Digitising the Homeric Scholia: How It Works

by Georgia Kolovou, Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Nanterre, Paris X

Du texte a l'hypertexte

In the first version of our website, we have developed a new form of online publishing that conforms to hypertextual logic. This includes a thematic list of the main aims of our project, where we briefly explain the definition of Homeric scholia (critical comments inserted into the margins of manuscripts), we show a selection of Homeric manuscripts in which scholia are attested, and we give both the Greek text edited by H. Erbse and our French translation for the Homeric scholia of the first book of the Iliad.

This project should be considered as part of an eco-system within the field of Classical Studies, in which the general aim is to publish online ancient texts, translations and commentaries. The first project (based on XML-TEI) centres on Euripidean scholia and is edited by Donald Mastronarde.  Following the same method of encoding the scholia with XML-TEI, the editor divides the text into scholia vetera, scholia vetera with translation and apparatus criticus, the scholia of commentators Manuel Moschopoulos and Thomas Magister, the Triclinian scholia, the Triclinian Prefatory texts, and so on.

The second project is Hyperdonat, a collection of digital editions of ancient commentaries with a translation and apparatus criticus. Other projects include the Historia Apostolica of Arator, the Homer Multitext Project of Christopher Blackwell and Neel Smith, which aims to present the Iliad and Odyssey within a critical framework that takes into account their oral composition over centuries. Lastly, the EpiDoc (Epigraphic Documents) is an international, collaborative effort that provides guidelines and tools for encoding scholarly and educational editions of ancient documents.

What is XML-TEI?

The XML is an extensive markup language (= language) and the TEI is a Text Encoding Initiative (= code). As the title suggests, everything depends on how we intend to use this language for text encoding. The methodological applicability of XML-TEI for the texts is explained clearly in the website within the Guidelines of XML-TEI, which is addressed to anyone who works with textual resources in digital form. This site is very useful because it contains 24 chapters of the text body that describe the stages of the electronic text encoding and interchange.

In our project, we have classified the basic groups of the scholia into three different lists (A, bT, D, already presented in the previous blog). This classification is based on the goals of the electronic edition of this enormous text. The digital tool of XML-TEI contributes to a better understanding of the scholia surviving in the manuscripts and can make the information widely available to scholars and students. Specifically, it offers students and researchers the possibility of searching and consulting all the Homeric scholia classified in one file, to define the criteria of their research by choosing firstly only one category of the Homeric scholia (A, bT, or D), and secondly the Homeric quotations, or the quotations of other poets, historians, lexicographers, geographers, philosophers and so on attested in the corpus of the scholia. Proper names (of people or places) can be searched directly in the Greek text or in the translated text too. Generally, this digital format is searchable in a better and more effective way than the printed volumes.

Concerning the applicability of this digital tool in relation to the corpus of the Homeric scholia, our aim is to present some textual  elements that  can be encoded in order to offer researchers and students not only a better understanding of the Iliad’s scholia in relation to the poetic text, but also a better understanding of the Homeric text in relation to the scholia, commentaries and lexica of subsequent literary and scholarly works.

Following the anatomy of the XML-TEI, we always use one opening angle bracket and one closing angle bracket (or only one closing angle bracket) in order to encode the textual elements in relation to the goals of the electronic edition. In other words, each textual element has one start tag and one end tag and the data are always in the middle.

In the following examples, we have chosen to encode three basic textual elements which can facilitate research on this enormous corpus of the Homeric scholia. Firstly, we encode some proper names repeated frequently in the text in different locations. Secondly, we translate in French the scholion on the first verse of Iliad and we encode the three poetic quotations (Hesiod, Pindar, Antimachus Colophonius) in relation to this Homeric verse. In the third example, we encode also the French translation of the Greek quotation.

Example 1:

<name type=”person”> Achille</name>

<name type=”person”> Hector</name>

<name type=”person”> Andromaque </name>

<name type=”place”> Troie</name>

<name type=”place”> Thèbes</name>

<name type=”place”> Ilion </name>

Example 2:

ἄειδε «chante » : à savoir ici : assurément, c’est selon la licence poétique ou l’usage qu’il prend les formes impératives à la place des formes optatives ; de fait, Hésiode dit (opp. 2)

<quote> venez et dites </quote> , et Pindare (fr. 150 Sn.)

<quote> devine, Muse </quote>

AT et Antimaque de Colophon (fr. 1 W)

<quote> dites, filles du Grand Zeus, fils de Cronos </quote> A

Example 3:

ἄειδε «chante » : à savoir ici : assurément, c’est selon la licence poétique ou l’usage qu’il prend les formes impératives à la place des formes optatives ; de fait, Hésiode dit (opp. 2)

<quote> δεῦτε δὴ ἐννέπετε </quote>

< cit type=”translation” xml:lang=” fr”>

<quote> venez et dites </quote>


et Pindare (fr. 150 Sn.) <quote> μαντεύεο Μοῦσα </quote>

<cit type=”translation” xml:lang=” fr”>

<quote> devine, Muse </quote>


AT et Antimaque de Colophon (fr. 1 W)

<quote> ἐννέπετε Κρονίδαο Διὸς μεγάλοιο θύγατρες </quote> 

<cit type=”translation” xml:lang=” fr”>

<quote> dites, filles du Grand Zeus, fils de Cronos </quote>

</cit> A

Our project’s site will be updated over time. Students and researchers can define the criteria of their research by using this resource, examine separate textual elements of the scholia (which are frequently incomprehensible otherwise), and simultaneously consult the translation of the Homeric scholia.

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