The inverted maps of the Middle Ages

Modern maps place the East on the right, and the West on the left. However, we find that the opposite is true for many mediaeval maps - all of the sea charts of the alleged XIV century had the East on the left, and the West on the right, q.v. the atlas [ 1468]. Some of these old inverted charts from Genoa can be seen in figs. 1.38,1.39,1.40 and 1.41. These charts may have been used by either traders or the military fleet.

The word levant, for instance, still means "oriental" in French. The Middle East is also often referred to as Levant in German ([573], page 733). This may be a reflection of the fact that the Orient was on the left of the maps (leviy means "left" in Russian, and the adverb for "on the left" is sleva). It is possible that the Russian word leviy was adopted by some of the Western European languages in order to refer to the Orient. See our Parallelism Glossary in Chronz.

Why did the old maps, and sea charts in particular, have the East on their left, and the West on their right? The reason may have been that the first seafarers of Europe would sail forth from the seaports located on the European coast of the Mediterranean, as well as the Black and Azov seas, and so they had to move from the North to the South. The South was therefore in front, and the Northern coast behind them. A ship captain sailing into the Mediterranean from the Bosporus would look at the approaching African coast. Thus, the East was on the left, and the West was on the right.

This is why the first sea charts of both the traders and the military put the East on the left. It made sense to put that which lay in front on the top of the map. Thus, the way one looks at the map corresponds with the direction of one's movement.

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