Review by Choice Review
In recent years there have been renewed attempts to produce comprehensive, up-to-date surveys of the classical world--e.g., Oxford History of the Classical World, ed. by J. Boardman et al. (CH, Jan '87) and J. Wacher's The Roman World (CH, Jan '88). The present work weighs in as the most ambitious and most monumental contender in English--more than 1,800 two-column pages--yet the results do not live up to expectations. The 97 essays are grouped under history; land and sea; population; agriculture and food; technology; government and society; economics; religion; private and social life; women and family life; literary and performing arts; philosophy; and visual arts. Each topic is usually divided into Greek and Roman segments, sometimes interrelated but not often enough. Each essay has a bibliography, only a few annotated. There are illustrations where appropriate and a comprehensive index. Yet there are some surprising gaps. There is no discussion of Roman attitudes to war; and one would hardly gather from this work that Rome had an empire. Aside from an excellent essay on taxation, there is nothing on Roman provinces and their administration, on the frontiers, on romanization, or even Greco-Roman ideas of geography and exploration. Although the editors claim that "each piece is designed to stand alone," they certainly do not stand together; and there is less than adequate coverage in some topics, e.g., the Minoan-Mycenean period is omitted from an essay on Greek history, and Roman literacy is dismissed in one ill-informed paragraph in an essay on literacy. In approach, the editors and publisher opted for narrative over analysis, noncontroversial description over originality. Fewer than 20 essays stand out; the vast majority are at best competent surveys, frequently jejune and pedestrian, and 16 essays are substandard. The work's audience is the biggest puzzle. Although intended to be useful to both specialist and nonspecialist, there is no reason for scholars to purchase the work, for most topics are better discussed in monographs. At the other end of the spectrum, only a bold librarian would buy the work for a high school, when 40 pages are devoted to explicit comment on Greek and Roman sexual attitudes and behavior. And despite the handful of outstanding essays, only the most determined university students and general readers will find the work attractive and interesting overall. Not recommended. -M. G. Morgan, University of Texas at Austin
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review
This unparalleled reference work for the nonspecialist is characterized by accessibility, a broad range of topics covered, currency of information or theory, and authority of contributors. Only the second edition of the venerable Oxford Classical Dictionary ( 1972) is comparable, though it lacks adequate treatment of more recent concerns and is often too technical. For Greece, the new Oxford History of the Classical World ( LJ 1/15/87) is excellent, but it is much less complete; for Rome, there are Friedlander's and Paoli's works, both outdated. Even though these essays are meant for lay readers, the scholarliness of the contributors is striking. Each essay is accompanied by a helpful, current bibliography. There are no biographies as such, but key individuals are sketched under suitable topics. The excellent 128-page index also is uniquely valuable. James S. Ruebel, Iowa State Univ., Ames (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.