Project Presentation: A Collection of Greek Ritual Norms Project (CGRN)

Saskia Peels (Liège)

Digital Classicist London & Institute of Classical Studies seminar 2015

Friday July 24th at 16:30, in Room G21A, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Video recording of seminar on YouTube

Our paper presents a digital undertaking entitled A Collection of Greek Ritual Norms (abbreviated CGRN), currently being carried out at the University of Liège, along with its major features and deliverables. The project, begun in 2012 and scheduled for completion at the end of 2015, gathers together a selection of 250 Greek inscriptions which are usually called “sacred laws” in current scholarship. This misleading rubric is in fact comprised of a wide variety of epigraphic documents, including decrees, calendars, boundary stones, etc, from all across the ancient Greek world. Instead of conforming to these received ideas, we have focussed on two themes which much of this documentation shares—sacrifice and purification—and offered rather a selection of representative inscriptions.

The main outcome of the project is the development of a practical website for the republication of these collected inscriptions. We have encoded texts using the current Epidoc XML standards. But since our collection of texts is of a quite manageable size, we have also allowed for some variation and expansion on standard Epidoc practices. Our target audience consists of scholars of Greek and other ancient religions, as well as classicists more generally, rather than epigraphers per se. Therefore, we have chosen to privilege certain aspects of the edition of the inscriptions over others: essential but brief description of the monuments; standard versions of the inscribed texts, or new ones with minimal restorations; lucid translations in both English and French; helpful but succinct bibliography and commentary; no self-standing apparatus criticus.

Among the end goals of the project, we aim at providing good texts, helpful translations and commentaries, but also to obtain a clearer insight into the vocabulary of sacrifice and purification. Beyond the standard lemmatisation of lexical forms (using the <w> element), we have accordingly opted to maximise searchability of the collection by tagging thematic groups of words and phrases using a series of name-types (<name type=“x”>). For example, in sacrificial regulations, we encode lemmata indicating people on whose behalf the sacrifice is carried out (“groups” such as demes or gênê), as well as the cult “personnel” which performs it; the sacrificial “animal” (including for example its “gender”, and “age”); words and phrases denoting the act of “sacrifice”; and other key concepts such as the relevant “deity”. More generally, “structures” (such as temples or altars), “localities” (such as an agora or acropolis) and “authority” statements (κατὰ τὰ πάτρια, νόμος) are also tagged. Users will be able to automatically search for these name-types, and to see a list of all instances of a particular name type in the corpus.

To enlarge the data sets generated in this way, we would be interested in cooperating with other research groups working on lexical semantics and particularly on corpora which include religious inscriptions. Since our project is completely open-source, we can encourage other researchers to import identical or similar name-types into their XML-coding. More generally, we propose that this system of tagging may be interesting to other scholars with an interest in the semantic (and not only lexical) entities that make up their research corpus.


The seminar will be followed by wine and refreshments.