- How do I search?
- How do I use the Chronology?
- What is a factoid, and what kinds are used here?
- How are the seals organised?
- What are permalinks for?
- What is Linked Open Data?
- Why are some Greek texts, especially from monasteries, full of linguistic mistakes?
- Does PBW give useful statistical information about Byzantine society?
- Is PBW complete?
You may choose to build a Selective search, refining by using any of the nine general categories below. Selecting a term from one of these categories will cause a list of persons who match this term to be displayed below. At the top of the page you will find the Show search options button, which will then permit you to refine that list further; you can continue to narrow down in this way.
- Names lists the primary and second/alternative names used
- Sex indicates gender, only when it is evident
- Floruit offers a series of broad periods
- Sources provides an alphabetical list of the sources from which PBW data is drawn, so that it is possible to see, for example, only persons found in Skylitzes. The number after the name indicates how many persons are included.
- Location lists all localities, with which persons in the database are associated.
- Dignities/Offices are official titles, listed together in order to avoid over-interpretation.
- Occupation provides a list of jobs which are given for a person.
- Ethnicity is listed when it is mentioned
- Language knowledge is listed, when it is mentioned
2. How do I use the Chronology?
- The Chronology offers another route into the database.
Here all the events which have been examined are summarised and presented by year, as far as is possible: under each year the events dated to that year, with varying degrees of certainty, are briefly described, with links to the persons concerned..
- To choose a year, drag the slider at the top of the screen, or use the box provided to input an number within the range from 1025 A.D to 1204 A.D; then press Apply.
- To find out more detail about one particular person, click on his or her name, and you will be taken to the full record.
- Not every event can be precisely dated; some are only approximately located in a particular year.
3. What is a factoid, and what kinds are used here?
- Assertions (factoids) are small packets of information, a word or a sentence, sometimes with a word or two in the original language, and a source-reference. This is the way that PBW stores its information; when you ask a question, the program collects factoids to reply
- When you find somebody’s entry it will give the number of the assertions under each category about that person.
- For further information about the concept of factoids, and the development of this approach to prosopography, see John Bradley's web-post, About Factoid Prosopography.
4. How are the seals organised?
- Seals are a very important source of information about Byzantine individuals at this period. Although very many people are only known from their seals, we still learn a great deal about careers and offices. Seals have to be organised to reflect the fact that, although the vast majority of the seals which we find are unique examples, they were each produced by a boulloterion - a seal -stamper - and may exist in multiple copies. The seals are in a separate database. There is a direct link between each person in the prosopography to one or more relevant boulloteria; for each boulloterion there is a link to the person, and a list of the seals from it. But the database can also be searched by a list of Collections which hold the various seals, and by the Bibliography of publications of those seals; the bibliographic details can be found in the list of seal editions.
- Seal publications are not always very easy to access. An important new initiative is the publication online of one of the world's largest collections of seals, at Dumbarton Oaks: see their online catalogue. This is an ongoing process; but when a seal cited in our database is available online, we are adding a link. This is the only modification to the database which may continue after publication.
5. What are permalinks for?
- Permalinks are the building blocks for Linked Open Data (see below). They provide references to pages of a database which can be read by a computer. Anybody who intends to look regularly at a specific group of persons in PBW can remember that they are named Alexios 103, Andronikos 109 etc., and find them by these names and numbers. But some users may prefer to copy the permanent URIs of their person pages (or their seal pages) and store them in the favourites list or bookmarks of their browser.
- Permalinks are also a courtesy extended to other on-line publications and sites of many kinds (seal auction houses, genealogical explorations, university course outlines, Wikipedia etc.) which may want to reference the material provided here.
6. What are Linked Open Data?
- The use of Linked Open Data is Tim Berners-Lee's concept of how the web can work to enhance and enrich knowledge: see his definition at w3.org. As more and more useful material becomes available online, we can use it - as we have always used footnotes - to support and enhance our publications, by cross-reference. When PBW was first conceived, this was not really practicable; but there are now many valuable resources which provide machine-readable unique identifiers to which we can refer. In this edition of PBW we have added linked data references for authors (to Viaf and to the Perseus Catalog) and to places (to Pleiades, when possible, or to Geonames); the generous presentation of many of their seals online by Dumbarton Oaks has enabled us to refer to them. We hope that, as well as being useful to our readers, this may also provide an inspiration to publish more materials in this way.
7. Why are some Greek texts, especially from monasteries, full of linguistic mistakes?
- There are different conventions in Byzantine Studies (as elsewhere) for editing texts classed as “literature” (including, e.g., histories and letters), and others called “documents”. The spelling of literary texts is regularised, that of documents is generally not. A large proportion of Byzantine documents are preserved in monasteries.
- Thus there is serious inconsistency between these two major categories of the sources used for PBW. But it is not appropriate for that reason to impose regular spelling on documents in PBW. The only solution is to leave the inconsistency.
- The legends on seals are edited in several different ways — different conventions for the same material. Special fonts may be employed to represent letters used on the seals, the text may be set in the lines in which it is presented on the lead, abbreviations may be expanded or not, and the spelling regularised or not. This diversity is confusing, especially as PBW’s intended audience is made up of historians rather than sigillographers. PBW has decided to regularise everything into a line of standard Greek.
8. Does PBW give useful statistical information about Byzantine society?
- Unfortunately not. PBW just records what the sources say, and they rarely state the obvious.
- Most of the officials in the palace and patriarchate, for example, were Greek-speaking, Orthodox Christians who called themselves “Romans” (Byzantines). But there is rarely any need to say so. Thus Greek-speakers, Christians and “Romans” tend to appear in PBW round the borders of Byzantium or outside them, where their presence is interesting or surprising
- There may be limited statistical information on dignities and offices: for example, if an office considered rare appears on many seals. But the source of the information must always be tested: the date of an official may have been suggested because prosopography shows that the office was specially prominent at one period. There is always a danger of circular reasoning.
9. Is PBW complete?
- No. It can never be complete, because several hundred new seals are unearthed each year, new texts are edited, old texts are re-edited, and whole episodes are re-examined and re-interpreted
- Even with regard to information already published, the PBW team have read only the texts mentioned in the list of sources. This is becoming more complete than before for Greek sources, but the entering of non-Greek sources is still at an early stage
- PBW must always be examined for what it contains. It should never be assumed that what it does not contain does not exist.