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Reviewed by:
  • The Cambridge Dictionary of Classical Civilization
  • Frances Pownall
Graham Shipley, John Vanderspoel, David Mattingly and Lin Foxhall, eds. The Cambridge Dictionary of Classical Civilization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Pp. xliv + 966. US $195.00 (hardback). ISBN13-978-0-521-48313-1.

This new one-volume encyclopedia of classical antiquity does not shy away from direct comparison with its most obvious competitor, the Oxford Classical Dictionary (eds. S. Hornblower and A. Spawforth, 3rd ed. rev., 2003). Instead, the editors highlight the increased accessibility to a wider range of users and the fuller coverage of the social, economic, and cultural features of the Greek and Roman world offered by their own volume, as opposed to the more traditional emphasis of the OCD upon the literature, philosophy, and the military and political history of classical antiquity. As a further guide to comparison between the two volumes, the editors helpfully include a list of headwords appearing in this volume which are not in the OCD. I make no apologies, therefore, for the comparative focus of my review.

It should be stated at the outset that this volume does in fact deliver what it promises, that is, extensive coverage of the larger cultural framework of not only of the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome and, it should be noted, their heritage, but also of the non-Greco-Roman cultures with which they came into contact. Thus, entries as diverse as Afghanistan (topically enough!), Asterix, Annales school, beer, bestiality, blacks, cheese, and disability (to name but a few) appear in this volume, but not in its competitor. Furthermore, entries on topics of social and cultural significance are correspondingly longer than in the OCD. For example, the family, a topic of obvious interest to the undergraduate student or general reader, receives treatment which is not only lengthier, but much more user-friendly, for the reader of the Cambridge volume will find separate discussions of both the Greek and Roman family under the headword "family," whereas the OCD discusses the Roman family under the headword "family," but directs the reader to "household" for the discussion of the Greek family. Similarly, "dress" receives relatively cursory treatment in [End Page 469] the OCD, which lumps Greek and Roman clothing together, while the Cambridge volume contains much fuller separate discussions of Greek and Roman clothing, as well as ancillary articles on fashion, fastening, footwear, hair and hairstyling, and shoes, topics not covered in the OCD. In some cases, however, I wonder if this fullness of coverage of topics of social and cultural importance comes at the expense of more conventional political and military topics. For example, the entry for "dress" runs to over five columns of text with copious illustrations, while the entry for Alexander the Great is confined to not quite two columns of text, with only one illustration. Furthermore, while a single-volume encyclopedia of classical antiquity cannot possibly cover every topic, one looks in vain for entries on, e.g., panhellenism, Croesus, and the Nemean or Isthmian Games (neither of which is even mentioned in the entry for festivals, although both were part of the panhellenic circuit), topics which appear to fall within the editors' criteria for inclusion, or entries on, e.g., demagogues, Miltiades, and Theramenes (although both Thrasybulus and Critias receive entries), topics which may have fallen victim to the editors' emphasis on the cultural and social over the political and military or to their deliberate policy of exercising more selection in commissioning entries on men than on women (who are under-represented in the ancient evidence).

Perhaps the most obvious advantage this volume offers over its competitor is the lavish illustrative material visible on almost every page (the OCD, by comparison, has none). This material includes maps, plans, line drawings reproduced from ancient material such as coins or vase paintings, photographs, cartoons, family trees, and a number of very useful tables on diverse topics. Of particular help to the general reader for whom this volume is intended are the attractive chronological lists of the Roman emperors (each illustrated with a coin depicting his image) and the twelve Olympian gods and goddesses (each with a representative image and a list of principal...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1913-5416
Print ISSN
1496-9343
Pages
pp. 469-473
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-29
Open Access
No
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