Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Road to Imeus

Somewhere in the final section, at the right-hand side (the eastern end),
of the Peutinger Table

I no longer harbor the least regret for the time spent in my high school Latin classes. No doubt they were a torture in some ways. I particularly remember how the back row of the classroom, made up entirely of boys, would break out in interminable peals of hilarity every time anyone had to pronounce the word factum, which was often. My teacher who had taught Latin to my aunt always succeeded in her efforts to remain unembarrassed, even impassive, until the laughter finally faded away and we could go back to work identifying genitive endings and the like. I found this scene tiresomely predictable. But I have to say that once we got past the Gallic Wars and moved on to other things, like Virgil and particularly Ovid's Metamorphoses, I enjoyed it very much. 

I do in truth make use of Latin every day in ways both obvious and subliminal, but I haven’t gone on to look at western classics all that much, since I soon after lost myself in Sanskrit, a little later on in Tibetan language study. Last night being exceptional, I happened to catch a fascinating lecture in the field of early cartography by a young and evidently brilliant classicist named Scott Johnson. To jot a bit of what he said on a thumbnail, he spoke about a very long scroll of a world map, in the form of a faithful 13th-century hand-copy now kept in Vienna, of a circa 300 CE original. It’s 22 feet long and one foot high; that means the geographical features are severely squeezed north-to-south, while it's west-to-east coverage extends from the British Isles to Sri Lanka. Labeled in Latin, it is best known by the name of “The Peutinger Table.”  Like so many other early maps, it was intended as a route map, labeling landmarks and possible stops along the way.


So, anyway, to get to my point before you can move your cursor over the “view the next blog...”  As the Tibeto-centric type of person I have become, I was intrigued to see on the map, far to the east, a set of mountains marked “Mons.Imeus.” (Tibetan readers will notice and appreciate the tsheg-like dots dividing the words). This I knew has to be a form of the better-known name Himalaya (Snow Treasury) or, more likely, Himavan (Snowy). Disbelief will be dispelled with a glance at today’s frontispiece, near the middle, beneath the burn hole. There you see it clear as day, a ca. 300 CE reference to the Tibetan world.

I went to look again at C.I. Beckwith’s dissertation, thinking that was a place I had seen the name, but what I did find on its page 33 is that Hemodos (=Emodon) is the name of the mountains to the north of India according to the classical authors; it is obvious they could only mean the main line of the Himâlayas. Perhaps this Hemodos and Imeus are just  different ways of recording the same name? For more spellings check the Pleiades website, here, although I can’t tell you how the Caucasus Mountains got in there (once something slips into the pool of data it can be nigh impossible to fish it out again).  Anyway, Beckwith saw Imaos (etc.) as referring to the mountain complex of the Pamirs (plus the T'ien-shan), with Hemodos (etc.) being the name of the Himalayas. I think he was probably right, although I wouldn’t mind to hear different ideas if you have any. The classical western world knew something of the Himálayan Mountains towering over India, but to find out what little they knew about the Tibetans living up above them on the Himalayan Plateau, you have no better place to look than Beckwith’s dissertation, still unpublished after all these years. (And no, we’re not talking about any old gold digging ants.)


As an afterthought, in hindsight I can say that even reading the Gallic Wars at a young age had its good effect. It soured me forever to the very idea of devoting my life to the study of war, and made me resolve to trace the ways of peace, while simultaneously and without fear of contradiction admiring those who make themselves into obstacles for injustices. My heroes are the ones who stop wars, or create the conditions that keep them from happening. The wealthy and powerful are the ones who have to try the hardest to earn our respect in this respect, their wealth or their power alone just doesn’t cut it.


A bit of the Madaba Mosaic Map, 6th century


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References for your reference



Christopher I. Beckwith, A Study of the Early Medieval Chinese, Latin and Tibetan Historical Sources on Pre-Imperial Tibet, doctoral dissertation, Indiana University (Bloomington 1977).   


Scott Johnson, “From Ptolemy to Pilgrimage: Images of Late Antiquity in Geography, Travel and Cartography.”  Library of Congress Kluge lecture, viewable at YouTube HERE.


Nakamura Hiroshi, “Old Chinese World Maps Preserved by the Koreans,” Imago Mundi, vol. 4 (1947), pp. 3-22. Try  to get it from JSTOR through a subscribing institution, or find a library that has the journal. In this old article, at p. 21, you can see a copy of the old map with the Tibetan letters on it; it’s also illustrated in Schwartzberg’s article as well as Teramoto's, but you can get to it even more quickly HERE. Somebody should do a better study of it from a Tibetological perspective. Is anyone listening?




Sam van Schaik will before long publish a fascinating study of the Grünwedel maps. I’m fairly sure you don't know what those are, but I’m not about to steal Sam’s thunder. Well, maybe a tiny bit.

Joseph E. Schwartzberg, “Cartography of Greater Tibet and Mongolia,” contained in: J.B. Harley and D. Woodward, eds., The History of Cartography, vol. 2, pt. 2: Cartography in the Traditional East and South Asian Societies, University of Chicago Press (1994), pp. 607-681. I’m fairly jolted by the discovery that you can download this as a free PDF file from the publisher of the book, HERE. Most bona fide made-in-Tibet maps aren't all that old, and most of them, like the Peutinger Table, are route maps. They often show highlights of the scenery flattened out on either side of the route, and the route usually follows river courses, and this for obvious reasons given the otherwise highly mountainous terrain.




Teramoto Enga (1872-1949), “Waga kokushi to Toban to no Kankei” [Early Relations between Tibet and Japan — in Japanese], Otani Gakuho, vol. 12, no. 4 (1931), pp. 44-83.  On the old Tibetan map kept in Japan, where it was brought by Enchin in around the 840’s to 850’s. I’ve never seen and don’t have access to this article, but I was thinking you might want to keep an eye out for it.



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The Peutinger Table has some great websites devoted to it.  Of course there is always the Wikipedia, the most-consulted reference work in the world today. But instead of that go directly to the real experts, like this one and this one and finally this one, a Roman route planner, fun to play with, entirely replotted onto a thoroughly modern map. There are more, of course, but you might also want to look into (by schmoogling the names) the 420-430 CE Notitia Dignitatum and most impressively, the Rome city map called Forma Urbis Romae from around 200 CE. This last-mentioned has an amazingly complex history of fragmentation and reconstruction that can be traced in delightfully maddening detail here. 


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"Imaeus corresponds roughly with the Himalaya, considered by the ancients to be one of the mountains of the great Asian chain which they called Taurus."


Source:  An essay entitled “The Geography of Orosius.”


“Imaeus, corresponding to "Ιμαος and related forms in Greek texts, renders the Pkt form *Himava- «snowy» or the corresponding Skt Himavant- (nom. sg. Himavän)...” “Notice that montes Hemodi (Greek τα Ήμωδα δρη) is the equivalent of Pkt *Hemöda-, Skt Haimavata-, equally «snowy»; intended are two parts of the Himalayan range.”


Source: Erik Seldeslachts, “Translated Loans and Loan Translations as Evidence of Graeco-Indian Bilingualism in Antiquity,” L'antiquité classique, vol. 67 (1998), pp. 273-299, at p. 274.


Afterthoughts


Today's blog title alludes to a famous episode known as “The Road to Emmaus.” If that doesn’t ring a bell, don’t worry about it overly much. It’s another of those places clearly marked on the map yet very probably impossible to find, so you can just forget about the GPS, give it a toss.

Maybe next time, or the time after, I’ll try to convince you of an even much earlier sign that a Himalayan product was well known to the middle eastern and classical western world. I’m enjoying the aroma of it even as we speak. Until then, be confident of good things coming our way.

Said to be in Kham (hard to read the tiny letters),
this shows what a typical traditional Tibetan map (ས་བཀྲ་) looks like,
somewhat topographical



2 comments:

  1. Dear D, I know. You're smiling because I forgot to mention Peter Lindegger's three volumes called Griechische und römische Quellen zum Peripheren Tibet. And you are so right, as always. May the next year be better than all those years that came before. Yours, D

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