Der Neue Pauly, Enzyklopädie der Antike

edited by H. Cancik and H. Schneider, Metzler Verlag, Stuttgart & Weimar 1996; 15 volumes plus index, circa 17.000 pages, DM 4920,- (approximately IR£ 2000)

reviewed by Heinrich Hall

University College,

The book to be reviewed here is entitled the New Pauly Encyclopaedia of (Classical) Antiquity, which gives me the opportunity, or obligation, to dedicate a few paragraphs to the old one. The Pauly-Wissowa has always been the pride and joy of German classicists. Designed for readers `who only have very moderate Greek', it was a mammoth undertaking, begun by A.F. Pauly in 1839, continued by G. Wissowa in 1894, and finally completed as late as 1980. In that century-and-a-half, it clogged up 68 volumes (not counting 15 auxiliary ones) and a massive index.

It is a joy to use. On more than one occasion, I have spent hours browsing through biographies of obscure Romans, or histories of little-known Greek states, completely forgetting to research whatever essay I had originally set out to write. Usually, I would make up for that by just translating the relevant Pauly entries into English, abridging where necessary (They'd be marked well enough). Especially the turn-of-the-century volumes combine what the German language describes as Akribie (efficient accuracy) with a kind of pioneering encyclopaedic spirit. After all, at the time it was still possible to include a large proportion of the total knowledge of classics in one volume.

Today, that is impossible. Fortunately, the editors of the New Pauly realised that the modern challenge is a different one. There are nearly as many sub-disciplines to Classics, from historical anthropology to underwater archaeology, as there are classicists these days. The number of analytical approaches, from mass psychology to longue durée, probably exceeds that of the scholars using them. The New Pauly tries to take account of all this, and more: the last three of fifteen volumes will be exclusively devoted to the reception of classical antiquity in later periods. The period covered exceeds two millennia, from 1500 BC onwards. When finished, it will embrace twice as much text as its predecessor, and thousands of illustrations.

I was more than curious to see the first, long-awaited, volume (letter A to Arithmos), and yes, it still is a joy to use. The pioneering spirit and the sense of nearly total comprehensiveness may be somewhat lost, but the sheer amount of information, the Akribie, and the beautiful maps make up amply for this, and the browsability is still there.

The articles provide a synopsis of information, always a bit more than the basics, on any subject, and point out where to find more. It is difficult to give an impression of the material on offer here, as one cannot summarise an encyclopaedia. There are biographies, for example two pages on the writer, Apuleius, and the same amount on Alexander the Great (plus full-page map). Apart from a few lines on each of another 32 Alexanders, a pedigree of his family, the Argeadai, and a whole page on the Alexandermosaik in Pompeii are also provided. Looking at archaeology, there is everything from five pages and three maps dealing with the Bronze Age Aegean koiné, via one on stamped amphorae, to more or less detailed entries on cities and towns from all periods, often with splendid plans, e.g. of Alexandria, of Aquileia, or of Aquae Sulis (Bath). Twelve pages deal with architecture as a whole, two with roman amphitheatres, three with the Greek Agora (plus plans). Three pages and a map about the history of Akarnania, or five on Africa, a quarter-page on unemployment (Arbeitslosigkeit), a map of the Argo's voyage, whatever you look for, Der Neue Pauly will not send you away empty-handed.

And most importantly, there is a wealth of information that you come across although you never even thought of it before, something that never happens using CD-ROMs. (I doubt whether anything similar will ever be published in form of a conventional non-electronic book again).

Did you know that the burbot (Aalraupe), a freshwater cod from Lake Constance, was called mustela by the Romans, and considered a delicacy because of its liver? Or that the Persian trousers worn by Orpheus are known as Anaxyrides? Or that the Ardiaei were fighting their neighbours, the Autariatae, for salt sources?

So, if you don't have 2000 quid to spend right now, rob a bank, or get your library to order the three volumes that have been published at this stage. Oh, before I forget, learn German! Even if you have no inclination to travel to the fatherland, the old and new Pauly are worth the effort between them.

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