Recommended reading for Cambridge Classicists, prospective, incoming & current

an idiosyncratic and selective list compiled by Dr Charles Weiss, Clare College (, September 2012



As far as translations of Classical authors go, the Oxford World’s Classics series is generally very good for any author and recent Penguins are also very good, as are recent Loebs—some of these are outstanding, in fact—but avoid out-of-print Penguins and out-of-print Loebs. Just go online and browse these publishers’ catalogues and read an author you’ve never read before! Try some authors not on the Cambridge syllabus (currently major authors such as Callimachus, Menander, Ennius and Sallust). You can get these very cheaply from and, especially used.


When it comes to original texts, the Oxford Classical Texts (‘OCTs’ as they are affectionately known) are the scholarly standard, though the same goes for the German-produced Teubner/Saur/De Gruyter series of classical texts known as the Bibliotheca Teubneriana, if you are lucky enough to find one. The French Budé series is akin to our Loeb (i.e. with facing translation), and many of these are outstanding—again, if you are lucky enough to find one. You can find delightful old and out-of-print school commentaries in the Oxfam near Sainsbury’s in Cambridge occasionally, as well as online—check out and for texts. (Don’t neglect G. David’s shop, right in town, or the Amnesty International bookshop down Mill Road, either.)




The Oxford Dictionary of the Classical World, 3rd ed.—known as ‘the OCD’. A simply indispensible guide to the Classical world, available free online from within the University (along with other very valuable OUP resources). There are other, more accessible Oxford encyclopedias and handbooks out there, but this is the one to refer to as a point of departure for practically any subject within Classics. Purchase highly recommended.


Dictionary of Classical Mythology, by Pierre Grimal and A. R. Maxwell-Hyslop. I can’t live without this book. There are two volumes by Jenny March, however, that are also very good: Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology and her recent Penguin Book of Classical Myths. Purchase highly recommended. (Don’t miss Lamprière’s great Classical Dictionary of 1788 (a.k.a. Bibliotheca Classica), available in manifold editions—obviously antiquated by now but historically significant and still containing many ancient names omitted by other works of reference.)


Pauly-Wissowa. Full title: Realencyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft. Perhaps the most monumental work of reference ever attempted for Classical scholarship: just look up the article in Wikipedia for starters. It is truly the Tyrannosaurus Rex of Classics, in that it is huge, terrifying—and now quite dead! But it is now replaced (that’s not really the right word) by the magnificent Brill’s New Pauly—much like the OCD but more expansive, a little more up-to-date, and also free and on online from within the University. Don’t miss.


William Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (or Culture), Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology and Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography are true treasures of the Victorian Classical scholarship, predecessors to Pauly-Wissowa, and sought-after in the antiquarian book trade. They are available (i.e. searchable) on Perseus and Philologic and can be found as (free) vast .pdfs in places like (there are also some prohibitively expensive reprints out there)—keep your eyes open for the originals of these utterly beautiful volumes. Don’t miss.


Cambridge Ancient History. Simply THE best, THE most authoritative, and THE most comprehensive guide to ancient history, currently standing at FOURTEEN volumes and—hold your breath!—completely free online from within the University! (Just google ‘cambridge histories online’.) You can find the first editions of many of these volumes fairly cheaply online, but beware that they are out-of-date, lovely as they are. Don’t miss.


Cambridge Illustrated History of the Greek World, ed. Paul Cartledge. A beautifully illustrated, reader-friendly and up-to-date guide to Ancient Greece, edited by Clare’s own Paul Cartledge. Purchase recommended.


Cambridge Illustrated History of the Roman World, ed. Greg Woolf. Same as above: purchase recommended.


(The Oxford History of the Classical World, originally one but currently split into Greek and Roman versions, with Illustrated versions also available, is good for a slightly different perspective and just slightly older.)


Cambridge History of Classical Literature. As with CAH, it’s free online and utterly brilliant, though today largely superseded by more recent scholarship. It remains, however, an invaluable and very efficient way to familiarize yourself with the general problems of a particular author or period that interests you. Don’t miss.


Cambridge History of Literary Criticism. You think you know your literary studies? Or do you simply want to know more? As with CAH and CHCL, these volumes are utterly indispensible and yet completely free online from within Cambridge. Volumes 1, 7, 8 & 9 should be required reading. Don’t miss.


A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, 2nd ed., by Richard A. Lanham. A wonderful and economical guide to the many literary terms you will meet on almost every page of literary study in the Classics. Purchase recommended.


silua rhetoricae is also a very good website on this subject: Don’t miss.


Figures of Speech by Arthur Quinn is a very readable and illuminating guide to its title. Purchase recommended.


The scholarly journal Greece & Rome oversees the publication of New Surveys in the Classics, a remarkable series of slender but authoritative volumes on critical topics, e.g. Greek Thought and Slavery. Sadly some but not all of these are out-of-print—and highly sought-after (e.g. K. J. Dover on Thucydides or Gordon Williams on Horace). Purchase recommended.


LACTOR (originally London Association of Classical Teachers) do a very nice range of chiefly historically-oriented volumes (check out and and Purchase recommended.


The Study of Language, by George Yule, is a classic and readable guide to linguistics. Don’t miss.


A Student’s Introduction to English Grammar, by Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum, is an excellent guide to concepts and phenomena that will help your understanding of Ancient Greek and Latin. Purchase recommended.


Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World’s Ancient Languages, ed. Roger D. Woodard. A stunning piece of scholarship that is sadly NOT free online! Don’t miss.


New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin, by Andrew L. Sihler. A breathtaking, if somewhat idiosyncratic, grammar of Ancient Greek and Latin with reference to the mother tongue, Indo-European. A specialist volume that repays study. Don’t miss.


Introduction to Indo-European Linguistics, by Oswald J. L. Szemerényi. A much more accessible and highly authoritative guide to the mother tongue. Specialist but indispensible: don’t miss.


Indo-European Linguistics: An Introduction, by James Clackson. The most reader-friendly and up-to-date introduction to the mother tongue available! And it’s authored by the Faculty’s own James Clackson. Purchase recommended.




The Birth of Classical Europe: A History from Troy to Augustine, by Simon Price and Peter Thonemann. Purchase recommended.

The Ancient City, by Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges (forewords by Momigliano and Humphreys). Don’t miss.

The Origins of European Thought, by R. B. Onians. Don’t miss.

The Classical World: An Epic History of Greece and Rome, by Robin Lane Fox.

Egypt, Greece and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean, by Charles Freeman.

The Mediterranean in the Ancient World, by Fernand Braudel.

Bread and Circuses, by Paul Veyne.

Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves: Women in Antiquity, by Sarah B. Pomeroy.

Indo-European Poetry and Myth, by M. L. West.

How to Kill a Dragon, by Calvert Watkins.

Sound, Sense, and Rhythm: Listening to Greek and Latin Poetry, by Mark W. Edwards.

Scribes and Scholars: A Guide to the Transmission of Greek and Latin Literature, by L. D. Reynolds and N. G. Wilson. Purchase recommended.

City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish: The Lives of the Greeks in Roman Egypt. Purchase recommended.


SPECIALIZED TITLES: an asterisk indicates a volume particularly helpful for current topics in the Prelims or IA year



Ancient Greece: A History in Eleven Cities, by Paul Cartledge. Purchase recommended.

A History of Greece, by George Grote. Don’t miss: find the original twelve volume set or check out the new reprint in the Cambridge Library Collection.

The Origins of Greek Thought, by Jean-Pierre Vernant. Don’t miss.

*Persian Fire, by Tom Holland. Purchase recommended.

*Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan’s Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece, by Debra Hamel. Don’t miss.

The Greeks and the Irrational, by E. R. Dodds. Don’t miss.

Fishcakes and Courtesans: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens, by James Davidson.

The War That Killed Achilles, by Caroline Alexander.

*The Murder of Herodes, by Kathleen Freeman.

*The Man Who Invented History: Travels with Herodotus, by Justin Marozzi.

*Travels with Herodotus, by Ryzard Kapuscinski.

Alcibiades, by P. J. Rhodes.

*Why Socrates Died: Dispelling the Myths, by Robin Waterfield.

*A Short History of Greek Literature, by S. Said and M. Trede.

*Literature in the Greek World, ed. O. Taplin.

A History of Greek Religion, by Martin P. Nilsson.

Pagans and Christians: In the Mediterranean World from the Second Century AD to the Conversion of Constantine, by Robin Lane Fox.


anything by Mary Renault, e.g. The Praise Singer.

*The Penelopiad, by Margaret Atwood.



The Greek Language, by L. R. Palmer. Purchase recommended.

Homeric Grammar, by D. B. Monro. Purchase recommended.

The Decipherment of Linear B, by John Chadwick. Don’t miss.

Greek: A History of the Language and its Speakers, by the Faculty’s own Geoffrey Horrocks. Don’t miss.

A History of Ancient Greek From the Beginnings to Late Antiquity, ed. A.-F. Christidis.

A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language, ed. Egbert J. Bakker.



The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen. Don’t miss: find the old four volume set or check out the new reprint in the Cambridge Library Collection.

*Augustan Culture, by Karl Galinsky.

Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome, by Lesley Adkins and Roy A. Adkins. Purchase recommended.

*Intellectual Life in the Late Roman Republic, by Elizabeth Rawson. Don’t miss.

*The Roman Revolution, by Ronald Syme. Don’t miss.

*Social Conflicts in the Roman Republic, by P. A. Brunt.

*Augustus, by A. H. M. Jones.

*Latin Literature: A History, by G. B. Conte et al. Don’t miss.

*Latin Literature, by Susannah Braund.

*Literature in the Roman World, ed. Oliver Taplin.

*The Nature of Roman Poetry, by Gordon Williams. Purchase recommended; abbreviated version of Tradition and Originality in Roman Poetry.

Virgil’s Epic Technique, by Richard Heinze. Purchase recommended.

*Rubicon, by Tom Holland. Purchase recommended.

Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town, by Mary Beard. Don’t miss.

*Hannibal, by Robert Garland.

*Pompey the Great, by Robin Seager.

*Pompey the Great: Caesar’s Friend and Foe, by Pat Southern.

*Caesar, by Christian Meier. Don’t miss.

*Caesar: The Life of a Colossus, by Adrian Goldsworthy.

*Cicero: A Portrait, by Elizabeth Rawson.

*Cicero: Politics and Persuasion in Ancient Rome, by Kathryn Tempest.

*Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician, by Anthony Everitt.

The First Ladies of Rome: The Women behind the Caesars, by Annelise Freisenbruch.


Pompeii, by Robert Harris.

*Imperium, by Robert Harris.

Lustrum, by Robert Harris.

The Death of Virgil, by Hermann Broch.



The Latin Language, by L. R. Palmer. Purchase recommended.

Blackwell History of the Latin Language, by James Clackson and Geoffrey Horrocks. Don’t miss.

The Latin Language, by W. M. Lindsay. Don’t miss: now available in reprints.

A Companion to the Latin Language, ed. James Clackson. Don’t miss.

Outline of the Historical and Comparative Grammar of Latin, by Michael Weiss. Don’t miss.



Latin Alive: The Survival of Latin in English and the Romance Languages, by Joseph B. Solodow. Purchase recommended.

From Latin to Modern French, by M. K. Pope.

From Latin to Italian, by Charles Grandgent.


COLOPHON purchase recommended

The Collected Ancient Greek Novels, edited by B. P. Reardon. Must be read in conjunction with Petronius’ Satyricon and Apuleius’ Metamorphoses.

DVD: Contempt (Le Mépris), directed by Jean-Luc Godard (1963). Not a cheerful film, but compelling!

DVD: Clash of the Titans, both the 1981 original & 2010 remake: must be seen together!

DVD: Satyricon, directed by Federico Fellini (1969). Bizarre!

DVD: Rome, the HBO miniseries. Pretty racy stuff, but very nicely done.

The Secret History, by Donna Tartt.