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The Greek Myths
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Christine (chrisarrow) | 1385 comments Mod
A place to discuss the books. There will be spoilers.


message 2: by Leah (last edited Sep 09, 2019 07:04AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Leah (flying_monkeys) | 1009 comments I was planning to start The Greek Myths toward the end of the month. When's everyone else planning to start? Planning to read the whole thing?


message 3: by Jalilah (last edited Sep 10, 2019 08:22AM) (new)

Jalilah | 4259 comments Mod
I also will be reading it more towards the end of the month.
I am not sure if I'll read all of them, or if there is a lot of commentary and I'll read all of it.


message 4: by Asaria (last edited Sep 11, 2019 10:46AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Asaria | 561 comments Oh my, it feels like return to childhood. As a youngster, I became fascinated by Greek mythology. It later faded, but curiosity for other cultures and the ancient world stayed. Anyway, Graves' myths remain a cult classic among library collections here.


message 5: by Emily (new)

Emily M | 135 comments I'll read the introduction and then probably dip in an out a bit. I know myself and there's no way I'll finish that book in a month.

If anyone has any particular myths or concepts they want to dwell on I'm happy to go with those.

Margaret Atwood credits much of her knowledge of Penelope for her book on Graves' work. I'm not sure if that means I should definitely read about Penelope or if it's therefore okay to skip her.


message 6: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 3432 comments Mod
I went ahead and put it on hold, but it may be a bit. Maybe I'll read a chunk between each novel I read, and spread it out over a month or two.


message 7: by Jalilah (new)

Jalilah | 4259 comments Mod
Margaret wrote: "I went ahead and put it on hold, but it may be a bit. Maybe I'll read a chunk between each novel I read, and spread it out over a month or two."

That's what I was planning to do it! I have a old musty library copy with very small print unfortunately which doesn't make it very appealing


message 8: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 3432 comments Mod
This is my reading plan, starting today:

1. Read Intro, Forward, and the first 25 myths.
2. Read a graphic novel and a book
3. Read 50 myths between each graphic novel and book I read, until I reach myth #171.

I realize this will be impossible for people to follow, since it will depend on how long it takes me to read the between books, but this seems like the best plan for me so I can keep up with all my work-related reading.

I'm reading the Penguin deluxe edition, with a comic book cover. The introduction is by Rick Riordan, and it's a great insight into why he wrote the Percy Jackson books (which I've never read) as well as his work as a middle school English teacher.


message 9: by Jalilah (last edited Sep 23, 2019 05:26AM) (new)

Jalilah | 4259 comments Mod
I tried reading my copy and it's really unpleasant because the print is so teeny tiny and I don't even normally need reading glasses. I don't have any!
On a positive note however, going through the myths though I realise I am way more familiar with many of the Greek myths than I thought I was. It's just been years since I'd read any, any also not many retelling.


message 10: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 3432 comments Mod
Jalilah wrote: "I tried reading my copy and it's really unpleasant because the print is so teeny tiny and I don't even normally need reading glasses. I don't have any!
On a positive note however, going through t..."


I'm hoping I remember most of these too and that it becomes a fairly fast read, despite its 800 pages!

That's too bad about the print being small! I have trouble with that sometimes too.


message 11: by Leah (new) - rated it 4 stars

Leah (flying_monkeys) | 1009 comments Jalilah wrote: "I tried reading my copy and it's really unpleasant because the print is so teeny tiny..."

I wonder if we're reading the same edition The Greek Myths because the print in my copy is small too. Not sure how I want to read this one yet -- with a plan like Margaret or jump around to certain myths...

I do remember more from school than I thought I did.


message 12: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 3432 comments Mod
I'm both remembering a lot and not. I like all the connections to matriarchal lineages, and mostly, I'd forgotten all the origin stories for characters. For instance, I remembered Athena springing from Zeus' head, but not all the other myths about her origin, that have nothing to do with springing from Zeus' head. :)

What was everyone's first book introduction to Greek myths? Mine was Mythology by Edith Hamilton, in my 10th grade English class.


message 13: by Annette (new) - added it

Annette | 246 comments I never had any mythology until I took a Creation Myth class my senior year of college. And then the course emphasized indigenous creationism.


Christine (chrisarrow) | 1385 comments Mod
Bullfinch and a children’s book for Greek myths


message 15: by Candace (new)

Candace (cprimackqcom) Mine was Edith Hamilton’s, but I’m having trouble going from that to Graves. Not trouble, just feel like I’m missing a lot. Too many names that I don’t know who they are....I need a good middle of the line one....


message 16: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 3432 comments Mod
Candace wrote: "Mine was Edith Hamilton’s, but I’m having trouble going from that to Graves. Not trouble, just feel like I’m missing a lot. Too many names that I don’t know who they are....I need a good middle of ..."

Yeah, Graves is a lot drier. I'm surprised. I know he wrote I, Claudius which admittedly I haven't read but I know is supposed to be pretty humorous. Was expecting a bit more of that I think.

On the plus side, because there's so much commentary, I'm going to use it as my pick for #11 of the Into the Forest Challenge: non-fiction book about folk or fairy tales or mythology or a collection that has an analysis or commentary

Christine wrote: "Bullfinch and a children’s book for Greek myths"

I haven't read Bullfinch's but I see it a lot at work. I wish I'd had a copy of D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths growing up, as well as his other collections.

Annette wrote: "I never had any mythology until I took a Creation Myth class my senior year of college. And then the course emphasized indigenous creationism."

Oh interesting!


message 17: by Emily (new)

Emily M | 135 comments I don't think I ever studied mythology at all. I read an abridged version of the Odyssey when I was a kid. And I tried to buy a book about Greek gods and goddesses through the Scholastic order form in class, but there weren't enough orders to finally submit it, so that was the end of that.

I studied English Lit though, so I would fairly often have to brush up on a certain myth (lots of Prometheus) and as an adult I find myself wikipediaing different ones for one reason or another.


message 18: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 3432 comments Mod
Emily wrote: "I don't think I ever studied mythology at all. I read an abridged version of the Odyssey when I was a kid. And I tried to buy a book about Greek gods and goddesses through the Scholastic order form..."

How sad (about the Scholastic order form)!

I took a few myth related classes in undergrad. I took a mythology class and we used a general mythology textbook, I think this one: Classical Mythology by Mark P.O. Morford. We also read a lot of Greek plays. I also managed to take an Ancient History class and a Western Civ I class, both of which studied a lot of myths. We read The Histories by Herodotus, both The Iliad and The Odyssey, even more plays.

The plays were my favorite. So much drama and murdering, ha.

You would think I'd remember more based on all this, but there's so much to know and I've forgotten quite a bit.


Amanda | 232 comments Margaret wrote: "...What was everyone's first book introduction to Greek myths? "

Tales of Long Ago by Enid Blyton with beautiful illustrations by Anne and Janet Grahame Johnstone.

My love for myths is entirely due to this book, read at an impressionable age.

Robert Graves's book is far more scholarly (obviously). It is a great resource that puts detail over reader enjoyment.


message 20: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 723 comments I took an undergraduate course in mythology. The text was Edith Hamilton's Mythology. It didn't really do much for me at the time because we read the stories literally instead of interpreting them as metaphors.

But when I became a prof. of English, I decided to teach an undergraduate course using Joseph Campbell's Transformations of Myth Through Time. And that's when I really began to get excited about mythology.

I loved the fact that different cultures shared some very basic myths which they injected with their own ethnic inflections. You strip them of their ethnic inflections and what emerges is the same fundamental ideas and patterns. I immersed myself in learning about different world myths, always trying to ascertain patterns of connection.

I eventually developed an Intro to Mythology course and used multicultural/international texts to expose students to the wealth of mythologies from all over the world, encouraging them all the while to recognize the similarities and to delve into the meanings behind the stories.

That led to my interest in the role of women in world mythologies, which then led to my interest in interpreting myths through a feminist lens, which then led me to write a multicultural/international text for a Women in Religion course I developed for undergrads: Women and Goddesses in Myth and Sacred Text, which in turn led me to . . . and so on, and so on . . .

I love mythology. I think myths have an enduring relevance. We just have to go beneath the superficial reading of a myth and interpret it to grasp its enduring relevance. Myths can speak to us on a fundamental level if we go beyond the literal level and interpret them as metaphors.

As you can see, once I get started talking about mythology, I can't stop :)


message 21: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 3432 comments Mod
Tamara wrote: "That led to my interest in the role of women in world mythologies, which then led to my interest in interpreting myths through a feminist lens, which then led me to write a multicultural/international text for a Women in Religion course I developed for undergrads: Women and Goddesses in Myth and Sacred Text, which in turn led me to . . . and so on, and so on . . .."

Your textbook looks fascinating. You are definitely the authority here!

I don't remember Edith Hamilton's collection capturing my attention either. It wasn't until I read The Iliad and some Greek plays my first semester in college that I realized how interesting Greek mythology could be.

Amanda wrote: "Tales of Long Ago by Enid Blyton with beautiful illustrations by Anne and Janet Grahame Johnstone."

I've never seen that before! Looks adorable. I love old YA books.


message 22: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 723 comments Margaret wrote: "Your textbook looks fascinating. You are definitely the authority here!.."

Thanks for the compliment, Margaret. But I certainly don't feel like an authority. I still have so much to learn!


message 23: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 723 comments Amanda wrote: "Margaret wrote: "...What was everyone's first book introduction to Greek myths? "

Tales of Long Ago by Enid Blyton with beautiful illustrations by Anne and Janet Grahame Johnstone...."


I devoured Enid Blyton's Famous Five books when I was a child. I couldn't get enough of them. I'm not familiar with Tales of Long Ago, but it looks delightful.


message 24: by Emily (new)

Emily M | 135 comments Tamara wrote: "Amanda wrote: "Margaret wrote: "...What was everyone's first book introduction to Greek myths? "

Tales of Long Ago by Enid Blyton with beautiful illustrations by Anne and Janet Gra..."


I also loved the Famous Five, Secret Seven, Children of New Farm, etc. but didn't know she had a mythology book. Mind blown!


message 25: by Jalilah (new)

Jalilah | 4259 comments Mod
As a child I loved both Greek and Norse mythology. I don't remember which collections I read however! As a young adult I read several of the Greek tragedies as well as saw film adaptations of them. In college I read both the Iliad and the Odyssey. Of course I have forgotten a lot!


message 26: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 3432 comments Mod
I'm almost done with my first chunk of Graves. It's much easier to read now. I just needed to get used to the tone. And I'm remembering more! Gosh, I'd forgotten about Demeter being raped by Poseidon while searching for Persephone. Noooo, that's horrible.

It's interesting to read Graves' analysis, of how the myths reflect political turmoil. Despite my many classes, for the most part, the myths were never put in their historical/political contexts, with some exceptions (Herodotus and Lysistrata, for example).


message 27: by Asaria (last edited Sep 27, 2019 02:11AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Asaria | 561 comments Possibly I'll begin tomorrow. Graves' book is one of the first Greek mythology collections I've read, but the classic Jan Parandowski's Mitologia: wierzenia i podania Greków i Rzymian is the one that introduced me to Greek and Roman myths in my grammar school. I haven't read Hamilton's book so I don't know how they compare.

Of course we also were forced to study plays like Antigone or King Oedipus, but that came much later.


message 28: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 3432 comments Mod
Asaria wrote: "Of course we also were forced to study plays like Antigone or King Oedipus, but that came much later."

I really like those plays! :)

I just learned that Emily Wilson, who translated The Odyssey a few years ago, won the MacArthur Genius Grant! https://www.inquirer.com/arts/books/m...


message 29: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 723 comments That's wonderful news and very well-deserved. Thanks for letting us know, Margaret.


message 30: by Asaria (last edited Sep 28, 2019 03:17AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Asaria | 561 comments Margaret wrote: "I really like those plays! :)

I just learned that Emily Wilson, who translat..."


School successfully killed Antigone for me, but the remaining Greek plays are fair game :) . I really enjoyed more the ones I read on my own without any prompting from anyone - Aeschylus's Prometheus Bound or Medea by Euripides to name a few.


message 31: by Janice (JG) (new) - added it

Janice (JG) | 34 comments I'd been waffling between reading Graves' The Greek Myths or his The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth, so this thread makes up my mind for me... tho' The White Goddess does look fascinating, too.


message 32: by Emily (new)

Emily M | 135 comments Janice (JG) wrote: "I'd been waffling between reading Graves' The Greek Myths or his The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth, so this thread makes up my mind for me... tho' T..."

I'm the same, and I have both sitting at home, but having suggested The Greek Myths, I definitely have to go with that one.


message 33: by Emily (new)

Emily M | 135 comments Is anyone else reading? I've started but have only read 50 pages. I'm really enjoying it and finally feel the world of myth opening up to me, but I take forever to read non-fiction.*

*Though obviously I'm not sure this can really be called non-fiction. Writing lacking in narrative drive, I guess.


message 34: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 3432 comments Mod
Emily wrote: "Is anyone else reading? I've started but have only read 50 pages. I'm really enjoying it and finally feel the world of myth opening up to me, but I take forever to read non-fiction.*

*Though obvio..."


I read the first 75, then realized I have too much other reading right now and decided not to finish it.


Asaria | 561 comments I'm reading this too. It goes so slow! I still have about 52% to end, but mixed feelings so far. Not about myths presented here, but something feels off, yet I dont know what (maybe i just need some archeologic proofs for his theories?) . With pleasure I'll read posts by more knowledgeable members.


message 36: by Emily (new)

Emily M | 135 comments I think it will take me the better part of a year at this rate, but I intend to plug along.


message 37: by Jalilah (new)

Jalilah | 4259 comments Mod
Emily wrote: "Is anyone else reading? I've started but have only read 50 pages. I'm really enjoying it and finally feel the world of myth opening up to me, but I take forever to read non-fiction.*

*Though obvio..."


I skipped around. The print was so small it was unpleasant. Before I knew it, it was due back at the library.
I read parts related to books I've recently read like Odysseus and Penelope and more about the Theseus, Ariadne Minatour myth.
As I said above, I was surprised that I was actually more familiar with more than I thought, but what I didnt know about was the interconnectedness of many myths. For example that the Theseus in the Minatour myth was the same as in the tragic play Phaedra.
And I did not know that the Phaedra who îs Ariadne 's little sister is the same one in the play.


message 38: by Leah (new) - rated it 4 stars

Leah (flying_monkeys) | 1009 comments Jalilah wrote: "...but what I didnt know about was the interconnectedness of many myths."

I think that's the gist of what I'd forgotten (or didn't store in the ol memory bank to begin with) during high school readings.

And I did the same as Jalilah, skipped around to read what corresponded to what I'd read, Greek myths wise, recently and over the last couple years. Then I had to return it to the library.


message 39: by Tamara (last edited Oct 14, 2019 08:29AM) (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 723 comments Jalilah wrote: ". . . but what I didnt know about was the interconnectedness of many myths. For example that the Theseus in the Minatour myth was the same as in the tragic play Phaedra.
And I did not know that the Phaedra who îs Ariadne 's little sister is the same one in the play..."


The Greek playwrights didn't make up stories or characters in the sense that we think of today. They derived all their material from stories and characters in their mythology.

The audience would know the basic outline, including how the story ends. But they would attend the play to see how the playwright interpreted the myth and if and in what ways he tweaked it.

They would hold contests to see who wrote the best play, i.e. had the best interpretation. Sophocles was a constant winner. Euripides never won because they didn't like his interpretations. They thought he gave too prominent a role to women and servants. And to make matters worse, in his play Medea, the central character is a brilliant but evil woman who manipulates men and makes them look like a bunch of bungling idiots.

No awards for him :)


message 40: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 3432 comments Mod
Euripedes is my favorite. :) One day I'll retell Medea.


message 41: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 723 comments Margaret wrote: "Euripedes is my favorite. :) One day I'll retell Medea."

Margaret, have you read Bright Air Black by David Vann? He retells the story of Medea in first person point of view. I think it is an amazing portrayal.


message 42: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 3432 comments Mod
Tamara wrote: "Margaret wrote: "Euripedes is my favorite. :) One day I'll retell Medea."

Margaret, have you read Bright Air Black by David Vann? He retells the story of Medea in f..."


It's on my radar!


message 43: by Jalilah (new)

Jalilah | 4259 comments Mod
Tamara wrote: "Margaret wrote: "Euripedes is my favorite. :) One day I'll retell Medea."Margaret, have you read Bright Air Black by David Vann? He retells the story of Medea in f..."

Margaret wrote: "Euripedes is my favorite. :) One day I'll retell Medea."

Oh that looks interesting!
Margaret I am looking forward to your retelling!

I recently read a YA novel Dark of the Moon, told from the points of view of both Ariadne and Theseus.
In one part the two have a conversation about Medea. Theseus regarded her as a monster but Ariadne saw her as a heroine.
In the book Crête and Athens had very different cultures and religions. I don't know if there is any real historical verification for this.


message 44: by Margaret (new)

Margaret | 3432 comments Mod
It will be a very very long time before I write a Medea book. I have some children's books in my head right now, as well as an adult fantasy novel I really wish I had time to write. :)

I think Medea might be a great way to explore postpartum depression (which I had), as well as immigrant experiences of motherhood. But I'm not in a place yet where I can/feel the energy to explore those things.


message 45: by Tamara (last edited Oct 16, 2019 06:51AM) (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 723 comments Jalilah wrote: "In the book Crête and Athens had very different cultures and religions. I don't know if there is any real historical verification for this...."

Yes, it is true.

The culture and religion of Athens was very patriarchal and male-dominated. Crete, on the other hand, was the last holdout for a goddess-worshipping community. It was gyno-centric and celebrated life and nature. The Cretan artifacts that have survived frequently depict female figurines with large breasts, stomachs, and thighs, emphasizing the seat of life. They celebrate the life-giving power of women and of nature and are very elegant.

The Minoan Snake Goddess, aka, the Cretan Snake Goddess (about 1600 BCE) shows the creeping influence of patriarchy. She is thin, so the focus is no longer on her birth-giving powers. But she is holding a snake in each hand, a positive symbol of regeneration associated with the feminine.

It's been years since I last taught this material, so my memory is not fresh. But you can google this information to learn more. Also google the Palace at Knossos in Crete.

And if any of you are looking for a good book that addresses the shift to patriarchy, I recommend The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future by Riane Eisler. It maybe a bit dated, but I think it's still excellent.


message 46: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 723 comments Jalilah wrote: "In one part the two have a conversation about Medea. Theseus regarded her as a monster but Ariadne saw her as a heroine...."

The thing about Euripides' Medea is that she uses the tools of patriarchy to avenge herself. This was unheard of for a woman. That's why she was perceived as a monster.

She challenges traditional roles assigned to women, bemoaning the fate of women in the institutions of marriage and motherhood. She vilifies a system that denies women legitimate means to address an injustice. She is a brilliant strategist not only in planning and implementing her revenge but also in securing her means of escape. She successfully exploits socially constructed gender stereotypes to vanquish her enemies by pretending to be weak and in need of male assistance.

And, finally, the murder of her own children can be seen as a logical conclusion of Greek view of motherhood. The Greeks believed that the mother is not the true parent of the child. She is merely the fertile soil that incubates the seed. They argued the male is the only parent of the child and can do with his offspring as he pleases (as in Agamemnon's sacrifice of his daughter).

Medea says I have been denied any authority over my children and have been turned into a commodity. So I will punish men where it hurts by killing the one thing they value above all else--their progeny.

If you look at it that way, Medea's action of infanticide can be seen as a revolt against colonial authority--a retaliation against Jason and Greek society for occupying her space and appropriating her labor.

It's probably obvious that I'm a fan although I'm certainly not advocating infanticide :)


message 47: by Emily (new)

Emily M | 135 comments Tamara wrote: "Jalilah wrote: "In one part the two have a conversation about Medea. Theseus regarded her as a monster but Ariadne saw her as a heroine...."

The thing about Euripides' Medea is that she uses the t..."


That's interesting as in the Graves book he talks about the pre-Hellenic cultures not recognizing fathers as parents...that women were thought to be impregnated by the wind, or similar, and hence the goddess cult (although I seem to recall that Graves' goddess cult idea is mostly that -- a nice idea not necessarily born out in archaeology).

Have you read Rachel Cusk's stage adaptation of Medea? Earlier this year I was thinking of reading the original, the Cusk, and Bright Air Black in tandem, but got a bit swamped.

Margaret, I like the Medea to represent PPD idea! Definitely something to keep on the back burner.


message 48: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 723 comments Emily wrote: "Have you read Rachel Cusk's stage adaptation of Medea? Earlier this year I was thinking of reading the original, the Cusk, and Bright Air Black in tandem, but got a bit swamped.
.."


I haven't read Cusk's Medea yet, but it sounds good. I intend to get to it. I've read her Outline and Transit and really enjoyed those two novels.


message 49: by Jalilah (last edited Oct 17, 2019 08:22AM) (new)

Jalilah | 4259 comments Mod
Tamara wrote: "Jalilah wrote: "In the book Crête and Athens had very different cultures and religions. I don't know if there is any real historical verification for this...."

Yes, it is true.

The culture and religion of Athens was very patriarchal and male-dominated. Crete, on the other hand, was the last holdout for a goddess-worshipping community. It was gyno-centric and celebrated life and nature. The Cretan artifacts that have survived frequently depict female figurines with large breasts, stomachs, and thighs, emphasizing the seat of life. They celebrate the life-giving power of women and of nature and are very elegant..."


Sorry, I knew ancient Crete was matriarchal, but what I was wondering specifically was what was inferred in the novel I recently read, that the Creatian Priestesses revered Medea. I wondered if they would have known about her or if it was just the writers artistic licence.
Any thoughts?
It's a fascinating topic and I definitely would like to read more about it.


message 50: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 723 comments Jalilah wrote: "... but what I was wondering specifically was what was inferred in the novel I recently read, that the Creatian Pristesses revered Medea..."

I've not come across that anywhere in my research. I think I would have remembered if I'd seen it. It may be true, but I honestly don't know.


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