Monday, July 30, 2012

Homer Multitext receives National Endowment for the Humanities Award

We were thrilled to learn last week that the Homer Multitext has been awarded a Scholarly Editions and Translations grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. We wish to express our thanks to the NEH, as well as to the Center for Hellenic Studies, which is contributing matching funds to the project. Here is our abstract for the grant, which will cover three years of work.

Editing as a Discovery Process: Accessing centuries of scholarship in one 10th century manuscript of the Iliad

Casey Dué and Mary Ebbott

Statement of significance and impact

Our proposed scholarly edition will publish in its entirety for the first time what is arguably the single most important historical witness to the Homeric Iliad: the tenth-century manuscript held in the Marciana Library in Venice known as the Venetus A. Not only is it the oldest complete text of the Iliad in existence, the Venetus A contains abundant writings in its margins (called scholia) that preserve the otherwise lost ancient scholarship about the poem collected in the Library of Alexandria and further elucidated by generations of scholars in antiquity. This manuscript is an unparalleled resource for the study of the Iliad, but its contents and our methods for creating this edition will also contribute to larger questions in the humanities in general about the nature of authorship, the interaction between orality and literacy, modes of textual transmission, and the practices of scholarly editing, both historically and currently.

Our edition will be based on and will incorporate the high-resolution digital images of this manuscript acquired in 2007 for the Homer Multitext (HMT) project (, of which we are co-Editors. Our digital edition of the text and scholia of the Venetus A will provide a complete transcription of every item on the page of the manuscript, spatially linked to the already published high-resolution images. The transcriptions will be encoded in TEI-XML and then made freely available in both human- and machine-readable form via the Homer Multitext. Any interested user will be able to download them or reuse and/or republish them for their own purposes under a Creative Commons license. Various tools will allow users to view and search the text in multiple ways. The digitally-mapped transcriptions will make it easy for users to find texts on the images and the mark-up of the transcriptions will also make the contents easily searchable. Our preliminary work on this manuscript as well as others has shown that a significant percentage of the scholia, which transmit Homeric scholarship as old as the third century BCE, has never been published in any edition. The proposed publication, then, will provide complete access to this essential primary source for the poem that marks the beginning of Western literature to the entire scholarly community, and indeed to any interested user.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

On-line publication of Homer Multitext related scholarship

The Center for Hellenic Studies has published on-line versions of Gregory Nagy's Homer the Classic (Harvard University Press, 2009) and Homer the Preclassic (University of California Press, 2010). Both works illuminate the methodological foundation on which the Homer Mutltext is built. In the words of Richard Martin (whose book The Language of Heroes has also been published on-line by the CHS):
Homer the Preclassic offers an overwhelming challenge to those who picture the Iliad and Odyssey as pneumatic posts, whooshing unchanged from a single authorial source onto the shelf of canonical Western texts. In a tour de force of precise scholarship and imaginative reconstruction, Nagy reexamines in full all the evidence relating to the historical reality of Homeric poetry in the period before the fifth century BCE. He demonstrates for the first time how deeply the constantly contested figure of Homer and the shifting body of poetry attributed to him are enmeshed in the ideologies of competitive festivals and performers, of religious cult and musical tradition, and of political fedearation, individual ambition, and ultimately, empire. (from the back cover of Homer the Preclassic).
The many different forces that Martin identifies have shaped the texts of the Iliad and Odyssey that have come down to us. The Homer Multitext seeks to preserve and publish the historical documents that have come down to us, precisely so that we can appreciate how the texts of these poems have been shaped through time. The Medieval manuscripts, ancient papyri, and the scholia in their margins provide fascinating glimpses into these dynamic historical realities.

Other Homer Multitext related scholarship published by the CHS includes the original French text of Milman Parry's thesis known in English as "The Traditional Epithet in Homer," Douglas Frame's Hippota Nestor, and numerous other works by Gregory Nagy, all of which can be found on the CHS on-line publications page.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Announcing version 1.0 of CHS Image Services

A recent post described our reorganization of the Homer Multitext project's archival image data.
We have been experimenting for some time with a preliminary internet service for working with canonically citable images.

Today, we are releasing version 1.0 of our implementation of the CHS Image Service, an extension to the CITE architecture's Collections.  The CHS Image Service supports extended citation of images including regions of interest, and provides methods for gathering various kinds of information about a canonically citable image, including retrieving binary image data.  We plan to follow up on this release shortly with a formal specification of version 1.0 of the CHS extension to CITE Collections.  

In the mean time, if you are a developer interested in using canonically citable images, see this summary of CHS Image Services in our overview of the CITE architecture.

If you would like to run your own installation, see this guide to running a CHS Image Service.

If you are an end-user who currently uses HMT apps, you should see no changes at all (except perhaps that the web pages at our reference installation of CHS Image Services,, may have a little nicer skin) — that's a feature of the design of chsimg 1.0.  What you should expect to see over the next year or two is more rapid development of applications drawing on chsimg to incorporate canonically citable images in new ways to visualize and explore the Homer Multitext project's increasingly rich archive.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Verifying an inventory of scholia

One of the most important tasks the Homer Multitext project has been addressing is to compile a complete inventory of the scholia in the manuscripts we are studying.  Remarkably, this has never been done, even for the much-discussed Venetus A manuscript.  (The most thorough and accurate edition to date, Dindorf's admirable two-volume Scholia Graeca in Homeri Iliadem, excludes interior and exterior scholia from consideration.  As to Erbse's Scholia Vetera in Iliadem, often misunderstood by classicists as systematic, or as an attempt to create a comprehensive inventory, a detailed comparison of our edition of Iliad 3 and 4 with Erbse's text showed that he publishes only about 80% of the scholiastic text in the Venetus A.)

Venetus A, folio 12 recto, with the first 25 lines of the Iliad; overlays show the location of scholia, color-coded for their class of placement on the folio.

Since the summer of 2010, we have used a system of machine-assisted visual proofing to help verify that we have indeed included all scholia on a given folio in our inventory.  HMT editors create structured inventory notebooks that include a citation of visual evidence for each scholion they identify.  These notebooks can be transformed into web pages with images illustrating each folio, with partially opaque overlays showing the position of each scholion.  Editors can see at a glance whether any areas of a folio page have text outside an overlay.

This summer, as part of our effort to improve the automated management of our archival data, we have added an automated check that verifies the syntax of every image citation.  Yesterday, I completed a review of inventories for Iliad 1-5 in the Venetus A.  3503 out of 3505 entries (99.9%) were syntactically valid:   clearly, visual proofing is a pretty effective method of checking syntax as well as finding missed areas on a folio page.  Next, we plan to package the verification tool in an expanded tool kit for HMT editors, so that they can validate the syntax of their citations before ever submitting a notebook for review.  (That or course means:  they will be required to validate that 100% of their citations are syntactically valid before submitting a notebook for review!)

Of course we cannot be sure that this method will find scholia when they are nearly invisible on our photographs.  Participants in the 2011 summer seminar at the Center for Hellenic Studies made the alarming discovery that they had missed a number of exterior scholia visible in the 1901 facsimile edition by Comparetti It is clear that in the century since Comparetti, the small scholia on the edges of the manuscript pages have suffered the most, and we have since established a practice of routinely checking each inventoried folio against Comparetti's facsimile.  In some cases, our ultraviolet photography preserves legible text.

What does an inventory of 3500 scholia look like?  I've posted one visualization:  a pdf that offers a kind of "flip chart", of folios 12 recto through 80 recto of the Venetus A (that is, Iliad 1-5), with a very small version of our overlay image for each folio side.  You can see that visualization, as well as some work in progress from the summer of 2012, here.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Scholia to Iliad 14.506 in Two Manuscripts in Venice (Venetus A and Marciana 841)

Guest Post by Matthew Angiolillo & Christine Roughan

In this guest post by Angiolillo (College of the Holy Cross Class of 2013) and Roughan (College of the Holy Cross Class of 2014), the comparison of two manuscripts and their scholia leads to deeper understanding of how the system of the poetic language operates.

The tradition of the ancient Greek epic the Iliad is a long one—this is a work that has its origins in the 2nd millennium BCE. The Venetus A is a 10th century CE manuscript of the Iliad, and, at a thousand years old, it is our oldest complete source for the ancient epic. It also contains a wealth of scholia, some of which date as far back as the 3rd century BCE. As such, it has long been the object of study and scholarship.

In comparison, the Marciana 841 (= Marcianus Graecus Z. 458, referred to as U4 by Allen)– is a 12th or 13th century CE manuscript of the Iliad. The first half of this source has been lost – of the 24 books of the Iliad, the Marciana 841 contains only books 14-24. Compared to the Venetus A, the Marciana 458 contains far fewer scholia. It is slightly unusual in that it contains a later, Byzantine Greek translation of the Iliad written in prose alongside the poem. The Marciana 841 is one of the less well-known manuscripts of the Iliad, since it has received comparatively less scholarship.

When comparing the readings of these two manuscripts together, however, we find intriguing differences. One of these occurs in Iliad 14.506. As will be shown, the Venetus A and the Marciana 841 offer two different readings for line 506, but also acknowledge each other’s different reading in their scholia.

In the end of Iliad Book 14, the cycle of Greek and Trojan victories and retaliations comes to a halt when the Greek Peneleos strikes down Ilioneus, and in line 506 the tide of battle is turned against the Trojans. Looking first at the main text of the Venetus A, we read for line 506 ὡς φάτο τοὺς δ᾽ ἄρα πάντας ὑπο τρόμος ἔλλαβε γυῖα (“Thus he spoke, and trembling seized them all in respect to their limbs”). Note that we represent exactly what appears in the manuscript, with the punctuation and accentuation unchanged. (Click on the captions of the images to go to the full folio page with this line/scholion cited and highlighted.),0.2547,0.4383,0.0297&xsl=zoomomatic.xsl
Iliad 14.506 from Venetus A
In the Marciana 841 manuscript, line 506 starts similarly but offers a different reading for the end of the line. Here we have ὣς φατο· τούς δ᾽ ἄρα πάντας ὑπὸ χλωρὸν δέος εἷλε (“Thus he spoke; and green fear seized them all”). Here, χλωρὸν δέος, green fear, is Homeric idiom for a particular type of fear. By investigating how it is used wherever it turns up, we can try to determine its meaning. The Marciana 458 substitutes this idiomatic ending: ‘green fear seized them all’ replaces ‘trembling seized them all in respect to their limbs.’
Iliad 14.506 from Marciana 841

Venetus A intermarginal scholion to Iliad 14.506

Even more interestingly, both manuscripts include scholia on line 506 acknowledging the alternate readings. In an intermarginal scholion, the Venetus A scribe notes that γράφεται τοὺς ἄρα πάντας ὑπὸ χλωρὸν δέος εῖλεν⁑ (“‘Green fear seized them all’ is written”).

In the Marciana 841, a scholion appears between the main text and the prose transcription, saying, γράφεται ὑ¨πο τρόμος ἔλλαβε γυῖα⁑ (“‘Trembling seized the limbs’ is written”).
Marciana 841 scholion to Iliad 14.506

Besides minor accenting and punctuating differences in ὡς φάτο τοὺς, line 506 is the same in the Venetus A and the Marciana 841 except for its ending: ὑπο τρόμος ἔλλαβε γυῖα versus ὑπὸ χλωρὸν δέος εἷλε. There are two possibilities for why the manuscripts record the lines differently: either a scribe at some point in the transmission of the Iliad erred and wrote the line incorrectly, or the two represent separate—but equally valid—readings and are multiforms of each other.

It is exceedingly unlikely that the variation we are investigating in line 506 was caused by scribal error. This hypothetical error would have had to have occurred much earlier than the 10th century Venetus A, since the variant was already known and recorded in the scholia by this point. Unfortunately, nothing about these scholia gives any hint as to their age. The difference also would have had to persist for two or three hundred years more, even with the knowledge that other manuscripts had a different reading, since the scribe of the 12th/13th century Marciana 841 is also aware of the variants.

Furthermore, the different reading is not a single changed word or a different form; rather, the last three words are changed. It is hard to envision why a scribe, tasked with copying the line, would end up with a completely different ending. This was not the scribe accidentally skipping or repeating a few lines, nor was it him having difficulty with confusing Greek and trying to correct it to something that makes better sense.

The only way the scribe might have accidentally followed ὡς φάτο τοὺς δ᾽ ἄρα πάντας ὑπο with χλωρὸν δέος εἷλε instead of τρόμος ἔλλαβε γυῖα (or vice versa) would be if he were accidentally recalling an identical line used elsewhere in Homer, such as Odyssey 22.42: ὣς φάτο, τοὺς δ᾽ ἄρα πάντας ὑπὸ χλωρὸν δέος εἷλεν. This Odyssey line, however, seems to be the only duplicate, drastically diminishing the chance that a scribe would have erroneously thought of it and started the variant in Iliad 14.506 by writing its ending instead of τρόμος ἔλλαβε γυῖα.

This different line ending is not the result of scribal error: it is a multiform. Both readings are metrically valid. Both make grammatical sense. Both fit in the context of the line and surrounding passage. Since we can consider this use of χλωρὸν δέος in line 506 to be intentional rather than an error by the scribe, we can also now investigate how its use in this context (and other contexts throughout Homer) help us understand the meaning of this particular idiom.

In Homeric poetry, the term “green (or pale) fear” (χλωρὸν δέος) has often presented difficulties for translators, as the formula implies much more than a literal translation such as “sallow fear” or “blanching terror” could hope to capture. After analyzing the occurrence of the phrase or “nugget of diction” as it is described in the words of John M. Foley, he concludes that “pale fear” is often associated with the supernatural, many times relating to the actions of the gods, which inspire terror (Foley 2002: 121,128). An example of such a usage occurs at Iliad 7.475–482, when the Greeks and the Trojans are feasting after a hard day of fighting and the single combat between Hector and Ajax has ended. At this time, Zeus, the counselor, is said to have “devised them evil, thundering in a terrible way. Then pale fear got hold of them.” In this instance, Zeus’ future plans are seen to directly affect both sides of combatants, inspiring terror in the Trojans and Greeks alike and consequently both sides immediately offer up sacrifices to Zeus.

“Pale fear” is also used when relating to the inhabitants of the underworld such as in Odyssey 11.42–43, where Odysseus recalls for the Phaeacians his journey to the underworld in order to hear the prophesy of Tiresias that will give him instructions as to how eventually he might reach his home in Ithaca. Odysseus describing the ghosts in the underworld reveals his fright: “These [phantoms] came thronging in crowds about the pit from every side, with a wondrous cry; and pale fear seized me.” These examples notwithstanding, there are also instances in the Iliad where pale fear is used without specific reference to supernatural activity. In Iliad 17, for example, Menelaus is compared to a mountain lion, easily devouring a heifer in its ferocity, but whom none of the surrounding herders will face “for pale fear had taken hold of them,” just as no Trojan is willing to fight Menelaus (Iliad 17.59–67). In addition, in Iliad 15, as the Trojans run from the advancing Greeks, they are stopped “pale with fear” next to their chariots (Iliad 15.1–4), a scene which continues the narrative from the end of Iliad 14, where the scholia of both manuscripts on 506 are located.  In each of these passages, there is no obvious direct influence of the gods on the action at play, however the phrase “pale fear” is still employed. The second example also uses the expression in a somewhat unorthodox way, as an adjectival phrase describing the Trojans in flight, as “green fear” in numerous other passages is the agent of terror, usually coming over an individual or group. The phrase is also used adjectivally in Iliad 10, describing Dolon, in another passage in which there does not seem to be any direct influence being initiated by the gods (Iliad 10.374–376).

However, the influences of the gods are often difficult to trace precisely and often times their forces are at work in certain passages without their presence being explicitly clear to the reader, unless she has a solid grasp of the surrounding context. The way “green or pale fear” is used at 14.506 in the Marciana 841 manuscript and seen in the Venetus A scholion, adds a new perspective on the formula, as an argument could be made that in the context of the end of Book 14, the influences of the gods are at work in a different way compared to examples mentioned above, augmenting our understanding of how the formula of “pale fear” is used, in that in this instance, the power of the gods is referred to in an indirect and more subtle way. Assuming that the multiform is employed, immediately after the Trojans are seized by “green fear” on hearing Peneleos’ threatening words after he strikes down Ilioneus, Homer invokes the Muses and embarks on a mini-catalogue announcing the Greek warriors who took advantage of the “Earth-shaker” Poseidon turning the tide of battle in favor of the Greeks. The gods, especially Poseidon, have also been very active in the Greek war effort throughout Book 14 in which, disguised as an old man, Poseidon tells the Greeks that the Trojans will not continue winning the war. Subsequently, the god screams a resounding yell to encourage the Greek battle effort, and then goes onto the battlefield himself to lead the Achaeans from the front.

Although the Trojans are only directly responding in terror to the words of Peneleos, they may also be responding to the prospective knowledge that the tide of the war has turned against them and that Poseidon is aiding the Greeks in their destruction. This possible conclusion can also be supported by Iliad 14.507, the next line, which states that all the Trojan men look for a way to “escape sheer destruction.” Since, according to the narrative, it is the tenth year of the war and the Trojan men have seen others of their comrades die in combat, it is doubtful that they believe that in reality Peneleos personally is going to slay every one of them. It seems that a greater knowledge of their imminent demise comes across the Trojan men, leaving battle-hardened warriors searching for a way out. The way that “green fear” is used in this instance adds a new perspective in the understanding of the formula that is not captured in the majority of other Homeric passages that employ the term. One exception that builds on how “pale fear” is used in Book 14 is in another Homeric passage, which is virtually identical to the reading of 14.506 found in the Marciana 841. In Odyssey 22.42, Odysseus, after returning to Ithaca, addresses the suitors whom he, by necessity, will eventually kill and whom are, reasonably, struck by pale fear at seeing the hero. Although there is no direct mentioning of the gods in the passage, Odysseus is aided by the goddess Athena, who makes him stronger and appear more attractive, which would indicate that pale fear can be employed in instances where the impact of the gods is only implicitly felt but imminent demise is inevitable.

The scholion employing the multiform “pale fear” in the Marciana 841 adds to the understanding of the term and also may allow an interesting comparison to the reading in the Iliad text given in Venetus A, which states that “trembling seized them all in respect to their limbs.” The trembling that the Trojans endure, can be interpreted not only as the result of a fear of destruction, the words of Peneleos, or that the war has turned against them, but also due to the fact that the Earth-Shaker Poseidon, who has been a key player in spurring on the Greeks, is, through his actions, shaking the Trojans’ limbs into trembling. This reading works nicely and gains strength when compared to the line in Marciana 841, given that the added understanding of the “pale fear” multiform indicates that the actions of a god, in this case Poseidon, that are not plainly affecting those feeling fear, can still be highly ominous. Supporting this reading, that in the mentioning of trembling limbs the power of divine forces might be at play, is that immediately after 14.506 in 14.509–515, Homer invokes the Muse, asking her who was “the first of the Achaeans to carry away the blood-stained spoils of warriors when once the famed shaker of the Earth had turned the battle.” The singer then goes on to list the series of Greek warriors and the Trojans whom they defeated and stripped, due in large part to Poseidon turning the tide of battle. This list, which appropriately ends Book 14, seems to bode ill for the hopes of the Trojans in the following books of the poem to achieve victory and lends credence to the Trojans’ trembling being indirectly induced by Poseidon. This view, which works nicely in conjuncture with the multiform presented by the Marciana 841 reading and the scholion to the Venetus A text, gives a new angle with which to understand the meaning and use of the green/pale fear formula.

Through this one elegant example of 14.506 in the Marciana 841 and Venetus A, we are able to grasp much concerning how the tradition of oral poetry shaped the Iliad over its history, and the possibilities for a greater understanding of the variations and transmission of the text that can be obtained through the study of these manuscripts, and especially their scholia. Many of the passages that are compared above would not be able to be referenced to line 506 if one were reading a standard edition, and if it were not for the scholion from a very different manuscript that pointed out an alternate reading, these parallels would not be able to be drawn.

Works Cited
Foley J.M. 2002. How to Read an Oral Poem. University of Illinois Press.

Digital images in the Homer Multitext project

Since 2007, when the Homer Multitext project photographed three manuscripts in Venice, digital images have been a fundamental component of the project.  With all of our digital resources, our aims are first to make archival-quality sources fully available for downloading, then to publish them in internet services allowing retrieval by canonical citation, and finally to develop end-user applications drawing canonically cited material from our services.

In our reorganization of HMT material this summer, we have gathered archival versions of our images in a single location, linked from the new 'data' section of our web site or directly accessible from  The image archive currently includes approximately 10,000 digital images of five manuscripts.  As I am posting this note, the entire archive is being mirrored at the College of the Holy Cross — a process that, even at internet speed, will take a few days to complete.

All images are available under the terms of a Creative Commons attribution license: further details are included in README files for each data set.  We include md5 checksums for each image so that you can verify that downloads have not been corrupted.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thinking like a revolutionary: Interview with HMT researcher Stephanie Lindeborg, College of the Holy Cross '13

The Center for Hellenic Studies research blog has posted an interview with student researcher Stephanie Lindeborg of College of the Holy Cross. Stephanie is in her third year of work on the Homer Multitext, and she plans to write her senior thesis on an HMT topic this year. You can read about some of the work she has done for the project on our blog here, and you can read the full interview here. Our favorite part of the interview? It's where she says that working on the Homer Multitext has taught her to "think like a revolutionary." Here's hoping that many more students will be inspired by Stephanie and join our revolution. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012



Announcing for download a package of html, javascript, and css that allows embedding into an html page passages of text served by a Canonical Text Services implementation, by inserting a CTS-URN into a <blockquote></blockquote> element, with a @class attribute “cts-text”. E.g.:
<blockquote class="cts-text" cite="urn:cts:greekLit:tlg0012.tlg001.msA:1.1>Iliad, 1.1</blockquote> 


CTS stands for Canonical Text Services; it is the networked service developed for the Homer Multitext that allows discovery and retrieval of passages of texts using citations in URN format. In short, if an electronic edition or translation of a text is in a CTS service, a user or machine can request that passage using a documented protocol. All of the electronic texts edited for the Homer Multitext are exposed via a CTS service.

The Homer Multitext (HMT) has also developed an image service, which allows citation by URN to images and parts of images.


Anyone with experience in making web-pages in HTML knows how easy it is to include an image in a page:
<img src="http://url-to-image"/>
A web-browser will interpret that tag as a request to embed the identified image in the page, to show the image to the reader. In other words, the http://url-to-image will be resolved to the image itself.

This is how citation has always worked… an author includes a citation in a piece of writing, and the reader can resolve the citation to the quotation to which it points. In the digital age, we expect that resolution to happen automatically.

Web-browsers have always allowed urls to images to be resolved for readers, even when the images are on different servers from the server hosting the HTML page. It would be nice if text were as easy.
Canonical citation has been the foundation of Classical philology for centuries, and it is the heart and sole linking mechanism of the HMT. In the digital realm we have found this to be a rich, scaleable, and flexible method for building a complex and diverse digital library. The HTML CTS Kit is a package of files that allows authors working in HTML to cite texts concisely using canonical CTS URNs, and have those URNs resolve to the passages to which they point.

Here is a demonstration of a page that uses URNs to cite both CTS texts and a region-of-interest on an image. The page that the reader sees has rich content; the underlying source is very concise:
<h1>High Resolution Scholarship</h1>

<p>The first five lines of the <i>Iliad</i> on the Venetus A:</p>

<blockquote class="cts-text" cite="urn:cts:greekLit:tlg0012.tlg001.msA:7.1-7.5">
Iliad 7.1-7.5</blockquote>

<p>The Summary of Book 7 from the Venetus A, in Dactylic Hexameter:</p>

<img class="cite-img" 

<blockquote class="cts-text" cite="urn:cts:greekLit:tlg5026.chs01.msA:7">
Book 7 Summary</blockquote>

How it Works

An author can discover the CTS URN for a text by browing the Homer Multitext’s CTS service, or any other implementation of CTS, such as this one, from Furman, containing Biblical texts. The URN for “Homer, Iliad, Edition based on the Venetus A, Book 7, lines 1–15” is:


To cite this passage in an HTML page, an author can use the standard HTML5 blockquote element. This element is defined as allowing an attribute named cite; that attribute will hold the CTS URN. In order for the scripts in the HTML CTS Kit to recognize this blockquote as containing a CTS URN that should be resolved, the blockquote element should also have a class attribute, with a value of “cts-text”. blockquote elements should not be empty, so it is a good idea to put a human-readable citation inside the element; if the citation cannot resolve for any reason, that will be what the reader sees. The final citation will look like this:
<blockquote class="cts-text" cite="urn:cts:greekLit:tlg0012.tlg001.msA:1.1>Iliad, 1.1</blockquote> 
Assuming the correct scripts and stylesheets have been included in the HTML page (instructions are here), this is what will happen.
  • When the page loads, the script will find all of these <blockquote>…</blockquote> elements and perform an AJAX request, sending a “GetPassagePlus” request for each URN.
  • As the results of those requests come in, the scripts will process the XML returned by the CTS Services, using XSLT stylesheets to turn the XML into fragments of HTML.
  • Those HTML fragments will be inserted into the page.
  • CSS stylesheets will give some attractive presentation to the newly inserted quotations.
The XSLT and CSS is of course entirely customizeable by anyone who wants to change the structure or appearance of the resulting texts; what we provide is simply a default.

HTML CTS Kit uses the jQuery Javascript Library for most of its work, and the Sarissa library to process XSLT via Javascript.

License and Download

Like all code and data in the Homer Multitext, the HTML CTS Kit is available under an open-content license, and we hope people will find it useful. The official guide is here. Download links are here.

Idea for improvement

None of this works inside Blogger. If anyone can make it work with Blogger, we would love to hear about it!

Building the HMT web site

As part of our broader effort to automate the management of the expanding digital resources of the Homer Multitext project, we have recently defined four sections of the web site:

  1. archival data (hmt-data)
  2. technical documentation (hmt-doc)
  3. programs developed for the HMT (hmt-code)
  4. end-user applications (hmt-apps)
The content is written in markdown in four repositories hosted on  The markdown pages are converted to HTML5 and formatted for inclusion in the HMT web site using mdweb,  a minimal system for managing structured documentation in markdown syntax which you can find among our first listings in the new hmt-code section of the site (here).

We hope that with this very lightweight documentation system we will be able to keep these sections of the web site up to date more easily.  The new system has already simplified mirroring those sections of the HMT web site:  you can currently find clones of all four sections on

To coordinate blog entries here with content on the web site, we will include tags parallel to the four web site sections (data, doc, code, apps) on discussion here relevant to one of those sections.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

University of Houston High Performance Computing Center

The High Performance Computing Center at the University of Houston has provided invaluable support to the Homer Multitext project for several years.  If you have ever used one of our zoomable images, the stream of image data comes from, a machine dedicated to the Homer Multitext project's work.  In January when I visited the University of Houston, part of the warm hospitality included a tour of the astonishing facilities there. is part of this massive rack

Later this spring, HPCC extended their support by creating a second, virtual machine where we can test software in development before moving better tested, stable versions to amphoreus.  One of our first experiences on the test machine has been to use Nexus, a repository management system, as a way to publish versioned packages of software, textual editions and other material created by the HMT project.

Left, Keith Crabb, director of HPCC;  right, Alan Pfeiffer-Traum, system managing magician; center, I attempt to impersonate a professor in a suit.
This support is allowing us to reorganize both the way we make our archival material available to others, and the way we automatically use our archival material internally within the HMT project.  We'll post more details here as new parts of our reorganized system are publicly released.  Meanwhile, once again, thanks to Keith Crabb, the manager of the High Performance Computing Center at UH, and to Alan Pfeiffer-Traum, the system administrator who keeps everything running around the clock.  Their support for the work of HMT editor Casey Dué, and for the HMT project as a whole, is dramatically changing the ways our material will reach the internet.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

“Some examples…”

A phrase we try to avoid in every aspect of our work on the Homer Multitext is “some examples”.

This phrase is a hallmark of an older school of scholarship, in which select experts had exclusive access to the data on which knowledge depends. When these experts published their discoveries and insights, they would support their arguments with “some examples”.

This was not scientific scholarship, where “scientific” means “reproducible”. “Some examples” are clearly marked as a sub-set of the data behind the argument, whose authors built their expertise on a super-set of the data that they made available to the reading public.

Obviously, the physical and economic limitations of traditional print publication generally precluded publishing exhaustive sets of data, especially for scholarship that involved artifacts like manuscripts. But whether intentional or not, “some examples” are explicitly not an invitation to follow the trail of thought, discovery, and insight.

For the Homer Multitext, we think it is important to expose every bit of data we have, before we try to make arguments about it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Manuscript Collation in the 21st Century

It seems worth restating an obvious benefit that the on-line publication of high resolution images of multiple Homeric manuscripts offers. As was made clear to us again and again during our recent two week summer seminar, when you find something in a manuscript that you don't understand, it is often illuminating to look at other manuscripts. When Martin West or Helmut Van Thiel made their editions of the Iliad, if they wanted to check the contents of the Venetus A directly, they had to make a costly trip to Venice, where they might be allowed to look at the manuscript for a few hours, perhaps, if they were very lucky, over the course of a few days. (When our team was in Venice, we were able to in fact see the handwritten log of visitors that recorded these visits.) If West or Van Thiel noticed something that reminded them, however vaguely, of something they had seen in one of the Escorial manuscripts in Spain, another costly and time consuming trip would have been required to make a comparison. (I believe Martin West was in fact able to make use of a microfilm provided by the Esorial, as have we before we photographed those manuscripts. But he almost certainly was not able to use that microfilm while looking at the Venetus A.) Last week at the seminar, we were able to make direct comparisons again and again between manuscripts that have perhaps never been in the same room. So for example, when students noticed a particular siglum in book 7 of the Venetus A that was used to connect a small subset of intermarginal scholia with the word being commented upon in the poem — a method of linking not typical in the Venetus A, which relies instead upon placement and lemmata to connect text and scholia —we were immediately able to look at Escorial manuscript Ω.1.12 (E4), which makes use of a similar siglum for a particular group of scholia in that manuscript.

In the next month we are planning to make available on a test server an all new manuscript browser. Unlike previous versions, this one will be able to display all of our data, and it will do so in a way that will make perfectly clear the relationships between all the different materials we have collected so far. So for example, you'll be able to ask for line 1.1 of the Iliad, and you'll get a page that will give you the option to also display, in addition to the Greek text of any given manuscript for which we have a diplomatic edition, the manuscript folios and papyri that contain that verse, and what scholia comment upon it. The more editions that we create and publish, the more options there will be for you to choose from. So very soon you will able to collate manuscripts from Spain and Venice (and Geneva and London and so on) side by side, something that has never before been realistically possible. The system will always be a work in progress, in that we will continue to feed it new data as we acquire or create it, but the tools themselves that will enable such browsing are elegant, simple, and flexible — not to mention open source and platform independent. We look forward to sharing this exciting new development with you soon.

The Venetus A and Escorial manuscript Ω.1.12 side by side

Sunday, July 8, 2012

e-codices project chooses Creative Commons license

For anyone interested in Greek and Latin manuscripts, the scholarly landscape changed dramatically last week when the e-codices project announced that all its material is now available under a Creative Commons license.  For several years, the e-codices project has been putting high-resolution digital photography of manuscripts, together with exemplary cataloging information, on line.   Now, you can reuse its photography of more than 900 manuscripts under the terms of CC's Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported license.

So if you'd like to start work on Cod. Bodmer 85, a manuscript of the Iliad with scholia, you are free to download and work with any of the e-codices photographs, and you are permitted to "copy, distribute and transmit the work" for non-commercial purposes provided you include proper attribution to e-codices.

All of the Homer Multitext project's original digital photography is licensed with CC licenses, too.  We'll certainly be thinking hard about how best to interact with and reuse CC-licensed material from other sources — now including e-codices. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Student Presentations at the CHS Summer Seminar 2012

What's going on here?

Folio 98v of the Venetus A

As Mary Ebbott noted in the last post, teams of undergraduates and faculty members have been hard at work at the CHS this week, creating a diplomatic edition of the text and scholia of book 7 of the Iliad in the Venetus A manuscript. As each team has grappled with the folios of this incredibly complex tenth-century document, they have each begun to explore different problems or items of interest. Today, the students gave preliminary presentations about their work. The topics ranged from the layout of the scholia on particular folios to the means of linking scholia to the text of the poem to the exploration of the implications of particular scholia. The work of each group has resulted not only in work that has never been done before, but work that has never before been possible. Never before have we had the ability to closely compare manuscripts that reside separately in Spain and Italy for example, nor have we ever had the data and the tools to perform the kind of searches and collations and calculations that are now possible.

Each team will continue to both expand and refine their research in the coming months for a variety of audiences, including this blog and various research symposia. This two week seminar has only been the beginning of their research and their participation in the Homer Multitext. So please stay tuned for more about their work. 

As for what's going on in this image, you'll have to wait for the students to tell you more. But it is not as simple as it may seem at first glance. Take a closer look, and see what you think.

Detail from folio 98v of the Venetus A

Monday, July 2, 2012

Week One of the CHS summer seminar 2012

The first week of the Center for Hellenic Studies summer seminar introduced nine undergraduates and their faculty mentors from four colleges/universities (University of Washington, Trinity University in San Antonio, Furman University, College of the Holy Cross) to the Homer Multitext (HMT): its goals, theoretical foundations, and methods. These students began working on a digital edition of Iliad 7 of the Venetus A manuscript. Using the high-resolution digital photographs published through the HMT, the students learned the “palaeography” of the manuscript, the handwriting used and the system of abbreviations and ligatures that the scribe employed. They were also introduced to using XML mark-up for their digital editions. Their first task was to read the manuscript and create a digital diplomatic edition of the poetic text of Iliad 7. The students work in teams of two or three, and each team has multiple folios to complete. The teams were then introduced to the methods for creating an inventory of the scholia, the marginal scholarly commentary (see Recapturing a Homeric Legacy, Chapter 1 by Blackwell & Dué for a description of what is found on the pages of the Venetus A). The inventory is linked to the digital images, so that the user can easily and rapidly check the edition against the manuscript itself. The students then learned how to create a diplomatic edition of the scholia in XML, including mark-up for features such as personal names, place names, and quotations.

Iliad 7 opens with the return of Hektor and Paris to the battlefield, and then recounts the duel between Hektor and Ajax, the Trojan assembly’s discussion of whether they should return Helen (they ultimately offer to return her possessions, but not Helen herself—the Achaeans reject that offer), and the famously controversial building of the Achaean wall. This week the students will finish creating their editions of the scholia in Iliad 7 in the Venetus A and will discover how the ancient commentators thought about these parts of the poem. Once again, stay tuned for more!
Folio 91r of the Venetus A, with the beginning of Iliad 7