Mapping Cicero’s Letters to Atticus

The “Mapping Cicero’s Letters to Atticus” project approaches epistles as travel texts, in so far as they 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 in spring 2016. 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). This data set covers nearly all of the Letters 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 when they were sent 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 when he 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 coded points to represent the locations of Cicero (blue points) and Atticus (red points). In addition, color coded arcs represent the place from which the letter was sent.