Brown cover

R.M. Sheldon (ed.)

Espionage in the Ancient World: An Annotated Bibliography

(Jefferson, North Carolina and London: McFarland, 2003). 232pp. ISBN 0786413654.

It is a rather complex task to review an annotated bibliography. Two things usually come to mind when such a text appears in print: the accuracy of the annotations for each bibliographical entry and the extent of comprehensiveness of the entries. Espionage in the Ancient World is both meticulous in its annotations and thorough in range. As noted in Dr. Thomas-Durrell Young's foreword to this text, this extensive and fairly exhaustive compilation will allow "scholars from the classics, history . . . politics and security studies . . . and intelligence studies themselves" to "benefit from this work being made available for reference." (1) Sheldon has amassed scholarship (mostly secondary sources) published over the last two centuries in the disciplines of classical studies, ancient history, military history, and intelligence history. All the items were written in the major European languages. This text not only does a masterful job at bringing together and commenting on 839 academic works, but also makes quite clear that "intelligence activities, however primitive, were an integral part of every army and every empire." (5) Moreover, this book makes a very laudable attempt to draw together those disciplines noted above that at times have been hostile toward each other. The glossary itself makes this book valuable with its entries and explanations on agentes in rebus, angaroi, beneficiarii consularis, curiosi, the cursus publicus, delatores, exporatores, frumentarii, the Logothete of the Drome, the magister officiorum, notarii, the regendarius, the Sator Rebus, the scytale, speculatores, sycophants, tabellarii, "tradecraft", and veredarii.

In addition to acknowledgments, a foreword, preface, introduction, glossary, and an index, the text has twelve divisions:

A good number of the annotations are cross listed and many entries on books contain citations that refer the reader to reviews of the published works. Sheldon has also supplied the locations of the some books that may be found in one library only. This is a very systematic and conscientious assemblage of information.

The book has minimal errors. On the third paragraph of page eighteen a capital letter L is used where a lowercase should be used ("This nook is promised as a prolegomenon to a much Larger work...). In entry 112 Eric H. Cline's The Battles of Armagedon is not properly cited (the year of publication is 2000). On page seventy-three, line thirteen, reference is made to section IX, but Sheldon has not divided the book into numbered sections. On page ninety-five, line sixteen, the word existence is misspelled. William G. Sinnigen's "Two Branches of the Late Roman Secret Service" (American Journal of Philology 80 [1959] pp. 238-54) is listed twice as entries 460 and 466. Lastly, in entry 635 the closing parenthesis is a bracket and the parenthetical information seems to be out of place.

Notwithstanding these minor oversights, this book belongs in the library of anyone who is interested in this fascinating topic. The vast amounts of data collected and interpreted for the reader make this an indispensable and requisite text for anyone conducting research or study in this area. It is to be hoped that Sheldon will one day publish a companion volume on Chinese, Japanese, or Indian sources.

Edmund P. Cueva

Xavier University <>

Page Added: June 2005