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A Digital Ecumene: Mapping Antiquity


Courses Integrated:

  • Classics 209: The Romans
  • Classics 275: Fall of the Roman Empire
  • Greek 101: Ancient Greek
  • Greek 250: Greek Historians
  • Classics 275: Ancient Sparta


  • Jim Capreedy, Associate Professor of Classics
  • Mike Schlossberg, Technical Consultant
  • Susan Pliner, Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning
  • Rob Beutner, Digital Learning Consultant, IT Services
  • Juliet Habjan Boisselle, Digital Learning Consultant, IT Services

Goals and Objectives:

To build a simple mobile, collaborative, online mapping tool (The Nearchus Project) so that students of Ancient History would:

  • gain a better understanding of course content and the historical narrative of an ancient culture
  • become more inquisitive and develop a deeper sophistication of analysis
  • gain a stronger awareness of ancient geography and its relation to the modern world
  • examine the benefits and limitations of using mapping technology in Classics

Digital Toolkit:

  • jQuery Mobile (for the mobile user interface)
  • PHP (for most of the programming code)
  • mySQL (database)
  • Google Maps API

Digital Learning Team Role:

  • Provide an environmental scan of related digital resources available
  • Provide feedback on interface design as well as documentation for students
  • Provide feedback on and support for integrating mapping technology with class projects

Student Feedback:


Student responses were overwhelmingly positive about the simplicity of the tool, its effectiveness to learning the geography of the ancient world and the utility as an alternative method to studying ancient history. Students also appreciated having a collaborative project that combined the use of technology and research.

94% of students found that the tool was easy to use and helpful in gaining a better understanding of the historical narrative of a course:

  • "I liked how simple and intuitive it was."
  • "I really liked the ease with which I could simply plug information into separate distinct fields as well as the use of Google Earth as the actual map, making it a more interactive experience both for map creators and viewers."
  • "I appreciated the ways in which the map allowed me to spatially understand and interact with the vastness of the Roman Empire. ... Though simple, I feel that it granted me a more sophisticated awareness of the Empire's inner workings."

88% of students also responded that the tool was effective in promoting inquiry and collaboration and did positively affect how they examined ancient history:

  • "I was amazed at how much better I could comprehend why certain historical moments occurred, just based on where they occurred."
  • "It had given me a larger appreciation for the level of communication that took place between emperors and their administrations."
  • "(It) allowed me to get more into the material."
  • "It makes me feel more engaged in the class and connected to my classmates."

Related Resources:

The creation of the tool, The Nearchus Project, was successful and we are continuing to add enhancements as we gather feedback from students about the tool and the use of digital maps in ancient history courses. In all courses, students worked individually to create the narratives of specific locations and in class, were asked to work in groups on projects that used the collaborative map as a research tool. At the end of the semester, students in the CLAS 275: Fall of the Roman Empire course were asked to create their own historical map using a different mapping tool, Tour Builder with Google.


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.