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!

Delos as a Mediterranean network?

Mapping historical cultures dates before the term digital humanities became established, most notably through the method of cartography, the practice of drawing and studying maps. Traditional print cartography for research and educational purposes is currently being transformed by digital multi-layered, ‘deep’ maps.  The application of digital cartography has further expanded historical understandings of place, culture, and society as geographical networks. While traditional print cartography can only visualize place as static geometries on a map, digital platforms provide a capacity for updates, different mapping tiles and interactivity. Digital maps can therefore display the dynamics of space and time within texts and other data sources.

Within the Digital Periegesis project we took a small case- study, everything that Pausanias refers to when it comes to Delos, a small island in the middle of the Aegean, right below Mykonos.

Caption 1: Google maps,  displaying Delos

We have visited the island upon acquiring the project grant to see how its cultural heritage monuments is represented. The island is not inhabited, but is indeed an archaeological site, with excavations and guide tours conducted by the Greek government and the French Archaeological School in Athens.

Upon arrival, we were handed a paper guide that served as a map of the site.

Captions 2 and 3: A digital scan copy of the map that was created as a catalogue of the island in Delos by the Greek ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Overall, the map guide concentrates on what is on the island of Delos visually, while using a narrative analysis of the relation of delos to other places.

After annotating all Pausanias’s references in Delos in Recogito, following a simple annotation scheme that concentrates on place and people as place (proxies) we were able to see the relation of the island to other places in the Mediterranean. Using QGIS, we were able to visualize all the other places that Delos is connected to as static points on a map.


Caption 4: A QGIS rendering of Delos and associated places.

We had to make some creative adjustments, for example, we mapped the mythical Hyperborians by analogy somewhere up north… above Britain in the ‘Hyperborean Ocean’

Also note that a lot of our relations have to do with war and conflict but also with religion, as Delos is the island that during the classical times was connected to Apollo’s cult, alongside Delphi and Didyma, but also connected to Kalaureia, Poros, which according to Pausanias used to be a cult site for Apollo as Delos was Poseidon’s in the mythical past.

Caption 5: a simple recogito visualization of our tags of Delos.

Next, we will annotate the relations of those places to Delos, using Gephi, a social visualization network- more anon!