Herodotos Encoded Space-Text-Imaging Archive

Elton Barker (Oxford) & Leif Isaksen (Southampton)

Digital Classicist/ICS Work in Progress Seminar, Summer 2009

Friday 31st July at 16:30, in room STB3/6, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

HESTIA (the Herodotus Encoded Space-Text-Imaging Archive) is an interdisciplinary project, involving the collaboration of two classical scholars, a modern political geographer and an IT consultant, that aims to enrich contemporary discussions of space by developing an innovative methodology to the analysis of Herodotus’ History. Combining a variety of different methods, it investigates the ways in which space is represented in Herodotus’ History in terms of places mentioned and geographic features described, and develops visual tools to capture the ‘deep’ topological structures of the text, extending beyond the usual two-dimensional Cartesian maps of the ancient world.

More specifically, it addresses the following questions:

  1. To identify and detail the different ways in which Herodotus refers to space, and to investigate the function of spatial data within his text, in particular as explanatory for historical narrative.
  2. To explore new ways of understanding Herodotus’ representation of space, rather than continuing the traditional approaches of searching for his sources or testing the accuracy of his description alongside modern maps.
  3. To locate Herodotus’ representation of space in its cultural context, to consider the impact of writing down space on its conception, and to compare its narrativisation to other forms of representation, such as Homeric epic or the Hippocratic corpus.
  4. To identify and explore whether different peoples as represented by Herodotus conceive of space in culturally distinct ways, and to question the ways in which spatial representations relate to notions of identity.
  5. To investigate whether and to what extent Herodotus’ narrative presents the notion of a centre, occupied by either Greece or Persia, and/or conceives of the represented world in terms of a network.
  6. To represent Herodotus’ discursive model visually, using a geo-referenced database to plot Herodotus’ spatial co-ordinates on a modern-day map and hyper-linking to the data Herodotus records.
  7. To use the Herodotean geography and this geo-database to construct a series of different topological representations of the spaces conceived in the text – based on the concepts of network, relation and flow – rather than the topographical-based maps to which we are accustomed.
  8. To introduce Herodotus’ world-view to a new and wider audience via the internet.


The seminar will be followed by wine and refreshments.

Audio recording of seminar (MP3)

Presentation (PDF)