A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities/Preface to the Third Edition

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A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities  (1890) 
by Various Authors, edited by William Smith
Preface to the Third Edition


The first Edition of the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities was published in 1842; the second, improved and enlarged, appeared in 1848, since which time the work has been reprinted from the stereotyped plates without alteration. The fact that forty-two years have elapsed since any change was made in the work shows of itself that a new Edition has become necessary. Moreover, these years have been a period of quite exceptional activity both in classical research and exploration; and in most, and indeed nearly all, the subjects treated in this work, recent treatises and recent discoveries have amplified or superseded much of the information which was available for the writers of the articles in the former Editions. These are especially subjects relating to constitutional history and law, religious offices and festivals, architecture and arts in general, coins, dress, and domestic life. The views held on many of these subjects have been greatly altered by newly discovered inscriptions, by additions to museums in this country and elsewhere, and by the labours of recent scholarship bestowed upon such collections.

Epigraphy alone has revolutionised several departments of knowledge. The inscriptions known to Boeckh and Orelli forty years ago are almost insignificant in amount compared with the wealth of material which has accumulated under their successors. In many cases the discovery of single inscriptions has had results of unexpected importance. We may instance the new light thrown upon the laws of Crete by the inscription at Gortyn, and upon Roman municipal law by those at Malaca and Salpensa, in Spain. Nor has epigraphy been the only department of archaeological research. The excavations of ancient sites have not only thrown new light upon the temples, tombs, theatres, and domestic architecture of the Greeks and Romans, but have yielded many treasures of art, pottery, and ornaments, illustrating the domestic life of the ancients. It is only necessary to allude to the excavations of the pre-historic sites of Troy, Mycenae, and Tiryns, of Olympia, Halicarnassus, and Ephesus, of the Acropolis of [ viii ] Athens, and of many others which cannot be enumerated in the limits of a Preface.

The literary activity of the period, in reference to classical subjects, has been scarcely less marked than the vigour of its archaeological explorations. The constitutional histories both of Greece and Rome have been rewritten. When the last edition was published, only a small part of the great work of Grote had appeared: this, since its completion, has now been supplemented by the researches of Ernst Curtius, Busolt, and others, while the works of Mommsen and his school have opened up new views of Roman constitutional law and provincial government. At the same time, the life of the Greeks and Romans, so long treated as the only ancients worth studying, has come to be regarded less and less as an isolated group of phenomena. The application of the comparative method to history (including the history of religions) and philology has furnished a key to much that before seemed arbitrary and inexplicable. The phrases Ancient Law and Primitive Culture have acquired a new meaning in the hands of eminent writers: much that had been thought characteristic of man only in the savage state has been shown to have coexisted with, and even to have survived, the flowering-time of Graeco-Roman, not to say of modern civilisation. Political changes, too, have not been without influence upon the modern representatives of the two great nations of antiquity. The Italians of the Kingdom are pursuing with renewed vigour and originality the studies which they had never suffered to fall into decay: the Greeks, in the happier circumstances of the last few years, have thrown themselves with zeal, if not always with discretion, into the records of their glorious past. It is not surprising, therefore, that the archaeological hand-books, to which the former editions of this work were so much indebted, have either been rewritten (as, for instance, the Attische Process, the Antiquities of K. F. Hermann and the Becker-Marquardt series), or altogether superseded by later works.

Accordingly, it has been found necessary to rewrite a great part, and remodel the remainder, of the articles in the present Edition, which may therefore be regarded, to a great extent, as a new work. It contains eight hundred pages more than the old Edition. One-third of the articles has been entirely rewritten. The remaining two-thirds have been in all cases greatly altered: scarcely twenty have been reprinted as they originally stood. There are, besides, about two hundred additional articles which did not appear in the old Edition, many of considerable length and importance, by which it is hoped that all omissions have been supplied. The subjects are more extensively illustrated than formerly: there are upwards of four hundred and fifty new woodcuts in the present Edition.

It would take up too much space to give a list of even the most important works which have been used in the preparation of the articles, [ ix ] nor is it necessary, as they are in all cases quoted in their proper places. We may be allowed to mention, as illustrations of the difficulties under which works like the present are produced, and in explanation of the length of time during which it has been in progress, that the "Dictionnaire des Antiquités Grecques et Romaines" edited by Daremberg and Saglio, commenced in 1877, has as yet only reached the letter D; that the new series of Hermann's Antiquities, edited by Blümner and others, was announced for completion in 1884 and is still unfinished in 1890; and that the valuable work of Iwan Müller is still incomplete. From all these, so far as they have been available, the greatest assistance has been derived, and is here thankfully acknowledged.

To the Keepers of Classical Antiquities in the British Museum we must also express our obligations for much assistance and advice in the course of the work.

It remains to say a few words respecting the references to ancient writers. These references are now brought as much as possible to a uniformity, though an absolute uniformity cannot be claimed for them. Following recent German (and English) works, we have quoted the Greek and Latin authors, wherever practicable, from the Editions published by Teubner. There is only one way, among, scholars, of quoting such authors as Plato, Strabo, Plutarch, and Athenaeus; yet even this amount of uniformity was not attained by our predecessors. In these, it is believed, absolute uniformity has now been introduced. In Thucydides and Herodotus, when the chapters are long, the sections also have been added, though not uniformly. Such authors as Polybius and Diodorus are now for the first time quoted from the Teubner editions, in which the fragments discovered by Mai and others are now incorporated; whereas in the former Edition there were many references to Mai and other collections not easily to be procured.

In the Orators we follow all German and most recent English scholars in quoting by the § § of Bekker's Berlin edition, which differ from those in the Oxford. In the less voluminous orators this single reference has been deemed sufficient; but as few students could find their way among the sixty Demosthenic orations without further help, in these the usually cited pages (Reiske's) have been added.

Of the numerous references to Cicero, some were to the larger, others to the smaller chapters in the old edition; the double reference, deemed essential by most scholars, has now been supplied throughout.

In Plautus and Terence contributors have been allowed to quote either by the lines of the play, or by acts and scenes, both being marked in recent editions. But Pliny's Natural History is now quoted, according to the modern fashion, uniformly by the marginal sections of Sillig and Jan.

The references to Clemens Alexandrinus were sometimes difficult to verify, when only a chapter of twenty or more pages was named; they [ x ] are now all to Potter's pages, marked in the margin of all subsequent editions.

The Comic Fragments, to which the references are unusually copious, are cited by Meineke's numbers (omitting the name of the play), so as to be verified either in his larger or smaller editions. The more recent edition of Kock was incomplete while our work was in progress; there are a few references to it.

The case of Aristotle's works is peculiar. The books of the Politics, as is known, are arranged in different orders; and where contributors have referred both to Bekker's and Susemihl's arrangement, this has been allowed to stand. But in most cases (though not quite in all) the works of Aristotle are cited by the pages and lines of Bekker's Berlin Edition, which removes all uncertainty.

In conclusion, I have to express my warm thanks to my two colleagues for the unwearied labour and assiduity which they have bestowed upon the Work. Mr. Wayte undertook the direction of Vol. I., and Mr. Marindin that of Vol. II. They have, under my superintendence, selected the contributors, revised the articles and the proofs as they went through the press, and have themselves written a large number of important articles.


November, 1890.