Sixth Map of Asia, Including Arabia Felix, Carmania, and the Arabian Gulf


Claudius Ptolemaeus (circa 100–circa 170), known as Ptolemy, was an astronomer, mathematician, and geographer of Greek descent who lived and worked in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. In his Geography, Ptolemy gathered all the geographic knowledge possessed by the Greco-Roman world. He invented the geographic coordinate system and devised a method of using a grid or graticule made up of lines of latitude and longitude to plot the locations of some 8,000 places on the map that encompassed the known world at the height of the Roman Empire. Ptolemy’s work was lost to Europe in the Middle Ages, but at the beginning of the 14th century Byzantine scholars began introducing versions of it into Italy. Gerard Mercator (1512–94) was born in Rupelmonde in Flanders (Belgium). He studied philosophy and theology at the University of Leuven, and developed an interest in astronomy and mathematics. He produced his first map, of Palestine, in 1537. He went on to create numerous maps and globes in the course of his long career and is best known for his invention of the Mercator map projection, a revolutionary advance in the science of cartography and one which became the standard for navigation at sea using charts based on this map projection. In 1578 Mercator conceived a plan to publish a great atlas of the world containing up to 100 maps. His interpretations of Ptolemy’s texts are amongst the most faithful made up to his day. The map presented here, a copperplate engraving, shows the entirety of the Arabian Peninsula and parts of Africa and Persia. Details of the topography of the interior are almost completely fanciful, although some of the place-names have more than historical interest. Qatar is called Catara. One of the peninsulas shown on the map north of the location labeled Catara is named “Chersonesi Extrema,” meaning “the end point of the peninsula.” Modern scholarship has identified it as present-day Ra’s Rakan in Qatar. Ichtyophagorium Sinus is the gulf inhabited by the people identified in ancient histories as the “Fish Eaters.”

Last updated: May 2, 2017