Help with Latin Texts: Musisque deoque

Musisque deoque is an Italian project developed in 2005 that aims to be a comprehensive repository of Latin works of poetry “from its origins to the Italian Renaissance.” In addition to the full text, the project also offers a critical apparatus for much of the material, as well as metrical analyses and advanced search options. In this guest post, I will take you on a tour of some of the main features.

Contents and Features

Musisque deoque is sponsored by five Italian universities, and much of the encoding is done by graduate students. As its principal investigators explain, one of the goals of the project is to provide a more dynamic digital edition of Latin texts by replicating the nuances and alternative readings of critical editions.

Critical Apparatus

Musisque deoque offers a number of rich features for the study of Latin poetry. One of the main goals of the project was to allow searching for variants of a text. I’ll describe more about the technical infrastructure that enables that kind of searching below. The project interface also allows you to display variant texts in a way that is somewhat easier to use and less mysterious than a typical critical apparatus. As seen in the screenshot below, not all texts have an apparatus; those that do are marked with a quill symbol.


List of Vergil works in Musisque deoque. The quill symbol by Eclogae and Aeneis indicate that these are accompanied by a critical apparatus.

It is worth reviewing the interface in detail. I’ll use the Aeneid as an example.


Interface displaying a poem. The text is in the left-hand pane. The apparatus is in the top right, and the bottom left toggles based on selection of the About, Witnesses, and Metres buttons at the top.

In this view, the window is divided into three main panes. On the left-hand side is the text of the poem with buttons to navigate to sections (books in this case), either directly or sequentially. As you see, some of the text is blue and italicized, which indicates that there are variant readings of these words. When clicked, the apparatus populates the upper right quadrant of the reader. The conspectus codicum, or list of witnesses consulted, appears in the bottom right quadrant when the Witnesses tab at the top of the screen is selected. A nice feature of the apparatus pane is that the full citation for each witness is available by mousing over the text in that pane. The hand symbol next to some of the witnesses means that there is an external link to the library or institution that holds the manuscript, as well as a digitized image of the manuscript if one exists.

Metrical Scansion

Musisque Deoque also provides provides scansion for a number of poems in the collection that consist of dactylic verse. This is provided through an automatic process developed by sister project, Pede certo. The scansion is available by clicking the Metrical scansion button in the row of buttons above the poem. Clicking this button will open up a new window:


Window displaying the scanned text of the opening lines of the Aeneid.

This display goes beyond marking the long and short syllables: it also marks the strong and weak caesurae, diaereses, and elisions. Theree is a summary of the dactyl and spondee pattern of each line to the right of the line. It provides the pattern for the first four feet, since dactylic hexameter tends to end each line with the predictable “shave and a haircut” rhythm, having a fifth foot that is usually a dactyl and the last that is generally a spondee or trochee.

In addition to offering this detailed scansion, there is also an index of poems by meter and the ability to look for meters in searches:


Meter index


There are two main search features: the first is a general search, and the second is a co-occurence search. Both of these search functions build on the other features of the project to offer useful tools to reseachers.

The main search interface is shown below . This interface allows for searching by a word, words, or phrase. The search function allows the user to search for words that are within a particular distance from each other, and in a particular part of a verse line. The way the project codes the apparatus allows the user to search by variants as well. The search can also be limited to particular meters and to particular authors or their works.


Search interface

I could, for example, search for all the times the words arma virum (the opening words of the Aeneid) appear near each other in the first position in dactylic verse. The query and its results appear below. As shown, the results provide the requested lines in an easy-to-read list. Each line can be expanded using the gray arrow to the left to see its context. This provides a useful way of exploring potential intertexts between Latin poets.


Search example


Results of the above search

The co-occurrence search provides another way of looking at these intertexts and influences among Latin poets. If, for instance, rather than looking for a specific phrase from Vergil, I wanted to get a broader picture of Vergilian influence on later Latin epic poets, the co-occurence tool provides a great way to do that. The image below shows a search that looks for co-occurences between Aeneid 1 and three later epic poets (Lucan, Statius, and Valerius Flaccus).


Co-occurrence Search Example

As you can see from the screenshot above, the search again lets the user set a maximum distance between words. You can also choose to compare your original text with the whole corpus, only antecedent authors, and only later authors. Once an option is selected, the Target list populates with appropriate choices. In this example, I searched by Lemma, which ignores inflectional differences between words.


Co-occurrence Search Results

Results appear line by line from the source text. The navigation allows you to move through the source text sequentially or jump to a particular spot. The results can also be filtered to show only those which the program deems “most significant”. Unfortunately, unlike the regular search, this search does not show significant context for its results. Happily though, the program highlights the relevant words in both the source and target  texts for easy comparison.


Musisque deoque is an extremely ambitious project, but it’s well-executed. I recommend this tool for scholars of Latin poetry, and especially those interested in intertexts, metrical analyses, and manuscript tradition. The site offers sophisticated search functions, and it’s a great example of how to do a good digital critical edition. I think this site could also be of some interest to students and educators who simply want clean versions of texts, especially earlier and later texts that are underrepresented in other digital projects

Amy Yarnell is currently pursuing a Masters of Library Science at Indiana University, where she was previously a PhD student in the Classical Studies Department. She had the good fortune to meet Mary in 2005 when they persevered through the UC Berkeley’s Greek Workshop together. She is especially interested in Digital Humanities, and is currently working on a digital edition of Tacitus’ Histories.


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