eReviews | October 15, 2012

Ancient and Medieval History Online
Facts On File

Content Facts On File provides here a comprehensive and comparative view of pre-modern world coverage of nine civilizations—ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome; the ancient Americas; ancient and medieval Africa and Asia; medieval Europe; and the Islamic Empire. Covering from 5000 BCE through the 1500s, the database features a user-friendly interface with thousands of linked entries on events, people, and primary-source documents. Biography entries cover from Roman generals and advisers during the time of Marc Antony and Queen Cleopatra to Japanese warriors and military leaders in the 1500s. Entries in the section entitled “Events and Topics” describe, for example, ancient evidence of acupuncture, Chinese dynasties, ancient Roman circuses, the assassination of Claudius, civil wars, lost cities, and adultery during the Middle Ages. The primary-source documents include agreements and treaties, laws and other legal writings, and decrees and orations, with excerpts and full-text items such as the Code of Hammurabi, the Edict of Milan, Plato’s Apology, and the Magna Carta. Time line entries include pieces from the publisher’s Dictators and Tyrants: Absolute Rulers and Would-Be Rulers in World History and Encyclopedia of World History. Historical images and videos come from Corbis, the Library of Congress, and the Films Media Group; and maps and charts depict, for example, “Major Christian Pilgrimage Routes,” “Popes During the Middle Ages,” “Religions of Europe,” and “Christian Persecutions of Jews in Europe, ca. 1200–1500.”

The material comes from Facts On File works such as A to Z of Ancient Greek and Roman Women, Dictionary of Roman Religion, Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World, Encyclopedia of Society and Culture in the Medieval World, and the “World Leaders Past and Present” series.

The welcome screen features an “Editor’s Selection of the Month,” (when we visited the site a lengthy biography of Genghis Khan, first ruler of the Mongol Empire), as well as a “Focus on History through Video” section, with a varying array from the database’s 130-plus videos.

Usability As with other Facts On File history databases, content is organized via “Topic Centers,” a group of specially selected entries arranged by time period and civilization areas to help users find a starting point for their research. These entries—specifically chosen to provide a broad, inclusive look at an era or a demographic group—include the above-mentioned overview essays, primary sources, etc.

Users can begin their research either by conducting basic or advanced searches across all content, browsing through the nine main categories (each allows for further refinement by topic and time period), and/or by checking the “Topic Center Index” to get an overview of the subject matter. To help users further refine a topic, Biography Browse includes narrowing by occupation (e.g., archaeologists, scientists, engineers, and inventors) and the Primary Sources category is divided into 21 types (agreements and treaties, funerary texts, etc.).

A basic search for “Olympic games” retrieved 89 records. Search results display in tabbed form, with options for All, Biographies, Events & Topics, Primary Sources, Images and Videos, and Maps and Charts. A sampling of items included a comprehensive biography of Pindar (Greek: Pindaros), a Greek lyric poet best known for his victory odes; the full text of Cicero’s “The Best Kind of Orator”; a lengthy article titled “Olympic Games,” with an extensive list of further-reading suggestions; and a two-and-a-half-minute video, “Ancient Greek Gymnasiums and the Olympics,” which discusses how competition in games honored the gods and why the Olympics become corrupt in the sixth century BCE. Once an entry is selected, related entries display in a sidebar to help users to continue exploring and fine-tuning their research.

As mentioned, the Topic Centers Index is an excellent forum for getting a feel for the content. Editors have handpicked the entries from all document types to provide a broad, inclusive look in an era- or a culture-at-a-glance arrangement. We began with “Ancient Rome: 800 BCE to 500 CE” and were presented with an assortment of records, starting with a brief listing of keywords relating to the topic (Julius Caesar, the Colosseum, the age of Augustus, Roman legions, gladiators and games, Nero, the First Triumvirate, etc.). A dozen overview essays with titles such as “Art in Ancient Rome” and “Laws and Legal Codes in Ancient Rome” were helpful for some context; important events listed included the Battle of Actium; the Jewish Revolt, 66 CE–73 CE (the Jewish rebels were crushed); the assassination of Julius Caesar; Res Gestae Divi Augusti, also known as Monumentum Ancyranum or Deeds of Augustus, and described as “a record of the achievements of the emperor Augustus, written in the first person”; and people entries on Attila the Hun and Pompey the Great.

Export options include save, email, and print. Creating a personal account allows users to save items to a personal folder for use during future sessions. Records have a persistent URL and full citations are available, with “how to cite” information for Chicago, MLA, and APA styles.

All navigation and search modes are available throughout the session via the top menu bar, as is access to a dictionary (The Facts On File Student’s Dictionary of American English), search history, and cross-searching of other Facts On File history databases to which the library is subscribed.

Pricing The database starts at $410 for schools with up to 500 students, $650 for public libraries with fewer than 15,000 cardholders, and $500 for colleges with fewer than 500 FTE. All prices are for unlimited usage within the institution and include remote access privileges. Free, 30-day trials are available.

End users This excellent resource offers a comprehensive view of the world in ancient and medieval times, within an uncomplicated interface. Users can research a particular civilization in depth or use the browse feature to conduct comparative studies of events and developments across civilizations. We appreciated the keywords at the beginning of each topic center and the specially selected entries with overview essays describing key cultural topics on different areas of interest. The organization scheme offers novices a starting point for their research while advanced search—with exact phrase and limiting features—allows those who are in the know to locate specific primary-source documents quickly.

World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras
ABC-CLIO

Content One of 13 Academic Edition resources from ABC-CLIO, World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras covers a broad swath of history starting more than four million years ago with a look at the early humans of the Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods and progressing to the dawn of the Renaissance. While this column focuses on the databases’s ancient Greece and ancient Rome portions, World History is global in its scope and organized into 11 historical “Era” sections, including “Prehistory, Beginnings to 1000 B.C. Egypt”; “The Byzantine Empire and Russia, A.D. 300-1500”; “The Islamic World, A.D. 600-1500”; “Africa, 3000 B.C.-A.D. 1500”; “The Americas, 3000 B.C.-A.D. 1500”; and “Medieval Europe, A.D. 500-1500.”

The section called “Ancient Greece, 2000-30 B.C.” begins with “The Early Aegean Age” (subdivided into “Mycenaean Culture: Warriors, Heroes, and Glory” and “The Minoans of Crete”), “The Classical Age” (featuring “Athens and Sparta” along with “Classical Style in Art and Sculpture”), and “The Hellenistic Age” (covering “Alexander’s Legacy” plus “Hellenistic Rule in Egypt”). Similarly, coverage in “Ancient Rome, 1000 B.C.-A.D. 500” is organized into “The Roman Republic,” “The Height of the Roman Empire,” and “The Decline and Fall of Rome,” each of which has subdivisions on, for example, the Pax Romana and the Roman army. Each era has a selection of overview essays summarizing key historical and cultural events of the period.

The database’s 1,697 articles devoted to ancient Greece and ancient Rome include 44 essays, accounts of 30 significant events, and 176 individual biographies. There are 41 entries on groups and organizations plus two dozen on ideas and movements. The inclusion of primary-source documents—among them 42 cultural documents by Aristotle, Plato, Hippocrates, Plutarch, and a couple of orations—makes the database more than just a straightforward reference tool.

Some 1,051 images, 17 maps, and seven videos further enhance the coverage of the civilizations, and a modest-sized glossary-search feature will help students to understand the terminology. Each era also has its own time line.

World History’s most distinctive feature is its “Idea Exchange,” which showcases scholarly debate on a range of “enduring” questions such as “Was It the Intent of Alexander the Great to Bring Greek Culture to the East Through Conquest?”, “Could the Roman Empire Have Been Restored After the Assassination of Julius Caesar?”, and “Does Nero Deserve His Reputation as a Bad Roman Emperor?” The questions are intended to be provocative, and each elicits several rigorously argued responses from the scholarly experts on the database’s advisory board. These are not just clever little blog posts, either, but substantial analyses that students might cite in their own research papers. “Harmony Amid Carnage: Alexander in the East” by Matthew Trundle (Classics, Greek, and Latin, Victoria Univ. of Wellington, New Zealand), for example, runs more than 3600 words and includes 45 footnotes.

Entries are updated on an ongoing basis with new content routinely added throughout the subscription year.

Usability World History’s handsome but straightforward interface permits casual visitors to begin by exploring the featured era displayed on the main page. Alternatively, researchers can get right down to business by keying in basic search terms, entering the “Eras” or “Idea Exchange” areas of the resource directly, or navigating to
advanced search.

Highlighted terms appearing throughout the text of each entry are hyperlinked to the database, so making connections throughout the resource is virtually effortless. Users also have ready access to additional entries—articles, media, primary-source documents—that complement a section’s main overview essay, putting that section into a much richer context than a simple, stand-alone entry can present.

Coupled with the dozen or so overview essays are a number of discussion questions such as, “Looking at emperors Augustus and Marcus Aurelius as examples, it appears that absolute rulers are needed to maintain peace and promote prosperity. Do you think that is true?”

Advanced search permits queries by seven format-related categories, the 11 historical eras, dozens of states, and ten regions, using any combination of check boxes. Keywords may be incorporated into the search strategy for additional precision. Checking “Articles” under “Categories” and “Ancient Rome” under “Eras” and typing in the keyword “assassination,” for example, produced 47 hits. Preliminary results may be easily filtered by checking additional format-related categories after the results are displayed.

Users may tailor their search strategies by using Boolean operators (AND, OR) to narrow or expand a search or by using quotation marks to find exact phrases. Keywords are automatically truncated.

Entries may be easily printed or emailed, or cited (using APA, Chicago, or MLA style), and then exported to RefWorks or EasyBib.

For libraries with multiple subscriptions, Academic Edition databases are cross-searchable in any combination.

Pricing ABC-CLIO pricing varies depending on the type of institution and is based on FTE. A one-year subscription to World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras starts at $659. Free 60-day trials are available.

End users This resource gives fresh life to valuable reference content from ABC-CLIO and Greenwood Publishing. More importantly, it provides college students with a starting point from which to launch a research project on the history, prominent figures, movements, and key concepts of ancient Greece, ancient Rome, and other eras up to the beginning of the Renaissance. By wrapping the results of each search in much deeper historical context, the database stimulates a far broader appreciation of historical events.

The discussion questions associated with each overview highlight the resource’s value as a teaching tool, and finally, the inclusion of in-depth scholarly dialog effectively conveys the notion that history is not just an accumulation of ancient facts but a complex account of human interaction that will always be subject to interpretation and
re-interpretation.

New Pauly Online; New Pauly Supplements Online Brill

Content Hailed as “the unrivalled modern reference work for the ancient world,” New Pauly Online features the complete sets of both “Brill’s New Pauly” and Metzler’s “Der Neue Pauly,” published by Verlag J.B. Metzler in 1996. With nearly 20,000 entries, this resource provides authoritative coverage of the ancient world, from the prehistory of the Aegean to late antiquity, with a special section devoted to the history of the Classical tradition and the history of Classical scholarship. Coverage also includes the Ancient Near East and Egypt and the end of the Byzantine Empire and the Germanic kingdoms.

New Pauly Online presents current scholarship in Classical studies, including new areas of research, and brings together scholars from all over the world. Fifteen volumes (Antiquity, 1-15) cover more than 2000 years of history, ranging from the second millennium B.C. to early medieval Europe. Special emphasis is given to the interactions among Greco-Roman culture and Semitic, Celtic, Germanic, and Slavonic cultures; ancient Judaism; Christianity; and Islam. Five volumes (Classical Tradition, I-V) detail the influence of ancient heritage including the history of Classical scholarship from the Middle Ages to the present day. This separate section includes extensive scholarly articles, many illustrated with maps, site plans, genealogical tables, and photographs. The English edition (there is also a German one) also includes updated bibliographic references.

Entries are fully cross-referenced with hyperlinks and offer basic information with names, places, dates, and objects. Cross references include entries from other Brill Online reference titles.

Brill’s New Pauly Supplements Online, which will include six major reference works when complete, is also available to researchers on the Brill Online Reference Works platform. Currently four titles are accessible, with Volumes 5 and 6 scheduled for late 2012 and 2013:

Supplements 1 consists of:

Volume 1: Chronologies of the Ancient World: Names, Dates, and Dynasties lists names, dates, and facts about people who shaped the ancient world, from Mesopotamian kings to the bishops and patriarchs of late antiquity.

Volume 2: Dictionary of Greek and Latin Authors and Texts provides an overview of authors and major works of Greek and Latin literature and the history of their written works from late antiquity to the present.

Volume 3: Historical Atlas of the Ancient Worlds illustrates political, economic, social, and cultural developments from the 3rd millennium B.C. until the 15th century A.D. The atlas includes high quality downloadable maps.

Volume 4: The Reception of Myth and Mythology presents articles that discuss the myths of Greece and Rome and their influence on European literature, music, and art throughout the centuries.

Volume 5: The Reception of Classical Literature (forthcoming).

Volume 6: The History of Classical Scholarship (forthcoming).

New Pauly Online includes dual language editions and users can easily switch between the two. The resource is automatically updated as a new print volumes are published and includes open URL functionality.

Usability Users can browse through the alphabetical index of the encyclopedia in either English or German or opt for the basic or advanced search modes. Entries are arranged alphabetically and, when applicable, listed in chronological order. In the case of alternative forms or subentries, cross-references link to the main entry. Most articles have bibliographies, consisting of numbered and/or alphabetically organized references.

We started with an alphabetical browse for the term “Caesar.” Hits in the brief browse list include word count, some content, and source (varying in cases where a search across all content was performed). Selecting a title retrieves the full entry. A useful table of contents box helped us to jump quickly to “Historical,” “Literary,” and “Historical Influence” sections of a 6000-word article we unearthed. Linked cross-references are numerous and we previewed additional articles on Pompeius, Apollonius, and Spartacus. Using the language-version link allows switching to the original German material (and back). “See also” links at the top of the article afford access to related entries and sometimes to other Brill reference titles. We browsed related terms including entries about Cornelius and Caecilius and an informative article entitled “Roman Empire in the Civil War.” A green box (or the lack thereof) next to an entry clearly lets users know whether or not they have full access to the desired content.

Search options allow users to limit to New Pauly and any other subscribed title, and/or search across all titles. Results are sorted by relevance, and a “Modify Search” option links to advanced search, where users can refine and limit for further specificity.

Personal registration options allow users to label or “star” search results and articles for later use, create search alerts, save search results, print, and export to RefWorks or Endnote citation software.

It is suggested that users download the BrillOnline font from the brill.nl website, which includes all special characters such as accented letters and non-Roman writing systems included in the encyclopedia.

Pricing New Pauly and Supplements Online are available for subscription or purchase and discounts are based on additional Brill subscriptions (or purchases). New Pauly starts at $1720 for a subscription and may be purchased for $10,280. Supplements Online start at $320 for a subscription and may be purchased for $2170. In addition, researchers have the opportunity to purchase full access to all 23 Brill Online Reference Works for periods ranging from one day ($9.95) to 30 days ($49.95).


End users
The comprehensive New Pauly Online is of great value not only to students and scholars of the ancient world, but also to those interested in interdisciplinary studies surrounding history, philosophy and religion, literature, and the history of art and architecture. The unique dual-language option is a plus—especially given the ease with which users can toggle back and forth between the two. Searches can be done in subscribed content only, or across all reference titles to broaden the context and access to scholarly content. Additional access to New Pauly Supplements Online greatly expands the context of the encyclopedia volumes and offers material that can be utilized as independent
reference titles.

Lectrix: Ancient Classics in a New Light
Cambridge University Press

Content Designed to give both students and scholars a means of engaging more completely and effectively with the classic works of a select group of ancient Greek and Roman poets, philosophers, dramatists, and orators, Lectrix couples eight classic texts with commentaries and a useful mix of study tools. The result of a collaborative effort between Cambridge University Press and the University’s Faculty of Classics, the resource is updated regularly.

The Greek texts represented in the database include selections from Lysias’s Orations plus complete editions of Plato’s Ion, Sophocles’s Antigone, and Medea by Euripides. The Latin texts are Cicero’s orations Catilinarians I-II, Book IX of Virgil’s Aeneid, a selection from Heroides by Ovid, and The Tale of Cupid and Psyche by Apuleius.

There are two levels of commentary. The basic level was written specifically for Lectrix, while the more advanced commentary comes from the corresponding volume of the publisher’s acclaimed “Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics” series. Geared toward undergraduate and graduate students, the series focuses on the texts as literary works, while offering guidance on Greek and Latin syntax and grammar. They are also substantial scholarly efforts—Euripides: Medea, edited by Donald J. Mastronarde, runs well over 400 pages in its print edition and includes an introduction to the dramatist’s life and work; a discussion of the play’s structure, themes, and problems; production notes; notes on Neophron’s version of the play (which was arguably a source for the Euripides work); the complete Greek text; line-by-line commentary; and a 19-page bibliography.

A dictionary, a grammatical parser, an assortment of background materials on grammar and context, and a newly commissioned English-language translation complement the texts themselves. Together with the commentaries, these tools present new opportunities for teaching, studying, and analyzing the classic texts.

Usability The workmanlike Lectrix homepage describes the resource generally and briefly introduces the editions of the texts (and commentaries) that are included. The frame on the right side of the screen provides links to each of the eight Latin and Greek texts, as well as to Greek and Latin dictionaries, a list of frequently asked questions, and the contact information for the resource.

Selecting a link to one of the texts included in the library’s subscription takes users to a page where the content of the text is conveniently organized into sections of the work or ranges of line numbers. Clicking one of these sections brings up that portion of the text in the main window and offers three additional pop-ups for the basic commentary as well as for the dictionary and the grammatical parser. Clicking the highlighted section number at the start of the block of text brings up a summary of that section, which is a very welcome feature.

Clicking on words from either the text or the commentary activates all three windows, while the advanced version of the commentary may be viewed (in a separate window) by selecting the “Open scholarly commentary” option after right-clicking in the top border of the basic Commentary window. There is nothing on the screen, however, to alert users that this feature exists, so thorough training or reliance on the Help screens is necessary to take advantage of the full complement of Lectrix capabilities.

Students or scholars who would like to consult an English-language translation side by side with the original Greek or Latin text can view one by right-clicking on the top of the text window. Lectrix also offers other controls that enable users to manage their experience with the resource. It’s possible to hide linguistic, stylistic, or historical notes in the basic commentary, as well as repetitive notes, via a pull-down menu. Alternatively, users can have the program detect and highlight words in the main text window that have corresponding commentary. Finally, those who don’t need the various windows or find them to be a distraction may close them by clicking on the red cross in the top right corner of the window’s border.

Pricing Lectrix is available as an annual subscription with tiered pricing based on an institution’s FTE level. Free 30-day trials and an online guided tour are available to prospective institutional subscribers.

End users Lectrix: Ancient Classics in a New Light was initially developed within the Faculty of Classics at the University of Cambridge for students in Greek and Latin courses who have begun to grasp the basics of grammar and vocabulary and are now starting to explore the classic texts. Lectrix—with its array of valuable tools for enhancing the learning experience—gives students an integrated and engaging resource for studying on their own and provides language faculty with a fairly dramatic teaching tool for classroom lectures, presentations, and exercises. The limited number of texts currently available may be a drawback if they don’t match up with institutional or curricular needs.

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About Bruce Connolly & Gail Golderman

Gail Golderman (goldermg@union.edu) is Electronic Resources Librarian and Bruce Connolly (connollb@union.edu) is Reference & Bibliographic Instruction Librarian, Schaffer Library, Union College, Schenectady, NY

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