Standards for Networking Ancient Prosopographies: Data and Relations in Greco-Roman Names (SNAP:DRGN)

Sebastian Rahtz (Oxford) and Gabriel Bodard (King’s College London)

Digital Classicist London & Institute of Classical Studies seminar 2014

Friday August 1st 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)

SNAP:DRGN is an AHRC-funded exploratory project which aims to address the problem of linking together large collections of material (datasets) containing information about persons, names and person-like entities managed in heterogeneous systems and formats. This paper will explore the background to, and results of, the work.

The general problem approached by the SNAP:DRGN project is exemplified by the inconsistency of, and irregular overlap between, the many huge databases of persons, names, and other personal data on the Internet. How does a researcher or analyst determine whether two records refer to the same person or are related in some other way, and whether other related information refers to both people equally? For the SNAP project we directly address these issues on a much smaller scale: there are very many historical prosopographies and onomastica (databases of persons and names), even within the relatively tight domain of Greco-Roman antiquity, and many of the same questions of identity and provenance apply. These databases can be worked on without the concerns raised by modern social network accounts: there are not the ethical and privacy concerns of working with living people; the scale, while still massive, is more tractable; there is much more academic coherence within the data, which, diverse as it is, is produced by a discipline with well-established working practices.

The SNAP:DRGN project uses as a starting point three large datasets from the classical world: the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names, an Oxford-based corpus of persons mentioned in ancient Greek texts;Trismegistos, a Leuven-run database of names and persons from Egyptian papyri; Prosopographia Imperii Romani, a series of printed books listing senators and other elites from the first three centuries of the Roman Empire. We model a simple structure using Web and Linked data technologies to represent relationships between databases and to link from references in primary texts to authoritative lists of persons and names. We are inviting other projects and datasets in the domain to participate in the SNAP:DRGN network, to help us test the structures and contribute material on ancient people to the collection, and will help these projects to transform their data into a form that can be linked and annotated.

In this paper, we describe the problems, the data, and the tools we can produce to illustrate of the value of the data, and demonstrate research methods for working with the new material and information produced.


The seminar will be followed by wine and refreshments.