Graham Speake (ed.), Encyclopedia of Greece and the Hellenic Tradition (2 vols.). London and Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 2000. Pp. 913, 1861. ISBN 1-57958-141-2. UK£190 (total price for both volumes).
University of Natal, Durban
At the outset I must declare an interest in the form of a long-standing friendship with the editor of the work under review. For this reason, and also because I certainly do not command the wide range of expertise in Hellenic studies required for a serious critical overview of the Encyclopedia, I offer here a notice, rather than a review, of a book that will surely be a useful and absorbing reference work for anyone who is fascinated by the past and present of Greece. The two volumes are large and heavy, but the indexing and cross-referencing are reader-friendly and so is the physical layout (they open flat on the desk, and the pages are clear and uncluttered).
There are no aardvark in Greece, and there never have been. I am convinced of this because the first entry in Graham Speake's encyclopedia is headed 'Abortion', not 'Aardvark'. The last, well over 1700 pages later, is on Zoology.[] In between are articles of varying length on a wide range of cultural, historical, archaeological, topographical, religious and other topics, from 'Prehistory' to 'Pollution', from 'Venetians' to 'Vine', from 'Tiryns' to 'Technology'. There are 45 maps and site plans listed on p. vi, an alphabetical list of entries (pp. xiii-xxi) and a thematic list of entries (pp. xxiii-xxxi), grouped under the following headings: Events, Periods, Cities, Islands, Lakes, Monastic Foundations, Mountains, Regions, Ethnic Groups, Themes (Social History, Cultural History, Political and Military History, Religious History, Science, Medicine and Philosophy, Economic History, Geography), Individuals and Families (these further subdivided by period and activity). A chronological list of individuals (pp. xxxiii-xxxv), runs from Hesiod to the contemporary film maker Thodoros Angelopoulos. A note on transliteration (p. xxvi) and a list of Byzantine emperors (p. xxvii) complete this initial reference scheme. Given the size of the volumes, it is a useful feature that pp. v-xxxi are printed at the front of each volume. Finally, at the end of the second volume there is an index (pp. 1759-1839), useful if the category for which you are searching does not have its own separate entry, then notes on advisers and contributors (pp. 1841-1860) and photographic acknowledgements (pp. 1861). Callimachus might have blenched at the length of this work, but he would surely have approved its careful and systematic organisational principles and the learned variety of its contents, which range from prehistory through to the present and from Athens and Thessalonica to Greek communities in latitudes Ptolemy and Strabo never dreamed of.
Classicists will be familiar with Speake's approach from the Phaidon series which he initiated with the Atlas of the Greek World and more recently from his compact Dictionary of Ancient History.[] Like the Atlas series, the Encyclopedia explores beyond (while not neglecting) the history, literature, philosophy, art and archaeology that have until fairly recently formed the core of the traditional Classics syllabus. Its maps are clear and its illustrations (well-reproduced black-and-white photographs) often open a window on the unusual or less familiar, like the washery used in processing lead ore at Laurium (p. 929) or the soldiers of Basil I fleeing from the Arabs in an illustration from an11th century chronicle now in Madrid (p. 1723) or the straw hut of the nomadic Sarakatsans, whose way of life survived in northern and central Greece until about thirty years ago (p. 1495). As in the Dictionary there are suggestions for further reading at the end of the articles. A feature I have found useful is the summary at the beginning of many of the longer articles, while most articles also list related key words at the end of the entry: for example, 'Asia Minor Campaign and Disaster' (pp. 180-82) directs you to 'Great Idea' (pp. 688-90) -- the Megale Idea of 19th century nationalism which envisaged the unification of the Greeks of the Ottoman empire in a single national state -- and thence to 'Lausanne', 'Refugees', 'Se\vres', 'Smyrna' and so on.
Browsers beware. Like any good dictionary and some encyclopedias this book is addictive. The price and size may be a deterrent to some, but the work should at least be in school, university, media and public libraries. Apart from its obvious appeal to classicists, its scope and style will make it an excellent reference tool for teachers and students, journalists and others who, of necessity or for the sheer pleasure of discovery, want to learn about a major part of the world's ancient and continuing cultural heritage.
[] After various uses of a, aardvark is the first word in Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary (Edinburgh 1972). The last, zythum, 'a kind of beer made by the ancient Eyptians - much commended by Diodorus' (ibid. p. 1594) is, of course, of Greek origin, as is zymotic, 'relating to or causing fermentation', the entry which ends Chambers 21st Century Dictionary (Edinburgh 1999) 1654.
[] Peter Levi (ed.), Atlas of the Greek World (Oxford 1980); Tim Cornell and John Matthews (edd.), Atlas of the Roman World (Oxford 1982); Graham Speake (ed.), A Dictionary of Ancient History (Oxford 1994).