Late Antique Inscriptions from Aphrodisias

Aphrodisias, a major site in Turkey where NYU has undertaken substantial excavations since 1961, now also has extensive online documentation for the period of Late Antiquity.  In 2004, Charlotte Roueché published the website “Aphrodisias in Late Antiquity,” an early example of the growing number of internet corpora of Greek and Latin inscriptions; this indeed represented a new stage in digital epigraphy, as it was the (exclusively online) second edition of her print book, Aphrodisias in Late Antiquity: The Late Roman and Byzantine Inscriptions (SPRS, 1989).  While still available on the web, this site has been superseded by “Inscriptions of Aphrodisias” since 2007, an edition of all inscriptions discovered between 1961 and 1994, including a substantial number which were previously unpublished.The authors are Joyce Reynolds, Charlotte Roueché, and Gabriel Bodard, who plan to update the site; a larger team worked on the project at the Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King’s College London.  So there is a clear trend from print publication, to online second edition, to online editio princeps; in this sense, the Aphrodisias project differs from other epigraphy sites, which tend to assembly already published texts as databases.

Like most such corpora, both “Aphrodisias in Late Antiquity” and “Inscriptions of Aphrodisias” use the EpiDoc conventions developed by Tom Elliott of NYU’s ISAW for marking up the text of the inscriptions in XML language: essentially, a precise way of entering digitally the information encoded in the symbols of the Leiden conventions, with improvements.  This allows for searching by both text (Greek, Latin, or English) and category, which includes a variety of metadata on object and text type, as well as dating criteria.  The site collects exceptional evidence for Late Antique civic and religious life, in such places as the Bouleuterion/Odeon, where numerous inscriptions are found, from carefully planned and executed dedications to graffiti; many of these are of interest to the study of polytheism, Judaism, and Christianity in Late Antiquity (for example, a converted temple/church was discovered at Aphrodisias; the database even a text category “religious”!).  In sum, this is a pioneering digital epigraphy site that presents important evidence in a clear and easily queried way.

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