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A guide to Classics

Citing Ancient Works

Citations of ancient works usually begin with the author's name (sometimes abbreviated), followed by a short title, usually in italics. (The title may be omitted in cases where only one work by an author is known.) This is followed by a sequence of numbers and/or letters that indicate the specific subdivisions of the work. Arabic numerals tend to be favoured in recent publications, but older citations often use Latin numerals as well. The subdivision of works varies. Book, chapter, section and/or line numbers are often provided. Some works are cited by page numbers of standard, or once-standard, editions. Scholarly editions of these texts will be subdivided by these schemes, as will many translations. 

Abbreviations should be taken from an authoritative source such as The Oxford Classical Dictionary. You should also provide bibliographic details of the edition and/or translation of the work you are using: generally when the work first appears in your notes and in your bibliography.

Sources for Ancient Authors and Works

Sources for Early Christian and Byzantine Authors and Works

Other citation tips:

  • Square brackets around an author's name indicates doubt regarding authorship, as in those texts traditionally attributed to an author but now recognized as being pseudepigraphic (e.g., [Virgil] Ciris)
  • A modern name or initials following a citation usually refers to the editor and/or translator of the edition
  • A numerical superscript following a title indicates its edition
  • An equal sign (=) between references refers to multiple systems of reference and/or indicates that the text can be found in both sources

This page has been adapted with thanks from Colin McCaffrey's online Classics Guide at Yale University Library.