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  • Date :
  • 6/2/2008

The King and the Map Maker

old map

Once upon a time there lived in the island of Sicily a king. Sicily is a big island in the warm Mediterranean Sea. The King of Sicily was Roger the second and he held court in Palermo. He had become King at the age of 17. His father had come from Normandy in northwestern Europe. King Roger had great interest in learning about the geography of the world. In the faraway land of Morocco lived an Arab Geographer and a scholar, Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn-Idrisi who was born into a noble family. He studied for many years in Spain and had travelled a great deal. He became known throughout the lands as a wise man.

The King heard of the geographer. People said that there was no one in the whole world who knew about the southern lands of the world better than he. So Roger told his people to invite Ibn-Idrisi to his court. His courtiers sent out the Royal invitation to Idrisi. Idrisi accepted the offer and travelled to Sicily. When Idrisi arrived in Sicily he was received with full honors. Soon, he was invited into the Royal Court and was received warmly by the King.

The King told Idrisi, Ideas and knowledge are wonderful things. If you and I each have an apple and we swap, we will have only one apple each. But, if you and I each have an idea and we swap, we will each have two ideas.

Ibn-Idrisi was pleased to hear the king’s words and agreed to work for him. King Roger, the second, wanted Idrisi to prepare a great map of the world. The King believed that paper was too ordinary to prepare such a map, for it did not last forever. He ordered all the silver in his treasury to be melted down and beaten into the biggest round plate the silversmiths could make. The King wanted the wonderful map to be impressed on it forever!

A king’s word is the law. The silversmiths of his kingdom soon got busy. When the plate was made, it took four men to drag it into the geographer’s study. The plate was two meters in diameter and weighed 126 kilograms. Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn-Idrisi spent the next 15 years at work, drawing, and engraving, minting, and pressing the contours of the lands known to him and to King Roger on the precious metal.

King Roger died before the map was finished. But the geographer carried on. The map had all that they had hoped for- all the countries, mountains, seas, and rivers stood out clearly. And, written on it, in excellent script were the directions to read the map. The Arab geographer’s map included everything that was known about the world in the twelfth century.

Unfortunately, the king and the geographer had made one mistake. The silver on which the map was made was not durable. When the king’s heirs needed money, the silver map disappeared. Nobody would have known about it had not Idrisi made copies on ordinary paper. It also proved that ordinary paper lasts longer than silver.

other links:

The Man Who Counted Camels

A Mosquito Conquers a Tiger But Meets a Sad End!

Who's the Noblest of All?

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