Beatrice Bersani

Beatrice is from Turin, Italy, where she obtained both her Bachelor’s Degree and her Master’s Degree. She is now enrolled in a PhD programme in Classics at The University of Edinburgh, where she studies the relationships between pagan and Christian images of the divine.

Host HEI: Université de Toulouse-Jean Jaurès

SFC Saltire Emerging Researcher project: The Colours of the Ancient Gods between Poetry and Network Analysis.

The Saltire Scheme offered me the chance to visit for one month the project ‘Mapping Ancient Polytheisms’, hosted by the University of Toulouse-Jean Jaurès. My research question was: what do the colourful images of the ‘pagan’ deities mean, in the Roman poetry of the 4th century – during the passage from a Graeco-Roman to a Christian culture? This theme connects with my PhD, which compares the visual sensations for the traditional deities and the Christian god in these texts: colours highlight the transformations in the concept of divine and in the cultural identity of the Western ruling class.

Led by Corinne Bonnet and funded by the European Research Council, MAP is building a wide database of divine names used by the Graeco-Roman and Semitic peoples, available for free both to academics and non-academics. The names, like Poseidon ‘shaker of the earth’, help us understand how the ancient people imagined the gods and their relationships. Blending traditional and digital approaches, MAP also claims that polytheism can be thought and represented as a semantic network.

The network, both as a concept and as a digital tool, has been the focus of my research. As expert Adeline Grand-Clément says, colours symbolize the functions of the gods: looking at how they are distributed and shared between them, we can detect their network of relationships. Guided by MAP’s Digital Humanities specialists, I learned how to use their wide research database, and also how to produce networks of colours with the digital tool ‘Gephi’.

Twitter: @beatricebersa10