Alexandri Magni Macedonis Expeditio

Method Copper engraved with hand colour
Artist Ortelius, Abraham
Published Ex conatib. geographicis Ab. Ortelij. Cum Privilegio Imp. et Ordinum Belgicor. ad decennium. 1595. [Jan Baptist Vrients, Antwerp, c.1624]
Dimensions 360 x 460 mm
Notes A map of the Middle East depicting the conquests of Alexander the Great, King of Macedon, originally published for the 1595 Parergon (Supplement) of Ortelius' famous Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. This particular example is unusual in having no verso text. The map is likely either one of a number of Ortelius' ancient world maps sold to Petrus Bertius for inclusion in his Theatrum Geographiae Veteris, or similarly a single issue sold by Vrients for inclusion in an extra-illustrated book or composite atlas. The map depicts the ancient kingdoms and regions of Greece, Asia Minor, Libya, Egypt, Arabia, Mesopotamia, Bactria and Sogdiana, Parthia, Arachosia, Gadrosia, and the Valley of the Indus River. Ornamented in beautiful hand colour, and with principal cities picked out in red, the map is heavily annotated with references from the classical source tradition for Alexander's expeditions. Ortelius' grasp of, and familiarity with, ancient scholarship is detailed and precise, and he provides direct references to Arrian, Curtius Rufus, Pliny, Plutarch, Aelian, Philostratus, Aristobulus, and others. A sea monster and Alexander's fleet, commanded by Nearchus, are depicted off the coast of Gadrosia, above a scholarly comment on the naming of the Red Sea, and its connection to the semi-mythic king Erythras. A similar note on classical nomenclature can be found in the Caspian Sea. The terminus of Alexander's expedition, on the banks of the Indus, is marked by a pair of altars near the source of the Ganges. The map is further embellished by a trio of strap-work cartouches. One encloses the title, another the dedication to Henricus Schotius, a lord of Antwerp. The largest of the three, in the bottom left corner, contains a fanciful but ornate view of the Temple of Zeus Ammon at Siwa, located in the ancient Libyan desert. The oasis was the scene of one of the most famous of the stories of Alexander. The priests, hoping to ingratiate themselves with the young conqueror, welcomed the King as their 'son.' Alexander, always the pragmatist, used this welcome to claim divine descent from the god himself, and the ram's horns of Zeus Ammon became a key feature of portraits of the King and his Successors.

The Parergon ('Supplement') was, as the title suggests, originally conceived of as a supplement to Ortelius' Theatrum. The work, a massive and intricately researched index of the classical world, was accompanied by a series of ancient world maps. Unlike the maps of the Theatrum, the majority of which were reductions of earlier maps, the maps of the Parergon were researched and drawn by Ortelius himself. The work was a huge commercial success, and the maps themselves set the standard for ancient world maps for the duration of the seventeenth century, being reproduced or reprinted by various publishers after Ortelius' final 1624 printing. His interest in the mapping of the ancient world is manifest. The maps of the Parergon are a veritable mine of textual commentary and classical philology, drawing upon Ptolemy, Strabo, Pliny, and many others. Interestingly, the project seems to have been a labour of love, rather than a mercantile venture. Ortelius himself was fascinated with the ancient world, and a formidable classical scholar in his own right. In addition to his work as a cartographer, he dealt in antiquities, visited and surveyed ancient sites across Europe, published a critical edition of Caesar's Gallic Wars in 1593, and assisted Welser in his studies of the famous Tabula Peutingeriana in 1598, producing an engraved copy of the map that can be found in later editions of the Parergon.

Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) was a Flemish cartographer, cosmographer, geographer and publisher and a contemporary of Gerard Mercator, with whom he travelled through Italy and France. Although it is Mercator who first used the word "Atlas" as a name for a collection of maps, it is Ortelius who is remembered as the creator of the first modern atlas. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum was the first systematically collated set of maps by different map makers in a uniform format. Three Latin editions as well as a Dutch, French and German edition of Theatrum Orbis Terrarum were published by 1572 and a further 25 editions printed before Ortelius' death in 1598. Several more were subsequently printed until around 1612. Ortelius is said to have been the first person to pose the question of the continents once being a single land mass before separating into their current positions.

Petrus Bertius (1565-1629) was a Flemish theologian, historian, geographer, and cartographer, related to Jodocus Hondius Sr. and Pieter van den Keere by marriage. Bertius studied at the University of Leiden and later traveled in Germany and Russia. In 1620 he emigrated to France where he was appointed as a cosmographer to the court of Louis XIII. Bertius published a number of folio maps, but never published an atlas of his own. His maps were either separately published or included in atlases and books by other publishers.

Jan Baptist Vrients (1552-1612) was a Dutch engraver, mapmaker, and printer, predominantly famous for printing the later editions of Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, as well as numerous other cartographic works, from his Antwerp printworks.

Condition: Central vertical fold, as issued. Large vertical printers crease to left hand side of map. Minor repaired tears to central fold. Minor discolouration and time toning to margins. Blank on verso.
Framing mounted
Price £1,600.00
Stock ID 51920