Posts Tagged ‘mythology’

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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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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

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Resource Reviews: Mythology Web Sites

November 16, 2010

Undergraduates in entry-level survey classes like Mythology like to Google.  And Googling the name of an ancient mythological figure will certainly bring them results.  Good ones?  That’s more debatable.

Wikipedia, as with all subjects, is variable.  (I have previously posted some general thoughts on Wikipedia on this blog.)  The general article on Greek Mythology has a reasonable number of footnotes, many of them to a 2002 Encylopedia Brittanica article.  It also has sections at the end for primary sources (which link out to Perseus texts) and secondary sources, many of which are good quality scholarly articles and books.   Articles on specific mythological figures, like Hera, are not as good – the level of detail and documentations is inconsistent, there are many facts relayed without footnotes, and the sources listed for further reading are only general ones about classical mythology.  (Adopting and improving Wikipedia articles on classical mythology topics might be a good project for an upper-level or honors class!)

Jenkins discusses two websites covering classical mythology:

Encyclopedia Mythica (Jenkins 903).  This site contains entries by multiple contributors (listed here), including both PhDs and middle school students, but the majority of the work is by Micha F. Lindemans, who Google reveals to be a Dutch web editor; I could not find any academic credentials of his.  The site has been in existence for a long time (2010 marks its 15th anniversary) and is widely linked, but I agree with Jenkins’ evaluation of it as “far inferior to most printed sources.”

Greek Mythology Link (Jenkins 918), by Carlos Parada, a former lecturer in Classics at Lund University, Sweden, began as a outgrowth of his 1993 book, Genealogical Guide to Greek Mythology (Jenkins 917), UGA Main Library 6th Floor Folio BL785 .P37 1993.  The site was begun in 1997 and new content is still being added as of fall 2010.  Jenkins is not a fan of the book, but of the web site notes: “Extensive primary source references, images, and genealogical information are the great strengths of this site; ease of use is not.  It is relatively complete and reliable compared to other mythological resources on the web.”  I agree on all counts – it makes good use of primary sources, but navigation is not easy.

Another much-linked web site, not mentioned by Jenkins, is the Theoi Project.   Edited by Aaron J. Atsma of New Zealand, for whom I could find no academic credentials using Google, the site is currently showing “What’s New” as of December 2007.  This site is heavily linked from Wikipedia, and I would guess as a result sees a lot of traffic from undergraduates.  It shares the strengths of the Greek Mythology Link site discussed above, as it also relies heavily on primary sources (in translation, but with accurate scholarly citations) and images.  Entries include information about cults (mostly relying on Pausanias) as well as myths, attributes, and associated personages.  It is slightly opaque to navigate – the pages include many layers of links – but they are cross-referenced well and the site as a whole is searchable.

My previous Resource Review on Mythology discussed LIMC.  Future reviews will cover other print works.

Taken by Tilemahos Efthimiadis, used under a Creative Commons license.

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Reference Resources: Mythology

November 5, 2010

There are a lot of reference works on classical mythology published, with new ones out every single year, it seems.  Mythology is probably the classics topic with the most widespread appeal, from 2nd graders to 300-seat college lectures to Learning in Retirement programs, so many of the available mythological dictionaries and encyclopedias are targeted very broadly, and marketed to public and school libraries as well as (or instead of) universities.  What I would like in a classical mythology encyclopedia for college students is:

  • clear summary of the various myths associated with a figure
  • accurate and full citations to the primary sources for those myths (it is shocking how often these are not included)
  • examples and discussions of depictions of those myths in classical art
  • discussion of places, temples, rituals associated with the myths

So, obviously my favorite reference resource on mythology is Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC).  I first used it as an undergraduate, and when I was in graduate school the final volumes were not yet published, so we’d all scramble to choose mythological figures whose names began with the letters A-H.  Woe bedtide you if you got Zeus – no LIMC to do your legwork for you!  Now all the volumes are available (8 sets of 1 print and 1 plates volumes, for a total of 16 books).  At UGA our copy is at Main Reference (1st floor) NX650 .M9 L40Jenkins (no. 913) describes it as “by far the best source for locating and studying myths as they appear in ancient art” but does not seem as overwhelmingly fond of it for general purposes as I am.

Unfortunately, LIMC is a challenge for many undergraduates, especially those at the entry level – the level most likely to be studying classical mythology.  They are intimidated by foreign languages which they mostly do not read, and the terse (i.e. professional-level) citation style for primary sources in LIMC can be confusing.  I do show LIMC to many classes; many honors undergraduates and upper-level majors are happy to tackle it, and my goal is to make every grad student love and cherish it as I do.  But for the average 1000-level mythology student, it’s too much.  I will tackle some of the alternatives they turn to in forthcoming posts.