What I'd like to do is to cite classical works. For example, to cite Aristotle's Metaphyisic according to the Bekker's cannonical edition. How could I do this using biblatex with author-year style?

  • 1
    Could you explain what is lacking in just using the book entry and adding appropriate information?
    – Joseph Wright
    Oct 12, 2011 at 5:45
  • 1
    What is the technical difference of citing a classical work and any other work? If you want to add information about the original work there's the bib entry data fields origlanguage, origlocation, origpublisher and orgititle but none of them is used by the standard bibliography styles.
    – N.N.
    Oct 12, 2011 at 5:58
  • 4
    Note that you can use the shorthand field for abbreviated citations.
    – domwass
    Oct 12, 2011 at 6:41
  • Are you looking for something like upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/41/Bekker_1831_page184.jpg
    – yannisl
    Oct 12, 2011 at 8:08

4 Answers 4


You can use the biblatex-package called archaeologie which differentiates between ancient and modern authors. See version 2.0 with the complete documentation in English.

  author =        {Aristotle},
  title = {Metaphysics}, 
  origdate =     {1924},
  date =         {1997},
  origlanguage = {greek},
  editor =       {Ross, W. D.},
  origpublisher = {Oxford University Press},
  publisher =    {Sandpiper Books},
  origlocation =     {Oxford},
  location = {Newton Abbot},
  shorthand = {Aristot. Met.},
  options = {ancient},  
\usepackage[                    %% use  for bibliography
style = archaeologie,

The advantage is that you can use the normal cite-commands:


Without any further options of archaeologie in the preamble the bibliography looks like this:



In my experience citing medieval and classical texts, the most flexible approach --- given that different journals and publishers have different rules about citing pre-modern works --- is to create your own citation commands for these works. Biblatex is extremely flexible, but unless you are sure one shorthand will work for everything you'll ever write, it can't do the job unless you (re-)create a .bib entry for each paper or book.

For a basic paper, what I do is something like the following, given the following .bib entry:

  title =        {Aristotle: Metaphysics}, 
  origdate =     1924,
  date =         1997,
  editor =       {Ross, W. D.},
  origpublisher = {Oxford University Press},
  publisher =    {Sandpiper Books},
  location =     {Oxford},
  pubstate =     {reprint},
  volumes =      2

(Note, I treat modern editions of works as being 'authored' by the modern editor of the work since our 'critical' editions of these works are but reconstructions of what the medieval or classical author wrote. Not everyone agrees with this view, so you may want to add Aristotle in the author field.)

Now, create a custom citation command:

\newcommand{\metaphys}[1]{\emph{Met.}\@ #1\nocite{ross1924}\mancite}%



gives you: 'Met. 1048a36' along with an invisible citation of the Ross edition and a command to manually re-set biblatex's ibib-tracker.

Or be more complicated. Imagine you wanted to provide a parenthetical reference to the page number(s) of Ross's edition:

\newcommand{\metaphys}[2]{\emph{Met.}\@ #1 (#2\nocite{ross1924}\mancite)}%

Obviously, more fancy versions are possible, but think carefully about what you want: will a reference to long sections of the text be required (e.g., Met. 1067b1--1068a7)? do you want to include book and chapter information (e.g., Met. 11.11.1067b1--1068a7)? do you want the references to the 'a' and 'b' columns to be superscript? Etc., etc.

One final thought. If this is a longer project, and you plan on something like an index locorum, make sure you create the commands in such a way that you can extract the relevant information consistently from these commands. That is, if you want to provide more detailed information in the ntoes of your text than will appear in the index, make sure you break down the discrete parts of the citation into different mandatory arguments (using, say, something like \newcommand{\metaphys}[3] or however many arguments as are necessary so the indexing command can only pick up the arguments it needs).

  • Great! Thank you. But I wonder this: if I cite e.g. (Smith, 1990), I mean (Author, year), is it correct to cite (Met. 1048a36), because in that case I wouldn't respect the author-year format. I know it is not a TeX query, but it is linked to my question.
    – Gastón
    Oct 12, 2011 at 18:08
  • @Mario: a fair point. Usually these kinds of abbreviations are meant for a 'notes and bibliography' ararangement, but it is fairly common (I think) to have in-text parenthetical references, nowadays. A Journal's styleguide should tell you how it's to be done. If it's a book and the publisher doesn't have any rules, then as long as you provide a list of abbreviations, you should be OK. (Note: I'm not familiar with MLA conventions, if this is the source of your query. I presume they have conventions for citing classical works, but I have no idea what they might be.)
    – jon
    Oct 12, 2011 at 19:39
  • I appreciate very much your help. But I've realized there is a little detail I didn't mention: I'm using verbose-trad1 style and I need that the new commands to subordinate to the ibidtracker. How can I do that?
    – Gastón
    Oct 18, 2011 at 22:03
  • Are you sure you're supposed to do that? 'Ibid.' is not normally supposed to be used with classical abbreviations that use the internal/specialized form of citation (see, e.g., the Chicago Manual of Style at 17.252). However, if you need to use ibidem and the Bekker numbers, then you're going to have to use the 'shorthand' field of biblatex, and hack it some in order to make it use 'ibid.': the style you are using sensibly uses the shorthand field in the way the CMS suggests. Probably not the answer you are looking for....
    – jon
    Oct 20, 2011 at 6:13
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    @Toothrot -- No, I've only looked at the docs. But I have two 'problems' with it: (1) the mark-up is far too verbose; and (2) I'm not convinced it would be useful for medieval legal works (which are very idiosyncratic), which I cite more than classical works. However, if I worked more purely with classical works, I'd be inclined to try it out.
    – jon
    Jul 24, 2017 at 1:15

You may use the classics package to typeset Bekker pages too:

enter image description here



\Aristotle [Met.]{1048}[a]

\Aristotle [Met.]{1048}[a][36]



And this is how to use it with biblatex:


To cite a classic, you can use shorthand. Remove "pp." and "p." from a single bibliography entry with the pagination={none}. If you want to show it in the bibliography as placed within an edition or a translation, you can add a crossref to that text as well. Example:

    author = {Plato},
    title = {Republic},
    shorthand = {Resp.},
    pagination = {none},
    crossref = {edition_or_translation}

Using \parencite[514a–520a]{respublica} will provide: (Resp., 514a–520a)

  • 1
    The problem with your solution is that there still is a comma between Resp. and the cited paragraphes which is to most citation rules not correct. Aug 14, 2017 at 12:01

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