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The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization (Oxford Companions) [Paperback]

Simon Hornblower , Antony Spawforth
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
RRP: 22.99
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Book Description

23 Sep 2004 Oxford Companions
covers broad thematic subjects, such as race, nationalism, and ecology, confirming the impact classical civilizations have had on the modern world.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 832 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; New Ed edition (23 Sep 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198609582
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198609582
  • Product Dimensions: 3.5 x 19.3 x 24.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 13,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


How did the ancient Greeks and Romans differ in their attitude towards alcoholism? What role did dance play in religious rituals? What did the ancient Greeks eat? Why was emperor Nero popular with the ordinary people but less so with the upper classes? How did ancient authors reason why Oedipus ('with swollen foot') was so called?
For over 2,000 years the civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome have captivated our collective imagination and provided inspiration for so many aspects of our lives, from culture, literature, drama, cinema, and television to society, education, and politics. Many of the roots to the way life is lived in the West today can be traced to the ancient civilizations, not only in politics, law, technology, philosophy, and science, but also in social and family life, language, and art.

Beautiful illustrations, easy-to-use jargon free entries, and a useful chronology and bibliography make this Companion the perfect guide for readers interested in learning more about the Graeco-Roman world. As well as providing sound information on all aspects of classical civilization such as history, politics, ethics, morals, law, society, religion, mythology, science and technology, language, literature, art, and scholarship, the entries in the Companion reflect the changing interdisciplinary aspects of classical studies, covering broad thematic subjects, such as race, nationalism, and ecology, confirming the impact classical civilizations have had on the modern world.

the events, achievements, and personalities of 2,000 years of history in Greece and Rome and their immediate neighbours and the underlying issues

themes: armies, banks, bribery, class struggle, democracy, economy, oligarchy, tyranny
individuals: Agrippa, Mark Antony, Augustus, Cleopatra VII, Domitian, Livia, Nero, Quintus, Pyrrhus, Trajan

individual philosophers and their schools, and ethical issues, attitudes to animals, to wealth, or to warfare, and intellectual or religious intolerance

themes: abortion, adoption, adultery, alcoholism, barbarian, capitalism, debt, imperialism, industry, marriage law, prison, slavery, torture
Institutions: banks, police, senate

the everyday lives of the ancients and broader social topics covering status, kinship and the family

themes: age, chastity, childbirth, class-struggle, cookery, dancing, dress, food and drink, games, heterosexuality, homosexuality, houses, incest, kinship, meals, suicide, tourism, women

writers and poets, orators and playwrights, literacy and books, archives and education, literary genres, painting and sculpture, and the writing of history

themes: art, bilingualism, books, comedy, epic, fantastic literature, gardens, genre, maps, narrative, novel, orality, pottery, reception, satire, tragedy
individuals: Achilles, Alcaeus, Aristophanes, Cicero, Euripides, Horace, Isocrates, Odysseus, Seneca, Sophocles, Virgil, Xenophon

Greek, Roman, and Egyptian beliefs, cults, and rituals, together with their attendant deities and mythological creatures, mingle with Judaism and early Christianity

themes: cakes, dancing, games, initiation, intolerance, magic, mythology, oracles, prayer, ruler-cult, sacrifice, sin, temple
individuals: Achilles, Aphrodite, Apollo, Hector, Heracles, Oedipus, Zeus

the birth of the scientific method in experiment, and all manner of discovery, exploration, treatment, and theorizing on disease, geography, climate, astronomy, mineralogy, navigation, sanitation, vivisection

themes: agriculture, anatomy and physiology, anthropology, artillery, astronomy, botany, disease, ecology, famine, geography, mathematics, medicine, navigation, physics, sanitation

beautifully illustrated and intelligently reader friendly (TLS)

This is a serious book as well as an attractive one (T. P. Wiseman, TLS)

a cut above (Booklist)

magnificent (Boris Johnson, Daily Telegraph (reviewing OCD))

a classic...a highly readable and browseable delight...should be in every reference collection (B. Juhl, Choice (reviewing OCD))

a delight for anyone with any curiosity about the roots of our Western culture...a browser's paradise, and I would think a researcher's quick rescuer (Arthur Miller, London Review of Books (reviewing OCD))

the third edition of The Oxford Classical Dictionary should be saluted (Nigel Spivey, Guardian (reviewing OCD))

a remarkable feat...Simon Hornblower and Tony Spawforth deserve a round of applause for the spread, exactness and range of this massive overhaul (Robin Lane Fox, Observer (reviewing OCD))

offers not only that breakfast for the mind we keep hearing about, but lunch, tea, dinner, supper and non-stop snacks...offers a cornucopia of accurate and succinct knowledge that would be hard to equal ((Peter Green, Washington Times (reviewing OCD))

the ultimate useful book (Peter Jones, Sunday Telegraph (reviewing OCD))

an astonishing book (Robert Beaumont, Yorkshire Evening Press (reviewing OCD))

the book's substance speaks for itself: 364 distinguished scholars contribute scrupulously sourced intellectual meat of a texture that Socrates himself would savour (Sunday Times (reviewing OCD))

About the Author

For classical scholars, the Oxford Classical Dictionary is what Wisden is for cricket fans: the one indispensable reference book...this book is more than a crossword-filler's vade mecum. In the sense of our collective intellectual domestication, it is a household object. (The Week (reviewing OCD))

Simon Hornblower is Professor of Classics and Ancient History, University College London. He is the author and editor of many books (see books by the same author).

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
91 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent review of the classical world 30 Mar 2001
By A Customer
This dictionary is a must have for any classics student, or teachers for that matter! It covers a wide variety of topics from Roman empire to magic, and from literature to cookery in antiquity. It has an easy to read format, contains over two dozen maps and colour plates and many more black and white plates. It is suitable for anyone studying this subject, and I would recommend it especially to those of you who are studying at A-Level and degree (ie, 16+). The 'Companion' takes the most important entries, in full, from its sister book, the Oxford Classical Dictionary (3rd ed) to create a cheaper and less weighty version, great for those who are on a budget. Topics that require a little more explainaiton are given longer articles so that this extra detail can be added. The excellent editing means that only the best information is supplied by the best authors in the business. This truely is a vital companion for anyone who about to venture classical civilization.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
By Roman Clodia TOP 50 REVIEWER
Admittedly there's no beating the OCD but this is a brilliant alternative. The entries come from the OCD itself but it excludes the bibliographies per subject - which frankly are out of date anyway. As the other reviewer here has mentioned, the entries are wide ranging and eclectic, but always informative, readable and stimulating. I have the hardback version (necessary for the amount of referencing it gets!) and the book itself is nicely produced with good weight paper and excellent illustrations. Whether you're a serious student or an interested amateur, this is a brilliant buy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Let no one who can think geometrically enter 7 Aug 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've come to classical civilization via the history of mathematics so my following criticism needs to be read with this in mind.

Magna Grecia produced the biggest leaps in mathematical development in the history of the subject, with Euclid's Elements never being out of print for over 2 millenia. With this is mind why are there not separate entries for the most famous geometers: Archimedes, Eudoxus, Ptolemy, Appolonius etc. No mention of the 3 classical problems of antiquity is also a shocking omission, especially as the research program around them was one of the main motors of greek mathematical development.

I fear this relegation of mathematics is due either to a belief that the readership of this book would not be interested or its a topic that the editors did not feel personally comfortable with. Plato appreciated the importance of the subject, placing an inscription over his Academy which I've twisted for the title of this review.

However, given the amount that has to be crammed into a single volume I have so far found the entries to be excellent. And, it does it's job, helping to provide information on something that might be relatively fleetingly, but intregingly, mentioned in some other book that one is reading.

For the amount I paid for my second-hand copy I feel a bit mean in only giving 4 stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as one might think 17 Mar 2013
This really is not a good as one might think. Yes, it covers a wide range of subjects and people from the Classical World but the descriptions are frequently sketchy, vague, confusing and have little in the way of charting changes over time. Also, it has an infuriating habit of not giving one an entry on the subject one wants. That said, it does cover a vast amount of information and some of the larger sections, especially the ones about particularly important individuals, are excellent.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History of everything 17 Aug 2012
By Ian.S.
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are always people who will express dissatisfaction with a book that attempts to cover everything on a given subject. They will then tend to disregard or fail to grasp what the proper objective of a book is. This means that experts will always find omissions, generalisations and, of course will vehemently disagree with the authors and contributors in this book.

In this instance,this book is a COMPANION to classical civilisation. It contains thousands of entries and articles relating to probably every subject pertaining to the classical world. This book is an excellent guide to the general student of the classics in that it will explain subjects to you and from there, the student can look elsewhere for more detailed elucidation.

The entries are easily understandable and there are numerous longer essays on major subjects (Socrates, Drama etc.) which makes the book even more valuable.

The book is excellent value for money bearing in mind the wealth of information contained therein. Books like these are not the be all and end all for studies, but guide you and inform. Sufficient to understand the general principles of a subject. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must have! 9 Nov 2010
By Cinders
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a great alternative to the OCD, more compact yet retaining the essential facts. A must have for any classics fan!
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