NITLE seminar to feature DCC

Members of the team who created the Dickinson College Commentaries will be featured in a seminar hosted by the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE). The event, which will take place on Thursday, December 6, 3:00-4:00 pm EST, will be hosted online via NITLE’s videoconferencing platform, and is open to NITLE consortium members.

“Collaborative Digital Scholarship Projects: The Liberal Art of Drupal,” will address the creation of collaborative digital projects in a liberal arts context, using the example of DCC site, which was built with the widely used content management system Drupal. The speakers will be Meredith Wilson (’13), Dickinson web developer Ryan Burke, and Prof. Christopher Francese.

For more details or to register, see:

Spanish Latin, a curse, and a lusty postman

More epigraphical adventures in Google Books . . .

From the library of Francis Kelsey, author of a fine school edition of the Gallic War (1918 edition) comes a thorough publication of a set of curse tablets that came into the possession of the Department of Classical Archaeology of The Johns Hopkins University in 1908 (after the publication of Audollent’s Defixionum Tabellae), apparently found near Rome.

William Sherwood Fox, The Johns Hopkins Tabellae Defixionum. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1912.

Here is a taste:

“A quartan fever, a tertian fever, every day, may they wrestle with her, overpower her, vanquish her, conquer her, until they steal away her life. And so I hand over this victim to you, Proserpina, or if I, Proserpina, or if I should call you Acherusia. Please send me to summon the three-headed dog to steal Avonia’s heart . . .”

Henry Martin, Notes on the Syntax of the Latin Inscriptions Found in Spain. Baltimore: J.H. Furst, 1909. or here at the Internet Archive

This book will be a delight to all those who suspect that the grammatical rules of classical Latin were not really followed by ordinary people. They often were not, and Mr. Martin gives a detailed survey of syntactical and grammatical peculiarities to be found in inscriptions from Spain.

The use of the genitive in Spanish Latin, for example, “often appears to indicate ignorance on the part of the writer of the idiomatic Latin turn or to be his method expressing an idea in the fewest possible words without reference to clearness.” (p. 13) Think that’s snarky? Just wait till you get to the part about pronouns.

W.M. Lindsay, Handbook of Latin Inscriptions Illustrating the History of the Language. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1897.

Written by the titan of early Latin studies from the turn of the 20th c., the editor of Plautus and Festus, this book has all sorts of goodies, treated with an eye to archaic or vulgar Latin features.

“While I am Vitalis and still alive, I have made a tomb. And I read my verses (on my own tomb) as I pass by. I carried letters all around the region on foot, and with my dogs I hunted rabbits and also wolves. Later, I enjoyed drinking the contents of my wine cup. I did many things like a young man, because I am going to die. Any wise young man should build a tomb for himself while still alive.”

–Chris Francese

Inscriptions from Syria and Sinope

I’ve been translating inscriptions lately, and that has gotten me interested in finding older publications of inscriptions available on Google books. There has to be a ton of this kind of thing, but I don’t know that they have been collected anywhere. Here are a few items that caught my eye, with snippets to give an impression of the kind of material to be found in each.

William Kelly Prentice, Greek and Latin Inscriptions. Part III of the Publications of an American Archaeological Expedition to Syria, 1899-1900. New York: The Century Co., 1908.

“May Odedon the teacher live, may he live!” Prentice believes that this inscription came from a tomb, “perhaps written … by some pupil who wished his master well enough, after he was dead.”

D.M. Robinson, Greek and Latin Inscriptions from Sinope and Environs. American School of Classical Studies at Athens (American Journal of Archaeology, second series, Journal of the Archaeological institute of America, v. IX (1905) no. 3.)

From an Armenian village: “Manius Fulvius Pacatus, age 60, Fulvius Praetorenus, his son, age 20, lie here. Licinia Caesellia lies here, age 50.” Evidently Greek-speaking Romans of some means, to judge by the elegant lettering.

James C. Egbert, Introduction to the Study of Latin Inscriptions. New York: American Book Co., 1896.

Lippitudo or conjunctivitis was a scourge of Roman times, and the eye doctors have many terms for different varieties of it. It was often caused by smoke coming from braziers used indoors. The second of these documents seems to prescribe egg-white to be daubed on with a sponge (penecillus). For this latter vulgar Latin term is unknown in print in this particular sense until the middle ages. See See Rabanus Maurus, De Universo (ca. AD 842) 8.5 (PL 111.239C): mollissimum genus earum [sc. spongiarum] penecilli vocantur eo quod aptae sint ad oculorum tumores, et ad extergendas lippitudines utiles.

–Chris Francese

Rafael Alvarado and the future of DCC

Last month DCC benefited from an outstanding day of consulting with Rafael Alvarado, Associate Director of the SHANTI program at the University of Virginia, as well a lecturer in Anthropology and Media Studies there. A career digital humanist, he has divided his time between building software and organizations that support the scholarly use of technology and studying digital technology as a cultural form. His consulting business is called Ontoligent Design (Twitter @ontoligent), and his blog is called The Transducer.

Some of his key recommendations were to make DCC a citable scholarly resource, in conformity with widely accepted standards of citation in digital humanities; to consider making use of comments by readers; to make the site more friendly to tablet devices like the iPad; to create print and e-book versions of all commentaries; and to continue making innovative use of geographical tools to enhance the reader experience. As a sort of promissory note to follow up on some of his excellent suggestions, I have written a new lead “about” text, that I think concisely expresses what is different and important about our project. Certain aspects of this are in the future, but not that far in the future:

DCC publishes scholarly commentaries on classical texts intended to provide an effective reading and learning experience for classicists at all levels of experience. Though they are born digital, the commentaries will also be available in print and e-book formats. In contrast to other projects that conceive of classical texts as a database, or foreground hypertext—focusing on chunking or linking the text—DCC aims at a readerly approach, and one firmly grounded in the needs of readers, teachers, and students. Texts are presented in a clean, readable format, with custom-authored notes, specially selected images and maps, and original audio and video content. Core vocabulary lists of the most common Latin and Greek words are provided, and all words not in the core lists are fully and accurately defined in running vocabulary lists that accompany each section of text. DCC commentaries are citable scholarly resources, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Many thanks to Raf for his insightful critique and help in framing the central ideas behind the project. In other news, Prof. Ariana Traill of the University of the Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has joined the editorial board. Prof. Traill is planning to work with some of her students in laying the groundwork for a future edition of the Advanced Placement selections from the Aeneid. Eric Casey of Sweet Briar College has agreed to take on substantial editing duties for our forthcoming Greek commentaries (see below). To recognize the large amount of work this represents we decided to split the editorial board along the lines of what the Bryn Mawr Classical Review does, into Senior and Associate Editors, with Eric and me as senior.

Stephen Nimis of Miami University of Ohio, who has produced a series of print-on-demand commentaries on Greek texts with Evan Hayes (the latest being some Plutarch), has offered us all his content to use to re-make in our format, and has offered to help create printed versions of our existing content through his distribution system. The first Nimis-Hayes commentary we will take on will be Lucian’s True History, which Prof. Casey will edit. Susan Stephens of Stanford has a well-advanced digital edition of Callimachus’ Aetia that ran into some technical problems, and she has agreed to let us put it in our series, with her continued help. This is a very exciting collaboration, with outstanding content that should raise the profile of DCC. Another very welcome addition will be Bret Mulligan’s edition of Nepos’ Life of Hannibal, which is largely done but in need of final editing and equipping with vocabulary lists and maps. So that makes three new commentaries, basic content largely complete, that we will try to equip with the various DCC enhancements this spring and summer. We are growing, and I am very pleased to see DCC developing as a kind of aggregator and editor of high quality online classical commentary.
–Chris Francese