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The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome: The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome: Seven-volume set Hardcover – 25 Mar 2010


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Review

Certainly there are considerable gains in the Oxford Encyclopedia's charming presentation of contemporary scholarship as a united, mostly good-humoured and unremittingly reasonable activity.

It would be a curmudgeonly reader indeed who was not impressed by the sheer achievement of this expansive version of the ancient world. (TLS 17.09.10)

About the Author

Michael Gagarin is James R. Dougherty, Jr., Centennial Professor of Classics, University of Texas at Austin. He was president of the American Philological Association, 2002-2003.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x93abfe7c) out of 5 stars 2 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92046a5c) out of 5 stars Authoritative, interesting, but expensive 9 Sept. 2012
By Simon Manley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The question which hangs, like the sword of Damocles, over expensive multi-volume works is the justification for their existence. Traditionally, encyclopedias provide an introduction to topics on which the reader has no special expertise, but knows enough to be motivated to seek basic information. They are useful for quickly checking facts, or for gaining an overview of topics peripheral to the reader's major area of interest.

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece & Rome certainly fits that traditional prescription. Yet a problem remains with the level at which it is pitched. Many of the articles on key topics and figures of the ancient world are shorter than the corresponding articles in the print versions of the Encyclopedia Britannica. For the scholar or university student, it all feels a little short, as if the 7 volumes and 3,400 pages are just too tight a constraint for a field as vast as the ancient world. But for the high-school student, or casual reader, it is too detailed, being less accessible than an online resource or general-purpose encyclopedia such as Encarta.

On its own terms however, the Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece & Rome is certainly an excellent work. It is balanced, authoritative, well-written and carefully edited into a uniformity of style and coverage which makes for pleasant and stimulating reading. It would grace the shelves of any library or well-heeled reader with an interest in the classics.

Unfortunately, the astronomical price tag will preclude extensive sales. This work will probably find its niche eventually as a online resource, and the print copy - like the Britannica - will become a nostalgic curiosity in the collections of dedicated bibliophiles.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x925ee924) out of 5 stars Disappointing and not clearly aimed at an actual audience 6 Aug. 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Fortunately, I purchased this set for something like 1/3 of the list price. Even at that price, however, I don't feel it was worth it. As many reviewers have noted, both professional and amateur, the series is aimed at some (in my mind, mythical) group of lay people. It certainly doesn't contain enough detail and references generally to help an undergraduate. It's hard to imagine a venue outside of a high-school library where anyone would consult such a work. The topics, however, don't seem to correspond to any actual research needs of high-school students. Moreover, for a set that claims to be easier than the Oxford Classical Dictionary to use, some entries contains reference to articles and monographs inaccessible physically and intellectually to lay people, while others just cite a popular translation or two.

Now, what really killed it for me, and it pains me to say this, because one of the main editors was one of my favorite professors in grad school, was the selection of contributors. There are some fine contributors, although generally they wrote only one entry. On the other hand, I've been baffled at the overall list. Not only are many contributors of no distinction at all in the areas they treat, but a very large number of contributors aren't even professionals. As an erstwhile academic, for many entries, I could think of at least a dozen people who had written books or articles in a given area who would have had some justification for contributing, while in their place, time and again, I saw people of whom I'd never heard, who apparently don't work in academics and aren't affiliated with an educational institution.

The sad truth is, I really think this series was slapped together as a money grab, something most libraries would rush to buy at any price, and the editors just put out a cattle call for volunteers to slap together a mass of very uneven entries. I am even more convinced of this, when I look at the large font and slimness of the volumes themselves. This could (and should) have been a 3-volume set, but of course that would look less magisterial. One notes that the Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd ed., actually contains more entries and vastly more references, in one volume.
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