Monday, March 8, 2010

HESTIA: the Herodotus Encoded Space-Text-Imaging Archive

HESTIA: the Herodotus Encoded Space-Text-Imaging Archive
In the fifth book of his History, Herodotus describes a meeting between Cleomenes, king of Sparta, and Aristagoras, tyrant of Miletus, who has come to Lacedaemon to solicit support for a revolt of Ionian Greeks from Persian control. Having brought with him 'a bronze tablet on which a chart of the whole land was engraved' (5.49) and to which he repeatedly referred, Aristagoras was doing well until Cleomenes asked how many days' journey the proposed expedition would take his army from the sea. When the response came back 'three months', Cleomenes bade his Milesian guest depart Sparta before sunset.

The story raises several key issues relevant to the representation and conception of space in Herodotus' History. First, the example presents a decentred world: though the dialogue takes place in the Spartan heartland of Greece, the reader is invited to imagine a land far distant even from the Greek settlements in Asia Minor. Second, that distance is conceived in terms of a journey, three months from the sea; that is, space is portrayed as a phenomenon which is experienced rather an abstract notion. Third, the idea of space as something lived and relative lays emphasis on human agents as focalisers: the arguments of the worldly Aristagoras (tyrant of a city at the hub of trade routes on the margins of the Persian empire) fall on the deaf ears of the king of a land-bound people (whose very territory, the Peloponnesos, signifies an 'island'): different peoples have different conceptions of space. Fourth, in spite of the rival spatial perceptions of the two characters, Herodotus represents a horizon of networks, by virtue of which decisions made in one place reverberate through the whole region. Lastly, the role of the narrator in the construction of space introduces the issue of narrativity, particularly since Herodotus glosses Aristagoras' visual display of space with his own discursive representation of that space (5.52-4)...

... HESTIA intends to rely on the latest geo-referencing techniques in the e-resource Classics community, while contributing to their efforts to disseminate the latest research to a broader audience. The importance of space and time, and their representation, has emerged as a key area in the so-called 'arts and humanities e-science' agenda, co-ordinated by the Arts and Humanities e-Science Support Centre at King's College, London. The 'mashupping' technique, pioneered by the Pleiades project at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill offers a methodology and potential collaboration for the digitalisation of spatial data in Herodotus.

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