Sign In

- Or use -
Forgot Password Create Account

Scarce early map of the Holy Land, based upon the writings of Pomponius Mela.

Pomponius Mela Biography

Pomponius Mela was the earliest Roman geographer. He flourished around 43 AD. Born in Tingentera, now Algeciras, he is known to have died around 45 AD. His work circulated in manuscript extensively during his lifetime and in the centuries after his death. In the sixteenth century, his most famous work, De situ orbis libri III, was printed. With the exception of the geographical section of Pliny's Historia naturalis, which cites Mela extensively, the De situ orbis is the only geographical treatise in Classical Latin. 

Mela's geography is distinctive. He divided the world into five zones. Two of these were considered habitable. Like his contemporaries, Mela thought the Caspian Sea as an inlet of the Northern Ocean. This corresponded to the Persian and Arabian (Red Sea) Gulfs in the south. For western Europe his geographical knowledge was more advanced than the Greeks, perhaps because Mela was a Spanish subject of Imperial Rome. Mela's delineation of the Iberian Peninsula is more accurate than Eratosthenes or Strabo. Also, his knowledge of the British Isles and their position was more precise than his predecessors. Mela was the first to name the Orkney Islands and he located them quite well. Father north, however, his knoweldge faltered slightly. He thought there was a large bay (Codanus sinus) to the north of Germany filled with islands including a larger mass he called Codanovia. Codanovia reappears in Pliny the Elder's work as Scatinavia and both names are Latin renderings of Scandinavia. Mela also thought there was a large landmass to the south of the world.