Stanford Scholar To Discuss Maps and the Roman World

March 20, 2013

UPDATE: Due to weather, the talk has been rescheduled for Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in the Scholars' Lab. 

A scholar of the pre-modern world will give a public talk, “Redrawing the Map of the Roman World,” on Tuesday as part of the University of Virginia’s Digital Humanities Speaker Series. He will speak at 9:30 a.m. in the Scholars' Lab. The event was originally scheduled for Monday. 

Walter Scheidel is Dickason Professor in the Humanities, professor of classics and history, and chair of the Department of Classics at Stanford University. His talk will use the Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World, or ORBIS, to rethink how maps can convey a rich data such as the consequences of distance in a pre-modern empire. Critical tasks for a government – communication and transportation – become increasingly expensive and time-consuming in a larger state.

ORBIS’ interactive database integrates geographic, economic, environmental and technical data sets, allowing users to reconstruct the time, cost and financial expense associated with a wide range of different types of travel in antiquity. The model is based on a simplified version of the giant network of cities, roads, rivers and sea lanes that framed movement across the Roman Empire and broadly reflects conditions around 200 CE, as well as a few sites and roads created in late antiquity.

This talk explores the new possibilities for maps making complex arguments and visualizing the impacts of rich data sets. The possibilities presented could be useful to scholars who wish to present rich data over time and spans of geographic space.

Scheidel recently co-edited “The Oxford Handbook of the State in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean” and “The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Economy.” His research takes comparative and trans-disciplinary approaches to the study of the pre-modern world, with a particular focus on ancient social and economic history.

The U.Va. Digital Humanities Speaker Series is a collaborative effort by the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, SHANTI and the U.Va. Library Scholars’ Lab.

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