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Encyclopedia of heroes

University of Freiburg collaborative research center celebrates the launch of the the online encyclopedia “Compendium heroicum”

Freiburg, Nov 09, 2018

Encyclopedia of heroes

Source: Magrippa/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

In political discourse, in popular culture, and in ethical debates - heroes and heroines are experiencing a renaissance. “Given the current relevance of the topic, hero research has a special responsibility to share its findings with the public in the simplest and most accessible way,” says Professor Ralf von den Hoff, speaker of the Freiburg collaborative research center "Heroes – Heroizations – Heroisms." The collaborative research center and the Free University of Berlin’s project, Open Encyclopedia System (OES), therefore jointly started the online encyclopedia “Compendium heroicum” – an open digital platform which enables direct access to the centralised results of hero research.

Its contents are divided into five areas, each of which is dedicated to a different aspect of the heroic. “Hero types” presents heroic figures and models of heroic actions; “Cultures and Practises” shines a light on communities and their heroes in a historical context.  “Objects and Attributes” shows the materiality and symbolism of the heroic, “Theory of the Heroic” presents underlying approaches and concepts, and “Mediality” is dedicated to the issue of aesthetics and story patterns. The individual entries in the encyclopedia show among other things how heroes are considered both extraordinary and yet beg to be copied, how they overstep boundaries and yet provide moral orientation; and how societies create heroes and use them to negotiate their own understanding of themselves.

The entries are written by the collaborative research center members as well as guest authors from various humanities disciplines. “This transdisciplinary approach gives a a broad historical perspective, reaching from ancient times to the 21st century, and a supra-cultural viewpoint focusing on the significance of heroic figures both within European contexts and outside them,” says von den Hoff. The encyclopedia currently contains 28 such contributions, and the aim is to continually expand that – at least to the end of the second round of collaborative research center funding in 2020. “In this way the Compendium heroicum makes a decisive contribution to reinforcing the synthesis of the research activities developed in our collaborative research center and to ensure its sustainability and visibility.”

The encyclopedia is based on open-source software and publishes its content under an open access license. “The Compendium heroicum is a pioneer project which draws on the potential of the Digital Humanities while expanding them, says Professor Anna Schreurs-Morét, the lead editor of the Compendium heroicum. “It sets new standards for the presentation of humanities findings and sets out a model under which research communities can easily share the knowledge they obtain in a contemporary and transparent manner with the wider public.”

Further information


Professor Dr. Anna Schreurs-Morét
Art History
University of Freiburg
Phone: 0761/203-3088

Dr. Georg Feitscher
Collaborative research center "Heroes – Heroizations – Heroisms"
University of Freiburg
Phone: 0761/203-67609