The main aim of the Inventory of Ancient Associations is to document the private associations of the Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman worlds (ca. 500 BC to ca. AD 300) in an analytical and critical manner. The purpose is to stimulate research, debate, and discussion on this fast–evolving scholarly subject, not to provide definite answers or strait jackets to it. For this reason, an online database—rather than a soon out–dated printed publication—represented the best tool for the task: updates and global searches are the main advantages of the Inventory.

The geographical area covered extends from the Central Mediterranean to the Near East (see Geography). The Inventory collects and records in a standardized manner (see Structure), following a specific set of analytical criteria, all known attestations of private associations from this area and these periods, including languages other than Greek (e.g. Demotic Egyptian and Aramaic). The Inventory is a database of private associations, not of texts.

The term 'private' is a debated one: although certainly not ideal, it seemed the best option to generally define the phenomenon of non–state groups (i.e. groups other than civic subdivisions) under investigation. A useful discussion on the subject is the Introduction by V. Gabrielsen and C. A. Thomsen to the volume Private Associations and the Public Sphere. Proceedings of a Symposium held at the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, 9-11 September 2010, Copenhagen 2015.

The editorial board of the Inventory was formed by the main members of the Copenhagen Associations Project: Vincent Gabrielsen (Project Director), Jan-Mathieu Carbon, Annelies Cazemier, Mario C. D. Paganini, and Stella Skaltsa (see About). Several international collaborators generously contributed to the compilation of the Inventory (see Acknowledgements). Although following the relevant guidelines by the editorial board during the process of recording the relevant material, each contributor had absolute freedom in their scientific choices of the treatment of the material: the final selection remained at the judgment of each individual contributor.

The electronic database is fully accessible (see Practical Help and Terms of Use) and will continue to be regularly updated: it should be constantly considered a 'work in progress'. Despite the best efforts to the contrary and because of the collegial nature of the Inventory, some internal inconsistences will regrettably be present.

The work should be cited as: The Inventory of Ancient Associations. The suggested way of referring to the content of each entry in the database is by its unique ID alongside the name of the author, according to the following example: CAPInv. 10 (Gabrielsen).

For comments, queries, and feedback feel free to contact the Editors.

For a rich and useful online collection of texts and sources in translation relating to associations, guilds, immigrant groups, and mysteries initiates see the website Associations in the Greco–Roman World by P. Harland.