Thursday, March 3, 2016

A digital map of the Roman Empire

[First posted in AWOL 22 September 2012, updated 3 March 2016]
A digital map of the Roman Empire
The project is described in this article. The digital map has been created by Johan Åhlfeldt with support from the Pelagios project.
The transmission of the tiles to any web-mapping application is permitted under a Create-Commons 3.0 (CC-BY) licence. Attribution to the Pelagios project is required and linking to this About page is encouraged.
About this Map | Visit the Pelagios Blog
The Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World was published in 2000 as part of an international effort to create a comprehensive map and a directory of all ancient places mentioned in sources and a selection of important archaeological sites. Since then two digitization efforts based on the Barrington Atlas have come into being, Pleiades , which started off as a historical gazetteer,and the DARMC project, which is a layered historical atlas. In 2010-2011, as part of a common project, the geodata of DARMC was transferred to Pleiades, though, unfortunately, not all the places in the original Barrington directory could be matched between DARMC and Pleiades, resulting in many places without precise coordinates and feature data. Nonetheless, ever since, the Pleiades gazetteer has had the ability to display most ancient places on a map, individually and with their immediate surroundings, using Google Maps API and Google Maps as background layer. In March 2012 the Ancient World Mapping Center launched a first version of an online GIS application called Antiquity À-la-carte , covering the entire Greco-Roman World. This application is also based on the Barrington Atlas, on geodata from Pleiades/DARMC, and its own digitization efforts (roads, aqueducts, ancient coastlines).
Yet, while the DARMC and Antiquity à la carte initiatives provide geographical coverage and exiting possibilites to compose custom maps in layers, until now there has been no digital map that can be used as background layer for use in a fashion similar to modern mapping applications like Google Maps. Thanks to Pelagios, this is work that I have undertaken, with a view to aiding any archaeological or historical research interested in or using online mapping. We are releasing the map with a CC-BY license, allowing anyone not only to browse and consult it but also to use it for representing their own data or to build on it their own applications, provided that they include a proper scholarly attribution. What is more, the map can be used with OpenLayers, Google and Bing maps, so that anybody, who already has these systems in place, can easily swap out the map tiles for these historical ones.
To see the basic background map (using Google Maps API), click here (default setting is Rome, zoom level 7 of 11). For information about the making of the map, sources of geodata, and a legend to the symbols, click here . For those of you interested in finding out about how the map came into being, keep reading!
And see AWOL's Roundup of Resources on Ancient Geography


  1. The links to the Pelagios sites in the third paragraph above take the user to a password-protected site at the University of Chicago; the relevant pages are not accessible to people w/out a UofC network ID and password.

  2. Thnaks for pointing this out Bob. It is a bizarre artifact of the new UoC email system which went operation for me in the last 24 hours.

    It's now fixed.