Joe's Reviews > The Oxford Classical Dictionary

The Oxford Classical Dictionary by Simon Hornblower
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M 50x66
's review

really liked it
bookshelves: classical, reference, reviewed

01/26/2007

All things considered, a superb reference work

This edition (the third edition, 1996) has over 6200 entries on 1640 pages! And no, I haven't read them all... This is really wonderful for those times when you come across a new term (whether a person, place or thing) and need some idea as to who (what or where) is being discussed, indicated or alluded to. This Edition, published in 1996, was put together between 1991-1994 and contains matters (such as the Near East) that were barely touched on in earlier editions. But never fear! - The centrality of Greece and Rome has been quite correctly retained. There is, however, a much broader (and self-consciouss) inter-disciplinary focus to this edition. Older readers will likely be annoyed by long bows to feminism, Marxism and postmodernism in some of the essays. Occasionally, the tone and 'politically correct' point of view of some entries can be a bit over the top. If you are either old-fashioned or easily annoyed (and you know who you are) it might be wise NOT to toss out the second edition... But even they might find some of the new 'thematic' entries - on disease, ecology, economy, imperialism, literacy, motherhood, and technology, e.g. - more than occasionally useful. There is even good news for the under-educated - most Greek and Latin terms are translated! But I would prefer that the Greek or Latin and its translation both appear; this compromise would likely satisfy both novices and experts. Unfortunately, the cost of including the original term and the translation would likely cause the publisher to balk. Now, Roman names will probably continue to annoy everyone. If, for example, one looks up Caesar one finds 'See Iulius Caesar'. Now, as I hope we all know, the Romans had three names (using Caesar as an example): Gaius (praenomen), Iulius (nomen), Caesar (cogomen). Pretty much no one, besides Emperors and writers, is listed under the cogomen in this edition - they are almost all listed by nomen. (No, Caesar is not the exception, he was never officially Emperor.) The change of 'Julius' into 'Iulius' is also annoying - especially after being assured (Preface, viii) that "the more familiar form [...] should be preferred." But with a work of this scope and length there will always be a multitude of quibbles and annoyances. One of mine is that I wish the tiny bibliographies that follow some entries were less brief. But all things considered this is a first-rate OCD that will inevitably, after a generation and a half has passed, need to be revised. But such is the fate of all academic reference works. - They are all such slaves to fashion! That said, the general editors, Hornblower and Spawforth, and the area advisers have much to be proud of; 4.5 stars, 5 if the 'politically correct' gestures are toned down and the bibliographical data following some of the separate entries increased.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
July 12, 2011 – Shelved
July 12, 2011 – Shelved as: classical
July 12, 2011 – Shelved as: reference
July 12, 2011 – Shelved as: reviewed

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