Mapping Power: Using HGIS and Linked Open Data to Study Ancient Greek Garrison Communities

  • Ryan HorneEmail author
Part of the Historical Geography and Geosciences book series (HIGEGE)


From controlling cities within the Athenian Empire in the fifth-century BCE to maintaining isolated outposts on the border of the Parthian Empire in the second-century CE, the institution of the phrourarchia was a critical component of Greek civic and military identity. Despite its longevity and importance to the Greek world, the office has long been overlooked in scholarship, which has largely viewed the office as an isolated regional phenomenon without distinguishing between its local and imperial manifestations. There has also has been no definitive catalog of the institution or its commanders, or any attempt to show the full spatial extent of the institution in the Greek world. Until recent developments in digital gazetteers and Linked Open Data (LOD), identifying and mapping all of the phrourarchia in the Greek world was a nearly insurmountable task. However, the advent of the Pleiades project and the Linked Ancient World Data initiative has made such a project feasible. This article illustrates how new advances in HGIS and semantic web technologies has created a robust and expanding academic community and the development of best practices around the concept of sharing geospatial humanities data. After discussing the development of the ancient world LOD ecosystem, this article addresses how these resources were used to identify, locate, and study all of the garrison communities and commanders comprised the institution of the phrourarchia until the second-century CE. I discuss the creation of the first map to show all the phrourarchia, and how that task reveals that, although the institution was spread across the Greek world, the specific office of the phrourarchos, (plural phrourarchoi), or garrison commander, was primarily located in Egypt and south east Asia Minor. Mostly known through inscriptions, the presence of phrourarchoi signaled a complex interaction between imperial powers and local communities that later Greek and Roman historians often minimized or ignored. Phrourarchoi deployed by imperial powers were mostly found in subjugated communities and at the periphery of empire, and were almost unknown in imperial capitals. In contrast, phrourarchoi employed by smaller communities could be located anywhere from watchtowers at the edge of a city’s territory to fortresses within the very heart of the community. I argue that the varying locations of garrisons and commanders, in addition to the different regulations that governed the office, reveals that imperial phrourarchoi were highly specialized individuals who supported the imperial administration of their employers through a blend of intentionally vague civic and military responsibilities. In contrast, smaller communities used phrourarchoi who were largely amateurs, and had clear limits on their purely military authority. Following my analysis of the phrourarchia and how GIS methodologies aided my investigation, I close the article with a discussion of some of the shortfalls of current GIS approaches (A preliminary digital project based on this investigation is available here: .


Linked open data (LOD) Phrourarchia Pleiades project Linked ancient world data 


  1. Allen RE (1983) The Attalid Kingdom: a constitutional history. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  2. Ashton R, Kinns P (2003) Opuscula Anatolica II. Numis Chron 163:1–48Google Scholar
  3. Bar-Kochva B (1976) The Seleucid army: organization and tactics in the Great Campaigns. Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
  4. Berman ML, Mostern R, Southall H (2016) Introduction. In: Berman ML, Mostern R, Southall H (eds) Placing names. Enriching and integrating gazetteers. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, pp 1–11Google Scholar
  5. Berners-Lee T (2007) Linked Data [WWW Document]. W3 Des. Issues.
  6. Billows RA (1990) Antigonos the one-eyed and the creation of the Hellenistic state. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  7. Bizer C, Heath T, Berners-Lee T (2009) Linked data—the story so far. Int J Semantic Web Inf Syst 5:1–22Google Scholar
  8. Chaniotis A (2005) War in the Hellenistic world: a social and cultural history. Blackwell Pub., MaldenCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chaniotis A (2002) Foreign soldiers—native girls? Constructing and crossing boundaries in Hellenistic cities with foreign garrisons. In: Chaniotis A, Ducrey P (eds) Army and power in the ancient world. Steiner, Stuttgart, pp 99–113Google Scholar
  10. Dmitriev S (2005) City government in Hellenistic and Roman Asia minor. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  11. Fischer-Bovet C (2014) Army and society in Ptolemaic Egypt. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Giordano A, Cole T (2018) The limits of GIS: towards a GIS of place. Trans GIS 22:664–676. Scholar
  13. Grainger JD (1997) A Seleukid prosopography and gazetteer. Brill, Leiden, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Green P (1990) Alexander to Actium: the historical evolution of the Hellenistic age. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  15. Gregory I, Ell PS (2007) Historical GIS: technologies, methodologies, and scholarship. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Holt FL (1999) Thundering Zeus: the making of Hellenistic Bactria. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  17. Horne R (2015) Imperial power and local autonomy in Greek Garrison communities: the phrourarchia and the polis (PhD Dissertation). University of North Carolina, Chapel HillGoogle Scholar
  18. Iwaniak A, Kaczmarek I, Strzelecki M, Lukowicz J, Jankowski P (2016) Enriching and improving the quality of linked data with GIS. Open Geosci 8:323–336CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kinns P (1998) CH 8, 474: Milesian silver coinage in the second century BC. In: Ashton R, Hurter S (eds) Studies in Greek numismatics in memory of Martin Jessop Price. Spink, London, pp 175–196Google Scholar
  20. Knowles A (2014) The contested nature of historical GIS. Int J Geogr Inf Sci 28:206–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Knowles AK, Hillier A (eds) (2008) Placing history: how maps, spatial data, and GIS are changing historical scholarship. ESRI PressGoogle Scholar
  22. Kortenbeutel H (1941) Phrourarchos. REGoogle Scholar
  23. Labarre G (2004) Phrourarques et phrouroi des cités grecques d’Asie Mineure à l’époque hellénistique. In: Couvenhes JC, Fernoux H-L (eds) Les Cités grecques et la guerre en Asie Mineure à l’époque hellénistique. Actes de la journée d’études de Lyon, 10 octobre 2003. Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, Tours, pp 221–248Google Scholar
  24. LaBuff J (2016) Polis expansion and elite power in Hellenistic Karia. Lexington Books, LanhamGoogle Scholar
  25. Launey M (1987) Recherches sur les armées hellénistiques. De Boccard, ParisGoogle Scholar
  26. Lévêque P (1999) La guerre à l’époque hellénistique, in: Problèmes de La Guerre En Grèce Ancienne. École des hautes études en sciences sociales: Seuil, ParisGoogle Scholar
  27. Ma J (1999) Antiochus III and the cities of Western Asia minor. Oxford University Press, London, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  28. Ma J (2013) The Attalids. A military history. In: Attalid Asia minor: money, international relations, and the state. Oxford, pp 49–82Google Scholar
  29. Massey D (2015) For space. Sage, Los AngelesGoogle Scholar
  30. Mehl A (1980) Doriktetos chora. Kritische Bemerkungen zum ‘Speererwerb’ in Politik und Völkerrecht der hellenistischen Epoche. Anc Soc 173–212Google Scholar
  31. Nankov E (2009) Phrouria Lokrika: aspects of military presence in Hellenistic Opountian Lokris (PhD Dissertation). CornellGoogle Scholar
  32. Parke HW (1933) Greek mercenary soldiers, from the earliest times to the Battle of Ipsus. The Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  33. Plewe B (2002) The nature of uncertainty in historical geographic information. Trans GIS 6:431–456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ramsay S (2004) Databases. In: Schreibman S, Siemens R, Unsworth J (eds) A companion to digital humanities. Wiley Online Library, Malden, pp 177–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Robert J, Robert L (1976) Une inscription grecque de Téos en Ionie. L’union de Téos et de Kyrbissos. J Sav 153–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Roth J (2007) War. In: Sabin PAG, van Wees H, Whitby M (eds) The Cambridge history of Greek and Roman Warfare. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, New York, pp 368–398Google Scholar
  37. Shipley G (2000) The Greek world after Alexander, 323-30 B.C. Routledge, London, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  38. Southall H, Mostern R, Berman ML (2011) On historical gazetteers. Int J Humanit Arts Comput 5:127–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Tuan Y-F (1977) Space and place: the perspective of experience. University of Minnesota Press, MinneapolisGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.History DepartmentUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

Personalised recommendations