PurplyCookie's Reviews > Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes

Mythology by Edith Hamilton
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Apr 23, 10

bookshelves: classics, mythic-fiction, personal-faves, read-growing-up, short-stories
Read from April 21 to 23, 2010, read count: 3

Edith Hamilton loved the ancient Western myths with an obvious passion--and this classic compendium is her tribute. Her "Mythology" tell the "Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes" of classical mythology and this volume, first written in 1942, is now a timeless classic itself. This was the first book of mythology that I ever read and it is still the best. I still have that much worn, much loved paperback on my book shelves that later in life inspired me to read other myths of other times and places.

Hamilton begins the text with an essay giving an overview of what mythology is, and what the purpose of it was. "Through it can retrace the path from civilised man who lives so far from nature, to man who lived in close companionship with nature; and the real interest of the myths is that they lead us back to a time when the world was young and people had a connection with the earth, with trees and seas and flowers and hills, unlike anything we ourselves can feel."

When Hamilton retells the love story of Cupid and Psyche or the tragedy of Agamemnon and his children, she does so with a full sense of what it meant when first told by Apuleius or Aeschylus. These are not children's tales, but the heroic legends and religious beliefs of the ancient Greeks.

Another strength of the book is how she organizes the myths in her seven parts: (1) Covers the complete pantheon of deities, including the lesser gods of Olympus and Earth and the later Roman additions, as well as the earliest heroes. (2) Retells the various tales of love, between mortals and the gods or each other, along with the Quest for the Golden Fleece and other early heroic adventures. (3) Focuses specifically on the greatest heroes, Perseus, Theseus and Hercules, with Atalanta thrown in the mix. (4) Puts together Homer's Iliad and Virgil's Aeneid into a giant epic stretching from the Judgment of Paris to the founding of Roman, with the Odyssey and the tragedies of Euripides. (5) Tells about the great mythological families, namely the House of Atreus (Agamemnon), the Royal House of Thebes (Oedipus and Antigone), and the Royal House of Athens. (6) Covers all of the lesser myths, most notably Midas. (7) Goes off in a new direction, providing a very brief introduction to Norse mythology that seems woefully inadequate given the comprehensive compilation of classical mythology that precedes it. Her style is engaging and the structure of the book makes it very easy to keep track of such ridiculously branched family trees.


Book Details:

Title Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes
Author Edith Hamilton
Reviewed By Purplycookie
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