Stephanus numbers, navigation, and precise URLs in OSEO

January 28, 2019

To this day, every student of Plato still uses the conventions invented by Henri Estienne in his 1578 edition of Plato’s works for finding and referencing Platonic passages. Four hundred years later, the Plato texts in Oxford Scholarly Editions Online (OSEO) support those same conventions – with some digital twists that make finding passages and resolving references the work of a couple of mouse-clicks.

Stephanus numbers

Stephanus numbers

Estienne’s innovation was to add milestones every ten lines or so down the margin of the Greek text in his edition. Readers could therefore produce a reasonably precise reference to any passage of Plato by combining page number and milestone. For example Diotima’s account of the birth of Love begins at 201d in the Symposium. The system caught on, and any modern edition of Plato replicates these Stephanus numbers (named after the Latin form of Estienne). Further, Burnet’s Oxford Classical Texts (OCTs) numbered each line within each section, supporting even more precise referencing: 201e8 is where Socrates’ conversation with Diotima begins, for example.

Navigation by Stephanus number

Plato texts in OSEO all display Stephanus numbers, and, where appropriate, line numbers, so you can use them to scroll to any specific locus in any dialogue. But the Stephanus numbers are also embedded in the data, so you can navigate to them automagically. Use the Find Location in Text functionality (which you can see at the top right of this page), or, even more conveniently, add our bookmarklet to your browser (following these instructions). Then you can simply highlight a Stephanus reference on any web page and use the bookmarklet to go to that Stephanus page, section, or line in the OSEO text. Any Stephanus reference on any web page on any web site: just select, click, and resolve.

Stephanus bookmarklet in browser

When you use the bookmarklet, you are taken first to a results page in OSEO, from which you can choose your preferred destination. There is usually more than one possibility, for two reasons. First, we have multiple versions of most works (Greek and English, for a start), and secondly, Stephanus numbers do not refer uniquely. His edition was in three volumes, and each volume is separately paginated. So, there are three pages 201, and thus 201d could be a section from the Symposium (in vol. III) or the Theaetetus (in vol. I). By coincidence, page 201 in vol. II finishes in section c (at the end of one dialogue, with the next beginning on a fresh page), so there isn’t a third 201d.

To disambiguate, you could add a dialogue title, and you can do this using Find Location, but, for the bookmarklet, we’ve kept it to Stephanus number only, so you’ll always need to pick. It’s quicker.

For digitalists, the fact that the Stephanus system doesn’t uniquely identify is hugely disappointing*, because it means that a Stephanus number alone cannot support a hyperlink to a single passage in Plato. In OSEO, though, we have another system, which complements Stephanus and means we can construct unambiguous hyperlinks.

Using Stephanus numbers in URLs

Every text of every work in OSEO has its own id number, and that number can be used to produce a URL that identifies that instance of that work. Fraenkel’s text of the Agamemnon is id 18516, and, padded to eight digits, functions in an instance URL to take you straight there:

Similarly, the OCT text of the Symposium is 254320, and so the instance URL is:

And the translation of the Symposium is 246982 – so:

You can find any work’s instance id, and instance url, by using the Copy and Cite facility (right mouse click from any place in that work), but, for convenience, a list which gives all instance URLs for Plato is provided at the bottom of this page.

These URLs can be combined with Stephanus numbers, to make a URL that identifies both the text and the locus in that text. It’s done by the addition of a milestones parameter to the URL:

The pattern is always the same: instance URL, followed by “?milestones=”, and then the Stephanus number, to whatever degree of accuracy is possible. Thus

takes you simply to the Stephanus section 201d in the translation, which doesn’t have the OCT line numbers.

In short, every line of Plato has its own unique URL, and once you know the pattern, and the id number of the dialogue you are discussing, you can construct them. Anyone who clicks on one of your URLs will be taken to the right spot in OSEO. The line glows yellow for a moment to show the exact place. Perfect for notes, reading lists and integration into other web-based projects – in fact, for anything for which you want to show your reader what you are talking about in Plato.

We hope you find this useful. And we also hope you share our delight that a parameter value on an http request is actually founded on a marginal milestone inserted into his text by a sixteenth century French humanist scholar.

* Though, in all honesty, Estienne would have been hard-pressed to foresee the online implications of his decision to paginate each volume separately.

How to use the Stephanus numbers bookmarklet

Work URLs for Plato

For a conveniently hyperlinked list of Plato's works on OSEO, please use the Plato author page.

Oxford Classical Texts

Ἀλκιβιάδης α (attrib.):

Ἀλκιβιάδης β (attrib.):

Ἀξίοχος (attrib.):

Ἀπολογία Σωκράτους:


Δημόδοκος (attrib.):

Ἐπινομίς (attrib.):

Ἐπιστολαί (attrib.):

Ἐρασταί (attrib.):

Ἐρυξίας (attrib.):



Θεάγης (attrib.):


Ἵππαρχος ἢ Φιλοκερδης (attrib.):

Ἱππίας ἐλάττων:

Ἱππίας μείζων:


Κλειτοφῶν (attrib.):








Μίνως (attrib.):


Ὅροι (attrib.):


Περὶ Ἀρετῆς (attrib.):

Περὶ Δικαίου (attrib.):




Σίσυφος (attrib.):












Clitopho (attrib.):

















Apology (Burnet):

Crito (Burnet):

Euthyphro (Burnet):

Gorgias (Irwin):

Gorgias (Dodds):

Laws 1 (Meyer):

Laws 2 (Meyer):

Laws 10 (Mayhew):

Phaedo (Gallop):

Phaedo (Burnet):

Philebus (Gosling):

Protagoras (Taylor):

Theaetetus (McDowell):

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