Mapping the Catalogue of Ships

Posted on 11 December 2012

Talk: Prof. Jenny Strauss Clay (University of Virginia, USA/Humboldt Univ., Berlin) Benjamin Jasnow and Courtney Evans (University of Virginia, USA) "Mapping the Catalogue of Ships".


Date: Tuesday, 18 Decemebr 2012

Time: 17:00-18:30

Venue: TOPOI-Haus Dahlem, Hittorfstr. 18, 14195 Berlin (map).

Poster: Download the PDF here.


Book Two of the Iliad notoriously contains a list of nearly 190 place names and includes the 29 contingents and that make up the Greek expedition to Troy. Before launching into an over 250-line catalogue of the leaders of the Greek forces and the number of their ships, Homer appeals to the Muses to aid him in this tour-de-force of memory. Without their help, he says:

I could not recount their numbers nor name them,
Not if I had ten tongues and ten mouths,
And an unbreakable voice and a brazen chest within,
Unless the Olympian Muses, daughters of aegis-bearing
Zeus, would remind me how many came under Ilium.

The Catalogue of Ships that follows this invocation can be mapped as an itinerary, or more precisely, three itineraries that traverse most of Greece. By creating a mental journey that used the mnemonic techniques involving loci or places, well known from ancient rhetorical writers, Homer could mentally walk – or sail – through Greece and produce a detailed catalogue. In cooperation with the Scholars Lab of the University of Virginia, and using their “Neatline” program, “Least-cost path” GIS analysis, and links with the Pleiades Project, we will explore that itinerary. Our presentation will be work in progress and present some early findings concerning the organization of space in the Catalogue.