Improving Perseus

The flagship digital classics site Perseus is preparing to re-design its interface, amidst a whirlwind of infrastructure upgrades, tool development, and ambitious plans for multilingual support. It’s a daunting task, and in acknowledgment of the difficulty project director Gregory Crane has floated a draft RFP, with a tentative list of desiderata, for public comment. It is extraordinary and wonderful to invite the whole user community to comment on the development of a site that is so central to digital classics, indeed digital humanities itself, at such an early stage of the design process. So . . . here are my thoughts, offered with the utmost respect for the revolutionary impact of Perseus on our field and on digital humanities, and the massive contribution Perseus makes to global learning about the Greek and Roman classics.

It’s no secret that many users have been unhappy with the existing Perseus interface for a long time. Old concerns with speed seem to have been addressed. But navigation issues remain. The Word Study Tool continues to be inadequate. Translation and commentary content continue to be outdated. Aesthetics leave a lot to be desired. And the glut of information on the page that is often of unclear value and relevance to readers continues to be a major concern. How to proceed?


It’s crucial to let an awareness of the audience drive the design discussion. Crane defines three types of users: a) advanced researchers; b) somewhat knowledgeable students; and c) readers who have no knowledge of a language at all but want to study a text as deeply as possible. Which pieces of Perseus content will be each be most interested in? Professional scholars have historically had little interest in, and even hostility towards, Perseus, which was not originally conceived with them in mind, has little to offer them, and which they often perceive as a way for their students to avoid learning morphology, and a source of misinformation about morphology and poor translations. The plans articulated in the RFP, with their focus on treebanking, linked data infrastructure, continued reliance on automatic parsing tools, and no discussion about updating text and translation content, don’t seem set to change that. The professional audience also has access to research libraries and high quality, edited databases like TLG, LLT, TLL, LCL, and Brills New Pauly, which far surpass Perseus in terms of accuracy and completeness. Somewhat knowledgeable students are the core constituency. They typically need accurate texts, translations, and word-level definitions and parsing. A huge boon to this group is Perseus’ digitization of older but still very valuable encyclopedias, such as Smith’s Dictionaries (e.g. this), and the various lexica. The total neophytes would also value word-by-word definitions and parsing, analogous to the interlinear trots of an earlier age, but badly need concise and consistently accurate dictionary entries, which Word Study Tool does not yet provide. An audience implicit in Crane’s whole discussion is the global, non-English speaking audience who would like to encounter classical texts with helps in their native languages, and not have to go through English. This is a massive undertaking, given the lack of legacy reference works of the kind on which English Perseus is based. It would involve Russian 5-year-plan style mobilization of scholarly time and effort, and will be the work of many decades. So it seems unwise to make design decisions now for an audience for whom you don’t yet have much in the way of content. Another implicit audience is corpus linguists. But this is a very small audience and not worth catering to in terms of design decisions.

So from a design perspective it seems imperative to focus on the needs of the intermediate student or self-taught learner who wants to encounter texts in historical languages. What resources does Perseus provide to that audience?


  • Original language texts: a major service provided by Perseus, the crown jewel.
  • English Translations: often seriously outdated or even (in cases such as the translation of Ovid’s Amores by Christopher Marlowe) downright archaic. There are also many gaps (see below). Sometimes good contemporary translators have contributed their work (Vincent Katz for Propertius and Anne Mahoney for Sulpicia). 
  • Commentaries: seriously outdated, except in cases where good scholars have contributed material, such as Jim O’Donnell’s notes for Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy. Some of the older material is still valuable for specialists, e.g. T. Rice Holmes on Caesar.
  • Grammars: very valuable, but not easy to navigate, and not effectively tied to individual passages that might need elucidation
  • Encyclopedias: very valuable, but not easy to navigate, and not effectively tied to individual passages that might need elucidation. The navigation and searching in Smith’s invaluable mythological and biographical dictionary is particularly bad (try searching, for example, for Ajax or Helen)
  • Lexica: supremely valuable, but not easy to navigate. Perseus’ digitization of lexica has been one of its most significant contributions. Logeion has in essence fixed the navigation and interface problems Perseus (adding new content, too) and become a fundamental part of the field for all the above-mentioned core audience, and specialists as well.
  • Textbooks, such as Benner’s selections from the Iliad and Allen & Greenough on Caesar.


  • Word Study Tool (pop-up dictionary and parsing tool that activates on clicking a word). This is perhaps the most controversial item, the heart of the digital services Perseus provides, but the source of much of the distrust from professionals and love but also frustration from students. The new way forward is going to be via Alpheios and treebank data, with which I am not familiar enough to comment. In my opinion, though, we’re still many years away from a reliable automatic parser, even though some texts, like Homer, are fully parsed by humans and ready to go. One current issue is that the Word Study Tool sometimes directly contradicts definitions and parses in handmade notes like those of O’Donnell.

So, prima facie, if I were setting out to improve Perseus, I would try to serve that core audience of students and autodidacts by a) finding or commissioning competent, up-to-date translations of classical works; b) commissioning commentary content that explains the texts for learners and connects it thoughtfully to the various reference works; c) improving the accuracy of the word study tool; d) improving the interfaces of the grammars and encyclopedias, to do for them what Logeion did for the lexica; e) digitizing better, author-specific lexica so learners have just the information they need to read, say Xenophon or Cicero, not the firehose of a large lexicon or the very unreliable scattershot of “short defs” (a world in which the Latin scribo [“write”] means “to scratch, grave, engrave, draw”).

Improving the interface, not the content, is the focus of the RFP, so I’ll take some of the issues raised there, in order.

Chunking and Browsing

Perseus confronts an important problem: how do we divide up and tag classical texts so as to allow individual passages to be located easily in a digital environment? This key infrastructure and navigation issue is also being worked on by Harvard University Press and the Loeb series. Perseus is focused on the emerging standard CITE architecture which will create a new, machine readable reference system for classical texts. But there is also the existing “system”—chaotic, not readily machine readable, but very widely used.  Ideally, readers should be able to take a citation they find in their reading (e.g “Tertullian, On the Shows 22”), plug it into a search box, and find the relevant primary text in the original and translation, so as to check the accuracy of the use of the primary text in the scholarly literature (or for that matter Wikipedia or elsewhere on the internet). It is hard to overstate the existing barriers to this basic, crucial scholarly and intellectual process on the internet. Students without specialized knowledge cannot readily do it. I recently charged a class of 35 undergraduates in an introductory course taught in English to look up and check a single scholarly reference of their choice from an article  (one which didn’t use that many abbreviations and was written for a general audience). I asked them simply to find the original source, read it, and say whether the primary source backed up the point the scholarly author was making. Only 6 of the 35 were able to find what they were looking for successfully on the first try, and one of the main obstacles is that you can’t just go even to the Loeb Digital Library (much less the open internet) for a mainline classical text and put in a citation and find a translation. If you have specialized knowledge of classical texts, or unusual tenacity, you can do it, but that is not the way things should be in the age of Perseus. So I would prioritize this, and work if possible with Harvard UP to develop standard tags that reflect traditional reference systems, in addition to working on the CITE URN system for the long term.

I would also like to put in a plug for the virtues of the traditional “card” breaks of Perseus. In the proposal this is treated as something of a holdover from primitive versions of Perseus, but in fact such medium-size chunking, though somewhat arbitrary and not as precise as sentence by sentence or line by line systems of reference, carries distinct advantages. One unsolved problem in digital classics is the aggregation of commentary traditions. Notes in the existing classical commentary tradition are often, but not always, tied to particular words via a lemma (specific words from the source text repeated at the beginning of the comment). So ideally you would want to see all the comments on a particular word. But the fact is that editors used no standard system of lemmas, and often commented on ranges of lines, not specific words. So an agreed-upon card chunking would be immensely useful for aggregating notes in a sensible way that really catches all the relevant material. DCC has adopted Perseus card chunks as standard, and I think they should not lightly be abandoned.

Word frequencies

“We need information about word frequencies—this is a very important function for critical reading.” (p.10) Important for corpus linguists perhaps, but not for most readers. The main issue the core audience would want to know is: is this word common (one that I should memorize or write down) or is it unusual (and hence not worth the time focusing on now).  The focus of Perseus on statistical word frequencies (themselves based on the often faulty parses of the WST), and the devotion of screen space to this, is an example of catering to the vanishingly small corpus linguist audience. The Max/Mix figures are confusing rather than illuminating for most people. I did not understand them fully until I read the explanation in this RFP I would remove all this information to some secluded spot where the interested can find it.

Left hand workspace

Metadata at the top: “Do we even need this? Does it deserve this scree real estate?” (p. 13) No, definitely not.

Canned searches: “Do we need this on the left hand side?” No.

Table of contents: left nav like this seems to be standard web design. Removing all the stuff above will put it in its rightful, prominent place. I would also remove the browsing bar navigation above, which is not standard web design, is not terribly attractive, and which I personally rarely use. Left nav is sufficient.

Right hand work space

Focus/Load: “this is a very attractive feature.” Agreed.

“Provide an index of relevant works that cite the focus text” (p. 18) This References panel seems like information glut to me. To actually utilize this information to interpret a given passage requires time and skill and courage beyond what most users will possess. I consider this to be clutter, to be removed to some more discrete location.

Alignment with manuscripts: this seems too ambitious, and beyond what the core users of Perseus need to have. It makes sense as a separate project, like the Homer Multitext, which really is for specialists.

Here now is my personal list of desiderata, chosen based on what is not there now. I realize some of this may be in the works.

Texts lacking (e.g.):

Archimedes, Augustine (except for a few letters), Galen (only one treatise), Lactantius, Libanius, Orosius, Arnobius

Texts with no translations (e.g.):

Apuleius, Aelius Aristeides, Arrian, Augustus RG, Marcus Aurelius Meditations, Ausonius, Bede, Cicero De Oratore, De Re Publica; Cassius Dio, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Eusebius, Greek Anthology, Juvenal, Lucian, Martial, Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Seneca the Younger (except Apocol.), Valerius Maximus

Outdated things, e.g.:

Aristophanes trans. (1907); Allen-Sykes commentary on the Homeric Hymns; Catullus translation; Horace Odes trans. 1882 by Conington; Lucretius trans. Leonard (1916)

Reference Desiderata

Good English-Greek and English-Latin dictionaries

These reflections are based on an admittedly rather hasty survey of what’s there now, and I am sure the Perseus team is working hard on many of these problems. But this is the direction I would take to simultaneously streamline the interface and enrich the content.

The lesson of Logeion is that we can help. Take some Perseus content and improve the navigation issues and whatever else you see that needs fixing. We did that with the Latin grammar of Allen & Greenough, and it has become one of the most popular parts of our site. If I had time and money, I would do that to every grammar that Perseus has digitized, and add Munro’s Homeric Grammar for good measure. Perseus has shown us how to build the future of classical studies. Let’s all contribute to making that future serve our scholarly communities.


Hussey’s Latin Homonyms

John Muccigrosso (@JD_PhD), whose published work was so helpful in the creation of the DCC core Latin vocabulary,  alerted me recently to a hidden gem of classical scholarship, George B. Hussey’s Latin Homonyms: Comprising the Homonyms of Caesar, Nepos, Sallust, Vergil, Terence, Tacitus, and Livy (Boston: Benj. H. Sanborn, 1905; available here in scanned form). It is a very full list of homonyms from these authors (the entire corpus in most cases, but only [only!] the orations of Cicero and early books of Livy, up through XXII), crucially including citations of each instance. So, for example, we learn that feri means “fierce” 6 times in that body of Latin, and “strike!” only once. The string ferias means “holidays” twice, and “you may strike” once.

a small taste of the Latin geek delights to be had from Hussey's Latin Homonymns

a small taste of the Latin geek delights to be had from Hussey’s Latin Homonymns

Fascinatingly, Hussey chose to include at the bottom of the page “unmated” homonyms, that is, cases in which one of the pair, while grammatically possible, does not actually appear in the corpus he examined.

It is as if Hussey in 1905 had chosen to do precisely the task that computers are notoriously poor at doing. The potential here for natural language processing in Latin, and the improvement of automatic parsers, seems manifest. If we could expand on Hussey’s data to take in a larger corpus, and continue to use human inspection to categorize the occurrences, then we could get a pretty good picture of the likelihood of a particular homonym deriving from a particular dictionary headword, even without looking at the context. With his homonym list, finding thousands more occurrences of each is now a trivial task. With the help of contextual analysis of the kind being pursued by Patrick Burns (@diyclassics) and others, we could really make progress. For me the goal here is to augment tools such as the Bridge, which creates vocabulary lists that are accurate and helpful to readers. Combining this sort of data with good, author-specific dictionaries holds enormous potential to ease the burdens of Latin and Greek learners in the years ahead.

Core words not in the Aeneid

Vat.lat_.3225_0101_fr_0049r_lcroppedDiverting Latin parlor game: take a very common Latin word (in the DCC Latin Core Vocabulary) that does not occur in Vergil’s Aeneid, and explain its absence. Why would Vergil avoid certain lemmata (dictionary head words) that are frequent in preserved Latin? Sometimes the reason is simply metrical (celeriter, imperator); in other cases, perhaps a word sounded too prosaic (cibus, servusuxor, interim) for high poetry; sometimes a word just isn’t appropriate for the “prehistoric” period of the epic (provincia, praetor). Sometimes it’s a little hard to figure. Why not sapiens? Why not maiores? Why relinquo but not reliquus? Why vagor but not vagus? Check out the list below and let me know what jumps out at you. The Vergilian data comes from LASLA  (no automatic lemmatizers were used, all human inspection), as analyzed by Seth Levin. To check its accuracy, search the DCC version of Frieze’s Vergilian Dictionary, which includes definitions and citations, as well as (LASLA-based) frequency data for individual lemmata. At times there might be some lemmatization issues (for example barbarus came up in the initial list of excluded core words, since Vergil avoids the noun, though he uses the adjective twice. I deleted it from this version). Ok, here’s the list. Enjoy!

eo (adv)
mundus (adj)
solum (adv)

Image: detail of an illustration of Vergil’s Underworld, from  Fulvii Ursini schedae Bibliothecae Vaticanae (Vaticanus Latinus 3225), also known as the Vergilius Vaticanus or “Vatican Vergil” (49r), magnificent illustrated codex written in Italy in rustic capitals at the end of the fourth or the beginning of the fifth century AD. Source: Digital Vatican Library.

Dickinson Latin Workshop 2016 Bede

Thanks for a great week to everyone who participated in this year’s Dickinson Summer Latin Workshop, reading selections the Venerable Bede for five days: Janet Brooks, Daniel Cummings, Michael DiMarco, Michael Erdman, Andrew Fenton, Jen Larson, Eli Goings, Jason Lalonde, Jacqueline Lopata, Kristen Masters, Hugh McElroy, Oliver Morris, Lauren Murphy, Julia Rhodes, Jonathan Rockey, Kitty Zackey, Ashley Roman, Clara Hardy, Rob Hardy, Peter Rook, and Louise Wesson.

Thanks also to everyone who helped make it possible: Terri Blumenthal (Classics Academic Department Coordinator), the staff at Conferences and Special Events, especially Dottie Warner, Jodie Bowermaster, and Sarah Ireland, and also the Dickinson drivers and dining hall staff, and to the Roberts family, whose generous gift to the Dickinson classics department helps us keep the costs low for participants.

Special thanks to Andrew Fenton for bringing his delicious home cured meats to share, and to Hugh McElroy and Jen Larson for bringing home made mead. What would reading Bede be with a good cup of mead?

Most of all, thanks to Rob Hardy for providing us with superb notes that will be the basis of his DCC commentary on selections from the Historia Ecclesiastica.

This was a delightful, rewarding, and rejuvenating week with a wonderful group of Latinists and friends. I hope to see everyone next year!

–Chris Francese

Workshop: Commenting on Latin Poetic Texts

I am both pleased and daunted to be leading a workshop on writing commentaries on Latin poetic texts, a full-day affair to be held on June 30, 2016 at the Guanqi Center at Shanghai Normal University. Here is an abstract:

Ut tibi sit legisse voluptas: Commenting on Latin Poetic Texts

This workshop will consider the art of commenting on Latin poetic texts, first as it has been done in recent years for English-speaking audiences, and then, in open discussion, considering how it might be done in the future for Chinese-speaking audiences. While scholars sometimes think of commenting on a text as an objective process of collecting the facts necessary for full understanding, in practice, the question of audience is paramount. Commentators mediate a text for an imaged reader, and must have a sympathetic awareness of what that reader needs, desires, and can process or understand. In addition to supplying felt needs, however, the commentator can actively lead and model humanistic practices: the precise appreciation of poetic language, close reading, cultural literacy, and skill in translation. The workshop will analyze some good examples of this kind commentary in English on Ovid, then invite a forward-looking brain-storming session on how best to enhance the experience of reading Ovid for Chinese readers of Latin literature. Topics will include the art of the interpretive paraphrase, gloss, and summary; some reliable resources for finding information about geography, mythology, grammar, Roman customs, and rhetorical and literary devices; and techniques of commenting on style and tone.

(The Latin tag in the title comes from the epigram to Ovid’s Amores.) The workshop is part of the festivities for the second annual Shanghai Normal University Guangqi International Center for Scholars Classics Lecture and Seminar Series, organized by the wonderful team of Jinyu Liu 刘津瑜 and Heng Chen 陈恒


Prof. Liu is the Principal Investigator of “Translating the Complete Corpus of Ovid’s Poetry into Chinese with Commentaries,” a multi-year project sponsored by a Chinese National Social Science Foundation Major Grant (2015-2020). She is collaborating with more than a dozen scholars from four countries A full conference with a very impressive roster of speakers will be held in Shanghai in May 31-June 2, 2017.

I am not directly involved with this project, but it served as a useful handle to think about a commentary-writing workshop in Shanghai, helping achieve a more concrete focus for what is a rather terrifying topic. My own activity as an editor on DCC has given me lots of particular ideas and preferences, but the last thing I would want to do is foist those on a Chinese audience. The really exciting thing here is the opportunity to reinvent the genre in a different context, taking the best aspects from the traditions of European commentary and liberating new energies. My goal is to show a few examples of what I think are particularly good recent instances in English, and let the discussion go where it will. Looking forward to a stimulating discussion!

–Chris Francese

Praise for Mulligan’s Nepos on DCC

Tip of the hat to Rex Stem for his kind words about DCC in a recent BMCReview of Bret Mulligan’s Nepos:

I have never taught from an online commentary, but I am persuaded that this text would be an effective way to do so. The different types of information that the student needs are easily accessible, the format is pleasing and intuitive, and the level of the notes is appropriate and rigorous. The printed version is successful in itself, but the appeal of the online version is manifest. My pedagogical habits would have to change somewhat if I were to teach from an online commentary (would we all have screens in front of us? would we also still want to have printed texts to annotate?), but this is precisely the sort of online teaching resource that encourages experimentation with new formats and methods. As a pedagogical platform for teaching Latin with digital materials, this text is visionary in its design.

If you are experimenting in this way, please leave a comment and let everyone know how it’s going!

Classicists without Borders

reaching hand

Photo: Quinn Dombrowski, via flickr

Classical outreach programs are proliferating. See, for example, the ones at Oxford, the University of Cincinnati, the Classics in Communities Project in the UK, and the variety of outreach initiatives at the SCS. The problem with the term outreach is the slight air of desperation. There must be people “out” there who have never heard our message, who need to be “reached.” Hands extend into a void, waving cheerfully at passersby, signaling for attention, anxious not to be ignored. I  believe we should think less in terms of reaching out and more in terms of service, of finding places where our skills are needed or welcome, even when those are not the places that our ordinary professional lives typically take us. Possibly the best current example of this is the series of workshops run by Classics in Communities, bringing support to those in schools with no Latin programs who want nonetheless to teach Latin. I can think of two other areas where there is a certain void, a space where the voices of Classicists without Borders would potentially be welcome, even useful, but have not so far been heard very much. The first is podcasting. The podcast medium is widely enjoyed as recreation be people as they exercise, walk, travel, go about housework routines, etc. This is an audience hungry for new content, eager to explore new ideas, and interested in all sorts of things. Perhaps they studied Latin at school, or have always had a love of mythology. The mechanics of producing and delivering podcasts to this audience are well within the technological competence of most classicists. Success in the medium, as with much teaching, requires a conversational style, a sense of humor, and an ability to tell stories. A second area is that of digital project reviews. The vast majority of people who are not professional classicists find their information about the classical world on the internet, and there is a heartening proliferation of good quality digital projects about the ancient world. Still, there is a good deal that is slapdash and ill-informed. Who can tell the difference? Classicists can. Where is there a reliable venue of critiquing, evaluating, and commenting on digital resources? Nowhere. The SCS Communications Committee (which I currently chair), among its other activities, is creating just such a venue as part of the SCS website and blog. When qualified review of open digital resources becomes as routine as it is for monographs, the prestige and the quality of open online publications will rise. The SCS Communications Committee has created a clear set of guidelines for such reviews, and is actively soliciting reviewers and projects to review. Please leave a comment if you have any suggestions for this, or ideas about other “Classicists with Borders” initiatives.

Reading the Romans: 7 Rules for Primary Texts

BasilConstAs classical teachers we often ask our student to read primary sources about the Greeks and Romans in English,and the ability to analyze them critically forms one of the primary learning goals in many courses. I have never seen formulated any explicit general guidelines for students on how to do so, or discussion of how these texts might differ from analogous types of texts they’re more familiar with, despite the fact that students often have a hard time interpreting unfiltered ancient sources. So here are some modest rules of thumb, much of it common sense, but some of it also reflecting some peculiar features of Roman literate culture. Hopefully these rough guidelines will help students to better appreciate what Roman texts have to offer: Please leave a comment if you have others to share!1

Consider the perspective of the author. Each author will have his or her own viewpoint and aims in a particular instance, which will be shaped by circumstances, status, family, education, life experiences, and so forth. It helps to keep certain questions in mind: Is the writer attempting to persuade, entertain, praise, inform, impress, draw some pertinent moral, or some combination of these aims? Is he talking about contemporary events or some remote period? Does he wholeheartedly endorse the views presented or propose them merely for the sake of argument or as something to think about? Is the author speaking in his own voice or through the persona of some particular character? Does he have any motive to be less than truthful or honest? Does his social position or economic circumstances or other factors predispose him to think in a certain way? Is he attempting to challenge received views or reporting what seems like a consensus? Is he attempting to shock his audience? The conventional wisdom is that Roman writing is less confessional and more influenced by models, personae, and what needs to be said on a particular occasion than is writing in more modern eras—though this generalization is debatable.

Consider the audience. Is the intended receiver a single individual, a friend, an enemy, a student, a group, or a god? A good deal of Roman writing is persuasive or hortatory (urging people to do something), and this includes poetry. Consider what a particular argument implies about the predisposition of the audience and its expected views.

What is extraordinary is not typical. We tend to remark on things that are not obvious or ordinary. What is surprising or noteworthy implies by contrast what is normal or average. Beware of inferring that, because some individual Roman is said to have done things in a certain way, or that somebody says that people should do things a certain way, that most people in fact did do it that way. The opposite is often more likely to be the case. By the same token, things that are said as if they had no special importance are often good evidence for common practices. All of this is especially relevant for anything to do with sexuality.

Ideas reflect controversies. Like any group of people, the Romans disagreed strenuously among themselves about many things. What counterarguments are stated or implied in the positions taken by a given author? Are the terms of the debate familiar from modern controversies, or do they seem to reflect peculiar Roman institutions, customs, blind spots, or preoccupations? What do the positions taken imply about values and priorities of the author and the audience?

Look for the evaluation. Roman authors, no less than modern ones, rarely describe things simply for the sake of describing them. Usually there is an expressed or implied evaluation, a position being taken that a particular fact or behavior is good or bad, right or wrong, or somewhere in between. These evaluations are key to the interpretation and assessment of what is being said, and are often foregrounded—something that has given Roman authors a well-earned reputation for being moralistic. But evaluations are often unstated, especially in historiography and letters. Attempt to figure out the implied position on what is being described.

Consider the genre. Put very simply, Roman love poetry is meant to evoke desire, pastoral to conjure up an idyllic landscape, oratory to stir the mind and emotions, and satire to attack vice. Every genre has its traditional goals and parameters, which can be followed or subverted by individual authors, and which are usually not coextensive with their modern relatives. Roman and Greek biographers were primarily interested in illustrating and evaluating character, rather than simply describing the facts and circumstances of the subject’s life (see further the introduction to Plutarch). Similarly, historical writing tends to be more exemplary (that is, offering a model for behavior) and moralizing than its modern counterpart. Philosophy can be cast as poetry (as with Lucretius) or as letters (as with Seneca). Epigram, a genre perfected by Martial but now rare, will always be short and have a sting in the tail. Try to get a sense of what genre an author is writing in, and what that implies about the kinds of things he is likely to say, and how he innovates. Roman authors were fond of playing with genre, as when Ovid humorously adopts the conventions of instructional literature in The Art of Love. The introductions in this book offer some guidance on this matter.

Consider what is not said. Many types of documents we would like to have either do not survive or were not written in the first place. We do not have personal diaries, church and municipal archives, or journalism of the sort historians of more recent eras take for granted. And there are many other gaps, due both to the vagaries of what was preserved in the Middle Ages, as well as to who could write, who chose to write, and what they chose to write about. A figure like Cicero looms large because he was so prolific and his Latin style so beloved in later ages. But the thoughts of even some very influential Romans, like Marius, Sulla, or Nero—not to mention countless ordinary people—are relatively or entirely inaccessible to us. One would like to have the memoirs of Roman priestesses, engineers, magicians, slaves, soldiers on the frontiers, or Gallic tribesmen who adopted Roman ways, but we do not. And even within the documents we do possess, many issues we would like to hear about are simply not discussed. These silences are themselves often significant.

1. What follows is excerpted from Christopher Francese and R. Scott Smith, Ancient Rome: An Anthology of Sources (Hackett, 2014), pp. xx-xxii.

Dickinson Workshop: Julius Caesar’s Art of War

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Julius Caesar’s Art of War: A Graphic Portfolio of the Battlefields and Tactics in the Commentarii de Bello Gallico:
Antonio Salinas
United States Military Academy, West Point, NY

Place: Dickinson College, Tome 115, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

Salinas1.7-1.8While Caesar’s Gallic War presents a clear depiction of Roman military doctrine against Celtic tribes at all levels of war, very few detailed maps exist which illustrate the tactical and operational aspects. Antonio Salinas’ mapping portfolio maps the entirety of Caesar’s Gallic War, illustrating Caesar’s legions at both the operational and tactical level, using Google Earth imagery and NATO symbology to effectively follow Caesar’s legions during their campaigns in Gaul, Germany, and southern England. The portfolio seeks to assist classicists and military historians alike in bringing Caesar’s Gallic War to life in a way never before seen.

This workshop will take a detailed look at each year of Caesar’s campaign, highlighting Caesar’s strategy, operations, and tactics. We’ll spend time analyzing the major battles and explain how and why a handful of legions were able to conquer such a large expanse of land with a large population.

The workshop is free of charge, but to order materials and food we need to have an accurate count of attendees.

Registration Deadline: April 2, 2016.

To register: Email Mrs. Terri Blumenthal,

CPT Antonio Salinas is from Allen Park, Michigan. On high school graduation Antonio enlisted in the United States Marine Corps where he served as a martial arts instructor trainer and an intelligence chief. He attended Eastern Michigan University and received his Bachelors in History and Political Science. In graduate school he enrolled in Army ROTC and attained his Masters in History. He received his commission from Army ROTC in May 2007 as a branch detail Infantry – Military Intelligence officer and has served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He has published one book Siren’s Song: The Allure of War (Deed’s Publishing, 2012), describing his time as an infantry platoon leader in combat. Antonio continues to serve in uniform and currently teaches military history at West Point.