Who are the classicists?

An interesting article from Vitruvian Design on  how non-scholars are pushing the boundaries of technology in a way that must revolutionise much of what scholars do.

We heard from the Alpheios project about recent development of their language learning tools. I’m thrilled to be using alpheios this fall both as a teacher of intermediate Latin and a student of first-semester Arabic, but what continues to impress me most about the project is the thoughtfulness of its architecture. The lexica (such as Liddell-Scott-Jones for Greek, and Lewis-Short for Latin) and linguistic information (very comprehensive morphological analyses, and for some sets of texts, syntactic tree banks of the kind David Bamman’s research uses) are cleanly organized as services that are accessible over the internet. …

Also in attendance was Google’s Will Brockman, who was able to comment on the recent public release of scans of over 500 Greek and Latin texts. (Six copies from three different editions of Pomponius Mela! Can you do that in your home library?)

A dynamically constructed lexicon; network services exposing Greek and Latin lexical and linguistic information to the internet ; a corpus of freely available texts — individually, these are major contributions to the study of Classics. Collectively, they really do lay the foundations for a radically altered discipline — and they exist today. If I wasn’t constantly hearing from fellow classicists that our discipline is in crisis, I would think that there has never been a better time to study Greek and Latin. …

I’ve been involved in all three projects, and know some of the back stories. None of the junior members of the original Perseus project were tenured at their original home institutions: all moved to other jobs, or left the field altogether. When an external review committee visited the University of Kentucky in the 1990s, after an extensive presentation about the Stoa prominently including the Suda On Line, a classicist asked the late Ross Scaife, “In what way does any of this constitute scholarship?” (A curious question about the first effort ever to translate into any language the rich and complex text of the Suda.) …

I draw two conclusions: first, that the study of classics is far too important to leave to classicists; and second that the study of Greek and Latin is still exciting enough to attract brilliant contributions from committed scholars who are not shackled with a title like “Professor of Classics.” In 2010, I’m starting to envy my students, and wish I had a few more decades to continue this work.

I agree.  We’re only starting to explore what is possible.

Scholars for a century have been using essentially the same methods to handle sources.  Paper journals and so forth provided the majority of the infrastructure.  This is now changing, and has been changing for some time.  The TLG has made a huge difference.  Google Books must make a huge difference.  JSTOR, although only accessible to the privileged, is making a difference.

The best is yet to come.


More on Eusebius on the Psalms

Alex Poulos is starting to translate portions of the commentary of Eusebius on the Psalms.  Catch the English and the Greek here.

Alex modestly deprecates his work, but frankly everyone seems scared to translate stuff from this huge work.  So whatever he does, however he does it, he’s a pioneer in an unexplored land.  Well done!


Doing it right – an new edition and Italian translation of a work by Hunain ibn Ishaq

It’s always delightful to see things moving in the right direction (especially when it isn’t because I pushed them).  Quite by accident I came across this site, which is the English-language page of an Italian journal.

The arab version of De differentiis febrium of Galen, edited by Claudio De Stefani, is the first issue of the Collection «Studi di Eikasmós Online».

Galeni De differentiis febrium versio Arabica (Bologna 2004)

Hunain ibn Ishâq di al-Hîra (808-873[?] A.D.), physician and philologist, author of original works and translations into Syriac and Arabic, was the most important arabic translator of the Middle Ages, and one of the best in the world. Because of this celebrity, many translations from Greek were wrongly attributed to him in the arabic mss. Most of his translations from Greek concern the works of Galen of Pergamon (128/131-210/213 A.D.). Here is the translation of one of Galen’s pathologic works on fevers (in two books): it was largely spread in the byzantine Greece (many Greek mss. preserve this work and several summaries on the same subject), in Western Europe (there are some latin translations from Greek, for example that of Burgundius), and in the Arabic East, where the galenic doctrines on fevers were going to survive for a long time. This electronic edition is interesting for people working on Galen, Arabists, historians of medicine.

Book I,1-8
Book I,9-14
Book II,1-7
Book II,8-18

The text (as a pdf file) can be scrolled or free downloaded (clic the file name and choose “Save as”), and printed for study. All rights are reserved for commercial reasons and aims.

Now this is simply splendid!  The files contain an electronic Arabic text with Italian translation.  And quite rightly too!  For the subject is so obscure that very few people will be interested. 

Most such pieces of work vanish into specialist libraries and never become known to the public.  Here someone — who? — has realised that there is another audience out there, one that will never see the printed paper journal, will never buy it, will never read its contents or know of them; the general educated public.  People like us, in fact.

Well done, the Italians!  In one stroke they have probably multipled by ten the number of people who can read this.

Thanks to this site.


The administration of Roman libraries

An interesting post on this subject is here.  It’s a follow-up to a more general article on Roman libraries here, which has a nice bibliography in the footnotes.  Apparently ‘Boyd 1915 “Public Libraries and Literary Culture in Ancient Rome”‘ contains the references to the primary data.  With that publication date, it should be online.  And so it is, here.


New blog from Charles Sullivan

Charles Sullivan, who is working on a history of Speaking in Tongues, writes to say that he has started a new blog:


The only thing I have in html right now is the “Translation Tips on the Greek Church Fathers” but more will come. 

Blogging every day takes time.  But if you don’t, then your readers drift away.


Jona Lendering is holding a dagger under his myrtle-branch

Or so I learn from this amusing post by him, announcing the availability of Plutarch On the control of anger on Bill Thayer’s site. 

It’s great to see so much Plutarch becoming available, of course.  And giving a classical dress to our frustrations is what an Athenian would do.

Here in the UK, the corrupt representatives of the populares, their togas heavy with Egyptian gold (or Libyan, at least) are slow-wittedly moving towards an Ides of March scenario for their erstwhile darling, the one-eyed Caesar, Gordonius.   Who, I wonder, will be Anthony?


Symmachus, letter to Ausonius, now online

Some of the really late pagans are quite interesting people.  There’s Libanius, being an orator in the days of Julian the Apostate and lingering on for years afterwards.  Then there is Symmachus in Rome, vainly trying to keep official paganism alive while editing the works of Livy.

The Ausonius blog run by Gavin Kelly now has a translation of one of Symmachus’ letters.  It’s here.  I’ve added a comment encouraging Gavin to do more, and let’s hope he will! 

Thanks to Adrian Murdoch for the tip!


Cyril of Alexandria – commentaries on Paul’s letters

Ben Blackwell is thinking about translating the commentaries of Cyril of Alexander on Romans and the other letters, as part of a post-doctoral project.  Doing so could only benefit everyone.  He discusses how he is going about it, and (excitingly) how the online TLG now has parsing information (if you can access it!)  Computer-based resources must be increasingly important in translation, I think.

One wry thought: the “standard” edition is that of Philip Pusey; who died in 1880!  So neglected is Cyril in the West.  A new critical text would seem a desideratum; or at least, a few papers on the manuscript tradition.  It is unlikely that Pusey had access to the best mss. 

Still, the first step in making a new edition would be to become conversant with the text and its problems, and the best way to do that is to make a translation of it into some other language.  So Ben might be beginning a life’s work here!  Either way, for a scholar setting out, it would seem that he is looking at unexplored territory.  Go for it, Ben!