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The Oxford Classical Dictionary

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Simon Hornblower

Over a quarter of a century has elapsed since the last revision to theOxford Classical Dictionary, longer even than the 21 years between the first and second editions. As noted in the introduction to the current edition, those years have seen a phenomenal … see full wiki

Tags: Books, Cafe Libri
Author: Simon Hornblower
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
1 review about The Oxford Classical Dictionary

Everything you ever wanted to know about Greece & Rome!

  • Aug 31, 2000
As a reference work, this revised third edition of "The Oxford Classical Dictionary" merits awe. Like the Grand Canyon or Niagra Falls, the best one can do is simply stand there, mouth agape and say something like, "So, there it is."

At 1,640 pages and weighing in a five and three-quarter pounds (1.48 minas according to the Attic-Euboic standard or 1.95 Roman libras), this massive reference work summarizes all that is known about the Greek and Roman worlds. It is a detailed volume that has plenty of entries for both the specialist and general reader.

But, realistically, at $100 a throw, this dictionary will be more likely to be purchased by those who have more than a passing interest in the classical era. They in turn will be rewarded with a volume that covers nearly every conceivable aspect of Roman and Greek life, from the public deeds of emperors to the private lives of laborers.

Here, among the academic jargon and bibliographical references, one may learn that, in Athens, a popular after-dinner game was the wine-throw,' in which players would flick the dregs from their cups at a target, such as a saucer floating in water; that while incest in general was banned, siblings with the same father could marry in Athens, of the mother in Sparta; that even mimes existed in both Roman and Greek cultures, sometimes acting out on the streets stock stories that sound like the sitcoms and soap operas of our day.

Much of the 800 new entries (the editors note that the book is 20 percent larger than the previous edition) focus on the societal aspects, such as alcoholism, breast-feeding, cannibalism, cemeteries, debt, fairs, fantastic literature, homosexuality, housework, suicide and tourism, while the dictionary overall benefitted from archeological discoveries made since the previous edition. While the price may be considered steep, the diction is a treasure trove of information, well-written, thoroughly annotated, and well worth the price for those with a deep interest in the Classical world.

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