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

Mythology by Edith Hamilton
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Mar 19, 2014

really liked it
bookshelves: be-a-better-writer

I have never read, or even seen, a book quite so straightforward, compact, and simply written that brings together the mythology of the ancient Greeks and Romans (even a little Norse mythology thrown in).

I picked up this book for some beach reading. (I imagine that sounds strange, but I don't read novels very often.) As I expected, it was dry in parts and entertaining in other parts. Overall, I can't imagine getting a better introduction to the subject. I feel much better prepared to read the original writers, having some context and overall perspective.

My other goal was to become a better reader and writer. Hamilton's style is simple and friendly without embellishment. I'm glad because this book could otherwise have been twice the size. I was interested in the content, to plant the seeds of myth and literary allusion that I hope to include in my own writing and to recognize in what I read.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in an overview of Greek and Roman mythology. It's very well organized and easy to navigate. I read it straight through, but it would also be a great reference on the subject. The index is exhaustive and helpful.
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Reading Progress

March 19, 2014 – Started Reading
March 19, 2014 – Shelved
March 19, 2014 –
page 72
14.55% "Edith Hamilton writes clearly and I like her simple, but not simplistic, style. The book is better written than a reference work, but doesn't have the element of story that would add to the enjoyment of it."
March 31, 2014 –
page 76
15.35% "Finished chapter 2: The Two Great Gods of Earth. Ended with a treatment of Dionysus (Bacchus) and his resurrection influencing the Greek view of the afterlife."
March 31, 2014 –
page 94
18.99% "Finished Ch3: How the World and Mankind Were Created. I haven't heard many of these stories before. Interesting how so many parallel the creation accounts of other people groups. For example, there is a Greek story of a flood from which only the family of Prometheus was saved by building a chest that floated."
April 19, 2014 –
page 160
32.32% "Still good. It will lead me inevitably to the poets themselves, especially Virgil and Ovid."
April 19, 2014 –
page 181
36.57% "I have never seen the movie, "Jason and the Argonauts." Worth it?"
April 20, 2014 –
page 224
45.25% "So far, I am most drawn in by the profiles of Perseus and later Theseus. But now, at Chapter 11, Hercules is in view."
April 20, 2014 –
page 245
49.49% "The profile of Hercules was interesting, but it raises questions. I am destined to read the sources of these stories, but I haven't yet. I see Mythology by Edith Hamilton as a reference. It reads slightly like an encyclopedia. I suppose that is inevitable, given the intention to summarize and inform."
April 20, 2014 –
page 264
53.33% "Reviewing the activities of the gods in The Illiad."
April 21, 2014 –
page 277
55.96% "Like The Illiad itself, Chapter 13 taken from it seemed to go on forever. I still get confused by all of the characters and the sides the the gods take in the war."
April 22, 2014 –
page 296
59.8%
April 24, 2014 –
page 320
64.65% "Chapter 15 recounts the events of The Odyssey. Whenever I hear the tale, I am moved with emotion. That seems so strange for a story (myth) made up 3,000 years ago. I can't help believing that hearers were moved similarly way back then and that human nature has not changed."
April 24, 2014 –
page 458
92.53% "I don't agree with the author's characterization of Christianity. It's obvious that she is not a believer, but she may be rejecting Jesus under false presences."
April 26, 2014 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Mark I feel as though I will be better prepared to read the primary sources because of the far-reaching background that the author gives. That said, I wish she would be clearer about which of the sources she refers to. That is, I still don't know specifically what to read to learn about a specific god or goddess. Is anyone else reading this straight through, or should I be thinking of this as a reference only?


message 2: by Doug (new)

Doug Edith Hamilton is da' bomb!

Read "The Greek Way." Here's a taste:

"This full stature came to pass at a time when the mighty civilizations of the world had perished and the shadow of 'effortless barbarism was dark upon the earth. In that black and fierce world a little centre of white-hot spiritual energy was at work. A new new civilization had arisen in Athens, unlike all that had gone before."


Mark I think I missed the taste...


message 4: by Doug (new)

Doug I love the notion of white-hot energy in a dark sea of barbarism.


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