one left the Mediterranean to enter Lake Tritonis. This meridian marked the edge of Our Quarter of the northern hemisphere, which begins at the east on meridian 100°04’E, the meridian of the peninsula Malay and the intersection of the Equator with the coast of the island of Sumatra. The next quarter, which includes China, ends where parallel 63°00'N intersects meridian 170°04'W, at Lawrence Island, marking the meridian of the extreme limit of Asia on the Bering Strait (Mys Dezhneva: 66°01'N, 169°43 W).
To the west of meridian 10°04’E there begins a different quarter of the world which ends at meridian 80°04'W, the meridian on which there begins the mass of North America at Palm Beach, Florida, the meridian of the Isthmus of Panama and of the intersection of the Equator with the western coast of South America. This quarter of the world was the Atlantic world, conceived as being mostly water except for islands and peninsulas. It is the realm of Oceanus, the land of Hesperia, the land of the dead.
Hence, western Africa and western Europe were conceived as peninsula belonging to a different part of the world. Since Our World was conceived as projected on the face of a cube or on the face of a pyramid for an extension of 90° of longitude, the world to the west of meridian 10°04’E was considered as beyond the edge (as if the western coast of Africa on the Bight of Biafra and the western coast of Tunisia were on a ridge) and in unmapped territory. The mapping of the Atlantic quarter of the world belonged to other maps, maps that can be called Carthaginian.
It was conceived that the sun set on meridian 10°04’E. But the course of the sun along the Ecliptic was conceived as physically marked on the surface of the Earth, as it is marked on some of our globes. It was conceived that the line of the Ecliptic reached its highest point at the intersection with the Main Axis of Egypt, meridian 31°24’E. This was the point where the sun reached the Tropic at latitude 23°51N. Since the line of the Ecliptic reached its highest point at 23°51N, 31°24’E, it cut askew across the area west of Egypt, reaching the Equator at a point 23°51 to the west. This point was at the Equator at 7°23’E, which was the island of Sao Tome, called the island of the Gorgones, the three Gorgones representing the intersection of meridian, Equator, and Ecliptic. For the mathematization of the geography of Africa, it was found convenient to assume that the meridian zero is that passing through the island of Sao Tome. In order to rationalize the use of this meridian, it was imagined that once there was land between the island of Sao Tome and the meridian 10°04’E. It was also assumed that there used to be land between the island of Sao Tome and the southern coast of Africa which runs along parallel 5°00'N. For this reason Plato describes the island of Sao Tome as being the remainder of the city of Atlantis which had territory later sunk under the sea, which extended north to 5°00'N and west to meridian 10°04’E. The supposed lost territory of Atlantis is one of those geodetic rectangles or squares that were used to bring the ideal data of mathematical geography in agreement with the physical features of the Earth.
From the point of view of Egyptian geography the northern coast of Africa would have had an ideal outline if it had stretched along parallel 31°00'N, the line of the Delta minus the usual shifts of 6 or 12 to the north. But Africa west of meridian 10°04’E reached latitude 36°00 (or 36°06 or 36°12'N); hence it was assumed that the entire body of Africa west of meridian 10°04’E was shifted 5° to the north. This made Africa west of meridian 10°04’E occupy a space of 31° of latitude, which is the extension of eastern Africa north of the Equator. I mention this assumed displacement of western Africa by 5° to the north because a similar displacement was assumed to have occurred in Europe. It must be remembered that displacements of this kind were not taken as real physical occurrences, but were conceived as mnemonic formulas. For the mapping of Europe one did not use either meridian 10°04’E or the meridian of the island of Sao Tome, but the intermediary meridian 8°14’E. This meridian is the middle axis of the lost territory of Atlantis as described by Plato. It corresponded perfectly with the physical features of Europe and had the advantage of being three units of 7°12 west of the Western Axis of Egypt, and also 23°10 west of the Main Axis of Egypt. The last interval of 23° could be considered a round figure for the figure 23°51 of the Ecliptic and the Tropic, and also permitted to map the rest of Our Quarter west of Egypt with 10 units of 7°12, reaching the total length of 90°. Meridian 8°14’E balanced the meridian of Persepolis which is 3 units of 7°12 east of the Main Axis of Egypt and 23°10 east of the Western Axis of Egypt. Persepolis was 44°46 east of meridian 8°14’E, a difference of longitude which was almost the perfect figure 45°00.