Review: Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World App

Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World App. Princeton University Press, 2013. iTunes $19.99 US.

Reviewed by Meagan Ayer, Dickinson College (

iTunes preview

In December 2013 Princeton University Press launched the much anticipated app version of its Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World. The original print version of the Atlas, overseen by Richard J. A. Talbert and published in 2000, was the first atlas to provide comprehensive maps of ancient Greek and Roman territories stretching from Britain to India and Africa. It immediately became the standard for maps of that part of the ancient world. The extent of territory and level of detail required that the atlas be large (13.25 x 18 in. unopened), and its high quality came at a fairly high price (currently $395 US), which meant that “the Barrington” was not always easily accessible to individuals. The application is, therefore, a welcome effort to make all the scholarship of the Barrington Atlas available to individuals anywhere at anytime.

Barrington Atlas Dust Cover

The app itself is surprisingly small, weighing in at only 411 MB. In this compact package you have access to all 102 maps of the original Barrington which are stored locally, allowing the user to browse maps on an iPad without being connected to the internet. Upon opening the app, the Princeton University Press logo appears, followed by a cropped version of the dust cover from the print version. In order to access the application features from here, it is necessary to either tap the screen or swipe from left to right. Doing so reveals the navigation menu.

Navigation Menu
Navigation Menu

There are three different ways to view the content of the atlas. If you simply wish to browse the maps you can select the Maps tab. This will load a thumbnail gallery of all the maps in the atlas which you can flip through before tapping on a particular map to select it.

Thumbnail Gallery
Thumbnail Gallery

Alternatively, a navigational menu button in the upper right hand corner of the gallery allows for the selection of maps by region. Simply open the menu, choose your larger region and then select a specific map.

Selecting Maps by Region
Selecting Maps by Region

One can also use the Locator tab, which pulls up a map displaying the entire area covered by the atlas overlaid with boxes corresponding to individual maps. If you wanted to view a map of the Nile delta you could simply select box 74 to be taken to that map. If you are looking for maps of ancient sites within a modern country, a button is also provided in the upper right hand corner to turn on and off modern borders.

Map Locator
Map Locator

Finally, you might be searching for a specific site in the atlas. Selecting the Gazetteer tab opens a searchable alphabetical listing of all the sites included in the atlas. A pop-out drawer located in the upper right hand corner of the screen explains the organization of modern and ancient site names as well as country abbreviations. Searching for a site returns links to each map on which that site appears.

Gazetteer Tab
Gazetteer Tab

Unfortunately, search results are not saved, so that if you click through to one map, the search must be performed again to see the other maps. It is possible, though, to save individual maps to the Favorites section by tapping the star icon to the right of the map coordinates.

Saving Maps to Favorites

There are a few interesting features within the maps themselves. Tapping in the center of a map drops down a tool bar containing key and compass icons. Selecting the key icon slides out two drawers from the right which elucidate the symbols and coding of features and time periods on the map. This is a vast improvement over the print edition which required flipping back and forth within the atlas to read the key.


Tapping the compass icon in the tool bar reveals thumbnail maps of adjoining regions that can be used as short cuts to those maps. Additionally, a large compass icon appears in the center of the screen; touching this icon reorients maps so that true north appears at the top of the screen.

Compass icon in the tool bar reveals thumbnail maps of adjoining regions

It also enlarges the map, which is less useful, forcing you to carefully zoom out again to see most of the map. It is extremely easy to accidentally zoom entirely out of a map and into the map browser; the creators might consider removing the feature allowing users to zoom out to the map gallery as it serves little purpose and can result in some frustration.

Version 1.1 has already begun to address some of the issues noted by early adopters. The app no longer cycles through the start-up sequence again after backgrounding; instead it picks up on the page or map last viewed. Stability has also been greatly increased. In version 1.0 the app was given to crashing during navigation, however, I have not experienced any crashing since upgrading to version 1.1. Also, smaller symbols and place names on maps that would often appear slightly blurry in version 1.0 when fully zoomed in, are crisp and easily read in version 1.1.

Still there are a few missteps, almost all of which appear to result from mimicking the print volume in digital format too closely. For example, the Introduction tab simply replicates the same material of the print edition, including table of contents and credits. While the introduction itself is worth reading, I am not certain how useful the table of contents from the print edition is within a digital app. It seems unlikely that someone searching for a map would backtrack to the introduction rather than simply use the browse or list features. Moreover, the short tutorial provided for the app is static and buried in the help section of the main menu. It would be beneficial to either pop-up the tutorial the first time the app is opened or run a short video illustrating how to navigate the app.

I could wish for more interactive features within the app, such as the ability to plot routes and otherwise manipulate the maps— similar to what is found in the Ancient World Mapping Center’s on-line tool Antiquity á la Carte— but that would, I suspect, require designing entirely new maps from the ground up. I might also wish that the app was available on more platforms. As of this moment it is limited to Apple’s iOS, preventing Android tablet owners from using this wonderful resource.

Overall, the app version of the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman Worlds is an admirable effort. It provides all the information and resources of the original Barrington Atlas in an easily transportable format at a fraction of the cost. It is significantly more accessible to students and scholars at home or on the road and I suspect that, like its predecessor, it will become a standard tool for students of the ancient world.

This review of the Barrington Atlas App tested version 1.1 and was conducted on a 128GB iPad Air running iOS 7.0.4.

Professional Development opportunities at Notre Dame of Maryland University

From the wonderful Sister Therese Marie Dougherty come these announcements, (borrowed from the latin-bestpractices listserv):

LLT511 Teaching Caesar and Vergil Spring 2014

This workshop-format course will cover the content of the new AP Latin syllabus, with a focus on teaching translation, grammar, scansion, essay writing and other components of the AP Latin exam. Classes will meet on six Saturdays from 8:30 to 3:00, beginning February 1 and ending May 10. An on-line option will be available for anyone who lives too far to commute. Meeting dates are February 1, 22, March 8, April 5, 26 and May 10. Students earn 3 graduate credits. Further information and registration forms may be obtained from Sister Therese Marie Dougherty at<>.

Tour of Roman Britain July 7-19, 2014

A ten-day program in England, July 8-18, plus two travel days. Most of the program will be based in London where we will examine artifacts from the Roman period in the British Museum and the Museum of London and visit some of the remains of Roman Londinium. Day trips will include Fishbourne Palace, Bath, Colchester, Cirencester and Verulamium. Our program will conclude with a tour of Roman Chester and the Roman fort at Vindolanda.
Register now to reserve a place. Information and registration forms are available from Sister Therese Marie Dougherty at<>.

Sister Therese Marie Dougherty, SSND, Ph.D.
Professor of Classics
School of Arts and Sciences
Notre Dame of Maryland University
4701 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21210
Phone: 410-532-5559
Fax: 410-532-5794

A Podcasting Approach to Greek and Latin Orality

This is a talk I gave at the APA on Jan. 4, 2014, as part of a panel organized by the Society for the Oral Reading of Greek and Latin Literature. The full assignments, rubrics, and student projects are available here. The handout with a couple more links and Quintilian’s Guide to Dignified Gesturing, is below.

There are many ways to keep the sounds of Greek and Latin alive, and make them part of the classroom and the learning process. I want to share with you a podcasting assignment that helps me do this, and I hope that some aspects of or variant on it may be helpful to you as well. I use it in my fourth semester Latin and Greek classes, which are called “Introduction to Latin Poetry” and “Introduction to Greek Poetry.” The Latin course (typically 15 people) is based around Catullus and Ovid’s Amores, the Greek course (typically about 7) around the Odyssey. In addition to reading and transl
ating, the students do an assignment comparing different published translations of a particular poem or passage, to get them focused on close reading and different styles of translation. The podcast follows that, as a summative “final paper” substitute. The final product is a 6-8 minute audio recording with three parts:

  • a discussion of a poem or section of a longer piece
  • and translation written by the student
  • a reading of the piece aloud in the original language

This assignment reinforces the point that Greek and Latin poetry was performance art, meant for the ear, not just the eye. But it also helps forward my central learning goals for the class:

  • read Latin poets of moderate difficulty in Latin with appropriate assistance
  • relate the Latin poetry to its historical and literary contexts
  • identify and appreciate literary and stylistic features of Latin poetry

[See full assignments here: Latin, and Greek versions.]

Through the process of drafting the script and making the recording the students hit all these areas in ways that harness their creativity, help them fully master and “ownetize” a poem, contextualize and explain what they like about it to an audience of their peers, relating it to its historical context and its larger themes. The podcast medium, unlike a traditional research paper, is a piece of public scholarship, in which the students point out specific stylistic features, discuss its effect, and actually perform it for an audience, but without the pressure of a live audience. They attempt to explain, translate, and perform the poem as an authentic piece of verbal art.

Results vary, of course, but are often something to be proud of. Podcasts by my students are perennially at or near the top downloads on Dickinson’s iTunesU channel, and occasionally get a comment or two from the internet on the WordPress blog where I also post them. Of course, not all of them are perfect. For broadcast ideally we want not just good, correct writing, but something to grab the attention of the listener and hold it; not just competent recitation, but audible passion; not just research, but insight and application; not just accurate translation, but English that sings. In short we want not just excellence, but panache.

Now of course panache is exactly what you think about when you think about an academic research paper for a Latin class. Wait, no, it’s not. The reason I keep doing this assignment is not just because it fosters performance of Latin and Greek. It is also because of the way it transforms the writing process, wresting it from the Soviet tyranny of the five paragraph essay with its fulsome, stilted introduction, its formulaic paragraph structures and transitions, its smoke-blowing vaguery, its bottomless insincerity. The required style is more journalistic than academic. The main idea has to be up front, not languishing at the end of the first paragraph. You need to give the listener a reason to care. Since this writing has to be capable of being processed by actual human beings, not me, I am put in the position of a coach, rather than a judge and executioner. Students are thus much more willing to re-write and take advice, much less threatened when I criticize their work. The most common comments I make on the first drafts are

  • don’t use technical terms (poetae novi, Enniamn, choliambic), or else explain them so ordinary people can understand them.
  • find an angle a particular aspect of the poem that intrigues you; start with a grabber
  • Say what you think, what you like or don’t like about the piece, help the listener to appreciate it
  • Subordinate research to your own ideas.
  • Don’t translate too literally.

An in-person meeting is essential to get the recitation up to snuff. Most students are petrified about the meter and the macrons. This meeting is opportunity to make the point that there is really no such thing as reading “in meter.” Pronounce it well, read it like you understand it, sell it, perform it, that’s what counts. Here again the presence of that external audience and the project-based nature of this make the students much more willing to take instruction, less like a class and more like a music lesson.

Passing out a rubric ahead of time is also helpful

[my rubric is here]

This to me is a good example of the use of technology that, far from distracting for the core values of the humanities, enacts them, while at the same time working on public speaking skills and technological competencies that will be useful far beyond the Latin classroom. This kind of thing is really in some ways a recuperation of Roman traditions of rhetorical education and public speaking. The advent of digital humanities and of social media (which are two different things) is an opportunity to revive the ancient art of rhetoric, a point stressed by the entirely classicist-free group of authors of the 2012 book Digital Humanities:

In the era of pervasive personal broadcasting, the art of oratory must be rediscovered. This is because digital networks and media have brought orality back into the mainstream of argumentation after a half-millennium in which it was mostly cast in a supporting role vis-à-vis print. You Tube lectures, podcasts, audio books, and the ubiquity of what is sometimes referred to as “demo culture” in the Digital Humanities all contribute to the resurgence of voice, of gesture, of extemporaneous speaking, of embodied performances of argument.

Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, and Jeffrey Schnapp, Digital Humanities (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012), p. 11, original emphasis.

In closing, I’ll offer you some advice from that great Roman professor of rhetoric Marcus Fabius Quintilianus on how to take this podcasting approach to Greek and Latin orality one step further into the realm of video podcasting. Quintilian discusses performance and gesture at length in his treatise on the education of the orator. For your enjoyment I abstracted the key points about gesture, essential stuff as we make the move to Latin and Greek on Youtube:


Podcasting Training outline (Brenda Landis, Dickinson Media Center):