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The Tabula Peutingeriana, or the Peutinger Map, is known for both its peculiar dimensions and uncertain origins. A parchment scroll a foot tall and 22 feet long, the map depicts the Roman Empire at the height of its power, spanning from Spain to India. While its emphasis on roads and population centres seems to imply it’s a transit map, it features cities that never existed simultaneously, and it places little focus on waterways, which were often the empire’s most efficient travel routes. Further complicating matters, the only version of the map remaining is a 13th-century copy of the likely 4th-century Roman original. In this light-hearted video essay, the US graphic designer and video producer Jeremy Shuback explores the many historical controversies and uncertainties surrounding the Tabula Peutingeriana. For the task, he enlists the help of Richard J A Talbert, a research professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who spent a decade studying the map. Reasoning his way through its many idiosyncrasies, Talbert offers his view that the original was likely a way for Romans to demonstrate, above all, the scope and power of their empire.
Director: Jeremy Shuback
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