BMCR 2007.01.23

Ancient Greek Costume: An Annotated Bibliography, 1784-2005

Linda Jones Roccos, Ancient Greek Costume: An Annotated Bibliography, 1784-2005. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Co., 2006. 175. $39.95 (pb).

This volume is an annotated version of the online bibliography complied by the author. In addition to the annotations, the printed text contains three short introductory essays, references to book-reviews, cross-references between entries, and an extensive index. The result is an eminently useful resource that will serve a generation of scholars in this fast-growing area of research.

As a library professional who has published on Greek costume, especially as it appears in sculpture, Roccos (hereafter R) is uniquely qualified for the present project. The volume includes books, chapters in books, dissertations, articles in journals, entries in encyclopedias, and reference works. Six hundred and three entries are numbered and arranged alphabetically by the authors’ last name; page headings aid navigation. The range of selected publications is broad, covering Greek dress from the Bronze Age through the Roman period in both visual and literary sources. In addition to everyday dress, entries include studies of textiles and textile production, theatrical costume, and the dress of divinities.

Despite the breadth of coverage, the reader should not assume that the bibliography is comprehensive; rather, it reflects the particular research interests of the compiler. For example, many studies of Greek sculpture with only tangential reference to dress are included (e.g. #4, 5), while several important works on vase-painting are neglected.1 The unexplained omission of cosmetics and perfume (and limited references to some other dress-practices, such as tattooing) calls into question what constitutes dress. Finally, the starting date of 1784 seems arbitrary: modern scholarship on Greek dress began in the Renaissance, and several seminal studies were produced in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and early eighteenth centuries.2

The annotations themselves are essentially summary in nature, and often simply list chapter sections (e.g. #358, 543). R will sometimes indicate a particularly thin source (e.g. #518, #548), though, given her expertise, one wishes for more critical analysis. Several entries contain no information about dress whatsoever (e.g. #36, 59, 134, 165, 286, 350), leaving the reader to guess at the usefulness of the work in question.

The introductory essays are quite short, and might have been combined to create a more cohesive overview of the subject for non-specialists. A statistical breakdown by decade of numbers of publications on dress (p. 13) is instructive, though perhaps not for the reasons R proposes. An upsurge in publications on Greek dress following the groundbreaking publications of Elizabeth Barber (#12) and Larissa Bonfante (#69) in 1975 may be attributable in a general way to a “rise in feminist studies” and an increased “interest in the subject by female scholars” (p. 13). On the other hand, much of the scholarship on dress in the 1970s and 1980s was done by men, and little of it is expressly feminist in its approach. In fact, as R notes, women have been major contributors to the study of Greek dress for over a century (p. 14). R singles out Margarete Bieber and Evelyn Harrison, but the list should rightfully start with Lady Maria Millington Evans (#162) and Ethel Abrahams (#1) and include Gisela Richter (#461-464) and Brunilde Ridgway (#465-473).

R ends her introductory remarks with the hope “that this bibliography will contribute to the growing interest in the subject” (p. 16), which it certainly will. On the other hand, it is worth asking whether the printed volume represents an improvement over the electronic version that inspired it. Certainly the annotations and navigational tools are welcome additions (though sub-categories for lengthy index entries would have been useful). Yet, as the author herself admits, the volume is already out of date. An electronic resource would have been infinitely expandable and searchable, which the printed version is not. The published volume is likewise riddled with typos and errors in editing, some benign (misspellings, inconsistent use of fonts), some more unfortunate (the annotation for #315 is missing; an index entry for “wig” [#164] in fact refers to twigs!). At nearly $40.00 for a paperbound book with no images, one wonders whether the scholarly community might have been better served by an expanded version of the original electronic publication.


1. One especially glaring omission is Gloria Ferrari, Figures of Speech: Men and maidens in ancient Greece (Chicago, 2002). Fran├žois Lissarrague is likewise missing from the bibliography.

2. See M.M. Lee, “The Ancient Greek Peplos and the ‘Dorian Question’,” in A.A. Donohue and M.D. Fullerton, eds., Ancient Art and Its Historiography (Cambridge University Press, 2003), 118-147, esp. pp. 124-128.