chapter  12
15 Pages

Tota Italia: naming Italy

The ancient geographers described physical features, named the places and cities of the human landscape and accounted for the variation of peoples, who were represented as a static entity in a set territory or place. They did take account of discrepancies between the present situation of their time and the historical tradition (see below for discussion). Indeed, we should be clear about what the geographers were setting out to achieve through their activity of description before we go any further with the discussion of ethnicity. The Greek geographer Ptolemy (1.1) provides a summary of the role of a geographer as compared to that of a chorographer:

Geography is the imitative and representative description of the whole known part of the world, with everything which generally

belongs to it. It differs from chorography in that the latter, considering the areas separate from one another, shows each of them with an indication of their harbours, their villages, and the smallest habitations, the derivations and detours of all the rivers, of the peoples and similar details. The actual aim of geography is solely to show the world in all its expanse, how it functions as much by its nature as by its position. It is concerned with general descriptions, like those of gulfs, large towns, peoples, great rivers, and everything which deserves to be shown as such. Chorography is concerned with the description of a part of the whole, as one would show an ear or an eye. But geography embraces the totality of things as the image of a head depicts it (the human) in its entirety.