Open Access Links of Note

This features novel, interesting, useful, and creative open access resources in Classics.

September-October 2021

This time I am highlighting two links: ZODIAC – Ancient Astral Science in Transformation which describes how in the 5th century BCE, the introduction of the zodiac in Babylonia marked a turning point in human culture and science. From Babylonia, zodiacal astral science spread to Egypt, the Greco-Roman world, and beyond. Virtually everyone knows their zodiac sign whether they are believers or not. In this day of post-truths, misinformation, superstition, and conspiracies, belief in the stars seems almost quaint and innocuous (note the grief, probably justified, President Reagan and his wife received when it was revealed that they consulted their astrologer before making decisions). It is noteworthy that science -- mathematics and physics -- actually had its foundation in the study of stars, astrology. The site is hosted at the Institute for the History of Science in the Ancient World at Freie Universität Berlin. ZODIAC’s interdisciplinary approach conceives astral science as interconnected astronomical, astrological, mathematical, religious and social practices. 

The other link is Trapezites which is an ancient currency converter and marketplace simulator. "Step into the sandals of the ancients and spend your drachmae, denarii, and shekels. Learn about ancient money, what it was worth, and what things cost!" Filters include region and date range. You declare what you have, e.g., 2 Aeginetan obols and what you want, e.g., Etruscan standard. You, a resident of Aegina, will learn how much you need in the currency of your choice to trade your merchandise with the Etruscans.

August 2021

This is funny though not very fair. An Italian-American asks Romans (i.e., residents of contemporary Rome) for directions in classical Latin. Instead of asking shopkeepers, he could have approached students at a liceo classico (classics high school) or a seminary in Rome where everyone would have understood the Latin. I suspect that contemporary Athenians would recognize ancient Greek. Hope someone conducts that experiment.  

August 2020

It's the middle of August, summer is coming to an end, and the UC Classics Library is due to reopen to limited browsing for classics faculty and students.  The pandemic is not letting up in either Ohio or in many other states with more than 5 million confirmed cases and 169,146 deaths to date. The opposition to masks and social distancing is strong. All seems to be coming to a head with the climate crisis growing at an alarming rate and the financial situation of many with unemployment and homelessness reaching new heights. Then there is gender and racial injustice giving rise to the Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements. This month's open access link is a working document 'Archaeology in the Time of Black Lives Matter' Resources List , coming out of a virtual panel discussion from June-July of this year focusing mainly on post-classical North American and African anthropology organized by the Society of Black Archaeologists, the Theoretical Archaeology Group (North America), and the Columbia Center for Archaeology. A recording of the discussion can be found at Vimeo . It has now been 33 years since the publication of Martin Bernal's controversial Black Athena. In spite of much to criticize, the book did begin to question the Eurocentric view of classical antiquity and history more broadly. However, the anthropocentric, androcentric, and Eurocentric interpretations of white, generally, upper middle class, European male archaeologists in the late 1800s still guide much of classical archaeology with some notable exceptions, which is why this resources list is important for when we develop courses, course materials, and syllabi.  A challenge that continues to be largely unmet is recruiting students of color to the field of archaeology, especially to classical archaeology, and greater black community engagement to help examine in earnest some persistent though perhaps not always accurate perceptions of antiquity. Examination of structural racism and sexism need to be incorporated into archaeology and anthropology curricula, including removing words such as "primitive," "barbaric," and "civilization" from our teaching and writing vocabulary. As Kamala Harris was just named vice presidential candidate as the first woman of color, the importance of role models has also been highlighted. If the founders of the field of archaeology or even an Indiana Jones had been black and/or a woman, we may have seen many more young people of color pursuing archaeology. If classical archaeology and classical studies in general hope to not only survive but also thrive, reaching out to groups currently not well represented becomes necessary.  In addition, scholarship that engages students from different backgrounds whether racial, ethnic, national, religious, gender, emotional/sexual, physical ability, age, class, etc., becomes infinitely more interesting and compelling. 

July 2020

It's the Fourth of July, Independence Day here in the U.S. It's difficult to be a proud American at this moment. Whereas most countries in Europe are seeing a decrease in corona virus cases, the U.S. sees spikes in many states, including Ohio. Today's official U.S. case count is 2,836,764 and death count 129,657 compared to Italy's 34,854 and Greece's 192(!). To continue on this pessimistic theme; this month's open access link has the somewhat ominous title Save Ancient Studies in America (SASA) . The name of a new non-profit organization reminds us that high school and college courses in the humanities in general and classics in particular have diminished and classics departments even abolished or blended.   

"The value of college education in America is changing. The concept of the Liberal Arts education as fundamental to building democratic, worldly American citizens is greatly diminished. In its place has risen a careerist, bottom-line-oriented attitude, in both the student body and their parents. Engaging with the fundamental texts and ideas of the modern, enlightened intellectual enterprise is losing its appeal, as the sciences, technologies, and industries flourish."

On the other hand, as SASA notes, there is great interest in classical antiquity among the general public -- shows that deal with antiquity are some of the most popular on the Discovery, History, Travel, and National Geographic channels and there have been a whole slew of books and movies with ancient themes produced in recent years.  A couple of years ago, I identified some reasons for a classics library on our library's website in the eternal uphill battle of justification: Why have a Classics Library in 21st Century America?  

SASA was formed to go to battle to save interest in and understanding of classical antiquity, its democratic aspirations and values, its art and science, and ultimately, I guess, also livelihoods. To this end it has identified four goals:

  1. Inspire passion for Ancient Studies in high school, undergraduate, and graduate students;

  2. Gather and provide content, tools, and instructions online to enable easier access to the study of ancient times;

  3. Recruit a community of Ancient Studies students, professionals & enthusiasts to further the cause;

  4. Develop, advocate for, and support scholarly life for graduates who work in non-academic fields.

The website pretty much consists of a call for donations and volunteers. It ends with the hopeful prediction: "Together we will Save Ancient Studies in America!"

An interesting project to further ancient culture and make it more relevant to contemporary discourse is the Latin Novella Database which examines diverse and multicultural identities or "parallel cultures", including gender and sexual identities, religion, SES/class, disabilities, developmental differences and chronic illnesses in a Roman context in children's books.

If you need an additional boost, this website, Classical Studies Support, created during the pandemic, features a number of interviews with classicists about ancient sources of comfort and inspiration to them. 

Happy 4th!

June 2020

It's June 8 and corona virus cases continue to grow. The U.S. tops the list of cases with 1,942,363 individuals, followed by Brazil with 691,751. To date there have been 110,514 confirmed corona virus deaths in the U.S.  Travel bans are beginning to be lifted; however, Americans can still not enter the Euro zone. With this in mind, we continue with the tours theme, this one of a virtual 3D reconstruction of a site visited by many school children and college students -- Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli  (ancient Tibur).

From 2002 to 2012 the Virtual World Heritage Laboratory created a 3D model of Hadrian's Villa, a UNESCO World Heritage site located by the town of Tivoli, just north-east of Rome, as it appeared toward the end of the lifetime of the Emperor Hadrian (CE 76-138). Director of the project was Bernard Frischer at the University of Virginia and Associate Director John Fillwalk at Ball State University. 

The Digital Hadrian's Villa Project (video with voice, overviews and explanations)
The Digital Hadrian's Villa Project (video with music and animated segments)
The Digital Hadrian's Villa Project (website)

This is helpful when trying to get a handle on the sheer size (and quite exhausting walk) of the sprawling villa complex and to picture what it once may have looked like. I wish I had had this at my disposal on my many visits as a high school student and as both an undergradate and graduate student. The gypsum model in the museum was always helpful, but these videos and the many models and aerials on the website make the ancient villa complex come alive. The video with voice and Mozart in the background should be used in tandem with the website. The video without voice focuses on the opulence and beauty of individual buildings, temples, libraries, art galleries, sculptures, pools, baths, fountains, gardens, and ornamental details, many of which are based on educated "guesswork."  The panoramas on the website are most helpful as are the still photographs, maps, aerials, and 3D models, including gaming avatars. One small criticism is that I wish the 3D model had a browsing function in addition to the search window. Also, had the project been released in 2020, it would no doubt have had an interactive component whereby the virtual visitor could "walk around" using the mouse to pan areas and buildings, zoom in on details, and be able to click on written descriptions and explanations. However, there is also joy in just sitting back, no need to interact or click or zoom, and listen to the music in the second video, and ooh and aah at Emperor Hadrian's summer house, not worrying about the slave labor and mules used and abused in the multi-year construction of it. Hadrian is generally described as a philhellene, a lover of the arts, preferring peace and consolidation to war and conquest, but he, like many wealthy Romans, believed in slavery and in power and wealth afforded to the few rather than the many.     

When visiting Hadrian's Villa a tour of one of the finest examples of renaissance architecture and gardening, Villa d'Este, is obligatory. 

May 2020

It's May 2020, the death toll from the pandemic keeps rising. On April 11 (see below) it was c. 20,000 people in the U.S. alone. Now (5/1) it is more than 60,000! It is difficult to feel confident and safe and positive. However, there are some nice, interesting and potentially important developments; one being that wild non-human animal and plant species are thriving. In a recent interview with well-known British journalist and naturalist David Attenborough, he recounted that when he started his career, 66 percent of the earth's land consisted of wilderness. Now it's down to 25 percent. The human animal has grabbed almost all land in our hubris and eternal quest for material happiness. At a beach in Andalusia, Spain, normally filled with human sun-bathers, a doe is jumping and dancing of joy, running in and out of the waves. In Turin, Italy, a family of 20 ducks are strolling on a highway, normally filled with cars that would have decimated the family had it not been for the times we are in. The air has not been cleaner in decades, great for all those suffering from asthma, which is ironic since COVID-19 is a virus affecting the respiratory system, so your health is both potentially threatened and improved. Faculty, students, and library staff have discovered that telecommunication and telecommuting work, that reading books and articles online is possible. The paperless society and remote work we have been told to expect for the past 30 years or so may perhaps now become a reality? We could learn that personal and environmental hygiene matters and that maybe we can do with less. A wonderful friend, a cat lady in her late 70s in Rome, Italy, told me that when she was growing up in the mountains of Marche, they used leaves as "toilet paper". Interestingly, last night I saw a story on PBS about a woman making plates using leaves instead of plastic. We learn that with many workers in slaughterhouses being ill with the virus, our "food supply" is threatened. Of course, it's only an issue if you choose to eat flesh instead of vegetables. Perhaps the pandemic could lead humans to consume healthier, more humane, and better for the environment, foods? One aspect that is both positive and negative is the travel ban. It's great for the air we breathe and the water we drink, but it has put a damper on our vacation plans. I had already bought a ticket to travel to Europe in a month. Now I will have to make do with What's App and ProWalk Tours . The latter is not a bad substitute. The three hour walking tour of Florence, Italy, for example, is amazing. I have walked those streets numerous times to and from work and the video tour makes me feel as if I am there again. Other remarkable walking, hiking, and drone tours include those of Forum Romanum, the Colosseum, the Palatine Hill, Pompeii, Herculaneum, the breath-taking Amalfi Coast, Egypt's Archaeological Museum, the Pyramids of Giza, and much more. An unusual feature that makes these tours different is that in addition to the actual walks made by the camera crew, all you hear are environmental sounds whether of traffic, people talking in the background, or birds singing instead of the often brief, well-rehearsed, sometimes innacurate script of tour guides. I know it's not the same as being there, but since that is not an option, at least not this summer, these virtual tours are the next best thing. Check them out!            

April 2020

It's April 2020, a remarkable and in many ways surreal month. As I was writing the blurb about the March OA link, I had no idea what was to come. It's difficult to collect one's thoughts towards something so mundane and insignificant as OA links. I am thinking that if I am to die in a couple of weeks, I would not want to have spent my last days this way. I am half joking of course although I suspect that many at UC have similar thoughts. How can one not when viewing Johns Hopkins tracking COVID-19 system showing more than 100,000 dead globally and more than 20,000 in the U.S. (4/11/20)? If you are interested in what the scientific community has to say about COVID-19, Google Scholar has assembled a number of peer-reviewed articles by publication and publisher. If you are looking for a reduction to personal stress, you might want to check out this site Daily Free Live -- Online Community Practice. A couple of my friends are remarkably productive in making much progress on their respective books.  Others struggle with both motivation and focus. A helpful page for teachers facing online classes for the first time is a blog by Ramon Goings, Ass. Prof. in Educational Leadership at Loyola U. Maryland. 

However, since this is classics, let's forget about contemporary woes for a moment and look to the past. Classicists, of course, know that there is nothing new under the sun. We have been here before. Every Italian can quote from Alessandro Manzoni's I promessi sposi (The Betrothed), first published in 1827. It's a multivolume work not much read in the U.S., but a work of national pride for Italians. It has gained recent relevancy because of Manzoni's remarkably insightful and detailed account in chapter 31 of his work describing the plague of 1629-31 in Milan and nothern Italy, an area much affected also today.  Manzoni's account highlights many of the current debates around the corona virus -- late and confused responses, denials, contradictions among some political leaders and scientists, fantastic remedies, conspiracy theories of origins, search for patient zero and antidotes, xenophobia, urban congestion, poor hygiene, pollution from the slaughter of non-human animals whether at so called wet markets in China, factory farms in the west, or the blood and urine of slaughtered animals affecting the sewage system of 17th century Milan. Bethany Cortale's blog gives food for thought (forgive the pun).

There are a number of famous ancient accounts of epidemics and pandemics as well with many of the same elements including two about the plague of Athens in 430 BCE by a contemporary, the historian Thucydides (c. 460-c.400 BCE)  (book 2, chapter VII), and the much later Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius (c. 99-c.55 BCE) (book 6, lines 1138-1247).  Then as now, suggested culprits included travel and trade and migration, urban congestion. The mortality rate was high among health care workers then as now. Medicines had little to no efficacy and hospitals and cemeteries were overflowing. There were epidemics also in Ancient Rome. The so called Antonine Plague erupted in 165 CE as recounted by Roman historian Cassius Dio (c. 155-c.235), writing in Greek. Just like now the world economy was threatened. In fact, it has been suggested that the extreme death toll eventually weakened the Roman empire so much that it contributed to its fall due to the reduced number of soldiers, politicians, traders, farmers, and taxpayers, i.e., revenue that was needed not only to feed its people but also to keep invaders out diminished greatly as a result of the epidemic. The scarcity of crops caused price increases and the death of many traders led to a reduction in commerce.

It's funny. I often feel comforted when I read about past disasters. I guess I realize that things could be worse. This is an amazingly realistic video from Melbourne Museum of a truly disastrous day in history called A Day In Pompeii. I will leave it up to you to guess which day. There will be better times to come, especially if we learn some of the lessons from the past and present. Let me end on a positive note (I think?) from Edwin Wong at Memorial University in Newfoundland, who is turning to Greek tragedy(?) for solace in a piece entitled:  Greek Tragedy, Black Swans, and the Coronavirus:  The Consolation of Theatre. I am thinking Deus ex Machina, a deity that comes at the end of the play to save the day or possibly the Oracle of Delphi from whom we might gain some wisdom that will allow us to find an antidote or at least some peace of mind although I am not sure that any oracular pronouncements in tragedy have been comforting. Instead, Edwin Wong asks us to think of tragedy as a risk simulator and the coronavirus as a black swan event, in part brought on by us through urbanization and globalization, i.e., if we caused it then, presumably, we could fix it by reversing the course we have laid out for ourselves and all other life on earth, although Wong seems to be more fatalistic than idealistic, more into embracing the challenges than confronting them or opposing human hubris. He concludes with an observation: "Funny how that is, how we’re in the gravest danger when we’re the most confident. This is tragedy’s legacy."   Stay safe all!

March 2020


For all interested in ancient languages and dialects, this is a great site with a number of publicly available dictionaries for languages such as Avestan, Cappadocian Greek, Carian, Cypriot Syllabic Script, Early Proto-Albanian, Eteocypriot, Etruscan, Hattic, Hittite, Linear B, C. Luwian, Lycian, Lydian, Old Norse, Palaic, Phrygian, Pre-Celtic, Pre-Greek toponyms, Proto-Altaic, Proto-Indo-European, Proto-Kartvelian, Proto-Semitic, Proto-Turkic, Safaitic, Thracian, Tocharian A, Tocharian B, Urartian (these can be browsed).

The following dictionaries can be searched, but not browsed: Aeolic Greek, Ancient Macedonian, Arcado-Cypriot Greek, Armenian, Attic Greek, Basque/Euskara, Doric Greek, Greek, Hurrian, Ionic Greek, Latin, Lemnian, Mitanni, Old Persian, Ossetian (Iron), Proto Indo-Iranian, Proto-Anatolian, Proto-Celtic, Proto-Italic, Proto-Tungus, Proto-Uralic, and Sanskrit. To find the dictionaries, click on 'Languages' from the top menu. 

Palaeolexicon is based on the work of volunteers, so there are gaps. Also, the meanings and etymologies are to reflect current research although there are many uncertainties. Most of the word translations are not sourced. However, for the lay person, this is a terrific one-stop ancient word trove. For the linguist, it is also a helpful tool with caveats. 

February 2020

Dorothy Tarrant Lecture "The Goddess and Damned Wrath: How a Linguist Reads the 'Iliad'"

By Joshua Katz, Princeton University. Lecture was held at the Institute of Classical Studies, University of London, in May 2018. This offers a deep dive into the poetic language of the Iliad 1.1-7 from the perspective of historical/comparative linguistics. Dr. Katz illustrates the comparative method by beginning with the words mother and father and moving on to analyze the first words of the Iliad, ἄειδ- and μῆνις, the latter word, interestingly, is related to the Greek word for Muse, so in spite of the seeming exclusion of the word Μοῦσα (replacing it with θεά), it is there in the word for "wrath". Hymnic long alpha in ἄειδε makes the word itself sing and why use θεά instead of θεή when the language is Ionic?  He sees examples of oral performance through the written text. The aorist middle participle οὐλομένην, he argues, may originally have been οὐλομενήν, i.e., a figura etymologica with μῆνιν to be translated as "bad-mindedness". Dr. Katz manages to make a very technical discussion both informative and entertaining.  

"Μῆνιν ἄειδε, θεά, Πηληιάδεω Ἀχιλῆος οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾿ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾿ ἔθηκε, πολλὰς δ᾿ ἰφθίμους ψυχὰς Ἄϊδι προΐαψεν ἡρώων, αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν οἰωνοῖσί τε πᾶσι, Διὸς δ᾿ἐτελείετο βουλή, ἐξ οὗ δὴ τὰ πρῶτα διαστήτην ἐρίσαντε Ἀτρεΐδης τε ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν καὶ δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς."

"The wrath sing, goddess, of Peleus’ son Achilles, the accursed wrath which brought countless sorrows upon the Achaeans, and sent down to Hades many valiant souls of warriors, and made the men themselves to be the spoil for dogs and birds of every kind; and thus the will of Zeus was brought to fulfillment. Of this sing from the time when first there parted in strife Atreus’ son, lord of men, and noble Achilles."

January 2020

Virtual Tour of the Acropolis

For those who do not have the opportunity to travel to Athens or for those who wish to examine details not readily viewed on a physical tour, this interactive virtual tour from the Acropolis Restoration Service is a nice new resource. There is a Map for orientation. Using Images allows the viewer to zoom in on architectural features. There are Descriptions and Subject cross references. It is available via desktop and mobile devices. My only criticism would be that I wish that the tour was available also as an interactive video and not just via images, similar to the tour of Florence, but all in all it is a nice addition to the numerous online images and descriptions of the Acropolis that already exist.  This NOVA special about the Parthenon is also well worth seeing.

December 2019

The Digital Cicognara Library

Count Leopoldo Cicognara (1767-1834) was an artist, archaeologist, art historian, politician, bibliographer and book collector from Ferrara although he spent most of his life in Venice.  In 1821, he published at Pisa a catalog of his collection of some 5,000 books on art and archaeology, still essential for the study of the history of ancient Greek and Roman art, il Catalogo ragionato de’ libri d’arte e di antichità. In 1824, his library was purchased by Pope Leo XII for the Vatican Library.

This site under development offers open access to this collection.  Presently it features the Catalogo ragionato combined with modern bibliographic descriptions with images. When complete, the site will consist of the full text of the Catalogo, integrated with digital images and full text of every title in the corpus, including black-and-white facsimiles of the original volumes in the Vatican, high-resolution, color facsimiles of unique copies from partner libraries; and thorough bibliographic information. The collection includes treatises on art and architecture; artist and architect biographies; technical handbooks, manuals, and dictionaries of art, architecture, drawing, painting and sculpture; texts on the decorative arts; emblem books and iconographic handbooks; studies on costume, theatre and public spectacles; numismatic literature; works on aesthetics and the history and philosophy of art; topographical guides to collections and cultural sites; and early texts on the archaeology and antiquities of Greece and Rome. The texts are primarily in Italian, French, English, German, and Latin, and date from the fifteenth through the early nineteenth centuries.

November 2019

Classical Works Knowledge Base

This is a handy shortcut when looking up ancient authors and works/text passages in the TLG, PHI, Perseus, Library of Latin Texts simultaneously.   

The CWKB knowledge base assembles data about Classical works (1,550 authors and 5,200 texts, with variants forms in the main modern languages of Classical studies and common abbreviations). The knowledge base also contains the linking heuristics to the passage level for 6,732 manifestations of Classical works. CWKB does not aim at creating a new canon of Classical literature, but provides a concordance to existing canons and workID registries.

Speaking of open access texts, these Links Galore to Google Books,, HathiTrust, etc., can also be helpful.  

October 2019

Boris Johnson vs. Mary Beard

October is Halloween month. Some of the most popular and scariest disguises this year will no doubt be those of Donald Trump, the U.S. President, and Boris Johnson, the U.K. Prime Minister.  The latter declared Halloween Day, October 31, the day of Brexit, come what may. However, Britain has checks and balances, so leaving the EU without a deal is now unlawful. Johnson may not(?) have won this showdown, but before Brexit and before he became Prime Minister, he fought another battle; that time against another formidable opponent -- Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at the U. of Cambridge. Watch this entertaining debate to see if Johnson at least wins here. After all, rather ironically, he represents the "refined and sophisticated" ancient Greeks who gave us democracy against the "uncivilized and brutish" ancient Romans, represented by Beard, who ended the rule of the people in favor of a dictatorship. Johnson may be a nationalist from New York and look like Trump, but can you imagine Trump in a debate about ancient Greece and Rome? 

September 2019  

Latin Personal Pronoun Song

For all who struggle with Latin (and Ancient Greek) declinations and conjugations, here is an easy and fun, in this case also delightfully cheesy, way to learn how to decline personal pronouns in Latin. The same team has also recorded didactic songs for all five declinations.