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Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World

Revised hardcover edition: by David Sacks and Lisa R. Brody, published by Facts On File, 2005, ISBN 0-8160-5722-2, 412 pages, $75.

Out of print: 1995 hardcover edition by David Sacks, published by Facts On File.

Paperback edition: titled A Dictionary of the Ancient Greek World, Oxford University Press, 1996, ISBN 0-1951-1206-7, 306 pages, $18.95.

The book consists of 525 alphabetical entries, from “Abdera” to “Zeus,” covering most aspects of ancient Greek history and society, per modern scholarship through the 20th century. With over 70 illustrations of ancient Greek artwork and of surviving architecture, etc. Two maps.

Praise for Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World (1995):

“This readable, lively compendium of facts succeeds admirably in its goal of conveying only the ‘best information’…Secondary school students with a curiosity about the ancient Western world could do no better than to start their explorations with this authoritative resource.” --Marya Fitgerald, School Library Journal

“Choose David Sacks' Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World if you seek a definitive reference categorizing more than 2,000 years of Greek civilization. Over 500 entries describe the people, places and events of the ancient Greek world…An excellent reference.” --The Bookwatch

“A scholarly-based but accessible resource…The Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World will serve as a particularly good public library or undergraduate college-level resource, far more detailed than a general encyclopedia but much more accessible to the general reader than, say, the Oxford Classical Dictionary.” --Margaret Miles, The Book Report

“Nicely prepared…Clearly written…Thoroughly cross-referenced and indexed.” --Reference & Research Book News

“Having a concise, ready-reference work like this on an ever-popular topic is a plus.” --Booklist

From the preface of Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World

This encyclopedia attempts to give all the essential information about the ancient Greek world. Aimed at high-school and college students and general readers, the book tries to convey the achievements of the Greek world, while also showing its warts. (And warts there were, including slavery, the subordination of women, brutal imperialism, and the insanely debilitating wars of Greek against Greek.)

The encyclopedia’s entries, from “Abdera” to “Zeus,” range in length from about 100 to 3,000 words. The entries embrace political history, social conditions, warfare, religion, mythology, literature, art, philosophy, science, and daily life. Short biographies are given for important leaders, thinkers, and artists. Particular care is taken, by way of several entries, to explain the emergence and workings of Athenian democracy.

The book’s headwords include the names of real-life people (for example, Socrates), mythical figures (Helen of Troy), cities (Sparta), regions (Asia Minor), and institutions (Olympic Games), as well as many English-language common nouns (archaeology, cavalry, epic poetry, marriage, wine). Supplementing the text are more than 70 ink drawings, based mainly on photographs of extant Greek sculpture, vase paintings, architecture, and metalwork.

My research has involved English-language scholarly books and articles, ancient Greek works in translation, and many of the ancient Greek texts themselves. I have tried to be aware of recent archaeological finds and other scholarly developments. My manuscript has been vetted by an eminent scholar. However, I have chosen and shaped the material for the general reader, not the scholarly one.

I have assumed that the reader knows nothing about the ancient Greeks and that he or she wants only the “best” information, that is, for any given topic, only the main points, including an explanation of why the topic might be considered important in the first place. I have tried to keep my language simple but lively and to organize each entry into a brisk train of thought. Although facts and dates abound in this book, I hope they only clarify the bigger picture, not obscure it.

In time frame, the encyclopedia covers over 2,000 years, opening in the third millennium B.C. with the beginnings of Minoan civilization and ending with the Roman annexation of Greece in 146 B.C. Within this 2,000-year span, the encyclopedia gives most attention to the classical era, that is, roughly the 400s and 300s B.C., which produced the Greeks’ greatest intellectual and artistic achievements and most dramatic military conflicts.

In a book of this scope written by one person, certain preferences are bound to sneak in. I have tried always to be thorough and concise. But I have allowed slightly more space to a few aspects that I consider more likely than others to satisfy the general reader’s curiosity. When I studied Greek and Latin at graduate school, my happiest hours were spent reading Herodotus. He was an Ionian Greek who, in the mid 400s B.C., became the world’s first historian, writing a long prose work of incomparable richness about the conflict between the Greeks and Persians. And I find, with all humility, that I have favored the same aspects that Herodotus tends to favor in his treatment- namely, politics, personalities, legends, geography, sex, and war.