Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Greece (is the Time, is the Place, is the Motion)

It turns out The Bee Gees were right. We've wrapped up work (for now) on Greek early geographic documents and the experience has made it clear that time, place and motion do indeed feature heavily.

First a few statistics. Our objective - as always - has been to identify sources for as many documents as we could, both in the original Greek and in modern translation. Wherever possible we have used open access, online materials so that people can access the texts and read them for themselves. This time we have identified some 66 works, of which we were able to obtain digital texts for 42 of them (and 8 in both languages). You can see our list of available texts on the Recogito public site and we’d be very happy to hear any suggestions for working with those texts which are still missing. Pau has been working like Greased Lightning over these long Summer Nights to produce a remarkable 48,000 edits (and counting)!

Pau has not been alone in this work either. We’ll talk more about the new Recogito Editors group in a future blog post, but for now we’d like to say an especially big thank you to Brady Kiesling who donated a large number of pre-annotated texts from his wonderful ToposText project, and even did some translation to boot. Shout-outs also go to Bruce Robertson, Greta Franzini and Monica Berti for their help in OCR’ing Greek geographic texts.

Thanks to Rainer’s hard work, the Recogito interface is really starting to shape up. Not only are new features such as detailed user- and document-stats being added regularly, but there’s now a tutorial for users, and various small enhancements were made to the front page (e.g. temporal ordering of documents, so that you can start to see the development of ancient geography at a glance). There are other major changes afoot for our third Content Workpackage on the early Christian tradition… but you’ll have to wait for another blog post to hear more about that.

Just like last time, we’ve generated a preliminary heatmap of our work on the Greek sources so far. Even incomplete as it is, it’s fascinating to see our authors focus not only on the Aegean Sea, Magna Graecia and the Black Sea, but also their explorations along the Red Sea, the Atlantic and even the Silk Road. 

So what about those sources? The list of documents we’ve been working with includes some of the biggest and most important in the history of geography, including Strabo, Herodotus and the immense Suda. We said that Greece was the place, but in fact what we are really talking about, and what emerges from these early investigations, is just how many places the "Greek world" comprises of and how many places "Greek knowledge" extends to. Time also plays an essential role. From Ptolemy’s "Hour Intervals", which divide up the world like the face of a huge celestial clock, to the Spartan Cleomenes's alarming realisation that it was not a matter of days to travel to the Persian capital but months, time is used to try to make sense of, or express bewilderment at, the vast distances being talked about. And Greek geography is not just static, but frequently in motion, with stadiasmoi, periploi, itineraries and even the occasional International Business TravellerWe hope you enjoy exploring these documents as much as we do. If you’d like to get involved and help us annotate the rest, please do get in touch. We'll go together like....

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