An introduction to the Homer Multitext edition of the Venetus A manuscript of the Iliad

by Casey Dué and Mary Ebbott

The Iliad has been intensely studied for centuries, yet fundamental questions about its composition and transmission have not been definitively answered. How, where, when, and by whom was this oral poem composed? When, how, and why was it first written down? How did the poem come to be in the form in which we now read it? Once the text of the poem crystallized into a relatively more fixed form, how was the text transmitted to the historical time periods in which the earliest witnesses that survive today were created? How do we account for periods of “standardization” such as the 7th century BCE and again in the 2nd century BCE? How is it that this cornerstone of Greek civilization and the central text of classical Greek civilization stands at the very beginning of Western literature? These questions have animated and even divided modern scholarship on the epic since the 18th century and continue to do so. They also contribute to larger questions in the humanities in general about the nature of authorship, the relationship between orality and literacy, the modes of textual transmission, and the practices of scholarly editing, both historically and currently.

What if we had new evidence to contribute to the search for answers to these questions, and new ways of using and evaluating the evidence we have? The Homer Multitext (HMT) edition of the manuscript Marciana 822 (= Marcianus Graecus Z. 454), the 10th-century manuscript of the Iliad known to scholars as the Venetus A and now housed in Venice’s Marciana library, does just that. We offer here a complete, web-based, digital scholarly edition of the contents of this deluxe manuscript, the oldest complete witness to the poem, together with its marginal comments, referred to as scholia. These scholia transmit scholarship about the poem from intellectuals who studied this poem in Alexandria, in Rome, and in Byzantium from the 3rd century BCE until the middle ages. Until now, there has not yet existed a comprehensive edition of this remarkable manuscript and its scholia, and thus no systematic way to evaluate the evidence it offers. Our digital edition publishes the complete contents of the Venetus A. [Please note: As of December 2014, the first 12 books of the poem are published together with the accompanying scholia. Additional books will be added as they are completed.] The electronic edition of the A scholia by Erbse (1969–1988) published in the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG) does not include all of the scholia in this manuscript (by Erbse’s design) and some of the A scholia it does include are truncated or emended by Erbse. Not only does the Homer Multitext edition of the Venetus A provide access to evidence not previously published or readily accessible, our structured digital edition incorporates the location and features of each comment on the manuscript, allowing an understanding of the relationship between text and scholia and between the scholia themselves in ways not offered before.

The project we have undertaken here, then, is a complete scholarly edition of this special manuscript: its text, scholia, and all other elements on its 654 pages. Our edition is based on the high-resolution digital photographs of the manuscript that we obtained (and have already published under a Creative Commons license for use by others) in 2007. The text and scholia have been transcribed as a digital diplomatic edition, representing faithfully the text of the manuscript, including accents and spelling that are not “standard” from our point of view, and marked up with TEI-XML encoding for several key features. Each portion of the digital text, that is, each line of the poetry and each individual scholion, has been given a unique identifier and linked precisely to the location on the digital image of the folio that contains it. Any user can easily move from the diplomatic edition to the image of the primary source and see for herself what the manuscript says.

The manuscript and its contents

The manuscript Marciana 822 (= Marcianus Graecus Z. 454), known to Homeric scholars as the Venetus A, is the oldest complete text of the Iliad in existence. It is the manuscript on which most modern editions are primarily based. It was acquired by the Greek Cardinal Basileus Bessarion in the 15th century CE and donated together with his entire collection of Greek manuscripts to the Republic of Venice, thereby forming the Marciana library’s initial collection. Its pages are parchment, and it was constructed toward the end of the 10th century CE. The dimensions of its folios are approximately 39cm by 28.5cm, and it contains 327 folios. The pages consist of eleven folios that have been added to the beginning, followed by 39 quaterns (folios 12–323) and a binium (folios 324–327). Each quatern (that is to say, a quire consisting of 4 sheets, folded and bound together to form 8 folios) was originally marked by the scribe with a Greek letter at bottom-right on the first page of the quire. A more recent hand, thought to be that of Cardinal Bessarion himself, marked the quires on the bottom-right of each folio starting from folio 12, marking the sequence with letters of the Latin alphabet: a b c … x y z, aa bb cc … nn oo. Further, he numbered each leaf of each quire with the Arabic numerals 1–8, placed next to the letters from the Latin alphabet. (For more on the numbering of the folios and the quires, see Allen 1899 and Hecquet 2009.)

Several features have been added to the manuscript by later hands, including some short glosses in the exterior margins and between the lines of the poem. A scribe of the 12th century wrote in an excerpt from Heliodorus on folio 4. A paraphrase from the 13th century can be found between the verses in Books 1 and 2 (up to 2.188). At some point the codex lost 19 of its folios (69–74, 229–234, 238, 254–257, 319–320). It is thought that Bessarion himself produced new versions of these pages and inserted them. The new folios do not contain scholia; one possible reason why they do not is that the exemplar from which they were copied did not include scholia.

The initial folios of the manuscript at some point became detached and were rebound out of order, with several folios now missing. What we have in the remaining eleven folios contains extremely valuable material, including excerpts from Proclus’ Chrestomathy (the Life of Homer and summaries of all of the now lost poems of the Epic Cycle except the Cypria) and Aristonicus’ work on the signs of Aristarchus (on which, see below). Painted around this text, and in one case over it, are illuminations from the 12th century CE. These illuminations depict mythological scenes from the Judgment of Paris up to the fighting of the Trojan War. (On the illuminations, see Kalavrezou 2009. On the original ordering of the folios, see also Hecquet 2009.)

Once we turn to the presentation of the Iliad itself, we find on the first page of each book of the Iliad in the Venetus A an illuminated capital marking the first word of the book. Also at the top of each page that begins a new book of the Iliad, the scribe included a one-line summary of the highlights of that book, in crimson ink (see Blackwell 2011). These summaries are themselves composed in the dactylic hexameter meter of Homeric poetry.

A typical folio in the Venetus A contains 25 lines of the Iliad, surrounded on three sides by what we call the “main scholia,” a copious body of marginal notes, all written in the same minuscule hand. These scholia make the Venetus A an extremely valuable source of information about the composition, content, meaning, and history of the epic. In the scholia meanings of obscure words are discussed, mythological background or alternate stories are adduced, and interpretations of passages are offered. Just as important, competing versions of the text still in existence in antiquity are extensively debated.

These comments and debates about differing versions are attributed to such important Ptolemaic and Roman scholars as Zenodotus of Ephesus, Aristophanes of Byzantium, Aristarchus of Samothrace, Didymus, and Aristonicus. The works from which these comments are excerpted are now lost. The scholia therefore provide us with an otherwise inaccessible view of how the Homeric poems were read and understood in antiquity while at the same time preserving a great deal of historical information about alternate versions of the text. Likewise remarkable in the Venetus A are the critical signs that can be found next to many of the verses of the Iliad and sometimes also in the corresponding notes in the scholia. These signs ultimately derive from the editorial work of the great Homeric scholar, Aristarchus of Samothrace in the 2nd century BCE. The signs, which served to link the Homeric text with the commentary that Aristarchus published in a separate volume, have specialized meanings, with the result that the general type of content in the comment can often be surmised even where the corresponding note has been lost. (For more on the signs and their significance, see Bird 2009.)

Individual comments in the main body of scholia are generally but not always preceded by lemmata (short quotations from the line of text being commented upon) in semiuncial script. In the gutters of each page and in the margins between the text and scholia are written, most likely by the same scribe, additional sets of scholia also written in semiuncial script, referred to, respectively, as the interior scholia and the intermarginal scholia. Outside the main column of scholia near the edge of the page are sometimes additional semiuncial scholia referred to as exterior scholia; on a few folios these scholia are extensive. These longer exterior scholia are sometimes written in the shape of a lyre, cross, column, or another object. Still more semiuncial scholia may be found between lines or otherwise closely bordering the text, and so are called interlinear scholia. At the far edge of many pages are the traces of (very likely) two correcting hands, features such as numbers that count the extended similes throughout the epic and other numbers that count the ships brought by each Greek leader in the “Catalogue of Ships.” As previously mentioned, from the beginning of the poem up until verse 188 of Book 2 an interlinear paraphrase appears in a later (13th century) hand. (For more about the origin and textual transmission of this paraphrase see Bekker 1825 and Makrinos 2011.) Our research on the scholia thus far has suggested that the different placement of the scholia on the page embeds information, perhaps about the scribe’s sources for the comment as well as about his construction of this manuscript. (See Ebbott 2009.) The use of the smaller margins is not simply one of space: there are many examples of pages in which the larger space of the main scholia is not completely filled, and yet scholia are still placed in the intermarginal, interior, and interlinear spaces. (For more on the mise en page of the scholia see the forthcoming work of Churik and Smith.) We invite scholars to view the pages themselves and to conduct further study.

What is the source of so much scholarly material? The Venetus A itself tells us where many of the main scholia (likely) come from. At the end of all but two books (17 and 24) of the poem there appears a subscription that names sources. This subscription exhibits some variations in different books, but this version from the end of Book 1 is representative:

Παράκειται τὰ Ἀριστονίκου σημεῖα καὶ τὰ Διδύμου περὶ τῆς Ἀρισταρχείου διορθώσεως, τινὰ καὶ ἐκ τῆς ἰλιακῆς προσῳδίας καὶ Νικάνορος περὶ στιγμῆς.

“Alongside the text lie the Signs of Aristonicus, and Didymus’ work On the Edition of Aristarchus, as well as some things from the Prosody of the Iliad and Nicanor’s On Punctuation.”

(See folio 24r)

According to this subscription, then, many of the main scholia of the Venetus A are derived from the work of these four Homeric scholars from antiquity. Didymus and Aristonicus are the oldest sources, from the 1st century BCE. Nicanor lived during the time of the Roman emperor Hadrian, the 1st and 2nd centuries CE. Herodian (as we learn in other versions of the subscription, he is the author of the work on prosody) lived a century later, during the latter half of the 2nd century CE, under the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Aristonicus wrote on the topic of editorial symbols attached to the text. Herodian’s work on prosody deals with poetic meter. Nicanor wrote about punctuation. And Didymus wrote about the earlier editorial work of the great Alexandrian scholar Aristarchus.

A category of scholia, while related to these scholia from the four named ancient scholars, has in the past been separately identified and named the “D Scholia.” The so-called “D Scholia” were once thought to have come originally from Didymus, hence their name, but this view is no longer generally accepted (see Nagy 2004). The comments categorized as “D Scholia” appear on several Byzantine and medieval manuscripts of the Iliad in addition to being part of the scholia in the Venetus A and generally contain information about mythology, the meanings of obscure words, and pieces of allegorical interpretation. On the Venetus A these so-called “D Scholia” are part of the main scholia, where they often discuss mythology, or appear as interlinear notes written in a semiuncial script, consisting largely of “glosses,” short definitions, of words in the poems. One of the most interesting aspects of these scholia in the Venetus A is their lemmata (as explained above, a lemma is an excerpt from the poetry that a scholion may quote as an index to the line on which it is commenting), because in some cases, these lemmata do not match the Homeric text that appears in the manuscript’s version of the poetry. Whenever the lemmata show variation from the main text, the lemmata and their scholia may offer insights into alternative versions of the text, other examples of traditional material that was edited out of the common text of the Iliad by the 10th century, but are preserved here and there in brief quotations by the scholiasts, the writers of these marginal notes.

Because these scholia are no longer attributed to Didymus, and because on the Venetus A manuscript they belong to physical groupings of scholia, we will no longer identify them by the erroneous designation of “D Scholia.” Instead, those that are part of the main scholia are identified as such in our edition, and those that are interlinear scholia are given that designation. Basing the categorization of scholia on these tangible attributes is much more intellectually sound and also is a potentially much more fruitful method of investigating what information about the scholia their physical layout conveys.

Still other scholia on our manuscript derive from the work of the scholar and philosopher Porphyry, who lived during the 3rd century CE. Among his writings, many of which had to do with Platonic philosophy, was a treatise entitled “Homeric Questions” (Ὁμήρικα ζητήματα, Homērika Zētēmata). This work exists now only in a fragmentary state; the first book of Porphyry’s “Homeric Questions” survives in a single manuscript, produced in 1314 and now in the Vatican Library (Vaticanus Graecus 305), and the rest of what we know of its contents comes from close reading of various scholia on Homeric manuscripts (see MacPhail 2011). Although its value has not always been appreciated, the scholiastic material that comes from this work is valuable for a number of reasons. These scholia preserve some observations on Homeric poetry made by Aristotle and Plato, which in turn can tell us about the particular vocabulary those ancient thinkers used when they discussed epic poetry. They also give us a great deal of insight into how readers of post-Classical antiquity understood and appreciated Homeric poetry. Some members of the HMT team have done some preliminary investigations of scholia with (possible) connections to Porphyry’s work in the Venetus A and other manuscripts, as detailed on the HMT research blog.

Finally, there are scholia related to a group known to scholars as the “bT” scholia. These scholia are transmitted in the 11th-century Venetus B manuscript (Marciana 821), the Townley Manuscript of the Iliad, an 11th-century codex now in the British Library (Burney manuscript 86, called “T” for short), and in two 11th-century manuscripts in the Escorial library in Spain, Escorial Υ.1.1 and Escorial Ω.1.12. The Homer Multitext has acquired and published digital images of the Venetus B and the two Escorial manuscripts (which scholars have considered closely enough related to posit a common prior source no longer extant, referred to as “b”). The British Library has digitally published images of its T manuscript. The bT scholia, which may also be derived from the work of Porphyry, offer explanations of thematic matters found in the Iliad, cultural practices, questions of cosmology or theology, discussion of the plot, and so forth. These scholia have not enjoyed a high reputation among scholars. Their most famous critic, K. Lehrs, said that “not one word in them is to be believed” (nullum unum verbum iis credendum esse). But more recent students of this material have found them more valuable, suggesting that they offer important insight into how the ancient Greeks understood Homer, and also provide more access to the work of Aristarchus at the Library of Alexandria.

Previous editions of the scholia (and let us note here that in most editions the scholia are published separately from the text of the manuscript, as though they were not meant to be read together) have tried to identify the sources of the scholia, or at least have grouped them into subcategories ultimately related to sources. Yet some of these groups have already been proven not to be what they once were thought to be. Our approach is based on what each witness actually records. The careful work our researchers have already accomplished has begun to suggest new ways for identifying the sources of scholia. For example, one of our undergraduate researchers, Thomas Arralde, performed a preliminary investigation into the question of whether particular linguistic features and structures seen frequently in certain scholia in the Venetus A indicate that these comments ultimately derive from Aristarchus even though he is not credited as their source in the same way as he is in other scholia. (See his post on the Homer Multitext research blog.) In other words, systematic transcription and encoding of the scholia have allowed for evidence to be gathered and evaluated in new ways to determine sources, and we no longer need rely on general “feeling” as to what content would most likely come from what source.

Previous editions and the need for a comprehensive, digital edition

Our preliminary work on this manuscript as well as others has shown that a significant percentage of the scholia, which transmit Homeric scholarship as old as the 3rd century BCE, has never been published by any editor. Previous scholars interested in the Homeric scholia in the Venetus A have had to rely on the selective reporting of two scholarly editions, those of Dindorf (1875–1888) and Erbse (1969–1988). Erbse’s extremely expensive and now hard to acquire multi-volume edition is available only in select research libraries. Both editions are based on the editio princeps of the Venetus A and Venetus B, made by Jean Baptiste Gaspard D’Ansse de Villoison in 1788 (available here), as well as on the editors’ own viewing of the manuscript in Venice. (For more on the history of the manuscript and its rediscovery in 1788 see Blackwell and Dué 2009. A 1901 facsimile edition of the Venetus A made by Domenico Comparetti also exists, but can be found in only a few libraries in the United States. The photography of the time, moreover, was not able to capture with sufficient clarity much of the smallest writing in the scholia, some of which is only a millimeter high. You can view images of Comparetti’s edition here.)

The editions of Dindorf and Erbse, as we might expect given the vast amount of scholia contained in the medieval manuscripts of the Iliad, took decades to produce and have their limitations. Erbse’s edition gathers scholia from six different manuscripts and combines them into a single body of material. Where comments from different manuscripts overlap, Erbse creates a single version of the comment, making it extremely difficult if not impossible to tell what any one witness actually records. He also frequently abbreviates the comments, since he is most interested in the general content of the note, not its exact reading or material source. In so doing, he leaves out a great deal of material, much of it of demonstrable historical value. (Casey Dué first discovered this when researching the character of Briseis for her dissertation, later published as Dué 2002. Because the criteria Erbse used to judge what could be omitted are according to his own sense of what is “important,” especially when it comes to combining and condensing scholia, his edition leaves out material that is useful to scholars who have a different approach to the poetry and scholia. In the case of Briseis, Erbse has not included the bulk of a comment that preserves another name for this character, whose only name given in the Iliad seems to mean simply “daughter of Brises.”) Erbse excluded from his edition anything he judged to be from the “D-scholia” tradition, the paraphrases that survive in some manuscripts, and anything written after the 10th century. Dindorf’s edition likewise includes only what he judged to be the oldest scholia, and he also “corrects” some scholia and amends others using other sources. As we have noted, we treat the manuscript in this edition not as a text to be taken apart, corrected, and collated, but as a document that must be studied as a whole and complete entity.

Even more fundamentally, there are the inherent limitations of the print medium, which severely restrict one’s ability to search the text or compare sets of scholia to one another. And although Erbse’s edition has been digitized and is available through the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, the electronic edition does not include the scholarly apparatus criticus Erbse included in the print edition, further eliminating the possibility of knowing what each manuscript actually contains. The electronic edition also maintains all the difficulties of the print version, with its selective reporting, compression, and truncation of scholia. The unsystematic nature of its data is such that a search is not reliably comprehensive. (The TLG, moreover, is not open source and charges expensive licensing fees to the institutions that subscribe to it.) Neither Erbse’s edition nor Dindorf’s effectively indicates where on the page a particular scholion is located, with the result that the historical groupings of the different sets of scholia and the texts to which they are connected are obscured. Since Villoison’s edition, moreover, the limitations of print have caused the scholia to be published separately from the Iliad itself, with the result that the spatial information embedded in the placement of the scholia on the page has been lost (see again Ebbott 2009 and Ebbott and Muellner 2012).

Our digital edition of the text and scholia of the Venetus A provides a complete transcription of every item on every page of the manuscript, spatially linked to the already published high-resolution images. The transcriptions are encoded in XML and then made freely available in both human- and machine-readable form via the Homer Multitext. Any interested user may download them or reuse and/or republish them with attribution for their own noncommercial purposes under a Creative Commons 3.0 non-commercial–attribution–share alike license. The HMT team is developing various tools (some are already available) to allow users to interact with and search these diplomatic editions in a variety of ways. The scholia have been marked up in such a way that users may group them according to location on the page or search for features such as personal names or quotations within the comment (this markup is explained in further detail below). Users are also welcome to create new tools with which to explore this data, and we ask only that you acknowledge the HMT and let us know if you do publish any such tools. In a future phase of the project, we plan to invite scholars and students of the Homeric poems to contribute translations of the scholia, which have never before been translated in their entirety. This collaborative process for translating the scholia, which we anticipate will be far faster than could be done by a single translator or even a small group of translators, will have the additional advantage of providing further checks on the accuracy of our transcriptions, as the translators will be able to easily move between the transcriptions and images while they prepare their translations.

History of and Rationale for the Project

The Homer Multitext project, which publishes this edition of the Venetus A, has been sponsored and supported by Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies since 2000. In addition, the project has received grants from the University of Houston (UH), the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and it has been supported technically by UH’s Research Computing Center since Fall of 2008. The Homer Multitext project is a digital edition of the Homeric texts that seeks to present the textual transmission of the Iliad in a historical framework. The editors assert that such a framework is needed to account for the full reality of the complex medium of oral recomposition-in-performance in which the Homeric epics were composed, a medium that evolved over a long period of time. (See Dué and Ebbott 2009 and Dué and Ebbott’s "The Homer Multitext and the System of Homeric Epic,” forthcoming in the proceedings of a conference entitled Singers and Tales in the 21st Century: The Legacies of Milman Parry and Albert Lord.) We argue based on empirical evidence that the fluidity and multiformity of the Homeric textual tradition is a necessary and natural result of the process of oral recomposition-in-performance, as demonstrated by the foundational work of Milman Parry and Albert Lord on oral epic poetry. The Iliad and Odyssey were at one time dynamic and evolving, and the particular nature of oral epic song allowed layer upon diachronic layer of this poetry to be preserved within the system of formulaic language as it evolved. This fluidity, reflected in the many surviving texts of Homer, must be understood in its many different historical contexts.The Homer Multitext seeks to provide ways to view these contexts both synchronically and diachronically. (For more on the goals and methodologies of the Homer Multitext as a whole see the introduction on the project website.)

In May 2007, an international team of scholars (including ourselves and our collaborators, Christopher Blackwell of Furman University and Neel Smith of the College of the Holy Cross), conservators from the British Library, and photographers and computer scientists from the University of Kentucky’s Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments accomplished the digital imaging of three of the most important manuscripts of the Iliad, all housed in Venice’s Marciana library. The work was sponsored by the Center for Hellenic Studies together with a grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. The University of Kentucky team was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation. This group of colleagues from Greece, Italy, Austria, the United Kingdom, and the United States came together to rediscover this book and its contents, to capture its pages with the greatest fidelity that modern technology could afford, and to share the resulting images freely with all who might use and enjoy them. (A documentary about this effort, entitled “Digital Renaissance: Imaging the Iliad,” has aired on PBS in the United States and is available in its entirety on YouTube.)

After the acquisition of the images of these manuscripts, two different but complementary research trajectories commenced. Christopher Blackwell and Neel Smith pursued how best to structure, encode, and publish our data, and developed the Canonical Texts Services about which you will find more information below and elsewhere on this site. Meanwhile, we (Dué and Ebbott) wrote and published a collaborative edition and commentary on a controversial book of the Iliad, Book 10. This work was funded by an NEH Collaborative Research Grant in 2007–2008. (In fact, we learned that we had been awarded funding while we were still in Venice.) The resulting print volume, Iliad 10 and the Poetics of Ambush: A Multitext Edition with Essays and Commentary, was published by the Center for Hellenic Studies in Fall 2010. (It is freely available in its entirety on-line.) While specifically focused on Iliad 10, that grant and its resulting publication allowed us to demonstrate how a “multitextual” approach to the editing and interpretation of Homeric poetry can contribute to a better understanding of the poetics of the Iliad and oral poetry more generally. In connection with that volume we were able to create digital editions of the text of Iliad 10 in the Venetus A and three papyrus texts, and these have been published on-line as part of the HMT. Based on the success of this project, we next moved to developing the means to create editions of the scholia as well as the texts of our witnesses.

Since receiving a GEAR (Grant to Enhance and Advance Research) from University of Houston in 2006, we have involved undergraduates and graduate students in various aspects of the editing process for both manuscripts and papyri. Funding from the Center for Hellenic Studies has allowed for still more undergraduate and graduate research assistance. Under the auspices of the Holy Cross Summer Research Program in the Humanities and Social Sciences, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with supplementary support from a Holy Cross Alumni/Parents Fund for summer research, Mary Ebbott and Neel Smith have directed still further groups of undergraduate researchers during summers 2010–2014. Their work on the Venetus A provided the primary development and refinement of the methods we have employed in creating this edition. The Center for Hellenic Studies has also sponsored at its campus in Washington, D.C a series of summer workshops (2005, 2007, 2011–2014) dedicated to the project, in which both graduate students and undergraduates have participated and been trained as researchers. Researchers who have attended these workshops have also continued the work of editing the Venetus A and other manuscripts of the Iliad at their home campuses, including Brandeis University, Furman University, Gustavus Adolphus College, the University of Leiden, Trinity University in San Antonio, and the University of Washington. The contributions of these undergraduate researchers have been published as part of this edition and their discoveries are regularly featured on our research blog.

The technological infrastructure of the HMT has been conceptualized and put into place over many years. Open-source and TEI-XML conformant, the project relies on a set of services called the Canonical Texts Services (CTS), designed by our collaborators D. Neel Smith of the College of the Holy Cross and Christopher W. Blackwell of Furman University (see also Smith 2009). The CTS allows each text to be precisely cited in scholarly publications and allows other digital projects to find, retrieve, and interact with ours. This system of standard references is crucial for any scholarly edition; it enables other scholars to use, cite, and re-use the materials in our edition. In developing this infrastructure we have also collaborated with many other teams, including the Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments at the University of Kentucky, E-codices Virtual Manuscript Library of Switzerland, Teuchos – Zentrum für Handschriften- und Textforschung (Hamburg, Germany), and the Perseus Project at Tufts University. Please see the project’s technical documentation for more on the infrastructure of the project and the standards with which we have created this edition of the Venetus A.

Representing the Venetus A

Although the Homer Multitext aims to publish as many historical sources for the Homeric Iliad as possible, including fragments on papyri and quotations in other ancient works, together with a variety of supplementary material, the inspiration for the entire project was a desire to fully publish the Venetus A, an extraordinarily rich document that is itself a multitextual presentation of the Homeric Iliad. This edition is the first to fully transcribe and present together the complete contents of this manuscript, including its extensive scholia and accompanying introductory material. Here are the methods we have used to create the HMT edition.

There are two interrelated procedures that our researchers have followed for creating the digital edition of this manuscript: (1) the creation of an image index and map of all writing on each folio-side, including the lines of the poetry, individual scholia, and other marks or images present on the page; (2) the creation of a diplomatic edition of the poetic text and of each and every scholion, representing the spelling, punctuation, and accentuation as it appears (although we regularly expand ligatures and abbreviations of morphological endings). This edition is structured in TEI-XML markup. Both procedures are accomplished in teams, and that collaboration helps to make the process both more efficient and more accurate, as at least two sets of eyes read the small, compressed writing of the scholia. The researchers, starting at the top of the image of each folio, note the beginning and ending of each scholion, and use a digital tool developed by Christopher Blackwell and Neel Smith for this purpose, the Image Citation Tool (ICT) to define the space (as a proportion of the folio) and location of that scholion on the page. The researchers then record that space and location in a comma-separated-value (CSV) files that index the proportion of the image to the unique urn reference for that text. Each set of scholia (main marginal scholia, intermarginal scholia, interior scholia, exterior scholia, and interlinear scholia) is defined within the structured markup. The structured data allows for both visual and automated checks to ensure that all scholia have been accounted for. Each scholion is given a unique identifier that operates within the Canonical Text Services (CTS) protocol.

Once each scholion has been given a unique identifier and its location on the page has been indexed, the researchers then transcribe the text of the scholia in XML documents. When they create the digital diplomatic edition of each scholion, the researchers apply TEI-XML markup to the text. The documents validate against version P5 of the Text Encoding Initiative schemas. The scholia are organized by book of the Iliad using TEI div elements; each scholion is contained by a div with @type attribute = scholion. Each scholion contains two further TEI div elements, the first with @type attribute lemma, and the second with @type attribute comment.

Within the transcription of lemmata and comments, the researchers also encode the following TEI elements, as well as others (the HMT editorial guide for contributors provides the most up-to-date details):

rs, with @type = waw: a “word as word,” or string of characters cited, but not part of the commentator’s discourse.

persName: personal name. These names are marked and also catalogued in tables within a github repository as a record of all personal names, as well as a means to search for them and to distinguish different individuals with the same name.

placeName: place name. These names are similarly marked and catalogued.

expan and abbr: within a choice element, the expanded version of a reading as interpreted by the editor is provided with the abbreviation as it appears in the MS.

q: text quoted from an external source. When we can identify the quoted text by a canonical reference, the q element should have an accompanying ref element of @type ‘urn’. Both the q and the ref should be wrapped in a containing cit element.

Once the mapping and inventory and the XML-encoded diplomatic editions have been produced for each book of the Iliad, researchers run automated checks between the two XML notebooks to ensure that everything within that book of the Iliad is accounted for. This validation process ensures that each word in the diplomatic editions is “parable” Greek—that is, that a machine can read and understand it as a Greek word. For more on the testing to which all of our data has been rigorously subjected, see the project’s technical documentation and the Homer Multitext research blog.

In addition to on-going support from the Center for Hellenic Studies, the funding for the creation of this edition during the years 2013–2016 comes from a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholarly Editions and Translations grant (award #RQ-50629-12). Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this edition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Homer Multitext Resources

Project Documentation

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Publications about and Prior Editions of the Venetus A and its scholia

Allen, T. W. 1899. “On the Composition of Some Greek Manuscripts: The Venetian Homer.” Journal of Philology 26: 161-181.

Bekker, E., ed. 1825. Scholia in Homeri Iliadem (Scholiorum in Homeri Iliadem appendix). Berlin.

Comparetti, D., ed. 1901. Homeri Ilias cum scholiis. Codex venetus A, Marcianus 454 phototypice editus.

Dindorf, W., ed. 1875-1888. Scholia Graeca in Homeri Iliadem. Oxford.

Erbse, H., ed. 1969-1988. Scholia Graeca in Homeri Iliadem I-VII. Berlin.

Villoison, Jean Baptiste Gaspard D’Ansse de. 1788. Homeri Ilias ad veteris codicis veneti fidem recensita; scholia in eam antiquissima ex eodem codice aliisque nunc primum edidit cum asteriscis, obeliscis, aliisque signis criticis. Venice.

Recent Work on the Venetus A published on the HMT research blog:

Angiolillo, M. and C. Roughan. 2012. “Scholia to Iliad 14.506 in Two Manuscripts in Venice (Venetus A and Marciana 458).”

Arralde, T. 2012. “Identifying Aristarchean Commentary in the Venetus A Scholia.”

Blackwell, C. 2011. “Metrical Book-Summaries on Two Byzantine Manuscripts.”

Dué, C. 2012. “The Catalogue of Ships.”

Ebbott, M. 2012. “Linking poetry and scholia in medieval Homeric manuscripts.”

Koenig, A, and A. Quinn. 2011. “Notes on Iliad 5 (2).”

Lindeborg, S. 2011. “υπ Mystery Scholion.”

Lindeborg, S. 2012. “Investigating the Red Marginal Notes of the Venetus A.”

Lindeborg, S. 2013. “Iliad 8 Scholia on Mythological Geography.”

Roughan, C. 2011. “Composition of the Venetus A: numbered similes.”

Other Works Cited in this Introduction:

Bird, G. 2009. “Critical Signs—Drawing Attention to ‘Special’ Lines of Homer’s Iliad in the Venetus A.” In Dué 2009: 89–115.

Blackwell, C. and C. Dué. 2009. “Homer and History in the Venetus A.” In Dué 2009: 1–18.

Bongiovanni, A. and Zanetti, A. M. 1740. Graeca D. Marci Bibliotheca codicum manu scriptorum per titulos digesta. Venice.

Dué, C., ed. 2009. Recapturing a Homeric Legacy: Images and Insights from the Venetus A manuscript of the Iliad. Cambridge, MA.

Ebbott, M. 2009. “Text and Technologies: the Iliad and the Venetus A.” In Dué 2009: 31–56.

Ebbott, M. and L. Muellner. 2012. “Multitextual Reading in Manuscripts of the Iliad and the Future of the Homer Multitext,” 117–137 in C. Clivaz, J. Meizoz, F. Vallotton, J. Verheyden (eds.) with Benjamin Bertho, Lire demain: Des manuscrits antiques à l’ère digitale/Reading Tomorrow: From Ancient Manuscripts to the Digital Era, Lausanne, Switzerland (pp. 259–284 in eBook version).

Erbse, H. 1960. Beitrage zur Uberlieferung der Ilias-scholien (Zetemata 24). Munich.

Finkleberg, M., ed. 2011. The Homer Encyclopedia. Malden.

Hecquet, M. 2009. “An Initial Codicological and Palaeographical Investigation of the Venetus A Manuscript of the Iliad.” In Dué 2009: 57–87.

Kalavrezou, I. 2009. “The Twelfth-Century Illustrations in the Venetus A.” In Dué 2009: 117–132.

Makrinos, A. 2011. “Paraphrases.” In Finkleberg 2011: 626–627.

MacPhail, J. 2011. Porphyry’s Homeric Questions on the Iliad: Text, Translation, Commentary. Berlin.

Nagy, G. 2004. Homer’s Text and Language. Urbana.

Smith, N. 2009. “Citation in Classical Studies.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 3.1 (Winter, 2009).

This edition of the Venetus A has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this edition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.