Forged Evidence (False Testimonianze)

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  • Lorenzo Calvelli


Forged evidence (False testimonianze) is a three-year research project sponsored by the Italian Ministry of Education within a scheme that allows funding for national research. The project started in February 2017 and will end in February 2020.

The project is directed by Lorenzo Calvelli (, Associate Professor in Ancient History and Latin Epigraphy at Ca' Foscari University of Venice, and involves scholars from 12 Italian Universities. Research Units are the following:

  1. Università Ca' Foscari Venezia (Lorenzo Calvelli: principal investigator and head of local research unit; Giovannella Cresci; Tommaso Gnoli: Università degli Studi di Bologna); research focus: forged inscriptions from western Venetia;
  2. Università degli Studi di Bari "Aldo Moro" (Antonio Enrico Felle: head of local research unit; Marcella Chelotti; Paolo Fioretti) research focus: forged Christian inscriptions from Rome;
  3. Università degli Studi di Genova (Giovanni Mennella: head of local research unit; Rossella Pera; Silvia Giorcelli: Università degli Studi di Torino); research focus: forged inscriptions from Liguria and Piedmonte;
  4. Università degli Studi di Macerata (Silvia Maria Marengo: head of local research unit; Simona Antolini); research focus: forged inscriptions from Umbria and Picenum;
  5. Università degli Studi di Milano (Simonetta Segenni: head of local research unit; Pier Giuseppe Michelotto); research focus: forged inscriptions from Milan, Pisa, and Amiternum;
  6. Università degli Studi di Pisa (Andrea Raggi: head of local research unit; Maria Domitilla Campanile; Margherita Facella; Giovanni Alberto Cecconi: Università degli Studi di Firenze; Eleonora Salomone: Università degli Studi di Genova); research focus: forged inscriptions from Etruria and Aemilia;
  7. Università degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza" (Maria Letizia Caldelli: head of local research unit; Gian Luca Gregori; Silvia Orlandi); research focus: forged pagan inscriptions from Rome;
  8. Università degli Studi di Trieste (Fulvia Mainardis: head of local research unit; Alfredo Buonopane: Università degli Studi di Verona); research focus: forged inscriptions from eastern Venetia and Histria.

The first achieved result of the project has been to establish a common methodology, which has led to a shared definition of epigraphic forgery. Overcoming the discriminatory attitude of traditional literature on the topic of forgery, falsified inscriptions are now considered as the result of different cultures that express simultaneously a relationship with the classical past and with the time, when each forgery was produced. Our methodological efforts have been the object of discussion and resolution in the course of two large conferences, which took place in Venice in October 2018 and brought together dozens of international scholars. Their proceedings are currently being published as two online open-access edited volumes.

The key-points of the Forged evidence (False testimonianze) project are the following:

  1. a first systematic survey of epigraphic forgeries produced across Italy from the Middle Ages to present;
  2. creation of an online database of epigraphic forgeries: Epigraphic Database Falsae (EDF);

The Forged evidence (False testimonianze) project team is already making sure that it will leave an enduring legacy and that its scopes will be elaborated and enlarged by future projects. On the one hand, the aim is to extend the geographic range of the Epigraphic Database Falsae (EDF), to include the rest of Europe and the Mediterranean, provided that partnerships with foreign and international institutions are created. A second opportunity for getting better visibility for the project was recently offered by an agreement with the Epigraphik-Datenbank Clauss-Slaby (EDCS). The EDCS is the largest existing open-access online searchable resource for classical epigraphy, providing texts and bibliographic citations (lemmata of editions) for nearly all published Latin inscriptions and comprising over 500,000 entries. Despite offering minimal metadata and no directly stored images, the EDCS has an average 3,000 requests per day and is used by scholars and students from all over the world to access further online resources and repositories, which are accessible via hyperlinks provided through simple individual queries. We intend to launch an interoperability project between the Epigraphic Database Falsae (EDF) and the Epigraphik-Datenbank Clauss-Slaby (EDCS), by allowing users of the latter to access fuller data and images, which are already available on the EDF.

Finally, the Forged evidence (False testimonianze) project team intends to go beyond the current database structure and head towards a real digital edition of the epigraphic texts, which are comprised in the Epigraphic Database Falsae (EDF). We will need to curate programmatically all diplomatic and expanded transcriptions, which already exist in the database, in order to import them into a tool for generating outputs in multiple formats, to include HTML, XML (EpiDoc) and RTF. We believe that this implementation of our project could be particularly fruitful and may represent the future challenge of an international collaborative endeavour.