Documentation for Mapping Cicero’s Letters Project

“Mapping Cicero’s Letters” is a project for the Kenyon College course “The Ends of the Earth in the Ancient Imagination.” In 2016, 2018, and 2020, students enrolled in the course analyzed selections of Cicero’s letters for geo-spatial information. They learned to create original tabular data and how to format it for visualization in Carto. They also learned to apply SQL statements to manipulate their data, and to use CSS to customize the resulting maps. Here are some examples of their work. We intend to continue the project in future iterations of the course.

We are making our documentation available along with instructional screencasts for anyone who would like to recreate or adapt the project.

We recommend starting with our quick introduction to Carto. This video will teach you how to make a simple digital map:

The videos below explain the ten steps that students went through to create their visualizations in Carto. You will find documentation and template files after the videos.

1. Introduction to the assignment

2. Accessing the letters in Loeb Classical Library Online (access to LCL requires a subscription)

3. Reading and analyzing the letters

4. Introduction to Excel points file

5. Consulting Pleiades

6. Introduction to Excel journey segment file

7. Uploading to Carto

8. Scattering points in Carto

9. Drawing lines in Carto

These videos were originally created when this course was taught remotely in spring 2020.

Documentation and templates:

  1. Assignment and Workflow
  2. Points Template
  3. Journey Segments Template
  4. Start Point IDs Template
  5. End Point IDs Template
  6. Instructions for Scattering Points in Carto
  7. Instructions for Drawing Lines from Scattered Points in Carto

Students also consulted D.R. Schackleton Bailey’s commentaries on Cicero’s letters for help locating the author and recipient of the letters.

Mapping Ancient Texts: Recent Presentations

Second International Classics Conference in Ghana. University of Ghana, Legon (December, 2022)

Cicero Digitalis: Cicero and Roman Thought in the Age of Digital Humanities. Remote Conference Sponsored by the Università del Piemonte Orientale (February, 2021)

Teaching Classics in the Digital Age (June, 2020): (A video of this presentation is available here:

SCS Annual Meeting (January, 2020):

University of Pittsburgh (November, 2019):