Institute of Classical Studies Digital Seminar 2012.
Friday July 6th at 16:30, in Room G22/26, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU.
Early modern and modern gravestones are a vast but rapidly decaying historical resource for the period from the 16th century to the present day. Processes of weathering, deliberate or accidental damage, the re-use of cemeteries and the uprooting and rearranging of monuments (such as the practice of removing stones from their original positions and stacking them around the edges of walls) all have an impact on both the size and the scholarly value of this body of evidence. Countless records have already been lost, which makes it particularly important to address as soon as possible the question of how to record and publish these monuments systematically and usefully.
Currently there are no agreed standards for recording such gravestones. Interested historians and volunteers in some churches or local areas have recorded their own particular monumental inscriptions, and have made these available on microfiche, CD, or in a basic form online. Typically these records only include the text itself; very rarely there might be a photograph, but almost never is any metadata recorded about the monument. The nature of these recorded examples is thus very fragmentary and inconsistent.
The experience of projects using EpiDoc and other shared standards for the recording and publication of ancient and medieval inscribed materials has shown that there is considerable value in agreeing a set of guidelines for encoding and publication. This applies to materials that span a variety of languages, geographical areas, and centuries. It is clear that many, if not most, of the standards described in the EpiDoc guidelines are appropriate for, and directly applicable to, the recording and publication of modern gravestones. This paper investigates what is required in order to make these standards a viable method of recording such a large body of data, where many of those doing the recording are not experts in epigraphy.
It is clear that considerable thought must be given to what is asked of those who are responsible for recording the monuments, and how this can best be balanced with the need to produce a scholarly resource that will be useful for local historians, genealogists and other interested parties, as well as to people who would define themselves as epigraphers and archaeologists. Crucially, the system must make it sufficiently simple to input the data, but must also ensure that the resulting records are sufficiently detailed and useful for enabling in-depth research to be undertaken. This paper discusses these challenges and suggests solutions with a view to designing a pilot project for a national (and potentially international) system for recording and publishing gravestone evidence.
Jul 13 Maggie Robb (KCL) Digitising the Prosopography of the Roman Republic.
The history of the Roman republic is the history of a highly competitive aristocratic elite, which oversaw Rome’s remarkable transformation from middling Italian city-state to ruler of a world empire. This project seeks to enhance our understanding of the structure and dynamics of this elite, including its familial composition, office-holding patterns, and internal hierarchies. The importance of these questions has long been recognised and a great deal of the basic information about the prosopography of the Roman elite has already been collated in various scholarly works. However, because of the sheer scale and complexity of the material it has not yet been practicable to subject it to a comprehensive analysis that integrates multiple, interrelated factors such as individual ‘career’ patterns, family continuity, cross-familial links, and connections with elite families outside the office-holding group. It is only with the arrival of digital technology this has become a possibility and simply by applying such tools to the material the project will break important new ground.
A searchable digital database comprising all known members of the republican elite will open up radically new opportunities for revisiting old questions as well as asking entirely new ones that have not previously been considered, mostly on grounds of feasibility. The project sets out to analyse in much greater depth than has previously been possible the structure of public careers, the success or failure of family lines, as well as the influence of the lateral connections that existed between aristocratic families. A significant new departure for the project will be the application of a more holistic approach to the Roman elite as a whole, which extended well beyond the leading families of the nobility. Although these have naturally attracted most scholarly attention, they cannot be viewed in isolation. It is impossible to make sense of the composition of the elite without taking into account not only the lower ranks of the senate but also the fluid boundaries that existed between the two highest orders, the senatorial and the equestrian. These groups were closely integrated socially and for the first time the project seeks to map systematically the links, e.g. through marriage, that bound them together and the movements that happened between them. These studies will help us examine the question whether the office-holding elite constituted a ‘class’ and how large it may have been.
Jul 20 Paolo Monella (Centro Linceo, Roma) In the Tower of Babel: modelling primary sources of multi-testimonial textual transmissions.
The process of creating a scholarly edition of a literary work and its textual tradition is based upon a comparison (collatio) of the representations of the text in different primary sources.
In order to do so, a digital scholarly edition must rely on digital modelling of primary sources, formalised in a way that allows the computer to compare them.
As highlighted by scholars such as Tito Orlandi and Raul Mordenti, a problem under this respect is posed by the fact that each witness within a textual tradition (a papyrus, manuscript, early print edition etc.) implements a different encoding system to represent the same text. Discrepancies between such systems range from non-overlapping alphabets (e. g., in Latin, the existence of a u/v or i/j distinction) to other handwriting or print conventions (including punctuation, capitalisation, scribal abbreviations, word boundaries, use of space on the page etc.).
In order to make the representations of the text of different primary sources digitally comparable, a uniform layer of digital modelling of each witness' text is necessary.
TEI markup implies this 'alphabetic regularisation', while providing methods for encoding relevant idiosyncratic scribal conventions. Ideally, however, for each textual witness
- one layer (A) should model its graphical representation of the text, mirroring its specific encoding system (alphabet, writing conventions etc.). This should constitute our digital representation of the witness' graphical representation of the text;
- a second layer (B) should constitute our digital representation of the text of that witness;
The two modelling layers should be formally and explicitly distinct, though interrelated. For instance, where a Latin manuscript has a “qq”-like abbreviation for “quoque” the philologist:
- should use a specific digital convention to encode the abbreviation in layer A (e. g. an XML entity specific for the modelling of that manuscript, like &AbbrQuoque;)
- then, should recognise that abbreviation as the representation, in the scribe's graphical encoding system, of “quoque” (as an entity within the Latin linguistic system shared by the scribe and the philologist), and provide – in layer B – a representation of that portion of the text in their own digital encoding system (e. g. a sequence of Unicode keys like #0071 for “q”, #0075 for “u” etc.).
In addition to exposing these views and discussing the related open issues, in my talk I shall explore how TEI P5 can address the theoretical modelling issues sketched above.
These theoretical issues have a direct impact on the creation of digital scholarly editions of ancient texts with multi-testimonial textual traditions – a field that still counts few projects, particularly in Classical literatures. Also, the larger and more ambitious frame encompassing this enquiry is the long-term goal of integrating representations of primary sources in the existing TEI-encoded corpora of ancient texts through a standard and interoperable, yet theoretically grounded, model.