Saturday, December 29, 2012

The HMT Manuscript Browser · News and Updates

: The old version of the Manuscript Browser at is going away. Its replacement will appear at In the interim, a beta application is available at
An archive of every digital image in the HMT library is always available for manual and automatic downloading.


In 2007, shortly after we completed photography of manuscripts Marciana 822, Marciana 821, and Marciana 841, we wrote and posted online an application for browsing the high-resolution images. This application used the Google Maps API to allow users to manipulate the images; it allowed searching by the enumeration of manuscript folios and by poetic book and line.
Technological and scholarly considerations alike dictate that we take this original application offline. Using the Google Maps API is not ideal for our purposes. Google Maps assumes that it is displaying images of the surface of the earth, for one thing, and using it for serious work on manuscripts requires many workarounds, compromises, and hacks. More serious, though, is the problem of scholarly citation. In the five years since we wrote the original facsimile browser, our understanding of scholarly citation in a digital world has matured. By standardizing on citation with URNs, we can deliver effective applications today, using scholarly material that can remain valid in the future. The old application does not support citation using URNs; its replacements do.

What Will Happen

The application at will cease working at any moment. New “Facsimile Browser” applications are being developed on two hosts: and beta hosts experimental versions of HMT applications; when we consider versions of an application ready for regular public use, we will also host them on amphoreus.
In the meantime, users can use two resources for accessing digital images of the Homeric manuscripts:

About the Beta Facsimile Browser

The application that lives at allows users to look up digital images of manuscripts, and associated data, by requesting citations of folios or by poetic book and line.
We wrote this application to explore a URN-driven graph of HMT data. Its state as of December 26, 2012 reflects its origin as a test-bed for this way of integrating our data.
The application will evolve over the next few weeks as we redesign the user interface with a wider audience in mind. Once that redesign is complete, we will put the application on the server and announce its public availability.

A Final Word

The Homer Multitext consists of data–images, texts, collections of regularly structured data. It is a reality of the twenty-first century that technology changes rapidly, and thus how we interact with data will change rapidly. From the outset, the editors of the HMT assumed that any particular end-user application would have a lifespan of only a few years. Our goal has been to ensure that the data remain accessible regardless of technological changes, and that the discoveries and insights generated through widespread and free access to that data is never trapped in forms dependent on any particular technology.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Transformative Undergraduate Research

Casey Dué wrote last week about the accomplishments of some undergraduates at Brown University who, given the opportunity and the “extreme academic freedom” to pursue original research using primary sources (namely, a book of Roger Williams’ containing some hitherto undeciphered handwritten notes), were able to solve a long-standing mystery. Their access to these primary sources and the freedom to work on a scholarly problem with them demonstrates the transformative nature of real undergraduate research, both for the study of these primary sources and for the students’ education.

Most of the primary sources in our discipline are not available at libraries in this country, and that is why the digital photographs of them are so important to the Homer Multitext project. The digital technologies of creating these images and making them available to all interested researchers is similarly transformative of how research in our discipline can be (and even should be) conducted. What’s more, digital technologies can change how research is shared, and therefore how undergraduate researchers can join the scholarly conversation on a topic. William Pannapacker wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education last month about how these digital technologies eliminate the “Indiana Jones Warehouse” effect that was the traditional outcome for undergraduate research. As Pannapacker put it, “There’s no guarantee that the world will beat a path to your online project, but at least it’s available, and updatable. It’s not a moribund, bound manuscript shelved in a university library’s off-site storage warehouse.” Perhaps the least expected and most gratifying part of the Homer Multitext project so far has been how it has changed how we work with students and get them involved in original research of their own within the project. Some of their initial work is already available here on the blog (search for the tag “undergraduate research” to see them all) and on the project website, but the next stages of the project will do even more to bring their work to the scholarly community.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Extreme academic freedom, or undergraduates decode mystery manuscript

An interdisciplinary team of librarians, professors, and Brown University undergraduate students working at the John Carter Brown Library have decoded some of the last known writing of Roger Williams, the religious dissident, abolitionist, and founder of the colony of Rhode Island and the First Baptist Church. The library had possessed a volume entitled "An Essay Towards the Reconciling of Differences Among Christians" containing Williams' hand written notes in the margins since the 1800's, but since the notes are written in an obscure shorthand, the writings had never been deciphered. An undergraduate math major, Lucas Mason-Brown, combined frequency analysis together with an understanding of the court stenography once used in England (in which Williams was trained) to work out Williams' system. The writings have proven to be of great historical significance, including twenty pages on the subject of infant baptism. You can read more about the decoding and what the team discovered in the Providence Journal and in the much fuller account on Slate.

We call attention to this remarkable project here as another example of the kind of interdisciplinary and intergenerational work that we have advocated in connection with the Homer Multitext. Next summer the Center for Hellenic Studies will host our third seminar devoted to training undergraduate and faculty teams of researchers, who will then help us to publish in its entirety for the first time the contents of the tenth-century manuscript of the Iliad known as the Venetus A. This years's seminar will include teams from six US institutions and one in the Netherlands.

I am proud to be an alumna of Brown, which is a University that has always exemplified what I would call "extreme academic freedom" coupled with an intense focus on undergraduate education. This project is a wonderful testament to what is possible in that kind of academic environment. Stay tuned for a forthcoming post on the place of undergraduate research in the realm of Digital Humanities, in which we will highlight more examples of this kind of groundbreaking work by undergraduates.

Monday, October 29, 2012

From graphs to applications

In 2012, the quantity of material collected by the HMT project has grown rapidly.  To cope with this, we have been developing an automated system to identify the relations among all citable objects in the HMT data archive (texts, images, artifacts like manuscript pages, to name a few).   In mathematical terms, these relations form a graph.

In the HMT graph, all nodes are identified by URN values (CTS URNs for texts, or CITE URNs for other kinds of objects).  This simple, consistent reference format made it easy for us to develop a network service  for working with the HMT graph:  supply the service with a URN value, and the service finds all links to that URN.

This is an important development for the long-term development of our digital multitext, and will certainly be the subject of future blog posts.  For today, I simply want to announce a test site with end-user applications built on the graph service.

Like our other services for retrieving HMT data, the graph service replies with a simple XML format;  as in our other service implementations, we can include XSLT stylesheets to format these graph descriptions as web pages for human readers.
We have written three sets of stylesheets that turn the graph data into three quite distinct applications:

  • a facsimile browser, for reading diplomatic edition of texts alongside documentary images
  • a multitext reader, for reading multiple versions of a single text
  • a graph navigator, for exploring links in the HMT project graph

You'll find test versions of all three of these apps at our new HMT Apps test page:

If you're curious about how the graph service works, try viewing the XML source of one of the application's web pages.  If you just want to try out an app, feel free.  Expect that the test versions on this site will evolve rapidly over the next several months.  We'll post announcements on this blog when we install more static release versions elsewhere.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Announcing the Open Paleography project

The Homer Multitext blog is an appropriate forum to announce a new project growing directly out of experience with the Homer Multitext project, and developing technology that will contribute directly to future work on the HMT project.

For almost three years, the HMT project has been collecting in structured notebooks paleographic observations about the manuscripts we are editing.  With the announcement of the Open Paleography project, we aim to expand this work to a general crowd-sourced collection of paleographic observations.

The Open Paleography project differs from other projects with similar aims in its application of the CITE architecture.  Paleographic observations identify a physical artifact, a textual passage, and a region of interest on a documentary image using technology-independent, machine-actionable URNs.  In turn, each observation itself is identified with a CITE URN.  The openly licensed data set is exposed to the software and end-users in the following ways:

  • because all the data sets are CITE Collections, they are available through the CITE Collections Service API
  • because data are stored in Google Fusion Tables,  they are available both through Google's programmatic API and through the user interfaces to Google Fusion Tables

The Open Paleography project is currently testing and helping develop two generic applications that work with any CITE Collection. The first is a collaborative CITE Collection editor allowing authorized contributors to add to a CITE Collection from a Web browser.  The second is a general querying and viewing application for end users.  Both of these applications will find immediate application in the HMT project.

Home page of the Open Paleography project:

Friday, September 28, 2012

Homer Multitext related publication

In August 2011 Homer Multitext Co-Editor Mary Ebbott and Associate Editor Leonard Muellner joined scholars in many humanistic disciplines at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland for a conference called “From Ancient Manuscripts to the Digital Era: Readings and Literacies.” The proceedings from that conference, including our contribution “Multitextual Reading in Manuscripts of the Iliad and the Future of the Homer Multitext” has now been published in Lire Demain / Reading Tomorrow, available here: An e-book version will also be made available.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Undergraduate interest in manuscripts

In 2011-2012, an enterprising group of students involved in the Homer Multitext project worked through the lengthy administrative requirements to form a new Registered Student Organization at the College of the Holy Cross.  The Manuscripts, Inscriptions and Documents Club is, as far as I am aware, unique:  an undergraduate club with the stated mission " to further the study of ... paleography, codicology, epigraphy, as well as the study of languages" through collaborative research involving students and faculty.

They seem to be succeeding:  at the club's first general meeting of the new academic year on Friday, seventeen returning members and three faculty collaborators were joined by twenty newcomers.  Six of the club's most active members could not attend Friday's meeting because they are currently studying abroad, but they have already sent back photographs of inscriptions as part of a club project on the epigraphic sources for tribute in fifth-century Athens, just one of an expanded roster of projects the club is hosting this year.

A larger group working on the Homer Multitext project will also allow us to expand our work on manuscripts of the Iliad.  We are experimenting this fall with new methods to help automate parts of the process of creating normalized texts parallel to the more strictly diplomatic texts that remain our central focus, and will be able to supplement our ongoing work on the Venetus A and Escorial Upsilon 1.1 with new teams looking at the Venetus B.

While the work on the Iliadic manuscripts will directly contribute to the HMT project, it is gratifying to see the broader awareness of and interest in primary-source material that the project is generating.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Albert Lord Centennial

Albert Lord would have turned 100 tomorrow (September 15, 2012). The Center for Studies in Oral Tradition has published a variety of commemorative resources. For our part, I would like to link to a blog post I wrote last year. No scholar's work has influenced the methodology of the Homer Multitext more. As Lord wrote in his 1995 book, The Singer Resumes the Tale: "the word multiform is more accurate than ‘variant,’ because it does not give preference or precedence to any one word or set of words to express an idea; instead it acknowledges that the idea may exist in several forms." (Lord 1995:23). See also The Singer of Tales (1960), p.101:
The truth of the matter is that our concept of the "original," of "the song," simply makes no sense in an oral tradition. To us it seems so basic, so logical, since we are brought up in a society in which writing has fixed the norm of a stable first creation in art, that we feel there must be an "original" for everything. The first singing in oral tradition does not coincide with this concept of the "original."... It follows, then, that we cannot correctly speak of a "variant," since there is no original to be varied! ... Our greatest error is to attempt to make "scientifically" rigid a phenomenon that is fluid.
If you would like to learn more about the work of Albert Lord and his teacher, Milman Parry, I highly recommend the 40th anniversary edition of the Singer of Tales, edited and introduced by Gregory Nagy and Stephen Mitchell. You can also read more about Lord's work and see some video clips from lectures given by Lord at the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Digital Humanities Postdoc Position at University of Houston

I am pleased to announce that the University of Houston is offering a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in Digital Humanities, beginning this January. Please see the details here, and forward this post to anyone you think may be interested. Thank you for your help!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What's in a Name (of a Manuscript)?

Along with the exciting new additions (with more to come) and the reorganization of the Homer Multitext website, you may have noticed that the primary names used for our Iliad manuscripts have been changing as well.

Here are the “shorthand” designations we will use henceforth, and the other possible designations or past names we have used for our five current manuscripts:

HMT designations       [names in brackets are other library catalog designations and modern
                                                                                                 edition sigla]

Venetus A or Marciana 822    [=Marcianus Graecus Z. 454, Allen’s A, West’s A]    

Venetus B or Marciana 821    [=Marcianus Graecus Z. 453, Allen’s B, West’s B]
Marciana 841       [=Marciana Graecus Z. 458, Allen’s U4; West does not include]
Escorial Υ.1.1      [=Escorialensis 294, Escorialensis 291, Allen’s E3, West’s E]

Escorial Ω.1.12    [=Escorialensis 513, Escorialensis 509, Allen’s E4, West’s F]

Why are there so many names for each manuscript? And how did we settle on the names that we now use?

One reason why there are multiple ways to refer to each of our manuscripts is that names or other designations come from two different sources: the libraries which house the manuscripts, and modern editors’ designations or “sigla.” Within each of those sources, in turn, there are additional reasons that names or designations change over time.

Modern editors’ names
When a modern editor collates multiple manuscripts to create a modern edition, s/he might use sigla to designate the manuscripts so that s/he can use those one or two letters and/or numbers in the cramped spaces of a traditional print apparatus criticus. Even the first modern publication of the Venetian manuscripts created such sigla: Villoison in his 1788 edition of Homer’s Iliad with the Scholia called the two manuscripts “A” and “B” for ease of reference in tight print spaces when he compiled the scholia. (You can see digital photographs of Villoison's edition here.) That is the origin of the names “Venetus A” and “Venetus B” (“Venetus” is the Latinate version of “Venice”).

When we look at how two twentieth-century editors have created sigla, we see that each created his own system, resulting in further designations. Allen calls the two manuscripts from the Escorial “E3” and “E4”: he actually collated four manuscripts from the Escorial and designated them 1–4 in the same order as the Escorial’s catalog numbered them, so although these two are the oldest of the four, they end up as “3” and “4.” West, however, uses far fewer manuscripts in his edition, and chose to call these two “E” (=“E3”) and “F” (=“E4”). Allen gave to the Venetian manuscript Marciana 841 the siglum “U4”: in addition to the Venetus A and Venetus B, Allen consulted 13 other manuscripts in Venice at the Marciana, and gave them the sigla U1–13, using a Latinate consonantal “U” for “Venice” since he uses “V” for the manuscripts in the Vatican library. West does not include this manuscript, and so did not create a siglum for it.

We have written before about the problems with the traditional apparatus criticus, both in terms of the difficulties in deciphering from it what a particular manuscript actually has, and in the way it presents barriers to readers, obscuring what the editor has seen in manuscripts in a secret code, as it were. Since we will not have the constraints of a printed page, and because we want to avoid reinforcing the “outsiders not welcome” feel of using such abbreviations, we will not follow in the footsteps of these print editions by using their sigla or by creating our own for the manuscripts.

Up until now, however, we have used these sigla in our writing about the manuscripts and on the website. We have done so because they are short, and therefore handy, and because we learned to do so as part of our academic discipline. But we will avoid using most of these from now on, for the reasons just stated as well as some further considerations I will explain now.

Because “Venetus A” and “Venetus B” are both easy to say and write and widely known names, we will continue to use them as our shorthand for these manuscripts. They have become such established names (and the manuscripts are so important for our textual history of the Iliad) that both Allen in his sigla and West in his use “A” and “B” to designate these manuscripts. But in addition to the hassle of needing to include multiple equivalences any time we refer to the manuscript using the sigla of a modern editor (such as noting the Allen’s E4 = West’s F), using one modern editor’s sigla as our normal reference could imply some scholarly choices or allegiances that we are not meaning to make. So our decision is to use library names and designations rather than sigla from any one modern edition, with the exception of Venetus A and Venetus B because those are so widely known and consistently used.

Library catalogs and shelving
Deciding to use library names and designations wasn’t the end of our decision making process, however, because in these cases, too, there is more than one possible reference. We have had the habit (once again from our training in the discipline) of using Latinate forms for the library names: Marcianus and Escorialensis. But in our desire to welcome nonspecialists to the Homer Multitext, we have decided to avoid such Latinate forms, and use the actual library names, Marciana and Escorial, in our designations for their manuscripts.

Then we must locate them, as it were, within the library, since we have more than one manuscript from each. The libraries that house our manuscripts naturally catalog them, and give them catalog numbers when they do. The Marciana and the Escorial libraries have long histories as institutions, so it is not surprising that they have cataloged their manuscript collections more than once. We have at times used or included designations for the three manuscripts from Venice that were assigned in the catalog compiled by Zanetti in 1740 ( Those designations, “Marcianus Graecus Z.” plus a number (454, 453, and 458 for our three manuscripts) include the name of the library in the Latinate form, the Latinate designation “Graecus” because Zanetti cataloged the Greek manuscripts separately from the Latin and Italian manuscripts, and the “Z.” to indicate Zanetti’s catalog. So there was both a “Greek 454” (our Venetus A) and, likely, a Latin 454, requiring the specification of the language to distinguish the two. Zanetti also grouped the manuscripts within the language into genres, so the Greek poetry manuscripts all have numbers between 438 and 461.

Similarly at the Escorial, different catalogs have given the two manuscripts different catalog numbers over time: 291 or 294 for what Allen called his “E3” and 509 or 513 for what Allen called his “E4.” Because these numbers have changed over time, using one over the other complicates our designations: even if we choose to use the latest one as the most “current,” it is scholarly practice to include the older numbers so that it is clear that it is indeed the same manuscript. So, just as with using any one editor’s sigla, using one of the Escorial catalogs creates the need for citing the other (294 = 291, e.g.).

Our solution is to use the designation the library has for the shelving of the manuscripts, since that is a designation rooted in some reality about the manuscript as a physical object: namely, where they can be found. For the Escorial, those designations are a Greek letter, followed by two numbers, separated by periods: Escorial Υ.1.1 and Ω.1.12. The numbers from the Marciana of 821, 822, and 841 also refer to their physical place in the library, and are attached to the codices, as this picture of the spine of the Venetus A shows (the label toward the bottom reads “822”).

Spine of Venetus A manuscript, photo published by the Homer Multitext project

The long history of our discipline shows itself in these changing and accumulating designations. As we reinvent the critical edition, we want to use names that reflect the manuscript as a historical object and are lasting, easy to use, and easy to understand. We hope the designations we have chosen will fulfill those desires.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Catalog of Ships Summary Scholia Part Two: Comparing the Υ.1.1 with the Venetus B

A guest post by Stephanie Lindeborg, College of the Holy Cross Class of 2013

In my earlier post on paleographic features in the Catalog of Ships of the Escorial Υ.1.1 manuscript, we established that there are eighteen scholia, located primarily in the interior margin, which summarize the Greek forces by region. Because the Υ.1.1 is often called a “twin” of the Venetus B, it is our practice to run a comparison between the two manuscripts, especially for interesting, unexplored features such as these. My first step was to record and compare the content of each scholion. The Venetus B contains twenty-nine summary scholia, eleven more than I found in the Υ.1.1. The regions noted in the Venetus B scholia match the regions assigned numbers of ships in the poetry. There is no Greek region listed in the poetry that is not accounted for with a scholion in the Venetus B. When I compared the content of analogous scholia between the manuscripts, I found that they were identical. It should be noted that I was working with partial evidence in the Υ.1.1: many of its ship summary scholia have been cut off at the trimmed edges of the manuscript. Because these scholia have a formulaic syntax, I am confident that these “trimmed” scholia are the same in Υ.1.1 as they appear in Venetus B. The presence of eleven more scholia in the Venetus B leads me to believe that the scholia in Υ.1.1 are incomplete. I believe that the eleven scholia “missing” from the Υ.1.1, provided they were ever in the manuscript, had the same content as the scholia that are fully present in the Venetus B.

The next step of my comparison was to analyze the physical appearance of the two manuscripts, starting with the outdents that denotes the beginning of each regional section of the poetry in the Υ.1.1. I wanted to know if the Venetus B uses outdents similarly and, if it does, do they occur in the same places as in the Υ.1.1. The Venetus B without a doubt uses outdents, but I found that it does not use outdents with the same frequency as the Υ.1.1 does. The Υ.1.1 outdents every regional section except for Elis and Doulichion. The Venetus B outdents only nine out of the twenty-nine regional sections (Boeotia, Minya, Phocis, Cephallenia, Methone, Oichalia, Ormenius, Argissa, and Magnetes). When my colleague Neil Curran and I looked at the outdents for all of Book 2 in both manuscripts we found a total of 95 outdents in Υ.1.1. Venetus B had only 41, almost 57% fewer. When I compared line numbers, I found that only one of the lines (Iliad 2.344) outdented in Venetus B was not outdented in Υ.1.1, and Υ.1.1 had 53 additional outdents. While this tells us that the two manuscripts were organized by their respective scribes in similar ways, it also makes evident that they are not perfect twins. While their scribes were working with material that was much the same, they had at least some different ideas about structuring their manuscripts. 

My next step was to analyze the placement of the scholia in both manuscripts. Because we have “missing” scholia in the Υ.1.1, establishing a pattern in the Venetus B and correlation between the two manuscripts could help us determine the would-be locations of the “missing” scholia. I compared placement between the manuscripts by noting which line of the main text corresponded with the beginning of each scholion. I found that most (15 out of 18) of the shared scholia began in the same position relative to the main text, or were off by a line or two at most. The most notable exceptions were the first two scholia in both manuscripts. In Υ.1.1, the placement of the first scholion is already irregular just in context of the Υ.1.1 manuscript because it appears well after the lines that discuss Boeotia. In the Venetus B, the scholia on Boeotia and Minya both appear well after their reference in the main text. Both manuscripts avoid putting summary scholia on the first folio that starts the Catalog of Ships, but, while both manuscripts are irregular, the placement of their first scholia is different. Aside from the first two scholia in both manuscripts, I found that the placement of scholia in the Venetus B matches the placement of the scholia in the Υ.1.1 (for a summary of this placement see the chart below). This pattern and correlation allows us to predict on which folios the “missing” scholia should have appeared and roughly where in the margin we should be looking for the visual evidence.

Based on comparison with the Venetus B, I believe that scholia are missing from the following folios of the Υ.1.1: 32r, 33r, 34v, 35r, 35v, and 37r. Of these folios 32r, 33r, 35r, and 37r have narrow interior margins. In this situation it is plausible that the summary scholia were cut off when the manuscript was trimmed and rebound. To see for yourself, here is folio 32r (click on the caption to open the image in a zoomable format): 
Escorial Y.1.1, folio 32r: example of a narrow interior margin
Exceptions to this pattern are folios 34v and 35v, which have margins that appear wide enough to hold a scholia. While we might not be able to hope for all of the scholia to be present on folios such as these, it is surprising not to see any traces in the interior margins. If you compare a folio like 35v to 32r you can see the difference in the margin size. 
Escorial Y.1.1, folio 35v: example of a wider interior margin

When I compare the size of the margins to folio sides that have summary scholia but only in part (such as 36r), I am even more surprised that these folio sides with wider margins lack any trace of summary scholia. 
Escorial Y.1.1, folio 36r, example of narrow margin on which ship summary scholia have been cut off in rebinding
Close-up of one of the ship summary scholia from 36r (Methone) that has been cut off in rebinding

The lack of scholia on 34v and 35v is the strongest evidence for my hypothesis that the scribe of the Υ.1.1 did not include as many summary scholia as in the Venetus B from the start.  

In the previous post, we considered whether the scribe may have eliminated scholia about regions he deemed less important. Based only on my knowledge of the Υ.1.1, I could not exclude any of the “missing” scholia from the list and so could not come to a confident conclusion on that question. If we were to eliminate from the list the scholia that appear on 32r, 33r, 35r, and 37r because it is more likely they were originally there, our list of supposedly unimportant places narrows to: Rhodes, Syme, Phylace, and Pherae. This narrowed list still does not lend much credence to the assumption. Rhodes in particular is especially noted in the epic poetry with praises for its abundant resources and its connection to Tlepolemus, a son of Heracles. 

My last point of comparison is in the quire arrangement. The Venetus B is organized mostly into quaternions, and has a total of 42 quires. The Υ.1.1 is much more irregular in terms of the number of folio in a quire (it ranges from 6 to 8), but also contains a total of 42 quires. The exact content of all the corresponding quires is a subject for future investigation. For Book Two we can say that the first five summary scholia appear at the end of the fourth quire in both manuscripts, and subsequently the rest of the scholia appear in each manuscript’s fifth quire. This is interesting to us when we consider the claim that the manuscripts are “twins.” The fact that the content of the quires is similar (down to what appears in which quire), at least true for this specific situation, is strong evidence for the claim. 

In my investigation of the Venetus B’s relationship to the Υ.1.1, I constructed a comparative table to aid my analysis. It proved especially helpful to compare numerous features at the same time. Below is the table, which lists folio sides, outdents, relative location of the scholia, and quire number.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Catalog of Ships Summary Scholia in the Escorial Υ.1.1

Guest post by Stephanie Lindeborg, College of the Holy Cross Class of 2013

The Catalog of Ships is the last half of Iliad Book 2, in which the forces of the Greek army are listed and summarized. Looking at the Escorial Υ.1.1 manuscript, I, along with my colleague Neil Curran, discovered that the scribe included paleographic features in addition to the main scholia in conjunction with the Catalog. The Υ.1.1 and the Venetus B feature “summary scholia” that denote the number of cities (if applicable) in each Greek region and the number of ships they brought. (The scholia in Venetus B will be discussed in more depth in a subsequent post). It would appear that these numbers are derived directly from the poetry. It is easy enough to see that the number of ships are directly stated in the poetry. The number of cities would appear to be the number of the cities listed by name in each section of the main text. For an example of what I mean by “summary scholia,” the scholion on 31v of the Υ.1.1 reads: “Λοκρῶν πολεὶς Η νῆες Μ” and translates to: “The eight cities of Locris [brought] forty ships.” (The caption links to the image of the full page with this portion highlighted.)

Summary scholion for Locris on Υ.1.1 31v
The format is almost always the same in each summary scholion (i.e., region, number of cities, number of ships). Within the Catalog further visual features used by the scribe help clarify where each section of the catalog starts.  In the Υ.1.1, this visual distinction is accomplished by outdenting the beginning line of each regional section:
Note the 'outdenting' of the two lines beginning with οἱ, Iliad 2.536 and 2.546, on Υ.1.1 31v
For the purposes of these investigations, I define the regions as each place which is said in the poetry to have brought a specific number of ships (so because the poetry says Mycenae brought one-hundred ships, Mycenae is noted as a unique region). The names of each region I derive from the scholia which summarize them. The Υ.1.1 outdents all but two of the twenty-nine so defined regions.

The twenty-nine Greek regions include, in order of appearance: Boeotia, Minya, Phocis, Locris, Euboea, Athens, Salamis, Argos, Mycenae, Lacedaemonia, Pylos, Arcadia, Elis, Doulichion, Cephallenia, Aetolia, Crete, Rhodes, Syme, Nisyros, Phthia, Phylace, Pherae, Methone, Oichalia, Ormenius, Argissa, Cyphus, and Magnetes. Only eighteen of these regions are marked by summary scholia in the Υ.1.1 in its current state, leaving eleven without. The following regions are missing such a summary scholion: Athens, Salamis, Argos, Arcadia, Rhodes, Syme, Nisyros, Phthia, Phylace, Pherae, and Magnetes. I will consider two possibilities to account for the missing scholia. The first is that when the manuscript was trimmed and rebound these scholia were cut off. The second possibility is that these scholia were never added to the manuscript in the first place, omitted either purposely or accidentally by the scribe.

The evidence that they were lost in the trimming process is compelling. Of the eighteen scholia that are present only nine (Locris, Euboea, Mycenae, Lacedaemonia, Pylos, Elis, Doulichion, Argissa, and Cyphus) are present in their entirety and very few of those leave any space between the edge of the scholion and the edge of the folio. Four of the scholia (Boeotia, Minya, Phocis, and Cephallenia) are cut off about halfway through but are still fairly discernible. Five (Aetolia, Crete, Methone, Oichalia, and Ormenius) are almost entirely cut off, containing at most only a few letters. These were more difficult to identify as their names were not easily picked out. My identification of these scholia was made based on the content of the main lines and what I could make out (for example I identified Ormenius because it was near the lines on Ormenius in the main text and the numeral for forty was visible, which matches the number stated in the main text). I further cross-checked these identifications with the Venetus B, which I will discuss in a subsequent post. 

If we could assume that the eleven missing scholia were cut off when the manuscript was trimmed, then we could simply lament the loss of the physical evidence and concern ourselves with other questions such as the twin nature of the Υ.1.1 and the Venetus B manuscripts. However, we must consider the possibility that some of these scholia never made it into the manuscript. The simplest explanation in that case would be that the scribe unintentionally omitted them. The gaps of missing scholia are restricted to a whole folio side, meaning there are no folio sides that have some but not all of the scholia they could have. It is possible that the scribe accidentally skipped a whole folio side when adding the ship summaries.

After ascertaining the quire arrangement of the Υ.1.1, I was able to look at whether the quires had anything to do with why these summary scholia are missing in the Υ.1.1. Because manuscripts were typically composed in several passes, it is a serious possibility that scribes could accidentally skip entire quires when adding certain features. This is something we always investigate when we have seemingly incomplete sets of features. The Catalog begins on 30v and the summary scholia start appearing on 31r. 30v through 31v are the last three folio sides of the fourth quire. 32r starts the fifth quire which continues through 39v, the end of the Catalog and the end of Book 2. The first three scholia that are missing (Athens, Salamis, and Argos) ought to appear at the beginning of the fifth quire. It is also probable that these three were cut off when the manuscript was rebound. Since the rest of the missing scholia are contained within a quire that has many of the summary scholia present, the theory that the scribe could have skipped over an entire quire is impossible.

The other possibility is that the scribe purposely excluded certain scholia, perhaps because he deemed them of lesser importance. But that motivation would mean that the “less important” scholia may have included: Athens, Salamis, Argos, Arcadia, Rhodes, Syme, Nisyros, Phthia, Phylace, Pherae, and Magnetes. It's rather hard to believe that this list of places could be deemed unimportant, when Phthia is the homeland of Achilles and other great heroes are named in conjunction with these places (i.e., Ajax and several sons of Heracles). There is no evidence to say that the scribe skipped places that did not bring a large number of ships for some of the missing ones brought as many as forty ships (Phylace) and he includes places that brought as few as seven (Methone). There seems to be no distinguishing characteristic that sets aside the missing places from those that are present.

In the Υ.1.1, these scholia raise questions about how the manuscript was composed. One of the striking features in the Υ.1.1 are the first three summary scholia. While all the others in the Υ.1.1 are located in the interior margin, the first three in the Υ.1.1 are instead placed in the exterior margin. There is no clear reason as to why these scholia are located in the exterior, nor why the scribe puts no other summary scholia in the exterior. We can only surmise that it was a conscious choice made by the scribe and that it made more sense to him not to continue putting the scholia in the exterior. The fact that these scholia are in the exterior tells us that they were planned to fit outside of the main scholia and so were, more likely than not, written after the main scholia. They were either written before the scribe finished with a folio or as a second pass through Book 2. If the former is true, that might explain why some scholia are missing. Including another type of scholia in another location on the page might have complicated the process enough that the scribe forgot to include some of the scholia he was supposed to. If the scribe were adding the scholia as a separate set, going back through the entire Catalog to add them in a separate pass specifically for that purpose rather than as he worked on each folio individually, then it is highly unlikely that he would have forgotten to include some of them. I conclude, therefore, that the summary scholia were probably not added in a second pass in the Υ.1.1.

While conducting my investigation, I found it particularly helpful to organize my data into a table. Below is this table which includes the content of each summary scholion, the folio it appears on, the outdented line associated with the region, the relative location of the scholion, the quire number, and another other important notes on the state of the scholion.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

πάθει, μάθος

When I ran the automated build to publish our collection of xml diplomatic editions as blogged here earlier this week, I had inadvertently turned off a final automated validation on all of the texts to be published, and some errors crept into the published package.  I've rerun the build and republished the texts.  If your system is automatically using the latest version of a Nexus artifact, you'll now get the correct versions.  If you are manually setting the version, please update it to 2012.8.9, or to download manually, get the zip file from the 2012.8.9 directory here.

Apologies to those who were mystified by the errors in the initial release.  We're still learning how to automate the management of our archives as effectively as possible, and will continue to blog here our successes and failures alike.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Release of archival text editions

A recent post noted the reorganization of our downloadable archive of image data.  Today, we have published a first package of diplomatic editions of texts.

In contrast to our relatively static collection of large, binary data files of images, we expect to release new packages updating or expanding our archive of TEI-compliant editions whenever new material is ready.  We are managing these releases with the Nexus repository management system, hosted at the University of Houston High Performance Computing Center (briefly noted here).   Nexus organizes named "artifacts" (as it terms published objects) in groups, with further, specific identifiers distinguishing each published version.  Most significantly for the on-going management of the HMT project's digital resources, Nexus supports the automated management of dependencies used in build systems like maven or gradle. This means that when we want to automate a task working with our editions, we can simply declare that our task depends on a particular version of the artifact, and the zipped file will be automatically retrieved over the internet and unpacked locally.  (For the technically inclined, I recently blogged a note elsewhere about using automated dependency management in small disciplines like Classics.)

In addition to the TEI-compliant XML files, the package includes a CTS TextInventory file documenting the citation scheme of each edition, and how it maps onto the document's XML markup.  README files summarize the contents and editorial status of each section of the archive.  This release includes initial, unverified diplomatic editions of 32 Iliadic texts from papyrus sources, the Iliadic text and scholia from Iliad 1-6 in the Venetus A manuscript, and other texts from the first eleven folios of the Venetus A manuscript.

The package is named hmt-editions, and it belongs to the group org.homermultitext.  For this package, a date string is used for the version identifier (formatted as YYYY.MM.DD).  You can search for "hmt-editions" from the nexus server at, or directly download the zip file from this URL.

If you want to add a dependency to this package in your maven or gradle build, use the following maven coordinates (in whatever syntax is appropriate to your build system):

groupId:  org.homermultitext
artifactId: hmt-editions
version: 2012.8.7
type: zip

Friday, August 3, 2012

ICT · The Image Citation Tool

The Homer Multitext has developed an Image Citation Tool for use with digital images served by the CITE Image Service.

Humanist scholarship is the act of forging new connections between ideas, and placing those connections before the eyes of readers. Those readers must be free and empowered to judge the value of the new connections.

The heart of humanist scholarship, then in quotation. Robert Sokolowski calls quotation a ‘curious conjunction of begin able to name and to contain’;* V.A. Howard is more succinct: quotation is ‘replication-plus-reference’.** We would re-phrase this as “reproduction plus citation”.

Reproduction in a quotation allows us to talk about a particular artifact of human thought without the burden of reproducing its entire context. As a practical matter, it is easier to say “Μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος” than to reproduce the whole of the Iliad.

Citation in a quotation provides a link from the reproduced selection back to context of that selection. “Iliad 1.1” names our quotation, as Howard says, but also invites the reader to explore Iliad 1.2, all of Book 1 of the Iliad, or the whole poem.

This is easy stuff. We were all taught to do it early in our educations, and we take it for granted.
It is easy, that is, with texts. Images are a different matter. How do you “quote” from an image? Most scholars use images from time to time in their work; few of those uses meet the rigorous standards of “quotation” that we take for granted with texts. The general practice is to open a digital image in an image-editor, cut out the area of the image under discussion, and paste that image into a document or web-page. If the image is cited, the citation is often to a page in a book that has published a version of the image, a museum’s accession number identifying an original work of art, or a URL to a web-page on which a digital version of the image appears. The citation does not provide a path from the selection to its context.

Nor is this kind of “image quotation” actionable in the way that a textual quotation (reproduction+citation) is. Given “Iliad 1.1”, it is simple to answer the question “What comes next?”. It is simple to know that “Iliad 1.1–1.10” includes Iliad 1.5. Given a cut-copied-pasted snippet of a digital image, and perhaps a citation to a web-page, it is not possible to answer with any degree of precision “Where is this snippet in its larger context? What parts of the image are adjacent to this snippet?” Given two snippets, it would require considerable computation to determine whether Snippet A contains Snippet B.

Since the Homer Multitext is committed to image-based scholarly editing, and subsequent discussion and argument based closely on digital imagery of manuscripts and papyri, we have worked to developed a means of quoting images as rigorously, and usefully, as we can quote texts.

The CITE Image Service allows us to identify images with canonical citations in URN-notation. These URNs take the form: urn:cite:hmt:chsimg.VA094VN-0597. This points to a notional image, which might be delivered at any scale, or by services hosted on various machines with various addresses.
A CITE Image URN can take a suffix that identifies a rectangular region-of-interest: urn:cite:hmt:chsimg.VA094VN-0597:0.3833,0.2441,0.0783,0.0463. This URN+ROI can resolve to a “quotation”, that is the region-of-interest on its own, or to a view of the larger image with the region-of-interest highlighted. These image-ROIs canonically cited with URN notation are concise, precise, and machine-actionable mechanisms for image quotation in the best tradition of humanist scholarship.

To help ourselves, our collaborators, and anyone else interested in working with the openly licensed images in our Homer Multitext Image Collection, we have developed a web-based tool for defining regions-of-interest on our digital images and capturing canonical citations for them. This is the Image Citation Tool.

A lengthy introduction to the tool and its use are included in our Homer Multitext documentation pages.   Downloadable source-code for the tool—a relatively simple web-application in HTML, CSS, and Javascript—is available from the HMT’s code repository.


* Sokolowski, Robert. “Quotation.” The Review of Metaphysics 37.4 (1984) : 699-723. Print. 24 May 2011.
** Howard, V.A., “On Musical Quotation”, Monist 58 (1974) 310.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Homer Multitext receives National Endowment for the Humanities Award

We were thrilled to learn last week that the Homer Multitext has been awarded a Scholarly Editions and Translations grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. We wish to express our thanks to the NEH, as well as to the Center for Hellenic Studies, which is contributing matching funds to the project. Here is our abstract for the grant, which will cover three years of work.

Editing as a Discovery Process: Accessing centuries of scholarship in one 10th century manuscript of the Iliad

Casey Dué and Mary Ebbott

Statement of significance and impact

Our proposed scholarly edition will publish in its entirety for the first time what is arguably the single most important historical witness to the Homeric Iliad: the tenth-century manuscript held in the Marciana Library in Venice known as the Venetus A. Not only is it the oldest complete text of the Iliad in existence, the Venetus A contains abundant writings in its margins (called scholia) that preserve the otherwise lost ancient scholarship about the poem collected in the Library of Alexandria and further elucidated by generations of scholars in antiquity. This manuscript is an unparalleled resource for the study of the Iliad, but its contents and our methods for creating this edition will also contribute to larger questions in the humanities in general about the nature of authorship, the interaction between orality and literacy, modes of textual transmission, and the practices of scholarly editing, both historically and currently.

Our edition will be based on and will incorporate the high-resolution digital images of this manuscript acquired in 2007 for the Homer Multitext (HMT) project (, of which we are co-Editors. Our digital edition of the text and scholia of the Venetus A will provide a complete transcription of every item on the page of the manuscript, spatially linked to the already published high-resolution images. The transcriptions will be encoded in TEI-XML and then made freely available in both human- and machine-readable form via the Homer Multitext. Any interested user will be able to download them or reuse and/or republish them for their own purposes under a Creative Commons license. Various tools will allow users to view and search the text in multiple ways. The digitally-mapped transcriptions will make it easy for users to find texts on the images and the mark-up of the transcriptions will also make the contents easily searchable. Our preliminary work on this manuscript as well as others has shown that a significant percentage of the scholia, which transmit Homeric scholarship as old as the third century BCE, has never been published in any edition. The proposed publication, then, will provide complete access to this essential primary source for the poem that marks the beginning of Western literature to the entire scholarly community, and indeed to any interested user.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

On-line publication of Homer Multitext related scholarship

The Center for Hellenic Studies has published on-line versions of Gregory Nagy's Homer the Classic (Harvard University Press, 2009) and Homer the Preclassic (University of California Press, 2010). Both works illuminate the methodological foundation on which the Homer Mutltext is built. In the words of Richard Martin (whose book The Language of Heroes has also been published on-line by the CHS):
Homer the Preclassic offers an overwhelming challenge to those who picture the Iliad and Odyssey as pneumatic posts, whooshing unchanged from a single authorial source onto the shelf of canonical Western texts. In a tour de force of precise scholarship and imaginative reconstruction, Nagy reexamines in full all the evidence relating to the historical reality of Homeric poetry in the period before the fifth century BCE. He demonstrates for the first time how deeply the constantly contested figure of Homer and the shifting body of poetry attributed to him are enmeshed in the ideologies of competitive festivals and performers, of religious cult and musical tradition, and of political fedearation, individual ambition, and ultimately, empire. (from the back cover of Homer the Preclassic).
The many different forces that Martin identifies have shaped the texts of the Iliad and Odyssey that have come down to us. The Homer Multitext seeks to preserve and publish the historical documents that have come down to us, precisely so that we can appreciate how the texts of these poems have been shaped through time. The Medieval manuscripts, ancient papyri, and the scholia in their margins provide fascinating glimpses into these dynamic historical realities.

Other Homer Multitext related scholarship published by the CHS includes the original French text of Milman Parry's thesis known in English as "The Traditional Epithet in Homer," Douglas Frame's Hippota Nestor, and numerous other works by Gregory Nagy, all of which can be found on the CHS on-line publications page.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Announcing version 1.0 of CHS Image Services

A recent post described our reorganization of the Homer Multitext project's archival image data.
We have been experimenting for some time with a preliminary internet service for working with canonically citable images.

Today, we are releasing version 1.0 of our implementation of the CHS Image Service, an extension to the CITE architecture's Collections.  The CHS Image Service supports extended citation of images including regions of interest, and provides methods for gathering various kinds of information about a canonically citable image, including retrieving binary image data.  We plan to follow up on this release shortly with a formal specification of version 1.0 of the CHS extension to CITE Collections.  

In the mean time, if you are a developer interested in using canonically citable images, see this summary of CHS Image Services in our overview of the CITE architecture.

If you would like to run your own installation, see this guide to running a CHS Image Service.

If you are an end-user who currently uses HMT apps, you should see no changes at all (except perhaps that the web pages at our reference installation of CHS Image Services,, may have a little nicer skin) — that's a feature of the design of chsimg 1.0.  What you should expect to see over the next year or two is more rapid development of applications drawing on chsimg to incorporate canonically citable images in new ways to visualize and explore the Homer Multitext project's increasingly rich archive.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Verifying an inventory of scholia

One of the most important tasks the Homer Multitext project has been addressing is to compile a complete inventory of the scholia in the manuscripts we are studying.  Remarkably, this has never been done, even for the much-discussed Venetus A manuscript.  (The most thorough and accurate edition to date, Dindorf's admirable two-volume Scholia Graeca in Homeri Iliadem, excludes interior and exterior scholia from consideration.  As to Erbse's Scholia Vetera in Iliadem, often misunderstood by classicists as systematic, or as an attempt to create a comprehensive inventory, a detailed comparison of our edition of Iliad 3 and 4 with Erbse's text showed that he publishes only about 80% of the scholiastic text in the Venetus A.)

Venetus A, folio 12 recto, with the first 25 lines of the Iliad; overlays show the location of scholia, color-coded for their class of placement on the folio.

Since the summer of 2010, we have used a system of machine-assisted visual proofing to help verify that we have indeed included all scholia on a given folio in our inventory.  HMT editors create structured inventory notebooks that include a citation of visual evidence for each scholion they identify.  These notebooks can be transformed into web pages with images illustrating each folio, with partially opaque overlays showing the position of each scholion.  Editors can see at a glance whether any areas of a folio page have text outside an overlay.

This summer, as part of our effort to improve the automated management of our archival data, we have added an automated check that verifies the syntax of every image citation.  Yesterday, I completed a review of inventories for Iliad 1-5 in the Venetus A.  3503 out of 3505 entries (99.9%) were syntactically valid:   clearly, visual proofing is a pretty effective method of checking syntax as well as finding missed areas on a folio page.  Next, we plan to package the verification tool in an expanded tool kit for HMT editors, so that they can validate the syntax of their citations before ever submitting a notebook for review.  (That or course means:  they will be required to validate that 100% of their citations are syntactically valid before submitting a notebook for review!)

Of course we cannot be sure that this method will find scholia when they are nearly invisible on our photographs.  Participants in the 2011 summer seminar at the Center for Hellenic Studies made the alarming discovery that they had missed a number of exterior scholia visible in the 1901 facsimile edition by Comparetti It is clear that in the century since Comparetti, the small scholia on the edges of the manuscript pages have suffered the most, and we have since established a practice of routinely checking each inventoried folio against Comparetti's facsimile.  In some cases, our ultraviolet photography preserves legible text.

What does an inventory of 3500 scholia look like?  I've posted one visualization:  a pdf that offers a kind of "flip chart", of folios 12 recto through 80 recto of the Venetus A (that is, Iliad 1-5), with a very small version of our overlay image for each folio side.  You can see that visualization, as well as some work in progress from the summer of 2012, here.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Scholia to Iliad 14.506 in Two Manuscripts in Venice (Venetus A and Marciana 841)

Guest Post by Matthew Angiolillo & Christine Roughan

In this guest post by Angiolillo (College of the Holy Cross Class of 2013) and Roughan (College of the Holy Cross Class of 2014), the comparison of two manuscripts and their scholia leads to deeper understanding of how the system of the poetic language operates.

The tradition of the ancient Greek epic the Iliad is a long one—this is a work that has its origins in the 2nd millennium BCE. The Venetus A is a 10th century CE manuscript of the Iliad, and, at a thousand years old, it is our oldest complete source for the ancient epic. It also contains a wealth of scholia, some of which date as far back as the 3rd century BCE. As such, it has long been the object of study and scholarship.

In comparison, the Marciana 841 (= Marcianus Graecus Z. 458, referred to as U4 by Allen)– is a 12th or 13th century CE manuscript of the Iliad. The first half of this source has been lost – of the 24 books of the Iliad, the Marciana 841 contains only books 14-24. Compared to the Venetus A, the Marciana 458 contains far fewer scholia. It is slightly unusual in that it contains a later, Byzantine Greek translation of the Iliad written in prose alongside the poem. The Marciana 841 is one of the less well-known manuscripts of the Iliad, since it has received comparatively less scholarship.

When comparing the readings of these two manuscripts together, however, we find intriguing differences. One of these occurs in Iliad 14.506. As will be shown, the Venetus A and the Marciana 841 offer two different readings for line 506, but also acknowledge each other’s different reading in their scholia.

In the end of Iliad Book 14, the cycle of Greek and Trojan victories and retaliations comes to a halt when the Greek Peneleos strikes down Ilioneus, and in line 506 the tide of battle is turned against the Trojans. Looking first at the main text of the Venetus A, we read for line 506 ὡς φάτο τοὺς δ᾽ ἄρα πάντας ὑπο τρόμος ἔλλαβε γυῖα (“Thus he spoke, and trembling seized them all in respect to their limbs”). Note that we represent exactly what appears in the manuscript, with the punctuation and accentuation unchanged. (Click on the captions of the images to go to the full folio page with this line/scholion cited and highlighted.),0.2547,0.4383,0.0297&xsl=zoomomatic.xsl
Iliad 14.506 from Venetus A
In the Marciana 841 manuscript, line 506 starts similarly but offers a different reading for the end of the line. Here we have ὣς φατο· τούς δ᾽ ἄρα πάντας ὑπὸ χλωρὸν δέος εἷλε (“Thus he spoke; and green fear seized them all”). Here, χλωρὸν δέος, green fear, is Homeric idiom for a particular type of fear. By investigating how it is used wherever it turns up, we can try to determine its meaning. The Marciana 458 substitutes this idiomatic ending: ‘green fear seized them all’ replaces ‘trembling seized them all in respect to their limbs.’
Iliad 14.506 from Marciana 841

Venetus A intermarginal scholion to Iliad 14.506

Even more interestingly, both manuscripts include scholia on line 506 acknowledging the alternate readings. In an intermarginal scholion, the Venetus A scribe notes that γράφεται τοὺς ἄρα πάντας ὑπὸ χλωρὸν δέος εῖλεν⁑ (“‘Green fear seized them all’ is written”).

In the Marciana 841, a scholion appears between the main text and the prose transcription, saying, γράφεται ὑ¨πο τρόμος ἔλλαβε γυῖα⁑ (“‘Trembling seized the limbs’ is written”).
Marciana 841 scholion to Iliad 14.506

Besides minor accenting and punctuating differences in ὡς φάτο τοὺς, line 506 is the same in the Venetus A and the Marciana 841 except for its ending: ὑπο τρόμος ἔλλαβε γυῖα versus ὑπὸ χλωρὸν δέος εἷλε. There are two possibilities for why the manuscripts record the lines differently: either a scribe at some point in the transmission of the Iliad erred and wrote the line incorrectly, or the two represent separate—but equally valid—readings and are multiforms of each other.

It is exceedingly unlikely that the variation we are investigating in line 506 was caused by scribal error. This hypothetical error would have had to have occurred much earlier than the 10th century Venetus A, since the variant was already known and recorded in the scholia by this point. Unfortunately, nothing about these scholia gives any hint as to their age. The difference also would have had to persist for two or three hundred years more, even with the knowledge that other manuscripts had a different reading, since the scribe of the 12th/13th century Marciana 841 is also aware of the variants.

Furthermore, the different reading is not a single changed word or a different form; rather, the last three words are changed. It is hard to envision why a scribe, tasked with copying the line, would end up with a completely different ending. This was not the scribe accidentally skipping or repeating a few lines, nor was it him having difficulty with confusing Greek and trying to correct it to something that makes better sense.

The only way the scribe might have accidentally followed ὡς φάτο τοὺς δ᾽ ἄρα πάντας ὑπο with χλωρὸν δέος εἷλε instead of τρόμος ἔλλαβε γυῖα (or vice versa) would be if he were accidentally recalling an identical line used elsewhere in Homer, such as Odyssey 22.42: ὣς φάτο, τοὺς δ᾽ ἄρα πάντας ὑπὸ χλωρὸν δέος εἷλεν. This Odyssey line, however, seems to be the only duplicate, drastically diminishing the chance that a scribe would have erroneously thought of it and started the variant in Iliad 14.506 by writing its ending instead of τρόμος ἔλλαβε γυῖα.

This different line ending is not the result of scribal error: it is a multiform. Both readings are metrically valid. Both make grammatical sense. Both fit in the context of the line and surrounding passage. Since we can consider this use of χλωρὸν δέος in line 506 to be intentional rather than an error by the scribe, we can also now investigate how its use in this context (and other contexts throughout Homer) help us understand the meaning of this particular idiom.

In Homeric poetry, the term “green (or pale) fear” (χλωρὸν δέος) has often presented difficulties for translators, as the formula implies much more than a literal translation such as “sallow fear” or “blanching terror” could hope to capture. After analyzing the occurrence of the phrase or “nugget of diction” as it is described in the words of John M. Foley, he concludes that “pale fear” is often associated with the supernatural, many times relating to the actions of the gods, which inspire terror (Foley 2002: 121,128). An example of such a usage occurs at Iliad 7.475–482, when the Greeks and the Trojans are feasting after a hard day of fighting and the single combat between Hector and Ajax has ended. At this time, Zeus, the counselor, is said to have “devised them evil, thundering in a terrible way. Then pale fear got hold of them.” In this instance, Zeus’ future plans are seen to directly affect both sides of combatants, inspiring terror in the Trojans and Greeks alike and consequently both sides immediately offer up sacrifices to Zeus.

“Pale fear” is also used when relating to the inhabitants of the underworld such as in Odyssey 11.42–43, where Odysseus recalls for the Phaeacians his journey to the underworld in order to hear the prophesy of Tiresias that will give him instructions as to how eventually he might reach his home in Ithaca. Odysseus describing the ghosts in the underworld reveals his fright: “These [phantoms] came thronging in crowds about the pit from every side, with a wondrous cry; and pale fear seized me.” These examples notwithstanding, there are also instances in the Iliad where pale fear is used without specific reference to supernatural activity. In Iliad 17, for example, Menelaus is compared to a mountain lion, easily devouring a heifer in its ferocity, but whom none of the surrounding herders will face “for pale fear had taken hold of them,” just as no Trojan is willing to fight Menelaus (Iliad 17.59–67). In addition, in Iliad 15, as the Trojans run from the advancing Greeks, they are stopped “pale with fear” next to their chariots (Iliad 15.1–4), a scene which continues the narrative from the end of Iliad 14, where the scholia of both manuscripts on 506 are located.  In each of these passages, there is no obvious direct influence of the gods on the action at play, however the phrase “pale fear” is still employed. The second example also uses the expression in a somewhat unorthodox way, as an adjectival phrase describing the Trojans in flight, as “green fear” in numerous other passages is the agent of terror, usually coming over an individual or group. The phrase is also used adjectivally in Iliad 10, describing Dolon, in another passage in which there does not seem to be any direct influence being initiated by the gods (Iliad 10.374–376).

However, the influences of the gods are often difficult to trace precisely and often times their forces are at work in certain passages without their presence being explicitly clear to the reader, unless she has a solid grasp of the surrounding context. The way “green or pale fear” is used at 14.506 in the Marciana 841 manuscript and seen in the Venetus A scholion, adds a new perspective on the formula, as an argument could be made that in the context of the end of Book 14, the influences of the gods are at work in a different way compared to examples mentioned above, augmenting our understanding of how the formula of “pale fear” is used, in that in this instance, the power of the gods is referred to in an indirect and more subtle way. Assuming that the multiform is employed, immediately after the Trojans are seized by “green fear” on hearing Peneleos’ threatening words after he strikes down Ilioneus, Homer invokes the Muses and embarks on a mini-catalogue announcing the Greek warriors who took advantage of the “Earth-shaker” Poseidon turning the tide of battle in favor of the Greeks. The gods, especially Poseidon, have also been very active in the Greek war effort throughout Book 14 in which, disguised as an old man, Poseidon tells the Greeks that the Trojans will not continue winning the war. Subsequently, the god screams a resounding yell to encourage the Greek battle effort, and then goes onto the battlefield himself to lead the Achaeans from the front.

Although the Trojans are only directly responding in terror to the words of Peneleos, they may also be responding to the prospective knowledge that the tide of the war has turned against them and that Poseidon is aiding the Greeks in their destruction. This possible conclusion can also be supported by Iliad 14.507, the next line, which states that all the Trojan men look for a way to “escape sheer destruction.” Since, according to the narrative, it is the tenth year of the war and the Trojan men have seen others of their comrades die in combat, it is doubtful that they believe that in reality Peneleos personally is going to slay every one of them. It seems that a greater knowledge of their imminent demise comes across the Trojan men, leaving battle-hardened warriors searching for a way out. The way that “green fear” is used in this instance adds a new perspective in the understanding of the formula that is not captured in the majority of other Homeric passages that employ the term. One exception that builds on how “pale fear” is used in Book 14 is in another Homeric passage, which is virtually identical to the reading of 14.506 found in the Marciana 841. In Odyssey 22.42, Odysseus, after returning to Ithaca, addresses the suitors whom he, by necessity, will eventually kill and whom are, reasonably, struck by pale fear at seeing the hero. Although there is no direct mentioning of the gods in the passage, Odysseus is aided by the goddess Athena, who makes him stronger and appear more attractive, which would indicate that pale fear can be employed in instances where the impact of the gods is only implicitly felt but imminent demise is inevitable.

The scholion employing the multiform “pale fear” in the Marciana 841 adds to the understanding of the term and also may allow an interesting comparison to the reading in the Iliad text given in Venetus A, which states that “trembling seized them all in respect to their limbs.” The trembling that the Trojans endure, can be interpreted not only as the result of a fear of destruction, the words of Peneleos, or that the war has turned against them, but also due to the fact that the Earth-Shaker Poseidon, who has been a key player in spurring on the Greeks, is, through his actions, shaking the Trojans’ limbs into trembling. This reading works nicely and gains strength when compared to the line in Marciana 841, given that the added understanding of the “pale fear” multiform indicates that the actions of a god, in this case Poseidon, that are not plainly affecting those feeling fear, can still be highly ominous. Supporting this reading, that in the mentioning of trembling limbs the power of divine forces might be at play, is that immediately after 14.506 in 14.509–515, Homer invokes the Muse, asking her who was “the first of the Achaeans to carry away the blood-stained spoils of warriors when once the famed shaker of the Earth had turned the battle.” The singer then goes on to list the series of Greek warriors and the Trojans whom they defeated and stripped, due in large part to Poseidon turning the tide of battle. This list, which appropriately ends Book 14, seems to bode ill for the hopes of the Trojans in the following books of the poem to achieve victory and lends credence to the Trojans’ trembling being indirectly induced by Poseidon. This view, which works nicely in conjuncture with the multiform presented by the Marciana 841 reading and the scholion to the Venetus A text, gives a new angle with which to understand the meaning and use of the green/pale fear formula.

Through this one elegant example of 14.506 in the Marciana 841 and Venetus A, we are able to grasp much concerning how the tradition of oral poetry shaped the Iliad over its history, and the possibilities for a greater understanding of the variations and transmission of the text that can be obtained through the study of these manuscripts, and especially their scholia. Many of the passages that are compared above would not be able to be referenced to line 506 if one were reading a standard edition, and if it were not for the scholion from a very different manuscript that pointed out an alternate reading, these parallels would not be able to be drawn.

Works Cited
Foley J.M. 2002. How to Read an Oral Poem. University of Illinois Press.