None of today’s quotes from Publius are doing it for me. So I’ll let you know what I’ve been reading.
Mythology, by Edith Hamilton, is an excellent one-volume review of the ancient Greek, Roman, and Norse myths. It draws upon a vast array of sources, including Greek writers Homer and the tragedians like Euripides, and the later Roman writers including Ovid. Ovid in particular was known for his flourish and rich descriptions.
The book starts with a summary of the major and minor players, including differentiating between their Greek and Roman names. For instance, in Roman times Zeus was known as Jupiter. Or Poseidon, the famed God of the Sea, was known as Neptune in Ancient Rome. Awesome write-up on the shadowy Mount Olympus too, home of the Gods.
We then get into an excellent description of the creation of the Earth and many of the early myths, including:
- Demeter and Dionysus
- Atlas (poor guy is still holding up the sky)
Next we move into assorted tales of love and adventure, which includes the Quest for the Golden Fleece. And an epic quest it was.
Moving along, we come to the 4 great heroes before the Trojan War:
- Perseus (used Medusa’s reflection to turn her to stone)
- Theseus (Minotaur-slayer; combined brains with brawn; pride of Athens)
- Hercules (all-around bad-ass; not too much going on upstairs though)
- Atalanta (huntress-chick)
Why Jason and his Argonauts aren’t included as one of the pre-Trojan War great heroes I’m not sure. His Quest for the Fleece is an awesome tale which I plan to break down in a future post.
I just finished this pre-Trojan War section, and next up is the Trojan War itself. Very excited to learn more here. I did read abridged versions of Homer when I was younger, and am looking forward to tackling the full versions (likely Lattimore’s translations).
Beyond this there is a breakdown of the great houses of Ancient Greece, and finally a section on the great Norse myths.
All in all, a book that I’ve found really captivating. The stories of yore were told huddled around campfires, the poets’ words descriptive enough to pain vivid pictures in the minds of the listeners. Before Netflix and Snapchat, this was entertainment. And it was entertainment that made you think. Not only to exercise your imagination, but to ponder the meaning of these tales. What does it mean that Daedalus’s son Icarus flew too close to the sun? Might there be a lesson we could draw on for our lives from this parable?
Bottom line, even just halfway through, I can whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in mythology or history. Do be prepared for some rather unhappy endings. But well worth the tragedy is the adventure and tales of lives which burned bright with fiery purpose.
Until next time,
You should brush up on your ancient mythology, because those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.