Winter Break 2017-18 Accomplishments at DCC

2017-18 winter break was quite productive! Dickinson students Eli Goings (’18), Beth Eidam (’19), and Carl Hamilton (’21) worked on Caesar’s Gallic War, specifically on the text notes and vocabulary for Book 1, Chapters 8–54. This will soon give us a complete edition of Book 1. They made vocabulary lists using the Bridge, edited and added links in the notes (which had been previously gathered and edited by Jo Anne Miller from older school editions), edited the text to make it conform to the OCT, and created pages for notes and vocabulary.

Dickinson students Natalie Ginez (’21), Claire Jeantheau (’21), and Luke Nicosia (’21) worked on Wells Hansen’s commentary on Lucretius, De Rerum Natura Book 3. They completed the Bridge lemmatization of Lucretius 3, added dictionary definitions based on Hansen’s notes, and created vocabulary lists. They re-formatted Hansen’s notes and created draft pages for the notes. They added scroll bars. They proofread the notes and vocabulary lists. A contest to see who could identify the most errors in the others’ work was one by Claire, the prize being dinner for two.

Many thanks to Eli, Beth, Carl, Natalie, Claire, and Luke for all your care and hard work!

Horace’s Satiric Style

Horace’s satiric style is informal and conversational—so much so that he called his works not satūrae but sermōnēs, “conversations, chats.” There are often snippets of dialogue and quick changes of topic and tone. The vocabulary ranges widely and urbanely between high (epic, grand) and low (colloquial, humble, obscene). Horace is somewhat confrontational, frequently addressing and challenging the reader or another imaginary or named person, but never in a hostile or angry way. He is fond of quoting proverbial wisdom and recalling well-known stories. He invokes principles of philosophy, but is never dogmatic or hair-splitting. He uses some rhetorical techniques, but his imagined audience seems to be one of friends—people in the know, rather than the general public.

Here are some of the more noticeable stylistic features, with examples taken from the first two satires of Book 1. This does not include aspects of Latin metrics or Latin grammar and usage.[1]

Snippets of Dialogue (brusque questions and snappy interruptions) ‘nil fuerit mi’ inquit ‘cum uxoribus umquam alienis.’ / verum est cum mimis, est cum meretricibus “’I would never,’ he says ‘have anything to do with other men’s wives.’ But you do have to do with mime actresses, with courtesans.”1.2.57-58

Challenging questions: quid iuvat immensum te argenti pondus et auri / furtim defossa timidum deponere terra? “What pleasure does it give you to fearfully place a massive weight of silver and gold in secret under the excavated earth?” (1.1.41-2) quid inter / est in matrona, ancilla peccesne togata? “What’s the difference if you do wrong with a matrona or with a toga wearing slave-woman (prostitute)?” (1.2.62-3).

Direct address to the audience: hiscine versiculis speras tibi posse dolores / atque aestus curasque graves e pectore pelli? “Are you hoping that these little verses can banish the woes, passions, and grievous anxieties from your heart?” (1.2.109-110).

Generalizing direct address: num, tibi cum faucis urit sitis, aurea quaeris / pocula? “When thirst burns in your throat, you don’t look for a golden cup, do you?” (1.2.114-115)

Direct address to the satirized person: cum tu argento post omnia ponas “Since you put money before everything else” (1.1.86)

Lists: multae tibi tum officient res, / custodes, lectica, ciniflones, parasitae “Many things get in your way: chaperones, litter, sedan-chair, coiffeuses, entourage” (1.2.97-98).

Proper names: deprendi miserum est: Fabio vel iudice vincam. “Getting caught (in adultery) is awful. I could prove that in court that even if Fabius were the judge.” (1.2.134)

Fringe vocabulary: Ambubaiarum collegia, pharmacopolae, / mendici, mimae, balatrones, hoc genus omne “The guild of go-go girls, quacks, beggars, mime-actresses, buffoons, all those type of people.” (1.2.1–2).

Colloquial language: Fufidius vappae famam timet ac nebulonis. “Fufius is afraid of getting a reputation as a low-life spendthrift” (1.2.12).

Obscenity mixed with formality: ‘nolim laudarier’ inquit / ‘sic me’ mirator cunni Cupiennius albi. “’I should not like to be praised in this way,’ says Cupiennius, the connoisseur of aristocratic [coarse word for female genitalia]” (1.2.35–36).

Oxymoron/paradox: semper ego optarim pauperrimus esse bonorum, “when it comes to these riches, I hope I am always very poor” (1.1.79). transvolat in medio posita et fugientia captat, “he flies past what is freely available and chases that which flees” (1.2.108)

Wordplay: dum vitant stulti vitia, in contraria currunt. “The fools, while they avoid one fault, they run to the opposite (fault)” (1.2.24).

Metaphor: interdicta petes, vallo circumdata “you seek the forbidden, (a woman) hedged around by a palisaded rampart” (1.2.96). metiri possis oculo latus “you can get the measure of her flank with your eyes” (1.2.103). plenior ut siquos delectet copia iusto, / cum ripa simul avolsos ferat Aufidus acer. / at qui tantuli eget quanto est opus, is neque limo / turbatam haurit aquam neque vitam amittit in undis. “He who takes delight in a supply that is more than just, the swift river Aufidus carries him off along with the bank that has been ripped away. But he who needs only what is essential, he drinks water untainted by mud, and does not lose his life in the waves.” (1.1.57-60)

Well-known examples: ut quondam Marsaeus, amator Originis ille, / qui patrium mimae donat fundumque laremque “Like Marsaeus, the famous lover of Origo, who once made his ancestral farm and home a present to a mime actress.” 1.2.55-56.

Proverbial sayings: in silvam ligna feras “you would be taking wood to the forest” [i.e. doing something totally useless] (1.10.34).

Allusions to fables or plays: ita ut pater ille, Terenti / fabula quem miserum gnato vixisse fugato / inducit. “Like that well-known father in Terence’s play, who lived a wretched life after his son ran away.” (1.2.20–22)

Parataxis (“setting beside,” i.e. the omission of conjunctions): milia frumenti tua triverit area centum: / non tuus hoc capiet venter plus ac meus “Your threshing floor may grind down a hundred thousand bushels of grain a year. [But] Your belly holds no more than mine.” (1.1.45–46)

1. For details on those topics, see Emily Gowers, Horace: Satires Book I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 22–25 (“Style and Metre”), and J. C. Rolfe, Q. Horati Flacci Sermones et Epistulae (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1901), pp. xxvii–xxxviii (“The Language and Style of the Satires.”).

Enablers and Servants

One of the things I learned at the SCS meetings this past weekend is that it is important to echo and amplify on social media ideas and voices you find important. My favorite notion this year came from Gregory Crane, in a talk about  the Open Greek and Latin Project: classicists should see themselves less as professors, experts, and authorities, and more as enablers and servants of the community of readers of classical texts. 

Here is his list of the OGL’s goals in full:

  • 2 or more editions for as much of Greek and Latin as possible
  • CC licensing (CC-BY-SA)
  • Smooth pathway from Images of text-bearing objects through an open-ended and evolving set of machine actionable annotations
  • Based on evidence rather than authority
  • Community driven
  • Paid professionals as enablers and servants
  • Multilingual emphasizing  global access and exchange

There is much in this list to discuss. A key piece of context is the imminent arrival of the new Perseus interface, the Scaife Digital Library Viewer, which is set to debut on the Ides of March. Those who attended the OGL pre-conference workshop, or the Ancient MakerSpace session by the developer James Tauber, got a live preview of this lovely new package for Perseus data and tools. Here is a screenshot, which, it should be noted, is a work in progress.

Pre-release draft of the new Scaife Viewer for Perseus 5.0

Pre-release draft of the new Scaife Viewer for Perseus 5.0

Notice the CTS URN in the upper right hand corner, a key piece of infrastructure. Note also the “Log in”: users will be able to contribute much more directly than is now the case. When individual words are highlighted the url will change, allowing a unique identifier that can be used as a stable peg to hang annotations on. Very exciting. The new Greek Word Study Tool will have several new features, including the ability to provide improvements and  “contribute to open philology” through things like treebanking and commenting on texts.

Feature list of the new Greek Word Study Tool for Perseus 5.0

Greek word study tool feature list

Crane’s presentation was part of the annual Digital Classics Association panel, which is always exciting, and this year was no exception. Sam Huskey gave an update on the Digital Latin Library, and tools he is helping develop that will partly automate the creation of TEI-XML encoding for apparatus criticus of Latin editions. The scholar creates a spreadsheet of variants attributed to certain witnesses, and a nifty Python script creates the appropriately tagged XML. This will get you only part way, of course. At certain junctures scholarly judgment has to intervene in the constitution of a text. The brilliance of this new tool is that it actually makes clear what is rote reporting of variants and what is actual scholarly intervention. It clearly and unambiguously marks out the intellectual labor that goes into the creation of a critical apparatus, something that every dean and tenure committee can use to give scholars appropriate credit. 

Peter Heslin gave a fascinating paper arguing, in apparent contradiction to Huskey, that TEI-XML is not the best way of encoding critical apparatus. Rather, we should be using as a model the version control of Github, which simply stores different versions of a document in parallel, until the user wants to know what the differences are between them. He pointed out that a traditional apparatus is a rhetorical device for supporting a single version of the text, but is quite unhelpful if you want to know how similar or different two versions of a text are (say, the Propertius texts of Barber and Goold). In the discussion it became apparent that the two approaches a complementary, but Heslin’s talk was quite the satisfying (to me) attack on TEI-XML as a data model. Here are his main beefs:

list of problems with tei for encoding app crit

Peter Heslin: The Problems with XML and the App. Crit.

Thomas Koentges gave an absolutely wonderful talk on the uses of distant reading techniques for Greek stylometry. Using the vastly increased corpus of Greek from the First Thousand Years of Greek project  he is able to use topic modeling to show quite clearly the in-authenticity of Plato’s Menexenus–only the most die-hard skeptic would disagree, it seems to me. The essence of the technique is to use the signature of relative frequency of extremely common tokens–the equivalent of our thes, ands, buts, and howevers–to group works and authors.

Cynthia Damon discussed her amazing success in getting students, ranging from high school age to undergrad to post bac to graduate, involved in that holiest of inaccessible mysteries of classical scholarship, textual criticism and the creation of the apparatus criticus. First, she teaches them how to read an app crit, leading them through the process of expanding into plain English what the apparatus is saying and what it is trying to do. Then she has teams of students transcribe individual manuscripts (of the Bellum Alexandrinum in this case) and note variants. These variants are placed into spreadsheets of the type Sam Huskey was describing, classifying and describing them, and choosing which should be displayed in the apparatus itself. Then information from existing apparatuses is integrated (in this case those of the Teubner and Bude texts). In addition to creating an entirely new text and apparatus for much of the Bell. Alex., the students identified 30 errors in the apparatuses of the Teubner and Bude editions. The electrifying effect of having students involved in the creation of new scholarly knowledge can be judged by the fact that three of the students made the journey to the Boston Marriott in freezing weather to attend the session. All told, 80 students have been involved so far. In one class, the students came to the final exam with a gift of a t-shirt for their professor: sine apparatu, sine honore

T-shirt made by Cynthia Damon's students at the University of Pennsylvania

Sine apparatu, sine honore: T-shirt made by Cynthia Damon’s students at the University of Pennsylvania

Crane’s vision for OGL is to “make Greek and Latin play the biggest possible role in the intellectual life of human civilization.” OGL aims not just to present Greek and Latin texts in a readable fashion, but to be the focus of communities of readers and citizen scholars like those that Cynthia Damon is cultivating, and like the ones centered around the Holy Cross Manuscripts, Inscriptions, and Documents Club and its new off-shoot at Tufts. This philology is to be “community driven.” By getting students and others involved in the creation of scholarship through digital projects we prepare them for the future of work, he argues. Above all, philology must show its relevance if it is to survive in the competitive intellectual and institutional landscape of the coming decades. “We live in a world of fake news where truth doesn’t matter. Philology is an answer.”  

During the question period I asked how each presenter thought about their users, how they imagined the audience for their work. In most cases they said variations of “this  will be useful to scholars.” Crane’s answer was strikingly different. Professionals are “the least important audience,” he said. Rather, the proper role of the paid professional is to be the servant, the enabler of the community of citizen scholars and students. This is a vision that is profoundly important for our field, I believe. It motivates the scholars who contribute to DCC and to many other fine digital projects. Indeed, it has long been a part of the ideals of classical scholarship, for example in the late nineteenth century, when top scholars routinely wrote works for beginning students. Now, in what Crane called rather derisively the contemporary “print classics” world, this ideal has been somewhat forgotten. All too often scholars speak only to each other, and strive only to earn each others’ praise. 

This is not a call for “popularization” or “public facing scholarship,” both of which are quite valuable in themselves, but a call to find ways to create the kinds of scholarly and reading communities within and beyond the academy that will ensure the utility and contribution of our discipline in the coming decades. My intuition is that the way to do these things is to strive to broaden access to and understanding of the primary texts we love.


Support BMCR!

As any reader of DCC doubtless knows, Bryn Mawr Classical Review is the essential digital project in classics, arguably one of the most successful projects in the all the humanities disciplines in the history of the digital humanities. Most classicists cannot now imagine professional life without it–all the more remarkable because it runs on volunteer labor. I am passing on this email message from the good folks at BMCR, who have done so much for the fields of classics and archaeology, in hopes that you will support their efforts to upgrade their infrastructure. I know I will!


Dear colleagues, readers and friends,

The end of the year is nearly upon us, and we write to you with news of BMCR and also a request for aid.

BMCR is now engaged in a complex process of renewal. We will share more information in due time, but the short of it is that our systems are a patchwork whose core was first constructed nearly two decades ago. Nothing in the world of computing or digital humanities has stood still, and we are now contracting to build ourselves a better platform, to make our own work more efficient and to enable us to serve our readers and authors as fully as possible into the future.

The catch is that this work is expensive. What is more, as every one of you knows, BMCR has always been and remains committed to being open access, and relies nearly wholly on volunteer labor for every aspect of its operation. I need hardly point out that, if one gives away the product, one must live without a revenue stream.

For its day to day operations, BMCR has long survived on a combination of in-kind infrastructural support from Bryn Mawr College and income from the sale of Bryn Mawr Commentaries. This has generally been sufficient for our limited operational expenses. The scale of expenditure for a new platform and the migration of our historical data are another thing altogether.

We have embarked on a number of efforts to raise money for this process, and this will include—soon! —a direct appeal to you. We write today to ask you to assist us with an indirect and easy form of aid.

BMCR’s parent, Bryn Mawr Commentaries, is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization. BMCR is thereby registered with both the Amazon Associates program and with Amazon Smile. This means that—with a tiny effort on your part—BMCR can receive a donation from Amazon every time you make a purchase. If you are in the US and using, you can do this in one of two ways:

(1) Select BMCR as your charity of choice via Amazon Smile: If you follow this link and have not registered, you will have the opportunity to select a charity. Enter “Bryn Mawr Commentaries.” Henceforth, every time you arrive at and make a purchase, BMCR will receive a contribution based on the sale.

If you have already selected a charity but want to switch to BMCR, you may do so via the options under “Your Account.” Simply look for the option, “Your AmazonSmile.”

(2) If you do not wish to register a charity in this way, you may also use/bookmark the following link: This directs a donation to BMCR via the Amazon Associates program.

Thank you very much for entertaining this appeal.

We will write again soon to announce BMCR’s annual break for the holidays. In the meantime, best wishes for the holiday season.


Camilla, Cliff, Jim and Rick


Spanish Publishers: You Had One Job

In the course of a review of an excellent Latin-Spanish bilingual edition of Frontinus’ De aqueductu, the distinguished Dutch classicist Vincent Hunink makes a welcome comment on the relative difficulty of obtaining Spanish classical books, including the one under review:

Perhaps I may take the opportunity to make a general point on Spanish books. In the world of classical scholarship, English, French, German, and Italian seem the dominant languages. Spanish, although a major world language, takes a much less prominent place, and I know many colleagues (to say nothing of students) who never open a book in this language at all. Several reasons may be adduced to explain the relative isolation of Spanish classical studies, but surely the lack of easy access to Spanish books must rank high. I have searched for Paniagua’s new edition online, but what I found was deploringly little, indeed: on August, 28th, 2017 there was one copy (!), without a cover image, available through Amazon, and one online shop in Spain that sells the title ( This means that this book is effectivelyunavailable to international readers, and that only dedicated specialists will take the trouble of purchasing it.

Spanish books on classics deserve more attention from the public, but for a start readers should be given the possibility to find Spanish books at all. I suggest that publishers, universities, and government institutions throughout the Spanish speaking world should unite forces and provide users with an easier way to become familiar with new Spanish books on classics, and to buy them if they are interested. A good Internet shop (or a serious Spanish department within an existing shop) might be an idea. Alternatively, an internet platform offering free PDFs of such books would be a great instrument to promote Spanish publications. As soon as information would become freely available, many of those who now decline to read any Spanish might be effectively tempted to change their behavior.

Much of what I suggest here on books in Spanish, also goes for books in that other important Iberian language, Portuguese. So perhaps a concerted Spanish-Portuguese campaign is due.

How is it that these publishers (or at least this one) are not doing the one thing they are supposed to to: publish, i.e., make their books widely available? Is this something more widely problematic in Spanish publishing, or is it a classics thing?

Dickinson Latin Workshop 2018: Maffeius, Historiae Indicae

Dickinson Latin Workshop 2018: Maffeius, Historiae Indicae

July 12–17, 2018

The Dickinson Summer Latin Workshop is intended for teachers of Latin, as a way to refresh the mind through study of an extended Latin text, and to share experiences and ideas with Latinists and teachers. Sometimes those who are not currently engaged in teaching have participated as well, including retired teachers and those working towards teacher certification.

Christopher Francese (Dickinson College)
Leni Ribeiro Leite (Federal University of Espírito Santo, Vitória, Brazil)

The text for 2018 will be taken from the Historiae Indicae of Giovanni Pietro Maffei (1536–1604, Latin name Maffeius). This 16-book history tells the story of the Portuguese voyages of conquest and discovery in the sixteenth century around the coast of Africa, to the Malabar Coast of India, on to Malacca, China, and Japan. It was widely read and admired all over Europe in its time, and draws on a variety of sources, some of which are now lost. We plan to read the sections of the work that describe the wonders of China, Brazil, and the Indian Ocean.

Jacques de Sève, “Le Pangolin,” illustration from Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon, Histoire Naturelle, générale et particulière, avec la description du Cabinet du Roi (1749–1804). Source: Gallica

Jacques de Sève, “Le Pangolin,” illustration from Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon, Histoire Naturelle, générale et particulière, avec la description du Cabinet du Roi (1749–1804). Source: Gallica

Maffei’s Latin is elegant, but not difficult. Contemporaries compared his style to that of Caesar. Yet he is no humble imitator, and the hallmarks of his writing are clarity and variety. In the words of fellow historian Faminio Strada, “nothing anywhere unkempt or careless; indeed, elegant perfection from beginning to end—unless his only fault is that he has no faults.” His vocabulary is strictly classical, except when he needs terms for unfamiliar items, such as “tea” (chia) or “pangolin” (cabim); even so, for “chopstick” he manages to find an appropriate word in Varro and Pliny the Elder, paxillus (“small stake, peg”). Though no full commentary exists, the moderators will supply notes on such special usages.

The participation fee for each participant will $400. The fee covers lodging, breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Dickinson cafeteria, the facilities fee, which allows access to the gym, fitness center, and the library, as well as wireless and wired internet access while on campus. The fee does not cover the costs of books or travel. Please keep in mind that the participation fee, once it has been received by the seminar’s organizers, is not refundable. This is an administrative necessity.

Lodging: accommodations will be in a student residence hall near the site of the sessions. The building features suite-style configurations of two double rooms sharing a private bathroom, or one double and one single room sharing a private bathroom.

The first event will be an introductory dinner at 6:00 p.m., July 12. The final session ends at noon on July 17, with lunch to follow. Sessions will meet from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. each day, with the afternoons left free for preparation.

Application deadline: May 1, 2018.

Fee deadline: June 1, 2018.

TO APPLY: please contact Mrs. Terri Blumenthal, by the application deadline. The fee is due in a check made out to Dickinson College, by the fee deadline.

For more information please contact Prof. Chris Francese (


A mysterious animal in Maffeius

A story in Maffeius’ Indic Histories Book 5 concerns a fighter named Noadabegua from Malacca who fought the Portuguese bravely and died, pierced with dozens of wounds, but the wounds did not bleed until an arm band was removed that contained the bone of a certain local animal. When the arm band was removed all his blood flowed out at once, as if a vase had been shattered. mirum dictu! comments Maffeius. The mystery here is the identity of the animal: os animalis cuiusdam Sionii (cabim incolae appellant). In the book from which this comes both Sionii and Cabim are capitalized. Neither word appears in any Latin dictionary I have access to, nor is there anything of use in the very large LLT-A and LLT-B databases of later Latin published by Brepols, and which I have access to at work. Here is the whole passage.

Qua in re illud vel in primis accidit memorabile. Vehebatur quadam e navibus iis Naodabegua Malacensis, unus ex eorum numero qui nuper in Sequeriae exitium conspiraverant. Is in itinere oppressus ab Lusitanis cum egregie dimicans aliquamdiu restitisset, multis demum confossus ictibus ita corruit ut e patulis vulneribus nihil omnino cruoris manaret. Mox inter spoliandum corpus, ut primum detracta eius brachio est aurea armilla (mirum dictu) tamquam vase confracto ita sese cum anima universus repente sanguis effudit. Cuius rei stupore defixi Lusitani cum de captivis causam quaesissent, cognovere inclusum esse in armilla os animalis cuiusdam Sionii (cabim incolae appellant) cuius in sistendo sanguine virtus efficacissima sit. Id ipsum os deinde cum in Lusitaniam devehendum esset una cum pretiosis aliis rebus naufragio periit. Atque in hunc modum barbarus ille concepti in Sequeriam facinoris poenas acerba persolvit morte.

Presumably Sionius is an adjective referring to a nearby place or people; I’m thinking the nominative form of the animal in Latin would be cabis. But what is this magical critter whose bone can stop the flow of blood?

Globalizing Latin with Maffeius

One of the hidden treasures of neo-Latin prose is the Historiarum Indicarum libri XVI (1588)[1] by the Italian Jesuit Giovanni Pietro Maffei (1536–1604, Latin name Maffeius). It tells the story of the Portuguese voyages of conquest and discovery in the sixteenth century around the coast of Africa, to the Malabar Coast of India, on to Malacca, China, and Japan. While Maffeius himself did not travel to the East, he spent eight years collecting material and writing in the royal archives in Portugal, and his work is based on a variety of documents, including letters from Jesuit missionaries, some of which are now lost. The full-scale ethnography of China in Book 6 is of particular importance as a shaper of European images of China in this period. First published in Florence, it went through eight separate editions by 1600, was included in a two-volume edition of all of Maffei’s Latin writings in 1747, and was last printed in Vienna in 1752.[2] There has so far been no modern Latin edition or English translation.

Portrait of Maffei by Giovanni Battista Moroni , ca. 1560-65.

Portrait of Maffei by Giovanni Battista Moroni , ca. 1560-65. Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum. Image source: Wikimedia.

The text merits renewed attention on three main grounds. First is the quality of the Latin. Maffei was a superb linguist (with enough Japanese to publish translations of Japanese texts and to act as an interpreter), a celebrated writer in both Tuscan and Latin, and a famously meticulous Latin stylist. After his early education in his home city of Bergamo and an apprenticeship in Rome under the head of the Vatican Library, Maffei gained the chair of rhetoric in Genoa on the recommendation of Paulus Manutius. While in Genoa in 1565 he submitted his name to the Jesuits, and shortly thereafter returned to Rome and became professor of rhetoric at the Collegium Romanum. He gained fame all over Europe in 1570 on the publication of his Latin translations of Acosta’s history of the early Portuguese voyages to the Indies and associated Jesuit letters. On the strength of this work he was invited by the learned Prince (and Cardinal, later King) Henry of Portugal to tell the whole story in a style worthy of the subject matter. After Henry’s death in 1580 the work was finished under the auspices of Philip, king of the now united Spain and Portugal, to whom the book is dedicated.

Contemporaries compared him to Caesar and Tacitus, but he is no slavish imitator, nor is his Latin as mannered as that of the other great Latin historian of the era, Paolo Giovio. His hallmarks are clarity, elegance, and variety. In the words of fellow historian Famiano Strada, “nothing anywhere unkempt or careless; indeed, elegant perfection from beginning to end—unless his only fault is that he has no faults.”[3] At one of the debates held at the literary salon sponsored by Christina Queen of Sweden at the Palazzo Farnese in the 1650s the question was posed which two authors one should want preserved if all the others should perish, choosing one pro antiquitate, another pro Latino idiomate. The consensus was that, among ancient authors, they would keep Plutarch, among works prized for Latin style, those of Maffeius.[4]

The second reason to turn to Maffeius now is that the text deserves to be better known to historians of the early modern period and the age of exploration. For most of the 20th century, when the dominant geo-political force was the north Atlantic alliance, scholars naturally tended to focus on the early period of contact between Europe and the Americas. The resurgence of China and other Asian powers has created renewed interest in the early history of European colonialism in the Indian Ocean and Pacific areas as well. The importance of the 16th century Latin sources to Atlantic studies has long been recognized, and led to modern editions and studies of authors such as Peter Martyr.[5] But Latin in Asia is still “the great terra incognita of Renaissance literary history.”[6] Sanjay Subrahmanyam’s excellent new study on Europeans’ early contacts with India, for example, neglects the Latin sources in favor of the undeniably important vernacular ones, and does not mention Maffeius.[7] The only substantial discussions of Maffei by historians known to me are by  Donald Lach and, more recently, Stefano Andretta.[8] A readable Latin text, combined with English and Portuguese translations, will make the work better known.

The third reason to make Maffeius better known is to foster the study of Latin in the areas that Maffeius discussed, particularly China. As witnessed by numerous recent conferences and publications, the study of ancient Greek and Latin is blooming in China and Japan.[9] Maffei’s Historiae Indicae would be of interest both to historians from those countries who study European colonialism from their own perspectives, and to students who want to learn to read Latin with a text of direct relevance to the history of their own countries. In particular I hope to edit Book 6, on China, in collaboration with a Chinese scholar, with notes to the Latin in Chinese, and comparison with what the Chinese sources to check the accuracy of and contextualize Maffeius’ and other European observers’ assertions about China in the later Ming period.[10] As the study of the Latin and Greek classics becomes globalized, neo-Latin about Asia and Maffeius in particular can play an important role in both scholarship and pedagogy. Study of such European neo-Latin texts should be coupled with the study of the Latin versions of the Chinese classics, and the wider use of Latin in Asia in sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.[11]

[1] Ioannis Petri Maffeii Bergomatis e Societate Iesu historiarum indicarum libri XVI. Selectarum item ex India epistolarum eodem interprete libri IV. Accessit Ignatii Loiolae vita postremo recognita, et in opera singula copiosus index. Florence: Filippo Giunta, 1588.   

[2] Ioannis Petri Maffeii Bergomatis e Societate Iesu historiarum indicarum libri XVI. Vienna: Trattner, 1752.

[3] From Prolusiones Academicae (1619) II.iii, quoted by Félix Sánchez Vallejo, “Quartus imminet dies saecularis a morte insignis cultoris Latinitatis, Ioannis Petri Maffei,” Latinitas 51 (2003), 50–55, at p. 53.

[4] Pierantonio Serassi, Vita Maffei, in Jo. Petri Maffeji Bergomatis e Societate Jesu opera omnia Latine scripta, nunc primum in unum corpus collecta, variisque illustrationibus exornata, vol. 1 (Bergamo: Petrus Lancellottus, 1747), xxi.

[5] Andrew Laird, “North America,” in Sarah Night and Stefan Tilg, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Neo-Latin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 525–540.

[6] Zweder von Martels, “Asia,” in Philip Ford et al., eds., Brill’s Encyclopaedia of the Neo-Latin World: Macropaedia (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 849.

[7] Europe’s India: Words, People, Empires 1500–1800 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017), 63.

[8] Donald F. Lach, Asia in the Making of Europe. Vol. 1: The Century of Discovery (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965), 803–805. Stefano Andretta, “Modelli di santità nelle Historiae indicae di Giovanni Pietro Maffei,” Monaci, ebrei, santi: studi per Sofia Boesch Gajano: atti delle Giornate di studio “Sophia kai historia,” Roma, 17-19 febbraio 2005 (Rome: Viella, 2008), 451–470.

[9] Kathleen Coleman, “Nondum Arabes Seresque Rogant: Classics Looks East.” Society for Classical Studies Blog, October 16, 2016.

[10] Lach, op. cit., p. 745.

[11] See Noël Golvers, “Asia,” in Sarah Night and Stefan Tilg, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Neo-Latin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 557–574.

Workshop: Creating a Digital Commentary for Teaching

Dickinson Latin Workshop

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Creating a Digital Commentary for Teaching

Bret Mulligan (Haverford College) and Chris Francese (Dickinson College)

Place: Dickinson College, Tome Hall 115, 10:00 a.m. — 5:00 p.m.

Tome Hall, Dickinson College

Tome Hall, Dickinson College

Do you write your own notes on Latin texts for your students? Are you frustrated with the limitations of Microsoft Word when it comes to parallel display of text, notes, and vocabulary? Now you can create attractive, usable reading texts online with vocabulary lists and notes simultaneously displayed, and the ability to include hyperlinks and add audio-visual material. This workshop will demonstrate and provide practice with a new plugin for the WordPress CMS that mimics the easy-to-read format of Dickinson College Commentaries. In addition, participants will see demonstrations of and practice using a variety of online tools that are helpful in the creation and annotation of reading texts: The Bridge for vocabulary list creation; DCC core vocabulary; Pleiades for geography; digitized grammars and reference works for simplifying annotations; Johan Winge’s macronizer; and others.

This workshop will be of interest primarily to Latin teachers, but others are more than welcome to attend. The workshop is free of charge, but to order materials and food we need to have an accurate count of attendees. For pre-registration please contact Terri Blumenthal:, by October 9, 2017.

Bret Mulligan is Associate Professor of Classics at Haverford College. He is a specialist in Late Antique Latin Literature, and a leading digital classicist. He is project director of The Bridge, the author of Life of Hannibal, Cornelius Nepos (Open Books Publishers and DCC), and a contributor to The Living Past: Recasting the Ancients in Late Latin Poetry (forthcoming, Winter Verlag).

Chris Francese is Asbury J. Clarke Professor of Classical Studies at Dickinson College. He specializes in Latin literature, and is project director of Dickinson College Commentaries. He is the author of Ancient Rome in So Many Words (Hippocrene 2007), and Ancient Rome: An Anthology of Sources (Hackett, 2014).