These past few weeks I’ve been reading up on various issues connected with the Ancient Near East (not my long suit) and have had occasion to make reference to a fantastic reference tool that everyone should know about but (other than scholars of antiquity) hardly anyone does: The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Ancient History. I posted on it nine years ago and have now realized it would be useful to do so again. So, for an end of the year special, here it is! (I’ve made a crucial addition in bold!)
I’m pleased to be able to announce (and only a month after the fact — this was 9 years ago) that after years of labor, the thirteen-volume Encyclopedia of Ancient History, ed. by Roger Bagnall, Kai Bodersen, Craige Champion, Andrew Erskine, and Sabine Hueber has now appeared, published by Wiley-Blackwell. It’s not exactly an affordable reference tool for everyone’s library. The list price is $1995.00! But you can save $354 on Amazon, if you’re loaded and looking for the most authoritative and up-to-date reference on all things ancient (Western world, roughly the ancient Mediterranean, including Egypt and the ancient Near East), from the Bronze Age up to the seventh century CE. (Oh yeah: and you can access it online for, well, less then four figures. 🙂 The Encyclopedia of Ancient History | Major Reference Works (wiley.com) )
There were twenty-two of us who were “area editors.” The areas include such things as “Classical Greece,” ”Jewish History,” “Late Antiquity,” “Religion,” “Roman Military History,” and “Science.” I was responsible for the area of “Christianity.” In that capacity, I chose 195 topics that needed articles to be written, ranging from 500 to 2500 words; I solicited scholars to contribute articles; I edited all the articles once they were written; and – well, and lots of other things. The other 21 area editors did the same for their fields.
The result is an amazing 13 volumes of encyclopedia articles on just about everything you might be interested in knowing about in Western antiquity, from Abantes (the inhabitants of Euboea mentioned, for example, by Homer) to Zygouries (a prehistoric settlement between Corinth and Mycenae). There are over 5000 articles, altogether, each one written by a recognized expert in the field. And each includes a bibliography. The final volume is one big index. Altogether the encyclopedia is 7492 pages. It includes hundreds of photographs, figures, and maps. There will also be an online version, that will be updated as need demands, so that the work will not be antiquated.
Some of the long entries for Christianity were: Apocrypha, Apologists, Constantine, Creeds, Eusebius, Heresiology, Jesus (of course!), Monasticism, Pauline Epistles, Trinity; some of the very short ones were: Acts of Andrew, Ascension of Andrew, Bardesanes, Deisidaimonia (= superstition), Letter to Diognetus, Serapion of Thmuis. Most were between these in length: e.g., Allegory, Apocalypses, Clement of Alexandria, Ebionites, Gospel of John, Muratorian Fragment, Pseudo-Clementines, Valentinus, and and and.
The contributors in early Christianity included some of the top scholars in the world; but also some younger scholars who are top-rate.
So, this may not be a tool that will be sitting on your shelf any time soon. (Tho possibly on your screen) It was an unreasonable amount of work to produce, but it is one of those reference tools that will serve an entire generation – and more, since it will be continuously updated.