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. 


Judith Weingarten said...

Super cool. Have you seen Diane Cline's publication on networks based on the Amarna letters? A really good starting point:

Antiochian said...

I have not heard that.. many thanks for the lead... I had read somewhere that something similar had been done with the Oxyrynchus papyri..