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In early 2021 I was sent a text regarding the Caspian Sea and its toponyms based upon the Vesconte Maggiolo chart dated 1519. Firstly, it was in Russian, from the Dagestan Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography and comprised pages 768-787 of The Golden Horde Review, 2021, 9(4). To my surprise, loading it into a translation programme (Yandex), I obtained, “Handwritten Portulan of the Caspian Sea in 1519, Vesconte Maggiolo as a source on the Historical Geography of the Caspian Region”, as an English text.

This text also introduced a little known chart of the Caspian Sea which was thought to be in the Split Croatia, Library or Museum. Thus my interest was awakened and a research of the basic history of the Caspian Sea and its environs instigated.


The basic list of texts and charts is as follows set down in date order, but not all have been used as visual examples in this text.
1) Heredotus, 490/435BC, 1.202.4 2) Eratosthenes’, 285-205BC 3) Strabo, 64BC-24AD, 2.5.18 4) Pomponius Mela c43AD 5) Pliny the Elder 23-79AD, 6.15 6) Claudius Ptolemy, c150AD 7) Book of Curiosities c1080AD 8) Al-Idrisi c1134AD 9) Sawley Map c11199AD 10) Mappa Mundi 1320-1321 11) Catalan Atlas 1375AD 12) Anon Vallseca c 1440AD 13) Fra Mauro 1454 AD and Vatican Borgia 5 14) Bartolomeo Pareto 1485 15) Vesconte Maggiolo 1519 16) Diego Ribeiro 1529 17) Baptista agnese 1543 18) Pierre Descelier 1550 19) Andreas Homem 1559 20) Anon Chart c1585 21) Abraham Orklin Atlas c1600 22) Joan Blaeu Atlas 1665 and a number of Russian Texts mentioned here-in.

References to my previous texts which will amplify the data here-in given are also noted as necessary.

1) HERODOTUS BOOK 1, 109-205;

“Like the Gyndes (Kerah), which Cyrus divided into 360 channels, the River Araxes (Arras) rises in the country of the Matieni. It has 40 mouths, all but one issuing into swamp and marshland, where even are said to live those who eat raw fish and dress in seal-skins: by the remaining mouth it flows clear into the Caspian Sea. The Caspian Sea is a sea in itself and has no connection with the sea elsewhere, unlike the Mediterranean Sea which the Greeks use, and what is called the Atlantic beyond the Pillars of Hercules, and the Indian Ocean, all of which in reality is part of a single sea”
“The Caspian, however, is quite separate; in length it is 15 days voyage, using oars, and it is 8 days voyage in its broadest part.”

It should be noted that Herodotus states plainly that “The Caspian Sea is a Sea in itself and has no connection with the sea elsewhere” This is a profound statement of knowledge c450/440BC, when the text was written and can only have been stated with knowledge directly given to him. However the voyage distances, in a “rowing boat” given that the length of the Caspian Sea is c1250Km and at its width c320Km would at 5Km/hour give a 16 hour day or an 8 hour day if actually a sail was used and also for the North/South voyage. Later in the text the Ships of the Caspian Sea are discussed.

But what it does mean is that in c450BC the Caspian Sea was very much as we know it today.


Obviously there is a major problem concerning Eratosthenes as his text, “GEOGRAPHY” has not survived as a full document, but we have portion of it collected by Professor Duane W Roller, “Eratosthenes’ Geography”. It provides the best example as he has collected the fragments of, and translated them in his 2010 book.

I therefore quote from that book the texts applicable as written;
P19; Eratosthenes’ also used many sources from the generation after Alexander. Patrocles travelled into the Caspian Region and from there to India, probably in the c180’s BC, although there are difficulties with his account because it presents a Caspian Sea connected to the External Ocean and a sea route from it to India. (See Strabo 11.6 and Pliny NH 6.58)
P28; Eratosthenes’ then described the NE parts of the habited world, from the Caspian Sea to the Pontus (Black Sea). He believed in the fashion of the day that the Caspian Sea was an inlet of the External Ocean.
(Note; with the flooding of the estuaries of the Volga and Ural Rivers, this could account for the description as discussed later.)
P139/140; “Alexander’s topographers had tampered with data in order to enhance his reputation”. His record keepers altered the topography by connecting the Maiotic Lake (Sea of Azov) and the Caspian Sea and moving the Tanais River (DON) so that it emptied into the Caspian Sea rather than the Sea of Azov, calling it the “IAXARTES RIVER” ( Syr Darya), thus the Tanais, because it did flow into the Caspian Sea ( although its outlet is actually the Aral Sea)
P162; Patrokles (FGrHist#712) was a Seleukid Officer stationed in the east during the reigns of Antiochos 1 and Seleukis 1 (Pliny 6.58). He was sent on an extensive topographical mission east of the Caspian Sea, the very region where Alexander’s companions had manipulated the topography.
P205; The Caspian Sea was much larger in antiquity than today (S.N. MOURAVIEV, “Ptolemy’s map of Caucasian Albania and the level of the Caspian Sea, UDI 163(1983) 1170147), and thus the routes and river systems may have been different.(see later)

Note; The Aral Sea was barely known if at all in Hellenistic Times (JR Hamilton, “Alexander and the Aral” CQ NS 21 9`1971) 106-111.


Para 2.5.18. “Continuing our former sketch, we now state that the earth which we inhabit contains numerous gulfs, formed by the exterior sea or ocean which surrounds it. Of these there are four principal. The northern, called the Caspian, by others designated the Hyrcanian Sea, the Persian and Arabian Gulfs, formed by the (southern) Sea, the one being nearly opposite to the Caspian, the other to the Euxine; the fourth, which in size is much more considerable than the others, is called the internal and Our Sea. It commences in the west at the Strait of the Pillars of Hercules, and continues in an easterly direction, but with varying breadth. Farther in, it becomes divided, and terminates in two gulfs; that on the left being called the Euxine Sea, while the other consists of Egypt, Pamphylia and Issos. All these gulfs formed by the exterior sea, have a narrow entrance; those of the Arabian Gulf, however, and the Pillars of Hercules are smaller than the rest. Etc etc”
Para 11.3.1, to the country of the Albanians (Caucarus Albania) belongs also the territory called Caspiane, which was named after the Caspian Tribe as was also the sea, but the tribe has now disappeared.”


The text is taken from Books 1 and 3 of the text by F E Romer, “Pomponius Mela’s Description of the World”.
Book 1, Asia; 11-13
11) The Scyths look north too, and they possess the littoral of the Scythian Ocean all the way to the Caspian Gulf, except where they are forestalled by the cold.
12) In the former place (Persian Gulf) the Caspiani next to the Scyths surround the Caspian Gulf.
13) On the shores of the Caspian Gulf are found Comari, Massagetae, Cadusi, Hyrcani and Hiberi.

Book 3, SCYTHIA; 38 and 39
38) The Caspian Sea first breaks into the land like a river, with a strait as small as it is long, and after it has entered by its straight channel, the Sea is diffused into three bays. Opposite its very mouth, it passes into the Bay of Hyrcania; on the left, into Scythian Bay; on the right, into the one they call by the name of the whole, Caspian Bay. The sea as a whole is violent, savage, without harbours, exposed to storms everywhere, as well as crowded with sea monsters more than any other sea is, and for all these reasons it is not fully navigable. To the right as you enter, the Scythian nomads occupy these shores of the strait.
39) To the interior, beside Caspian Bay, are the Caspians and Amazons (at least the ones they call the Sauromatidae); alongside the bay of Hyrcania are the Albani, the Moschi, and the Hyrcani; on the Scythian Bay are the Amardi, the Pestici, and, at this point near the strait , the Derbices.
He then mentions, 40) The Araxes (Araks); 41) The Cyrus (Kura) and Cambyses (Yori) Rivers; 42) the rivers Iaxartes (Syrdarya) and Oxus (Amudarya).

There are other mentions of the Caspian Sea without consequence to this text.
5) PLINY THE ELDER, NATURAL HISTORY 6.15 (part) and 6.18 (part); AD23-AD79;
The text I am using is from “Pliny the Elder, The Natural History” trans by J Bostock and H T Riley, Book 6, chapter 15, the Caspian and Hyrcanian Sea, and 6.18 Nations situate around the Hyrcanian Sea.

6.15) Bursting through, this sea makes a passage from the Scythian Ocean into the back of Asia, receiving various names from the nations which dwell upon its banks, the two most famous of which are the Caspian and the Hyrcanian races. Clitarchus is of the opinion that the Caspian Sea is not less in area than the Euxine. Eratosthenes gives the measure of it on the south-east, along the coast of the Cadusia and the Albania, as five thousand four hundred stadia; thence through the territories of the Anariaci, the Amardi, and the Hyrcani, to the mouth of the river Zonus he maks four thousand eight hundred stadia, and thence to the mouth of the Jaxartes two thousand four hundred, which makes in all a distance of one thousand five hundred and seventy five miles. Artemidorus, however, makes this sum smaller by twenty five miles. Agrippa bounds the Caspian sea and the nations around it, including Armenia, on the east by the Ocean of the Seres, on the west by the chain of the Caucasus, on the south by that of the Taurus, on the north by the Scythian Ocean; and he states it, so far as its extent is known, to be four hundred and eighty miles in length and two hundred and ninety bin breadth. There are not wanting, however, some authors who state that its whole circumference, from the Straits, is two thousand five hundred miles————.
The rivers which run through Albania in their course to the sea are the Casius (Koisou) and the Albanus (Samour) and then the Cambyses which rises in the Caucasian mountains, and next to it the Cyrus, rising in those of the Coraxici, as already mentioned (in C10). Agrippa states that the whole of the coast, inaccessible from rocks of immense height, is four hundred and twenty five miles in length, beginning from the river Casius. After we pass the mouth of the Cyrus, it begins to be called the ‘Caspian Sea’; the Csapii being a people who dwell upon its shores.

6.18) —— the Derbices also, through the middle of whose territory the river Oxus runs, after rising in Lake Oxus,—-. (The translators note is as follows, “probably under this name he means the Sea of Aral”).





This text is totally out of order as it only appeared in Europe, Italy in fact in 1407AD, when it was translated from the Greek to Latin and thus could not influence the cartography until after that date, it being basically unknown.

The maps here-in are from the LAT V F 32 volume held in the National Library Naples. There are five maps (of 27) drawn by Donnus Nicolaus Germanus which show the Caspian Sea, commencing with a World Map and then from Book 5, Asia, Maps 2,3,5 &7.

The text is from Book 5, chapter XI, location of Albania and is as follows;
“The Albanian border on the north extends along the part of Sarmatia which we have described; on the west it is bounded by Iberia along the line designated; on the south by part of Armenia Major which extends from the terminus near the border of Iberia to the Hyrcanium sea where the Cyrus river empties into it which is in 79 40/ 44 30 on the east by the Hyrcanium sea extending to the Soana river, which coast is thus described; next to the mouth of the Soana river which is in 86 00/47 00.
There are two marshy islands near Albania in the middle of which is 80 30/45 00.”

The shape which Ptolemy has given to the Caspian Sea (map 7) has no relationship to the geographical and is obviously influenced by false information of the many rivers discharging directly into the Caspian Sea, completely ignoring the Aral Sea, the destination of most. (See my text CgAral/1 for the details). The river Cyrus (Thiras) and the Araxes are supposedly from the west, the Rha from the north and from the east, Iafarius, Politimet and Oxia with many branches; (Basically the Jaxartes and Oxus rivers).

Study the geography and the “CYRUS” exits into the Caspian Sea south of BAKU at geog 39N with the “Talis Daglari” exiting further south by Astara geog c38N.

However, those in the east, Jaxartes and Oxus actually limit their flow at the Aral Sea, except for a minor branch of the Oxus river which could be said to link to the Caspian Sea via the Uzboy Channel. (My text CgARAL/1 sets down the history and the fact that the Aral Sea has in fact “disappeared” before.)

Kitab Ghara’ib el-Funun wa-mula al –uyyn


This medieval Islamic text consists of two books (sections), the first being on Celestial matters and the second on Terrestrial matters. It is thought to have been originally compiled at the end of the 11th century in Egypt, but, the copy is probably an early 13th century date.

In book 2, the Caspian Sea is shown diagrammatically as with most Islamic maps, and the rivers Volga and Aras (Rass) plus two islands are indicated. It is folio 31b or image 59 0f 99 available at Digital Bodleian. Also included is a schematic of the River Oxus terminating in the Sea of Aral.



This is an expansive text commissioned by Roger, King of Sicily and is available in a French translation online. It was based upon 70 maps which form a world map and was used by Roger of Sicily basically for his own ends in that he had a fleet of ships marauding parts of the Mediterranean Sea. On Sicily Roger employed many scholars of different languages to translate various texts that were obtained for him


The Bodleian Library holds a copy as Pockocke 375 and the BnF Paris as Arabe 2221.

The 70 maps are only lightly texted and thus the book is of prime importance. But in 1927 Dr Konrad Miller drew a composite map of the 70 tableaux. It is doubted that in 1154 it would have appeared as such but having written four papers on this text and maps;
CgId/1, L’Angleterre; CgId/2, Al Andalus; CgId/3, The world Map; CgId/4, the Spherical Map, I explain just what was seen. I cannot however accept that King Roger did not want or did not receive a full map of the Mediterranean Sea for his marauding Admiral.

If the overall map is studied, south at the top as generally seen in Arab Charts, the Caspian Sea is the large water area with four islands, with corresponding folios forming the whole Caspian Sea in the 70 drawn. The overall map does have the division lines of the individual folios for reference.



The map is held in Corpus Christi College Cambridge, MS 66 pt 1 and is a Mappa Mundi, which concentrates upon the Biblical 12 Tribes, and their territories.

But in the north-west we see clearly drawn the “Mare Caspious”, which is shown as a large inlet from the Scythian Sea, with the Fluvius Oxus and Hyrcania, Arazenia and two un-named rivers, one of which is shown flowing from the mountains which hold “Caspio Porte”. Albania is shown next to what must be the “Sea of Azov” or “Mare”.

As the Mare Caspious is shown as a gulf, neither the Arab Maps nor the Al-Idrisi Map can be seen as the “forma” for this map. The text by Pliny the Elder 6/15, “bursting through this sea makes a passage from the Scythian Ocean into the back of Asia” and the tradition stemming from Patrocles the Macedonian continued for some 1500 years as clearly drawn.


XX) Les Cartes Portolans by Professor Ramon J Pujades.


On page 331 are two circular world maps dated c1320 and c1321. The first is by Paolino Minorata and the second by Pietro Vesconte for Marino Sanudos’ text. The first has a large Caspian Sea and a text adjacent, with, to its right (east) another Sea with three islands. If the page from the Paolina Minorita Folio 9r, held in the Bnf Paris, is studied, it has the whole storyline in the text. That adjacent to the Caspian Sea is fascinating in that it tells the story as Minorita understood it. “Istud dicitur mare de Sara propter civitatem in qua imperator moratur, et dicitur etiam Caspium propter vicinitates ad montes Caspios et Georgiane eadem causa. In eo erat vorago ubi descendebat aque maris, Sed propter terremotum opturatafuit. Ideo mare tumescit per palmam omni anno. Et iam plures bone civitates destructe sunt, tandem videtur quod debeat intrare mare Tane no absque multorum periculo. Habet in circuitu (mmd) miliaria et de Sara usque Nogacium ponitur milliara. Sed circum mare est region arenosa et immerse in magna parte.”

Why this should be included is still a mystery, but it does indicate a “special” sea.

The British Library circular Mappemonde as stated was prepared by Pietro Vesconte for “Liber secretorum fidelium Crucis” and is a text to encourage the Pope to mount another crusade.






The Catalan Atlas held in the BnF Paris is a cartographic “tour de force” and includes an impressive Caspian Sea on sheet three. But it is missing the next page, lost no doubt when it was being stored and then preserved.

There is only a single text appended “Aquest mar es appelleda mar del Sara e de Bacu”, with a large vignette of a ship east of Bacu, having a large square sail and a flag on what must be the foremast. The sail is made of Reed and Palm leaf as illustrated. Thus the previous comment re “Palmam” makes sense. The Caspian Sea is typical of the charts having an east/west orientation, but the River Volga with its many outlets disgorging into the Caspian Sea is quite clear as is the “Flum Dozganci”, which emanates from the mountains to the east and is the “Jaxartes”. But the name of the Caspian Sea “Mar de Sara” comes from the Emperor “Janbech, Lord of the Sara”, as is illustrated to the north of the “mar de Sara and Bacu”. (It refers to the Saray Peoples).



This chart dated to approximately 1440 is held in the Biblioteca National, Florence, Italy and appears to be the first actual Portolan Chart I have found to have the Caspian Sea drawn virtually geographically. It has a similarity to the 1375 Atlas in the portrayal of the Rivers Volga and Jaxartes, as well as the River Cyrus, just to the north of Baku.

However, charts drawn by G de Vallseca, 1439, 1442 and 1449 do not extend to include the east and thus the Caspian Sea. It is thus a one off chart.



It is disputed whether the Borgiana V Chart precedes the Planisphere, that is, was one of the preparatory drawings or was perhaps copied from it? That will not be argued here-in as my text ChFM/1 is already available.

The importance of both is in their texts appended, and some seem to confuse more than others. I am using the book and CD, “Fra Mauro’s world map” by Professor Piero Falchetta, Marciana Library Venice. The reference numbers are from the book.

1496; Civitas magna thauris. (Thauris is Tabriz). “The great city of Thauris, this stands near the border with Persia and was already very important under the Armenians. Teredatius was King, but then the city was taken by Tamerlane, who destroyed all its beauty. It is also claimed that in this area stood the city of Fusi, where Alexander is said to have met Daroius in battle. At present the son of Charaisuf is lord of the city which stands in greater Armenia.”


2365; This Organza Nuova was built by Tamerlane using buildings of Thauris which he had transported here.
Note; on the planisphere this is situate to the east of the Caspian Sea.

The two cartouche situate in the Caspian Sea are as follows;
“In questa provintia”—– In this province of Siroam and Siamachinea in the sea there are some liquid springs, in the largest of which there is a green liquid called nepto. This is good for burning and is carried to Syria and Asia Minor. The other is white and medicinal; it is good for many different pains. It is very good, perfect.
“Queste porte del ferro”——These Iron Gates, that enclose the entrance into this Caspian Mountain, are called in their language “derbene”, i.e. unconquerable, and are also called Caspian gates. This name is derived from the Caspian Mountains. Know that there is not another pass through these mountains to Persia.

We therefore find actually three copies to discuss; The Fra Mauro Planisphere, Borgiana v Chart and then an atlas produced by the “Freducci” of Ancona. Simply put, the two translations above are virtually identical on the Borgiana V and Freducci atlas, even to their position in the Caspian Sea, but the Fra Mauro planisphere has the same legends with slight differences of disposition and spelling. However that said, all three are basically one and the same chart.



It is a beautifully drawn Portolan Chart which instead of finishing c43E, includes the Persian Gulf and half of the Caspian Sea. That sea is peculiarly drawn in that it is a hybrid shape, neither oval as the Catalan Atlas, nor vertical and geographical as the preceding Anon Chart. It has “Mare de Bacu” and “Bacu”, but the text adjacent is illegible.

Unfortunately Bartolomeo Pareto has chosen to orientate his Caspian Sea roughly north/south but has not adjusted the west/east terminology to suit. In other words we now read “famoxium taurix and fillius tamberlanis” south of the Caspian Sea instead of somewhat due east into the Hissar and Tien Shan mountains. His Taurix and the head waters of the Jaxartes and Oxus rivers are in the area known to the Romans as Transoxiana. Thus it is probable that the city drawn with seven minarets is Samarkand which Tamerlane made his capital in 1370.


But, the orientation of the Caspian Sea and the vignette of the City of Famoxium Taurix” beneath it places it in the geographical position of the City of QOM (also spelt as Ghom, Ghum or Qum) which Tamerlane sacked in the late 14th century. Timur (Tamerlane) made it the capital of his empire, built an impressive mosque and his mausoleum, the Gur-e Amir is sited there. Timur’s rule was from 1370-1405.

But we read “famoxium taurix” and Tauris is the later name of Shahistan, which is now TABRIZ, a city in NW Iran, sacked by Timur in c1392. But a 16th century schematic of Tabriz by Matrakci Nasah, shows Tabriz with an oval wall, many minarets and thus similar to Samarkand.

However, Herat Afghanistan, an important site of Khorasan was conquered by Timur/Tamerlane c1380 and ruled by his son Shah Rukh and again is noted thus as the capital of the Timurid Empire.

Read the text on Fra Mauro’s planisphere which refers to a legend placed on the province of Khorasan, which is as follows: “This province was under the domain of the DELI, but Tamerlane transferred his capital there and now his son “Siaroch Marzun” is the Lord. He also reigns over Samarkand and over all Persia as far as Badget and further”.

Shah Rukh, the fourth son and successor of Tamerlane died 1447, and the news would not have taken years to reach Venice!



This atlas page for the Caspian Sea has been used by Yusup.M.Idrisov and I.I. Khanmurzaev in their paper; “Hand Drawn Portolan of the Caspian Sea of 1519 by Vesconte Maggiolo; A source of Historical Geography for the Caspian Region”. They write, ”the purpose of the study; to conduct a detailed comparative analysis of toponomy of the 1519 Atlas Page and determine the range and chronology of its source”. Part of their abstract is worth quoting in full; “Results and novelty of the research; For the first time ever in domestic scholarship we have conducted a comparative historical analysis of the hand drawn portolan chart of the Caspian Se. We also proved the correlation of some toponyms of the West Caspian Region with the Timurid and local sources that covered the military campaigns of Amir Timur in the region. In our view, the “hand Drawn Portolan Chart of the Caspian Sea (15190 created by Vesconte Maggiolo is one of the most notable among similar works. It finds many common features with the portolan from the Island of Lesina, but also contains some common elements with the Mallorca cartographic school and Fra Mauro, Egerton MS 73 and Egerton MS 2083. This research allows us to extend and systematize our understanding of Italian Cartography in relation to the Caspian Region. It also details or adds some facts about the presence of Europeans in this region during the Golden Horde era. Based on this topographic and toponomic analysis, we furthermore come to a conclusion that the portolan in question is derived from a protograph created in the first half of the fifteenthcentury, reflrecting the realities of the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries.”


I had a great deal of help via emails with Yusup M Idrisov to fully understand the complete text as published and it is well worth the effort to download and translate as the above abstract clearly indicates, and there are other texts available by Yusup M Idrisov.


The chart is drawn with the Caspian Sea being c900 miliaria long and c250 miliaria wide, which equates to c1100Km by c300 Km. His north point is c45 degrees east of north mimicking many ideas of the age and his disposition of the vignettes is somewhat over stated. The F.Ogus (R Oxus) discharges into the Aral Sea and it is the River Atrax which enters the Caspian Sea at approximately this point, The outflow from the Aral Sea and the Samy Kamysh Lake is in fact the Uzboy Channel which discharged into the Caspian Sea opposite Baku. However, it is a finely crafted chart for 1519 when the actual knowledge of the Caspian Sea was so very limited.


The text by Yu M Idrisov led to another long search for the Lesina Chart. There is but one photo of this chart as it appears to be missing somewhere, hopefully still in Croatia. The photo is in the text; “The Lesina Portolan Chart of the Caspian Sea” by E P Goldschmidt.

I searched Croatia for this chart without success. Even the Croatian Cartographic Society could not help, and not for the want of trying. I attach a copy of the photograph from the text.

It is similar to the Vesconte Maggiolo chart and E P Goldschmidt thought it to be pre1525 as it was bound into a copy of Ptolemy dated 1525, which was itself in its contemporary binding. He has a complete section in his text on its provenance and comparisons of language etc and thus it may well be a Dalmatian copy of the Vesconte Maggiolo chart.


NOTE; Many of the charts I looked at are not included and I have chosen to give a final over view through the major atlases of the 16th and 17th centuries.



The Ortelius atlas has two large rivers flowing into the Caspian Sea, but the northern river (Jaxartes) also flows into a lake.

Blaeu has a similar layout with the Jaxartes “Chofol fl alim Iaxartes” flowing close to Organca and an offshoot flowing into “Saluna lacus” before flowing out again and into the Caspian Sea.

Both, this late in the cartography of the area are still using the basics set down by Claudiau Ptolemy c150AD when by now the Caspian Sea in a geographical form had been known for over 100 years. Thus as already shown, it is access to knowledge that prevents cartographers producing “correct” maps and charts and leaves them just producing the same data over and over again. My text ChGEN/1 shows that from 1300 to 1500 the Portolan Charts are copies of each other in the order produced.



Is the Caspian Sea as original as we think?

A text which I found, written in Russian, 1983 and originally published in “Vestnik Drevnej Istorii Moskva, 1983, No1 pp 117-147, is in English titled “Ptolemy’s map of Caucasian Albania and the level of the Caspian Sea” by Serge N Mouraview, and fortunately he provided an English overview as follows:
“In Ptolemy’s description of Caucasian Albania (Geog V 11) all rivers but one (the anonymous) flow into the Hyrcanaian Sea, and all the rivers but one, (the Cyrus= Kura) take their source on the southern slope of the Great Caucasus and run southwards. This is incompatible with the present day situation (cf figs 3a and 3b) unless one admits that at the time when the source of Ptolemy’s map was drawn the Kura-Araxes depression was almost entirely submerged by the waters of the Caspian Sea (fig3). On this assumption it becomes possible to locate and identify not only the 7 Albanian hydronyms of the map, but almost all (24out of26) of its Albanian oeconyms and even its two “marshy islands” (actually hills) as well (see figs4-7). Yet these identifications must remain hypothetical until new literary, archaeological, geomorphological and palaeographical evidence is found.”


On page 121 is included a map of the coastline of the Hyrcanaian Sea from 76 to 87E and 44 to 48N, Ptolemaic, as the third sheet of Ptolemy, Map 3, Book 5, 11.

The diagram illustrates the “changes” in various copies of “Geographia” of the positional notation by a dotted line joining two solid dots. The diagrams mentioned are all here-in shown, but it is a small part of the actual story when we accept the 20 metre rise in the Caspian Sea level.

The second text; “Water balance and level fluctuations of the Caspian Sea; Modelling and Prediction”, 2016 has the following abstract;



“The manual is devoted to the problems associated with the variability of the Caspian Sea Level (CSL). The focus is on the long-term fluctuations of CSL, and their causes. The role of climatic, tectonic and anthropogenic factors is analysed. The equation of the Caspian Sea water balance and the contribution of its components to the CSL change is described. The methods for the long-term forecast and super long-term forecast of CSL are given. The conditions of the occurrence of wind-driven surges and their forecasting methods are described.”

This second text is a 293 page multi authored book which discusses the fluctuating level of the Caspian Sea for millennia. Obviously as the level rises and drops with the inflows from the rivers then the low-lying littoral will be flooded or capable of being settled upon as it will be a fertile littoral capable of supporting many peoples.

Today the Caspian Sea level is given as -28m, MSL and various points around the littoral which are also minus levels as well as plus levels. Thus the shape and form of the Caspian and some hinterland will change according to that level.

For the northern area of the Caspian Sea the text provides us with two diagrams; the first indicates the fluctuation levels of -26 to -29m MSL and the years applicable. Obviously the higher the level the less land is exposed and as it drops the littoral expands. The second diagram is the average regional precipitation for the same area extending along the routes of the Volga and Ural Rivers. The diagram also includes the Aral Sea but no precipitation levels.

In my text CgAr1-The Aral Sea, on diagram cgAr1 Do3, the Ancient Rivers, I show the Oxus River which feeds the Sea of Aral and also flows into the Sary Kamysh Lake from which the outflow is the Uzboy River which enters the Caspian Sea passing between the Great and Lesser Balkhans to the Turkmenbasu Aylagy Gulf, (Turkmanhasy Gulf).

Whilst researching the cgAr1 paper, I was struck by this fact, as flowing from a lake the power of the flow would be lessened, than if it was a direct tributary of the main Oxus River. In fact the Uzboy became depleted because of the lack of water in the Oxus and by 1720 maps were submitted to the Paris Academy of Sciences showing the Aral and Caspian Sea basins and the fact that the Uzboy no longer flowed.

However, the Sary Kamysh basin includes the Aral Sea and is the northern edge of the Karakum Desert of Turkmenistan. From an atlas the basic levels are that at the entrance point of the Uzboy to the Turkmanhasy Gulf is set at -10 rising to -5 and then as it progresses north-easterly the finger lake is at -15 and -5 with the Sary Kamysh Lake set at -2. The Aral Sea is set at +29m.

Thus a 20 metre rise in the Caspian Sea from -28 to -8 would no doubt have flooded the Uzboy Channel for some distance, and at least to the first cataract.




“The Uzboy is an enigmatic dry river channel in Western Central Asia. This 750Km long channel regained life on several occasions after the end of the WURM glaciations (about 11,000 years ago), due to climatic episodes more humid than today and/or human deviations of the main course of the Amu Darya towards the west. Much of the Amu annual flow was diverted elsewhere. The discharge of the Amu Darya in the Zaunguz desert accounts for the tens of cubic KM of water the Uzboy was unable to convey away.”


On page 126 there is a General Map of Uzboy, after 1:500,000 map of USSR origin which has a set of levels from the Turkmanhasy Gulf to the Sary Kamysh Lake and they show that the channel level is probably at ZERO to the first cataract between Dekcha and Burgun. But, between the Great Balkhan and the Little Balkhan the banks of the channel are such that a 20 metre overflow from the Turkmanhasy Gulf would flood the Karakum Desert to the south. Hence there is perhaps a reason for the size of the Caspian Sea on the Claudius Ptolemy map. Add to that the fact that the sand is actually whitish in colour from the salt and the reflection would produce a visual effect of a large expanse of water.

We then have a reason to suggest that the flooding of the Volga and Ural River mouth areas would also give rise to the idea that the Caspian Sea is connected to the Scythian Ocean.


Unless we conclude that the first cartographers to map the Caspian Sea were just making it up from verbal descriptions, quite a possibility, the only other reasonable answer is that travellers actually took note of the actuality of the Sea. Hence, Herodotus 490/435BC could write that” it is a sea on its own with no connectivity”; completely correct. But, the tables already shown indicate that the rise in the Caspian Sea level was around 600/500 BC. Hence, it must be the later period for it to have cleared when the traveller who informed Herodotus of the Caspian Sea and its form. But from the 5th century BC we are informed that ships sailed from the Caspian Sea through the Gulf and up the Uzboy Channel, serving as a trade route and having peoples on its littoral, which further indicates a 7th century BC occurrence. Then, there is no mention of the Sea of Aral, perhaps because it was well north of the trade routes but we have the comment that Arab Historians of the Middle ages wrote that the Uzboy was a water course used by Merchants who navigated it for centuries, and had to overcome several rapids, the trade was perhaps to the Sary Kamysh Lake area only.

The Russian texts should be studied as well as this last text and the Toponyms that have been examined by Yusup M Idrisov used to resolve the peoples that were there and thus a source for information.

An actual positive conclusion is impossible, the levels certainly changed by large amounts and the Uzboy dried up several times, but was one of those due to the inrush of water from the Caspian Sea changing its flood course into the desert?

The facts are there for all to study and decide, but the opinions are mine alone

M J Ferrar, August 2022.


Yusup M Idrisov is a candidate of historical sciences and a freelance researcher who may be contacted at;

A second text in English about Evliech Chelebi and Adam Olearius, had me re-reading part of the translated book by Olearius, “The voyages and Travels of the Ambassadors Sent by Frederick Duke of Holstein to the Great Duke of Muscovy, and the King of Persia: Begun in the year M DC XXXIII, and Finish’d in M DC XXXIX: Containing a Compleat History of Muscovy, Tartary, Persia and other Adjacent Countries: with several Publick Transactions Reaching Near Present Times: In VII Books,” (Published 1669).

I suggest starting at actual page 128 and reading through to page 136 for their entrance to the Caspian Sea, the problem with River Craft on that Sea, the design of the Caspian Sea ships and the Latitudes of the places visited with the compass deviations from north.


This book is a mine of information and maps/charts of the Medieval Period, being some 208 pages and divided into, Early Medieval Maps; Islamic Maps and Late Medieval Maps and has a complete Index of Toponyms and People. There are 82 maps in total.


When I had completed my text and uploaded it to the website and Academia.Edu., I received an email asking if I would draw 6 charts which discussed the Aral Sea, but, were more expansive than my originals. Those diagrams are attached here-to as they indicate the whole landscape that affects the Aral Sea, Sary Kamysh Lake and the Uzboy channel, which for my text was far in excess of its requirements.




M J Ferrar, August 2022.