Pomponius Mela's Description of the World

F. E. Romer
The first modern translation of one of the world's earliest ethnographies


The Description of the World (Chorographia), written by Pomponius Mela, was last translated into English over 400 years ago, and is the earliest surviving geographical work in Latin. Although first published at the height of the Roman Empire, in roughly 44 C.E., Pomponius Mela's work circulated during Europe's great Age of Exploration. His description is in the form of a voyage around the three "known" continents—Africa, Asia, and Europe. Mela integrates geographical description with more familiar historical, cultural, and mythological information. F. E. Romer's translation and commentary on this work help the reader to appreciate the intellectual and physical shape of the ancient world as Mela and the Romans perceived it.

Frank Romer's introduction assesses Mela as a literary and geographic writer, while his translation matches Mela's style. Mela knows of the Chinese and reports geographical and cultural information about Sri Lanka and India, as well as Mediterranean and European locales that are less remote to his experience. The outer edges of all the continents, including Europe, however, remained unfamiliar to the Romans, and it is on the inhabited world's outer edges that the creatures of legend and mythology were believed to live. Romer's commentary clarifies specific ideas raised in the text. He identifies and explains issues, and he points the reader to ancient sources and modern studies.

This new study will intrigue students and teachers of ancient history. This edition of Mela's geography will be of interest to map lovers, historians, classicists, and anyone interested in history of travel, geography, and education.

F.E. Romer is Professor and Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, East Carolina University. He is the author of numerous articles and has received awards for both his writing and teaching.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . Romer's book provides today's readers with a good introduction, a fresh translation, miscellaneous notes, and helpful indexes. It can serve as a first introduction to a minor, but fascinating Latin writer and populizer."
    —Kai Brodersen, Universitaet Mannheiim, Classical Review
  • "An English translation of Mela was long overdue. Now we have an eminently satisfactory one."
    Classical World, Volume 92, No. 5, 1999
  • "It is Mela's excitement in travel, his sense of places and of their past, which strikes a chord with the modern reader. . . . Romer's guidance is most productive where he encourages us to take the author in his ancient context and allows Mela to act as our tour guide, pointing out the wonders (and strangeness) of his world. Precisely what makes Romer's translation of Mela both welcome and 'fun' is the fact that the voyage of discovery takes place in a world that looks so very different from our own."
    Times Literary Supplement

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 184pp.
  • 1 table, 1 map.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 1998
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08452-4

Add to Cart
  • $39.95 U.S.