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Our fourth seminar in the Greek Dialogues Online series is to be presented by Professor James Diggle of Cambridge University's Faculty of Classics. Publication of the new Cambridge Greek Lexicon is imminent and in his seminar, "The Cambridge Greek Lexicon - a twenty-four year odyssey" Professor Diggle highlights the main, and original, features of the Lexicon and describes the project from inception to completion - the problems, the challenges, and the successes. The seminar promises to be informative and entertaining as it affords us something of a preview of this long-awaited work.

Cavafy's exhortation to approach life with the same spirit as that shown by Odysseus as he struggled to return home from the Trojan war has certainly been answered by the team from the Faculty of Classics at Cambridge University who have compiled the new Cambridge Greek Lexicon. And at the forefront of this Herculean effort has been Editor-in-Chief, Professor James Diggle. But while Homer's protagonist strove for ten years and Hercules laboured for only 12, Prof. Diggle's journey has taken an eye-watering 24 years!

The project was initially conceived, by John Chadwick (1920–98), as a revision to Liddell and Scott's Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (1889). But as the project progressed, problems began to emerge. In a 2019 interview with William A Ross (Assistant Professor of Old Testament at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, USA) Prof Diggle described it thus:

"… it soon became clear that the plan, as originally conceived, was  problematic. The Intermediate Greek–English Lexicon was antiquated in concept and in detail, and required more than revision."

"… it was decided to widen the scope of the project, and to compile a new and independent Lexicon. This would still be of intermediate size and … would also be designed to be of interest to scholars, in so far as it would be based on a fresh reading of the Greek texts and on principles differing from those of LSJ."

This decision coincided with the untimely death of John Chadwick in 1998. In due course, Prof Diggle took charge and became Editor-in-Chief. In answer to questions posed to him for this article, he described how his role developed:

"From the beginning, I undertook to read everything that members of the editorial team produced.  There came a time when I feared that we would never reach the end - and the longer the project went on, the greater became the financial pressures. So I decided to begin writing, in addition to reading. For the past fifteen years or more I have devoted all my time to the Lexicon."

The Lexicon represents a fresh and original approach to the discipline. In the words of Professor Ross, the project "… constitutes an entirely fresh appraisal of the lexical semantics of each Greek word examined. This is a significant advance in the discipline that will furnish a major benchmark for all future Greek lexicography. Another significant aspect of this lexicon will be its use of descriptive sense distinctions, rather than the traditional (and problematic) gloss method."

So, after years of dedication and generous support from a wide range of donors (see Funding the Lexicon), the Lexicon is poised for publication which represents the fulfilment of an effort spanning half a working-lifetime for Prof Diggle. But that doesn't mean there is nothing to follow it:

"I have two projects in hand. One is a second edition of volume two of my Oxford text of Euripides, which is now all of 40 years old and is capable of substantial updating and improvement. The other is a commentary, designed for students, on the Characters of Theophrastus. I published a very heavy commentary on this work in 2004. But students need something more manageable, and I want to make it possible for them to gain access to this wonderful but demanding text."

After analysing 37,000 words and 90 authors and producing 1,500 pages, what has the work meant and how does its conclusion feel?

"I've learned a lot about lexicography, and a lot of Greek. How do I feel now that we've reached the end? Exhausted, relieved that we got there, and pleased with what we achieved."

Professor Diggle will present the Lexicon and describe the monumental effort behind it in out next Greek Dialogues Online entitled "The Cambridge Greek Lexicon - a twenty-four year odyssey." It takes place on Monday 15th March 2021 at 18:30h GMT. Access details can be found on the Event Page.

William Ross's insightful interview can be found at The Cambridge Greek Lexicon: An Interview With Prof. James Diggle. See also his interesting article published three years earlier at The Cambridge Greek Lexicon.

Full details of the project can be found on the Faculty of Classics website: Cambridge Greek Lexicon.