(text by Andreas Hadjipaschalis)
The earliest surviving reference to a map in western literature occurs in the Histories of Herodotus and includes Cyprus. Around 500 B.C. Aristagoras, the tyrant of Miletus, showed a bronze tablet to the Spartans depicting “the territories of the lonians, Lydians, Cappadocians and Cilicians and then enumerated the adjacent seas and indicated the island of Cyprus and finally Susa,” the seat of the kings of Persia.
The next Greek to put Cyprus on the map, so to speak, was Strabo (64 B.C.-21 A.D.), who seems to have had considerable knowledge about the island. Based on internal evidence, one may, in fact, presume that Strabo personally toured the island: following his final remarks on the description of Asia Minor, he notes: “We will now tour Cyprus, which is just to the south of this peninsula.”
He then goes on to describe in detail the position of Cyprus and the distances between various towns and their relevant position on a map. It must be supposed that he constructed a Cyprus map along with a world map, as he makes a note to that effect in his Geography.
To the Romans, who were destined to become masters of most of the known world, Cyprus must have been important. This is why it features prominently, and out of all proportion, on their map, known to us as the Tabula Peutingeriana (Peutinger Map). It occupies the whole of the Eastern Mediterranean between Asia Minor and Egypt.
The first man to give a reasonable shape to the geographical features of Cyprus, and for that matter to the whole world, was Claudius Ptolemaeus, known as Ptolemy. This Greek mathematician, astronomer and geographer lived in Roman Egypt during the second century A.D.
Ptolemy’s Geography is a thorough discussion of the geographic knowledge of the Greco-Roman world. The manuscripts, which are still preserved in libraries today, are from copies of manuscripts that survived due to the diligence of Byzantine scholars. These manuscripts fall into two groups. One version, the A-group, consists of a world map and twenty-six regional maps-ten of Europe, four of Africa and twelve of Asia. It is this set which accompanies the Latin translations made in the fifteenth century and used for the earliest printed editions. Cyprus is shown on the map of the fourth part of Asia, which also includes Syria and Palestine.
The second version, the B-group, contains sixty-four detailed maps of smaller areas. Because of its important position in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Greek world in general, Cyprus was depicted separately as one of the sixty-four areas of the B- group.
By the end of the fifteenth century, Ptolemy could not fully satisfy the demands of Renaissance scholars. For this reason new maps, known as tabulae novae, started to appear, together with the old ones in the Geography, displaying new knowledge.
The first printed tabulae novae for Cyprus appeared on the map of Asia Minor in the Strasbourg edition of 1513. Cyprus’ shape and contents are a departure from the Ptolemaic tradition. It is obvious that the cartographer, the famous Martin Waldsemuller, used the portolan charts of his period as his sources for Cyprus. The next development in the Cyprus tabulae novae series does not appear until several editions later, when the other great cartographer, Giacomo Gastaldi, engraved the maps for the 1548 edition of the Geography, and Girolamo Ruscelli edited the edition of 1561 in Venice. These tabulae novae provide new information based on Venetian prototypes, but because of the reduced scale, the contents are minimal.
The real development, however, in tabulae novae in the editions of Ptolemy comes with the edition of 1596 by Antonio Magini in Venice. Cyprus is given special treatment by Magini and is depicted entirely on its own. It is based on the important map of Cyprus by the Dutch cartographer Ortelius (1573) and referred to in greater detail later.
The Middle Ages
Cyprus does not feature prominently on the mappae mundi (the world maps) of the Middle Ages. There was not much naval traveling or campaigning to be done during the Middle Ages, so the island was just a blob on the world map.
As far as Cyprus is concerned, however, a most important source of information on navigation and charting is the Byzantine Stadiasmos or Periplus. Even more important are the portolan charts on which the island featured prominently because of the existing links between it and Venice and Genoa during the fourteenth century. There is no reason to believe that contemporary chart-makers, or people acting as informants to the Venetian or Genoese chart-makers, actually visited and stayed on the island during this period of portolan chart development.
As drawn in the portolan charts, Cyprus is certainly not the haphazard affair displayed in the medieval mappae mundi. The oldest portolan chart existing today, the late-thirteenth-century Carte Pisane, gives reasonable representation of the island, especially of the southern coastline. As regards place names, the Carte Pisane includes eleven, which gradually increase to twenty-four in the early-fifteenth-century Venetian charts.
The next development in the mapping of Cyprus comes in the isolaria, which were the successors to the portolan charts. The first isolario to contain a map of Cyprus was published in manuscript form by Bartolomeo dalli Sonetti in c.1480. The island is presented by itself with the most up-to-date shape and contains sixty-two new medieval place names, some of them inland. Soon after (c.1485), printed editions of the same work appeared. Although we have no direct evidence that dalli Sonetti himself charted Cyprus, we do have a great deal of circumstantial evidence to suggest that he was actually on board the Venetian trireme Loredana which, on one of its regular pilgrimages to Jerusalem in 1458, stopped at the island, where several of its passengers met members of the High Court in Nicosia, the capital.
Bartolomeo dalli Sonetti’s map of 1480 signalled the renaissance of Cyprus cartography and was the crowning achievement of the gradual development of the sea-chart over several centuries during the Middle Ages.
The Sixteenth Century
During the sixteenth century, several other isolaria were also published. Among those that include a map of Cyprus are Benedetto Bordone’s isolario, published in Venice in 1528, and, later, Camocio’s, Donato Bertelli’s and S. Pinargenti’s, also published in Venice during the 1570s. Tomasso Porcacci’s “Isole piu famose del Mondo” was printed in Venice in 1572 and republished on subsequent occasions. These isolaria are not notable for any original work as far as Cyprus is concerned.
With the Vetenians in possession of the island between 1489 and 1571, Cyprus cartography during the sixteenth century was monopolised by the new rulers, so it is not surprising that the next important and valuable map of the island came from the hands of the well-known Venetian cartographer Matheo Pegano. Working on woodblocks, as was his custom, Pagano published the most up-to-date map of Cyprus in 1538.
The Cypriot chronicler Florio Boustron left a manuscript map of Cyprus c.1560 accompanying his Chronicle. The map is important, as it introduces a new shape and is the first to show the medieval administrative districts of Cyprus. Nicosia appears for the first time on this map with its Greek name Lefkosia. The Cypriot historian Steffano Lusignano’s map of 1575/6 cannot, however, claim any originality.
In the mid-sixteenth century there was great activity in the production and publication of loose-sheet maps of Cyprus as well as other parts of the world, the main centres being Venice and Rome. Cyprus maps of this type are those by F. Bertelli, 1562, G. Calapoda Cretensis, 1566 (he copies M. Pagano), C. Duchetti, N. Nelli and A. Lafreri, 1570. Paolo Forlani and Bonifacio Sibenisensis also published maps of Cyprus in Venice in 1570, adding the medieval administrative districts. The most signigicant loose-sheet map was, however, published by Jacomo Franco c.1570, again in Venice.
Other loose-sheet maps and plans of the period, mostly produced in Germany, were also published as a means of news distribution. These loose sheets were reissued sometimes two or three times a year, each time with the latest information added. Such maps are those by M. Zundt, B. Jenichen and H. Rogel, who published maps of Cyprus to show its invasion by the Turks and the subsequent defeat of the Venetians in 1570/1. Camocio, Bertelli and Pinargenti published similar plans, but theirs have survived in greater numbers as they were preserved, bound into their respective isolaria.