skip to primary navigationskip to content

Bibliographical directions: ancient period

Serafina Cuomo

The first question you may ask yourself is: what do I work on? My suggestion is that you read G.E.R. Lloyd's two slim volumes on Early Greek Science and Greek Science After Aristotle, and/or that you speak to one of the people in the Department who work in the field. The second question is usually: do I need to have Greek and Latin? The good news is, many things have been translated, so you can definitely find something that suits your linguistic abilities (and that means yes, you too, English monolinguists). Once again, my suggestion is that you speak to our friendly staff. As for the third question, why should you work on ancient science, take it as a challenge, or as your starting point. Wherever you want to go, it is a good idea to start at the beginning.

Once you have decided your topic, you will probably find that it is about an author, or a text, or a general topic. If you are dealing with a specific author, you can start drawing up a bibliography with the help of some standard reference tools. A wealth of basic facts is contained in the Real-Enkyclopädie Pauly-Wissowa (PW), which is NB entirely written in German and also considerably out of date, but important to find out e.g. what ancient authors mention your author. Fundamental for secondary literature is the Année Philologique, published every year. All that is published on the classical world, from prehistory to the 6th century A.D., from religion to mining, is supposed to have an entry in it. The Année has an alphabetical list of authors and subjects, and a short summary of most entries. Both the PW and the Année are in the UL Reading Room. Since the Année is rather slow in getting on the shelves, a good idea to find out about newer contributions in your field of interest is to check the Italian journal Elenchos and/or the German journal Gnomon (UL or Classics Faculty), which have a list of recent publications (books and articles) at the end of each issue. You will also find useful material in the Isis bibliography and in the Dictionary of Scientific Biography. It is also a good idea (and this especially if you are not doing author- or text-based research) to browse through the bibliography of any recent publications in fields vaguely related to yours. Classicists are conscientious people, and often feel obliged to mention much more than what is strictly relevant to their topic.

The following is a list of some of the most obvious 'big' authors in the field, with indication of English translations where available.


Pre-Socratics Diels-Kranz, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, several reprints; G. Colli, La sapienza greca, 1978 Partial in Kirk, Raven, & Schofield, The Presocratic Philosophers, 1983 (2nd ed.)
Plato & Aristotle Too numerous to mention (Oxford, Teubner, Belles Lettres) Ditto, but be suspicious (the Loeb collection, small volumes in green and red in the UL reading room and Classics, has text and translation)
Hellenistic Philosophers Good annotated selection in Long & Sedley, The Hellenistic Philosophers, 2 vols, 1987. Some in the Loeb (Epictetus, some Epicurus, Seneca, Lucretius...). Again Long & Sedley.
Others (NeoPlatonists, Aristotle's commentators)   Check the reference tools I have listed above


Euclid Teubner T.L. Heath for the Elements, 1926, 2nd ed.; Berggreen for the Phaenomena, 1996
Archimedes Teubner, Belles Lettres T.L. Heath, 1953 (unfortunately, the mathematics is also 'translated' in modern notation)
Apollonius Teubner, Belles Lettres + Conica V–VII ed. Toomer, Springer (in Arabic, with English transl.) T.L. Heath, 1961
Vitruvius Teubner, Belles Lettres Loeb
Heron Teubner + Belopoietica in E. Marsden, Greek and Roman Artillery: Technical Treatises, 1971 Mechanica is transl. by A. Drachmann, The Mechanical Technology of Greek and Roman Antiquity; Belopoietica by Marsden, cit.; Pneumatica by J. Gouge Greenwood 1851, repr. 1971; Automata by S. Murphy in History of Technology 17 (1995), 1–44
Ptolemy Teubner Toomer for the Almagest; 1984; the Loeb for the Tetrabiblos, 1980 (repr.)
Diophantus Teubner, Belles Lettres T.L. Heath, 1964
Pappus F. Hultsch edited the Collectio; A. Rome the Commentary on Ptolemy; G. Junge the Commentary on Euclid's book 10 (in Arabic) Book 7 of the Collectio is translated by A. Jones, 1987; the Commentary on Euclid comes with an English translation
Proclus (Commentary on Euclid's Elements I) Teubner V. Morrow, 1970

Now, of course, Greek science isn't all about 'names', big or otherwise. If you want to start from a 'theme', among the most recent publications are: on astrology, T. Barton, Ancient Astrology 1994; on architecture J.C. Anderson Jr., Roman Architecture and Society, 1997; on agriculture S. Isager, Ancient Greek Agriculture 1992; on land-surveying O.A.W. Dilke, The Roman Land Surveyors 1971, or, if you read French, G. Chouquer & F. Favory, Les arpenteurs romains. Théorie et pratique 1992.

All these books contain further bibliography, including references to primary sources.