The extent to which Melville used the classics in his own writing has only just begun to be recognized. Melville's classical allusions are, in fact, a vital element of his moral vision and of his artistic process. From his first published work to his last, Melville used classical references with knowledgeable dexterity and symbolic purpose. Individually and collectively these allusions underscore Melville's particular interests in the classics (ancient art, architecture, history, mythology, literature, and philosophy); moreover, by metaphorical application, these multivalent allusions reveal much about Melville's own political thought, about his philosophical and artistic theories, and, most importantly, about underlying meanings in the works themselves.
Much significant scholarship remains to be done in Melville studies, particularly concerning his later life when his admiration for the ancients appears to have reached its peak. Researchers are now turning fuller attention to the work Melville produced after his trip to Greece and Italy: the lecture "Statues in Rome," which he delivered in sixteen cities; the poetry, including the 500-page poem Clarel with its sophisticated and often recondite classical allusions; the volume of poetry entitled Timoleon, the last work published in Melville's lifetime; and Billy Budd, Sailor, Melville's final and most enigmatic work, exegesis of which depends, to a great extent, upon interpretation of an intricate pattern of classical allusions.
However the individual allusions and patterns of allusions in Melville's earlier works compose an equally attractive prospect for scholarship, which still has not paid full attention to the rich mines of allusions in Mardi and Moby-Dick, not to speak of Pierre or The Confidence-Man. Overall, in comparison to the attention already given Melville's biblical allusions, Melville's classicism is a little- explored field. The index should stimulate research interest in this important area of study by making Melville's references to a given topic easily accessible; at the same time the glossary should aid identification of allusions and help in the explication of many passages.
The present volume should therefore aid scholars of American Literature, especially those specialists interested in exploring the following areas of research and study: 1) Melville's general use of the classics, 2) specific references in Melville's work to ancient philosophy, art, history, literature, mythology, religion, politics, military affairs, etc., 3) Melville's view of history as seen in his . . .