Ancient Roman Society and Culture Research Tools
|July 17, 2013||Posted by bproffitt under Research Skills, Society and Culture|
While there are many resources available to those who are interested in the Greek and Latin languages, it can be difficult to find basic resources for undertaking any kind of social or cultural investigation. Therefore this guide on Ancient Rome , and the corresponding Ancient Greece post, will seek to provide students with a few handy sources to get started on their research. The goal is not to overwhelm the researcher, nor to do their work for them. The resources provided in this guide should serve as a starting point for research, allowing them to work from the bibliographies and citations to move further into their research. This post is divided into three sections:
- Research Tools: a section covering open-access journals and open- and closed-access bibliographies to get the researcher started
- General Sources: various encyclopedias and surveys on Rome and the Classical World at large
- Maps and Topographical Resources: A section covering various topographical works and maps for reference
The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is an online digital catalog of many scholarly peer-reviewed journals that are available online without subscription. This is particularly useful for anyone who is not connected to a university or organization that might pay for access. There are a wide range of journals available on DOAJ, most of which provide full text articles.
The Ancient World Open Bibliographies is an online digital catalog of classical open source bibliographies. These are scholarly bibliographies, including works on classical literature and history, both Greek and Roman. This source is meant as a starting point for research, meaning that the bibliographies contained are suggestions for researching a variety of topics, aimed primarily at undergraduates.
This source is much like the Ancient World Open Bibliographies digital catalogue, except that it is designed for graduate students. The different databases list various types of resources available in print, including encyclopedias, works on Roman religion, topography, and indices.
This print encyclopedia contains some useful maps and chronologies, including genealogies of the Roman emperors, but it is not an annotated work. It is meant as a quick reference book for a student or scholar who needs to look up an item.
The Oxford Classical Dictionary is accessible online, but the full work is only available through subscription, so it’s best to see if your university or institution has access. It is well-annotated, and fairly comprehensive in its discussion of the Classical world, covering a vast range of topics. If you have access, it’s a good basic reference source.
Just like the Oxford Classical Dictionary, this work is only available by purchasing access to it. As this is fairly expensive, it’s best to check and see if your university or institution has access. Brill´s New Pauly is the English edition of the authoritative Der Neue Pauly, published by Verlag J.B. Metzler since 1996. It is a highly comprehensive work, and its explanations cite primary sources. It is one of the best ways to find primary sources that discuss specific topics in the Classical world.
This six-volume printed monograph is a wonderful work on the economics of Ancient Rome. It covers specific time periods and events in Rome’s history, and contains primary sources (with translations into English). This is a good general source for anyone researching Roman economics or the effects of specific eras. It’s important to note that the work is based off of primary source material, so the economic picture presented by the editor may not be entirely accurate.
Maps and Topographical Resources
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, or as its more affectionately termed, “Planter and Ashby,” is one of the most authoritative sources on the topography of ancient Rome. The sites are listed alphabetically, and annotated with primary sources. The work is extensive, covering not only major monuments, but minor sites as well. One downside of A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome is that it doesn’t contain a map with the regions the sites are divided into, which can make research a little difficult for someone not familiar with Rome’s layout. Despite this, it is a wonderful resource. Planter and Ashby is also available in digital format through most major universities and institutions.
Rome and Environs is one of the most up-to-date works on Roman topography available. It breaks the city down into regions instead of alphabetically by site, and unlike A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, it contains maps of the city as a whole and the various regions the author breaks it down into. It’s a great source for anyone who needs to investigate a specific building’s history and physical remains, as the author delves deeply into both.
The Digital Atlas of Roman and Medieval Civilizations (DARMC) is an online interactive map of the Roman and Medieval world. The mapping system is highly interactive, and the user is able to refine the map even further, by choosing to display various items such as aqueducts, military camps, and others on the map. This Harvard digital atlas covers the whole of the Mediterranean, and most of Europe. It’s important to note that some areas of the map (like Roman Italy) are more detailed than others (Roman Greece), but no area of the map is particularly lacking. DARMC is a good resource for a variety of individuals, from the student and researcher to the interested layman.
Orbis is an online mapping tool of Ancient Rome that is both fun and useful. The system is constructed by Stanford University, and is based off of known roads and water routes. The user can select their start and end locations, the month of travel, the method of travel (by land, river, sea, etc) and how they want to travel (shortest, fastest, or cheapest). Depending on the method of travel, the user can also differentiate between military and civilian travel, and the different forms of travel therein (by foot, by donkey, fast horse, etc). When the user has selected their preferences, they can generate their map, which will display the route on a map, the amount of time (in days) the trip would take, and how much money it would cost (in Roman denarii). While this tool seems like one large highly-addictive toy, it is also a great resource for understanding how travel and trade worked in the Roman empire. The only downside of this system is that there is no real way to tell what time period the maps are depicting, just that its during the Roman Empire. While this might affect the data (whether or not there were wars going on, famine, deteriorating or new roads, etc) it is still useful for understanding how the Empire functioned as a network of travel and communication.
_______________________________________Photo courtesy of Courtesy of Eugene Regis @ Flickr