Insights in the World of Thucydides: The Hellespont Project as a research environment for Digital History

Agnes Thomas, Francesco Mambrini & Matteo Romanello (DAI, Berlin)

Digital Classicist London & Institute of Classical Studies seminar 2013

Friday August 9th at 16:30, in Room G37, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Video recording of seminar (MP4)

Audio recording of seminar (MP3)

Presentation (PDF)

The Hellespont Project (German Archaeological Institute and Tufts University) aims to integrate two of the largest online collections for the study of Antiquity, the Perseus Digital Library and the Arachne archaeological database, in a dynamic digital research environment. Historians will have access to materials and resources of heterogeneous type, like ancient texts, archaeological evidence, historical background, and modern scholarly literature, while the documents related to each single historical event taken from the textual evidence will be interconnected through the CIDOC-CRM model.

Hellespont as a case study focuses on a limited historical period, the 50-year period in the history of Athens between the end of the Persian Wars (479 BCE) and the outburst of the Peloponnesian War (431 BCE). Furthermore, it follows the narration presented by the most important written source, chapters 1.89-118 of the Histories of Thucydides, who was a contemporary to some of the facts. One of the point of departure for the project is the annotation of Thucydides’ text with multiple layers of linguistic information. Our goal is really to create a “digital sourcebook” including a lot of machine-actionable information, where historians can go to find references to sources, and tools to help linguistic analysis of the original texts.

Documents are bridged using the event-based CIDOC-CRM. We are working with two different concepts of events. In CIDOC ontology, events encompass all changes of states in cultural systems: they are identified by reference to historical scholarship. In Ancient History, where event reconstruction is mostly based on the interpretation of written sources, this definition isinsufficient. We are therefore implementing a data-driven approach, based on the semantic/syntactic strategies that express mutation in the external words through language. We aim to identify such strategies through a fine-grained semantic annotation of the written ancient texts.

We are going to present the digitally analysed text of Thucydides including different kind of additional information in a single Virtual Research Environment (VRE). The interface, which is currently still being implemented, is based on the same idea of GapVis, that is a visual interface for reading texts providing the user with multiple views on the same passage of text. In the presentation we will show the most important parts of the different views the user will access in the interface.


The seminar will be followed by wine and refreshments.