By: Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg
Date: 1574 (Published) Cologne
Dimensions: 13.25 x 18.75 inches (33.7 x 47.6 cm)
This map presents one of the earliest obtainable bird’s eye views of the strategically located ancient Sicilian port city of Messina.
Founded by Greek colonists in the 8th century BC, Messina was originally called Zancle, from the Greek meaning ‘scythe’ because of the shape of its natural harbor. A commune of the Metropolitan City located at the southern entrance of the Strait of Messina is to this day called 'Scaletta Zanclea'.
In the early 5th century BC, Anaxilas of Rhegium renamed it Messene in honour of the Greek city Messene. The city was sacked in 397 BC by the Carthaginians and then reconquered by Dionysius I of Syracuse. In 288 BC the mercenary Mamertines seized the city by treachery, killing all the men and taking the women as their wives. They made the city a base from which they ravaged the countryside, leading to a conflict with the expanding regional empire of Syracuse.
Due to its strategic location, the city has long been a highly valued prize and has changed alliances as often as necessary in order to preserve itself. In 264 BC Roman troops were deployed to Sicily, one of the first times a Roman army would act outside the Italian Peninsula and by the end of the First Punic War Messina was a free city allied with Rome. In Roman times Messina, then known as Messana, had an important pharos, and the city was the base of Sextus Pompeius, during his war against Octavian.
Here Messina is shown from the east, in a view looking down on its marvelous crescent shaped natural harbour and the city with its ancient geometric plan. This image is dominated by the busy shipping scene in the harbor and enormous warehouses in the foreground. Well-fortified and protected by citadels, the city would seem quite impregnable, with waterways diverted to create additional fortification in the way of wide moats. Even today the Strait of Messina remains treacherous for shipping, and according to Greek mythology, its narrow channel held two sea monsters both deadly to seafarers… Scylla, who dwelt in a rock on one side, and Charybdis with his gaping whirlpool mouth on the other side. Messina experiences regular seismic activity due to the tectonic fault which runs through the strait.
Georg Braun (1541-1622) was born and died in Cologne. His primary vocation was as Catholic cleric; he spent thirty-seven years as canon and dean at the church St. Maria ad Gradus, in Cologne. Braun was the chief editor of the Civitates Orbis Terrarum, the greatest book of town views of that time to be published. His job entailed hiring artists, acquiring source material for the maps and views, and writing the text. In this role, he was assisted by Abraham Ortelius. Braun lived into his 80s, and he was the only member of the original team to witness the publication of the sixth volume in 1617.
Frans Hogenberg (ca. 1540-ca. 1590) was a Flemish and German engraver and mapmaker who also painted. He was born in Mechelen, south of Antwerp, the son of wood engraver and etcher Nicolas Hogenberg. Together with his father, brother (Remigius), uncle, and cousins, Frans was a member of a prominent artistic family in the Netherlands. During the 1550s, he worked in Antwerp with the famous mapmaker Abraham Ortelius. There he engraved the maps for Ortelius’ groundbreaking first atlas, published in Antwerp in 1570. Later, Ortelius supported Hogenberg with information for the Civitates Orbis Terrarum. Hogenberg engraved the majority of the work’s 546 prospects and views.
Important architectural edifices and other places of note are named and coded by number on the map. Latin text on the verso further describes the city, its environs and history.
Condition: This hand colored map is in B+ condition. Very slight smudging of color in the upper centerfold and a centerfold separation in the lower edge.,
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