In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Athenaeus of Naucratis

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Text Transmission
  • Editions
  • Bibliographies
  • Collections of Papers
  • Author and Work
  • Cultural and Historical Context
  • Sources, Methods, and Quoting Technique
  • Athenaeus Compared with Other Authors
  • Athenaeus’s Other Works

Classics Athenaeus of Naucratis
Natalia Pedrique
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 January 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0291


During the 19th and the great part of the 20th century, scholarship was mainly interested in Athenaeus as a source for the many authors he quotes in his work. Of a lot of them we would not have any text without him. Therefore Athenaeus was and is still an important author for those working on critical editions of fragmentary texts, especially of ancient Greek comedy and historiography. Even though this traditional area remains valuable for scholarship, the development of literary studies and their new focus on texts has also influenced the examination of Athenaeus. Research work enquiring into the function of these fifteen books and the literary methods used for them opens new questions and perspectives on the quoted texts. This constitutes important progress especially for the mentioned literary genres of ancient Greek comedy and historiography. New perspectives consider Athenaeus in his historical and intellectual context. The symposial themes, the permanent focus on erudition, and the often playful tone reflected through the twenty-nine guests of the Roman host Larensis belongs to the Second Sophistic. Athenaeus’s methods of analysis can be compared with similar works of the same period, earlier or later than him, which enriches and expands our knowledge about the methodological procedure of those works. Thus Athenaeus can be related to other authors like Plutarch and Lucian with regard to methods and content. Not only for the ancient world is the study of Athenaues relevant. As we think nowadays about questions related to how we select and organize a huge amount of information and for what purposes, the fifteen books of Athenaeus’s The Deipnosophists confront us with different problems concerning the way he also manages a huge number of texts, putting them together to form a new work with the leading theme of symposial matters. However, the study of Athenaeus offers fascinating starting points for different research areas and questions.

General Overviews

For a first step into the author and his huge work, Bowie 1997 offers a quick and good overview of all the main topics. The Learned Banqueters (Olson 2006–2012) includes a short introduction by S. Douglas Olson (also cited under Translations and Commentaries). The German introduction in Friedrich and Nothers 1998–2001 (also cited under Translations and Commentaries) goes more in the direction of Bowie 1997. Desrousseaux 1956, a French edition of Books 1–2, has a quite extended introduction. Jacob 2013, a detailed introduction to the Italian translation 2001, now published in English, marks a modern perspective on studies of Athenaeus and is indispensable for those doing research on this subject. Because of the immense volume and the interwoven structure of the text, the overviews of the content of the work in Friedrich and Nothers 1998–2001 are very recommended. Maisonneuve 2007 (also cited under Structure) presents a complex overview of the dramatic structure of The Deipnosophists.

  • Bowie, E. L. 1997. Athenaeus. In Der Neue Pauly. Vol. 2. Edited by Hubert Cancik and Helmuth Schneider, 196–199. Stuttgart and Weimar, Germany: J. B. Metzler.

    Translated by L. Strehl. See also the online English version: Brill’s New Pauly. The article is a quite short, but concise introduction to the author and subject, giving first relevant titles of scholarship.

  • Desrousseaux, A. M., ed. 1956. Athénée de Naucratis. Les Deipnosophistes. Livres I et II. Budé Series. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

    Although in some points dated and apart from the standard information about author and work, the introduction has sections on text transmission and especially on the former editions and translations.

  • Friedrich, C., and T. Nothers, eds. 1998–2001. Athenaios. Das Gelehrtenmahl. 5 vols. Stuttgart: Hiersemann.

    In addition to the general introduction and the overview of the content of the fifteen books, there is a list of some special sub-items like dating of the work, genre, sources and transmission as well as editions and translation with short bibliographical comments.

  • Jacob, Christian. 2013. The web of Athenaeus. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies at Harvard Univ.

    English translation by Christian Jacob of “Ateneo, o il dedalo delle parole.” In Ateneo. I deipnosofisti. I dotti a bancetto, Vol. 1. Edited by Luciano Canfora, 11–116. Rome: Salerno Editore. Jacob presents an introduction focusing on the literary value and techniques of the work. This text together with other of Jacob’s articles has influenced the interpretative direction of studies on Athenaeus in the early 21st century.

  • Maisonneuve, C. 2007. Les Deipnosophistes d’Athénée: repères dans une structure complexe. In Athénée et les fragments d’historiens. Edited by Dominique Lenfant, 387–412. Paris: De Boccard.

    Considers the external and internal dialogue moments, naming as well the actual speaker.

  • Olson, S. Douglas, ed. 2006–2012. Athenaeus: The Learned Banqueters. 2006–2012. 8 vols. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard Univ. Press.

    Contains a compact introduction with the most important information.

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