Computing Antiquity: Computational Research in Ancient Text Corpora

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Jacob Palle Bliddal Mortensen


Aarhus University


DKK 4,920,606




Semper Ardens: Accelerate


The project is about computational analysis of ancient Greek and Latin texts with a shared point of departure from New Testament Studies. In "Classical Studies" in a broader sense, digital humanities have until now been applied as a label where scholars present or make available known material in a digital form. Our aim is to move "beyond" this initial phase by developing and "applying" computational analysis of digital material. Instead of merely presenting ancient texts in a digital form, we will leverage algorithmic tools to compute on digital material from our exclusive, licensed text corpora and interpret it according to solid scholarly standards. We will move beyond an initial understanding of digital humanities towards an analytically oriented computing part of digital humanities.


The project offers new interpretations of long-standing questions about the genre, style, structure, and meaning of certain ancient texts from the Greek Jewish Bible, the New Testament, and the writings of Augustine. This implies offering new interpretations of long-standing questions about concepts like freedom, free will, and evil. Also, the project approaches these areas with an innovative methodology by integrating computational methods with domain specific expertise in a fundamental human-computer collaboration. By way of computationally assisted readings, we can more fully investigate both already known and neglected or under-noticed aspects of ancient texts. This will set a new standard for analysis of ancient texts.


In computational analysis, the first and most important point concerns access to the digital corpora. We have already achieved this access, so we can start computing our data. Additionally, the involved researchers hold knowledge about ancient languages (Greek and Latin) and machine learning. In the project, we will apply supervised and unsupervised algorithms, cluster analysis, Natural Language Processing, and artificial neural network analysis to the digital corpora. However, we will not hand over everything to the algorithms, so we will combine the computational analysis with solid scholarly interpretations based on theoretical and historical expertise.

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