Certain fundamental sources for the study of the ancient world are currently accessible only to a few specially trained researchers because they have never been provided with a sufficiently convenient interpretive apparatus or, in some cases, even translated into modern languages. The Suda On Line project attacks that inaccessibility by engaging the efforts of scholars world-wide in the translation and annotation of a substantial text that is being made available exclusively through the internet. We have chosen to begin with the Byzantine encyclopedia known as the Suda, a 10th century CE compilation of material on ancient literature, history, and biography. A massive work of about 30,000 entries, and written in sometimes dense Byzantine Greek prose, the Suda is an invaluable source for many details that would otherwise be unknown to us about Greek and Roman antiquity, as well as an important text for the study of Byzantine intellectual history.
Begun in January of 1998, the Suda On Line (SOL) already involves the efforts of over one hundred scholars throughout the world. The goal of the project is to assemble an xml-encoded database, searchable and browsable on the web, with continuously improved annotations, bibliographies and hypertextual links to other electronic resources in addition to the core translation of entries in the Suda. Individual work becomes available on the web as soon as possible, with the minimum necessary initial proofreading and editorial oversight. A large pool of registered editors is empowered to alter and improve the materials in the database continuously as they see fit. The display of each entry includes an indication of the level of editorial scrutiny it has received. We mean to encourage the greatest possible participation in the project and the smallest possible delay in presenting a high quality resource to a wide public readership.
Our goal is not only to provide the SOL as a useful tool for researchers, but also to explore and facilitate the modes of scholarship now made possible by open source technology and the internet: the result will be a scholarly effort that is cooperative rather than solitary, communal rather than proprietary, worldwide rather than localized, evolving rather than static. Accordingly our work aims at two concrete results: in addition to our development of the Suda On Line itself as a respectable scholarly resource, we want to make a generalized, well-documented version of our software freely available for other collaboration-minded scholars to adapt for their own purposes.