Archive for the ‘Encyclopedia’ Category

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Resource Review: LIMCicon and LIMCbiblio

May 18, 2012

I have mentioned before that LIMC – Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae – is one of my favorite Classics reference resources, so I was excited to receive notice of an online version of LIMC through The Ancient World Online. Upon review it’s not quite what I was expecting, and it might not be a the best place to send undergraduates, but it’s a wonderful, free online resource for the serious study of classical myth and religion.

The first important thing to note is that LIMCicon, the main of the three databases at the site, is NOT a digital version of the print LIMC volumes, which was what I was expecting.  (It nicely tells you this on the landing page.) Instead, it contains “contains the iconographical documents kept both in France and elsewhere that have been catalogued and analysed by the French LIMC team.”  Thus, it is a searchable database of the visual sources used in compiling LIMC (although, as the site states clearly, it is not comprehensive of everything published in the print volumes, and adds material not in the print volumes.)

The “detailed search” interface for LIMCicon is complex. I found it simplest to choose the name of the mythical figure I wanted from the scroll-down list available under Iconography; I would guess this would be useful for many researchers, who want images of Apollo or Hera.  One can also choose an iconographic keyword – “drinking horn”, “abduction” – to find images with these elements.  The results display in a short list; clicking on the image will take one to a full digital “ID card” for the object, with the essential information about it, including bibliography, and close-up images.  Unfortunately for the majority of results, no images are available in LIMCicon; to actually see the images, one must search elsewhere, often in a print-only reference.  I would guess this had to do with copyright issues in an open digital resource.  The “expert search” allows the researcher to combine searches using Boolean operators; one is cautioned that it is not fully implemented.

LIMCbiblio, the second database, is an important source of bibliography on classical mythology and religion.  I couldn’t find an explicit statement of what is included, but I think it covers additions to the bibliographies published for each entry in the print LIMC volumes. As a result, the dates vary by topic, with the earliest citations about 1984, and with citations coming down to the late 2000s.  Bibliographic citations include books and articles, and are in multiple languages (I saw one in Polish, so they extend beyond the major European languages.) The database can be searched by the entry titles that have appeared in the print LIMC volumes (generally the names of important mythological and religious figures); these can also be chosen from a scrollable alphabetical list. Bibliographic citations about specific images included in the LIMCicon database are included, and can be searched for specifically, although they also show up when you search by entry/topic.

LIMCabrev is fairly straightforward searchable database of the bibliographical abbreviations used by LIMC.  It works in both directions: one can choose an abbreviation (available in a scrollable alphabetized list) and see what the full title is, or find a title and see the abbreviation LIMC uses.  This part of the site should be included, with the American Journal of Archaeology and Aristarchos, in the scholar’s free digital toolkit for deciphering obscure journal and series title abbreviations.

Overall, the site is stylistically similar to many serious scholarly websites in Classics; it is rather dense and the search interfaces are especially visually cluttered (although very detailed).  The entire site is available in French, English, German, Greek, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Hungarian, and Arabic interfaces (I didn’t test all of them!)  Unicode is used for non-Roman characters.  Free registration is required, and somewhat detailed personal information is requested.  There is also a detailed statement about intellectual property.  I did not try to fill out the required fields with false data to see if I could be truly anonymous, but if you’d like to try, let me know if it works. Upon registering, I got a screen that seemed to imply my registration had not worked, but then when I tried to log in using the account I had just created, it worked, so don’t let that stop you.

Who is it for?

Although the interface is available in English, this isn’t a great site for undergraduates as a whole; it’s too complex, and doesn’t give a 100-level Mythology student what he really needs (the basics).  I would show it to honors or upper-level classes doing projects in classical mythology or classical art history/archaeology involving images of the gods and mythical figures; the LIMCbiblio section gives valuable references to complement and bring up to date the print volumes, and LIMBicon gives a nice listing of images.  For graduate students and faculty doing research in these fields, it is an excellent and useful resource, although it does not replace the print volumes.

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Dipping my toes into Wikipedia

April 7, 2011

I have talked a lot about the inevitability that students and the general public will turn to Wikipedia as a first resort for information about the ancient world.  But I’d never actually edited a Wikipedia entry.  Then @palaeofuturist (Gabriel Bodard) issued a challenge on Twitter:

How about a #classics #wikipedia hack day? Ask every classicist: “What’s the worst thing about classics coverage in wikipedia?” Then fix it!

I’m not sure how to make a lot of classical scholars edit Wikipedia – though I do like the  idea of a workshop in a department to introduce the concept and provide some basic training.  But I am sure how to make myself edit Wikipedia – sign up and do it.

So I did.  The first step is easy – creating an account is painless and requires only a username and password, not even an email address.  I used my real name – I don’t plan to get into any Wikipedia flame wars, I hope!

Since the discovery of an early-period Linear B tablet at Iklaina has been in the news this week, I thought I’d check to see if this new information had yet been added to the Wikipedia entry on Linear B.  The answer was barely – an added-on sentence in the Chronology section, not integrated into the article as a whole.

So, I prepared to edit the entry.

And then I got stuck before I even began, overwhelmed by the infelicities of the article and deciding on what ought to be covered and how it should be covered better – and I am by no means a specialist in Linear B!  THIS is why scholars don’t spend their time improving Wikipedia entries – it’s actually far harder to edit an article built in layers over years by many people than it is to write an article from scratch. And with the possibility that my edits would simply be reverted by possessive former editors of the article (hypothesized as one reason women are less likely to edit Wikipedia than men), I was doubly daunted.

I’m honestly not sure how to go forward.  I’m really interested in the way I’m feeling about this, but not yet able to articulate it well.  Crowdsourcing is complicated, I guess because the people who make up the crowd are complicated.

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Resource Reviews: Ancient Philosophy

March 30, 2011

The UGA Classics department does not specialize in ancient philosophy; the philosophy department does have a 3000-level class on ancient philosophy. But philosophy comes up all the time in my work with classics students. For example, last semester I worked with an undergraduate who was looking at a relief sculpture and wanted to tie in Plato’s allegory of the cave, so we tried to get a sense of what contemporary attitudes towards and knowledge of Plato would have been (in the later Hellenistic period.)

We have relatively few works in the Reference department in the Main Library at UGA, but we do have the big ones:

  • Guthrie, A History of Greek Philosophy (1962-1981, 6 volumes), Main Reference B171 .G984h (with another copy on the 6th floor available for checkout.) Jenkins discusses this as no. 867, calling it “long established as the standard work in the field.” The six volumes cover the Presocratic philosophers through Aristotle, and focus on discussion of the philosophical works themselves. While Jenkins calls Guthrie “accessible to the lay reader” it is probably for more sophisticated undergraduates or graduate students, not entry-level students.
  • Armstrong,The Cambridge history of later Greek and early medieval philosophy (1967), Main Reference B171 .A79 (also with a circulating copy on the 6th floor.)  This edited volume covers the period from the 4th century BCE to the 12th century CE, giving  “a good general survey of later Greek philosophy and its influence.” (Jenkins no. 863)
  • Zeyl, et al., Encyclopedia of classical philosophy (Greenwood Press, 1997) Main Reference B163 .E53 1997. Jenkins (no. 883) calls this work “an excellent encyclopedia,” and it is where I would send most entry-level students.  It has signed articles with scholarly bibliographies, and covers philosophers and philosophic schools from the 6th century BCE to the 6th century CE.

We also have:

  • Preus, Historical Dictionary of Ancient Greek Philosophy (Scarecrow Press, 2007), Main Reference B111 .P74 2007.  This came out too late to be reviewed by Jenkins.  It is a dictionary, with short entries of a paragraph or two. It is definitely aimed at undergraduates, and might be most useful for those looking for definitions of common philosophical terms and concepts, though it does have thumbnail sketches of specific philosophers and movements.
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Crowdsource Pleiades, Online Classical Atlas

January 24, 2011

Pleiades, the online classical atlas, is inviting the (scholarly) public to “adopt” a classical place for Valentine’s Day.  Tom Elliot at Horothesia writes:

Here are some examples of things you could do (many of them quickly) to enhance the content in Pleiades:

Here are some ways you could use links to Pleiades to enrich content elsewhere on the web

I’m trying to decide what place to adopt; since Pleiades only covers the Greek and Roman world, my favorite Bronze Age sites are not included.  (Ooh, I just thought of one for me – I’ll do Halieis!)  Surely you have a favorite, too?

I’m also writing to a couple of the faculty members I work with to suggest this as an assignment for their classes – even as an optional, extra-credit sort of assignment.  In Classics this semester there’s a 2000-level class in Classical Archaeology and a 4000-level class in Roman Cities, where the major semester assignment is to report on a specific place – this would fit right in to either, and since we lost a week at the start of the semester, syllabi are still in flux for many faculty.

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Resource Reviews: Mediterranean and Greek Religion

January 20, 2011

Jenkins treats mythology and religion in the same chapter, but the works I will discuss below are rather different from the mythology dictionaries I have highlighted thus far, in several posts (LIMC, mythology web sites, basic print mythology dictionaries, and specialized mythology dictionaries).  They take a more wide-ranging view of ancient religion, encompassing cult, belief, ritual, and more.  Today I’ll cover a general work and then some basic resources on Greek religion.

Mediterranean:

Johnston, Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide (2004).  Main Library 6th floor, BL687 .R47 2004
This is categorized as a reference work – I’d call it an encyclopedia – but it could also be used as a textbook for a general class on religion in the ancient world (where that is defined as the Near East and Mediterranean).  It’s listed at only $40 at Amazon, so it’s affordable enough to use for a textbook, too.  The books falls in three parts: the first on big topics like “what is ancient religion,” mythology, and cosmology; the second on the religions of specific cultures (Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Etruria, etc.); and the third on cross-cultural takes on topics like divination, sacrifice, and sacred time and space.  Each essay has a short bibliography.  Jenkins (no. 912) notes that the “approach to the whole Mediterranean as a region of interrelated cultures that were constantly interacting is a great strength.”

Greek:

Burkert, Greek Religion (1985). Main Library 6th floor, BL782 .B8313 1985b
You’ve probably read it, if you read this blog.   It’s not really a reference work, but like a good reference work provides an excellent overview of all sorts of sub-topics and includes a bibliography; it’s frequently used as a textbook. Jenkins (no. 900) rightly calls it “the standard work in English on ancient Greek religion.”

Bremmer, Greek Religion (1994). Main Library 3rd floor, PA25 .G7 no. 24
This is a bibliographic survey of the topic, with a focus on (then-current) work. Jenkins (no. 886) praises the index especially.

Motte, Mentor: Guide bibliographique de la religion grecque Main Library 6th floor, BL782 .M46 1992 and Mentor 2, Main Library 6th floor, BL782 .M46 1998
These are annotated bibliographies; Jenkins (no. 887-888) calls them “substantial” and notes that they both “summarize and evaluate.”  The first volume covers work published through 1985; the second, 1986-1990; between them, some 3370 scholarly works are listed.  Unfortunately “access by subject is generally inadequate” although this is a more extensive work than Bremmer’s.

All of the 337 works classified by the UGA Libraries under the subject heading Greece — Religion can be perused in the catalog.

GR06 1353 Twins of Argos - Delphi

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Reference Resources: Specialized Mythology Dictionaries

December 16, 2010

Previous roundups on classical mythology have covered LIMC, mythology web sites, and basic print mythology dictionaries.  Today I highlight some more specialized and focused mythology resources:

  • R. Bell, Dictionary of Classical Mythology: Symbols, Attributes, and Associations (Main Reference, 1st Floor, BL715 .B44 1982).  This work is useful for those looking to approach myths in a slightly different way – i.e. by looking for all figures and stories associated with bears, sickles, or some other attribute or association.  Jenkins discusses this as no. 897, describing it as “an excellent companion work” to a more traditional mythology dictionary organized by personages, although because it provides little summary of the myths, it cannot stand alone as a mythology reference.
  • R. Bell, Women of Classical Mythology: A Biographical Dictionary (Main Reference, 1st Floor,  BL715 .B445 1991).  This work covers female figures in Greek and Roman myths, and includes many very obscure ones, so some entries are quite short.  Jenkins (no. 898) calls it “particularly good for differentiating among characters of the same name and for identifying obscure epithets of the goddesses.”

Archaic Athena, Old Temple of Athena
Many western literature classes need a resource for classical myths as they appear in post-classical sources.  The following are quite useful:

  • Brumble, Classical Myths and Legends in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (Main Reference, 1st Floor,  PN669 .B78 1998).  Jenkins (no. 899) praises Brumble for his “lengthy annotated bibliography of primary [medieval and Renaissance] sources” but warns that he “covers only those mythical figures who are used allegorically in later literature, so some otherwise important figures are omitted.”
  • Reid, Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1300-1900s (Main Reference, 1st Floor, NX650 .M9 R45 1993).  I have found this work to be useful for both literary and artistic depictions of myths in tyhe periods covered, although its main strength, as Jenkins (no. 921) notes, is its “very full” listing of “more than 30,000 works of art.”  Works are listed chronologically under each myth or figure, and artworks and literature are interfiled, with good detail (current locations and artists, or publication information).

This last is in the Repository (off-campus storage) at UGA, but I can’t resist mentioning it because I have an ongoing interest in names and naming!:

  • NTC’s Classical Dictionary: The Origins of Names of Characters in Classical Mythology (1992). I haven’t looked at this personally, but it covers 1000 proper names from Greek and Roman myths and their etymologies; Jenkins (no. 922) calls it “interesting, if sometimes speculative.” (In the Repository.)

Next up in resource reviews: resources for the study of ancient religion, which is usually treated in a quite separate context from mythology.

 

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Print Mythology Dictionaries

December 10, 2010

I have discussed LIMC and classical mythology websites in earlier posts, so will continue the topic of mythology with a discussion of  print resources we have at UGA for classical myth.

Jenkins recommends two top print reference works in Classical Mythology.  Neither of these are currently in Reference at UGA:

  • Pierre Grimal’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology (Main Library 6th floor, BL715 .G713 1986; Jenkins no. 906) is described as “the best of the many general dictionaries of Greek and Roman mythology in English,” and is of special value for its “scholarly apparatus.”  UGA also has the French edition, of which the above is a translation: Dictionnaire de la mythologie grecque et romaine.  The concise edition in English (Jenkins no. 907) was recently sent to the Repository.
  • Jenkins (no. 931) favors Tripp, Crowell’s Handbook of Classical Mythology (Main Library 6th floor, BL303 .T75 1970, also, under a different title, the 1974 edition) for its “very full and accurate account of the myths,” although it is more targeted to the scholar encountering references to classical myths in western literature than to the classical scholar.

In the Reference Department are a few general works:

  • Dixon-Kennedy, Encyclopedia of Greco-Roman Mythology (Main Reference, 1st Floor, BL715 .D56 1998).  Jenkins (no. 902) describes this as ” a suitable ready-reference for students,” noting that it has entries for places and ancient authors, not just mythological personages.
  • Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion (Main Reference, First Floor, BL715 .O845 2003; Jenkins, no. 920) consists of edited entries relevant to classical mythology taken from the Oxford Classical Dictionary.  Jenkins calls it “useful” but notes that the entries do not include bibliographies of secondary literature, so for most students researching for papers the OCD would be more useful.

Recently exiled to the Repository, in my opinion by mistake, and I am trying to wrest it back to Reference, is:

  • March, Cassell Dictionary of Classical Mythology (Main Reference, 1st Floor, BL715 .M37 1998, temporarily shelved at the Repository; Jenkins no. 914).  This in my opinion is the modern Reference standard – I suspect this is the volume most often kept on “ready reference” shelves (in libraries that still have those!).  Jenkins notes that the 1998 edition (which is the one we have) has “excellent black-and-white illustrations.”  He compares it “favorably” with Grimal, above.

A subject heading search in the UGA catalog for Mythology – Dictionaries (which will include some non-classical works; for the most recent works the heading is Mythology, Classical – Dictionaries) will pull up the rest.  I’ll discuss a few more specialized mythology dictionaries, and reference resources for ancient religion as distinct from myth, in future posts.

Mighty Aphrodite -- Lely's Venus