The Earliest States of Eastern Europe
DG-2023, 401-427

The Southern Black Sea in Ptolemy’s Geography

M. Manoledakis

Ptolemy stands out among the ancient geographers as one of the most prominent ones and certainly the most influential one throughout the history of cartography that followed his era. Geographical research, which had displayed significant achievements by his time, culminated with his celebrated Geography, a methodologically trustworthy work, the first preserved one providing co-ordinates for thousands of places around the then known world. In this paper we will focus on the way in which the southern Black Sea appears in the Ptolemaic record. We shall deal with the coast’s division into provinces, the references to indigenous peoples, as well as all the places, both settlements and geographical features, which are listed in the relevant chapters of the Geography with their co-ordinates, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of this treatment. We will finish with a short evaluation of the way in which the area under study is presented in the Ptolemaic record. In this evaluation several characteristics of the Ptolemaic work should be taken into consideration: First of all, we cannot say for sure which parts of the text that is preserved today do indeed belong to Ptolemy, since some data might have undergone changes or corrections in several periods of time. Besides, the Geography has been preserved and transmitted to us through several codices from the 13th to 15th centuries, and there are numerous cases where these do not agree with each other on a place’s co-ordinates, exact name or other details. Finally, we should always keep in mind that Ptolemy’s Geography is a general geographical work dealing with the whole Oecumene without the intention to deal more thoroughly with a specific area, such as the Black Sea. All these notwithstanding, our examination shall confirm that Ptolemy’s Geography is still a valuable geographical work that fully justifies its enormous impact on later geographers and cartographers.

Ptolemy, ancient geography, ancient cartography, southern Black Sea, geographers, north Anatolia


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