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Lost Maps of the CaliphsDrawing the World in Eleventh-Century Cairo$
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Yossef Rapoport and Emilie Savage-Smith

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226540887

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226553405.001.0001

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Ports, Gates, Palaces

Ports, Gates, Palaces

Drawing Fatimid Power on the Island-City Maps

(p.154) (p.155) Chapter Six Ports, Gates, Palaces
Lost Maps of the Caliphs

Yossef Rapoport

Emilie Savage-Smith

University of Chicago Press

This chapter discusses the representation of urban spaces and political power in the maps of the island of Sicily, the port cities of Mahdia in modern Tunisia and Tinnis in the Nile Delta. The three maps depict Mediterranean ports under Fatimid control, and share the same visual language. The visual representations of these cities focus exclusively on the walls and gates of the cities, the defences of the ports and the fortified palatial complexes, at the expense of all other urban institutions. The aim in all three maps is to convey the impregnability of the fortifications. Although these maps are appended to textual descriptions, they stand independent of them, and add or omit data in order to achieve their desired visual effect. Together, they form the earliest set of city plans to have survived from medieval Islam. In comparison with the vivid images of urban agglomerations in late antique mosaic maps of Madaba, the city maps of the Book of Curiosities show instead empty spaces, with an emphasis on the military and political at the expense of the civic and the religious.

Keywords:   Mediterranean, Sicily, Mahdia, Tinnis, city plans, ports, Madaba, Fatimid Empire, fortifications

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