PostHeaderIcon PHI Latin Texts Online

There is a new online tool available to Classical Studies scholars and students.

About 25 years ago, the Packard Humanities Institute set out to digitize Latin Literature so that it might be searchable. They successfully created files for most significant Latin authors and began selling CD-ROMs. There was never, however, a truly flexible software interface, and so Latinists always lagged behind their Hellenist counterparts in their ability to search ancient literature, since the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae team at UC-Irvine had surpassed the PHI project. Today, the TLG has been available online for years (http://www.tlg.uci.edu/). Its interface is excellent and it is very fast. Earlier this year, the TLG added a completely searchable version of the standard Greek-English Lexicon, Liddell-Scott-Jones (http://stephanus.tlg.uci.edu/lsj/#eid=1&context=lsj). It too is very fast and very well-designed. The layout is more easily readable than the print LSJ, and the lexicon’s linkage to the entire TLG corpus is invaluable. I have started to use it almost exclusively for my lexical needs.

The best Latinists have had is the Perseus site (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/), a fine resource to be sure, but limited in the number of texts it contains and one of the slowest websites on the internet. Times are starting to change, though. The PHI Latin Texts have now appeared online (http://latin.packhum.org/index). The website is primitive. You can browse the Latin authors’ texts very easily, but searching is very basic. Most annoyingly, you have to look up a numerical code for a given author and work, write it down or memorize it, and then click over to the search page and type the numerical code along with your search term. There are some advanced search capabilities, but you need to key in the commands rather than select from drop-down menus or other more user-friendly interactions. There is a “concordance” function, which searches the entire corpus and prints the occurrences of your word along with the surrounding one line of text. The search and concordance functions are lightning fast.

The best feature of the new PHI website, as opposed to the TLG, is that it is free. The TLG has some central texts available as free samples, and its LSJ can be used free without the links to the corpus. But PHI should be congratulated on its open access. So we are taking a good step in the right direction. Classical Studies has always been in the forefront of online resources among the humanities disciplines. Let’s hope things continue to improve.

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