Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.08.12

WEB REVIEW: Aristarchus, (  

Reviewed by Carla Castelli, Università degli Studi di Milano (
Word count: 2219 words


Authorship: Franco Montanari (University of Genova, Dipartimento di Archeologia e Filologia Classica, Italy); each site linked to the portal has its own editorial staff (see below).

Site Host: University of Genova, Italy.

Permanence: on-line since 2003.

Site maintenance: the web sites are constantly updated; the last update is on June 29, 2006 (LGGA, PAWAG).

Last visit: July 4, 2006.

Peer Review: there is no mention of the peer review policy.

Contact: each site has its own e-mail (see below).

The portal Aristarchus -- from the name of the Hellenistic scholar Aristarchus of Samothrace -- groups five different web tools for classical studies. To quote the author, Franco Montanari, it is "an increasing container of working tools for research and teaching".1 Aristarchus has been on line from the year 2003; it is directed and coordinated by Montanari and realised by different working groups. Each resource has well-defined, specific features: for this reason, before speaking of the project itself, it is useful to give a short description of each site, following their order in the portal. It is worth specifying that all the material is free, and it is downloadable (or searchable) after registration with a valid e-mail address.

1. The Ancient Greek Grammarians' Lexicon (Lessico dei Grammatici Greci Antichi, LGGA; contact: 2 is a reference tool for scholars of classical philology, especially of ancient Greek grammar and scholarship. It is the original core of Aristarchus, on line as a single site from 2002. It consists of 548 pdf files about the ancient scholars and grammarians, and, in general, about those ancient authors known for their grammatical and philological work (like Callimachus or Apollonius Rhodius). It is a work in progress: a specific box on the home page tells us how many documents are ready now and downloadable as pdf files (176 at this moment); many files (361) are still to be completed, but they can be requested by e-mail and are sent as a rtf file, with SuperGreek font for Greek, and it works well, as I checked myself. A small group of 11 is in the planning phase and not yet available. We are provided with an alphabetical list of the authors by Latin name, birthplace and date. There is also an advanced search tool by name, place, date and period. Each document gives both the Latin and the Greek name of the author and his geographical and chronological collocation, followed by full information about his life and work. Moreover, there is an up-to-date bibliography, articulated in editions and studies. Finally, there is a list of the ancient sources about the author, followed by the texts themselves -- but this very last section is sometimes still in progress, and for some important authors, requiring a more extended and complex entry, only the bibliography is available at this time. Each document is signed and dated by its author: so the reader can check the revision state by him/herself. The site has also an English version; the documents are in Italian.

This particular mixture of encyclopedic statement, bibliography and full-text sources makes LGGA not a selected update of the Pauly Wissowa, but a totally new instrument, autonomous and undoubtedly useful.3

2. The project Poorly Attested Words in Ancient Greek (PAWAG; contact: aims to build up an electronic dictionary gathering together the words of ancient Greek that can be defined as rare under a quantitative and/or a qualitative point of view. This means that the words are listed if they have only one or few occurrences, if they are not included in modern lexica like Liddell-Scott or GI,5 or if they imply a certain degree of semantic of formal uncertainty, like a hapax based on conjecture. There is also room for corrections to the interpretations already given in dictionaries. The database, due to international cooperation (Univ. of Genova, Pavia/Cremona, Firenze, Würzbug, Freiburg, Thessaloniki), is continuously increasing in the number of entries (780 right now). Their content and the number itself are also constantly updated. The material can be browsed in alphabetical order. Otherwise, the database can be searched by headwords, etymologies, translations and glosses, in Latin and in Greek alphabet (with SPIonic, a public domain font downloadable from the site both for Windows and Mac). To search directly in Greek, it is better to use a map character or to cut and paste the word written in a word processor, as we are told in a help page. Maybe a Unicode font could make this easier (like in Perseus or in TLG), but the editors' choice appears understandable: Unicode is going to become a standard, but it requires the installation of a polytonic keyboard, and sometimes it can still create display problems.6 The SPIonic font, however, can work in full autonomy and seems to function under all the operating systems.

Each lemma comprehends the grammatical category of the word, the Italian translation (but the site is in English), the ancient source and the modern bibliographical references about it; a note about its presence in the main ancient Greek dictionaries; if necessary, some notes about the interpretation; the name of the entry author. Every scholar is invited to send the lexicographic results of its own work, to the benefit of the project and of all the scientific community. If I can offeradvice, it could be useful to sum up in a specific page the references already given under each lemma about the ancient texts and/or the bibliography systematically inspected. In this way, the scholars could check quickly the state of the lexicographic work in their field of interest, and have at a glance an idea of the database's growing background.

As a matter of fact PAWAG is more than a dictionary and nearer to an encyclopaedic lexicon: it aims to gather all the information about the rare word, its use and the lexicographic discussion about it. The benefit of such a systematic work to the scholars of language and style is obvious. New Greek words are often discovered, the interpretation of the rare or discussed ones reaches new results: only an electronic tool can offer an ongoing, up-to-date and truly effective supplement to the Greek dictionaries.

PAWAG is a joint product of the Dipartimento di Archeologia e Filologia Classica dell'Università di Genova and of Loescher Editore;7 it relies on a large staff named on a specific page of the site.

3. The Catalogus Philologorum Classicorum (CPhCl; contact is devoted to the history of classical philology. It aims to collect the biographical and bibliographical information about the classical scholars born between 1850 and 1950 and active from 1880 to 1980: it is a useful supplement to W. Pökel, Philologisches Schriftstellerlexicon, Lipsiae 1892. The site registers 756 personalities (including historians, archaeologists, scholars of the oriental and occidental Middle Ages -- if their activity included the Greek or Latin ancient world), but it is founded on a census of more than 5000 scholars. Each document, available in pdf, provides the biographical data and the academic curriculum of each scholar in its fundamental steps, with the main publications; bibliography; data about the Nachlass and other means to gather information, like scripta in honorem, biographies or obituaries.

The project was originally developed following an idea of Scevola Mariotti by the Department of Classical Philology of the University of Pisa; the actual evolution and on-line availability (from the year 2003) are the result of the cooperation with the University of Genova and its Department of Archaeology and Classical Philology.8

4. The web site of the Italian Centre of L'Année Philologique (Centro Italiano dell'Année Philologique, CIAPh; contact: is a bibliographical research aid to all fields of classical studies. The Centre itself, founded in 1995, is a member of the international network that provides local data about the scientific bibliography for the Année Philologique (APh), and contributes to the publication of the well-known systematic bibliography for classicists. The CIAPh, situated in Genova, and helped by two staffs in the Universities of Bologna and Pavia/Cremona, deals specifically with the Italian scientific bibliography. The site, on line from the year 2005, organizes and renders searchable all references the Centre puts in its records, but aims also to complement the Année Philologique. So, as expected, the site contains all the about the national production (list of journals, miscellanies, book received and so on). The recording is available even if it is in progress: the Italian bibliography of 2005 will be published in the APh volume only in 2007, but, as announced to registered users, it is possible to access the ongoing work through the site; the same happens for the 2006 bibliography. But the site also has other useful tools. A specific mask allows the user to find manuscripts and papyri quoted in the APh volumes from nr. 71 (year 2000) -- a difficult task to perform, even through the full-text search in the Année Philologique website. A complete abbreviation list of the journals quoted in APh is in project, as well as an index of inscriptions.

Specific attention to the classical world on the World Wide Web deserves a special mention: the available on-line bibliographies about ancient authors are listed in a specific page by the Latin name; furthermore, the links page lists all the sites concerning the APh, but also the other systematic bibliographies on the web, and the on-line reviews (among which BMCR).9

5. The last site linked in the portal, Mediaclassica, is a didactic tool, meant for high school professors and students, hosted and sponsored by Loescher Editore (contact: It offers lessons and exercises both for Greek and Latin, concerning language, translation, authors and texts, literary themes, lexicon etc. There is also a section about experimental didactics. All the material is free, even if an authentication is required, and it is open to contributions.10

Finally, some technical notes. There is particular attention given to site accessibility, according to W3C guidelines: the portal reaches a Level Triple A conformance, as explained in a specific page. The colourful, agile look of the sites is sober and agreeable, and it is intended to help people with disabilities, especially with poor eyesight. The web pages are not heavy and can be loaded quickly even with a dial-up connection. The keyboard shortcuts listed in the left side menu, both for Mac and Win, make navigation easier. The whole portal is compiled in XHTML 1.0 strict, with CSS 2.0 style sheets. Although the Validator XML shows few inaccuracies, the sites seem to work well both under Mac and Windows, and with the main browsers, as I checked myself. Firefox is suggested as the best one; it can be downloaded directly from the portal. In each site there is also a specific link for reporting errors.

This rather long summary of the contents of Aristarchus is suggestive of the project's breadth, and can also create the impression of a certain degree of heterogeneity: but the common ideas that link the five web sites emerge soon.

Looking at the contents, the portal aims to establish an ideal connection between ancient and modern scholarship, concerning especially, but not exclusively, the Greek language. It ranges over different fields related to ancient erudition, gathering an encyclopaedia of ancient Greek scholars (LGGA) and a lexicon of unusual Greek words (PAWAG).11 But it concerns also modern erudition: the contemporary one (CIAPh) -- collecting the current Italian studies in classical matters -- and the one of the last century -- reconstructing life and works of the scholars who lived in our recent past (CPhCl). The first four sites imply demanding works of classification and systematization in highly specialized fields that are devoid of adequate reference tools; sometimes they are continuously supplementing, like PAWAG, the existing ones. The last site (Mediaclassica) takes advantage of the work of Aristarchus' broad working-group.

From a methodological point of view, the five sites are linked by the belief that the use of electronic tools is a fundamental skill for philological disciplines; a scholar in our field "must be ... able to combine respect and preservation of a deep-routed tradition with a an unavoidable degree of innovation and adaptation to contemporary tools and way of working".12 This combination of skills is also important for those who project, develop and maintain digital tools: only a careful scientific approach can adapt the electronic means (fast, efficient but sometimes lacking of flexibility, complexity, accuracy) to the elaborate scholars' needs. The scientific value itself is guaranteed by the staff of Aristarchus (whose curricula can be checked on-line). But it is also ensured by the continuous process of updating and revision that adapts the contents to the actual level of knowledge. From this point of view, "incomplete" or "provisional" documents -- like in LGGA -- do not indicate = a failure but still ongoing research.

Free, accessible to everyone, fully searchable, in progress, open to cooperation: Aristarchus, I think, profits from all the best opportunities provided by the World Wide Web and lets the scientific community profit from its own results, filling gaps in more traditional tools -- far in time, space and technical means from the Alexandrian Library in which Aristarchus of Samothrace worked, but not so far from the spirit of that community of scholars and scientists.

[[For a response to this review by Franco Montanari, please see BMCR 2006.10.13.]]


1.   F. Montanari, "The Aristarchus-project on line - Electronic Tools for classical Philology", Paideia LX (2005), p.215; see also Synthesis 12 (2005), pp. 11-17, Linguistica computazionale XX-XXI (2004), pp. 363-371.
2.   About LGGA, see F. Montanari, "Il progetto ARISTARCHUS in rete e il Lessico dei Grammatici Greci Antichi", in La cultura ellenistica. L'opera letteraria e l'esegesi antica, a c. di R. Pretagostini - E. Dettori, Roma 2004, pp. 327-333.
3.   Montanari shares the management of the project with Fausto Montana (Univ. of Pavia/Cremona) and Lara Pagani (Univ. of Genova).
4.   About PAWAG, F. Montanari, "The PAWAG Project. Ancient Greek Lexicography on-line", Euphrosyne n.s. 32 (2004), pp. 75-78; D. Manetti, "Strumenti per la ricerca sulla medicina antica in Italia: due siti e un invito alla collaborazione. 2. Il sito Aristarchus e il progetto PAWAG", Lettres d'informations. Medecine antique et medievale, n.s. 4 (2005), pp. 45-48.
5.   PAWAG has the same abbreviations and lexicographic structure as GI (= Vocabolario della lingua greca, a c. di F. Montanari, Torino, Loescher 19942).
6.   See for instance the comparative test results on the Perseus help page.
7.   Loescher Editore is also the sponsor of the whole project Aristarchus, together with Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation, Compagnia di San Paolo, Fondazione CARIGE and the Italian Ministry of Universities (MIUR).
8.   The co-directors with Montanari are Antonio Carlini and Alessandro Perutelli (University of Pisa); Maria Isabella Bertagna leads the editorial staff.
9.   Montanari is aided in this project by Laura Moisello (Univ. of Genova), Fausto Montana (Univ. of Pavia/Cremona), Camillo Neri (Univ. of Bologna), Lara Pagani (Univ. of Genova), Enrico Magnelli (Univ. of Firenze).
10.   Elena De Leo (Loescher), Lara Pagani (Univ. of Genova) and Serena Perrone (Univ. of Genova) coordinate a large staff, listed in a specific page.
11.   A new site is announced in this specific field: a collection of editions and images of papyri of the Scholia minora in Homerum: Montanari in Paideia LX (2005), p. 215; Euphrosyne n.s. 32 (2004), p. 7
12.   Montanari in Paideia LX (2005), p. 210.

Read Latest
Index for 2006
Change Greek Display
Books Available for Review

HTML generated at 13:31:12, Friday, 03 April 2009