The TIR-FOR project derives from the methodological and conceptual unification of the Tabula Imperii Romani (TIR) and Forma Orbis Romani (FOR) projects. Two key projects during the 20th century for the cartographic topography of Roman antiquity, conceived as a major work of scientific collaboration between countries. The TIR project began in 1928, conceived by the English geographer O.G.S. Crawford and promoted by a “Commission for the production of a map of the Roman Empire”, presented at the 12th International Geographical Congress. Initially the aim was to produce “a map of the whole Roman Empire” comprising 56 sheets at a scale of 1:1,000,000, taking as an example the International Map of the World (IMW), which had just been issued. The project became valuable not only for geography but also for the understanding of the history, archaeology and economic and social relations of the ancient Roman world. After the Second World War, the project was brought under the auspices of the UAI.
In parallel, from 1919 the UAI formulated the FOR project as a major collaboration between countries aimed at producing the Map of the Roman world. It was a great attempt at methodological unification to publish archaeological maps of the whole empire following the same pattern, at a scale of 1:50,000 or 1:25,000, along with the corresponding volumes detailing the archaeological sites that appear on them. From the outset, the two projects had great acceptance and continuity. To date (Novembre 2018), in terms of TIR, the volumes of the sheets corresponding to almost all European countries and some from North Africa and the Middle East have been published on paper, in 34 volumes, the last three corresponding to Sheet J-34 published by the Athens Academy in 2016. In terms of FOR, the 52 Forma Italiae published volumes stand out for their scientific quality. The gradual implementation of new technologies and the consequent declining importance of scale prompted the UAI in its 2004 General Assembly to decide to unify the projects. It is believed that, with the new applications, FOR has become an extension and in-depth development of TIR for given regions, particularly rich in written or archaeological documentation of the ancient Roman world.
From 2014, the TIR-FOR International Commission decided to set out a new challenge of great scope for this project. Thus, based on the information collected in its numerous publications, the aim is to digitalise all the geographical and archaeological information of the TIR-FOR in a large database following unified criteria and in a single digital open access website. The first objective is to produce an interactive map of the Roman Empire, with information and additional links in open access (Linked Open Data), while producing a new methodology with a database common to all countries, accessible online and that can be optimised with GIS. In short, a gazetteer linked to a cartographic database with ongoing scientific revision and updating. The development of this objective enables data visualisation and consultation on maps using different cartographic bases. Links are expected to other computing resources (such as Pelagios, GAP, ORBIS and Europeana) and the introduction of additional information, such as photographs, videos, museum links, information on sites than can be visited, and so on. This entails the creation and maintenance of a work tool, in which researchers can find the map of the Roman Empire (thematic, typological and chronological maps) with basic information about all the sites and place names, and the resources available for each of them, as well as the communication routes, the natural wealth exploited in antiquity and the geographical information resulting from the ancient sources and archaeology. This new all-encompassing conception of the project, along with enhancing its scientific utility, opens the possibility of exploiting it as a wide ranging tool to promote culture, education and tourism among society.