BMCR 1997.09.06

Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd ed.

, , Oxford Classical Dictionary, Third Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. Pp. liv +1640. ISBN 9780198661726 $99.95.

The Oxford Classical Dictionary (OCD) was considered to be the best one-volume dictionary on antiquity, but the second edition (1970) was getting on a bit, not only concerning the level of current research, but also the fact that the second edition of the OCD contained much taken over from the first edition (1949). Now we have a 1640-page third edition of the OCD, thirty percent larger than its predecessor, with 6250 articles (including approximately 780 new entries). 1 364 authors haven’t been idle. The two general editors, S. Hornblower and A. Spawforth had also the responsibility for revising about half the dictionary, i.e., to find authors for outdated articles and to modernize the old ones, if possible. They cared for ancient history, historiography, historical individuals (without Romans), institutions, topography, archaeology and art. They were assisted by sixteen area advisors. 2 The list of area advisors exemplifies the wider scope of the new edition: linguistics, Jewish studies or women’s studies are treated as well as the “classical” subjects. In the following, I will present new articles and modernized articles in the OCD and compare it with Der Neue Pauly 1 (DNP). 3

As far as the classical authors are concerned, there are some new entries, e.g., Agathocles of Cyzicus, Bacchius, Carmen de bello Actiaco, Filocalus, Lollianos or the Old Oligarch. The treatment of the Latin and Greek authors is very well-balanced. Compared with DNP, the articles are not so long, but very informative and they have mostly well-structured bibliographies. For instance, “Achilleus Tatios” in DNP doesn’t mention a translation—the OCD presents two English and one German translation. Ancient languages have their own articles (e.g., Aramaic, Germanic, Indo-European). Highly welcome are also the entries on linguistics and literary terms (e.g., genre, imitatio [both by G. B. Conte and G. W. Most], captatio benevolentiae, locus amoenus, topos).

Articles about historical persons are very often consulted in my experience. The OCD had to limit itself to the most important members of a family: it contains six Acilii, the DNP has twenty-four and the Realenzyklopaedie (RE) has fifty-eight. It is very advantageous that the proper names are now listed by nomen in the OCD, e.g., Cicero is found s.v. Tullius (cross-references are inserted). The rearrangement was managed by the area advisors and some “missing persons” were added. Consequently the RE-number is mentioned in brackets. Greek proper names are listed in the Latin form, e.g., Cronus instead of Kronos, Acraephnium instead of Akraiphnion. A lot of new thematic entries makes the OCD more comprehensive, for example alcoholism (not in DNP), Arcadian league, barbarian, (peace of) Callias, contraception (by H. King) or (battle of) Magnesia. The scope of late antiquity was extended to the late fourth and early fifth century: Avitus (emperor 455/6) and Damasus (Pope 366-384) are treated as well as the Avaro-Slav invasions. Jewish studies have now their own identity with new articles on the (letter of) Aristeas, Dead Sea Scrolls (by M. Goodman), Maccabees or rabbis and articles on the landscapes Galilee, Judaea etc.

Aedepsus, Aezani (not in DNP), Ai Kanoum, Ascra, the island polis Calauria, Callipolis and a lot of other cities are mentioned in the new OCD; they are smaller ones, at the edge of the Mediterranean world or recently excavated. The articles on landscapes are quite short and without maps. Here one should prefer the DNP: while OCD has half a column on Acarnania, DNP has five columns. 4 For a first orientation the OCD-article is, of course, sufficient. Also geographic terms like climate, ecology or mountains are taken into consideration in the new OCD. Archaeology was never included in-depth in the OCD. Greek and Roman art are subsumed under genres: pottery, painting, sculpture; articles on amphorae (by V. R. Grace) and funerary art are new.

More mythological figures, like Aerope or Danae, and lesser gods and goddesses, like Agathos daimon, Corybantes or Despoina, are incorporated. Athenian cults, e.g., Arrephoria or Bouphonia, are included and show the continual interest in all aspects of Athenian history. Arianism, asceticism, churches or St. Paul point out that early Christianity is considered. As in the historical articles, thematical entries like initiation (by J. N. Bremmer), masks, numen, portents or ritual (by F. Graf) round off the treatment of ancient religions. It’s not possible to characterize the new entries on science, Roman law, philosophy etc. here. The reader is quite pleased with articles on methods of classical studies: literary theory and classical studies (nine columns, by D. P. and P. G. Fowler); Marxism and classical Studies; prosopography; these articles contain also useful advice on history of scholarship.

Unfortunately, the modernized articles, i.e., articles of 1948/70 with little changes and new bibliography, are sometimes full of disappointment. In “Arminius” (p. 173), the level of current research concerning the location of the battle is not attained; it contradicts the probable location near Kalkriese (correct s.v. “Teutoburgensis saltus,” p. 1489). 5 There has never been a calendar consisting of ten months only, which is maintained in “calendar, Roman” (p. 274). 6 The article “Carthage” (p. 296) mentions the child sacrifice, but the origin of the quoted statistics is not really clear. “Diphilus” cites the literature only until 1970 and “Epidaurus” has only a lapidary hint on the journal Iliria as bibliographic advice. 7 The article “horses” was extended by the initial author, but lacks bibliography now.

The new OCD has a wider range than the old one and it is more accessible. 8 In view of the conciseness of the articles, nearly no Latin quotation is found; the OCD is directed to a wider audience than DNP. But many questions of Classics and ancient history can be answered with it and it is really good value. Real mistakes are rare. 9 However, DNP will have four times as many entries as the OCD in the end (2002 A.D.), because it seems that it wants to replace or abbreviate some special dictionaries on late antiquity, classical sites or iconographic questions. 10 Compared to the first twenty entries of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites (PECS), DNP has twelve of these articles, the OCD only four. The eight missing in the OCD are not really missing, because one will not need information about Abai, Abila or Abonuteichos every day. The experts on ancient topography will have the PECS already. Also a lot of articles concerning Byzantine are in the DNP, but the Byzantinist normally possesses the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. 11 More useful are the abbreviations of LIMC-articles in DNP.

The price of DNP—DM4020 (ca. $2300) for the 15 volumes—is very high for a private person. The OCD is cheaper and more within our means; but with regard to a few old-fashioned articles, it has sometimes to be used carefully. DNP has shortcomings too. An outsider might wonder, why the two projects haven’t cooperated in one way or another, because a lot of authors wrote (and write) articles for both lexica. 12 As a sad consequence, some articles are identical in both lexica, although the DNP-articles are mostly much longer than the ones in the OCD. 13 A cooperation could have prevented the absence of some important German and Italian studies from the OCD bibliographies. 14 All in all, we have got a handy and very useful one-volume dictionary on antiquity.

1. There is a list on p. XI-XIV. The announced articles Alope, Cassiope (p.XI), drought (p. XII), and Ephesus (late antiquity) (and perhaps some others) are missing.

2. E. Badian and A. Birley (Roman prosopography), A. Morpurgo Davies and J. Penney (linguistics), P. Easterling (Greek literature), D. and P. Fowler (Latin literature), M. Goodman (Jewish studies), T. Honoré (Roman Law), E. Kearns (Greek religion), H. King (women’s studies), A. Kuhrt (Near Eastern studies), G. Lloyd (math and science), J. Matthews (late antiquity), M. Nussbaum (philosophy), and S. Price (Roman religion). The authors can be mentioned only partially in my review.

3. H. Cancik and H. Schneider (edd.), Der Neue Pauly. Enzyklopaedie der Antike. Altertum, Band 1 (A-Ari), Stuttgart 1996. Cf. my recent review, BMCR 97.3.19 (with a characterization of other lexica).

4. The proportion is comparable for Achaia: one and a half columns, including the confederacy, in OCD, but seven columns in DNP. The trend in German ancient history, to get information by surveys, seems to be evident here.

5. The first volume of the archaeological report was published recently: Frank Berger, Kalkriese I. Die Fundmuenzen, Mainz 1997. The distribution of the coins and the scattered coin hoards suggest that Kalkriese is the only preserved battlefield of the ancient world (the defeat of Varus with three legions). Moreover, a lot of military equipment was found there and broadens our knowledge about the Roman army (and foreign policy) in the time of Augustus.

6. J. Ruepke, Kalender und Öffentlichkeit, Berlin 1995, p. 192-202; cf. my review, BMCR 96.3.8.

7. But cf. P. Cabanes, Apollonie et Epidamne-Dyrrhachion: épigraphie et histoire, L’Illyrie méridionale et l’Épire dans l’antiquité II, Paris 1993, p. 145-153.

8. OCD was realized 1991-94 (pref. VII) and DNP 1 after 1994 (?; the date is not mentioned in Vorwort; an announcement was printed in March 1995 ( Gnomon 67, p.190-191) ).

9. E.g., Aristogeiton (and Harmodios): they were not both executed (Arist. AP 18,4). The list of errata supplemented to OCD is very short (8 entries).

10. A lot of Classical dictionaries are presented in D. Vollmer et al., Alte Geschichte in Studium und Unterricht, Stuttgart 1994, p. 39-43; 92 (πλρἐ; 98 (PECS). Some additions are available at

11. DNP has 12, OCD 4 of the first 20 articles in ODB, 3 Volumes, ed. by A. Kashdan, Oxford 1991.

12. E. Badian; A. R. Birley; J. Bremmer; K. Brodersen; E. Courtney; K. Clinton; M. Errington; M. Fusillo; F. Graf (very productive); R. Hunter; R. Kaster; H. King; G. Most; V. Nutton; R. Osborne; R. Parker; V. Pirenne-Delforge; D. Rathbone; A. Schachter; J. Scheid; M. Trapp; H. Versnel; J. Wiesehoefer; B. Zimmermann.

13. P. J. Rhodes: “Athenaion politieia” (OCD 203 = DNP 1,1144s.); K. Meister: “Agathokles” (OCD 37 = DNP 1,237-239).

14.”Adonis”: G. Baudy, Adonisgärten, Frankfurt et al. 1986; “Aurelius Victor”: J. Fugmann, Königszeit und frühe Republik im Spiegel der Schrift “De viris illustribus urbis Romae” I, Frankfurt et al. 1990; “Carthage”: W. Ameling, Karthago. Studien zu Militär, Staat und Gesellschaft, Munich 1993; “economy, Roman”: F. de Martino, Storia economica di Roma antica, Firenze 1979; “Greece, history”: D. Musti, Storia Greca. Linee di Sviluppo dall’età Micenea all’età Romana, Rome 1989 (the reference to CAH is not enough); “lex”: J. Bleicken, Lex publica, Berlin 1975; “population, Greek”: E. Ruschenbusch, “Die wehrfähige Bevölkerung Athens und ihre Struktur”, in: idem, Athenische Innenpolitik im 5. Jhd. v. Chr., Bamberg 1979, p. 133-152; ZPE 54 (1984) 253-269; 72 (1988) 139-154.