In the ancient world the single-author lexicon was a valued tool, of which fragments are preserved for Plato, Homer, the attic orators, Hippocrates and others. 19th and 20th century attempts to modernize the enterprise required years to assemble, and mostly failed; the few that succeeded are mostly lists of numeric references with little interpretation, yet are still highly prized.

Our project is a digital platform to prepare lexica to each of the greatest classical Geek authors, using databases from Perseus Chicago. For each author, lemmata can be accessed from a search-box, a word list or by clicking on an item in the text. This opens a summary page with the word’s dictionary form, English definitions, and occurrence statistics, each opening in turn to reveal word families, compound elements, semantic groups, complete listings of all occurrences, distribution by contexts, bibliography, even illustrations where appropriate. Scholars are using this information and the tools in the website’s editing console to add new detailed articles (until these are complete, a 19th century lexicon article will be digitized in its place).

The first author was Thucydides (backed by the 1843 lexicon of Bétant) in 2018, for which so far several hundred new articles have been completed. Next is Plato (2019), for which the digitization of Ast’s 1835 lexicon is underway. After that come Aristophanes (with planned digitization of Sanxay 1811 and German from the microfiches of Wuest’s manuscript of 1984) and Euripides, for whom no author-lexicon has ever been completed yet.

Programming, correcting and updating are carried out by students directed by Jeffrey Rusten. Financial support comes from the Department of Classics and the Society of humanities and Olin library at Cornell, and the Loeb classical Library foundation.

A series of screencasts introducing features of the Thucydides and Plato lexica are available at the Screencast site.


Jeffrey Rusten
Professor Emeritus, Department of Classics
Cornell University