From Achilles's heel to the sword of Damocles, Western culture teems with allusions from the rich heritage of classical literature, and this new edition of The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature, the first updating since Sir Paul Harvey's original edition of 1937, provides the key to these works and the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations that produced them. Substantially revising the first edition, this volume condenses the findings of the most recent scholarship into highly readable prose and supplies a wealth of background information not found in Harvey's Companion. Indispensable to those studying classical literature in depth, the book will be equally accessible to the non-specialist. All Greek is transliterated, with translations given for all quotations from Greek and Latin.
The main focus of the Companion remains the lives and works of the principal authors. Biographical entries offer the essential facts and sift the conjectural evidence, while entries on the major works include discussions of the philosophical dialogues and political speeches and plot summaries of the epic poems and plays. The various literary formsepic, comedy, tragedy, rhetorical writingare covered in depth, supplemented by articles on the origins of the Greek and Latin alphabets and languages.
The Companion also puts this literature into its societal and historical contexts, including many articles on political, social, and artistic achievements. We learn, for example, about the political climate that produced the great speeches of Demosthenes and Cicero. Orators, statesmen, and generals stalk the pages, and major battles and conquests from the time of Alexander to the fall of Rome are summarized. Articles on contemporary social mores and religious beliefs help explain literary references, while the glories of philosophy, science, and art are celebrated from Cynics to Stoics, astronomy to water-clocks, and flute competitions to vase painting.
Helpful maps supplement geographical entries, a chronological table provides an overview of the main historical and literary events, and a systematic set of cross-references links the entries. The breadth and accuracy of this volume will surely make it the standard reference book of its kind for years to come.
This opulent companion offers the general reader help of every kind in the understanding of classical literature. More than a handbook of authors and titles, the guide illumines the faded images of mythological and historical figures, as well as providing articles on general topics: e.g., genre, theater, politics, religion, the transmission of texts through the Renaissance, and such intimate mysteries as meter. This extensively redesigned second edition, assuming no prior knowledge of ancient languages, greatly expands upon and brings up to date Paul Harvey's popular original volume, published in 1937. This edition should enjoy its own quinquagenial (or 50th) anniversary.-- Stephen Scully, Boston Univ.