Maps and Geography

Notes to Readers

  • Looking up a place name in the Thesaurus Syriacus can often be a quick way to identify what you have encountered. The index to volume 3 of Wright’s Catalogue of mss in the British Museum can be helpful when dealing with toponyms. Georg Hoffmann’s Auszuge aus syrischen Akten persischer Martyer (Leipzig, 1880) is another important resource.
  • Yaqut’s Mu’jam al-buldan is the most important medieval Arabic geographic dictionary. It is organized alphabetically and one need only have very basic Arabic to make use of it. There is much useful information contained in Yaqut for the student of Syriac; he has well over 100 entries, for example, on monasteries, using information culled from other medieval sources, such as Shabushti’s Kitab al-diyarat, or Book of Monasteries (as well as other, now-lost books of monasteries.)
  • There are Byzantine geographical works as well, such as the Synecdemus of Hierocles and the Descriptio Orbis Romani of George of Cyprus, which can be helpful, too, e.g., in understanding the impact of Alexander and his successors on the Middle East.
  • The easiest and most convenient and best map to use when trying to figure out where a place is in a Syriac text is still the map that accompanies Rubens Duval's La littérature syriaque.  You can see a copy here.  And here is a map that was made to help you if you are reading Eusebius.


Born-digital Mapping Resources

The Syriac Gazeteer

Part of the project. A geographical reference work for places relevant to Syriac studies. Includes an initial publication of over two thousand place records and continues to grow.



Contains everything in the Barrington Atlas, and much more.  A wonderful resource!


Digital Atlas of Roman and Medieval Civilizations

Mapping project at Harvard.



Geo-spatial project at Stanford. Can help you calculate travel times between different points in the ancient world.


Geographical Works of Note

R. Dussaud, Topographie historique de la syrie antique et medievale (Paris, 1927).

A classic work on the historical geography of Syria.


G. Le Strange, Baghdad during the Abbasid Caliphate (Oxford, 1900).

G. Le Strange, The Lands of the Eastern Caliphate (Cambridge, 1905).

G. Le Strange, Palestine Under the Moslems (Boston and New York, 1890).


G.L. Bell, Churches and Monasteries of the Tur 'Abdin and Neighbouring Districts (Heidelberg, 1913).


A. Palmer, Monk and Mason on the Tigris Frontier: The Early History of Tur 'Abdin (Cambridge, 1990).


A. Socin, ''Zur Geographie des Ṭur ‘Abdīn'', Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 35 (1881): 237-269.



Old Baedeker Guides for Syria and Palestine can be read to give the student of Syriac literature a sense for travel and life in the region before the great changes brought about by the upheavals and technological advances of the twentieth century. Here is one from 1876, one from 1898, and one from 1912.