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Reference Query for an English Major

October 26, 2010

In the interests of giving a behind-the-scenes view of things I do while wearing my Classics Librarian hat, I thought I’d recount a recent reference question that came to me and for which my Classics expertise was useful.

A librarian colleague who had done a teaching session with an English class forwarded the following student email to me:

I’m one of the students [Dr. X] brought in the other day, and I have a question he said you might be able to help me with. In a paper written by A. H. M. Jones, he gives a summary of something the ancient Greek teacher Libanius said. His only reference to where he got it from was “Lib[anius], Or[atio], xxxi, I I.”. I was wondering if you knew of someplace I could find an English version of the original Greek writing so that I could read it for myself.

After about 10 minutes, I was able to reply:

Antioch as a Centre of Hellenic Culture as Observed by Libanius (link is to UGA catalog record) has an extended discussion of Oration 31 as well as a translation.  The passage the student wants is probably on p. 70/71.

How did I get there?  Here were my steps (remember, I have almost no print collection in the same building as my office, so I always turn first to the internet):

  1. Checked Wikipedia entry on Libanius to see what exactly he wrote and what the standard terminology is for it (Orations are different from Declamations, it turns out!)  Confirmed the citation probably meant Oration number 31, chapter 1, line 1.
  2. Checked Perseus.  No Libanius.
  3. Checked Loeb Classical Library web site to see what was contained in their volume of Libanius’ Orations.  Answer: not number 31.
  4. Googled “Libanius Oration 31“.  Came up with the book linked above, but landed on the discussion, so I didn’t realize there was a translation, too.
  5. Searched GILFind on author Libanius.  Came up with same book, hmm.  Noticed that Library of Congress subject headings mention ” translations into English.”
  6. Went back to the Google Books result and looked more carefully, and yup, there was a translation, although the relevant pages were not available in the preview.

What would you have done differently?  Did anything I did surprise you?  Did I do anything “wrong”? (Is there a “wrong”?)

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