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The ATHENIANS Project and Epigraphic Economies

John Traill

University of Toronto

The ATHENIANS Project, soon to be made available in electronic format, offers researchers studying the ancient Athenian economy a vast body of epigraphical, topographical, and prosopographical information from a wide range of sources, including decrees, building accounts, confiscation records, manumissions, leases, grave stones, coins, and vases. These subjects have been combed by numerous scholars over many years, then verified, analysed, classified, entered, and stored in relational databases.

This initiative, an 85-year-old research venture, which began with the commencement of the modern phase of the Agora Excavation in 1931 as a simple catalogue of inscriptional data pertaining to persons of ancient Athens, was transformed and expanded four decades later into a computer-based project located at Victoria College and the Computer Systems Research Group (later "Institute"), and finally in the Department of Classics of the University of Toronto.  ATHENIANS is now experiencing a renaissance with the support of its long-term software supplier, EMPRESS Embedded Database, and the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University.  The purpose of the project is to disseminate via a sophisticated electronic relational database management system (RDBMS) the masses of accumulated information concerning more than 100,000 known residents of ancient Attica. Over the past four decades most of the prosopographical information has been entered into two EMPRESS databases and then formated and published in 21 volumes of the series "Persons of Ancient Athens."  A good deal of this material, now being linked to new topographical and epigraphical databases, will be useful to scholars of the ancient Athenian economy.

The study of economics was an important part of the original conception of our project.  Complete references to  Davies' "Athenian Propertied Families 600-300 B.C.," for instance, were included in the main relation of the database and provision was made via a series of more than 100 different kinds of joins to other persons for the construction of stemmata or family trees. All references to Athenian financial officials, e.g. treasurers of Athena, trierarchs, members of the cavalry, mint magistrates, persons cited in building accounts, lessees, lessors, etc., i.e. the sort of people who are cited in Davies, are included. Our material, however, covers a larger span, namely all of antiquity down to the Late-Roman and Early-Byzantine periods, and our register embraces not just the wealthy but all classes of Athenian society.

The documentation provides full citations of searchable texts including a complete set of monetary notations in inventories, horoi, manumissions, etc.  There are also increasing numbers of links via an interactive map to a new topographical database, and some material has been joined to our collection of recently digitized squeezes.

One of the 16 attributes in the main relation, "stat" provides several dozen levels for classifying the citizenship and social stutus of an individual.  Of the seven attributes in the references relation one, "class", allows a scholar to select material from a 100 different categories of documents.  Our system of organizing grave monuments according to 8 levels of ascending economic status may also be exploited for economic purposes.  In addition, data may be treated with tools of statistical research, some already within the EMPRESS system, for example the five aggregate functions of COUNT, MAX, MIN, SUM, and AVG, or with other tools from external statistical software.  Dates have been provided as presented in standard publications such as the Corpus, but we have added  two additional formated interpretative attributes, viz "datefrom" and "dateto" in order to form windows to facilitate computer searching.

Economic and related information may readily be retrieved and formated via a simple user-friendly search form, while more advanced users may exploit the full resources of the highly reputed EMPRESS RDBMS through both traditional methods and also through new techniques of data mining with the goal of making this electronic tool more useful for all scholars, including those interested in ancient economies.

Session/Panel Title

Epigraphic Economies (organized by the American Society of Greek and Latin Epigraphy)

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