In the third century BC, Ptolemy II Philadelphus is said (untruly, it seems) to have convoked seventy-two learned Jews on the island of Pharos and sequestered them until they had translated the Hebrew scriptures into a seamless Greek version. In The Classical Tradition, a troika of editors have played the Ptolemy part. Something approaching 500 scholars have been summoned to furnish a damned thick book on the subject of Greece and Rome down the centuries. The contributors are from all over the academic world, with a disproportionate number, of high quality, from Pisa, where two of the editors have tenure. Anthony Grafton, now professor of history at Princeton, presides over the Anglo-Saxons and their allies.
Seamlessness cannot have been the first objective. Eclectic rather than exhaustive, the compendium is less an encyclopaedia than a buffet, in alphabetical order, of topics and glosses. There is, fortunately, no ideological consistency or purpose. The harvesting academics bring home a bumper crop to remind and instruct the