ISAW Exhibit Examines Ancient Maps and What They Symbolized, Oct. 4


The Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University (ISAW) will host an exhibition exploring the fascinating ways in which ancient Greek and Roman societies perceived and represented both the known and unknown areas of their world.

ISAW Exhibit Examines Mapping in Antiquity, Oct. 4
Battista Agnese, Portolan Atlas, Venice 1552, fols. 15v-16r. Land Map of Palestine. © New York Public Library, Spencer Collection.

The Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University (ISAW) will host an exhibition exploring the fascinating ways in which ancient Greek and Roman societies perceived and represented both the known and unknown areas of their world.

On view October 4 – January 5, 2014, Measuring and Mapping Space: Geographic Knowledge in Greco-Roman Antiquity brings together more than forty objects, combining ancient items with Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts and printed books that draw upon ancient geographic treatises. Together they provide a broad overview of Greco-Roman theories on the shape and size of Earth, ancient methods of surveying lands, and the ways geography was used in Roman political propaganda.

Highlights of the exhibition include the 1552 Portolan Atlas, made in Venice by Battista Agnese, which combines the Roman cartographic conception of the world as a single land mass surrounded by the oceans with contemporary maritime charts. Ancient objects include an exceptional third-century BC terracotta vessel representing Scylla, the monstrous sea goddess who terrorized ships sailing the treacherous seas leading to unknown geographic regions, and a first-century BC Roman fragment of the Tabula Iliaca, a marble relief illustrating the Homeric tale of the Trojan war, which introduced ancient viewers to the geography and topography of the legendary city of Troy. A specially designed multimedia display examines the increasingly important trend of utilizing modern technologies in mapping the ancient world.

The objects in the exhibition are all on loan from prominent U.S. institutions, including the Morgan Library and Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library, the Butler Library at Columbia University, the American Numismatic Society, and the Houghton Library at Harvard University. The exhibition was made possible through the support of the Leon Levy Foundation.

The Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University is located at 15 East 84th Street in New York City. Exhibition hours are Tuesday–Sunday, 11 am–6 pm; Friday, 11 am–8 pm. Admission is free.


The Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University was established in 2006 by the Leon Levy Foundation. It is an independent center for advanced scholarly research, graduate education, and exhibitions, with a mission of cultivating connective investigations of the ancient world. It therefore encourages approaches that are geographically inclusive—encompassing cultures from the western Mediterranean to China—and that cross the traditional boundaries between academic disciplines. In addition to its doctoral and postdoctoral programs, it engages the larger scholarly community and the public with an ongoing program of exhibitions, lectures, and publications. For more information, call +1-212-992-7800 or visit www.nyu.edu/isaw.
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