Historiography begins with narrations of the ancient Greek historians Herodotos and Thucydides on the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars, and subsequent historians tend to share their preoccupation with great actors of the ancient world, individuals like Xerxes and Pericles, with states like Athens and Sparta, and with empires like Persia and Rome. Moreover, archaeology tends to focus on individual excavation sites and monuments. Most internet-based Classics projects, such as the Perseus Project with its comprehensive collection of annotated primary Classical texts and secondary sources, the Stoa, Pelagios, Pleiades, and Ariadne focus on texts, sites, and geography of the ancient world.
Yet for most of human existence, real participation in history was lived by extended groups of people. Herodotos himself is not merely interested in recording “the great and wondrous deeds of the Greeks” but also those of non-Greeks — barbarians — and his work shows a lively interest in the different societies and kinship groups of the non-Greek world, their customs, languages, and beliefs.
There have in fact been thousands of groups of peoples across the millennia of recorded history, to judge from extant historical records. Some are well known, like the ancient Egyptians, and others, such as the Abii and Sanni, are only briefly mentioned in few records. In many cases research in archaeology, anthropology, linguistics, and even genetics is adding to our knowledge of these peoples. Yet no comprehensive catalogue exists of these peoples. Further, there is no single compendium of information about them and about aspects of their lives.
The HERODOTOS PROJECT aims to fill this gap in resources about humanity’s past through the development of a web-based portal for ancient ethnohistory, a database of the ancient peoples of human history and information about them. This is an intrinsically interdisciplinary project, involving collaboration among classicists, historians, linguists, archaeologists, digital scientists, geographers, anthropologists, art historians and geneticists.
This project, while based at The Ohio State University, has an international component via a partnership between scholars at OSU and at Ghent University (Ghent, Belgium). It was started at OSU in 2010 and has been active ever since; a team from Ghent joined the effort in 2013.