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Mapping Spartacus: Using Pleiades in the Classroom

Creators: Sarah Bond
Contributors: Tom Elliott
Copyright © The Contributors. Sharing and remixing permitted under terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (cc-by).
Last modified Mar 31, 2015 03:31 PM
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Pleiades provides geospatial data to dozens of digital projects, but it can also be used as a pedagogical tool in the classroom. Students in Sarah Bond's 'Ancient Financial Crisis' class used Pleiades data and the AWMC's Antiquity À-la-carte tool in order to make maps of the sites involved in the Third Servile War (73-71 BCE) led in part by Spartacus, and then mapped the course of the slave rebellion through the terrain of Republican Italy.
Mapping Spartacus: Using Pleiades in the Classroom

Students at the University of Iowa Map Sites from the Third Servile War

Spartacus is a historical figure that has captured the imagination of millions since he escaped from that gladiatorial school in Capua over two millennia ago. Not only has the Thracian received numerous scholarly treatments, he has been the focus of a recent Cable show and served as the symbol of resistance in more than one modern popular revolt. Much like the pop icon treatment given to Che Guevera, Spartacus continues to be manipulated and used for new purposes with the historical context often being forgotten. 

This semester, my Honors Seminar at the University of Iowa has focused on ancient financial crises. The unit last week attempted to explore the impact of the servile wars of the last two centuries BCE on the land and livestock of the Italian countryside. It is difficult to grasp the economic and social devastation of warfare without understanding the overall topography of the conflict, and so I asked students to bring their laptops to class so that they could deal with it digitally. I gave them a list of the places that needed to be mapped as an excel sheet, asked them to make a login, and then sign into the Antiquity À-la-carte tool. Once they clicked on the map and entered the program, they could use the 'Search for Features' button in order to look for each of the places listed (see full list, below). After the places are added to the map, I had students go back and trace the various routes taken by Spartacus' troops through the Italian peninsula using the 'Draw Feature' tool found in the toolbar under 'Map Tools'. Following these exercises, students can download the places they mapped as a kml, json, or csv file, and continue to work with it in other platforms, such as Google Earth. I had them all take screenshots of their finished maps and send them to me, but a number of them will be making their own maps for an upcoming poster project. 

Here are examples of the maps produced with AAlaC, as well as a link to an example KML file (click to expand or open, as appropriate):

Map of Italy Map of South Italy KML File Icon

As teachers, we know that visuals are effective; however, simply showing students a map can often be less effective than having them construct it themselves. Asking our students to engage with antique locations, to ask questions about these places, and to recognize the various challenges they might have presented (e.g. Amphipolis during the Peloponnesian War) is made much easier through Pleiades and the Antiquity À-la-carte tool. Moreover, having students make their own maps introduces students to another way that historians, archaeologists, and classicists are able to understand the ancient Mediterranean. 

Figure 1: 

Pleiades Name English Name  Latin Name  Type Time Period          Pleiades ID
Patavium Padua Patavium settlement ACHRLM 393473
Aquileia Aquileia Aquileia settlement RL 118569
Aquileia Aquileia Aquileia settlement, church HRLM 187290
Mutina Mutina Mutina settlement RLM 383715
Reate Reate Reate settlement CHRLM 413283
Roma Rome Roma urban, settlement, temple ACHRLM 423025
Capua Capua Capua settlement, amphitheatre, arch ACHRL 432754
Rhegion/Regium Rhegion Rhegion settlement, temple, architecturalcomplex ACHRLM 452416
Taras/Tarentum/Neptunia Tarentum Tarentum settlement, temple ACHRL 442810
Brundisium/Brentesion Brundisium Brundisium settlement, port ACHRL 442509
Garganus Mons Garganus M. Garganus M. peninsula, mountain, cape M 442596
Tusculum Tusculum Tusculum settlement, amphitheatre, theatre ACHRLM 423108
Praeneste Praeneste Praeneste urban, settlement, temple, cave ACHRLMM 423013
Norba Norba Norba settlement CHRM 442691
Setia Setia Setia settlement CHRL 423068
Circeii 2 Circeii 2 Circeii 2 settlement HR 432783
Minturnae Minturnae Minturnae settlement, theatre HRL 432940
Sinues(s)a/Sinope Sinuessa Sinuessa settlement, settlement-modern M 433122
Vesuvius M. Vesuvius M. Vesuvius M. mountain 433189
Cales Cales Cales settlement, theatre CHRL 432739
Nola Nuvlana Nuvlana settlement ACHRL 432981
Pompeii Pompeii Pompeii urban, basilica, theatre, plaza, settlement, amphitheatre ACHR 433032
Nuceria Nuceria Nuceria unlocated R 387326
Picentinus Ager Picentinus Ager Picentinus Ager region HR 433024
Silarus (river) Silarus Silarus river RM 442795
Co(n)silinum/Cosilianum Cosilinum Cosilinum settlement ACRL 442551
Teuranus Ager Teuranus Ager Teuranus Ager unknown R 452473
Consentia Consentia Consentia settlement CHRLM 452308
Sila M. Sila M. Sila M. mountain M 452449
Sybaris/Thurii/Copia Thurii Thurii settlement, port, theatre ACHRL 452457
Metapontum Metapontum Metapontum settlement, theatre ACHRL 442658
Anni Forum Anni Forum Anni Forum unlocated H 446215
Nares Lucanae Nares Lucanae Nares Lucanae settlement RL 442685
Apulia Apulia Apulia region HRL 442469