Welcome to The Letters of Libanius!

Libanius was a professor of rhetoric during the fourth century CE who left behind an immense corpus composed of 64 orations, 51 declamations, 57 introductions to the speeches of Demosthenes, some school exercises, and about 1544 letters. These letters in particular provide an unparalleled window into the workings and intricacies of late antique society. Unfortunately, the information in Libanius’ letters can be quite difficult to access, given the immense size of the corpus, the fact that the Greek in which they are written can be quite challenging at times, that large chunks of the corpus have yet to be translated into most modern languages, and that only a fraction of the corpus has been commented on by scholars. In essence, the barrier of entry for anyone interested in these letters is quite high at the moment.

This project attempts to lower the barrier of entry and make the letters of Libanius and the information they contain more accessible to all. At its core, this project is an effort to create a database containing as much metadata as possible about each of the letters in Libanius’ corpus. This includes information related to their destinations, their addressees, their carriers, and the scholars who have worked on them. Complementing the database is a web-based platform that formats the data in a way that allows end-users to visualize and interact with the information found in the database. To access this platform, click here or go to the “Database” section on the navigation bar. Data is being added to the database at regular intervals.

In addition to this platform, this project includes a number of other ways in which users can interact with the data. For now, these are still under development, but were nevertheless made available to the public in an attempt to show what can be done with this type of data. First, there are maps that show the distribution of letters within the Roman Empire. Second, there is the “Interrogation Tool,” a Python-based web application that can ask the database more complicated questions. This tool in particular remains experimental. Finally, one of the end goals for this project would be to use the prosopographical data gathered to do a social network analysis of Libanius’ epistolary network.