The Ancient Sports Text Repository and Atlas (ASTRA) is a project that I am designing as a part of my service as a Digital Humanities Research Assistant for Duke’s Humanities Writ Large Initiative. It is designed to integrate my scholarly research interests (i.e., Classical Studies, and ancient sports in particular) with the skills that I have picked up as a RA. I am aiming to have a working model up and running by Summer 2014. Here is the initial brief of what the project will entail (updated March 2014):

Plan of the Ancient Sports Text Repository and Atlas

Currently, there is no online gateway for the study of ancient athletics. This provides a challenge for the student of ancient sport, especially when they need to consult source materials. There do exist numerous print materials on the topic, but one can quickly run into a number of difficulties:

  • Sourcebooks in English do not provide the original text, are not panoptic in their approach, and are generally geared toward the introductory student.
  • The best collection of source materials, the Quellendokumentation zur Gymnastik und Agonistik im Altertum series, is only available in German and does not provide good coverage for non-literary evidence.
  • There is no single source to consult when attempting to incorporate iconographic evidence about ancient athletics.
  • Many online sources of Greek and Latin texts are behind pay-walls (e.g., TLG, SEG) and are not limited to the topic of sports.
  • There is not an online resource that presents evidence from a variety of different cultures.

The goal of the ASTRA Project is to make research on the topic of ancient sports easy, comprehensive, and fun. With this is mind, here is a preliminary sketch of what the project will attempt, roughly in order of precedence:

  1. Provide searchable access to ancient texts dealing with athletics, in the original language and in translation (English first, other languages next).
  2. Serve as a searchable repository for information on ancient artifacts pertaining to the study of ancient athletics.
  3. Provide interactive exhibits (such as in Neatline) for exploring the sites most associated with ancient athletics.
  4. Serve as a hub for scholarship pertaining to the study of ancient athletics, both bibliographic and original.

The term “ancient” is left intentionally vague to allow for a wide range of cultures and times to be included in the project. Because of the specialties of the Principal Investigator, the project will likely begin with documents from the Classical Greek world and then move further afield in geography and time.

First Steps:

  1. Find technical guidance to assess the plausibility of the project and get insight on web development structures most likely to succeed.
  2. Launch a placeholder site to explain the purpose of the project and begin the collection of data.
  3. Enroll a preliminary board of editors to provide oversight for the project and perhaps provide data entry.
  4. Launch a feature with preliminary data.
  5. Write up a project grant to kickstart data collection and the development of features.