Guide to Translations
The following list includes currently available translations of principal ancient philosophical texts, along with some brief evaluative comments. Volumes in the Loeb Classical Library have not been included here, although in some instances they may deserve consideration. A few items are listed which I have been unable to consult; these are marked with '**'. See also the index to reviews of anthologies.
Ross offers numerous section headings and sub-headings to guide the reader, and a reasonable index. Thomson has a good introduction by Barnes and a series of helpful appendixes; the text is supplemented with section headings and the volume has a good index. Irwin has a good introduction, plus detailed notes and glossary. Crisp offers a good introduction and an uncluttered text, supplemented with a helpful glossary and a reasonable index. Rowe has an impressive introduction by Broadie, an uncluttered translation, a very detailed commentary, and a good index. For beginners, Ross or Thomson are best, with their section headings to guide the new reader. For more advanced readers, Irwin or Rowe are best, with full line numbers in the margins and detailed commentaries. Crisp may be best for teachers who want a text for beginners uncluttered by editorial material.
For other works by Aristotle, Oxford and Penguin offer a number of translations. See also a comparative review of Aristotle anthologies.
Sheed includes an introduction by Peter Brown, an analytic table of contents for each chapter, and an index of biblical quotations; the translation is now somewhat dated. Pine-Coffin includes only a brief introduction. Chadwick offers a good introduction, notes, and a decent index. Chadwick's edition stands out as the best of the three.
Watts offers a helpful introduction, a few notes, and a useful glossary. Walsh includes a good introduction and bibliography, detailed notes, and an index of names. Relihan has a good introduction, notes, and glossary; it also pays great attention to the poetic sections of the text. Although Relihan's edition is good, Walsh's is probably the most useful of the three.
The new Cicero translations in the Oxford World's Classics series are very good editions, all coming with detailed notes and indexes. For those who want De Finibus, Woolf and Annas offer a good edition with introduction, good notes, and decent indexes. The edition of De Officiis by Griffin and Atkins is also very good, including a wide range of helpful editorial material.
This edition is very good, with a range of supporting material assembled by Gill, including a helpful introduction. The principal alternative for those who want the complete text of the Discourses is Oldafther's Loeb edition in two volumes (making it comparatively expensive).
Latham includes a useful introduction, synopsis of the text, prose translation, and a reasonable index. Smith offers a good introduction and bibliography, a prose translation (with line numbers in the margins), notes, and a good index. Melville offers a verse translation (with line numbers in the margins), accompanied by a good introduction and bibliography, detailed notes, but no index. Melville's edition is very good but while the verse translation might appeal to some purists, it might also put off some readers whose concerns are more philosophical than literary. For those who prefer a prose version, Smith's edition is also very good.
Staniforth offers a brief introduction and a highly readable translation. Grube includes a useful introduction, notes, glossary, and guide to names. Farquharson includes a good introduction by Rutherford, detailed notes, and a selection from the correspondence with Fronto. Farquharson's edition is the best of the three.
Tredennick and Tarrant offer a good general introduction, separate introductions for each dialogue, headings and comments throughout the texts, notes, bibliography, and a brief index. They also include the complete text of the Phaedo. Gallop gives a good introduction and bibliography, detailed notes, and a reasonable index. Grube's edition has only limited editorial material but does include the death scene from the Phaedo. Reeve offers a brief introduction but detailed notes, a bibliography but no index; however, the three main texts are supplemented with the death scene from the Phaedo, Aristophanes' Clouds, and Xenophon's Apology. The best of these editions is probably Tredennick and Tarrant. However, Gallop is also good, and Reeve may be of more use if one is concerned more with the historical Socrates than simply Plato's portrait of Socrates.
Lee offers a good introduction, notes, paragraphs of commentary throughout the text, and further material in appendixes. Grube includes a brief introduction, a brief comment at the beginning of each book, and a good index. Waterfield ignores the traditional division into ten books, opting for a division into fourteen sections, and supplements the text with a substantial introduction and bibliography, regular paragraphs of commentary throughout the text, detailed notes, and the Cleitophon as an appendix. Waterfield's edition is very good, but some may find the lack references to the traditional books a drawback. For such readers, Lee's edition is probably more suitable. Unfortunately, neither of these editions has an index.
For other Platonic dialogues, Oxford, Penguin, and Hackett offer a range of translations.
Campbell offers around 40 of the 120 or so letters, with a helpful introduction and an index of names. Costa gathers together 3 of the shorter dialogues, 4 letters, plus some extracts from the Natural Questions. These are supplemented with a good introduction, notes, and index. Both of these volumes form good basic introductions to Seneca. For those who want a more substantial collection, Cooper and Procopé's larger volume will be a better choice.
Etheridge offers a selection of texts, primarily from the Outlines but also from Adversus Mathematicos; these are supplemented with a useful introduction, notes, bibliography, and index. Annas and Barnes includes a good introduction, excellent notes, bibliography, glossaries, and indexes. While both volumes have their merits, there seems little to be gained from anthologising Sextus when we already have a summary of his philosophy by him. Consequently I would suggest that Annas and Barnes' excellent edition of the Outlines forms the better textbook.
This site was created by Dr John Sellars for the PRS-LTSN, 2002.