The Iowa Canon of Greek and Latin Authors and Works

Paul Dilley (, University of Iowa, United States of America

This poster will introduce the Iowa Canon of Greek and Latin Authors and Works, which aims to be the most comprehensive list of classical texts from the origins of Greek and Latin literature through the end of the Antiquity (the 6
th century CE), and associated metadata, made available for researchers through an innovative online interface. The Iowa Canons are affiliated with the Big Ancient Mediterranean Project, for which I am a co-PI with Sarah Bond, with lead developer Ryan Horne, which seeks to provide an interface for the coordinated exploration of linked textual, geospatial, and network data relating to the ancient world. Both BAM’s interface and the Iowa Canons are in development; a beta-version of the Iowa Canon of Latin Authors and Works is available at The Iowa Latin Canon currently stands at over 5,400 works; a more extensive version, paired with the Iowa Canon of Greek Authors and Works, which currently includes over 9,000 entries, will be published in May 2016. I have been assisted in data collection by students in my graduate seminars on distant reading, as well as undergraduate and graduate research assistants.

The goal of both Iowa Canons is to integrate existing canons of Greek and Latin Literature, especially the Perseus Catalog, the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG) Canon, the Packard Humanities Institute (PHI) Classical Latin Texts, the Brepols Library of Latin Texts (LLT-A), and other resources such as the Clavis Apocryphorum; to increase their granularity and the amount of associated metadata; and to make this data collection searchable in an interface that integrates Greek and Latin texts, which none of the previous Canons do. None of the existing Canons include lost works, and they group fragmentary works under a single entry (e.g. “Fragmenta”), with no functionality to search for individual titles within it, which sometimes number in the hundreds. The Iowa Canons, in contrast, will include all known lost or fragmentary works, and include additional metadata, such as time and place of composition, genre (using the same “in-house” classification system for both Greek and Latin texts), meter (if poetic), and Christian/non-Christian content. Finally, the Iowa Canons will cross-reference each work to existing canons (when possible), as well as to the Perseus Catalog, which will provide stable reference urns for Greek and Latin works, a project with which we are collaborating.

The Iowa Canon of Greek and Latin Authors and Works will make this data available to users through an interface, which will provide faceted search of available metadata, for example, by selecting all works of a particular genre, in a specified time period and/or location. The results of the search are displayed geospatially, with circles around all locations with relevant works, their diameters proportionate to the number of “hits” in that location. Clicking on the circles reveals those “hits.” When combined with the extensive records of lost and fragmentary titles, this search functionality will greatly facilitate research into Greek and Latin literary history beyond the usual focus on canonical works, which will themselves be contextualized. Jockers has described this sort of research metadata as the “lowest hanging fruit of literary history” (Jockers 2013: 35); his work, as well as Franco Moretti’s (Moretti 2009), have explored the possibilities of this approach for studying certain genres of 19
th and 20
th century literature in English, which is of course far more extensive than surviving ancient Greek and Latin literature. But the cumulative metadata that will be accessible through the Iowa Canons will offer a unique picture of an entire literary field, with over 60 genres, as it developed over centuries, and in several languages. The poster will be of interest not only to digital classicists, but to literary scholars working in other languages and eras, from whom I will solicit feedback about its functionality, as well as its potential for distant reading.

Appendix A

  1. Jockers, Matthew,
    Macroanalysis: Digital Methods and Literary History (University of Illinois Press, 2013)
  2. Moretti, Franco, “Style, Inc. Reflections on Seven Thousand Titles (British Novels, 1740-1850),”
    Critical Inquiry 36 (2009): 134-58.
  3. Packard Humanities Institute Latin Author List:
  4. Thesaurus Linguae Graecae:

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