Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Text, materiality, and multiculturalism at the crossroads of the ancient Mediterranean

Project description

Exploring Sicilian culture and history through epigraphy

Multilingualism and multiculturalism were characteristic of ancient Sicily, at the crossroads of the Mediterranean. Historians have traditionally prioritised a Helleno- and Romanocentric narrative, derived from the texts of Greek and Roman literature. The EU-funded CROSSREADS project instead focuses on the thousands of texts produced by the island’s inhabitants between the 7th century BCE and the 7th century CE on a wide range of durable materials – the practice of epigraphy. By bringing together these texts in an integrated digital online corpus the project will deliver the first in-depth account of the interplay of linguistic and textual material culture on the island, exploring historical linguistics, writing systems, and the materiality of the texts, opening up new readings of the social, cultural and economic history of the island in antiquity.


‘Crossreads’ will offer the first coherent account of the interactions and interplay of linguistic and textual material culture in ancient Sicily over a period of 1,500 years. Sicily was a multilingual, multicultural region at the crossroads of the ancient Mediterranean, colonised and invaded repeatedly by Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans. History has traditionally prioritised literary texts, creating a Helleno- and Romanocentric narrative, which often relegates the island to a footnote. However, the inhabitants, native and immigrant, did write and those texts survive, engraved on a variety of durable materials – the practice of epigraphy. These texts embrace a broad socio-economic range, across public and private life. Proceeding from an unparalleled unification and exploitation of all the texts from the island (7th cent. BCE – 7th cent. CE) in a single corpus, ‘Crossreads’ will combine the insights from the collected corpus with the insights and analysis resulting from three major subprojects. These will explore the historical linguistics of the texts, the social, economic and practical materiality of the stone texts, and the physical forms of the writing systems employed – and interactions between all these aspects. Building upon a successful pilot project (I.Sicily) ‘Crossreads’ will bring all these inscribed objects together for the first time in a comprehensive, open-source, digital corpus using international standards to encode text, images and contextual data. The project pioneers the use in ancient epigraphic studies of new digital tools in palaeography and linguistic annotation, and offers the first petrographic analysis of the use of stone on the island. No such analysis has been attempted on this scale nor across this range of material, and it promises unparalleled insights into the cultural interactions at the heart of the Mediterranean, between Greek East and Latin West, North Africa, indigenous voices, and others.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 994 304,50
OX1 2JD Oxford
United Kingdom

See on map

South East (England) Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Oxfordshire
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 994 304,50

Beneficiaries (3)