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Elijah Meeks

Walter Scheidel

Created by digital humanities specialist Elijah Meeks and historian Walter Scheidel, ORBIS is both a schematic network of 3rd century Roman transportation and a website service that allows users to analyze and represent historical transportation. Utilizing a variety of information visualization methods, it provides functionality to find individual routes between the sites in the network as well as calculate and visualize the movement of goods and people in the aggregate by calculating all the routes to or from a selected site. This map shows examples of the various functions available on the ORBIS website used to examine the difference between Rome and London. The maps and diagrams attempt to answer the question of why London did not become one of the capitals of the Roman Empire. Using different data visualization methods, it highlights the connectivity of the Mediterranean and Roman Britain, the seasonal nature of that connectivity, the differences between movement of people compared to the movement of goods, and more general geographic principles such as Tobler’s “shriveling” of space or that the shortest route geographically is very rarely the cheapest or the fastest. To explore ORBIS, go to http://orbis.stanford.edu.


Meeks, Elijah and Walter Scheidel. 2014. ORBIS. Courtesy of Stanford University Libraries and Stanford Department of Classics. In "10th Iteration (2014): The Future of Science Mapping," Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, edited by Katy Börner and Samuel Mills. http://scimaps.org

Acknowledgements: This exhibit is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0238261, CHE-0524661, IIS-0534909 and IIS-0715303, the James S. McDonnell Foundation; Thomson Reuters; the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center, University Information Technology Services, and the School of Library and Information Science, all three at Indiana University. Some of the data used to generate the science maps is from the Web of Science by Thomson Reuters and Scopus by Elsevier. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.