Introducing Trismegistos People

Trismegistos People was born about five years ago, as a prosopographical and onomastic expansion to the Trismegistos platform. This collaborative venture coordinated by Ancient History in Leuven collects metadata about all texts from Egypt (800 BC- AD 800), whatever their language or genre (it’s also currently expanding outside Egypt, but that’s a different story). With Trismegistos People, our goal was to add information about the individuals and names present in these texts, and thus expand upon the Prosopographia Ptolemaica (PP), a Who’s Who of Ptolemaic Egypt (332 – 30 BC) developed over the course of more than fifty years in Leuven.

Since especially the Greek papyrological material is huge, with over 50,000 sometimes quite long papyri and ostraca, we developed a Named Entity Recognition (NER) tool to extend our existing PP-dataset. Armed with this, we tackled the full text found in the Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri (DDbDP), and distilled over 350,000 Greek (and Latin) personal names from the texts dated before AD 500. We have recently obtained money to include also the later material, so the number should rise further soon. We have built a double prosopographic-onomastic infrastructure on top of these name attestations, as follows:


As a partner in SNAP, Trismegistos People hopes to achieve three main things:

  1. To expand the onomastic set and apply it to new full text datasets such as Greek and Latin inscriptions outside Egypt, in cooperation with partners such as LGPN. That way we hope to generate several hundred-thousands new attestations of personal names, and develop standards to refer to name variants.
  2. To develop ways to facilitate cooperation with other partners, especially in the field of prosopography. Our experience in Egypt has shown that identifying individuals across texts is a very complicated and labour-intensive undertaking, for which the Trismegistos team can only hope to find external collaborators.
  3. To make our own dataset more accessible in new standards such as RDF and to explore ways of exchanging information through Linked Open Data.

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