From Breadth to Depth. A digital collection of editions of Greek Tragedies

The Open Greek and Latin (OGL) project at the “Alexander von Humboldt Chair for DH” aims to represent “every source text produced in Classical Greek or Latin from antiquity through the present”. But how would we or the users measure the success of this enterprise? What metrics can we employ? The number of authors and works included or the coverage (expressed in percentage or any other ratio) of digitized texts over the totality of surviving materials are obvious answers that come to everybody’s mind; yet, when dealing with ancient texts, these concepts are more ambiguous than they appear. One aspect that is often overlooked is that the vast majority (if not all) of ancient texts exist in many different versions. The great majority of literary works survive in manuscripts that were copied in different periods and from different originals and may therefore contain variant readings on many passages. In addition, the scholars and the editors of those texts have taken different positions on how to choose the correct variants or, for instance, on how to reconstruct the missing part of a broken inscription or what letter to read in a damaged papyrus. Their editions vary on many significant points from one to another. Thus, it is not just the interpretation of an ancient work that is controversial. Very often the reconstruction of the text that is printed as “the original” in a book is extremely problematic and open to discussion. Readers who have some familiarity with Greek tragedy would know that the formula pathei mathos (“learning through suffering”) encapsulates the laws that Zeus has set for mortals in the...