The Epigraphic Database for Athenian Democracy (EDAD)

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The on-line Epigraphic Database for Athenian Democracy (EDAD) plans to make accessible to a broad audience the inscriptional evidence for the origins and development of democracy in ancient Athens.

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[ This project has been supported with grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities; New York University’s Faculty Research Network; and Skidmore College’s Faculty Development Committee, and the Office of the Vice-President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty. Presentations of the project have appeared at meetings of The Classical Associaton of the Middle-West and South (CAMWS) and the Classical Association of the Atlantic States (CAAS). This project and its author benefitted considerably from the 2003 summer seminar on electronic publications in the classics sponsored by and held at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, DC, and extends thanks to the coordinators Christopher Blackwell and Ross Scaife, and the Center’s director, Gregory Nagy. ]

The on-line Epigraphic Database for Athenian Democracy (EDAD) plans to make accessible to a broad audience the inscriptional evidence for the origins and development of democracy in ancient Athens. EDAD’s underlying principle is to provide transparent access to texts, translations and commentaries in support of a larger collaborative effort for which transparency is an essential component: D?mos: Classical Athenian Democracy . The nearly 10,000 inscriptions from late archaic and classical Athens (508-322 BCE) detail the day-to-day operations of the world’s first democracy, yet they are accessible either in arcane publications with Greek text and commentary,1 or are translated in sourcebooks with little apparatus and no Greek.2 EDAD will include the essential features of both types of publication and thus provide the epigraphic sources for the scholar and student in a transparent and easily accessible manner. In essence, the database will present Greek texts and translations akin to works in the Perseus Project with all of the lexical and morphological tools, though with some dramatic differences: EDAD will include comprehensive bibliographies, and linguistic and historical commentaries, and will allow the user to tailor the database to specific needs and interests.

Notes to this section

1. Besides the more obvious Inscriptiones Graecae (Greek text with apparatus in Latin), the most-often consulted handbook to Greek epigraphy is undoubtedly that of Meiggs and Lewis, which contains the text in Greek, some essential bibliography and brief commentaries. [back]

2. The best presentation of translated inscriptions remains the Cambridge series Translated Documents of Greece & Rome, which includes C.W. Fornara’s Archaic Times to the End of the Peloponnesian War and P. Harding’s From the End of the Peloponnesian War to the Battle of psus. The publication of each translation includes essential bibliography, a few notes, supplementary literary quotations and scholia; the translations attempt to adhere to line breaks, lacunae and other epigraphic conventions. [back]

The inscriptions have been selected from the larger epigraphic corpus on the basis of their relevance to the study of Athenian democracy, the frequency with which they appear in publications intended for the novice student of ancient Athens, and their state of preservation. When completed, the database will contain approximately 250 decrees, treaties, dedications, honorifics, and the financial, political, and religious records of nearly two centuries of Athenian life. The intended audience includes both the lay and scholarly communities that might choose to access D?mos and Stoa, or are otherwise looking to utilize essential epigraphic evidence for late 6th, 5th and 4th century BCE Athens. Accordingly, the data and commentaries must be couched in direct and concise prose, and their relevance to the emergence, development and slow disintegration of Athenian democracy must be clearly expressed. Although the interface of EDAD will privilege the Greek text and English translation, users will gain quick and easy access to the remaining data that typically accompanies an epigraphic publication. A survey of current practices reveals little about how to translate the structures of traditional print publications of inscriptions to electronic and on-line media.

There are few comparanda to serve as paradigms for the publication of Greek inscriptions on-line. The most comprehensive catalogue of published (both print and electronic) epigraphic materials is maintained by the American Society of Greek and Latin Epigraphy (ASGLE), edited by T. Elliott. A survey of the portions of the website devoted to texts and images underscores the fundamental difficulty that Greek epigraphers face—identifying and employing appropriate publishing tools to present Greek inscriptions on the World Wide Web. Although epigraphers have established a number of sites devoted to specific aspects of Greek and Roman inscriptions, most provide bibliographies,3 concordances, 4 digital images of squeezes, 5 tables of contents, 6 or non-interactive presentations of texts, mostly in Latin. 7 This last category is typically interactive only in the sense that the user can identify and locate a specific text if given the proper publication record (e.g., the Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae number), but it does not allow for more general searches (i.e., for individual terms in Greek or Latin across the breadth of the databases) or provide links to lexical and morphological tools (e.g., those scanned and/or developed by the Perseus Project ). A few fully searchable databases of Latin texts are now on-line8 (absent lexical support), and the emergence of the Epidoc initiative offers the most likely avenue for publications of Greek corpora of inscriptions.

Notes to this section

3. The searchable Collection of Greek Inscriptions from Delphi, ed. N. Kelly; the supplements to the Guide de l’épigraphiste (for ancient and medieval epigraphy), ed. F. Bérard, in PDF format; the Checklist Of Editions Of Greek, Latin, Demotic And Coptic Papyri, Ostraca And Tablets, edd. R. Bagnall et al. [back]

4. The Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, ed. G. Alföldy; CLAROS: Concordancia de Inscripciones Griegas, ed. J. Somolinos. [back]

5. The Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents, ed. C. Crowther, a non-searchable database of squeezes at Oxford which does include some commentaries; a similar one at Ohio State University, ed. S. Tracy; the very modest but unfortunately unreadable display of ten inscribed stones at the National Epigraphical Museum in Athens. [back]

6. E.g., of journals like Epigraphica founded by A. Calderini in 1939, or the Inscriptiones Graecae; or of publications in other media, such as the Packard Humanities Institute Documentary CD-#7 (1996) maintained at the Cornell Greek Epigraphy Project, edd. K. Clinton et al.; a subsidiary project of the Cornell Greek Epigraphy Project entitled Infimae Aetatis: A Textual Data Bank of Late Antique and Medieval Inscriptions ed. J. Mansfield; and EPIGRAPH, a CD-ROM of CIL VI without “collateral information such as the find spot, the present location of the inscription, the material on which it is inscribed, the manuscript tradition on which it is based, the alternative readings proposed or the interpretative comments of the various editors.” [back]

7. Inscriptiones Graecae Eystettenses , or A Database for the Study of the Greek Inscriptions of Asia Minor by J. Malitz, and its supplementary database of Inschriften von Bithynia & Pontus , with Greek texts in Beta Code, lemmata and bibliographic data on-line. E. Meyer’s site, A New Interpretative Study of the Evolution of Slavery in Hellenistic and Roman Greece (1997), included lemmata, translations and commentaries but without the original Greek texts, as did M. Satlow’s Inscriptions from the Land of Israel (1996), an ambitious searchable project (only partially completed) of all inscriptions from Israel between 330 BCE to 614 CE, and written in SGML. [back]

8. E.g., Epigraphik-Datenbank, ed. M. Claus, a searchable database of over 200,000 Latin texts with plans to include eventually all(!) inscriptions in Latin. [back]

Epidoc seeks to make available inscriptions from classical antiquity in a standardized digital format easily accessed and deciphered independent of any specific hardware or software constraints. The principle of open, public source code—both software and data—lies at the core of the philosophy of Epidoc , and indeed of the D?mos Project, Stoa and EDAD, and some of the first attempts at on-line publications of Greek inscriptions will adhere to the Epidoc standards. For example, the Epidoc Aphrodisias Project , edited by C. Roueché and J. Reynolds, intends to publish 1,000 texts excavated at Aphrodisias in Caria; currently half-a-dozen static texts and commentaries provide a template for what will prove to be an essential pilot project. 9 The Aphrodisias Project is akin to the EDAD, for both intend to present the publication histories of the inscriptions, the Greek texts in TEI, and translations and commentaries. Such initiatives as the Epidoc Aphrodisias Project and EDAD promise to surmount the challenges inherent in the on-line publication of Greek epigraphic texts.

Notes to this section

9. Two other applictions of Epidoc TEI XML to epigraphic corpora are the US Epigraphy Project , edd. J. Bodel and I. Marchesi, highlighting Latin texts in US collections, and S.G. Cole’s collection of Dionysiac inscriptions featured at the 2003 Center for Hellenic Studies summer seminar. [back]

Analogous to the Epidoc Aphrodisias Project , each entry in the Epigraphic Database of Athenian Democracy will contain the following data: title; type of inscription; findspot; current location; description of the stone; description of the letter-forms; published images (including links to on-line images of stones or squeezes); a comprehensive bibliography (with links to any electronic publications); date; Greek text; English translation; textual and historical commentaries. The text, translation and commentaries present the greatest challenges, for they must adhere to certain standards for epigraphic publication, utilize the full power of on-line access to texts and tools, and present the inscriptions both to lay and scholarly audiences. The Greek texts, written in Beta Code10 and based upon the IG and PHI CD-ROM #7 texts, will adhere to the convention of epigraphic transcription established by Panciera and Krummrey which draws upon the Leiden Convention and the fundamental contributions to the study and presentation of inscriptions by Sterling Dow. 11 Each word—to whatever degree extant or restored—will be linked to lexical and morphological tools. The critical apparatus will include all suggested restorations with individual links to entries in a separate bibliographic database. The translations will make clear the distinctions between what the stone preserves and what is conjectural through the use of different font colors,12 although it will be impossible to replicate precisely in English the word order and grammatical structure of Greek epigraphic prose.13 The commentaries will draw upon previous scholarship and also utilize online literary and archaeological evidence to provide the user with a full socio-historical context for the text.

Notes to this section

10. The Thesaurus Linguae Graecae maintains a manual of the ASCII symbols used to encode Greek texts. [back]

11. See in particular Dow’s introduction to S.V. Tracy, The Lettering of an Athenian Mason, with an Introduction: The Study of Lettering, by Sterling Dow, Hesperia Suppl. 15 (Princeton, 1975). Some epigraphic niceties not easily translated into XML will require electronic finesse—e.g., underdots for readable traces of letters; lacunae; sigla like the tricolon and non-traditional letter shapes such as the three-barred sigma and the tailed rho; and the use of the pre-403/2 BCE ionicization of the Attic alphabet, when epsilons and omicrons were also used for etas and omegas, and the eta indicated aspiration. The author thanks the participants in the 2003 seminar at the Center for Hellenic Studies, especially Christopher Blackwell, Hugh Cayless and Anne Mahoney for their useful suggestions on these issues. [back]

12. See the on-line edition of the Vindolanda Tablets, where uncertain restorations appear in lighter font shades. [back]

13. Previous approaches to this problem, e.g., that of Fornara, prioritized adhering to the word order over linguistic awkwardness. I prefer the solution employed by the editors of the Vindolanda Tablets project, who do not sacrifice English idioms for the sake of correlating translation with text line-by-line. [back]

EDAD will allow the user to select or deselect any of an entry’s components—the apparatus, the bibliographic data and the commentary and, as with the Perseus database, the links to the morphological parser and the Liddell-Scott lexicon.14 Lay persons and students interested in browsing, or consulting only the translation and a few other features, will be able to utilize the database without the expanded elements, while advanced students and scholars will choose to access current interpretations of the stone, text and contexts. The user who wishes to see a specific scholarly position on the text will select one of the inscription’s editors from a drop-down menu and essentially recreate an earlier edition and publication. This layered approach to the study of Greek epigraphic texts will provide, to any interested reader of Athens’ past, access to the full range of evidence for Athenian democracy. The manipulable Epigraphic Database for Athenian Democracy will form an integral part of the D?mos collection of material, for it will enhance the web-user’s access to the study of ancient Greece that D?mos, Stoa and Perseus have so successfully crafted already.

Notes to this section

14. See the Perseus Display Configuration features of the Perseus Project. [back]

Bibliography   [top]


G. Alföldy, ed., The Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum ( )

John F. Oates, R. Bagnall, et al. , edd., Checklist Of Editions Of Greek, Latin, Demotic And Coptic Papyri, Ostraca And Tablets ( )

F. Bérard, ed., Guide de l’épigraphiste ( )

T. Elliott, H. Cayless, A. Hawkins, The EpiDoc Collaborative for Epigraphic Documents in TEI XML ( )

C.W. Fornara, Archaic Times to the End of the Peloponnesian War (Cambridge, 1983 ) Translated Documents of Greece & Rome vol. 2

P. Harding, From the End of the Peloponnesian War to the Battle of Ipsus (Cambridge, 1985 ) Translated Documents of Greece & Rome vol. 2

N. Kelly, ed., Collection of Greek Inscriptions from Delphi ( )

J. Mansfield, ed., Infimae Aetatis: A Textual Data Bank of Late Antique and Medieval Inscriptions ( )

R. Meiggs, D. Lewis, edd., A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions to the End of the Fifth Century B.C. (Oxford, 1975 repr. )

E. Meyer, ed., A New Interpretative Study of the Evolution of Slavery in Hellenistic and Roman Greece ( , 1997 )

S. Panciera, H. Krummrey, “Criteri di edizione e segni diacritici”. Tituli volume 2, pages 205-215 (1980 )

C. Roueché and J. Reynolds, ed., The Epidoc Aphrodisias Project ( )

M. Satlow, ed., Inscriptions from the Land of Israel ( , 1996 )

J. Somolinos, ed., CLAROS: Concordancia de Inscripciones Griegas ( )

S.V. Tracy, The Lettering of an Athenian Mason, with an Introduction: The Study of Lettering, by Sterling Dow (Princeton, 1975 ) Hesperia Suppl.

Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents, The British Museum, ed., Vindolanda Tablets Online ( )

To refer to this please cite it in this way:

Michael Arnush, “The Epigraphic Database for Athenian Democracy (EDAD),” C. Blackwell, R. Scaife, edd., Classics@ volume 2: C. Dué & M. Ebbott, executive editors, The Center for Hellenic Studies of Harvard University, edition of April 3, 2004.

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