Getting to open data for Classical Greek and Latin: breaking old habits and undoing the damage — a call for comment!

Gregory Crane
Professor of Classics and Winnick Family Chair of Technology and Entrepreneurship
Tufts University

Alexander von Humboldt Professor of Digital Humanities
Open Access Officer
University of Leipzig

March 4, 2015

Philologists must for at least two reasons open up the textual data upon which they base their work. First, researchers need to be able to download, modify and redistribute their textual data if they are to fully exploit both new methods that center around algorithmic analysis (e.g., corpus linguistics, computational linguistics, text mining, and various applications of machine learning) and new scholarly products and practices that computational methods enable (e.g., on-going and decentralized production of micro-publications by scholars from around the world, as well as scalable evaluation systems to facilitate contributions from, and learning by, citizen scientists). In some cases, issues of privacy may come into play (e.g., where we study Greek and Latin data produced by our students) but our textual editions of, and associated annotations on, long-dead authors do not fall into this category. Second, open data is essential if researchers working with historical languages such as Classical Greek and Latin are to realize either their obligation to conduct the most effective (as well as transparent) research and or their obligation to advance the role that those languages can play in the intellectual life of society as a whole. It is not enough to make our 100 EUR monographs available under an Open Access license. We must also make as accessible as possible the primary sources upon which those monographs depend.

This blog post addresses two barriers that prevent students of historical languages such as Classical Greek and Latin from shifting to a fully open intellectual ecosystem: (1) the practice of giving control of scholarly work to commercial entities that then use their monopoly rights to generate revenue and (2) the legacy rights over critical editions that scholars have already handed over to commercial entities. The field has the rights, the skills, and the labor so that it can immediately and permanently address the first challenge. The second challenge is much less tractable. We may never be able to place recent work in a form where it can fully support new scholarship. That form includes not only the rights that restrict its distribution and, often, the digital format in which textual editions have been produced (e.g., where editors used word processing files rather than best practices such as well-implemented Text Encoding Initiative XML markup). Both the rights and the format together make it unlikely that we will be able in the immediate future (if ever) to make recent critical editions fully available (under a CC-BY-SA license, with TEI XML markup representing the logical structure of both the reconstructed text and the textual notes). The question before us is to determine how much we can in the immediate future recover for the full range of scholarly use and public discourse.

First, the decision to stop handing over ownership of new textual data (and especially any textual data produced with any significant measure of public funding) is, in 2015, a purely political one. There is no practical reason not to make this change immediately. If it takes editors an extra six months or a year (and it should not) because they need to learn how to produce a digital edition, the delay is insignificant in comparison to the damage that scholars suffer when they hand over control of the reconstructed text for 25 years and of the textual notes, introduction and other materials for 70 years after their death.

The Text Encoding Initiative began publishing interoperable methods for machine actionable digital editions in the late 1980s (Historical Editing was already a topic at the 1987 Poughkeepsie Planning meeting that laid the foundations for the TEI: Students of Classical Greek and Latin, the largest community of historical philologists, have already all the resources in expertise and infrastructure with which to conduct this shift immediately. The second problem is recovering, insofar as possible, textual data that researchers have already given over to commercial interests which, in turn, exploit monopoly ownership to generate revenue. How many textual decisions in this commercial zone do we need to reference within the open data upon which we base our analysis of Greek and Latin and the cultures that these languages directly influenced? This blog post proposes a two-fold strategy (1) beginning a series of openly licensed (CC-BY-SA) textual commentaries, that are aligned to openly licensed editions and to which members of the community can suggest inclusion of important new editorial choices or conjectures only available in editions controlled by commercial interests; (2) identifying, if absolutely necessary, a small list of editions that commercial entities control but that are of such compelling importance that funding should be solicited to buy the rights to digitize, markup with TEI XML, and distribute their contents.

Many traditional scholars may argue that we should preserve the present system (1) because only specialists in Greek and Latin philology need access to new editions and (2) because students of Greek and Latin have no need of the computational methods that require open data for their full expression as instruments of scholarship. Scholars are free to argue that the primary goal of humanities research is to enable specialist publication along small, effectively closed networks of intellectual exchange, that the results of our work on Greek and Latin do not really have enough broader impact to warrant worrying about open access and open data, that the study of historical languages does not require that researchers have the ability to download, analyze, modify and redistribute textual data, and that publicly funded scholarship is not ultimately answerable to the public which provides that funding.

From a pragmatic point of view, such arguments would be problematic for anyone who wishes to replace retiring faculty in Greek or Latin, to attract the most ambitious minds to the study of these languages or to justify research support for the study of Greek and Latin from any private foundation or governmental agency that could invest its research support elsewhere. There is never enough money to support all the research that would advance human understanding, much less so-called STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics — the corresponding German acronym is MINT) that materially advance the economic prosperity and biological health of society. But the privilege of academic freedom and the right of free expression that we enjoy in nations such as Germany and the United States exist so that we can follow our principles and add our opinions to public debate.

There are two fundamental reasons for scholars to make openly useful both their conclusions (open access publications) and the data upon which those conclusions depend.

The first bears most directly upon those of us who receive most, if not all all, of our salary and research support either from public money or from private foundations that require us to make our results available under an open license. There is our obligation as humanists to advance the intellectual life of humanity. Of course, in 2015, this point of view is finding its way into regulations of government research funding in various countries while private foundations increasingly insist that the results from work that they fund be published under an open license. Ironically, the smallest and the largest disciplines seem to have adapted most rapidly to this much more open model of research. Students of Greek papyrology, for example, have already made the transition to open data and on-going, decentralized editing — those who feel that commercial entities provide the only channel by which to publish Greek and Latin textual editions need first to understand fully the infrastructure to which the papyrologists already have access ( In fact, the services at go beyond what editors need if they wish to create individual, single-authored, static editions. For editors of Latin editions, help is on the way from the Digital Latin Library Project. If editors wish to work on their own to create editions of Greek and Latin texts, they should buy a TEI-aware XML editor and learn how to produce a modern edition. Anyone smart enough to edit an edition of Greek and Latin is smart enough to understand the necessary TEI XML (or EpiDoc subset of TEI XML: My colleagues at the Humboldt Chair of Digital Humanities are also there to do what we can to help.

Second, there is the scholarly need for open data. This need is not new. More than a decade ago, pioneering philologists badgered me to release the textual data that we had accumulated at Perseus. Licenses for private use were not enough. They argued tirelessly that they needed, as part of their fundamental research, the right to analyze, modify, and then redistribute some or all of those texts in their altered form. After dragging my feet for years, I finally began to open up the TEI XML source for Perseus texts. The initial release of the TEI XML Greek and Latin texts under a CC-BY-SA-NC license (now simplified to a CC-BY-SA license) took place in March 2006, almost a decade ago. The Classicists who demanded that open data — Chris Blackwell, Gabby Bodard, Helma Dik, Tom Elliott, Sebastian Heath, Ross Scaife, and Neel Smith, among others — were pioneers and earned for themselves by their visionary work a permanent place in the history of Greco-Roman studies. In 2015, we are beyond the vision thing. We Greek and Latin Philologists are playing catch-up as a field as we struggle to integrate into our work the best methods available for analyzing textual data.

We have gone beyond the point where we can any longer reasonably argue that computational methods are unimportant, or even optional, instruments within Greek and Latin philology as a whole. Not every professional student of Greek and Latin will master the foundational new methods already available to us from fields such as corpus linguistics, computational linguistics, text mining and various applications of machine learning. But those who do master the results of such new fields will play a crucial role in determining what all students of Greek and Latin at all levels will be able to do in their personal learning and published research. Open textual data is a foundational need for modern scholarship. The question before us is how to free ourselves from our dependence upon closed data and to establish a comprehensive, open, extensible textual space for the study of Greek and Latin. It is time to return, yet again, ad fontes — back to the sources.

It is not difficult to see how the field of Greek and Latin can, and will shift, so that new textual editions appear in proper TEI XML under an open license (ideally CC-BY-SA). For commercial — and especially for for-profit — companies, the shift to an open publication model simply reflects a shift in business models and the most profitable presses have already begun to build new (and reportedly quite profitable) open access tracks. Of course, the editors of Greek and Latin as a whole are perfectly capable of providing the editorial support for each other — the ability to write is a selling point of liberal arts degrees and professors of Greek and Latin would be ill-advised to argue that they needed professional editors in the same way as their colleagues in Computer Science or Physics. We can also build publishing workflows that simplify the use of TEI XML (such as the Leiden plus front end that papyrologists have been using for years). But such a streamlined system is a convenience, not a necessity.

The real problem is, of course, one of academic politics. Many faculty believe that they need to publish their work under an established corporate brand name if they are to receive formal academic credit. In some institutions, this belief may even be true, but I think that many faculty would find that their administrations were not only supportive but relieved to see their humanities faculty taking a stand on behalf of open access and open data, especially where faculty are public servants and/or their universities have strong policies in support of Open Access and open data.

I am confident that the administrations at Tufts University (where I am in the department of Classics) and at Leipzig, for example, (where I am the Open Access officer) would enthusiastically work with any department that wanted to establish a framework for fairly assessing an edition that was published under a CC-BY-SA license. If anything, editors at these institutions would have a chance to earn even more prestige by taking an (apparent) risk to advance the role of Greek and Latin in the intellectual life of society beyond specialist researchers and to enable Greek and Latin philology to exploit evolving new forms of research based on progress in various computational fields. When senior faculty with permanent positions hand over their work to corporate entities, the situation is much more problematic. Certainly, as a senior professor who is not subject to existential pressures that junior scholars may feel, I don’t see how I can justify handing my work over to commercial entities. I feel that I have an obligation to help the next generation have the freedom to keep the results of their work open and available both to the intellectual life of society as a whole and to the most advanced analytical methods available to researchers.

But even when our field does the right thing for scholarship and society (and I would be disingenuous if I put it any other way), we face the consequences of our past actions. Commercial interests now control a substantial amount of the work that we have done, whether or not we did that work with public money or even if we may have ignored clear conditions on research funding that the results needed to be available under an open access license. (A review of funding decisions at various agencies may reveal a systematic pattern where domain experts voted to fund research projects that they knew would be handed over to commercial interests even when the regulations governing that funding prioritized, even where they did not explicitly mandate, publishing research results under an open license).

I was fortunate in that I began my own work developing corpora after legal issues began to emerge from the first efforts at sharing digital corpora. When humanists first began developing textual databases in the 1970s and 1980s, scholars had little understanding of copyright law (which, one could argue, really means that copyright law often does not reflect scholarly standards). Many assumed that the reconstructed texts in Classical Greek and Latin critical editions are in the public domain. The fact that a preponderance of experts in the field made this decision — in fact, operated under this assumption — provides evidence about what copyright law should dictate. In fact, explicit legislation does enable editors in some countries to exercise monopoly control over reconstructed texts for a period of time. I don’t know any editors who personally use that right to restrict access to their work — all the editors I know want their work to circulate as widely as possible. But editors sign contracts that give commercial publishers exclusive rights to their work. These publishers have lawyers and, if the perceived loss justifies the investment in legal fees, they can sue individual scholars. Even when textual data is in the public domain, commercial vendors (whether belonging to a for-profit corporation or a non-profit university) can (and often will) sue those who redistribute that public domain data on the basis of contract law. We work hard to make sure that we respect both copyright and contract law.

Given sufficient funding, the following categories of data can be digitized and made available as open data under the kind of CC license upon which modern philology must depend:

    Reconstructed texts: Reconstructed texts constitute the running text as reconstructed in an edition without accompanying textual notes, modern language translations introduction, etc. We can use scientific editions from Germany that were published 25 or more years ago (thus, in early 2015 we can use scientific editions published through the beginning of 1990). The EU has passed a regulation allowing its member nations to exert such copyright for up to 30 years but Germany has not taken advantage of this EU opportunity nor has any other major producer of Greek and Latin texts. For pragmatic purposes, we will initially assume that every other nation but Germany (where support for open access and open data have strong public and political support) is liable to enact such a law. We will thus focus in 2015 on digitizing European editions outside of Germany published through 1985, in 2016 through 1986 etc. Here the goal is to have as many TEI XML transcriptions as possible and to help researchers visualize the degree to which different editions differ and to be able to compare different editions.

    Textual notes: The argument has been made that the textual notes are not part of the reconstructed text and constitute a separate copyrightable work. Insofar as textual notes are a scholarly activity, they should aspire to be an annotated database and thus should be receivng only 15 years of protection under EU database regulations ( The argument has also been made that the textual notes not only do not belong to a scientific edition but also constitute another form of creative expression and that commercial publishers should be able to monopolize them for the life of the editor plus 70 years. We will, for now, focus on mining textual notes from editions where the editor died 70 or more years ago. In practice, that means that we are working with the apparatus criticus of editions published in the 1920s and 1930s. Here our goal is to have a maximally clean searchable text but not to add substantive TEI XML markup that captures the structure of the textual notes — the structure of these notes tend to be complicated and inconsistent. Our pragmatic goal is to support “image front searching,” so that scholars can find words in the textual notes and then see the original page images.

Given the legal constraints outlined above and assuming that we had the resources to create machine actionable versions of all publicly accessible textual data, what is the best way of representing the data commercial licenses restrict?

Strategy one: Support advanced graduate students and a handful of supervisory faculty to go through reviews of recent editions, identifying those editorial decisions that were deemed most significant. The output of this work would be an initial CC-BY-SA series of machine-actionable commentaries that could automatically flag all passages in the CC-BY-SA editions where copyrighted editions made significant decisions. In effect, we would be creating a new textual review series. Because the textual commentaries would be open and available under a CC-BY-SA, members of the community could suggest additions to them or create new expanded versions or create completely new, but interoperable, textual commentaries that could be linked to the CC-BY-SA texts.

Here the goal is to create an initial set of data about textual decisions in copyrighted editions and a framework that members of the community can extend. If members of the community feel that important textual data should be made available, then they can make it available, they can do so. If no one feels that it is important to make the data available, then the data is, by definition, not that important. The plan is to create a self-regulating environment. An open framework can evolve as members of the community wish. In this plan, we start a light-weight, easily expanded and duplicated process that others can copy.

We can summarize this as a Darwinian strategy. We may have to take a step and lose some more recent textual data to open up the overall corpus, but the lost textual data is not, itself, subject to copyright (copyright protects original expression). The hypothesis is that an open field will outperform a closed field and that the open field will replace what it considers to be lost textual data and ultimately (perhaps very quickly) outperformed the closed system.

This strategy has at least two advantages. First, if funding were secured, that funding could help rising Greek and Latin philologists perform the task of creating the initial textual commentaries, thus immersing a new generation in the basic methods of representing textual data in a machine actionable form (and giving them a position where they have an opportunity to learn quite a bit of Greek and/or Latin). Second, we do not need to create a comprehensive set of textual commentaries. We need to create a critical mass that demonstrates the utility of such commentaries.

Strategy two: How many editions that are owned by commercial entities are so crucial to the mainstream study of Greek and Latin that it is worth trying to negotiate the rights and expend the time/money to produce CC-licensed TEI XML versions? The upper bound for such a purchase might be the cost of paying for production of a new open access book (up to 10.000 British pounds). Since commercial publishers have published several hundred editions in the last 25 or 30 years, paying for the rights for all recent editions would cost millions of euros and is clearly not a reasonable option. If publishers do not offer reasonable terms and the new editions are of critical importance, then members of the community will simply have to create new editions that integrate the most valuable findings from the restricted editions — that is, after all, the sort of thing that we are paid to do. But it might be possible to justify purchasing the rights to a few.

What editions might warrant such special treatment and why?

Conversely, how worthwhile is it for us to worry about editions published after c. 1985? Would it be better to focus on providing comprehensive coverage of editions through 1985 with the assumption that if the recent data is sufficiently important, then we can let members of the community fill in the gaps?

Ironically, I think that the best way to liberate textual data from corporate control is to demonstrate that life will go on without it and thus to destroy its value as a revenue-generating asset. We can use the reconstructed texts from Germany through 1990 and from the rest of Europe at least through 1985. While much has been done since then and it would be a shame if we could not immediately use it in our analysis of the ancient world, I became a professor in 1985 and I do not think that the quality of the textual editions available to us was a major limiting factor on the quality of our research at the time. We can start the process of identifying significant textual decisions in copyrighted editions. Where editors have produce radically new editions, we can try to secure the rights but the best way to free commercialized controlled texts is to move forward with what we have.

Members of the community are, of course, free to make a case that research funding from private and public sources should be used to subsidize commercial services or even websites that provide free services but do not make their data available. Those who feel this way should make the case as fully as possible. I have heard the argument that we must under no circumstances go backwards and lose access to the most up-to-date texts but, unfortunately, we have already lost control over that access and have done so for years after it was possible that we could do otherwise (the Text Encoding Initiative was documenting methods for machine actionable editions in the late 1980s) and after generalized models for open licenses had appeared ( released its first licenses in 2002). We could have acted differently a decade ago and we have, for the most part, not chosen to produce editions that are modern in format and accessible to a global audience. If we think that specialists at well-funded academic institutions alone need access to the best textual data, we should express that position clearly so that the federally funded agencies and private foundations know where we stand.

I don’t see an easy solution for rescuing data that we have given to commercial organizations but we should hear the arguments and proposals — and then act. Business as usual simply digs us into a deeper hole. Even if some of us may disagree with the case as a whole, a well-articulated case for sticking with privatized textual data may more clearly articulate issues that we need to address in shifting to an open philology.

Please send your suggestions to — or, better still, send a link to a public version of your thoughts. I will summarize initial suggestions in a subsequent blog post in May 2015.

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Sunoikisis DC 2015

Sunoikisis is a successful national consortium of Classics programs developed by the Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies. The goal is to extend Sunoikisis to a global audience and contribute to it with an international consortium of Digital Classics programs (Sunoikisis DC). Sunoikisis DC is based at the Alexander von Humboldt Chair of Digital Humanities at the University of Leipzig. The aim is to offer collaborative courses that foster interdisciplinary paradigms of learning. Master students of both the humanities and computer science are welcome to join the courses and work together by contributing to digital classics projects in a collaborative environment.

Sunoikisis DC will start in the SS 2015 with a Digital Classics course at the University of Leipzig. Faculty members of participating institutions will gather at the University of Leipzig on February 16-18 for a planning seminar in order to discuss course topics, schedule the academic calendar, and construct the course syllabus. The seminar is organized by the Alexander von Humboldt Chair of Digital Humanities at the University of Leipzig in collaboration with the Center for Hellenic Studies and Perseids.

Read more here.

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Digital Classicist New England, Spring 2015

We are pleased to announce the schedule for Digital Classicist New England. This initiative, inspired by and connected to London’s Digital Classicist Work in Progress Seminar, is organized in association with the Perseus Digital Library at Tufts University. It will run during the spring term of the academic year 2014/15.

Seminars will run from February through April 2015 and will be hosted at Brandeis, Holy Cross, Northeastern and Tufts. Each lecture will take place from 12:00-1:15pm Eastern Standard time–while light snacks and drinks will be provided, attendees are also welcome to bring their own lunch!

As with the previous series, the video recordings of the presentations will be broadcast in realtime via videochat for later publication online, and questions for speakers will be accepted via an IRC channel. There are plans to publish papers selected from the first series of the seminar as a special issue in an appropriate open access journal.

Information concerning how to access the realtime video of the talks will be made available here shortly before the lecture.

We will continue to update the schedule  over the course of the spring with more information concerning each speaker. Flyers and other materials for printing and publicity can be found in the Google Drive folder here, which we will also continue to update with individual flyers for each speaker.

This series is supported by Brandeis University, including the Brandeis Library and Technology Services and the Department of Classical Studies, The College of the Holy Cross, Northeastern University, Tufts University and the Perseus Project. The series has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence.

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A Tenure Track Job in the US, Anti-Islamification Demonstrations in Germany, and the Redefinition of Classics

Gregory Crane
Professor of Classics and Winnick Family Professor of Entrepreneurship
Tufts University
Alexander von Humboldt Professor
University of Leipzig
January 19, 2015

In the city of Medford, within sight of the Boston skyline, the Department of Classics at Tufts University is hoping to hire a junior professor “who studies the contact between the Greco-Roman and Islamic traditions during any period through the Renaissance.” It would be hard to imagine a humanities field that is more challenging or more cut off from the often perceived realities of educating students to survive in a competitive world. It is hard enough for many to justify investing the time that it takes to master Ancient Greek or Latin — languages in which you will negotiate no contracts and by which you will not immediately advance the technological competitiveness of your nation. When you add the need to understand Classical Arabic as well as Greek and/or Latin, you find yourself in a very learned — and very very small — community. How can we justify investing a precious tenure track position in such a field of research? Shouldn’t we be putting all of our resources in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math — the German acronym is MINT)? Greco-Roman and Islamic Studies may seem to define the paradigm of the abstruse and superfluous.

In Leipzig, I have ample reminders of history in general and the history of my field, the study of Greek and Latin, in particular. Every day, after I buy my fantastically over-priced Starbucks coffee and walk out onto the street, I look across the street at the small plaque, in German, that commemorates the destruction two generations ago of the Bamberger family’s candy business on Kristallnacht. I walk around the corner to my office in the Paulinum, a spectacular glass and steel building that looks like a church. This structure commemorates the University Church — St. Paul’s — which had stood on that site for centuries and survived the fire bombings of the Second World War. In 1968, Walter Olbricht, founder of the DDR and Leipzig native, decided that “that thing’s got to go!” (Das Ding muss weg!) — and the centuries-old church was dynamited a week later so that the then Karl Marx Platz would not have that counter-revolutionary eyesore. Before I enter, I purposefully look also across what was before and what is now again Augustusplatz and I always try to remember how twenty-five years ago, the people of Leipzig demonstrated peacefully here and stood down thousands of armed men who were supposed to impose the Chinese solution, as the crushing of demonstrations around Tiananmen square was called in 1989. Then I look across the square to the Radisson Blu Hotel and think about how Benedictus Gotthelf Teubner had located his great publishing house and the most efficient mechanism in history for distributing Greek and Latin around the world (the now derelict Post Office building sits right across the street, testifying to the shrewdness of old Teubner, whose business lived on efficient shipping networks).

I think quite a bit about the terrible things that happened around my German home over the years — and I always make a point of thinking about American slavery, about the often genocidal actions against the Native Americans, about our participation, reluctant as it may have been, in the fire-bombing of Dresden, and about what would have happened in the United States if we had lost the First World War and been on the wrong side of a Versailles Treaty. Woodrow Wilson had screened the Birth of a Nation in the White House and the resurgent Klan was brutal enough in a victorious America. What would have happened if Americans had felt, rightly or wrongly, that they had lost a war unjustly and been treated shabbily in the peace? We remain all of us primates at our core, with a propensity for violence and brutality and our specifically human nature all too easily relapses into a xenophobic and short-sighted tribalism.

The field of Classics has its own problematic traditions — every time we use the term “Classics,” a short-hand for describing the study of Greek and Latin, we imply that Greek and Latin are not just Classical languages, but the only Classical languages. The field of Classics thus embeds within its name an assumption of European cultural hegemony within the world as a whole. I see only three acceptable responses. The first is to abandon this usage and to speak more precisely of Greek and Latin studies (thus, the University of Cairo has a department of Greek and Latin Studies rather than of Classics). A second response would be to speak in terms of philology and historical languages, removing the value judgment implicit in the term Classics.

The third response is to broaden the usage and to make clear that, if we choose to speak of Classical (and thus, in some sense, privileged) languages, we recognize that there are a lot of Classical languages in the world — the nation of India alone has six official classical languages (none of which are Latin or Greek). In my own department, we have struggled by our actions for years to realize this broader understanding of Classics. My colleague Steve Hirsch did his early work on Greeks and Persians and now teaches about Ancient China as well as Greece and Rome. My colleague Anne Mahoney has managed to teach Sanskrit, largely on a volunteer basis, for years. I myself have taught about how Western Europe rediscovered Aristotle, Euclid, Galen and other Greek sources via Arabic scholarship.

Now we have a formal position — a tenure track job, the most precious commodity that an American university can bestow upon a department. We don’t yet have a position in Classical Chinese or Classical Arabic per se in the department of Classics at Tufts. But we have a chance to hire someone who bridges the gap between Greco-Roman and Islamic Culture. More importantly, we may have someone who can, for decades to come, weave into our department the broadly but superficially known story of how much we in the modern world depend upon what Islamic thinkers got from Greek culture and what they then did with it before the results of that work found their way into Western Europe via translations from Arabic into Latin. Even those who know something about this general story rarely have an emotional appreciation for its significance. If it were not for work that was done in Baghdad from 800-1000 CE and the transmission of knowledge into Latin c. 1200, there would not have been a Renaissance, and neither Boston nor Berlin would exist as we know them. We are much more connected than we appreciate — Islamification, in a sense, already happened a thousand years ago.

A faculty position on Greco-Roman and Islamic Culture can easily become a very narrowly academic enterprise with little significance beyond a small circle of academics. We may give our work to commercial publishers who restrict access to generate revenue. We may think only of other specialists as our audience. We may even think only of other specialists in European and North American universities with long interacting academic traditions, rather than of those who work with our subject around the Islamic world and who have very different academic traditions. The pressures of academic life push junior faculty to do the safe thing — and the same university that praises diversity and public engagement may make it clear to the junior scholars that they must do what we have long done. Don’t publish open access publications. Don’t think about anyone who will not write you letters to get you tenure. Support diversity — but don’t worry about people whose languages you do not speak, whose publications you (and your reviewers) do not read, and who could not probably get a visa to visit the US anyway.

But then I think of the demonstrators of LEGIDA in my beloved city of Leipzig and I think of the opportunities that this academic position offers. A rising scholar can now hope to have a far wider and more compelling impact upon intellectual life beyond specialist publications. The tools are there — but using them requires a decision and even a bit of courage for researchers anxious to survive, much less change the world, however slightly, for the better. Lectures about the close connections between Greco-Roman and Islamic Culture may not quiet the fears of anti-Islamic demonstrations, just as it does little good for an individual to stop smoking when lung cancer has progressed too far. Fear and violence can deliver rapid results. Education takes time and its consequences are far harder to identify than shouting crowds, a drone strike or a wound from an AK 47. I am proud to be part of a department and a university where we have the chance to hire someone whose position demonstrates that we see beyond Greek and Latin as the sole classical languages. And those of us who do primarily focus upon these two languages of European cultural heritage can reinvent our ancient field to contribute within the globally linked and rich chorus of cultures that we can embrace in this century.

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Samuel H. Kress Foundation grant awarded to Perseids for the Digital Milliet

The Perseids team is delighted to announce a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation ( for the Digital Milliet. The Samuel H. Kress Foundation devotes its resources to advancing the history, conservation, and enjoyment of the vast heritage of European art, architecture, and archaeology from antiquity to the early 19th century. We are grateful for the Foundation’s support as we begin our work on this exciting project.

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Perseids Participates in Sunoikisis Europe

The Humboldt Chair of Digital Humanities at the University of Leipzig is starting a Sunoikisis Program in Europe in collaboration with Sunoikisis at the Center for Hellenic Studies. Sunoikisis Europe will be based in Leipzig and will offer courses in digital humanities for students of Greek and Latin. Sunoikisis Europe will run every Spring (starting from 2015) and the program will enroll both American and European students, who will be able to take the courses both remotely and by visiting Leipzig. The Sunoikisis Europe team is led by Bridget Almas, Marie-Claire Beaulieu, Monica Berti, Gregory R. Crane, and Uta Kremer.

The Perseids platform will be used by the Sunoikisis Europe Program.

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Perseus Open Publication Series

October 2, 2014
University of Leipzig, Germany
Tufts University, USA

Initial Call for Contributions:
Greek and Latin Editions
Modern Language Translations
Contributions to the Ancient Greek and Latin Dependency Treebanks.


The Perseus Digital Library at Tufts University and the Open Philology Project at the University of Leipzig announce plans for the Perseus Open Publication Series (POPS), a new venue for open access and open data publications in any format and in any language that the Perseus Digital Library can support. The Perseus Digitary Library attracted 390,000 visitors in August 2014 while its contents are now prominent digital collections for two universities, one in Germany and one in the United States, each of which maintains its own repository. The Perseus Open Publication Series thus provides a visible, non-exclusive publication medium for those who wish their content to reach the widest possible audience and to be preserved as a part of the Perseus Digital Library.

Development of POPS will take place in stages and will ultimately include content in any format and on any subject within the Perseus Digital Library. This initial call is aimed at those who are producing, wish to produce, or who have already produced, well-understood forms of publication such as editions, commentaries, modern language translations, as well as the Greek and Latin Dependency Treebanks, and other resources that shed light upon sources in Greek and Latin and where the content can be reviewed with fairly traditional editorial processes. If you have published a digitized Greek or Latin edition or a new translation on a website or as a PDF file, and if you want to see this work also published as a part of the Perseus Digital Library, please let us know. You can continue to keep making your material available on your website and giving it to others to publish.

We expect the range of materials that we accept to expand in the coming years. We particularly encourage translations, both in English and in other languages — the ability to identify qualified reviewers provides the critical limiting factor on how much material we can assess. We encourage authors to produce their own TEI XML, using materials already in the Perseus Digital Library as templates and we will offer training for the most committed potential contributors and editors in producing EpiDoc TEI XML and/or creating morphological and syntactic annotations of Greek and Latin. This training can take place either at Leipzig or in other countries. We currently support training in Croatian, English, French, German, and Italian, with plans to expand to other languages. Where particularly important material already exists in HTML, Word, PDF or some other format, we will consider helping with the conversion into XML.

New contributions will be published initially as part of a new repository for Greek and Latin textual materials and accompanying annotations, based upon the Canonical Text Services Architecture. The CTS architecture will provide the backend for the next generation of the Perseus Digital Library website.

Our strategy to make the system itself is based upon making all content available under an appropriate Creative Commons license via the web site, while charging for services that make that content more convenient (e.g., a subscription that provides constantly updated versions of the Perseus texts in e-book format). All content and software that we produce will be open and others will be able — as they are already — to create their own versions and services based upon the Creative Commons licenses that authors select. Authors will be free to publish their materials in as many other venues as they choose (e.g., PDF representations of their materials might appear in or ResarchGate) and store their materials in additional repositories.

We have formed a steering committee to accomplish the following goals: (1) to identify potential authors and existing content; (2) to participate actively and constructively in planning the on-going development of the Perseus Open Publication Series.

Those interested in contributing send inquiries here.

Steering Committee (as of October 1, 2014)
Bridget Almas, Tufts and
Alison Babeu, Tufts
Marie Claire Beaulieu, Tufts
Christopher Blackwell, Furman University
Monica Berti, Leipzig
Federico Boschetti, CNR, Pisa
Michèle Brunet, Lyon
Giuseppe G. A. Celano, Leipzig
Lisa Cerrato, Tufts
Harry Diakoff,
Reinhard Foertsch, German Archaeological Institute, Berlin
Greta Franzini, Leipzig (Goettingen, as of 2015)
Neven Jovanovic, Zagreb
Thomas Koentges, Leipzig
Matt Munson, Leipzig
Charlotte Schubert, Leipzig
Neel Smith, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester MA
Simona Stoyanova, Leipzig


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Opening up Classics and the Humanities: Computation, the Homer Multitext Project and Citizen Science

This paper is based upon discussions, especially with Manfred Thaller, at the 2014 Schloss Dagstuhl Seminar on Computational Humanities.

Abstract: Increasingly powerful computational methods are important for humanists not simply because they make it possible to ask new research questions but especially because computation makes it both possible — and arguably essential — to transform the relationship between humanities research and society, opening up a range of possibilities for student contributions and citizen science. To illustrate this point, this paper looks at the transformative work conducted by the Homer Multitext Project (see in particular its blog).

The full text is available here.

Gregory Crane
Universität Leipzig
September 29, 2014

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The Digital Loeb Classical Library — a view from Europe

The full text of “the Digital Loeb Classical Library — a view from Europe,” is available here.

Summary: The Digital Loeb Classical Library has gone live and many students of Greek and Latin are testing it. “The Digital Loeb Classical Library — a view from Europe” considers some of the issues that the new DLCL raises. First, there is the general question of how long the community will support new, proprietary systems, each with their own environment, none releasing their data under an open license, and all incompatible, for all practical purposes, with each other. More generally, this essay explores three issues that the DLCL raises in a European context: (1) the problem of depending upon, and actively supporting, commercial sources of Greek and Latin, especially in Europe, where tax dollars support virtually all professional intellectual life; (2) the problem of using English if we want to reach secondary schools — only about 5% (probably less) of those who study Greek and Latin do so in English; (3) the problem of encouraging students to produce annotations that are keyed to the idiosyncratic page breaks that appear only in the Loeb editions (and thus of implicitly making the Loeb a new standard for citation). Overall, the DLCL is yet another publisher’s portal, solid in implementation and not challenging to use, but dependent models from print, such as monopoly control of content to extract subscriptions and the print page as dominant metaphor.

The study of Greek and Latin needs to build upon what we already can see is possible in a digital space and to move forward if we are to offer a truly competitive discipline to new generations of students and to the general public. Some of the issues and opportunities before us are raised in the call for papers in Greek and Latin in an Age of Open Data, but there are many fora in which to discuss how to move forward. It is time for students of Greek and Latin to get on with it and accelerate the transition to a more open, sustainable and dynamic environment by which to advance the role of Greco-Roman culture in the intellectual life of society.

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