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The Classical Tradition

The Classical Tradition

Edited by Anthony Grafton, Glenn W. Most, and Salvatore Settis

ISBN 9780674035720

Publication date: 10/25/2010

“A vast cabinet of curiosities.”—Stephen Greenblatt

“Eclectic rather than exhaustive, less an encyclopedia than a buffet.”—Frederic Raphael, Literary Review

How do we get from the polis to the police? Or from Odysseus’s sirens to those of an ambulance? The legacy of ancient Greece and Rome is all around us, imitated, resisted, reworked, and misunderstood. In this beautifully illustrated and encyclopedic compendium, a team of leading scholars investigates the afterlife of this rich heritage in the fields of literature, philosophy, art, architecture, history, politics, religion, and science.

From Academy to Zoology, Aristotle and the Argonauts to Pegasus and Persia, The Classical Tradition looks at facts and adages, people, places, and ideas to reveal how the Classical tradition has shaped human endeavors from government to medicine, drama to urban planning, legal theory to popular culture. At once authoritative and accessible, learned and entertaining, it illuminates the vitality of these enduring influences.


  • Over a thousand pages in length, with some five hundred articles surveying the survival, transmission, and reception of the cultures of Greek and Roman antiquity, The Classical Tradition is a low-cost Wunderkammer, a vast cabinet of curiosities… The Classical Tradition should rightly evoke…gratitude. This is a book whose long, learned, and witty essay on Rome could stand alone as a surprisingly comprehensive guide to that city’s ancient relics, but that also has time for entries on Armenian Hellenism, Hunayn ibn-Ishaāq, and Gandhara; carpe diem, deus ex machina, and the translatio imperii; the Society of Dilettanti, the Grand Tour, and Fascism. It is possible to get pleasantly lost in these pages, as in the internal courtyards of Pompeii, and not emerge for hours.

    —Stephen Greenblatt and Joseph Leo Koerner, New York Review of Books


  • Anthony Grafton is the author of The Footnote, Defenders of the Text, Forgers and Critics, and Inky Fingers, among other books. The Henry Putnam University Professor of History and the Humanities at Princeton University, he writes regularly for the New York Review of Books.
  • Glenn W. Most is Visiting Professor on the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.
  • Salvatore Settis is Professor Emeritus of the History of Classical Art and Archaeology at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa and a former Director of the Getty Museum.

Book Details

  • 1088 pages
  • 2-5/8 x 8 x 10-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press