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Durham University

Research Excellence Framework 2021

Global Access to Ancient Literature

An open access tool used to search and browse databases of classical Latin and Greek texts has offered enthusiasts unprecedented access to ancient literature.

The Diogenes software, created by Dr Peter Heslin at Durham University’s Department of Classics and Ancient History, has been downloaded more than 83,000 times by scholars and non-academic enthusiasts worldwide.

Users can access and read major ancient texts in their original languages. This includes a huge collection of ancient Greek and Latin literature that is encoded on now-archaic databases from the 1970s and 80s.

Many of those downloading Diogenes cannot afford expensive subscriptions to online resources. This is one reason why it is popular in Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, where libraries are poorly resourced and access to classical texts would otherwise be prohibitively expensive. The UK is the seventh-placed country in the world by number of downloads.

Language teachers throughout the world are using the software to help students get a grasp of the intricacies of the Greek and Latin languages. Other users include clergymen and interested members of the public.

Dr Peter Heslin

Peter Heslin’s research interests lie in Latin poetry and its reception, Roman painting and topography, and digital humanities. In addition to developing the open-source software application, Diogenes, much of Dr Heslin’s work can be seen as linked by the theme of the cultural history of Roman reappropriations of Greek myth. His current book project has to do with the paradoxical uses of Greek myth as rhetorical exempla in the poetry of Propertius. His work on Pompeian painting brought him to the J. Paul Getty Villa in Los Angeles as a Getty Scholar. In 2012 he was the inaugural Joan Palevsky Visiting Professor of Classics at the University of California at Los Angeles.

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