Tiresias: The Ancient Mediterranean Religions Source Database
Tiresias: The Ancient Mediterranean Religions Source Database provides access to references to ancient texts according to topic, mostly on religion, c. -800 BCE to 800 CE in the Mediterranean area. In many cases, direct access to full text and/or translation is also available. Topic tagging is based on existing subject indices from scholarly books, allowing highly detailed topic resolution. The site is in development, and currently includes about 16 million references keyed to 140,000 subjects.
There are four types of searches by subject:
- For validated results, where the reference is tagged with the subject in more than one book. This is the default search, and retrieves also a list of all sub-subjects and secondary sources. It is possible to link directly to this search, for example: https://tiresias.haifa.ac.il/?subj=apollo
- For non-validated primary text results, where the reference is tagged with the subject only once, in one book.
- For validated results, where the reference is tagged with the subject in more than one book, but retrieved by a different method which may yield more results.
- For secondary literature only, retrieves a list of all sub-subjects and secondary sources.
Furthermore, it is possible to search by primary text reference.
Two visualizations are available:
- A network visualization of one-word subjects linked to a specific subject provided by the user (i.e., present on the same page of secondary sources as that subject).
- A heatmap visualization of the same, but here divided according to the date of the primary texts tagged by these subjects.
The construction of the database is based on the following method. Many research volumes in ancient history are published with two indices: one for subjects, topics or terms, and one for ancient text references (the latter is also known as an index locorum). Using these indices, each page of the indexed book can be identified as relating to specific subjects as well as specific ancient texts, indicating with a certain probability that these text references can be tagged as related to these subjects. In order to bring this probability closer to 100%, we assess the overlap from a number of books of this connection between text reference and subject. These tags are combined to create a general database of subjects of ancient texts. The database is thus based on existing expert-made indices, unified and assisted by digital means. The database includes general subjects, ideas, names and places, almost all in English; the subjects are the same you would find in a good subject index of a book.
The site attempts to provide full-text (in source language and English). Full texts for Hebrew Bible and rabbinic texts is kindly supplied by Sefaria; for Greek and Latin texts, by Perseus Scaife, for the Quran, by Tanzil.net.
Current stats (as of September 2022):
- Total number of tagged references (validated and nonvalidated): 17,108,124
- Number of tagged references (validated): 4,012,270
- Number of subject tags: 138,885
- Number of ancient texts: 12,484
- Number of modern book indices: 483