Welcome to ToposText!
Through the generosity of the Laskaridis Foundation you have the opportunity to download a labor of love, a thank-offering to Greece, a tool for finding connections between Classical literature and the landscapes that inspired it.
Some User Guidance
The core of ToposText is a very large digital library of classical authors enlivened by linking their work to a database of more than 5000 ancient places, archaeological sites, and museums in Greece or part of the broader Greek cultural world. The number after an ancient place gives the number of times that place is mentioned by the ancient authors in the TT library. The website now (12/2016) incorporates an index of almost 11000 names of historical or mythological figures. A few names have been "disambiguated" and mapped to their English WikiPedia link, so you can find either Plato the philosopher or Plato the comic poet. Most haven't been, because the task is enormous and very difficult to automate.
Touch/Click a text from the scrolling lists or symbol on the map to see more information or to be taken to the ancient text that refers to a place. On the TT mobile app, the brown up arrow at bottom-center of the reading view opens a menu giving access to complete texts and to Google Maps directions. In the web site, scroll through the box full of numbers at the top of each text page to navigate to a specific chapter or paragraph in a text. In the mobile version, tapping an invisible button midway down the right margin will reveal a scrolling menu of book and chapter numbers to move to a given paragraph more quickly.
All paragraphs are tagged by an "edate," the approximate year referred to in that part of the text. An indication of "~1000 BC" means the ancient author is referring to mythological times, while "~1 BC" means an unspecified historical date 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. Though historians like Thucydides and Diodorus were careful to identify specific years, you should treat all TT dates as a rough indication.
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. Some Greek and Cypriot sites have a link to the Chronique des Fouilles, archaeological reports assembled by the Ecole Francaise d'Athenes and the British School in Athens. Another link searches for the place name in the huge database of ancient Greek inscriptions maintained by the Packard Humanities Institute.
With exceptions I gratefully acknowledge in the credits (touch the © symbol to see them on mobile devices), 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. Some texts are missing or exist only as index entries because I found no uncopyrighted English translation. Some philosophical, poetic, or medical tracts have too few references to ancient places and people to justify the hours of work needed to incorporate them.
Coordinates in the ToposText database are tagged by confidence level.
HIGH means I am confident you will see something ancient if you plant yourself atop the designated geographic coordinates and look around you. I have confirmed those coordinates using Google Earth to zoom in on some distinctive feature.
MEDIUM means that respectable scholars have written that there are interesting antiquities at a place I have been able to narrow down to within about 200 meters of the stated coordinates. If you walk around and look carefully, you will find something to confirm an ancient presence.
LOW means some scholar has spotted an ancient place and described its location but I have not had the time or acuity to pinpoint its location more closely than the rough location provided by the Pleiades project (see below). If you are patient and ask the locals, you might find whatever it was that convinced scholars there was an ancient city here. If you do find it, please use the feedback button to send me the coordinates at email@example.com. Send pictures if you can.
NIL means an ancient author has mentioned a place and implied what general region it is in, but no one has convincingly linked it to a place on the map, so the coordinates I have assigned it in ToposText could be 20 kilometers off.
You will see a certain number of question marks after place names. There ought to be more. Archaeologists have a habit of identifying whatever they have discovered as a legendary city from Homer's Iliad. A few place names are a slip of the pen by a tired Late Antique scribe. Most existed at some point as a collectivity of citizens and their farms and holy places, but not necessarily as the rough hilltop fort or elaborate walled citadel to which the ancient name is now assigned. Every year some new inscription is published that lets us restore the correct name to a site long misidentified. I may not know of it. And the fact that a place is mentioned by ancient authors or modern scholars and then geolocated by me or a fellow enthusiast is no guarantee that you will find it fascinating or find it at all. A vast, inspiring sweep of history may leave behind it only little piles of stone and scraps of broken pottery nestled under thorny bushes. I hope that you, like me, will find connecting broken stones to their history a memorable and rewarding challenge. Beautiful scenery, wonderful country food, and warm hospitality await you everywhere you wander. Please treat my errors and omissions as an invitation to adventure.
ToposText began with a diplomat/archaeologist's fantasy of wandering the wilds of Greece like Lord Byron or Colonel Leake, with Pausanias and Herodotus in my saddlebags. As more and more ancient texts came on-line in serviceable English translations, my dream expanded to that of putting the relevant passages of history, literature, mythology, and religion instantly at my fingertips wherever I might find myself. I was very fortunate to find friends who shared my dream in Takis Panagiotopoulos (founder), Christina Plemmenou (coding), Dimitra Chouliara (graphic design) and Vlasis Kosmas (ceo) at Pavla S.A. They have turned my mass of data into a working application in time stolen from other tasks, with no promise of material reward. Bruce Hartzler, the computer guru of the Agora Excavations of the American School of Classical Study, created - almost but not quite effortlessly - the Perl scripts that made tagging and indexing of 150,000 place mentions humanly possible. He also offered key design suggestions.
ToposText isn’t a tourist guidebook. If you plan to visit a Greek island, I hope you will buy the relevant volume of Nigel McGilchrist's epic series McGilchrist’s Greek Islands for practical advice on restaurants and hotels as well as more of the detailed archaeological lore he graciously allowed us to borrow for hundreds of site descriptions. Thanks are due as well to Dr. Yannis Papadopoulos, who wrote or edited hundreds of site descriptions for the mainland, to Aspa Efstathiou, who added many Athenian sites, and to the authors of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, the Odysseus/Greek Culture Ministry website, and other organizations whose site descriptions make ToposText more useful.
For most ancient places in ToposText, the original coordinates come from the Pleiades database online, which derives from a digitization of the printed maps of the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World (which atlas is now available from Princeton University Press as a stand-alone app for iPad), with a probable error of at least several hundred meters. As the Pleiades Open License requires, I have shared my improved coordinates both with Pleiades and with other ancient mapping sites.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Manolis Papathanassiou, who has tracked down hundreds of Byzantine, Frankish, and Venetian castles, towers, and other sturdy monuments and made their coordinates and descriptions available for free on his web site Kastra.eu. The icons with a grayish circle mark places borrowed from Kastra.eu, with permission; the link in the description should take you to his site description.
The splash screen of ToposText is adapted from 'Oedipus and the Sphinx' by French Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau (1826-1898), at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Image in the public domain courtesy of WikiMedia Commons.