Mapping Cicero’s Letters to Atticus

Mapping Cicero’s Letters to Atticus approaches Cicero’s letters as travel texts that moved from author to addressee. The data for Mapping Cicero’s Letters to Atticus was created by Kenyon students enrolled in CLAS 225: The Ends of the Earth in the Ancient Imagination. The students, working in teams of two, not only created their own data, but also visualized the data in Carto. Collectively, the students created a data set that represents Letters to Atticus 20-114 and 118-132 (Shackleton Bailey), covering nearly all of Cicero’s letters written to Atticus from May 60 – December 50 BCE. 

Whereas MAT’s prototype visualized travel narratives that described journeys which passed through Cassiope, Mapping Cicero’s Letters to Atticus visualizes the journeys that the letters themselves may have taken as they moved from Cicero to Atticus. The visualizations rely on information in the headers to Cicero’s Letters as well as evidence from the texts themselves. As such the visualizations may best be understood as reflecting travel represented by the the manuscripts through which the letters were transmitted rather than the actual movement from author to addressee.

This project yielded a variety of visualizations. Below are some examples

The first visualization shows all the letters in the data set. Information about each letter may be accessed by hovering and clicking over points and arcs.

The second visualization demonstrates the frequency that a place name is mentioned in the data set using Carto’s cluster layer wizard.

A third visualization uses Carto’s torque feature to visualize where Cicero was composing each letter  during the 50s BCE.

Each student group was tasked with creating data and a visualization for a smaller set of letters. Below are two examples. In the first one Ashley Zillian and Jackson Todd have experimented with labels and colors to visualize Letters 100-114. N.B. The caption to the legend (404-429) refers to location IDs assigned to each place in the data set.

A second example, by Sean Deryck and Kate Zibas, uses color codes points to represent the locations of Cicero and Atticus and color codes arcs to represent the place from which the letter was sent.

Cassiope Prototype

This is the current version of the visualization platform, using data representing all travel narratives that mention Cassiope. A similar version of the platform was presented at the Kenyon College Celebration of High Impact Practices on March 31, 2016.

Open this visualization in full screen.

 

About the Cassiope Visualization

This prototype visualizes every classical travel narrative that mentions Cassiope, a port on the island of Corcyra (modern Corfu). Each travel narrative is represented as a series of points and journey segments representing the travel between those two points. The prototype allows users to read entire narratives by clicking on the points and journey segments as well as to compare narratives to one another. When more than one narrative refers to the same place, zoom in to see all the individual points. Users are also able to filter the data in several ways using the menu buttons.

For the purposes of the project we define a travel narrative as a textual passage that describes or implies a journey between at least two discrete points. A travel narrative may comprise an entire text, a section of a text, or may stretch over several shorter texts. For the prototype we only consider travel between communities rather than intra-community travel. In the case of Cassiope, we found eight travel narratives that mention the port. These narratives describe travel through fifty-seven total places as far west as Rome and as far east as Corinth. In the case of Cicero and Galen, however, the travel narratives we visualized are in fact one section of larger journeys between Rome and Asia Minor.

 

Analysis

The visualization reflects Cassiope’s links to the travel networks connecting Italy and Greece, a role which is also attested in the archaeological record (see Zernioti 2007). The frequency with which certain points are mentioned is also notable. Naturally, Cassiope appears most often. Further, as might to be expected, since Cassiope is on the route between Italy and the eastern Mediterranean, the second most frequently mentioned place is Brundisium. The third most commonly mentioned place, Rome, is less expected, given it is not proximate to Cassiope. All of the narratives, whether in Latin or Greek, were written in a Roman context between 50 BCE and the 6th century CE, which may explain the frequent references to Rome. In one sense, the visualization reinforces the the notion that all roads lead to Rome.

If we set aside the two latest sources, the Itinerarium Maritimum and Justinian, some other patterns emerge. In three of the remaining six narratives (Cicero, Gellius, and Epictetus) bad weather is involved. In two others (Suetonius and Galen) the travel to Cassiope is linked with hurrying: Galen is rushing to get out of Italy; Nero, in the thrall of philhellenism, is rushing to get to the Greek world; Cassiope provides the earliest opportunity to visit a Greek polis on his trip. Only Strabo, who describes not a specific journey, but rather reports more general information of the sort that might be found in itineraria, mentions neither bad weather nor a hurried traveler (the Itinerarium Maritimum and Justinian passages likewise describe general rather than specific travel).

 

Work Cited

Zernioti, D. 2007. ‘A Burial Complex in the Roman City of Cassiope in North East Corfu—Some Remarks,’ in A. Faber et al. (eds.), Körpergräber des 1.— 3. Jahrhunderts in der römischen Welt. Frankfurt: 121-9.

MAT Presentation at Mapping the Past Conference

In April 2016, Micah Myers gave a talk on Mapping Ancient Texts and the Cassiope visualization prototype at the conference Mapping the Past: GIS Approaches to Ancient History hosted by the Ancient World Mapping Center at the University of North Carolina.

All of the talks from the conference are available on YouTube. Number six on the playlist is Myers’ Mapping Ancient Texts presentation.