Don’t-Miss Database: Trismegistos

Screenshot of homepage of Trismegistos databasePost contributed by Greta Boers, Librarian for Classical Studies

Trismegistos (“An interdisciplinary portal of the ancient world”), is a tool for discovering writings from ancient Egypt and the Nile Valley, North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe at any time between 800BC and 800AD. This ongoing project at the Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven describes primary texts held by more than 150 institutions, in over 50 ancient languages, and as of March 2024, contained 962,930 entries.

Why Should You Use This Database?

You can use Trismegistos as a discovery tool for ancient writings preserved on papyrus, stone, pottery, and metal, as well as other media, from collections on websites, and in museums, archives, and universities around the world.

By providing systematic metadata for each text, Trismegistos offers both flexible and nuanced ways to search them. The results point to the institutions which house the texts, and in some instances the full text itself. Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri and Papyri.info, a project initiated by Duke Collaboratory for Classics Computing (DC3), are among the institutions linked from the database.

Cool Features

You could pass the time discovering that in Alexandria the new moon in January 400 BC was on the 26th  by the Julian calendar, but on the 27th of the month of Phaophi in the Egyptian calendar.

If you wanted to learn Old Nubian it is possible to find 565 of the existing texts. You can sort these by material, using the graph. In this case the limit is to texts in stone. If you click on TM 99098 it will take you to another link to commentaries, including the 1927 article in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology.

Screenshot of search results for Old Nubian in Trismegistos database

Screenshot of list of Old Nubian texts from search in Trismegistos database

Screenshot of citation to commentary from Trismegistos database

Using Trismegistos as your search tool, you can find the earliest fragment (AD01 – AD02) of Dioskorides’ De Materia Medica in papyrus at the University of Cologne, as well as the famously beautiful codex (AD06) at the National Library of Austria.

Screenshot of texts found through Trismegistos database

Tax extensions? A lentil cook requested to postpone his taxes because of unfair competition from pumpkinseed sellers in the 3rd century BC. Trismegistos points you to Papyri.info, which links to an image in Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence.

Database Tips

The database has two tiers, one is freely accessible to a general audience. Duke subscribes to the version that offers more sophisticated search capabilities, visualizations (pie charts, tables, maps, word clouds, and timelines), and exporting, with a steeper learning curve. Duke users can access this version of Trismegistos our Libraries’ website.

Similar Resources

There are many other library research databases which mine texts in the ancient world. These include Thesaurus Linguae Graecae and Thesaurus Linguae Latinae. Be sure to look at the Research Databases page for other resources. Another prime resource is the Digital Classicist Wiki which points to many open access resources for research in the ancient world.

Questions?

Contact Greta Boers, Librarian for Classical Studies.

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