14

The Packard Humanities Institute (PHI) Latin Texts site claims to have 'essentially' all of the texts from before 200 AD plus a few others.

Is this really all of the text from before 200 AD? I would like to know what they mean by 'essentially'. I suppose I should discount tiny fragments here and there, plus graffiti or inscriptions and I guess a few works discovered in Herculaneum recently. I would think there would be more.

2
  • 1
    The claim is hedged a bit more: "essentially all Latin literary texts." But this is a great question--I don't know if anything significant is being excluded! My first hunch was that some early Christian writings were missing, but Tertullian is the first major Christian to write in Latin--as far as I'm aware--and he died a couple decades after AD 200.
    – brianpck
    Aug 19 at 22:49
  • @brianpck Do they have the Vetus Latina? (I'd search for myself but I'm not sure how.)
    – Ben Kovitz
    Aug 20 at 0:25
21

"I would think there would be more."

More than 362 individual authors? Most people, when they come across the site, fail to notice the little check box at the top right corner of the page (under the name of the site), so it looks substantially less. If you did see that and wanted more, keep in mind, as brianpck mentioned, this doesn't include inscriptions, coins, etc.

That said, I'm sure one or two have slipped by here or there. Just checking over Cornell's Fragments of the Roman Historians, I don't see Tuditanus mentioned, although possibly this is due to the uncertainty surrounding the author. Vennonius too is absent, but with a single Latin fragment (also bound up with uncertainties), there are good reasons why he might have been overlooked. Same with Paulus Clodius.

PHI is a respectable database (and has been for decades), so yeah, there may be some omissions, but it is fairly complete with the caveat that this is for literary Latin.

4
  • 10
    YOU'RE RIGHT!!! I DIDN'T SEE THAT CHECK BOX IN THE FAR RIGHT AND I HAD LOOKED AT THE SITE 20 TIMES!!! Massing oversite on part of the webdesigners.
    – bobsmith76
    Aug 20 at 3:01
  • @bobsmith76 I had a hunch that was it!
    – cmw
    Aug 21 at 14:24
  • 1
    It boggles my mind that of this extraordinary civilization that so changed the world, in which our own languages and civilization are so deeply rooted, we possess works of only ~362 authors, and only 35 books of Livy.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Aug 21 at 15:41
  • @BenKovitz Well, up to 200 AD. It went on longer than that. But yes, the enormous number of missing works from both Greece and Rome is a painful reminder of the fragility of our past.
    – cmw
    Aug 21 at 15:46
8

Note the exact wording:

This website contains essentially all Latin literary texts written before A.D. 200

Emphasis mine. The PHI corpus is focused on literature, and does truly include essentially all Latin literature from that time period—but omits inscriptions, graffiti, and so on.

The "essentially" reflects some uncertainty in what should be considered a Latin literary text. Fragments with uncertain attribution, for example, might be included or might not, depending on the views of the corpus organizers. But these edge cases are a tiny minority of the corpus.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.