Introduction: Creating new worlds out of old texts

Barker, Elton; Bouzarovski, Stefan and Isaksen, Leif (2016). Introduction: Creating new worlds out of old texts. In: Barker, Elton; Bouzarovski, Stefan; Isaksen, Leif and Pelling, Chris eds. New Worlds from Old Texts: Revisiting Ancient Space and Place. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 1–21.



Despite initial expectations that globalization would eradicate the need for geographical space and distance, "maps matter" today in ways that were unimaginable a mere two decades ago. Technological advances have brought to the fore an entirely new set of methods for representing and interacting with spatial formations, while the ever-increasing mobility of ideas, capital, and people has created a world in which urban and regional inequalities are being heightened at an accelerating pace. As a result, the ability of any given place to reap the benefits of global socio-technical flows mainly hinges on the forging of connections that can transcend the limits of its material location. In contrast to the traditional "topographic" perspective, the territorial extent of economic and political realms is being increasingly conceived through a "topological" lens: as a set of overlapping reticulations in which the nature and frequency of links among different sites matter more than the physical distances between them.

At the same time, a parallel stream of innovation has revolutionized the understanding of space in disciplines such as history, archaeology, classics, and linguistics. Much of this work has been concentrated in the burgeoning field of the "digital humanities", which has been persistently breaking new ground in the conceptualization of past and present places. When seen in the context of globalization-induced dynamics, such developments emphasize the need for developing cartographic approaches that can bring out the inherently networked structure of social space via a lens that is both theoretically integrative and heuristically sharp.

We have decided to respond to these analytical and methodological challenges by focusing on ancient Greek literature: a corpus of work that has often been characterized as being free of the constraints imposed by post-Enlightenment cartography, despite setting the foundations of many contemporary map-making methods. In the 12 chapters that follow, we highlight the rich array of representational devices employed by authors from this era, whose narrative depictions of spatial relations defy the logic of images and surfaces that dominates contemporary cartographic thought. There is a particular focus on Herodotus' Histories - a text that is increasingly taken up by classicists as the example of how ancient perceptions of space may have been rather different to the cartographic view that we tend to assume. But this volume also considers the spatial imaginary through the lens of other authors (e.g. Aristotle), genres (e.g. hymns), cultural contexts (e.g. Babylon), and disciplines (e.g. archaeology), with a view to stimulating a broad-based discussion among readers and critics of Herodotus and ancient Greek literature and culture more generally.

In fact, many of the disciplinary and conceptual perspectives explored here are at their inception, and have a more general relevance for the wider community of humanities and social science researchers interested in novel mapping techniques. The resulting juxtaposition of more "traditional", philological discussions of space with chapters dedicated to the exploration of new technologies may jar or appear uneven, especially since we have not set out to privilege one method over another. But it is through viewing these different approaches in the round and reading them alongside each other that, we maintain, we can best disrupt customary ways of thinking (and writing) about space and catch a glimpse of new possibilities.

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