The Ionian Greeks produced the first maps in the classical tradition (Eratosthenes attributed the first map to Anaximander); the one shown to Cleomenes I of Sparta by Aristagoras of Miletus is one such map: they fit into the context of new world‐views that are also found in Hecataeus and Herodotus. These early maps were attempts to depict the wider order of the world. Distances on some land routes (such as the Royal Road) and on periploi were calculated. The place of maps in the geographical knowledge of Alexander (2) the Great and his commanders is controversial.
The governmental purposes of the Ptolemies gave a new status to mapping in Alexandrian geography (see Ptolemy (1); Alexandria). The greatest development of mapping in antiquity was associated with Roman imperial policy. The most complex known example of ancient surveying is the Forma Urbis Romae, a plan of Rome on marble slabs which decorated a hall in the templum Pacis complex at Rome and dates from the Severan period (the numerous fragments are a valuable source for the nature of the ancient city). A recently discovered fragment of perhaps Flavian date proves that there was an earlier version of neater draftsmanship and greater detail, with records of title to property as well as the names of public buildings.
It is likely that the ambitious plan of world surveying attributed to Caesar was an attempt, and perhaps the first, to use geographical description as a sign of power. Vipsanius Agrippa's world map, succeeding to Caesar's vision, in the Porticus Vipsania in Rome symbolized the control of space by the Augustan regime. It calibrated distances as well as representing the whole inhabited world.