Delos as a hyper-connected hub

As covered in last week’s post, annotating Pausanias’ references on Delos in Recogito enables us to visualize the many places with which the sanctuary-island was connected. But our digital venture doesn’t stop there. Beyond linking every place mentioned in the ancient text with a static point on a map, we are now also marking the relations between places, and between people who are used as proxy for places.

Through the tagging of relations, our digital map is coming to life with a human dimension, one of movement and exchanges. Those relations are what make our project truly original.

A place like Delos is an excellent example to better understand how our digital mapping comes to life. Indeed, while only mentioned in few passages of Pausanias’ complete works, Delos quickly appeared as one of the richest places to explore when it comes to relations with other places. Our annotations revealed that this tiny floating rock in the middle of the Aegean was an extremely busy hub, as it functioned as a sanctuary but also as a market. While a few settled there, most people present on the island at any point are visitors, pilgrims who come to worship Apollo, merchants who visited the market or travelers who are transiting through the sanctuary on their way between the mainland and exotic destinations, as Theseus did on his way back from Crete.

In most of the Periegesis, the tags “contains” and “proximity” are most recurrent, and they serve to indicate how the monuments are set in relation to one another, but the Delian dynamic is different: here, “transit” and “analogic” are the predominant relation tags. Indeed, the island functions as a meeting place for the Greeks, and therefore many of the sanctuary’s elements are imported from the various people who constitute the social fabric of the place. 

Pausanias can therefore draw parallels between these elements and those found in various other Greek sanctuaries. For instance, when Pausanias considers the most ancient sacred trees,  the olive-tree in Delos the olive tree in the Acropolis in Athens, as well as the withy of the Heraion of Samos, the oak in Dodona and a bay-tree in Syria.

caption 1: Tagging analogies between the olive-tree in Delos and other prominent old sanctuary-trees.


The “transit” tag can give us a very lively image of movements between the various points of our digital map. For example, Pausanias tells us of the comings and goings of the sybil Herophile, neochoros of the temple of Apollo Smitheos, who, although she resided most of her life in Samos, visited several famous Apollonian sanctuaries: Delos, but also Delphi and Claros. Visualizing her points of transit brings us closer to imagining her physical but also spiritual journey.

Caption 2: The peregrinations of Herophile, sybil of Apollo.

Annotating relations is therefore an essential dimension of our digital map: it enables us to give life and colour to our annotation of Delos, revealing the island as an intricate social hub. We are looking forward to discovering the complete network of relations at play in Pausanias’ Periegesis… stay tuned for more!

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