Trismegistos is the result of intense collaboration between the universities of Leuven and Cologne, but would never have been possible without the support of many other projects.

It all started in 2004 when Mark Depauw was granted a Sofja Kovalevskaja Award of the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung to set up his own research team at a German university, in this case Cologne. The project Multilingualism and Multiculturalism in Graeco-Roman Egypt wanted to investigate language shifts in relation to cultural identity, by setting up an online database of Graeco-Roman papyrological material in Egyptian scripts parallel to and in close cooperation with the existing tools of Greek papyrology (the Heidelberger Gesamtverzeichnis griechischer Urkunden aus Ägypten [HGV] and its literary counterpart, the Leuven Database of Ancient Books [LDAB]. On the basis of this new platform, factors influencing language preferences would then be analyzed.

First the necessary egyptological metadata databases (providing information about texts like HGV and LDAB) were developed: the Demotic and Abnormal Hieratic Texts [DAHT] and Hieroglyphic and Hieratic Papyri [HHP]. From the beginning, however, there was intense collaboration between Cologne and Leuven, both regarding infrastructure (computers, collaborators, ...) and regarding the contents. Thus the new database did not have to start from scratch: Heinz-Josef Thissen, the Gastgeber, provided his databases of Demotic papyri and bibliography, and Leuven offered the technical infrastructure and data of the Prosopographia Ptolemaica to start from.

Building on these databases also raised a number of questions:

  1. Why include only papyrological texts?
    The evidence of inscriptions is equally valuable for the study of shifting language preferences, and in egyptology there is no strict disciplinary boundary between epigraphy and papyrology.
  2. Why separate Egyptian language and scripts from Greek and Latin?
    They were spoken in the same region at the same time, and occur together on a sizeable amount of texts. Mapping this overlap would be easier if everything was in a single database.
  3. Why limit the database to the Graeco-Roman period?
    Demotic starts in the 7th cent. BC and the hiatus in the documentation of the 3rd Intermediate Period, around 800 BC, seemed a better terminus post quem. Greek also continues to used in the Byzantine period, and AD 800 seemed more suitable here.

In view of these considerations, we decided to set up partnerships with HGV and LDAB, and merge everything into a single database. We mapped the overlap between Greek papyrological and egyptological databases, gave everything a unique numeric id (the TM number), and established criteria for what made out a record in the database and was given a separate number. Doing this obliged us to set strict standards for standardization of metadata, often through the use of numbers establishing links with related databases for different types of information.

After HGV and LDAB, many other projects were kind enough to put some of their information to our disposal. Some of these already existed before (e.g. the Brussels Coptic Database [BCD] of Alain Delattre), others were set up in collaboration (e.g. Aramaic Texts from Egypt [ATE] of Alexander Schütze), and some of the small gaps for minor languages were filled up by us as good as we could (e.g. Meroitic, Carian, or Nabataean).

Here are some of the early milestones in this development:

  1. April 2005: Integration of Thissen's Demotic database and the Demotic entries of the Prosopographia Ptolemaica
  2. July 2005: Meeting in Cologne about establishing Trismegistos with HGV, LDAB, and APD
  3. January 2006: Integration of HGV and LDAB
  4. May 2006: Integration of the BCD
  5. 22 May 2006: Online version of Demotistische Literaturübersicht 1968-
  6. 2 November 2006: Launch of DAHT, Trismegistos and DemLue -1968
  7. December 2006: Relational setup for Places and Dates databases; creation of the old-number database
  8. July 2007: Integration of IGLE
  9. 31 July 2007: Launch of HHP and ATE, TM-BIB
  10. November 2007: Integration of APD and Coptic LDAB
  11. 21 February 2008: new features in online version (Places, Google maps for Places and Collections, lookup for publications, launch TM-Magic and [Coptic] LDAB)

From late 2008 onwards, the focus of Trismegistos has been on people and places, but in 2010 the idea grew to expand Trismegistos further to include texts from outside Egypt. Since 2012 Trismegistos also includes unpublished texts for which information is available in online repositories. The following list gives an idea of the steps in this expansion.

  1. January 2010: Integration of the Latin inscriptions of Macedonia (on the basis of EDH)
  2. May 2010: Integration of most Greek inscriptions of Macedonia (on the basis of CLAROS)
  3. May 2010: Integration of the Latin inscription of Regio X: Venetia et Histria (on the basis of EDR and EDH)
  4. June 2011: Integration of the Lund papyrus collection (APIS)
  5. December 2011: Integration of the Duke papyrus collection (APIS)
  6. February - March 2012: Integration of DeM
  7. April 2012: Integration of the Ghent papyrus collection
  8. June 2012: Integration of DBMNT
  9. August 2012: Integration of Messapic (on the basis of Monumenta Linguae Messapicae)
  10. October 2012: Integration of DVCTVS (Spanish collections)
  11. December 2012: Integration of Etruscan (on the basis of Rix, ET)
  12. February 2013: Integration of the Latin inscriptions of Britain (on the basis of EDH and RIB)
  13. February 2013: Integration of Italic (on the basis of Imagines Italicae)

Whereas DAHT, LDAB, HHP and TM_Magic are updated piece by piece inside the system, the cooperation with HGV, BCD and APD takes place through regular updates, of which a survey follows below.

  1. HGV: February, March, May, June, July, September 2006, October 2007, September 2008, January, September 2009, September 2010, February, July, September 2011, March, August, November 2012, February 2013
  2. BCD: September 2009, August 2011, June 2012
  3. APD: Feb 2013