The First Transit Map: a Shut Take a look at the Subway-Type Tabula Peutingeriana of the Fifth-Century Roman Empire


The primary subway practice, as we all know such issues at the moment, entered service in 1890. Its path is now a part of the Northern line of the London Underground, itself the primary city metro system. The success of the Tube, because it’s generally identified, didn’t come straight away; the entire thing was getting ready to failure, in reality, earlier than creations like 1914’s Wonderground Map of London City aided its public understanding and bolstered its public picture.


On the time, Britain nonetheless commanded an ideal empire with London as its capital; the Wonderground Map positioned the London Underground within the context of town, making legible the nonetheless pretty novel idea of an underground practice system with copious whimsical element.

Nor was the Roman Empire something to sneeze at, even throughout the fourth and fifth centuries after its decline had set in. Although it got here up with some still-impressive innovations, together with long-lasting concrete and monumental aqueducts, the know-how to construct and function a subway system nonetheless lay a way off.


However that didn’t cease Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, a basic, architect, and buddy of emperor Augustus, from commissioning a map of the empire that learn roughly like Massimo Vignelli’s 1972 map of the New York subway. That bold work of cartography, historians now consider, impressed the Tabula Peutingeriana, which survives at the moment as the one massive world map from antiquity. The video above from Youtuber Jeremy Shuback approaches the Tabula Peutingeriana as “the primary transit map,” regardless of its courting from the thirteenth century, and even then most likely being a duplicate of a fourth- or fifth-century authentic.


Whereas the Roman Empire didn’t have electrical trains and cost playing cards, they did, in fact, have transit: the phrase descends from the Latin transire, “go throughout.” Many a Roman needed to go throughout, if not the entire empire, then not less than massive stretches of it. In concept, they would have discovered a map like Tabula helpful, with its simplification of geography in an effort to emphasize city-to-city connections. However that wasn’t its major function: as Shuback places it, this outsized map of all lands dominated by the Romans was “made to brag.” Whoever owned it absolutely needed to indicate that they possessed not only a map, however the world itself.

Associated content material:

A Great Archive of Historic Transit Maps: Expressive Artwork Meets Exact Graphic Design

Obtain 67,000 Historic Maps (in Excessive Decision) from the Great David Rumsey Map Assortment

The Roman Roads of Britain Visualized as a Subway Map

“The Wonderground Map of London City,” the Iconic 1914 Map That Saved the World’s First Subway System

Animated GIFs Present How Subway Maps of Berlin, New York, Tokyo & London Examine to the Actual Geography of These Nice Cities

Primarily based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His initiatives embody the Substack publication Books on Cities, the guide The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll by Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video collection The Metropolis in Cinema. Observe him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Fb, or on Instagram.



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