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A Medieval Atlas

Map of the Known World
5th Century

This map was created by your Guide and is copyright © 2007 Melissa Snell. The geographic structure was taken from a public-domain blank outline world map. Historical data was derived from The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History by Colin McEvedy and the Encyclopedia Britannica.

This simple map depicts what 5th century European scholars, leaders and traders understood the extent of their world to be. The shape of the lands in the map is, generally speaking, geographically accurate, but people of the times did not have a clear understanding of this. For example, although they knew where India was, they did not have any knowledge of its shape. And although they knew that China lay to the east, they had no grasp of its size; nor did they comprehend the extent of Russia beyond the Steppes.

As the map indicates, Europeans were familiar with northern Africa. Arabic traders had visited as far south as Zanzibar, but if there were any explorations inland, their findings were not recorded. Similarly, no Europeans had knowledge of the shape or extent of the African continent, as no known explorations were made down the west coast or further south than Zanzibar. Madagascar had not yet been encountered.

In the north, not only had Iceland yet to be discovered, but no one knew whether or not Scandinavia was attached to the continent (Ptolemy had theorized it was an island).

This map was designed to offer a general understanding of known territory in the 5th century. No guarantee is made as to the complete accuracy of this geographic rendering.

You may download or print this map for personal or school use, as long as the copyright notice remains intact.


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