The Project

ToposText is an indexed collection of ancient texts and mapped places relevant the the history and mythology of the ancient Greeks from the Neolithic period up through the 2nd century CE. It was inspired by two decades of exploring Greece by car, foot, or bicycle, and by clumsy efforts to appreciate επί τόπου the relevant information from Pausanias or other primary sources. The development of mobile electronic devices since 2010 has coincided with an increasingly comprehensive assortment of ancient texts available on the internet. The digital texts I collected on an e-reader in 2012 made clear both the pleasure of having a portable Classics library but also the desperate need to organize the information it contained. Discovering the Pleiades Project, with its downloadable database of thousands of ancient place names and coordinates, opened the door to indexing ancient texts geographically, using a map of Greece as the basic interface.

ToposText was designed as an application for mobile devices. Opening it presents a scrolling alphabetical list of 5000+ Greek cities, colonies, sanctuaries, archaeological sites, museums, and other points of interest, side-by-side with a location-aware map showing the nearby places by name, icon (city, sanctuary, theatre, etc), and the number of ancient references in the TT database. The texts and index and a basic map are stored on the device and requires no internet connection.

Selecting a site from either the list or the map opens up a table of two-line snippets from ancient authors, headed where available by a modern description. Selecting from this index list, which can be filtered by date, genre, and relevance, connects one to the full text of 240-odd works in English translation, some with the original Ancient Greek as well. Thus, at a glance and from any location, you can select and read the passages in ancient literature that give a place its historical and cultural meaning. While you are reading, the map alongside shows the location of the ancient places mentioned. In most cases, book and paragraph numbers of texts correspond to those conventionally used in printed texts. Where the online text available had no internal numbering, arbitrary paragraph numbering has been added. A scrolling feature hidden in the right margin allows rapid navigation through the books and chapters of a given text.

With exceptions gratefully acknowledged in the credits, the translations reproduced here are older works in the public domain. They have been stripped of footnotes and other scholarly apparatus, partly to send the message to students writing term papers that ToposText is not a substitute for the most recent scholarly edition of a given work. A date for the work and an event date are displayed at upper right of the mobile version for each paragraph as you scroll. Event dates are reasonably accurate for historical texts that are organized by year, but are to be used with caution. The indication "~1000 BC" means the ancient author is referring to mythological times, while "~1 BC" means an unspecified historical date probably prior to the Roman imperial period. Years given in multiples of 100 or 50 (e.g., 500 BC, 350 BC) could be plus or minus 25 years.

Note the link, next to many place descriptions, taking you to Travelogues, a sister web site of the Laskaridis Foundation offering thousands of early traveller illustrations of Greece and its antiquities that complement the ancient texts.

Places are listed along with confidence level. The Pleiades project gives coordinates that, because of the digitization process, have a probable error of several hundred meters. For sites with “High” confidence, the coordinates have been corrected via Google Earth (WGS84, not Greek grid) to an accuracy of 20 meters. "Medium" confidence means the coordinates have been corrected to within 200 meters of something ancient. Sites with “Low” confidence (and a red triangle around the icon) are normally uncorrected Pleiades coordinates or else of sites not findable from space (or perhaps anywhere else currently). In most cases the error is less than one kilometer, but there may in fact be nothing to see. “Nil” confidence means a given place name has not been firmly attached to a given place, only to a given area.

At this stage, ToposText aspires to be comprehensive only for the territory of modern Greece, the country I am most familiar with. To the places from Pleiades I have added many sites (Neolithic, Bronze Age, Medieval) that fall outside the Archaic-Late Roman chronological range of the Barrington Atlas, along with museums. For other key areas of the ancient Greek world -- Cyprus, Asia Minor, Sicily, South Italy -- I have included all major Classical places and many minor ones, but not museums or archaeological sites. Further afield, I have indexed only those place names with a significant "literary footprint." This means, for example, only limited mapping of the Asian campaigns of Xenophon or Alexander the Great. Scholarly feedback is encouraged to filling in the inevitable gaps in a project of this scope.

Most ancient philosophical / medical / theological / romantic texts have too few geographical references to justify the effort to include them in ToposText, at least at this stage where the focus is on the link between texts and places. One day, I hope, ToposText will include more inscriptions, ancient scholia, ancient dictionaries, etcetera, ideally every ancient text that refers to Greek places from mythological times through the Late Roman period. Enriching the TT library, or expanding it to include Byzantine, Medieval, and early modern texts, will depend on the willingness of scholars to make texts and English translations available.

ToposText cannot and should not compete with commercial guidebooks that offer up-to-date practical information. However, as a service to users, we have borrowed modern site descriptions from a number of sources, written some of our own, and will add to and update those descriptions over time, with users' help.