Social Networks in Ptolemaic Egypt (Vanbeselaere)

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Social Networks in Ptolemaic Egypt

A Study into Using Social Network Analysis for historical Research

This thesis focuses on the use of Social Network Analysis for research in ancient history. Its main goal is to serve as a “manual for the ancient historian” on how to incorporate SNA as a complimentary methodology to their historical research. For it to be applied in a sensible way to the specifics of historical research, a slight transformation of the original methodology will be developed. Both quantitative and qualitative methods compliment each other in this study, specifically by combining SNA with more traditional prosopographical research. Furthermore, it includes a status quaestionis on how SNA has been applied to the field of (ancient) history in years before. Both the advantages and disadvantages of this methodology will be discussed, followed by a number of case studies in which social networks in Ptolemaic Egypt will be reconstructed:

  • witness networks in demotic contracts
  • networks in the Zenon archive


The online platform Trismegistos ([, which includes almost half a million attestations of individuals in Greek and Egyptian texts between 800 BC and AD 800, serves as a starting point for this research. Thanks to the interlock structure of the text and reference databases, a two-mode people-in-texts network can easily be extracted and converted into one-mode people-to-people network.


UCINET and R are used for the statistical calculations and the conversion from a two-mode into a one-mode network. As for the visualizations, Gephi is our preferred software.


Silke Vanbeselaere

Doctoral Student Ancient History - KU Leuven (Started 2012. Currently suspended.)

Visiting Scholar Digital Humanities - King's College London

Blog: Think ancient history and social network analysis don’t go together? Think again!