Principal Investigator:
        Dirk Obbink

Project Manager:
        James Brusuelas

Research Assistants:
        Chiara Meccariello
        Gertjan Verhasselt
        Vasiliki Giannopolou
        Maroula Salemenou

        Annapaola Santarsiero
        Alex Williams


Proteus ( is currently in its final stages of debugging and testing, with a launch date scheduled for late January 2017. To date, Proteus has not only achieved its key goals, but also continues to evolve. In developing a platform that digitally captures the evolving data of Greek and Latin literary and subliterary papyri as they are edited and re-edited over time, the Proteus project has created a digital ecosystem for both creating next-generation born digital critical editions and generating the textual criticism that underwrites them.

Here is a quick preview with images from various phases of development. More detail will follow when the site goes live.

The Proteus architecture consists of two components: the Digital Editor for Classical Philology (DELPHI) and the Proteus Search Interface. The project is implemented using Python, HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, a PostgreSQL database management system, and Apache Solr for fast, powerful search functionality; these components are packaged together using Django, a high-level Web framework for the Python programming language.

Proteus offers a virtual space for parallel critical editing, a process whereby one or multiple scholars can produce a digital edition and even suggest conjectures through critical notes, all of which are then accessible for future research. Focusing on papyrus fragments in its first iteration, citable, scholarly use is of the utmost importance. But Proteus is not just simply implementing the necessary attributes that make a Greek or Latin edition critical, but embracing the machine for what it is: not a book. A new text editor, data visualization, search, and version control are being employed to re-think how a user interfaces a text that can constantly change.


With DELPHI at the core of Proteus’ digital ecosystem, this platform facilitates the creation of born digital critical editions. As a text editor DELPHI’s design has been modeled on common Markdown editors and Integrated Development Environments (IDE). Our editor employs its unique Critical Syntax (CSYN) Markdown, a human-readable language for digital philology, alongside Critical Syntax for Papyri (CSYN-P), a modified and improved implementation of the EpiDoc XML schema; it also addresses the markup needs of Herculaneum papyri. In real-time, as users create digital editions using CYSN Markdown, CSYN-P is not only generated automatically, but also the HTML5 preview. DELPHI thus removes the labor-intensive process of XML markup (though a user can select to do so) and improves quality control, since syntactical errors are flagged and easily isolated via the real-time translation. More importantly, in this very same fashion, DELPHI allows editors to generate attributes that make an edition critical and thus citable in scholarship: a critical apparatus, testimonia, diplomatic editions, and even the palaeographical apparatus. Other highlights include: in-browser Greek keyboard and menus for inserting papyrological and critical symbols (no downloaded third party software or keyboards required); a diacritic menu inspired by the Apple OS X Character Accent Menu; JavaScript that makes data in the critical apparatus more engaging; and functionality for digitally editing marginalia and providing translations.

Why Proteus? In Greek mythology Proteus was known to change shape in order to elude capture; only to those who caught him would he foretell the future. Literary and subliterary fragments, due to constant re-editing, also continue to change shape over time. Our system has designed a way to capture that change, or at least confine it within a digital ecosystem that allows a user to engage this mutability.

Proteus is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.