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Lange Nacht der Wissenshaften, Universität Leipzig, 27.6.14

The Historical Languages eLearning Project would like to extend a warm thank you to all of you who came to the Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften to learn and play with Ancient Geek. Your feedback was invaluable and has helped us bring our research and development to the next level!










Long Night of Science / Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften!!

Tonight (27th July) from 6pm to 12am in the main building of the University of Leipzig our very own Historical eLearning Project team will be showcasing Ancient Geek, a user-friendly web application providing localized support to learners of Ancient Greek.

The project started in September 2013 and is now already at the point of offering a fully functional platform enriched with history snippets, gamified exercises, aligned text, parse trees, all designed with the sole purpose of teaching an ancient language, not through traditional grammars, but through direct contact with the text and active participation. So far, the text at the user’s disposal is a section of The History of the Peloponnesian War by the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, whose literal translation is made available in English, Croatian and Farsi.

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The project’s working name is Historical Languages eLearning Project and is part of the wider Open Philology Project led by Prof. Gregory Crane, Humboldt Professor of DigitalHumanities at the University of Leipzig and funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the European Social Fund and the Sächsische AufbauBank.

Ancient Geek was born and blossomed in the capable hands of three Research Associates at the University of Leipzig — Monica Lent, Emily Franzini and Maria Moritz — with the help of Maryam Foradi, professional translator, and their leaders Professor Gregory Crane, Dr. Thomas Köntges. Join us!



Update! Total number of secondary level students studying Latin and Ancient Greek in the world

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Here is an updated version of the blogpost that I published last March [link: here] in which I gave a brief account of my experience in trying to quantify the total number of students studying the Latin and Ancient Greek languages across the world. I am extremely grateful to all the Classicists and non-Classicists out there who pointed me in the right direction, and thanks to whom I have now identified the numbers for four more areas in the world: the Flanders (in Belgium), Switzerland, France and New Zealand. Here are some considerations.

Switzerland filled me with joy, coming in second with 16.8% of its students studying Latin, after Italy (40%). The Flanders too strives to breed young Latinists, with 9% of its students studying the language, 0.3% more than Germany. There are 501,100 students of Latin in France, which I thought incredibly impressive considering Latin is by no means compulsory in schools. I had no idea what to expect for New Zealand, but this is what I found: there are 1,501 students of Latin and none of Greek.

Switzerland and the Flanders tie in second place with 1.2% of students studying Greek in each country – Italy remains first with 13.6%. France is in fifth place after Croatia with 34,000 students of Greek.

I’m still desperately trying to find accurate results for Spain, Greece and Egypt, so any further help would be greatly appreciated. When researching South Africa, I discovered that local Classics professors estimate no more than 100 Latin and 50 Greek students, but, for this, I have yet to find exact documentation. However, it was fascinating to find out that there are Latin and Greek students also in Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Congo and Malawi.

As always, if you know the stats of your own country or know where I could find them, please send me an email at efranzini(at)informatik(dot)uni-leipzig(dot)de or leave a comment.

[For the stats complete with sources, download the PDF file below.]

Creative Commons translations from Greek and Latin into modern languages?

The Open Philology project is looking for ways to encourage the distribution of translations from Greek and Latin into modern languages. Many authors are simply happy to put their materials on their own websites. Our goal at this point is to elucidate some issues for those who want their materials to be more widely used and to gauge how many people might produce new materials if they had some sort of support. We see (at least) three topics for producers to consider:

  • Making your materials available under a Creative Commons license: Many producers make their materials freely available on a website but do not include an explicit rights statement enabling third parties to make use of their work. This also prevents their work from having the impact that they often actually wish. There are various CC licenses to choose from. A CC-BY-ND-NC prevents anyone from modifying your work or using it for commercial purposes. Such a license is conservative and relatively easy to accept but a bolder approach, using a CC-BY-SA license, which allows for derivative works and for third-parties to include your work in a commercial service, makes it easier for your work to reach more people. The BY feature requires that you receive credit, while your original version can remain available as a point of reference. The SA feature means that anyone who modifies your work has to share the results — thus preventing a commercial enterprise from making a new version of what you have done and hiding it behind an exclusive subscription wall.
  • Making your materials available in TEI XML: Producing TEI XML requires learning how to go beyond using a word processor but, once a text is in TEI XML, it can be queried and represented in more sophisticated ways. If a document is in well-structured TEI XML, then versions in PDF, HTML or e-book formats can be produced as well.
  • Making sure your work has a citation scheme: Few, if any, translations of poetry try to align each verse with the original but it still helps to be able to show roughly where line X in a Greek or Latin source corresponds to your translation. With prose works, alignment is much easier and you may choose to keep sentence boundaries where section breaks occur in a Greek or Latin source edition.

We are posting this preliminary query to elicit public discussion from those who have produced, or would like to produce, translations. Mastering enough Greek and Latin to produce translations is far and away the hardest task. The issues above require some thought and training but they are relatively minor tasks compared to the work of translating  a single play of Sophocles or a speech of Cicero.

Feel free to get in touch with us either by email or by leaving a comment below!

“digilibLT – a Digital Library of Late Latin Texts” by Prof. Maurizio Lana from Università del Piemonte Orientale (Italy)


Prof. Maurizio Lana

When: Tuesday, May 20th from 9:15 to 10:45am 

Where: University of Leipzig, Paulinum 801

The project digilibLT is planning to offer a complete database of late-antique Latin authors and works as well as an exhaustive canon. Access to the canon and the database is free. Search windows are designed to allow users to search either the entire collection of texts or selection of them (by author, period, or type text) or single authors and works. Texts can be downloaded freely, which will allow individual scholars to work on the areas of interest with maximum flexibility. Texts are codified according to the TEI coding standard. The canon lists the critical editions on which the digital text is based; if this is the case, it also lists deviations from the critical text. The website also includes short entries on late-antique authors and works, bibliographies, and  canon entries.


“Editing Texts in Context: Two Case Studies” by Prof. Neel D. Smith from College of the Holy Cross

When: Monday, May 19th from 3:15 to 4:45pm

Where: University of Leipzig, Paulinum 801


Prof. Neel Smith

The two presentations in this seminar will illustrate the methods used to create digital diplomatic editions taking account of how physical artifacts have transmitted the texts to us, and will show the kinds of results these editions can lead to.

1. An unpublished manuscript of Archimedes:  Bodmer 8.  Rebecca Finnigan (Holy Cross ’15).
The manuscript tradition of Archimedes is minimal:  in addition to the famous palimpsest, all the known Greek manuscripts descend from a single source, now lost.  This presentation focuses on a sixteenth century manuscript of Archimedes photographed by the e-codices project, but never edited. Systematic comparison of the text with the collation of the major critical edition by Heiberg shows that, in contrast to accepted conclusions, Bodmer 8 cannot be an apograph from any known Greek manuscript of Archimedes.  The physical layout of the text, paleographic features of the main text, and evidence for how the text’s accompanying diagrams were produced all support the hypothesis that Bodmer 8 is a direct copy of a much older source, plausibly copied directly from the now lost Codex A, our earliest source for the works of antiquity’s greatest mathematician.

2. Reassessing Athenian Tribute.  Christine Bannan (Holy Cross ’14).
One of the most important questions in classical Greek history is how the League of the Greeks, originally a defensive alliance to protect the allied Greek states from Persian aggression, evolved into an Athenian Empire with members paying mandatory tribute to Athens.  Literary sources are scant, but one vital series of documents are the inscriptions recording the annual amounts that Athens held back from the tribute payments as “first fruit offerings” for Athena.    A diplomatic edition must capture the complexity of documents preserved in hundreds of stone fragments, and the richness of their contents recording geographic, chronological and quantitative financial data.  This presentation introduces a digital edition based on original, openly licensed photography, with new forms of visualization of the Tribute Quota List’s multidimensional data.  The work is being published through the Holy Cross Library’s Institutional Repository for digital scholarship, including a virtual machine specification allowing anyone to replicate the fully running system using the freely available Vagrant configuration system.