Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2013.09.15 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2013.09.15

Claudio Gallazzi, Bärbel Kramer, Salvatore Settis, Intorno al Papiro di Artemidoro II: Geografia e Cartografia. Atti del Convegno internazionale del 27 novembre 2009 presso la Società Geografica Italiana. Villa Celimontana, Roma. Colloquium.   Milano:  LED - Edizioni Universitaire di Lettere Economia Diritto, 2012.  Pp. 302.  ISBN 9788879165082.  €38.00.  

Reviewed by Irene Pajón Leyra, ILC-CCHS-CSIC (Madrid) (

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This is the second in a series of conference proceedings coordinated by the editores principes of the Artemidorus papyrus, Claudo Gallazzi, Bärbel Kramer and Salvatore Settis, which started with the publication (2010) of the papers presented at the International Conference held in 2008 in Pisa (Intorno al Papiro di Artemidoro I. Contesto culturale, lingua, stile e tradizione. Milano: LED). The topic is the geographical and cartographical contents of the papyrus.

On very few occasions has a single document from antiquity attracted the attention of scholars as much as the Artemidorus papyrus. Amid the numerous studies, conferences and discussions, a particular debate has clearly predominated, the polemic about the genuine nature of the piece. Since 2006 the Italian professor Luciano Canfora and some of his closest colleagues have insistently questioned the authenticity of P.Artemid. and have attributed its authorship to Constantine Simonidis, a famous nineteenth-century forger. For this reason the publication of a volume in which the principal focus of attention is the papyrus, and not the polemic, is in itself a remarkable event that deserves the warmest welcome.

The contributions collected in the book address three main questions: what is the nature and function of the description of the Iberian Peninsula in cols. IV and V? How can we interpret the map and its relationship to the whole papyrus? What can we learn about ancient geography through the Artemidorus papyrus? The different contributors frequently give answers to these fundamental questions that vary or even disagree with each other. This fact gives an idea of the deep complexity of the document, and it also helps us appreciate to what extent most of the main discussions that affect the papyrus are still open and need further investigation.

Didier Marcotte’s contribution opening the volume deals with the nature and function of the text contained in cols. IV and V, concluding that the most likely interpretation is that of an explanatory note, meant to clarify the map that should have appeared in the wide blank space on the right of the text columns. It is the text, then, in Marcotte’s analysis, which is intended to clarify the map, and not vice versa.

In the next chapter Pierre Moret agrees with Marcotte in considering cols. IV and V as referring to a missing map that should follow them. He understands, therefore, the cartographical sketch of the papyrus as perhaps being connected to a lost portion of text which preceded it and interprets it as a possible representation of the Nile delta. Afterwards, Moret studies in detail the image of the Iberian peninsula which can be deduced from the description contained in the papyrus, highlighting striking differences with respect to Polybius’ and Strabo’s reconstructed “maps”, and pointing out its great similarity with Pliny’s “map”, which relies on data from Varro and Agrippa.

In the next chapter, however, María Paz García-Bellido offers a completely different, though perhaps complementary, view of the meaning of the description of Hispania-Iberia. The author detects an error of the copyist, who, by mistake, has omitted the section of text between the cities of Onoba and Ossonoba (because of the similarity of the words’ endings, he/she jumped to the second toponym skipping everything in between). The whole text is interpreted as the description of a sea route to reach the emporia of the south-western end of the Iberian Peninsula for commercial purposes.

Two chapters follow which deal with the information the papyrus adds to our knowledge of the Iberian peninsula before the Roman Empire. Amílcar Guerra compares different written sources for the Lusitanian territory during the Republican period with the data provided by P.Artemid. Though the papyrus confirms many of these pieces of information he finds a deep disagreement concerning the location of the cities Ipsa and Kilibe, a problem on which the copyist’s error considered by García-Bellido throws light. Filippo Motta, in turn, studies the pre-Roman place names of the papyrus, observing in them the different crossroads of the diverse ethnic and linguistic groups that could have given rise to these denominations.

In the following two chapters the geographer Artemidorus of Ephesus, on the basis of the papyrus’ testimony of his work, is compared with two of the most outstanding figures of ancient geography, Strabo and Ptolemy. Johannes Engels, though aware of the objections put forth by scholars in attributing to Artemidorus the so-called proem (the text of cols. I-III), still considers it to originate from the Ephesian geographer and sees the text as an opportunity to compare Artemidorus’ attitude to the geographical discipline with Strabo’s, who is the most relevant source of information about Artemidorus’ Geographoumena. Florian Mittenhuber studies the similarities and differences between Artemidorus and Ptolemy as they can be observed through the testimony of the Artemidorus papyrus. He compares their proems – he too considers the “proem” of P.Artemid. to be derived from the Geographoumena –, their different approaches to the description of territories, their procedures to measure the distances and the role of maps in their works. The author concludes that in the Artemidorus papyrus we receive the earliest testimony of a process, also pertinent to the transmission of Ptolemy, in which two different traditions converge: that of the written text and that of the cartographical representations.

In the next chapter Francesco Prontera discusses the nature of the geographical text, in order, on the one hand, to determine to what extent it reflects Artemidorus’ original, and on the other, to consider its relationship to the map. Even if he does not share Canfora’s opinion on the authenticity of the piece, the author observes striking differences with respect to the information on the Geographoumena transmitted through indirect sources and concludes that the papyrus offers a text of composite nature in which Artemidorus’ material has passed a deep re-elaboration process. Given the lack of testimonies of cartographical images illustrating geographical or historiographical texts in antiquity, Prontera suggests that, rather than accepting a closed interpretation of the piece as an editorial elaboration in which text columns alternated with maps, we adopt an attitude of “conscious ignorance” in which false certitude does not detain the progress of knowledge.

Scepticism also defines the next chapter. Richard Talbert studies the “presences and absences” of the papyrus’ map, particularly the lack of lettering and colour, and explores the limits of our possibilities of interpretation of the cartographical sketch given its present condition. In particular, he finds it impossible to reach any certainty regarding the scale and the orientation of the map. Nevertheless, he considers it most likely that it represents a limited area rather than a large territory, perhaps an almost finished representation of a single estate, a sort of preparatory project to be used by contractors, architects and artists, perhaps being connected to the artistic elements of the piece, rather than to its geographic aspects.

Lastly, Filippomaria Pontani offers an edition, translation and commentary of the hexametrical poem written by Maximus Planudes to celebrate the rediscovery of Ptolemy’s Geography, including the maps which accompany the text. The author considers it a clear piece of evidence in favour of the circulation in antiquity of geographical works illustrated by cartographical representations.

Though the issue of the authenticity of P.Artemid. is not the main topic of the book, the debate is by no means avoided. On the contrary: an ample appendix is dedicated to the controversy, in which contributions of Jürgen Hammerstaedt, Hans Baumann and Claudio Gallazzi and Bärbel Kramer appear.

Jürgen Hammerstaedt’s chapter is presented as an introduction to Hans Baumann’s. He offers a critical revision of the whole polemic, evaluating the relative weight of the arguments put forward by one side and the other, with a view to placing the debate on the Konvolut photograph in the context of the discussion.

The detailed study of Hans Baumann follows, in which the photograph is examined by a specialist in digital forgeries backed by nearly thirty years of experience at the Bundeskriminalamt in Wiesbaden. The famous photograph of the Konvolut shows the papyrus when it was not yet restored, but was still part of a piece of filler material, together with other papyrological documents. Its authenticity was questioned by Silio Bozzi, from the scientific police of Marche-Abruzzo, and by the photographer Salvatore Granata. Baumann’s study answers the objections raised by Bozzi and Granata, all of whose arguments are one by one rejected and their probative value denied.

The volume closes with Claudio Gallazzi’s and Bärbel Kramer’s chapter, where the authors give incontrovertible refutation to some of Canfora’s most repeated arguments. Gallazzi and Kramer’s discussion of Canfora’s claim to have found some cases in which the holes and erosions of the papyrus are produced prior to the writing is of particular importance, as well as their explanation of the presence of graphite in the ink of the papyrus. Gallazzi and Kramer’s analysis of the papyrus makes clear that the material evidence of the object can by no means be compatible with the intervention of a counterfeiter. But besides the discussion of Canfora’s arguments, the authors offer new evidence against the forgery theory: for the first time we can see images of the documentary papyri which were once part of the Konvolut together with P.Artemid.1 The papyri not only share some of the features of P.Artemid. —the mirror prints—but also among them examples are preserved of a kind of document, the Ephebeia certificates, whose earliest testimony was published in 1908, eighteen years after Simonidis’ death.

Table of Contents

Didier Marcotte, Dal testo alla mappa: che cosa leggiamo di Artemidoro nel papiro?
Pierre Moret, La figure de l’Ibérie d’après le papyrus d'Artémidore: entre tradition hellènistique et mise en place d’un schéma romain
Maria Paz García-Bellido, Presencias y ausencias en el Papiro de Artemidoro: un error de copista
Amílcar Guerra, La documentazione sull’antica geografia della costa lusitana e il Papiro di Artemidoro
Filippo Motta, Valutazione della toponomastica preromana nel Papiro di Artemidoro
Johannes Engels, Artemidoros of Ephesos and Strabo of Amasia: Common Traditions of Greek Cultural Geography and Strabo’s Decisive Importance in the History of Reception of Artemidoros’ Geographoumena
Florian Mittenhuber, Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede in den geographischen Werken des Artemidor und des Klaudios Ptolemaios
Francesco Prontera, Carta e testo nel Papiro di Artemidoro
Richard Talbert, The Unfinished State of the Map: What is Missing, and Why?
Filippomaria Pontani, Esametri nonniani e mappae mundi: l'epigramma di Massimo Planude per la Geografia di Tolomeo
Jürgen Hammerstaedt, The Relevance of the Dispute about the Photograph of the Konvolut for the Debate about the Artemidorus Papyrus
Hans D. Baumann, The Convolute Photo: a Digital Forgery? Arguments against a Montage
Claudio Gallazzi, Bärbel Kramer, Sui buchi del P.Artemid., ovvero, su alcune interpretazioni soggettive di dati oggettivi


1.   The edition of the documents they mention in the book chapter is announced to appear in Gallazzi-Kramer, “Alexandrinische Ephebenurkunden”, APF 59 (2013), forthcoming. Canfora has sometimes expressed some doubts about the existence of these papyri; the publication of these documents and their commentaries is a most eagerly expected event.

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