Roman View of the World

Student Worksheet


The Romans, like the Greeks, created maps showing the world as they understood it to
look. The Romans inherited much of their knowledge of the world from the Greeks, who
conducted their own explorations and acquired information from the accounts of the
Phoenicians. The Phoenicians had traded extensively via the sea and thus learned about
far-flung lands in this manner (although they didn't leave written records of their
journeys), but they had also been influenced by the Egyptians. Thus, Roman knowledge
of the world built upon the explorations of several other civilizations.

In this activity, you'll look at three Roman maps and compare and contrast what they
show. You'll also need to look at a modern world map so you can see how the Roman
view of the world compares with our own. Please keep in mind that although the Romans
did not know the geography of the entire planet, they did know that the earth is round.


Spend a minute looking at a modern world map to review your knowledge of the world's
continents and bodies of water.

Look at each of these Roman maps. As you look at them, notice how different they look
from modern maps.

Answer these questions about the maps:

1. What lands existed on the outer edges of the known world in these maps? Provide at
least four examples.

2. According to these maps, did the Romans know about these places?

a. the Nile River

b. the British Isles

c. India

d. Japan

e. North America

Questions 3-8

Compare the Orbis Terrarum (the first map) with one of the other maps.

3. Write the name of the second map you've chosen here.

4. Where are Rome and the Italian peninsula located (center, left, right, top, etc.):
on the Orbis Terrarum?
on the other map?

5. Why do you think the Italian Peninsula is located in this position on each map?

6. Which map is more detailed, with more place names?

7. Which map is more accurate in terms of the shape of landforms and bodies of water?
(compare the maps to a modern map)

8. Which parts of the maps are the most accurate: the parts closest to Rome or the parts
farther from Rome? Why?

9. Our world map today looks very similar to the world map 100 years ago, but the
Roman maps you've seen look rather different from each other even though only 104
years passed between the making of the earliest and the latest maps. Why do you
think this difference exists? Why would the Romans have created world maps that
looked this different from each other within such a relatively short time span?