DESCRIPTION: With the develop-ment of Portuguese seafaring in the 15th century and the subsequent widening if the southern horizon, the problem of ‘harmonizing’ or reconciling the traditional world views laid down by Pliny, Ptolemy, Aristotle and Ambrose with that of the new discoveries became increasingly acute. Also typical of maps of the period, the anonymously compiled Genoese map is covered with legends in Latin, castellated towns representing major population centers, princes on their thrones, and loxodromes from the portolan tradition. A Genoese flag in the upper northwest corner of the map establishes this map’s origin, along with the coat of arms of the Spinolas, a prominent Genoese mercantile family. In the eastern Indian Ocean there is an imposing creature with a humanoid head and upper body, but with large horns and ears and wing-like red membranes joining its outstretched arms to its torso, and a fish-like tail. Turning first to Europe for a consideration of the details of the map, it will be noted that the contour of this continent is drawn with a nearer approach to accuracy than is true of the other continents, our cartographer’s greatest errors appearing in the regions which were beyond those recorded by Ptolemy and the portolan chartmakers. In the northern part of Europe we find sketched a polar bear Forma ursorum alborum, and an ermine or sable, animals whose valuable pelts were obtained by the Hansa of Novgorod and sold by them in Bruges to the Italians. In Italy we find Italia, Masca, Calabria, Si-cilia, Sardinia, Corsica, Niza, and Venezia, which last our author has made especially prominent, while Genoa itself has been omitted altogether. We also find the region Zichia designated on the north and northwest slope of the Caucasus, and, on the Black Sea, Savastopoli, Kaffa, Pidea, Flordelis, Turlo and Moncastro. On the Hellenic-Slavic peninsula we find the names Sclavonia and Albania, which had but recently withstood an attack of the Turks; here also are Macedonia, Grecia and Morea. The name Sine, or Sina, which was never used in the middle ages, and which in all probability the Genoese map-maker took from Ptolemy, suggests that the gulf is likewise from Ptolemy, and in order to find space for the new discovery it has been placed farther north. The name Sumatra, which our cosmographer, together with Conti, considers to be the native name, seems first to have become a more or less familiar one in Europe in the 14th century. Marvelous beings are represented in parts of the Indian Ocean, such as an animal with the body of a fish and the head of a woman, that is, a siren; also a fish with a humanlike head and large fins with sharp spikes thereon. We find on other world maps similar information concerning the construction of ships which sailed the Indian Ocean, as well as information concerning trade routes, such as the Catalan Atlas of 1375 (#235). It is of special interest that in a region so significant by reason of its physical features, where the Pamir Highlands, the Hindu Kush, the Himalaya and the Quen Lun unite, our cosmographer represents a second Iron gate where Alexander imprisoned the Tartars, or a wall with a strong gateway. In the interior of Southeast Asia there is a large lake with the legend: The waters of this lake are very pleasant and sweet for drinking. No rivers are represented by the Genoese cosmographer in Northeast Asia, but we find twice inscribed the legend Inaccessible mountains. As a characteristic representation of the animal world, we find sketched in Southeast Asia a snake with a human head. Turning to the continent of Africa, we find its Mediterranean coast, as on the portolan charts, well represented; likewise the Atlantic coast as far as Cape Bojador, which had recently been reached by the Portuguese. In about the latitude of this gulf on the west coast we also find one indicated on the east coast which appears to be the Bay of Zanzibar. In the representation of mountains of Africa we find the Atlas range, which stretches along the north coast eastward to the Great Syrtus, a second range west of Egypt, stretching in a southerly direction.
A monastery, or a city, with numerous towers over which a cross is drawn, is located in the lake and bears the name Maria of Nazareth.
On the Catalan world map of 1375 (#235) a war elephant is also represented in Nubia, and the same picture appears again in India with the addition of a driver.
He shows a critical approach in dealing with his sources, backing up his decisions or listing information, which is a very innovative feature. It is interesting that the maker of the Genoese map mentions peculiar customs (cannibalism, people who have no names) but no “monstrous races,” that is, people with aberrant physical characteristics, other than the pygmies. By reason of the limited space, the geographical details inserted in this section of the map are not numerous; indeed, of no part of the map can it be said that the author has crowded it with details. The Rhone, the Rhine, the Po and the Danube—the latter with an extensive delta—have been inscribed in a manner which leaves no doubt as to their identity, while into the Black Sea, which with the Sea of Azov is well drawn, flow the rivers Don and Dnieper, and into the Caspian Sea flows the Volga, though no names are affixed.
Here we also find the representation of a ruler, Lordo Rex with genuine Mongol features, the chief of the Golden Horde. To the south of Ireland, in the ocean, we find the following legend: Concerning Ireland two [stories] are told. The names of nine cities in addition are given in northern Italy: Florentia, Ravenna, Ancerra, Borletta, Bor[i], Rana, Galta, and Napoli, with one illegible. The legend on the Genoese map relates in part to the Chinese junks, in part to the trade with India, which in the 15th century was in the hands of the Arabians, from whom the Portuguese seized it. This is doubtless one of the passes lying somewhat to the west, where Scythia on the north joins with the highlands of Iran, and is probably the Khyber.
Among the cities Media Arabie appears most conspicuous, and the tower decorated with a flag, and lying on the coast, is undoubtedly Dschidda, Conti’s Zidem. In the interior are Tauria, a center of trade with remote Asia and India; and Ragis, the ancient Rhagas, a residence of Mohammedan princes, and, since the destruction by the Mongolians, a vast ruin, out of which in part the neighboring Teheran is built. Meliapur is distinguished by a Christian church with a cross and the legend, Here lies the body of the apostle Saint Thomas. These last-named cartographers call this gulf Sinus Aethiopicus, while the Genoese cartographer, the name being repeated many times, designates the mainland as Ethiopia, and his legend here reads: Contrary to the tradition of Ptolemy, this is a gulf, but Pomponius speaks of it with its islands.


Before this bay, that is, in the open waters of the Indian Ocean, is represented a fish with a swine’s head.
In the extreme south of the continent the Mountains of the Moon are represented as snow-covered, with the following explanatory legend: These are the Mountains of the Moon, which, in the Egyptian language, are called Gebelcan, in which mountains the river Nile rises, and from which, in the summer-time, when the snows melt, a very large stream flows. Today, in character with the preferences of our own culture, we are persuaded to live our everyday life in a homogeneous, absolute space, neatly separated from time, notwithstanding that Albert Einstein disproved this notion. Here we also find Lisbona, Sibilla, Taragona, Barcelona, Saragosa, and a few other names which are illegible. West of the Golden Chersonese is an animal with the tail of a fish, a humanlike head and large horns and ears, with outstretched arms so attached to the body as to make them serviceable in flying or swimming.
The other legend, near the picture of a three-masted ship, reads: The Indian Sea is filled with many islands, rocks and sand-banks. On most of the early maps of the middle ages this land of Gog and Magog is represented, but with the advance of knowledge of Asia the names were given to lands further northward.
Of the cities which are here most distinguished there may be named Sinope, which is adorned with a Genoese banner. Maabar, it should be noted, is not to be confounded with Malabar, or Melibar of Marco Polo. There was scarcely a Christian traveler from the time of Montecorvino and Marco Polo, returning with information concerning the so-called Thomas Christians, who had failed to visit Meliapur near Madras, since the place of Saint Thomas’ burial was a sacred spot not only to Christians but also to Mohammedan pilgrims. A legend here reads: This animal, called the sea hog, gathers its food with its snout like the land hog. The Blue Nile, however, is represented according to most recent information from Abyssinia; this river, uniting with the Atbara, forms one river which flows out of a large lake, in which an island is represented.
In the Indian Ocean are shown a mermaid and a fish with a devil’s head, while on land nearby is a snake with a human head. Their ships, therefore, are constructed with many compartments, to the end that if they are broken in any part, the remaining parts may be sufficiently strong to complete the course. King Cambalech, that is, the Great Khan, is represented in a picture as ruling Cathay, and the King of India is represented on horseback with sword in hand. On the Persian Gulf lies Ragan, by which Arragan is probably to be understood, whose ruins are found in the vicinity of the present Babahan, with Fars on the Ab Ergum. Meroe, however, does not, as with Ptolemy, lie on a river island, but on a river peninsula.
In Tunis a river is made to empty into the Mediterranean, which is probably the Medscherda, with one branch emptying on the north side of the Gulf of Tunis, and with another into the Gulf of Hammamet. In certain parts the colors are yet brilliant, though softened with age; in other parts they have almost disappeared, and nothing has contributed more to this destruction than the nibbing of part-on-part. Without an expert and minute palaeographical investigation, it is impossible either to accept or reject the attribution to Toscanelli, but Crino presented a case which requires further examination. Between the Dnieper and the Don the author has made a suggestive reference to the custom of that migratory folk of transporting their houses about with them on wagons drawn by oxen, a custom also attributed to the early Teutons and the Huns. These, moreover, are supplied with several masts, from three to ten, and having sails made of reeds and palm-leaves joined together, they pursue their courses with great rapidity. Catherine; and we also find here the highlands of Armenia, out of which flow the Euphrates and Tigris, these highlands being especially distinguished by a representation of Noah’s Ark.
Very properly, the name of Alexander is associated with it, since through his founding of Alexandria ad Caucasum the southern region was secured against the attack of the northern barbarians, the Scythians, who, in the language of the middle ages, were called Tartars. Northern Asia is properly made to appear as a region covered with pine forests, a representation which is to be found on no other early world map, and which seems to suggest that the Genoese mapmaker was in possession of somewhat detailed information concerning the character of the region. In the 14th century didactic poem, “Il Dittamondo” Fazio degli Uberti, described the inhabited world as long and narrow (“lungo e stretto”) like an almond (mandorla), with no apparent religious significance. Certainly, neither Ptolemy, Pomponius Mela, nor Pliny had given a location for Paradise, save for fantasies about the Fortunate Islands, and the Genoese mapmaker appears to associate classical with scientific geography. Such a wagon with driver and oxen, rather crudely sketched, is represented moving eastward, near which appears the legend, Ubi lordo errat. The other [story relates] that certain of their trees bear fruit which, decaying within, produces a worm which, as it subsequently develops, becomes hairy and feathered, and, provided with wings, flies like a bird. Longer legends take material from Conti on the funeral practice of wife burning (“if they refuse out of fear, they are forced to do it”), the cultivation of pepper, the collection of human heads in Sumatra, the sea-tight compartments of Chinese junks, the practice of tattooing, and the availability of spices and multicolored parrots.
And these [ships], loaded in particular with spices and other aromatics, sailing rather often to Mecca in Arabia, trade with the Western merchants through an exchange of their goods. South of the Caspian Sea we find a quadrangle framed by mountains that appears to be Parthia, according to the representation of Ptolemy. The people Gog appear as a group of dwarfs covered with a shield, who are attacked by two cranes. On the Sea of Marmora is Palolimen and Diascinolo which on English charts is represented as Eskel Bay, a semicircular harbor with a very good anchorage twelve kilometers east of the mouth of Susurulu Tschai.
Including in part Indo-China, the name Machin may also include Southeast Asia, for which there is support in certain 15th century references, as there are people of Southeast Asia among whom the custom of tattooing prevails; this being particularly true of the Laos and the Burmese.


If the Genoese cosmographer, in the well known regions, represents somewhat arbitrarily his watercourses, we can certainly expect to find this in the less known regions. Three human figures are introduced to represent the political and ethnographical situation, one a turbaned Mohammedan ruler of Egypt, with the inscription Dominus; the other a crowned head with black hair, carrying a banner, on which is a cross with the inscription, Presbyter Johannes Rex, denoting the Christian ruler of Abyssinia.
Oversized crowned or turbaned kings, monstrous and simply exotic animals, an elephant bearing an elaborate howdah, and scary sea monsters associate with more scientific signs, such as flags and city symbols. In this as well as in other parts of extreme southern Asia the Geonoese cosmographer seems especially to exhibit an acquaintance with the record of the distinguished Italian traveler Nicolo di Conti who referred to Ceylon as Zeilan. Cannibals inhabit a part of this island, who, continually waging war with their neighbors, make a collection of human heads as treasures, and he who has the most heads is the richest.
It stretches toward the south, terminating in a prominent Golden Chersonese, a name which the legend suggests: Here gold is found in abundance with jewels and precious stones.
In support of the statement that the Genoese cosmographer was well informed concerning Abyssinia may be found the representation of a war elephant carrying a tower filled with armed men. The Italians were then in close relations with the Golden Horde from Moncastro, Kaffa, Sudak, and Tana as centers, and were, therefore, in a position to know intimately their customs and manner of life.
Bandan, moreover, has parrots of three kinds: red ones, those of variegated color with yellow beaks, and white ones the size of hens. That rare animals at the time of the construction of our map were brought to Italy, where they were viewed with astonishment by the natives, certain observations of Benedetto Dei bear witness. This description of Taprobana appears clearly to have been taken from Conti, and it is very interesting to observe that our cartographer, not in a very successful manner, has attempted to bring the report of Conti into accord with Ptolemy.
Herein in particular does the value of the Genoese map appear in a comparison with the larger map by Fra Mauro (#249), although the latter is richer in details.
Even today in northeast Asia, there may be found a people among whom suicide is common, the result of a belief that should one depart this life before the feebleness of old age comes on, a life of happiness in the hereafter is secured. On the west coast only the name Altoluogo appears, which name one finds on almost all sea charts.
The demon-like monster in particular is evidence of the cartographer’s research in recent travel literature to find sea monsters for his map. Mention may be made of the peacock which he brought from Alexandria for Cosimo de Medici; also of a chameleon, and, more important than all, of a big serpent with 100 teeth which he seems to have brought to Florence from Beirut (possibly a reference to the crocodile). In the representation of the Indus, for example, with its five branches, our author follows Ptolemy.
This identification of Gog with the pygmies of classical antiquity is peculiar to this map.
With some degree of certainty we may identify the Wadi Draa, represented as flowing through many lakes and emptying south of Cape Bojador.
On the Mediterranean, from east to west, we find Larissa, Alexandria, Senara (in the Medicean atlas, Zunara, and Vesconte also gives Zunara). The Iron Gate, usually associated with Alexander the Great and the apocalyptic people, Gog and Magog, has an important place on the world maps of the middle ages. In the region at the foot of the mountain between the Indus and the Ganges we find the Indian desert represented.
The other reads: Here dwell the ten lost tribes of the Hebrew race with the half tribe of Benjamin, who, unrestrained by their law and being degenerates, pass an epicurean existence. This is Strabo’s Cape Korykos with the Koryken Cave, where in Greek, in Roman, in Byzantine, and also in Armenian times stood a fortification. On the Catalan world map of 1375 appears a legend with an interesting pictorial representation. Here we find Tarsso and Layazo, which in the middle ages was a harbor of Lesser Armenia, and an important terminal on the commercial route to India. The ancient Pusk olay manuscripts in the Buddhist monasteries were all written with an iron stylus on such paper, that is, on the leaves of the talipot palm, prepared by cooking and drying. The word is Persian, signifying gate or narrow pass, and is a name often met with in Persia. A mountain is indicated with a deep valley out of which a bird flies, having a piece of meat in its beak, and out of the same valley a river flows which in its course forms the boundary between India and China. As the builder of this wall, our cosmographer in his legend names Prester John who appeared on the Catalan map of 1375 in the Nubian and the Abyssinian regions, and from that time on the name seems to have been connected with the last-named region, though, as the Genoese map shows, it did not completely disappear from central Asia.
The name Sanday is unknown, and Bandan is only a corruption, and should not be confounded with Banda, as cloves do not come from that island.
It appears that at the time the Genoese map was drawn the shipping from the Persian Gulf and from Ormuz followed the coast from Oman almost to Ras-el-Hadd, and from that point with the monsoons direct to India.



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