Vicus Unquentarius: Perfume, Epigraphy, and XML

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Vicus Unguentarius is a project dedicated to the study of the epigraphic record pertaining to the scent industry in the ancient Roman world—presently limited to the Roman corpus. I have been developing Vicus with the sponsorship of the Stoa Consortium and the Center for Hellenic Studies. The texts in Vicus already utilize TEI-conformant  XML markup; in time they should use the Epidoc  conventions as well




The Center for Hellenic Studies, The Stoa, and EpiDoc promote the use of XML for the encoding of classical texts and scholarly publications in general, following the guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative (  The TEI is an “international and interdisciplinary standard that helps publishers and individual scholars represent all kinds of literary and linguistic  texts, using an encoding scheme that is maximally expressive and minimally obsolescent.” ( The EpiDoc collaborative ( represents an effort to focus the TEI on the particular needs of epigraphists, as it “sets up guidelines for the publication of Roman and Greek inscriptions.”      


The first step in converting my project into XML involved removal of proprietary Microsoft “garbage.” I opened my document in a free program called HTMLKit (  and converted it into HTML. HTML Kit has a useful tool called HTML Tidy, which cleans up files by simply clicking on a button. Even after running HTML Tidy,  some manual clean-up was needed.


Once my document was clean, Hugh Cayless from the Epidoc Collaborative provided  me with an XML template for use in making my inscriptions (text, commentary, bibliography, etc.) EpiDoc and XML compliant. The template was very simple  to understand and customize. I opened up the template using a free text editor  called JEdit ( and customized it to suit the particular needs of my project. The following is an example of the entries for the headings Translation and Commentary from my template:








Once I customized my template, I proceeded to convert my whole project into  XML. This part of the conversion process consisted in copying and pasting  chunks of text from the original document into the appropriate locations in  the XML template.


During my conversion of this material in Vicus, the Hydra Cocoon  package developed by Michael Jones helped me to visualize the results of my  efforts immediately. Hydra is capable of generating “lists of anthologies  and texts dynamically from directories and files present on the server.”  This means that publishing is done in virtually one step, by dragging and  dropping files from a local machine onto a server. Hydra also gives the user or viewer several display options such as XML, HTML, and PDF. With  the help of Michael Jones and the support of Ross Scaife, Vicus Unguentarius  should soon be find its way into official publication at  and perhaps elsewhere as well.


To refer to this please cite it in this way:


Sandra Boero-Imwinkelried, “Vicus Unquentarius: Perfume, Epigraphy, and XML,” 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.