Introduction to Scaife Viewer

N.B. More than a generation of learners have grown up with accessing and manipulating texts online with Perseus or the TLG. Now there is something that provides us with new tools and the contents of both: the Scaife viewer. I am happy to have a short guest post from Leonard Muellner, Emeritus Professor at Brandeis University, my first Greek teacher, and the one who introduced me to digital classics way back before Y2k

The Scaife Viewer,, is an interface for the next version of the Perseus Digital Library. Here are some distinctive aspects of this new tool for reading and research:

1) The majority of the texts visible through Scaife are in Ancient Greek and Latin, but there are also texts in Persian, Chinese, Hebrew, and, as time goes on, other classical languages. All of the primary texts in the corpus are open and freely available in a variety of formats for the general public. There is a list of the several sources with links for downloading here: Among the links is the ongoing First1KGreek Project,, which is intended to complete and supplement the Greek texts available from the current version of Perseus for the first thousand years of Greek from Homer to the Third Century CE, though it also includes later texts that are standard research tools for classics (like the Suda or Stobaeus). The plan is to complete this particular corpus by June, 2021.

2) The project aims to provide multiple editions of primary texts, multiple translations of primary texts into the same or different languages, and searchable apparatus critici of texts when copyright law allows. All of the texts in Greek and Latin have been tagged as to their parts of speech and forms, and several have also been treebanked, in other words, have embedded in them the results of morpho-syntactic analysis. As a result of this data, it will be possible to align translations, word-for-word, with the texts, so that anyone can survey what are the various ways of translating a specific word in a primary source, or what any given word in a translation goes back to in the original. All of these features are in various stages of development — some are, others are not yet available but will start to become so.

3) The Scaife viewer has two parts, a reading environment (Browse Library, on the home page, screen shot above), and a search environment (Text Search, on the home page. In the reading environment, users can call up translations alongside primary sources (“add parallel version” in screen shot, top of middle pane), and the software automatically generates word lists with vocabulary for the primary source on display in Greek as well as morphological and lexical information for any word in Greek or Latin (in Highlight mode, just click on the word). For Homeric texts, there is access to the New Alexandria commentaries (lower right pane in screen shot)— more is forthcoming in this space. Readers can also search within a given text, with lemmatized search — in other words, search for all the forms of a given word given its base form — available at the moment only for Ancient Greek. Any passage being read can be exported as a text file or with its XML markup (whole texts can be downloaded from the list of repositories given above under #1).

4) The search environment (screen shot above) of the Scaife Viewer is sophisticated: users can search for a group of words (by putting double quotes around them), combinations of words (“and” or “or” searches), partial word searches whose initial letters are known (with the rest indicated by *), and so forth. For Greek, lemmatized searches, for example, for phrases or combinations of words, can return helpful results. The interface allows for elasticity in the search terms as well, on a scale of 1-10; they can turn up thematic as well as dictional associations that you might not anticipate.

5) The Scaife viewer is an interface to a corpus that is in ongoing development, but also, the viewer itself is in ongoing development. In other words, neither of these is complete, and there are bugs in the software. The teams sponsoring the development of both projects, a consortium of institutions in the USA and Europe, is also developing tools and manuals for participation in the development of the corpus of texts by people everywhere. Another consequence of the incompleteness of the corpus and the software is that there are significant gaps in coverage and functionality, but many common texts and some exceptionally helpful functions are already for the public to use. Please give it a try.


My colleague Dr. Alex Ratzlaff and the Brandeis Techne Group at Autodesk carved this pumpkin, then 3D laser-scanned and rendered it with training from Ian Roy and the Brandeis MakerLab.

Talk about tekhne and partnerships! This is awesome and super meta. Also, it reminded me of Apocolocyntosis, Seneca’s neologism for “becoming a gourd” (Pumpkinification, his description for the apotheosis of poor Divus Claudius)

What would you call the digital apotheosis of a gourd?


Alex does really cool work and is going to start blogging about it. So, this is a preview. But, hey, it is also a season for pumpkins. (Werewolf week starts tomorrow.)

Seneca, Apocolocyntosis 4-5

“And he spat up his soul and then he seemed to stop living. He died, moreover, while he listened to comedians, so you understand that I do not fear them without reason. His final voice was heard among people as follows. When he emitted the greater sound with that part with which he spoke more easily, he said “Oh my, I shat myself I think”. Whether or not he did this, I do not know: but he certainly fouled up the place.

The things that were done next on earth are useless to report—for you certainly know it clearly. There is no risk that the memory left by public celebration will disappear—no one forgets his own joy. What was done in heaven, you should hear—the proof will come from the author!

It was announced to Jupiter that a man of certain good size had come, really grey. I don’t know what he was threatening, since he was constantly moving his head and dragging his right foot. When they asked what country he was from he responded with a confused sound and troubled voice—they could not understand his language. He was not Greek or Roman or of any other race.

Then Jupiter sent Hercules who had wandered over the whole earth and seemed to know every nation. He ordered him to go and explore what people this man was from. Then Hercules was a bit undone by the first sight because he had not yet feared all the monsters. As he gazed upon this new kind of a thing with its uncommon step, a voice belonging to no earth-bound beast but more like something coming out of a marine monster, coarse and wordless, he thought that he had arrived at a thirteenth labor. As he looked more closely, it seemed to him to be a man. Se he went up to him and said what comes easiest to a Greek tongue. “Who are you among men and from where? Where is your city and parents?”

Et ille quidem animam ebulliit, et ex eo desiit vivere videri. Exspiravit autem dum comoedos audit, ut scias me non sine causa illos timere. Ultima vox eius haec inter homines audita est, cum maiorem sonitum emisisset illa parte, qua facilius loquebatur: “vae me, puto, concacavi me.” Quod an fecerit, nescio: omnia certe concacavit.

Quae in terris postea sint acta, supervacuum est referre. Scitis enim optime, nec periculum est ne excidant memoriae quae gaudium publicum impresserit: nemo felicitatis suae obliviscitur. In caelo quae acta sint, audite: fides penes auctorem erit. Nuntiatur Iovi venisse quendam bonae staturae, bene canum; nescio quid illum minari, assidue enim caput movere; pedem dextrum trahere. Quaesisse se, cuius nationis esset: respondisse nescio quid perturbato sono et voce confusa; non intellegere se linguam eius, nec Graecum esse nec Romanum nec ullius gentis notae. Tum Iuppiter Herculem, qui totum orbem terrarum pererraverat et nosse videbatur omnes nationes, iubet ire et explorare, quorum hominum esset. Tum Hercules primo aspectu sane perturbatus est, ut qui etiam non omnia monstra timuerit. Ut vidit novi generis faciem, insolitum incessum, vocem nullius terrestris animalis sed qualis esse marinis beluis solet, raucam et implicatam, putavit sibi tertium decimum laborem venisse. Diligentius intuenti visus est quasi homo. Accessit itaque et quod facillimum fuit Graeculo, ait:

τίς πόθεν εἰς ἀνδρῶν, πόθι τοι πόλις ἠδὲ τοκῆες;

A Proposal from Antiquity to “Save” Twitter

A totally serious thread.

Women of twitter, fed up at yet another tone-deaf corporate response, said “Fuck this” (no, not literally, my dear Silenus) and offered up their own kolpometric system (with a super h/t to @serenajenk):

twitter satyr good