Friday, December 30, 2016

Procopius of Caesarea on the Earthquake in Antioch in 526 AD

There is a comment by Procopius on the earthquake at Antioch in 526 AD in this paper:

by Vasiliki Zali in Histos Supplement (2015 ) pages 85-126.

Zali notes that Procopius wrote when relating the fate of the city of Antioch (2.10.4–5): 

"But I become dizzy as I write of such a great calamity and transmit it to future times, and I am unable to understand why indeed it should be the will of God to exalt on high the fortunes of a man or of a place, and then to cast them down and destroy them for no cause which we can perceive (τί ποτε ἄρα βουλοµένῳ τῷ θεῷ εἴη πράγµατα µὲν ἀνδρὸς ἢ χωρίου του ἐπαίρειν εἰς ὕψος, αὖθις δὲ ῥιπτεῖν τε αὐτὰ καὶ ἀφανίζειν ἐξ οὐδεµιᾶς ἡµῖν φαινοµένης αἰτίας). For it is wrong to say that with Him all things are not always done with reason (αὐτῷ γὰρ οὐ θέµις εἰπεῖν µὴ οὐχὶ ἅπαντα κατὰ λόγον ἀεὶ γίγνεσθαι), though he then endured to see Antioch brought down to the ground at the hands of a most unholy man, a city whose beauty and grandeur in every respect could not even so be utterly concealed".

This was taken from Dewing, H. B., tr. (1914–40) Procopius, vols. 1–5 (Cambridge, Mass.).

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Towards a Prosopography of Ancient Antioch - Visualising Networks

Lawrence Stone gave a definition: “Prosopography is the investigation of the common back-ground  characteristics of a group of actors in history by means of a collective study of their  lives ”(1971: 46).

The most comprehensive source of prosopographical material on Ancient Antioch was undoubtedly its most voluminous writer, Libanius. His trove of writings spawned a more narrowly focussed work by the French expert on Antioch, Paul Petit. In this volume he specifically focussed upon the public functionaries that Libanius mentioned in his letters and orations. This work is:

Petit Paul. Les fonctionnaires dans l'oeuvre de Libanius : analyse prosopographique. Préface de André Chastagnol et de Jean
Martin. Besançon : Université de Franche-Comté, 1994. pp. 5-286. (Annales littéraires de l'Université de Besançon, 541)
doi : 10.3406/ista.1994.2515

Which is available here on the Persee website:

When I first read this work it struck me that here was the potential foundation for "populating" the Antiochepedia with more characters than just Libanius, Chrysostom and Malalas. Here we have administrators, senators, patrons, clients and a host of the elites that peopled the corridors of power in Antioch and Constantinople and dined at the symposia of Daphne in its heyday. 

Finding the correct software to visualise this social network was tough and after some false starts I came upon GEPHI, a free network visualisation software which suited my purposes. I had even at one point thought of using Linkedin for my purposes. 

Using Petit as a base and overlaying the other works dealing with Libanius' interactions I have created an initial database and started on bolting on names and linked up the relationships, even if tenuous, between those in Libanius' relationship with the good, bad and indifferent of his times.   

The basic index of Petit's book provided me with the basic "one-to-many" relationship between Libanius and the 299 characters that Petit awards with entries. Now the task is to interconnect the personalities from the specific entries and include players without entries (Julian, Chrysostom and many less well-known figures). Moving on to Norman's work on the Antiochene booktrade we get mention of more humble non-administrators, like the copyist Maeonius. Such works will add extra names to the mix.

Rather than a work in process, I call this a Visualisation in Progress. I welcome others to the cause. Click here for the first output of a few hours works.