Report on Durham/ICS Digital and Practical Epigraphy Course 4-8 April 2022

Report by Julius Guthrie, Charlotte Spence & Elena Tzoka.

In the first week of April 2022 a training workshop was held at the Institute of Classical Studies, University of London, to provide an introduction to the core issues and methods involved in epigraphy. The focus of the workshop was on skills for Greek and Latin epigraphy, including squeeze-making, photogrammetry, and EpiDoc, a community of practice, recommendations and tools for the digital editing and publication of ancient texts based on TEI XML. As digital humanities continues to become an increasingly important part of the field, this aspect of the training was particularly welcome.

The training was offered by Gabriel Bodard (ICS), Katherine McDonald (Durham), and Irene Vagionakis (ENCODE project, Bologna), with contributions from Caroline Barron (Durham), Matilde Grimaldi, and others. This workshop was generously funded by the AHRC Early Career Fellowship ‘Connectivity and Competition’ (grant AH/R010943/1; PI Katherine McDonald), the Institute of Classical Studies and Durham University.

A drying squeeze on Latin inscription. Photo: Julius Guthrie.

Summary of Content:

Each day of the course was split into two. The first half of the day, until roughly 1pm, was used for watching self-paced videos that had been pre-recorded by the instructors. The second half of the day was interactive. For in-person participants this was classroom-based learning and a chance not only to ask questions, but to put skills viewed online to the test in a practical setting. These classroom sessions featured a guest lecture from a professional epigraphist. For online participants, the afternoon structure was similar and they joined those in the classroom via a hybrid format.

Ink illustration of Latin inscription, by Charlotte Spence

The week began with an online, self-paced introduction to the theme of the week, which included a series of videos that introduced us to epigraphy and the practical skills that epigraphists require in order to read, record, and work with inscriptions. These included showing how squeezes are formed and how drawing inscriptions might help us capture details that would be nearly impossible to see in person or on pictures. The guest lecture delivered by Dr Matilde Grimaldi focused on how useful the art of illustration can be in academic work. Many of the examples presented clearly showed how greatly a clear illustration can improve the clarity and understanding of ideas and arguments.

On the Tuesday, the focus switched to understanding and practicing photogrammetry as a tool for epigraphy. Aykan Akcay, the guest lecturer, exhibited his own field work and guided us through the process of gathering images that would eventually be turned into 3D models. In addition, the lecture illustrated how different digital light settings may help in reading worn inscriptions and revealing subtleties that were otherwise not visible with the naked eye. Using the programmes Agisoft Metashape and Autodesk Meshmixer, participants were then able to attempt their own photogrammetry on a range of objects supplied.

Charlotte Spence capturing photographs of a statuette for photogrammetry. Photo: Katherine McDonald

The Tuesday also contained an optional evening component, with a talk given on a project cataloguing the inscriptions of Libya and creating an online corpus using EpiDoc. This provided a fascinating insight into how skills learned on this course could be applied in practice.

On Wednesday the emphasis was on the production of computer-readable databases with the self-paced videos introducing us to XML, EpiDoc and the programme Oxygen. This was a great opportunity to engage with the skills we had heard being discussed the previous evening.

Caroline Barron speaking on Identifying Fakes and Forgeries in Latin Inscriptions. Photo: Katherine McDonald.

The guest lecture was delivered by Dr Caroline Barron and focused on the creation of epigraphic forgeries, both the addition of inscriptions later to ancient objects, such as ash chests, as well as the creation of entirely fake objects. A discussion of the production of epigraphic corpora was necessarily included and was incredibly illuminating; our understanding of epigraphy as a discipline is shaped by the decisions of these early individuals.

The next day, Thursday, very much drew together the various strands of the course up to that point, and allowed participants the opportunity to really be epigraphists through the medium of a field-trip to Old St. Pancras Gardens. In particular, the excursion was useful for giving participants a genuine understanding of the practical challenges that can be presented by landscape, weather and ethics (the site is a graveyard); all of which can be studied in a classroom but only really understood after fieldwork. Techniques such as using a racking light meant that letter shapes which had initially been completely invisible literally came to light and helped participants create a fuller transcription of the text.

Friday, as the last day of the course, was used as an opportunity to ask questions, practice skills and present work completed for informal feedback in a supportive environment. Participants seem to have found this especially useful, since it gave an opportunity for everyone to listen to the challenges encountered by each person while learning the various tools introduced throughout the week.

Summary:

One of the most difficult challenges for a skills-based workshop is to appeal to a diverse audience, with differing levels of knowledge about the subject and divergent areas of interest. This report has been co-authored by three individuals who approach epigraphy from entirely different angles: one works primarily of cursed-tablets, one is a predominantly political historian and the other examines material evidence for women in Roman Athens. Despite our varied interests, we each of us found this course to be remarkably stimulating, enjoyable and informative. One author, in particular, has since gone on to consider how the digital aspects of the course could allow them to turn a project they are working on into an online database.

Workshop participants documenting a grave monument in St Pancras Old Cemetery. Photo: Katherine McDonald.

The split day approach with self-paced videos followed by collaborative discussions and practical engagement was a particular success. This approach encouraged individualisation, not only in terms of what was of interest, but in terms of overcoming specific problems when learning new skills. The ability to return to footage over and over, to pause and to rewind allowed participants to gain a full and deep understanding of issues and skills that would not be possible if simply delivered orally. It also gave everyone a chance to develop detailed questions for the afternoons and to think ahead regarding what they would do in the practical sessions.

Overall, this course was a fantastic introduction to digital and practical epigraphy, and credit should be given to those, mentioned above, who organised and delivered it, and thanks to the Institute of Classical Studies for hosting the workshop.

Julius Guthrie, University of Exeter
Charlotte Spence, University of Exeter
Elena Tzoka, University of Durham

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Digital Classicist London 2022 programme

The programme for the summer 2022 series of the Digital Classicist London seminar is now available. The seminar was organized by Gabriel Bodard (University of London), Paula Granados García (British Museum), Kelly McClinton (Oxford) and Valeria Vitale (Alan Turing Institute), and brings together presentations and discussions of innovative digital approaches to research, teaching, dissemination or engagement related to the ancient and pre-modern worlds.

All seminars are streamed live at 17:00 UK time (UTC+1) on the Digital Classicist Youtube channel, and from June 24 onward will also be held in room 349 of Senate House, London. Details of individual seminars at the links below.

  • Fri May 27, 2022 Matei Tichindelean (University of California Los Angeles), Digital Reconstruction of the Akhenaten Torso in the Brooklyn Museum (online) (details) (Youtube)
  • Fri Jun 10, 2022 Scott Madry (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Historical Ecology of Southern Burgundy (online) (details) (Youtube)
  • Fri Jun 24, 2022 Valeria Vitale, Katherine McDonough (Alan Turing Institute), et al., Antiquities and the Machine: computational methods for the study of the representation of historical sites on Ordnance Survey Maps of Great Britain (in-person) (details) (Youtube)
  • Fri Jul 1, 2022 Farnoosh Shamsian (University of Leipzig), Learning Ancient Greek in Persian through digital annotations (remote speaker) (details) (Youtube)
  • Fri Jul 15, 2022 Alice Clinch (Cornell) & Jari Pakkanen (Royal Holloway), Documenting ancient plasters in 3D: comparing standard and focus-stacking macro photogrammetry (in-person) (details) (Youtube)
  • Fri Jul 29, 2022 Reuben J. Pitts (KU Leuven) Corpus of the Epigraphy of the Italian Peninsula in the 1st Millennium BCE (in-person) (details) (Youtube)

Registration is not required. All welcome.

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Digital Classicist London 2022 call for papers

The Digital Classicist: Advanced digital methods applied to the study of the ancient world

The Digital Classicist London seminar invites proposals for the Summer 2022 series. We are looking for seminars on any aspect of the ancient or pre-colonial worlds, that address innovative digital approaches to research, teaching, dissemination or engagement. Seminars that speak to the ancient world beyond Greco-Roman antiquity are especially welcome.

Seminars will be held fortnightly through June and July in the Institute of Classical Studies, Senate House, London, with the possibility for audience and speakers to be present or remote (although we hope most speakers will be physically present in London, circumstances allowing). We have a small budget to support travel for speakers within the UK.

Please send an abstract of 300–500 words to <gabriel.bodard@sas.ac.uk> (clearly marked Digital Classicist London) by Sunday April 10.

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Digital Humanities Introductory Workshop, Cyprus May 23–27 2022

Call for participants: Digital Humanities Introductory Workshop

The Departments of Classics and Philosophy and History and Archaeology, University of Cyprus (UCY), invite participants to join a 5-day Digital Humanities Introductory Workshop, to take place between 23-27 May 2022 at the University of Cyprus in Nicosia.

The workshop will offer introductions to a range of archaeological and philological technologies, including features of EpiDoc XML, linguistic analysis (including treebanking and translation alignment), 3D Imaging, GIS, and Linked Open Geographical Data.

The workshop will be suitable for advanced undergraduates, postgraduates and early career scholars with little or no previous experience of digital humanities. The workshop will be capped at 20 participants. A limited number of spaces will also be available for remote, asynchronous participants. Those participating physically will have to comply with UCY’s safety protocols, which will depend on the epidemiological situation during the time the event is held. Further details on the programme, preparation material (software, readings) and safety protocols will be sent to the selected participants in advance.

In order to register, please complete the application form at <https://forms.gle/igdBo1oUYfNdY5rX8>, indicating whether you are interested in the archaeological, philological, or both parts of the workshop, and in attending physically or online by 17 March 2022. If you have any questions about the workshop in the meantime, please write to alexandrou.margarita@ucy.ac.cy.

Organisers:

  • Margarita Alexandrou (Department of Classics and Philosophy, UCY)
  • Maria Parani and Apostolos Sarris (Department of History and Archaeology, UCY)
  • Gabriel Bodard (School of Advanced Study, University of London)
  • Irene Vagionakis (University of Bologna and ENCODE Project)
  • Valeria Vitale (The Alan Turing Institute)

This collaborative event is organised in the context of the programme HIPPONAX (POST-DOC/0718/0119), funded by the Cyprus Research and Innovation Foundation and hosted by the University of Cyprus, Department of Classics and Philosophy. Programme Coordinator: Professor Georgios A. Xenis; and the research project MedCyprus: A Digital Corpus of Painted Greek Inscriptions from Medieval Cyprus (10th–13th centuries AD), funded by the University of Cyprus and implemented by the Department of History and Archaeology and the Archaeological Research Unit (UCY). Project Coordinator: Assoc. Prof. Maria Parani.

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Visualising myth in RawGraph

written by Martina Delucchi, PhD student, University of Bristol

Visualising myth is not an easy task. When I was asked by Dr. Varga to use my own data to try out RawGraphs (https://rawgraphs.io), I knew that I wanted an instrument that graphically represented

a) the diachronic development of several accounts of a myth, recounted by many sources; and

b) which versions of said myth are most attested.

This would give indications regarding the popularity of a particular version and would immediately visualise when and in which witness a specific version of a myth is attested. Consequently, the visualisation would contribute to provide an immediate representation of the history of tradition.

To do so, I decided to isolate a relatively defined section of the Telephus saga, namely the story of his mother Auge.

Auge was the daughter of Aleus, king of Tegea, Arcadia. She is best known because she gave birth to Telephus, ‘amongst Heracles’ sons the most similar to his father’ (Paus. 10.28.8). The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women is the oldest account we have for the story of Auge. There, she is displaced by the gods from Tegea to Asia Minor when she is just a young girl and there she is raised as one of king Teuthras’ daughters. Once grown up, she meets Heracles, who is travelling through Mysia on his way to Troy and births him a son, Telephus. In the rest of the tradition, the encounter happens in Tegea. Heracles either rapes Auge or has an ongoing secret relationship with her and, in some cases, the union happens while she is a priestess of Athena. Telephus is either born in the temple of Athena – causing a pestilence or a drought – in a not better defined area of Tegea – where the temple of Eileithyia will be raised – or on Mount Parthenios. Since the union happens outside of marriage, or because the union caused a pestilence, Auge is condemned by her father to be either drown, thrown into the sea into a chest (sometimes with her son, sometimes alone), or more generally killed. She escapes her fate by being either sold or gifted to Teuthras of Mysia or even flying. Once arrived in Mysia, she either marries Teuthras or is adopted by him. Finally, she either remains in Asia Minor or, in one version, she is brought back to Tegea by her grown up son, after the two reunite. This short summary of the myth testifies for how even a secondary narrative such as Auge’s is subject to a multitude of different accounts, due to the numerous authors who have approached and re-elaborated the story.

For this visualisation project I decided to isolate those narrations which are attested in transmitted works, thus excluding reconstructions, more or less reliable, of lost works. This means that for fragmentary witnesses such as Sophocles’ Sons of Aleus, Euripides’ Auge, or Euripides’ Telephus sometimes I used only one fragment or testimonium and I did not consider possible reconstructions of the rest of the tragedy based on later sources. For example, only F 89 Radt of Sophocles’ Sons of Aleus contains an element which is functional to the narrative I am examining, namely the presence of a doe, which accounts for Telephus being abandoned on Mount Parthenios, while the rest of the fragments do not. There are possible reconstructions of the rest of the plot based for example on Alcidamas’ Odysseus, but I chose not to take it into account as it is not explicitly stated by Alcidamas that he is basing his account on Sophocles’ Sons of Aleus.

The witnesses taken into consideration are:

  1. Hesiod = Hesiodic Catalogue of Women (F 165 Merkelbach-West), 7th-6th c. BCE.
  2. Hecateus = Hecateus of Miletus (FGrH 29a = F 29 Fowler), 6th-5th c. BCE.
  3. Sophocles’ Sons of Aleus = Sophocles’ Sons of Aleus (TrGF IV F 77-91 Radt), 5th c. BCE.
  4. Euripides’ Telephus = Euripides’ Telephus (TrGF V.2 (67) F 696-727c Kannicht), 438 BCE.
  5. Euripides’ Auge = Euripides’ Auge (TrGF V.1 (14) F 264a – F 281 Kannicht), second half 5th c. BCE.
  6. Alcidamas = Alcidamas’ Odysseus (G. Avezzù, Alcidamante. Orazioni e Frammenti, Roma 1982, pp. 22-35), 4th c. BCE.
  7. Diodorus = Diodorus Siculus’ Bibliotheca Historica (Diod. 4.33.7-11), 1st c. BCE.
  8. Strabo = Strabo’s Geographia (Strab. 13.1.69), 1st c. BCE – 1st c. CE.[1]
  9. Hyginus = Gaius Julius Hyginus’ Fabulae (Hyg. Fab. 99-100), 1st c. BCE – 1st c. CE.
  10. Apollodorus = Apollodorus’ Bibliotheca (Apollod. Bibl. 2.7.4, 3.9.1), 1st – 2nd c. CE.
  11. Pausanias 1 and Pausanias 2 = Pausanias’ Description of Greece (Paus. 8.48.7, two versions recounted in the same passage), 2nd c. CE.
  12. Quintus of Smyrna = Quintus of Smyrna’s Posthomerica (Quint. Smyrn. 6.137-142), end 4th c. CE?.
  13. Moses Chorenensis = Moses Chorenensis’ Progymnasmata 3.3 (TrGF V.2 (14) T iib p. 333 (Latin translation); cf. also A. Baumgartner, ‘Ueber das Buch „die Chrie”‘, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 40.3, 1886: 457-515), 5th c. CE.[2]

Whenever a particular moment of the myth is registered as ‘Unknown’ in a specific author it means that the account does not mention it; whenever it is registered as ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) it means that that moment of the myth cannot be present in that author – for example, Auge cannot be punished for her encounter with Heracles by her father Aleus in the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women because she has been living in Mysia since she was a young girl. For the sake of clarity, some labels have been simplified; so, in the section ‘Role of Auge’, Auge is either described as ‘Princess’ or ‘Priestess’ even if even in the versions of the myth she is priestess of Athena and princess of Tegea.

I decided to divide Auge’s story in the following sections:

  1. Role of Auge indicates if Auge is considered only in her capacity of princess of Tegea (‘Princess’) or if she is also priestess of Athena (‘Priestess’).
  2. Auge and Heracles indicates if the sexual encounter between Heracles and Auge is either a consensual single union (‘Consensual’), an ongoing relationship (‘Relationship’), rape (‘Rape’), or an unspecified union that could be either rape or consensual (‘Union’).
  3. Telephus’ birth: Telephus is either born in Teuthrania, Mysia (‘Teuthrania’), in an unspecified part of Tegea (‘Tegea’), in the temple of Athena in Tegea (‘Temple of Athena’), or on Mount Parthenios (‘Parthenios’).
  4. Auge’s supposed fate indicates the punishment king Aleus decided for his daughter. She is supposed to be either thrown into the sea inside a chest (‘Chest in the Sea’), drown (‘Drown’), or more generally killed (‘Killed’).
  5. Auge’s actual fate indicates what actually happens to Auge. She is either thrown into the sea inside a chest (‘Chest in the Sea’), sold to king Teuthras (‘Sold to Teuthras’), gifted to Teuthras (‘Gifted to Teuthras’), or she flees to Mysia (‘Flight’).
  6. Telephus’ fate shows what happens to Telephus after his birth. He is either thrown in the sea inside a chest with his mother (‘Chest in the Sea’), exposed on Mount Parthenios (‘Exposed on Parthenios’), or sold to Teuthras with his mother (‘Sold to Teuthras’).
  7. Auge and Teuthras indicates the relationship between the two characters. Auge is either raised by Teuthras (‘Raised by’), married to Teuthras (‘Married to’), adopted by Teuthras (‘Adopted by’) or their relationship is not specified (‘Guest of’).
  8. Ending indicates the outcome of Auge’s adventures. She either remains in Mysia (‘Mysia’) or is brought back to Tegea by her son (‘Tegea’).

*

The first visualisation I chose to employ is a Matrix Plot. As per RawGraph’s definition, a Matrix Plot ‘allows comparison of two categorical dimensions, disposing them on the horizontal and vertical axes. Each glyph (square or circle) represents a possible correlation among the two dimensions.’ On the vertical axis the different moments of the narrative are disposed following its internal chronology, from the earliest, indicating Auge’s role, to the latest, indicating how the story ends; on the horizontal axis the authors are disposed chronologically, from the oldest (Hesiod) to the latest (Moses). To each section of the myth is assigned a colour palette in order to distinguish it from the other.

From the Matrix Plot above we can infer mainly three things:

  1. Many sources do not recount the entirety of the myth, but just parts of it;
  2. There is a clear preference towards certain versions of a myth compared to others: for example, Auge is raped by Heracles in eight sources out of 14; Telephus is exposed on Mount Parthenios in nine sources out of 13 and so on;
  3. Some sources have very little in common, for example Hecateus and Alcidamas; others have more in common, for example Hecateus and Strabo; others seem to follow the same tradition up to a certain point of the narrative and then diverge, for example Alcidamas and Diodorus.

Cross-referencing the visualization with a pre-emptive knowledge of the scholarly discussion around the source material could help us fill the blanks – for example knowing that Hyginus used mostly Euripidean tragedies to write his mythographic accounts could help the reconstruction of Euripides’ Auge‘s and Telephus‘ missing glyphs. Similarly, the parallel between Apollodorus and Euripides’ Auge suggests a connection and also indicates that, for example, the union between Heracles and Auge which has been catalogued under Apollodorus as undefined (‘Union’), since the mythographer does not specify its nature, is probably to be classified as ‘Rape’.

A second type of visualisation that I deem useful for the study of the myth is a Sunburst Diagram. As per RawGraph’s definition, a Sunburst Diagram ‘displays hierarchically structured data and a related quantitative dimension using concentric circles. The circle in the center represents the root node, with the hierarchies moving outward from the center. The angle of each arc corresponds to the qualitative dimension.’

The internal chronology of the myth is here disposed clockwise and for each root node (section of the myth) two connected hierarchies are represented (versions of the myth; witnesses). Furthermore, each section and correspondent witnesses follow the same colour palette. The first hierarchy from the centre gives the various versions of the myth for each root node; the second hierarchy counts the authors that use one particular version.

The Sunburst Diagram is better suited than the Matrix Plot to show the incidence of a certain version compared to the others and it is immediately clearer which is the prevalent version for every section of the myth. By looking at the figure aboce, we can immediately say that in most cases Auge was just a princess, and not also a priestess of Athena, that she was raped, that her son was born on Mount Parthenios, where he was also exposed, that she was supposed to be drown but was instead given to Teuthras, who married her and that she concluded her life in Mysia. In this way, it is possible to state, always remembering that we are basing our reasoning on a limited number of sources, that these elements in the story of Auge must have been the most widespread and popular.

Comparing the Sunburst Diagram to the Matrix Plot, it is clear that they have points in common. In both cases we register that many sources do not recount every section of the myth and that some versions are considerably more popular than others – even if the Sunburst Diagram shows it more clearly. However, the Sunburst Diagram does not show the development of the myth following the diachronic order of the sources and it is not immediately evident what each source has in common with the others and in what differs.

*

To conclude, both graphs are useful in the study of the myth, mainly as instruments to categorise it and to help scholars visualise the points in common, the incidence of certain accounts and the diachronic development of the narrative. Furthermore, such visualisations could be very useful from a didactic point of view, namely, to help students understand the multi-layered structure of myth and the way in which it is re-elaborated and modelled by different sources with different aims.

 

[1] Strabo reports a version of the myth that he attributes to Euripides, but it is not clear to which tragedy. Furthermore, Strabo’s attributions are often misleading. Consequently, I decided to report that version as Strabo’s.

[2] Moses Chorenensis reports a version of the myth which is generally attributed to Euripides’ Auge, but since the attribution is not explicit, I chose to report it as Moses’ version.

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Population and networks at Augusta Traiana

written by Annamária – I. Pázsint, scientific researcher, Babeș-Bolyai University

Context

As part of an individual research project funded by the European Association for Digital Humanities, the population of Augusta Traiana has been studied based on the epigraphic sources, in order to provide glimpses on it and on the networks that existed inside the society. While the results of the research have been synthesized in an article sent for publication (Romans 1 by 1. Augusta Traiana et territorium), the goal of this blog entry is to address some of the discussed aspects.

Sources

The Roman city of Augusta Traiana was founded by the emperor Trajan in the nearby the Thracian settlement Beroe, and over the centuries it became the second-largest center of the province Thrace, after Philippopolis. From its earliest epigraphic attestation and up to the 3rd century AD, there are 276 inscriptions from the city that provide information on its population (mostly from the 2nd and 3rd century AD), be it on persons who were temporarily or only permanently located there. Certainly, as in the case of all such initiatives based on epigraphic sources, the evidence does not record the population in its entirety, only a fraction of it. In spite of this, such studies are relevant because they show specific epigraphic habits and point to those persons who, for some reason, are mentioned on monuments, be they dedicatees or dedicators, and in the end, it points to the existing evidence. In order to make the prosopographical evidence available for anyone interested in it, specialist or not, each person epigraphically attested has been recorded in the prosopographical database Romans 1 by 1. The database is a work-in-progress initiative and it includes all of the existing prosopographical evidence on the persons epigraphically attested in the Roman provinces of Moesia Inferior, Moesia Superior, Dacia and Pannonia Superior, as well as the evidence on specific cities from other provinces.

Exceptions

Given the sources used, we applied some exceptions to the corpus we gathered; as such we have excluded the emperors or the provincial governors that some inscriptions mention at Augusta Traiana, for the simple reason that they were not inhabitants of the city. Based on the same criterion, excluded from the sample were also the personal names mentioned on amphoras, as they do not necessarily attest local craftsmanship. Unfortunately, due to the fact that some inscriptions were fragmentary, we could not “extract” the personal names mentioned in them – this is mostly the case of votive monuments.

Sample

For the period under our focus (up to the 3rd century AD), from the inscriptions result 525 “active”/“primary” persons. By “active”/“primary” I refer to those persons who were the subjects of inscriptions and by “secondary” I refer to the father of the “primary” person who is attested through the patronymic. When taking into account also the “secondary” persons, the number of persons attested at Augusta Traiana and its territory increases to 795. However, due to the fact that in this case many inscriptions provide very few information on the identity of persons and due to the increased attestation of identical personal names and patronymics, a drawback of the sample is detected; more precisely, it is very likely that some patronymics refer to the same person, and consequently some persons might have been recorded twice (fathers), while some relations (those between brothers) might not have been identified.

The profile of the population was reconstructed based on several markers, such as gender, personal name, age, origin, occupation, social and juridical status etc. Out of these we briefly address the gender distribution, as well as those markers that are more rarely mentioned, namely origin and occupation. The gender distribution is not surprising at all, being overall comparable to the situation reflected by the epigraphic sources in any ancient city, respectively attested is mostly the male population, while the female population is highly underrepresented (at Augusta Traiana it represents under 5% of the population), and here most women are part of the elite. Besides the local population, there were also persons who relocated at Augusta Traiana from other cities, their origin being sometimes explicitly mentioned, while at times it can be deduced from the onomastic of the persons, or other indirect evidence, such as the worshipped divinities. As such, the inscriptions mention persons from Nikaia (Δημήτριος son of Φωτογένης), Nikomedia (Οὔλπιος ῾Ιερώνυμος), but also from Perinthos (Στατίλιος Μάξιμος), Dacia (Αὐρήλιος Πρῖμος Ἄστεος ὁ καὶ Ἰούλιος), Pannonia (Μουκιανός; Κλαύδιος Φρόντων); additionally, some persons identified themselves as being Ἕλληνες (Νάρκισσος son of Ζήνων and Λολλιανός son of Ἀουῖτος), or Σύρος (Αὐρήλιος Σαβεῖνος son of Θειόφιλος). Occupation is an important identity marker of individuals and at Augusta Traiana mentioned are two gladiators ([—]ος ὁ καὶ Λεύκασπις; ignotus); three physicians: a ἰητρός (Ἀλέξανδρος son of Διλάης); a medicus of the cohors II Lucensium (Auluzenus); and a medicus (Δημοσθένης); a γραμματεύς (Αὐρήλιος Δημοσθένης son of Δημοσθένης); a κανδιδάρις – a baker of white bread (Ἡρακλιανός); a playwright (Νεικίας; father of Ηρωδιανός); an οἰνέμπορος {τῆς Δακίας} (Αὐρήλιος Σαβεῖνος son of Θειόφιλος); a κουκουλάρις – a manufacturer of hats (Φλάβις); an οἰκονόμος (Σειγηρός) and two actuari (Μᾶρκος Οὔλπιος Ἀρχέλαος and Ἰουλιανός). While based on it we cannot reconstruct with precision the occupational landscape of the city, these examples point to a certain variety and specialisation.

Fig. 1. The network of Εργισσηνοι

When discussing the population, the networks created inside society are an essential component of the global picture. The networks reflected by the inscriptions at Augusta Traiana are first of all familial, pertaining to the nuclear family, and only rarely to the extended family. Besides familial networks, attested are (with some missing links) also the religious, occupational, convivial and geographical networks. Certainly, based on indirect evidence we can imply wider networks for some categories of the population, such as the elite members, as is the case, for example of [Μᾶρκος] Αὐρήλιος Φρόντων son of Διοφάνης who was a was an athletic winner (Olympia and Haleia), as well as a Θρακάρχης and Εὐρωπάρχης. An example of a geographical network at Augusta Traiana is that of the Εργισσηνοι (IGB III.2, 1593), who dedicated a monument to Apollo Σικερηνος and the Nymphs. 18 persons are mentioned by the inscription under this name, the denomination pointing probably to the name of the village from which they came. Among them, based on the onomastic some might have been related (see Fig. 1: Ἀσιατικός son of Ἰάσων, brother of Δορζένθης; Δινίκενθος son of Βρινκάζερις, brother of Τήρης; Φλάβιος Σκέλης might have been the father of Φλάβιος Μουκαπορις).

Conclusions

This blog entry presented briefly some aspects related to the epigraphically attested population of Augusta Traiana, from the identified sample, to the identity markers and networks. While many of the inscriptions are laconic, or fragmentary, some are useful in reconstructing the profile of the population, the information on elite members being, as expected, the most comprehensive.

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Seminar series: Digital Humanities and Materiality

This seminar is organized by Gabriel Bodard and Rada Varga and co-hosted by the Digital Humanities Research Hub, University of London, UK, and Star-UBB Institute of Advanced Studies, University Babeș-Bolyai, Cluj Napoca, Romania, from autumn 2021–spring 2022. All sessions are online and free to attend, but booking is essential (see below).

The series will present a range of discussions around material culture and the research possibilities offered by digital methods and approaches. More than just the value of digitization and computational research to the study of material culture, we are especially interested in theoretical and digital approaches to the question of materiality itself. We do not restrict ourselves to any period of history or academic discipline, but rather encourage interdisciplinarity and collaborative work, and the valuable exchange of ideas enabled by cross-pollination of languages, areas of history, geography and cultures.

Autumn 2021:

  • Tuesday October 19, 2021, 16:00 BST:
    Andrew Reinhard (New York University), Mapping the Unmappable: GIS, Material Culture, and the Archaeology of Human-Digital Spaces (BOOK HERE)
  • Tuesday November 2, 2021, 16:00 GMT:
    Matthew Kirschenbaum (University of Maryland), Bitstreams: The Future of Digital Literary Heritage (BOOK HERE)
  • Tuesday November 16, 2021, 16:00 GMT:
    Voica Pușcașiu (Cluj-Napoca), Mapping political discourse and inequalities in present-day Romania through public monuments (BOOK HERE)
  • Tuesday November 30, 2021, 16:00 GMT:
    Paula Granados García (British Museum), Digital approaches to documenting material knowledge: implications and concerns (BOOK HERE)

Spring 2022:

  • Tuesday 25 January, 2022, 16:00 GMT:
    Dan Deac (Cluj Napoca), Letters through the Lenses: Using Digital Tools to Reveal Ancient Textual Materiality (BOOK HERE)
  • Tuesday 8 February, 2022, 16:00 GMT:
    Chiara Palladino (Furman University), One landscape, different paths. Rediscussing digital approaches to premodern geographical knowledge (BOOK HERE)
  • Tuesday 22 February, 2022, 16:00 GMT:
    Christian Prager (Bonn) and Hubert Mara (Halle), Automatic Recognition of Maya Hieroglyphs in 3D (BOOK HERE)
  • Tuesday 8 March, 2022, 16:00 GMT:
    Piraye Hacıgüzeller (Antwerp), Archaeology, materiality and geo-space half a century after the ‘spatial turn’ (BOOK HERE)
  • Tuesday 22 March 2022, 16:00 GMT:
    Elysia Greenway (Liverpool John Moores University), Human Faces: Reconstruction, Reimagination and Representation in a Digital Landscape (BOOK HERE)
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How to promote your book in ancient Rome: A beginner’s social network analysis

written by Artemis Archontogeorgi, postdoctoral researcher, Democritus University of Thrace

The pandemic underscored the need for the use of technology by reforming a new virtual reality in education as well as in academic studies. Aware of this need, and having been a classicist for over twenty years, I decided to dive into the uncharted and, to me, in some ways mysterious waters of digital humanities. Although I wanted to improve my skills and bring new techniques and methods to both my teaching and my academic research, my IT colleagues discouraged me by claiming that this would be a very difficult task. Nonetheless, with great hesitation I joined the open course “Introduction to Digital Humanities” organized by the Institute of Advanced Studies and Technology at Star UBB under the guidance of Dr. Rada Varga in March 2021. The course, which was held online and lasted about a month, covered almost everything a novice like me should learn about digital humanities and exceeded my expectations. Dr. Rada Varga guided us with inspiration and patience through the six modules of the course, which included data structuring, database building, text encoding, data visualization, geographical annotation and georeferencing, and social network analysis. At the end of the course, we had to present a project applying what we had learned.

Since I was not working on anything related to the content of the course at the time, I was anxious about what my final project could be. While searching for ideas, I came across Tom Standage’s article Share it like Cicero: How Roman Authors Used Social Networking. The article explained how Roman authors used their social network to promote their books, in a time when there were no printing presses and official publishers. Roman authors had to rely on word-of-mouth recommendations and social distribution of their works through their networks of friends and acquaintances. Therefore, it was very important for the promotion of the book to choose the right person to whom the book was dedicated. It had to be someone who was famous, influential and had a large library, but also vain enough to mention the book to his friends, scholars and philosophers.

Following the very interesting remarks of Tom Standage, I decided to present a social network analysis project that depicts the poets of the Augustan era and the people they either dedicated their books to or mentioned in their books. For my visualization, I used Gephi, an open source network analysis and visualization software, to create a directed graph with weight ranges from 1 to 5 according to the status of the target person. I added attributes indicating gender or relatedness when mentioning poetry, patronage, authority, friendship, and kinship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we can see in Figure 1 above, a network of five communities forms around Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Propertius, and Tibullus, who are the most important poets of the Augustan period. The graph gives an overview of the Augustan poetic community which includes lesser poets such as Domitius Marsus, as well as Lygdamus and Sulpicia, whose works are included in Tibullus’ third book of elegies. It also highlights the relationships between them. For example, Domitius Marsus mentions both Virgil and Tibullus in homage to their deaths, while Virgil and Ovid refer to Cornellius Gallus, a poet of high repute who is thought to be the inventor of the Roman love elegy. A very interesting case is Julius Florus an addressee of Horace, and a poet about whom we know very little, but who seems to belong to the circle of the Emperor Tiberius. Propertius also mentions two poets, Vassus and Ponticus, who belong to the circle of Gaius Maecenas. These brief observations reveal a community that respects its predecessors and acknowledges their influence, but is also very interested in political power.

The reference to persons of political power is very clear in Figures 2 and 3, where the Emperor Gaius Octavius Augustus is mentioned by Horace, Virgil, Propertius, and Ovid, together with the two patrons of literature, Gaius Maecenas and Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus. The favor of the emperor and the patronage of a wealthy and respected Roman citizen was very important in promoting a poetic career. For this reason all the poets dedicated a portion of their works to one of the two patrons, with the exception of Virgil, who mentions both Gaius Maecenas and Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus, though he seems to belong to the literary circle of Maecenas. It is also noteworthy that Ovid is not directly associated with either patron, but only with Emperor Augustus. Perhaps Ovid does not feel obliged to pay tribute to Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus, although the poet is under his patronage, but only to the emperor himself.

It is no coincidence that all the poets address male citizens and only three women are mentioned (Figure 4). Besides Sulpicia, a poetess and also Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus’ niece, Ovid gives literary advice to Perilla, a young poetess, while Propertius addresses Galla, who is probably his relative. In Rome’s patriarchal society, women have less authority than men and therefore play a secondary role in promoting literature or a young poet’s career. Although the female presence in Augustan poetry occupies a large proportion, most of the women mentioned are fictional characters or they are referred to by pseudonyms to protect their reputation.

The graph in Figure 5 shows the number of dedications and references for each poet, with Ovid and Propertius at the top. It is remarkable that most of Ovid’s references belong to his poetry from exile, emphasizing the poet’s desperate efforts to seek help to return to Rome. Thus he addresses the publisher Brutus, the powerful Paullus Fabius Maximus, who is a confidant of the Emperor Augustus, and the two sons of Messala, Marcus Valerius Messalla Messallinus and Aurelius Cotta Maximus Messallinus. He also invokes Cassius Salanus, the tutor of Germanicus Julius Caesar. Ovid hopes that through these very influential men his poetry will still be famous and popular in Rome even when he is not there. On the other hand, Propertius’ references to his friends, such as Tullus, show the importance of friendship in the poet’s life as well as in his poetry. Finally, in the obituaries of Paetus and Marcellus, Propertius uses a motif from Hellenistic poetry, namely the separation from a close relative.

This project was not intended to be an in-depth research on the social network of Augustan poets, but rather a novice’s exercise in social network analysis. Nonetheless, even simple ideas or things we think we know, when visualized, can be seen from a different angle, serve an educational function, and provide inspiration for further study. And certainly, this little project proves that it’s not that hard to teach an old dog new manners!

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Introduction To Markup For Epigraphers

This article is archived from a chapter of the EpiDoc Guidelines written by Julia Flanders and Charlotte Roueché in 2006; later lightly revised by Gabriel Bodard and Tom Elliott.


Introduction To Markup For Epigraphers

EpiDoc logoJulia Flanders & Charlotte Roueché, 2006 (2021)

The concepts behind EpiDoc bring together, for epigraphers, traditional and entirely modern editorial methods and conventions.

Epigraphic conventions

Over the last century, epigraphers have wrestled with the issues involved in representing non-verbal information within their written texts. Until the end of the 19th century publishers could be expected to produce a facsimile of the text, but this became decreasingly common, and publishers did not demonstrate a parallel willingness to provide a full photographic record of every text. The conventions which have been painfully developed to indicate missing text, abbreviations, etc. have been more or less generally agreed since the 1930s and overlap, to some extent, with those used in papyrology and palaeography. All epigraphers have had to deal with the issues involved in moving this to an electronic environment—for example, finding a font which will permit underdotting; but most of us have now adjusted to these new constraints.

The difficulty of rendering such conventions and, in particular, Greek characters in consistent fonts and on the Web has tended to delay the publication of full epigraphic texts online; instead, enormously rich search collections have been created, most notably:

See also: Conformance (EpiDoc Compatibility).

All these developments have therefore been determined by the state of the existing technologies, as these have evolved over the 20th century. The object of EpiDoc is to exploit new and rich technologies for the traditional purposes of epigraphy. Many of the processes described above have involved struggling against the technological standards—for example, in print publications—in order to accommodate as many of our requirements as possible. Over the period it has become steadily more difficult to persuade conventional publishers to meet our requirements for inserting meta-textual information, unless at prohibitive expense. At the same time, the expectations as to the volume of information which should accompany a text have risen greatly; as well as information about physical circumstances, photographic illustration has become standard.

In the last 15 years scholars generally have been dealing with similar requirements to incorporate metadata within texts in their electronic form, and tools have emerged which make this increasingly easy and make the results increasingly valuable. The word-processing software that has been familiar since the 1980s allows us to control the formatting of our texts, using markup which by now is invisibly embedded by the software. The more demanding requirements of large-scale document collections—legal papers, industrial documentation, commercial publishing—led in the 1980s to the investigation of ways to insert a wider range of information and instructions within electronic texts. At first the emphasis was on inserting formatting instructions, but there soon emerged methods of including more complex semantic information concerning document structure and even content. A simple example is marking up a book title as a title, rather than simply marking it as being italicized. The use of this more abstract markup permits a separation of structure and presentation, where structure is comparatively fundamental to the document’s genre, while presentation may be varied depending on the form of publication. In a way, this shift represents a return to an earlier mode in which authors dealt with the substance of the text and all details of presentation were handled in the publishing process—a distinction which has been lost in the days of camera-ready copy.

The protocols which emerged from this latter effort were standardized in the late 1980s as the Standard Generalized Markup Language, and more recently were given a simpler and more flexible form for use in the world-wide web as XML: the Extensible Markup Language. XML is now widely used by scholars in a broad range of humanistic disciplines to capture/represent and preserve research materials for a wide range of purposes.

The attractions of XML for epigraphers are therefore considerable. For example: missing material can be marked up as such, and then presented within square brackets; at the same time, a search can be instructed only to interrogate text which has not been marked up as missing (so only definitely attested terms). Uncertain letters can be marked up as such, and a decision made later as to whether to render them with an underdot or in another way. Words can be lemmatised during editing, to create indices which grow as the collection grows. What is important, however, at this juncture is to repeat the ‘Leyden’ exercise; that is, to agree on electronic equivalents of the various sigla that we use. Firstly, this is valuable simply in order to save time and trouble; but also consistency—without imposing uniformity—continues to be valuable. Not only does it support the user, as on the printed page; but documents edited in this way and published electronically will then be exploitable together, even if they have been prepared separately.

The need for agreed standards is not limited to epigraphy. Since 1987 an international consortium of scholars principally in the humanities has been working together to develop and refine a set of guidelines for describing the structure and content of documents. The results of this endeavour have produced an encoding language, realized in XML and described by the name of the group—TEI, the Text Encoding Initiatve.

TEI for Epigraphers: What is it, why use it?

The Text Encoding Initiative is a research effort aimed at defining an encoding language that encompasses the needs of humanities scholars very generally. There are two essential goals motivating the development of the TEI. The first is to enable scholars to represent their research materials in digital form using a descriptive language that mirrors the kinds of analytical terms and concepts that are familiar and essential to humanistic scholarship. The second goal is to enable scholars to share the resulting materials intelligibly, by using a common descriptive language.

We can think of the TEI encoding language as resembling a human language: a core of shared terms at the center, surrounded by less widely shared vocabularies including local usage, specialized terminology, and other variations. At the core of the TEI are the common terms and concepts that are broadly shared by scholars in most disciplines: features like paragraphs, generic textual divisions, headings, lists, and so forth. More specialized elements are grouped together according to their applications: for instance, elements for detailed encoding of names, elements for representing features of manuscripts, elements for capturing the structure of dictionaries, and so forth. The TEI is intentionally organized into modules in this way, so that scholars working in specific disciplinary areas may use only the modules relevant to their work, and omit the others. The TEI can thus achieve a great deal of breadth without burdening individual scholars and projects with the necessity of mastering a very large domain, much of which is only relevant to other disciplines. On the contrary, the TEI encoding language can be very directly targeted at a specific domain or task, and can be limited to what is essential to the individual project’s work.

Like a human language, TEI can be used in a way that draws on a rich and nuanced vocabulary, with detailed encoding that describes a great many textual phenomena, but it can also be used very simply, using only a few essential concepts that describe only the most basic textual facts: sections, headings, paragraphs. The more detailed the encoding, the more one can do with it, but factors such as time, cost, available staff, and local expertise may place constraints on the level of detail that is feasible.

In addition to providing an encoding system that scholars can use in its original state, the TEI also provides a way for scholarly projects to define custom versions of the TEI language which include modifications that are necessary to support specific local needs. Because these custom versions operate within the overall TEI framework, they can use its broadly shared core of terms and concepts, thereby avoiding unnecessary work in reinventing these. And because the TEI provides a common framework for creating and describing customizations, these can be shared easily and meaningfully. As a result, groups of scholars in particular disciplines can articulate the specific goals and methods which characterize their work, and the differences which distinguish them from others working in related fields. Instead of mutually unintelligible approaches, different projects can produce results whose differences result from real disagreements rather than simple random divergence.

The EpiDoc Customization: TEI for Epigraphers

Within this framework, the EpiDoc community has been working, since 2000, to develop a custom version of the TEI Guidelines to support the particular needs of epigraphers. The idea was launched by Tom Elliott, an ancient historian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; the aim is both to make the fullest possible use of the work that has already been done, and also to ensure that texts which happen to be inscribed are handled in a manner consistent with that used for other texts, and not distanced from them. The EpiDoc customization removes irrelevant elements from the main body of the TEI, and it adds provisions for the specific kinds of transcription, analysis, description, and classification that are essential for epigraphic work. The result is a simple yet powerful language which can be used to mark all of the significant features of inscriptions and also represent the accompanying information about the epigraphic object itself.

To accompany the EpiDoc encoding language, the EpiDoc community has also produced a set of encoding guidelines and software tools, as well as documentation which describes how to use the encoding language, the tools, and the other elements of the EpiDoc method. The goal is to establish a framework that is easy to learn and use, even for scholars with no technical background or support. This may sound improbable, but the enterprise is of the same order as learning to mark up a standard epigraphic text, with the existing series of sigla.

The group has worked to develop expressions for all the agreed epigraphic conventions. They have expanded this guidance to address the various fields which may be presented in an epigraphic publication, including:

See further: Document Structure.

Further areas under active exploration include developing interoperability. A software tool for converting texts in normal epigraphic markup into EpiDoc XML has already been developed (the so-called Chapel Hill Electronic Text Converter (CHETC)). Other areas involve the use of authoritative lexica. For example, the Inscriptions of Aphrodisias project is working closely with the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names, to ensure full coverage and consistent usage.

The work, led by Dr. Elliott, has been undertaken by various individual scholars working in close collaboration, and in regular contact with the wider profession. They have drawn on the experience of an established EpiDoc project, the Vindolanda Tablets on line, and two current projects: the US Epigraphy Project (USEP) (supported by Brown, Princeton and Rutgers Universities), and the Inscriptions of Aphrodisias Project (InsAph) (supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council). The generous support of the AHRC allowed for the intensive workshop in March 2006 where these guidelines were refined.

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Divine networks: a novice’s comparison of Hesiod’s Theogony and the Babylonian Enuma Eliš

written by Valquirya Borba, graduate student, University of Oxford

In March 2021, during the coronavirus pandemic, I signed up to take part in an introductory digital humanities course, convened by Dr. Rada Varga (UBB), and held online. During this course, I learnt how to build and visualise networks using Gephi, an open-source network analysis and visualisation software. Over this same period, I was also finishing a research masters degree in philosophy, thinking about two texts in particular, Hesiod’s Theogony and the Babylonian Enuma Eliš. These are two cosmogonical texts, which tell a broadly similar story about how the patron god of their respective places of origin (Greece and Babylonia) came to be kings of the gods. The similarities between these two texts have been studied since the mid-20th century. For my final project on the digital humanities course, I decided to build databases of the characters and their relationships, and plot the networks of these two texts, in order to explore a different approach to this comparison.

Both the Theogony and the Enuma Eliš detail a genealogy of their gods. In any genealogy, two kinds of relationships are particularly important: parent-child relationships, and the relationships between sexual partners. When we start to think about this, one major difference between the two texts becomes immediately obvious: the Enuma Eliš network is much smaller than the Theogony network. The former has 21 characters, whereas the Theogony has 144. Why these texts differ in this way is an interesting question. We might think that this reveals different authorial intentions. Hesiod’s Theogony is clearly meant to be an exhaustive treatment of the Greek pantheon, whereas the Enuma Eliš is clearly focused on one particular story; Marduk’s ascent to the throne.

The network in Fig. 1 (above) highlights the characters in the Theogony that have the most children. In this respect, Gaia, is the most important character in the text, without whom the network of the Theogony would be vastly diminished. The second most important character is her son and partner Ouranos, the first god-king. (I leave for the reader to ponder the significance of the disconnection of Night and Eris from the main network.) Compare here Fig. 2, which highlights the fact that Tiamat, who plays a role that is, in some ways, analogous to Gaia in the Theogony, is also the largest node in her network, seeing as she has the most children. But this is not because Tiamat is as important to the story as Gaia, for most of Tiamat’s children are monsters, who feature only in the battle between Tiamat and Marduk, and whilst it is true that Marduk must win this battle in order to be worthy of being crowned king of the gods, these monster characters are not important as individuals, and contribute next to nothing to the plot. So whilst Tiamat is an important character, in the sense that she is the original mother of the gods, she is not any more important than her partner, the original father of the gods, Apsu. This is a crucial piece of context that helps us to understand that, whilst the networks of the Theogony and the Enuma Eliš might look similar in some respects, there are important differences underlying these apparent similarities.

Another striking aspect of the network in Fig. 2 (above) is that Marduk is as small a node as Tiamat’s monsters (and Apsu’s vizier, Mummu). This is striking because this text is, after all, an exaltation of Marduk, king of the gods, god of Babylonia, creator of the world, but it tells us nothing about his children. The Theogony, on the other hand, details Zeus’ many wives and children, which one might reasonably think is a testament to his power and influence. This highlights a further difference between our two texts: sexual reproduction, and the having of children, is not as significant to the Enuma Eliš as it is to the Theogony. We might conjecture that this is because the whole cosmos of the Theogony develops organically via sexual reproduction, whereas the cosmos of the Enuma Eliš is a product of creation and design. In the Theogony, for instance, the rivers are deities, born from the sexual union of other gods, but in the Enuma Eliš, these are designed and created by Marduk after he defeats Tiamat and her monsters in battle. This hints at a significant difference between our two protagonists: Zeus’ power comes from his centrality in the network, whereas Marduk’s power comes not from his function in the network, but from his role as creator of the world.

This is even clearer when we look at Figs. 3, 4 and 5. The network in Fig. 3 (above) shows Zeus is the most central member of the network of the Theogony; again, this is where his power and influence lies.

The network in Fig. 4 (above) shows that Zeus has, by far, the most number of romantic/sexual relationships in the Theogony; again, this underpins his power and influence.

On the other hand, Marduk is the smallest node in the network in Fig. 5 (above), as he lies at the very edge of the network of the Enuma Eliš, connecting no nodes. It is also interesting that Anu is the biggest node in this network. Anu is the father of Ea, the second king of the gods in this narrative, suggesting that his power and influence comes from his centrality, like Zeus. Further to this, we need not even plot a network of the romantic/sexual relationships of the Enuma Eliš to see that Marduk would be entirely disconnected, for he has no romantic/sexual relationships narrated in that text. This underlines an important difference between these two, otherwise similar texts: Zeus’ power and influence can easily be explained by his centrality and his connections to other members of the network of the Theogony, but Marduk’s power and influence is more elusive, whilst he is the protagonist of the Enuma Eliš, king of the gods, he is a largely insignificant member of the network when it comes to parent-child relationships, and romantic/sexual relationships. Whilst Zeus and Marduk play similar narrative roles in their respective texts, they play very different roles in their respective social networks. I will, again, leave the reader to ponder what this difference might entail.

This short post gives a flavour of the kinds of insights I was able to achieve through a comparative network analysis of these two ancient texts during the UBB digital humanities course. That a novice digital humanist like me can already learn so much about these texts from a comparative network analysis is reason enough to pursue this work further; there is much else, I suspect, that we might discover about these two texts with further statistical calculations and visualisations.

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Digital World Classics: virtual programme

As we were thinking about the Digital Classicist London seminar series on the theme of World Classics, which starts in a couple weeks and runs over the summer, with a few occasional events over the rest of the 2021–22 academic year, we have been discussing coverage and inclusivity. The programme the organisers have put together is very exciting and I look forward to all of the seminars, but it can not be said to cover “the world.” The programme includes papers covering Arabic, Egyptology/Coptic, Ethiopic, Ancient Italic, Jewish/Hebrew, Maya, South/Southeast Asian and Syriac; and presenters at (or from) Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Syria and the USA.

I’m very keen to see this as the start of a conversation, not the end of a focus on “world classics” in the Digital Classicist seminar. That said, this is not the beginning of the story either: although many of the papers we have featured over the last fifteen years of the London seminar (and many many more in Berlin, Leipzig, New England) have been on Greco-Roman classics and archaeology, we have also welcomed “classics” from other ancient cultures.

I would like to offer here a “virtual programme” of digital world classics seminars from the past 6 years (as long as we have been streaming to YouTube). I’m not including here any seminars from Berlin’s YouTube channel, although we could add them if someone wants to help compile a list. If you haven’t watched them before, please feel welcome to follow this virtual, asynchronous seminar programme!

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On teaching a new asynchronous Digital Humanities open course

On-line teaching and learning has already become an integrated part of our professional lives, but we are still experimenting with methods and try to find the best way to accommodate both teachers’ and students’ needs.
In this quest, this spring semester, a digital humanities open course was organized at the Babeș-Bolyai University from Cluj-Napoca (Romania). Fully on-line and taught in English, the course was delivered by Rada Varga and addressed all humanists who wanted to take their first steps into the world of DH, thus developing computational thinking and increasing computer literacy – two sets of skills which become more paramount by the day.
The course was taught asynchronously, with registered lectures and tutorials for each topic; their approximate duration was of 1 hour, generally fragmented in 2-3 parts. The sessions implied individual exercises, team exercises, as well as discussions and individual and group feedback. The participants were encouraged to use their own datasets, so that the results are both familiar and relevant, but in case of need they have been provided with sample spreadsheets. Regarding the employed software, we used open access programs and platforms.
The topics were imagined as following the logics of a normal scientific research, but also progressively increasing as difficulty level on the technical side implied by the used digital tools.

In order to make this presentation comprehensive, here is the course overview (also available http://starubb.institute.ubbcluj.ro/en/open-course-introduction-to-digital-humanities-2/):
Data structuring: focusing on structuring any kind of data (but especially narrative) into a tabular form, as well as on interrogating and identifying the information within structured datasets (spreadsheets, tables). The most accessible data structuring formats were presented (Excel, .csv).
Database building: focusing on the basics of database building. Besides the technical component, it encompassed a methodological side, as the filtering has to answer coherent research questions
Text encoding: teaching the main text encoding norms and TEI standards. Basic encoding and annotation principles were introduced, as well as essential XML.
Visualization: providing a critical analysis of the role of visualization in humanities and social sciences and as an introduction into the most employed visualizing platforms: Tableau Public, Raw Graphs.
Geographical annotations and georeferencing: familiarizing the participants with the most common systems of geographic annotation and visualization – Google MyMaps and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), with QGIS, the associated platform.
Data analyses (social network analyses): demonstrating how one can achieve scientific insights using their structured data and the platforms presented before. For focusing on network analyses, we showcased both Nodegoat and Gephi.
Project presentation: The final project was a very important phase in the general economy of the course, as it marked the passing from strictly learning notions to using them for research purposes and assessing the freshly gained DH knowledge.

This year the course was undertaken by 18 participants and the results of their work and the progresses they made were remarkable. As formation, they were linguists, philosophers, historians, and artists, ranging from a few MA students to senior researchers. The mixture was a positive factor, as it made input more diverse.
Upon completion of the course, participants presented a small project, using the digital skills acquired throughout the module. Given that each topic was almost a stand-alone, appealing differently to each participant, according to background and research interests (e.g., philologists will be more interested in text encoding, while historians will find GIS and SNA more suited for their researches), we considered that it was fair to evaluate based on a project of each participant’s choosing, where they could show effectively how the methodologies and tools presented can be applied in order to increase the value of a given research, or to create a new, useful tool.

Five of the final projects were situated in the realm of digital classics and archaeology and they were remarkable in the diversity of topics tackled, as well as tools and methods employed. Thus, one project presented an Airtable database registering all inscriptions from an archaeological site in Asia Minor, proving very graphically the necessity of systemizing, cleansing and inter-linking data; the advantages of the tool used were also visible, as the owner would be able to use it in the future collaboratively, with different clearance levels for colleagues and students in training. Two projects focused on geographic annotations in QGIS and ArcGIS, creating a map layer or only personalizing existing maps. One project in particular combined the possibilities offered by visualizing on a map different types of discovered pottery and presenting in parallel the statistical overview. Two other projects were more in the classics sphere and both employed SNA: one focused on visualizing and analysing the gods’ networks from Hesiod’s Theogonia and the other immersed into the networks of the main Augustan poets and their patrons. All these projects, though, of course, incipient, had very good, solid and promising results, underlining the utility of digital tools in classics and the gains of interdisciplinary research.

All in all, the course was a very useful and pleasurable experience, with extremely positive feedback and proof that, at least in DH, online teaching has its merits and benefits.

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Digital Classicist London seminar 2021

The 2021 season of the Digital Classicist London seminar is on the theme of world classics: we have put together a programme of speakers who are working with digital humanities and digital classics methods to the study of antiquity—whether language, corpora, archaeology—from across the world. All sessions are streamed live on Youtube, and will also be available to watch there afterwards.

All seminars at 17:00 UK time.

  • Fri, Apr 16 Christian Prager (Bonn) & Cristina Vertan (Hamburg), Machines Reading and Deciphering Maya Hieroglyphs: Towards a Digital Epigraphy of Maya Hieroglyphic Writing (Youtube)
  • Fri, May 28 Andreas Fuls (TU Berlin), Mathematical epigraphy and the Interactive Corpus of Indus Texts (ICIT) (Youtube)
  • Fri, Jun 11 Arlo Griffiths (EFEO Paris) & Dániel Balogh (HU-Berlin), Project DHARMA: Pushing South and Southeast Asian Textual Sources into the Digital World (Youtube)
  • Fri, Jun 25 Chiara Palladino (Furman) & Tariq Yousef (Leipzig), We want to learn all languages! Applications of translation alignment in digital environments (Youtube)
  • Fri, Jul 9 Heidi Jauhiainen (Helsinki), Machine-Readable Texts for Egyptologists (Youtube)
  • Fri, Jul 23 Daria Elagina (Hamburg), Modelling Vocabulary of Digital Competencies for the Project ENCODE (Youtube)
  • Fri, Aug 6 Kylie Thomsen (UCLA), The utilization of SfM and RTI to study ancient Egyptian statuary reuse (Youtube)

In addition to the summer seminars listed above, occasional seminars will run throughout the 2020-2021 year. (See full programme and updates.)

  • Fri, Sep 10, 2021 Amir Zeldes (Georgetown), Caroline Schroeder (Oklahoma), Lance Martin (CUA), Leveraging non-named entities in Coptic antiquity (Youtube)
  • Fri, Nov 12, 2021 Mariarosaria Zinzi (Florence), Languages and Cultures of Ancient Italy. Historical Linguistics and Digital Models (Youtube)
  • January 2022 (date tbd) James E. Walters (Hill Museum and Manuscript Library), Ad fontes: The Digital Syriac Corpus as a Resource for Teaching and Learning Syriac (link tba)
  • Fri, Mar 18, 2022 Ortal-Paz Saar & Berit Janssen (Utrecht), PEACE: The Portal on Jewish Funerary Culture (link tba)
  • Fri, May 27, 2022 Matei Tichindelean (UCLA), Digital Reconstruction of the Akhenaten Torso in the Brooklyn Museum (link tba)
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Sunoikisis Digital Classics, Summer 2021

SunoikisisDC 2020-2021 Wiki

The full programme of the Summer Sunoikisis Digital Classics semester is at the SunoikisisDC GitHub Wiki, including session pages and YouTube links. Reading lists, exercises, and summaries of all sessions will be added in the next weeks. The calendar is as follows (sessions are on Thursdays at 17:15–18:45 CEST time):

  1. Thu, April 15, 2021: Introduction (Monica Berti, Gabriel Bodard, and Valeria Vitale) [YouTube]
  2. Thu, April 22, 2021: Teaching Epigraphy in a Pandemic (Alice Bencivenni, Gabriel Bodard, and Irene Vagionakis) [YouTube]
  3. Thu, April 29, 2021: Digital Epigraphic Corpora. The Example of the Inscriptions from Israel and Palestine (Michael Satlow and Elli Mylonas) [YouTube]
  4. Thu, May 6, 2021: Linguistic Annotations of Greek and Latin Inscriptions (Francesca Dell’Oro) [YouTube]
  5. Thu, May 13, 2021: NO SESSION
  6. Thu, May 20, 2021: Learning and Reading ancient Greek with Pedalion (Toon van Haal and Alek Keersmaekers) [YouTube]
  7. Thu, May 27, 2021: Reading and Learning ancient Greek with Diorisis and the Scaife Viewer (James Tauber and Alessandro Vatri) [YouTube]
  8. Thu, June 3, 2021: Trismegistos People (Yanne Broux) [YouTube]
  9. Thu, June 10, 2021: Named Entity Recognition and Prosopography (Monica Berti and Gabriel Bodard) [YouTube]
  10. Thu, June 17, 2021: Annotating Geographical Data with Recogito (Elton Barker, Monica Berti, and Valeria Vitale) [YouTube]
  11. Thu, June 24, 2021: Data Citation for Historical Texts and the Cited Loci Project (Matteo Romanello) [YouTube]
  12. Thu, July 1, 2021: The Digital Latin Library (Samuel J. Huskey) [YouTube]
  13. Thu, July 8, 2021: eAQUA (Corina Willkommen and Jens Wittig) [YouTube]
  14. Thu, July 15, 2021: Beyond Classics: The Book of the Dead in 3D (Rita Lucarelli and Franziska Naether) [YouTube]
  15. Thu, July 22, 2021: Beyond Classics: The Turin Papyrus Online Platform (TPOP) (Susanne Töpfer and Franziska Naether) [YouTube]

This is the third semester of the 2020/2021 programme, whose description is available in a previous Stoa article posted on October 5, 2020. The Summer semester follows the German academic calendar, being based at the University of Leipzig. This is the reason why we have 14 sessions of 90 minutes each from April through July 2021.

The programme of this semester covers topics in the fields of Digital Epigraphy, Computational Linguistics, Named Entity Recognition, Geographical Annotations, Data Citation, Digital Libraries and Corpora. We also have two sessions about Digital Egyptology that are part of our efforts to extend the program beyond ancient Greek and Latin.

All sessions are freely available online, and everyone, student or not, is welcome to watch, leave comments in the live chat if you are with us live, and attempt the exercises. Contents of the SunoikisisDC Programme remain available on GitHub and YouTube indefinitely, and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. If you are interested in using any of the SunoikisisDC materials in your own teaching and would like to discuss any aspect of the programme, please do get in touch with any of us.

Monica Berti and Gabriel Bodard

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Collection and Promotion of Real-World LOD Resources: Report on Activity 5 for the LP6 Symposium

Paula Granados Garcia (British Museum); Sarah Middle (Open University)

Linked Pasts 6

The sixth annual Linked Pasts symposium (LP6) was held in December 2020 as an online event hosted by the University of London and the British Library. The event brings together scholars, heritage professionals and other practitioners with an interest in Linked Open Data (LOD) as applied to the study of the ancient and historical worlds. 

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the symposium had to be a fully remote and online event which despite preventing us from meeting in person, did allow a much larger number of attendees in comparison to previous years (about 500), while facilitating multiple events taking place over two weeks rather than an intense three days of in-person sessions. 

The event was designed so that prospective participants could propose different activities (including roundtables, seminars, workshops, discussion groups…) to be hosted throughout the two weeks of the conference, thereby promoting discussion among participants who decided to join one or more of the proposed activities. 

Promotion and Leverage Activity 

In this context, we decided to propose an activity focused on the collection and promotion of real-world LOD resources. Both of us had been involved with LOD resources in our respective PhD researches and had noticed how there does not seem to be an agreed mechanism for promoting and leveraging LOD projects for Ancient World research, with current strategies being rather fragmentary. This issue becomes especially concerning in the semantic web world, where the success of the approach relies on the collaboration and discoverability of the existing resources. 

We had noticed that well-known initiatives for the promotion of newly created LOD datasets include the LOD cloud and the public-lod@w3.org mailing list, although neither facilitate the process of discovering relevant datasets for Ancient World research. The topic is yet to receive sufficient attention from the linked data community, especially regarding published research or guidance on how better to promote/leverage LOD resources and initiatives.

As a result, we worked with Gabriel Bodard and Elton Barker to create a catalogue of Linked Ancient World datasets. As well as providing the dataset URIs, our spreadsheet contains information such as formats and licences, and links to relevant entries on the Digital Classicist wiki. Our current criteria for inclusion are:

  • Data can be queried or downloaded in a format generally understood as LOD (e.g. RDF, JSON, Atom)
  • Datasets are related to the Ancient World in some way

We realise this scope is quite strict, but it ensures that we can currently keep the entries to a manageable number, while providing scope to broaden our criteria in future. If you know of a dataset that you think should be included but does not yet appear in the catalogue, please provide its details via our entry form.

The aims of the sessions at LP were to:

  1. discuss the effectiveness of current strategies to raise awareness about LOD projects online;
  2. develop a tentative protocol with the most interesting solutions proposed;
  3. collate and leverage Ancient World datasets by adding to our catalogue

Main Discussions and Interviews 

After presenting our ideas to LP6 attendees, we opened a Slack channel for asynchronous communication (which is still open for comments) and held two synchronous meetings for further discussion. Participants generally agreed that the catalogue would be useful to both consumers and producers of LOD, although there were suggestions to convert the data to JSON format and to provide a more interactive interface – both of which we will consider once the catalogue moves past the ‘proof of concept’ stage.

We also spoke about current criteria for inclusion and potential expansion, with suggestions including the introduction of data categories to facilitate discoverability. Another topic for discussion was our definition of ‘Ancient World’, which we ultimately decided would be best to align with criteria for inclusion in the Digital Classicist wiki.

Feedback and Outcomes

Looking to the future, we discussed the importance of community engagement for sustainability, particularly if we expand our remit by using a broader definition of ‘Linked Data’, as well as maintaining some form of moderation for contributions. We also recognised the importance of preserving the catalogue data in a trusted repository, while ensuring that it additionally continues to be maintained as a living resource.

In addition to our specific initiative, we found it very useful to draw parallels with other activities at LP6. In particular, it was extremely valuable to participate in conversations around user needs for Wikidata alignment (with Anne Chen, Kyle Conrau-Lewis, Elton Barker and Rob Sanderson) and we are interested to hear about Adam Rabinowitz’s plans for a date/time LOD resource catalogue. Taking part in all these other sessions at LP6 enriched our own discussions and enhanced our understanding of community interests and needs.

We would like to thank everyone who contributed to our discussions and look forward to continuing them in future. We hope that this event doesn’t mark an end but rather the start of new conversations on how to better promote LOD projects as well as to raise interest in the catalogue and the leverage and discoverability of LOD real-world resources.

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