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  • Researchers recover Greek and Roman authors with a pioneering database of bibliographical citations

    November 28, 2013

    A team from the University of Oviedo has made public a new ancient grammarian, Odysseus, after analyzing the works of 28 Greek grammarians, rhetoricians and sophists

    From left to right, Lorena Molina Molina, Manuel González Suárez, Virginia Muñoz Llamosas, Javier Verdejo Manchado and Lucía Rodríguez-Noriega Guillén.

    A research conducted at the Department of Classical and Romanic Philology has led to the creation of a pioneering database of bibliographical citations on authors of Ancient Greece and Rome, whose works, in many cases, have not survived in full until our days. The work of the team led by Professor Lucía Rodríguez-Noriega Guillén has conducted to, for example, the discovery of previously-unknown authors, such as Odysseus, a metrologist that offers the definition of "verse", and whose existence and contributions had not been documented until now.

    This is the first research that seeks to thoroughly analyze all the citations (whether literal or not) of an ample scholarly corpus, highlighting the special value of the literary tradition of the Late Antiquity. The references to other authors and their works (in literal or free citations, imitations, testimonies, etc.) detected in the 28 writers that compose the full cast of grammarians, rhetoricians and sophists of the 3rd and 4th Centuries, make up this open database. The exahustive analysis of these materials will help to better know not only the works of the authors who are being studied, but also the contributions and the impact that the contributions of other authors had, and whose legacy has not been directly preserved until today.

    An open platform compiles all the information to create a network of sources and influences of Greek scholars from the 3rd and 4th Centuries BCE, before the creation of modern books.

    The new technologies have allowed that those materials are offered freely to experts from all around the world in a website that is updated as new milestones are achieved in the project. The innovative nature of the initiative and its strategical value as a source for consultations make the portal, inaugurate last October, a future reference for the international experts on this field.

    The selection of authors and period is not an accident. "Grammarians, rhetoricians and sophists are writers who very frequently quote others, especially as a model or example, and that is why, in their works, there is an abundance of testimonies and fragments from past philosopher's, poets, grammarians, orators, historians...", explains Lucía Rodríguez-Noriega Guillén. On the other hand, the Greek authors of the 3rd and 4th Centuries BCE are specially valuable to recover the works of their unknown predecessors, since the popularization, starting on the 4th Century CE, of the book as we know it today, substituting papyrus rolls, was a critical moment that led to the loss of a sizable portion of Greek and Roman literature, since it was not copied into the new format. These authors, however, were still able to access many works that would, eventually, disappear.

    The research project titled "La tradición literaria griega en los ss. III-IV d.C. gramáticos, rétores y sofistas como fuentes de la literatura greco-latina", funded by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, aims at documenting the indirect transmission of the works of classical authors cited by others in the aforementioned corpus of scholars. The researchers from the University of Oviedo started their labor by thoroughly analyzing the works of the selected authors. "We extract absolutely every single reference to works or authors, regardless of the type of citation they are found in, and whether their authorship is explicitly stated or not. From there, we compose a file for each one of this citations, tracing its history from the original author to the late Byzantine period", explains the main researcher of the project.

    This task of thorough analysis creates a network of relations between authors and expands the information on those who are less known for the general public. The dedicated working of tracing each citation to find its origin and presence throughout history leads to, for example, knowing that Homer is the most cited author, and to be precise, his work The Illiad. "Homer would be the "trending topic" of the moment", explains Lucía Rodríguez-Noriega, establishing a comparison with today. In the case of philosophers, the two most cited ones are Plato and Aristotle, in that order.

    The researchers from the University of Oviedo work in collaboration with Philologists of the University of Zaragoza, who conduct their own coordinated project on Los gramáticos latinos tardíos como fuente para el conocimiento de la tradición gramatical greco-latina. The project also has the collaboration of researchers from the University of the Basque Country.

    Research team

    • Lucía Rodríguez-Noriega Guillén
    • María José García Soler
    • Manuel González Suárez
    • Luis Alfonso Llera Fueyo
    • Lorena Molina Molina
    • Virginia Muñoz Llamosas
    • Javier Verdejo Manchado

    Banner image

    Part of the manuscript of the Ars Rhetorica by Apsines, which contains a citation of the Trojans of Euripides. In red, the indications that mark the name of the author cited and the indication that marks a citation in verse.

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