Armenian Maps

Maps introduce the real world to people in much smaller sizes. Furthermore, they help to travel from one place to another and also organize some information. They also help people to figure out their location get somewhere else.

Cartographers are those people who produce maps. Cartography is the study of maps and also the process of making maps.

Because Armenia is one of the oldest countries, the map of Armenia has had various changes. Hence, the Armenian map has gone a long way till it reached its current state.

Armenian people have been living in the Armenian Highlands and the South Caucasus for more than 2600 years. Additionally, Armenian land has had various names throughout the history, such as Urartu, Ararat, as well as Arminiya. Presently, Hayastan is what Armenian people call their homeland.

BACK TO THE HISTORY

ARMENIA ON VARIOUS HISTORICAL MAPS

Babylonian clay tablet
Babylonian clay tablet

Armenia is among the three countries which appear on the oldest World Map that appears on a clay tablet in Babylon about 2600 years ago.

The Babylonian clay tablet dates back to the sixth century BC. It shows Babylon right at the center, surrounded by Assyria and Armenia.

Two concentric circles surround Babylon for the purpose of representing the ocean called “bitter water” or the “salt sea.”

In addition, from the location of Babylon on the map, it is also clear that the Babylonians believed they were the center of the world.

This clay tablet also depicts river Euphrates. It flows down from the Armenian mountains, passes through Babylon until it reaches the Persian Gulf.

 

In addition, here is an artistic depiction of the oldest map of the world:

Babylonian map. art
src: cartography-images

 

Greek historian Herodotus (489–425 BC) was an enthusiastic geographer. Furthermore, through his life, he has also traveled to Armenia. According to Herodotus, in 500 BC, Aristagoras, the leader of Miletus, brought to Sparta a “bronze tablet on which there was a map of the world, and all the sea, and all the rivers.” The map shows the territories of Lydia, Phrygia, Ionia, Cilicia, the Cyprus Island, Armenia as well as Susa(the seat of the Persian king).

Another Greek geographer and also a mathematic Eratosthenes (276–194 BCE) believed that the earth was spherical. According to him, the Earth was the center of the universe. His world map includes Armenia too.

You can see the three continents Europe, Asia, and Libya. Armenia is in the middle of the world, in the south of the Caspian and Black Seas.

Strabo (63 BC-24 CE) was one of the most popular and important geographers. He completed his geography works in the second decade of our era. His works contain mostly everything which was known about geography and cartography during his time. He depicted Armenia as well. His description of Armenia consists of many pages describing the land and Armenian people. There are more than 60 references to Armenia.

Ptolemy (90-168 CE) was probably the most important figure in geography and cartography in the history. His most important work is “Geographia.” The 5th book includes information about Armenia.

Lesser Armenia or in other words Armenia Minor, lists 79 names of towns and cities. Coma, Melitana, Nicopolis, and also Satala being the most important ones.

Greater Armenia or in other words Armenia Major lists 85 towns and cities. Artaxata, Harmavira, Tigranocerta, Arsamosata, and also Tushpa are the important ones.

Tabula Asiae III
Tabula Asiae III

The northern part of the map includes three countries: Colchis on the eastern shore of Pontus (Black Sea), Iberia, and also Albania (Aghvank) on the west coast of the Caspian Sea. On the south of these countries is Armenia Major (Greater Armenia). Euphrates River is on the western border of Armenia. In the south, there is also Media.

Armenia In Roman, Christian, and Islamic Cartography

Because Armenia is the first country to adopt Christianity as a state religion in 301, its name has been mentioned many times on the maps from Christian era.

Peutinger Map is the oldest Roman map. It shows the Roman road system. In addition, a copy of 5th century has survived. The map also illustrates Armenia. The recognizable names are Artaxata (Artashat), Bagrevan (which was misspelled as Raugona), Vostan (Van), and also Tigranocerta(Tigranakert).

Peutinger Table (Peutinger Map)
Peutinger Table (Peutinger Map)

Since the 6th century, the flat disc-shaped Earth theory came to replace the one that the Earth has a spherical shape. The Earth was thought to be divided into three continents and also surrounded by the oceans. Etymologiae of St. Isidore of Seville included the T-O map of the world. This kind of maps showed the earth in a form of a circle, just like the letter O. There was also a T letter inserted into it for dividing the map into the three known continents. So, the name T-O appeared, which could also be the short form of “Orbis Terrarum”.

The largest of the three continents was Asia and the smaller ones were Europe and Africa. Many maps of this kind have also reached to us in various manuscripts and had various sizes.

Later,  T-O maps started containing details and descriptions about various counties and towns. Armenia on such maps was the country where Mount Ararat was, and the country where Noah’s Ark had landed.

Here’s an example of a T-O map:

T-O map example

An eighth-century monk Beatus of Liébana made his own T-O map. Many people adopted his style, hence many similar maps appeared and were called Beatus maps. In most of Beatus maps, Armenia is featured prominently. It is next to Paradise and in the south of the Caucasus Mountains.

Map of Beatus
Map of Beatus

When talking about the Islamic cartography. probably it’s important to talk about the Balkhi School of geography and maps. It described the Islamic countries in the Persian Gulf, Caspian Sea, Arabian and Red Seas, the eastern Mediterranean and the Indian subcontinent.

Armenia along with Russia and Bulgaria appears on most Islamic world maps.

 From al-lstakari’s Kitab al-masalik wa-al-mamalik, dated 1836, British Library, London

From al-lstakari’s Kitab al-masalik wa-al-mamalik, dated 1836, British Library, London.

South is on the top on this map which includes the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Sea. The picture above is taken from the Persian translation of al-Istakhri’s manuscript copy dated 1836.

Armenia is just between the Caspian and the Black Seas.

The manuscript of al-Istakhri contains 18 other maps depicting various provinces of the Islamic world. Includes the eastern region of the Caspian Sea, entitled Arran, Azerbaijan as well as Arminiya.

All Balkhi school books include a world map and also, up to 20 regional maps, illustrating mostly the Islamic world. Armenia as a Christian country is the only exception. Its name can be found on the regional map “The map of Azerbaijan, Arran, and Armenia”. It was dedicated to the South Caucasus.

Here, Azerbaijan as an Iranian province is in the south of the Araks River, Arran (Caucasian Albania), is in the north of Araks. Armenia in its turn straddles the Araks River and extends to the west. The cities of Armenia are around the Araks River and Lake Van.

Other historical maps include…

Pic1 — In the north-eastern part of the Mediterranean sea is the Cilician Kingdom of Armenia, described as “Armenia Minor” (Lesser Armenia). On the top right side, the two green mountains are depicted as Mons Taurus (the source of Euphrates River on the lower left side and the Tigris River on the lower right side). On the east, there are the Armenia Major and the peaks of Mount Ararat, with Noah’s Ark on the top.

Pic2 — The map shows that Azerbaijan illustrated in yellow is in the south of the Araks River and is a part of Iran.  Armenia illustrated in green covers the whole Eastern Armenia and also, most parts of the Western Armenia.

Pic3 — Many popular European cartographers from the late medieval period have created maps that include the Turkish Empire showing Armenia divided between the Ottomans and the Persian Empire. This map also shows Armenia divided between these two empires.

THE FIRST EVER ARMENIAN MAPS

Various mural maps dating millenniums have been preserved in Armenia. According to written records, the first Armenian maps were created along with the first manuscripts. In addition, Greek and Roman maps served as the basis.

The most ancient Armenian map had a spherical shape and was made by an anonymous author, most likely in Kaffa. It depicts the world’s disc like area surrounded by bitter waters. The map is made by western European religious dogma, having Jerusalem in the center of the world and the ocean of bitter waters surrounding the world. The map has a diameter of about 12.5 cm.

In medieval Armenia, “Ashkharatsuyts” or “Geography” was a popular collection of maps. However, only texts describing the maps have reached to us from it.

“Ashkharatsuyts” meaning a World Atlas was created in 5th or 7th centuries and consisted of 15 maps. The maps briefly list the countries of the three known continents: Europe, Asia, and Libya. Sometimes, there was information about the flora and animal world of a corresponding place.

The Structure of “Ashkharatsuyts”

“Ashkharatsuyts” is similar to the “Geography” of Claudius Ptolemy (90-168), a Greek geographer. In “Ashkharatsuyts”, the Earth is spherical, the globe and mapping elements are also mentioned.

AshkharatsuytsThe main part of the collection, “Yerkrachap”, consists of 2 sections. In the first section, there is the world’s cartographic description. Furthermore, based on it, the map of the world was composed. After the description of the equator comes the description of the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Greek (Mediterranean and Black Seas) and the Caspian Seas with rivers flowing in them. The continent is divided into 3 parts: Europe, Libya (Africa) and Asia.

The second section describes separate regions corresponding to the continents. As a matter of fact, the information about the regions outside of Armenia and its neighboring countries is mostly a summary of the relevant chapters of Ptolemy’s “Geography” with separate maps and a new material.

Additionally, the descriptions of Mets Hayk, the Georgian world, the Aghvank, the Persian world, the North Caucasus and Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and Syria are particularly valuable. They made up the most of the collection.

The historical map of Armenia according to "Ashkharatsuyts" (The Greater Armenia)
The historical map of Armenia according to “Ashkharatsuyts” (The Greater Armenia)

“Ashkharatsuyts” has also been used as a textbook for geography in Armenian schools for centuries. Besides the works of Ptolemy, the author of the collection also used other unknown sources and in the end, he created a unique scientifical treasure.

Other Maps

As a matter of fact, the first printed map in Armenia with the European cartography standards is the “Hamatarats Ashkharatsuyts” literally meaning “Widespread Geography.”

"Hamatarats Ashkharatsuyts"
“Hamatarats Ashkharatsuyts”

It was published in 1695 in Amsterdam, in the printing house of Thomas Vanandetsi. However, the two hemispheres, America and Australia are incomplete. At each corner of the map, there are scenes referring to the 4 seasons, and also astrological and mythological figures.

Maps including Armenia and the Middle East came out at the Mekhitarian Congregation Centers (Venice, Vienna). In the mid-19th century, large-scale along with small-scale geographical atlases were also created and published. The Mekhitarians also made the first Armenian globes.

 

Armenian T-O map
Armenian T-O map
This is the oldest Armenian T-O map from the 14th century, currently kept in Matenadaran, Yerevan. In addition, the east is on the top.

The map shows the spherical world. Jerusalem with six gates is in the center. On the top semi circle, there are the cities of the Silk Road, which extend from Zayton and Kansayh in China to Kaffa on the Black Sea. There are also other trading cities: Sarai, Khawrazm, Azokh. There are also Mardin, Baghdad, Damascus, Venice as well as Cyprus. Between Asia and Africa, you can see the Red Sea in red color.

The second oldest Armenian map from 1691 made in in Constantinople. The author is a famous Armenian scholar and politician Eremia Cheleby Keomurjian. (Armenian maps)
A piece of the second oldest Armenian map from 1691 made in in Constantinople. The author is a famous Armenian scholar and politician Eremia Cheleby Keomurjian.

This important manuscript shows the locations of various important churches, monasteries, religious centers of Armenia, and also, the Catholicosates of Anatolia. It also shows the entire territory of the historic Armenia, from Karabagh to Constantinople.

Here you can see the Mount Ararat which is near Echmiadzin. You can also see the Mount Aragats with its four peaks, the Saghmosavank Monastery etc.

Other historical Armenian maps include…

The Development Of Armenian Maps

New Maps

As the time passed, and especially since the nineteenth century, maps started to become more accurate and reliable.

The geodesy and mapping of the Russian military in the South Caucasus during the mid-19th century also highly contributed to the development of cartography in eastern Armenia.

In the beginning, people prepared small maps and atlases for general education purposes in the Armenian SSR.

In terms of great mapping technique and rich information, 1:200 000 scale “Map of Soviet Armenia” came out in Leningrad in 1932. The 1:300 000 scale “Physical map of the Armenian SSR” came out in Tbilisi in 1938. In the mid-1930s, however, the USSR did not support cartography enough supported and the number of the maps decreased.

After Armenia became independent, however, cartography works in Armenia started to develop again in the second half of the 1990s.

In 1998 by A. Hayriyan’s “Armenia’s Medical and Ecological Atlas” came out consisting of extensive texts and also 106 map schemes. At the initiative of Macmillan Armenia, the atlases “the World and Armenia” and also the “History of Armenia” came out.

Moreover, a significant event in the field of cartography was the compilation and publication of the “National Atlas of Armenia” (2007-08) by the “Geodesy and Cartography Center”. The A volume of the National Atlas summarizes 250 maps and large texts, combined in 5 chapters:

  • General overview
  • Nature
  • Population
  • Economy and the administrative units of the Republic of Armenia
  • The Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh

Volume B refers to the Armenian history, Armenian culture, and also, the Diaspora. At the same time, the maps of the National Atlas of Armenia (1:300,000, 1:750,000, 1:100,000 and 1:1500,000 scales) are also accompanied by scientific descriptions, explanatory texts, photos, diagrams and photos from the space.

Map of Armenia
Armenian map

Furthermore, here is Armenia on the world map:

 

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