I.Sicily is a project to create and make freely available online the complete corpus of inscriptions from ancient Sicily. The project includes texts in all languages (Greek, Latin, Phoenician/Punic, Oscan, Hebrew, and Sikel), from the first inscribed texts of the Archaic period (7th-6th centuries BC) through to those of late Antiquity (5th century AD and later). In the first instance the project is restricted to texts engraved on stone, but it is intended to expand that coverage in the future. The project uses TEI-XML mark-up, according to the EpiDoc schema.
Sicily is traditionally viewed as the ‘crossroads of the Mediterranean’, a ‘cultural melting pot’, and the epigraphic evidence is particularly important for the study of those cultural interactions and the history of the island. However, the epigraphy of ancient Sicily presents significant challenges for those wishing to study it: the existing major collections of Greek (Inscriptiones Graecae XIV) and Latin (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum X) are very antiquated (1893 and 1888), and contain a limited amount of information about the texts which they record; subsequent publication of new and existing material has been extremely uneven and widely scattered. A limited number of museum catalogues (Palermo, Catania, Termini Imerese, Messina) and specialist corpora (e.g. IGDS I-II) have improved the situation, but a unified and up-to-date corpus, across all languages, with translations, images and detailed object records, has long been a desideratum.
I. Sicily aims to address these challenges through the creation of an EpiDoc digital corpus, freely available online. The site also aims to provide a focal point for the study of Sicilian epigraphy in general. The project is currently funded by the University of Oxford and hosted by the Faculty of Classics. The foundation of the corpus is a pre-existing dataset, created originally in Microsoft Access in the period 2000-2004, which documents over 2600 inscriptions on stone from ancient Sicily, in Greek, Latin, Punic, Oscan, Hebrew, and Sikel. The original dataset was converted into separate EpiDoc XML files. The XML records (now numbering over 3,200) are held in an eXist database for xQuery access, and additionally indexed for full-text search using SOLR/Lucene.
As part of the conversion from MS Access into EpiDoc, the core dataset was improved and enriched, both by the normalisation of dating and bibliographic records (the full bibliography is now available in Zotero), and by the incorporation of URI information to enable linked data: places are linked to Pleiades records (and we are actively working with Pleiades to improve Sicilian topographical data); several categories of metadata are aligned with the new EAGLE vocabularies; and all our records are being given unique identifiers in Trismegistos. The site is now live at http://sicily.classics.ox.ac.uk and subject to ongoing editing and further development. The existing data files are clearly labelled as ‘unchecked’, ‘draft’ or ‘edited’ and should be used accordingly.
We have begun an extensive programme of autopsy, in order to improve texts, add further metadata, and generate a complete edition of each text with translation and commentary. The work of autopsy is currently taking place in collaboration with various Sicilian museums and archaeological sites. First among these is the Museo archeologico regionale Paolo Orsi in Syracuse, with which a formal collaboration was signed to catalogue the Museum’s epigraphic collection, with over 300 texts already studied and recorded.
Further collaborations are already underway, including with the Soprintendenza Beni Culturali ed Ambientali di Messina to work on on material ffrom the Hellenistic and Roman site of Halaesa (ME), with the Soprintendenza Beni Culturali ed Ambientali di Catania to work on material from the excavations of the Roman theatre, and elsewhere in Catania, with the Museo archeologico of Adrano (CT), and with the Museo Civico of Catania, the Comune di Catania and the Liceo M.M. Lazzaro.
In order to support this work, and in collaboration with Dr Michael Metcalfe, we are building up a full and accurate picture of the inscriptions currently held or on display in all of the local museum collections across Sicily. A database recording all publicly accessible archaeological collections in Sicily has been constructed, and a webpage (with URI) is maintained for each museum, linked to the epigraphic records, enabling users of the site to see which inscriptions are held in each museum, and to search for and by collections.
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