Latin research tools: PHI Latin texts

When I was an undergraduate and writing papers, I needed to manually type all of my Latin. Although this isn’t that difficult if you’re a good typist, the autocorrect on Word would have a field day, ensuring that exclamatio became exclamationdum became dumb, and so on. I’m sure you all know how frustrating it is to read over Latin for mistakes (especially when it’s in italics — I don’t know why that makes long passages harder to read).

Thanks to the internet, there are now a bunch of options for getting your Latin pre-typed (although not always without mistakes!). I tend to use the PHI Latin site. Why?

The site uses the texts available from the PHI Latin disk, which is the closest thing available to a fully-searchable TLL along the lines of the TLG. Their texts are easier to use than the Latin Library if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for; I also think their search function is better than Perseus‘, although that might be a matter of taste. Because the text isn’t hyperlinked to a dictionary, it is easier to cut-and-paste from PHI than from Perseus.

Once you agree to the terms, you have a choice of search options:

PHI Latin texts

“Authors” allows you to browse; “Word search” lets you search for individual word(s), with the option of limiting your author; and “concordance” does the same as word search, but with a different results layout. So let’s go through one by one.

Clicking on “Authors” will take you to a list of all authors available on PHI. You should note that medieval and Late Latin are not well covered, as this period is not on the PHI disk — so if you’re looking for Bede, this is the wrong place for you.

PHI latin author list

List of authors

If you click on an author — I’ve chosen Cicero — you’ll reach a page listing all of his works. (The numbers can be used in word/concordance searches to limit your results, but so can the abbreviations in square brackets.)

PHI Latin texts author list

List of texts

If you hover over a work, you’ll see the edition used on the site. Usually this is the OCT or Teubner text.

PHI Latin texts cicero edition

A clearer shot of the edition info.

Clicking on the work itself will let you read the full Latin:

phi latin texts cicero pro archia

A few cautions as you read:

  • “next” tabs are not of standard length; some are by section, some by book, some vary (for example, Pro Archia goes from 1.1 to 4.5 to 12.1; this may be due to an alternate numbering system);
  • using the down arrow advances a tab instead of scrolling down (I’m not sure if this is true on all browsers, but it happens on my versions of Safari and Firefox)
  • if you are cutting and pasting the text, you need to be careful about the section/line numbers. They are laid out in a table and will paste into your word processor as a table:
Qua re quis tandem me reprehendat, aut quis mihi 13.1
iure suscenseat, si, quantum ceteris ad suas res obeundas,
quantum ad festos dies ludorum celebrandos, quantum ad

This won’t happen if you take the text line by line:

Qua re quis tandem me reprehendat, aut quis mihi…

But what if you don’t want to just read the Pro Archia? What if you want to know the frequency of a word? That’s where the search function comes in.

phi latin word search

Here I’ve chosen to search for conventus. Be careful about this: it will not automatically search for other cases, so you’re generally safer searching for the root only (I’ll come back to an example of this).

PHI latin texts concordance results

With the word search, you’re automatically give three lines of context, and the word you’ve searched for is highlighted. The results are arranged chronologically by author, and there are ten results per page.phi latin word search results

Currently there is no way to see more hits at once using the word search (I prefer the concordance for this reason).

You can also see how common a word is in various authors by clicking on the bar graph just under the search bar:

phi latin texts word search common words authors

The authors are again ordered chronologically. The percentages are based on the author’s surviving works, so the “statistics” tool will not tell you who uses the word most often in Latin texts, but rather how common the word is in an author.

phi latin texts search results conventus caesar

If you hover over the text, it turns blue — the entire passage is linked to the full-text. If a particular passage interests you, you can click on the gobbet and it will take you to the exact location in the text:

phi latin texts word search caesar conventus

At this point, all of the cautions about browsing apply.

You can also perform advanced searches, limiting by author, work, and proximity. For example:

  • [Cic] conventus searches for conventus only in Cicero; if you open a square bracket, the site will suggest abbreviations as you type:phi latin text autofill authors cicero
  • [Cic:Ver] conventus searches only the Verrines; the site will suggest abbreviations for works as well
  • conven will also find declined forms, conjugated forms of convenio, etc.
  • conventus ~ magn will find conventus near forms of magnus; both of the search terms will be highlighted:

phi latin texts complex word search results

Clicking the gear next to the search bar will bring up a brief list of search tips:

phi latin search tools

You can find more by clicking “About” and then “About the word search”.  If you look at the background of the photo above, you can see that using the gear won’t make you lose your initial search — it’s just a popup.

But let’s say you’re really more interested in the semantic range of a word. That’s where the concordance comes in handy, as it will list up to 500 results on a single page with some context:

phi latin texts concordance results

This is our original search on conventus. The results are sorted alphabetically by the word that follows the word you’ve searched for; if you want, you can click to the left of the word to switch to sorting alphabetically by the word that precedes it. There is no way to sort by chronology. But you can also limit these searches by author and work, which may help limit your search results.

phi latin texts limited concordance search conventus cicero

If we look only for Ciceronian instances, we go from 170 total to 22.

It is not very useful to try proximity searches in the concordance. They just don’t work. Here is the re-run of our conventus ~magn search:

PHI Latin texts concordance

This time, only one search term is highlighted, and in some cases (such as the first example from Suetonius) I couldn’t find the second search term on the same page. So if you’re interested in how two words work together, the word search is a better choice.

Happy searching! It sounds very complicated when it’s all put into a document, but it’s actually pretty easy to use once you start.


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Latin research tools: PHI Latin texts by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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