Monday 20 February 2012

Evidence of place in Late Roman sources

The Regnum Francorum Online (RFO) historical GIS does not exclusively concern the Merovingian and Carolingian Frankish kingdom, but also the Roman foundation on which the Early Medieval civilisations was built. To put some light on this, and describe the Late Roman empire, two layers are part of the GIS. Both layers are based on primary sources. The first layer is a compilation of Roman itineraries (e.g. Peutinger map, Itinerarium Antonini), description of the administrative and political order of the Late Roman empire (e.g. Notitia dignitatum), narrative sources and Roman places mentioned on the milestones. All together, there are 2190 evidence of place, distributed among 799 Roman places. The second layer contains all the milestones themselfes and their place of discovery. The milestone layer has 1039 entries distributed among 613 places of discovery. The layers cover the western half of the Roman empire north of the Alps and the Pyrenees, and extend into the Roman province Pannonia, modern Hungary. The latter layer is motivated by the importance of the Roman roads network, which is part of the background maps for the entire GIS. All the sources are listed at the end of this post, together with their availability in online digital libraries.

Figure 1: Places in Late Roman sources (red) and place of discovery of Roman milestones (blue) between the river Seine and Rhine, zoom level 7.

These sources have been georeferenced so when rendered on the map and receiving input by a mouse click, the source entries for the selected place will be listed in the output pane to the right. In the output pane a list of source entries for the selected place is displyed together with a citation from the source and links to digitized source editions. If the source edition is available on Google Books or the Internet Archive, you have the option to view the source inside the RFO application. Sources hosted in the Perseus digital library can also be viewed inside RFO, because they are available as XML-documents. The Peutinger database is serving small images of the map centered on the selected place, together with the transcription as part of the XML-output, see figure 2 below. The places currently on the visible part of the map can be listed by selecting the Places menu tab. Not all sources are fully complete (especially Ammianus Marcellinus and Ptolemy), but a vast majority of the places mentioned in the other sources should be in the database. As far as I know the milestones are fully complete within the area selected.

Figure 2: The entry of Augusta Treverorum (Trier, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany) on the Peutinger map embedded into the RFO application.

Both layers are listed in the Layers menu tab, in the section Layers based on primary sources : Thematic layers, in the RFO application. They can be loaded following the links below.
Places in Late Roman sources

Roman milestones, place of discovery

Itineraries, ancient geography

Narrative sources


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