Session 7: Cosmography and Travel Literature

Antipodes Humans, or human-like intelligent creatures, believed to inhabit the southern hemisphere but beyond our reach because a torrid zone separates the two hemispheres (see climate zones below). Antipodes were also hypothesized for the “back” of the northern hemisphere, beyond our reach due to the width of ocean separating the two regions.
Climate zones A division of the earth into five climate belts, of which only the two moderate zones are habitable: the polar belts and the torrid equatorial zone do not sustain life. This theory stems from Greek Antiquity, was transmitted by Macrobius, and remained conventional throughout the Middle Ages.
Chorography The description of regional space; Hiatt uses it to refer to a literary sense of space, in contrast with a geography that is both more universal and more cartographical
Commentary on the Dream of Scipio Macrobius’s fifth-century commentary on a passage by Cicero, setting a standard for the interpretation of dreams and the understanding of the cosmos through much of the Middle Ages
Map projection A technique that distorts the shapes and sizes of geographical areas in order that the three-dimensional surface of the earth may be depicted as a two-dimensional map. Today’s standard is the Mercator projection; in the Middle Ages, cartographers typically depicted only the “front” half of the northern hemisphere in a circular form, and distorted particularly the shapes of land masses nearer the edge of the circle.
Mappa mundi Any medieval map of the world
Middangeard The conventional Old English word for Earth or the world as inhabited by humans. Its literal sense is “middle dwelling” or “middle region”, leaving unclear implications of what complements this “middle”. The reading that the human habitat lies in the “midst” of the outer ocean is a plausible one given Latin and Old Norse analogues as well as some conventional expressions in Old English poetry.
Sundial A disc from which protrudes a gnomon (stick); when the disc is held horizontally in the sunlight, the gnomon’s shadow may be used for navigation
Sunstone A stone apparently used for navigation by medieval Scandinavians; it seems to have been a polarizing stone, which makes the scattering of sunlight visible and reveals its source, so that the location of the sun may be determined when it is not itself directly visible. This technique may be used in combination with a sundial to reveal the north.
T-O map A map that has the east (being Asia) at the top and represents the continents of Asia, Europe, and Africa separated by bodies of water so that a “T” shape emerges within the “O” of the map’s overall shape.