Places (GEO)

General issues

What is a place?

The term 'place' is used in the broadest sense, referring not only to towns and villages, but also to regions, districts and to all kinds of micro-toponyms (e.g. town quarters and streets, kleroi and other plots of land, rivers, sanctuaries). A place can have more than a single name, depending on the language, the period or the type of text; e.g. the names Apollonopolis Megale (Magna) / Ano (Superior), Apollonias, Behdet, Bachthis, Polis Phoibou and Mesen all refer to nowadays is called Edfu. All toponyms referring to one place are listed in a single record, which has a unique TM Geo_ID number. This number contains no information: places are just assigned random numbers as they are entered. If two places are identified and their cards joined, the Geo_ID number of the old card is preserved but henceforward contains only a reference to the new card.

Ancient and modern

Trismegistos Geo lists both ancient and modern places. Ancient places are attested in literary or documentary sources, and modern places are included insofar an ancient document has been found there. With regard to ancient places it is not always clear what is a real toponym and what is a common noun referring to a geographical item (e.g. 'the city', also called appellatives in linguistic studies). Here Trismegistos follows the practical rule that any toponym listed in the geographical index of a publication is also listed in the geographical database.

Onomastic information

Standard name

The standard name is a transliteration in Latin characters of one of the variants of the ancient names, usually the most common one. If a place has no ancient name, the modern name is displayed here.

Greek, Latin, Egyptian, Coptic, and 'other' ancient names

For every ancient place the different names are listed in separate fields, one for every ancient language used: 'Greek', 'Latin', 'Egyptian' (sc. hieroglyphic, hieratic, demotic), 'Coptic'. The names in the fields 'Greek', 'Latin' and 'Coptic' are written in the script of the sources (with a Unicode alphabet); in the field 'Egyptian' a Unicode transcription is given, no facsimile of the original hieroglyphs or script. In the field 'Other' Latin alphabet transcriptions are given of toponyms in other languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, Nabataean, Meroitic, Old Persian and Assyrian. The names in all these fields are 'standardized' to a certain extent, in the way one expects in the geographical index of a book.

Modern names and variants

In the field 'Modern name' the name is written (in Latin alphabet transcription) of the present-day toponym that corresponds with the ancient name.

Under 'Variants' all the above ancient and modern names are brought together in Latin alphabet transcriptions, and other variant spellings or translations of the names can be added. To facilitate searching by non-specialists, the transcriptions in this field contain as little diacritical signs as possible. For Egyptian names the scientific transcription is therefore replaced by a more phonetic one (e.g. Ḫftḥ-n-Bẖ > Chefeteh-n-Bouchis). Greek names are transliterated into the Latin alphabet, not translated into Latin, although a common Latin form can be added as one of the variants (e.g. Ὀξύρυγχος > Oxyrynchos, variant Oxyrhynchus). For some very common names (e.g. Egypt, Alexandria, Thebes) the English spelling is used.

For some major cities, the field 'Variants' also lists, preceded by the phrase 'sites including ...', toponyms that lie in its territory; e.g. L00 Alexandria - sites including Kom el-Dikka (...); L01 Memphis - sites including Saqqara (..). The Provenance file (see below) contains a field for the information about these specific sites.


If an ethnic or another adjectival form is attested for a place, this name is listed (in Latin alphabet transcription) here.

Topographical information

Ancient administrative affiliation: region, provincia, ...

The field 'ancient region' refers to the area to which the place belonged in the third century BC (for a full list, click here). Specifically for Egypt, this field contains references to the nomes of Lower and Upper Egypt and to some areas outside the Nile valley (for a full list and the abbreviations used for these nomes, click here).

The field 'Roman provincia' refers to the area to which the place belonged around AD 200 (for a full list, click here). For Italy this field contains references to the eleven regiones created in 41 BC (for a full list, click here).

For a survey of the modern countries in relation to regions and Roman provinciae, click here. The attribution of a place to a specific region or provincia is sometimes arbitrary and suggestions in this respect are welcome.

If a place at some point belonged to another region or provincia than the main ones listed, this information is added in the field 'Other adm. affiliation'. Also the information about the smaller districts (conventus, toparchiai, merides, ...) to which an ancient place belonged, is listed in this field.

The field 'Status' contains information about the nature of the toponym. General categories are described in English (e.g. city, village, area, well), but they are accompanied by the more specific terms (in Latin alphabet transcription) used in the sources (e.g. civitas, kome, dorea, fons) (for a full list, click here).

Modern administrative affiliation: country, region, ...

Every place is ascribed to a modern country, for which the English name is used as standard designation (for a full list, click here). The modern districts, provinces, Länder and so on, on the other hand, are listed in the fields 'Modern region' and 'Location'. The first field refers to the largest administrative division that exists in a country (France: région; Germany: Land; United Kingdom: country; Spain: comunidad autónoma; Belgium: gewest). Smaller administrative units are given in the field 'Location'. This field can also contain more precise geographical information, e.g. the proximity to a town, a river or some other geographical feature.

When the identification between an ancient and a modern place is not certain, there are two options. If the identification is probable (but not proven), both names are listed on a single card, adding a question mark. If the identification is only possible or if contradictory identifications have been suggested, two cards are created, each with a note in the field 'Identification' about the possible link between the two places.

It is not always easy to determine which modern name should be used to refer to an ancient site: the name of the modern hamlet, the village, the town or the major city in the neighbourhood, ... If there is only a single ancient site, there is no risk of confusion, and all four names can be listed in the field 'Variants'. If there are, however, several sites on the territory of the town, the name of the hamlet or village are used as standard name to avoid confusion, with a reference to the town in the field 'Location'.

Combining onomastics and topographic information

Because the information about a single place is split up over several fields, the onomastics and topographical information can be concatenated in various ways, e.g. as a 'full name' consisting out of the modern country, the ancient region, the ancient standard name and the modern standard name between brackets, e.g. Egypt, U15 - Hermopolis (El-Ashmunein); United Kingdom, Britannia - Londinium (London); Italy, Campania - Nea Polis (Napoli).

Bibliographical information

Repertoria and other bibliography

If a place is listed in one of the major geographical corpora, a bibliographical reference is added in the field 'Repertoria'. E.g. for Egypt: the Dizionario of Calderini and Daris, the Dictionnaire of Gauthier and Das christlich-koptische Ägypten of Timm; regional corpora for Egypt: Wessely (Topographie), P. Tebt. 2, Drew-Bear (Hermopolite), Pruneti (Ossirinchite), Falivene (Herakleopolite nome) and Benaissa (Oxyrhynchite nome); for Britain: Rivet and Smith (The place-names of Roman Britain). Other bibliographical references can be added in the field 'Bibliography'.


The field 'Maps' contains bibliographical references to published maps. For a limited number of places Trismegistos provides a direct link to Google Maps: see the link to the left. Trismegistos intends to provide for each place a link with Pleiades.


In the field 'Note' all kinds of remarks can be made. E.g. when the reading of a toponym has been corrected by scholars, and the name is no longer attested in any source, we label it 'ghost name' and add information in the field 'Note' about the new reading or the new identification.