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The Library of Greek Mythology
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The Library of Greek Mythology > Background and Translations

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David | 2681 comments Please post comments on background information, translations, and other miscellaneous information here. The weekly group discussions on the work will begin on Sept. 30.

message 2: by Ian (last edited Sep 14, 2020 06:43PM) (new) - added it

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments I had just posted on the old discussion: I'll repost here, along with some additional material.

Those puzzled by the stories in Apollodorus may find some help -- or in some cases more confusion -- in either (or both) of two fairly recent "Companions," both available FREE on-line, at least for the moment. They are:

A Companion to Greek Mythology. Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World, edited by Ken Dowden and NIall Livingstone, 2011
If you aren't familiar with, see the NOTE below.

The second is currently available at the Internet Archive.

The Cambridge Companion to Greek Mythology, edited by Roger D. Woodard, Cambridge UP., 2007

Both contain useful essays on a great variety of topic.

This site requires an account. If you don't already have an account, you can create one, free. You can choose to login using Facebook or Google, or your e-mail address instead. (Edited to add: Apparently you can also use an Apple account, if you can have one -- you can choose "Sign in from Apple" as an option.

The site sometimes fails to work properly. If you have problems with it, I'll be glad to suggest some work-arounds -- but they don't always work, either.}

David | 2681 comments For members that just want an introductory level book of Greek Mythology with the occasional witty remark sprinkled in, I can recommend:
Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold by Stephen Fry

The Audible audio book edition is read by the author and is an entertaining listen. I haven't fallen asleep once yet.

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Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Fritz Graf's Greek Mythology: An Introduction is a shorter alternative to the Companions, covering some of the same ground.

Unfortunately, the hardcover (which seems to be the only edition on Amazon) is rather expensive (by my standards).

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Lia Ian wrote: "Fritz Graf's Greek Mythology: An Introduction is a shorter alternative to the Companions, covering some of the same ground.

Unfortunately, the hardcover (which seems to be the only e..."

Oh hey, I recognize the name!

I’ve read Graf’s book on Apollo, it’s much livelier and more entertaining than the typical X-Guide/Companion to Myths ... though I have not read the one Ian linked.

message 6: by Ian (last edited Sep 12, 2020 10:33AM) (new) - added it

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Lia wrote: "I’ve read Graf’s book on Apollo, it’s much livelier and more entertaining..."

Graf's "Introduction" comes with recommendations from those who have used it with (mainly, I think) college students unfamiliar with the topic, as the "Introduction" in the title suggests. The style is not heavy, but I'm not sure I'd ask anyone younger than such students to tackle it, unless I knew, (or thought) the person to be capable of college-level work while in High School, which is sometimes the case.

I read it quite a while back (twelve years?), and my impression was that it was solid (although I disagreed on a few points), but didn't teach me much that I didn't already know. It would have saved me a great deal of time and effort if it had been available twenty or thirty years ago...

I suspect that those teaching courses liked it because it answered a whole lot of basic but important questions that would otherwise take up a lot of class time. Assuming that everyone one read the assigned readings, which in my experience is more hoped-for than realized.

I just wish it was less expensive: especially with library systems pretty much shut down.

message 7: by Ian (last edited Sep 14, 2020 06:46PM) (new) - added it

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments I've been re-reading big junks of Apollodorus in the three translations I currently have available: "Apollodorus' Library and Hyginus' Myths: Two Handbooks of Greek Mythology," translated by Stephen M. Trzaskoma and R. Scott Smith; the old Loeb Classical Library two-edition translated and annotated by James G. Frazer (of "The Golden Bough" fame, as mentioned in the old thread); and the Oxford World's Classics version translated and annotated by Robin Hard, which pictured above.

Of these I would suggest Robin Hard's, and very strongly if you have a limited acquaintance with Greek Mythology to begin with. The translation is readable (maybe more son than the 'workmanlike' original), and the annotations are helpful in figuring out what is really going on, where we have seen a character before, and mentioning other versions. Consulting them as end-notes can be a pain: but the hyperlinks in the Kindle edition work very well, including getting back to the original page.

Next is Frazer's two-volume version, for which I have been using the Delphi Classics Kindle edition. The prose is somewhat stodgy -- which may indicate fidelity to the original, as the translator could write very well. Frazer tends to use Roman (Latin) names instead of Greek ones, which can be confusing, and sometimes fudges on matters involving sex, but the copious, maybe overwhelming, annotations are in themselves are almost a guide to Greek mythology, and to a lot of Greek literature. And it has a Greek text. (Although it has been superseded by a second edition of the text he was adapting, and recently a brand new edition has supplanted both, it is pretty reliable for most purposes). At least one modern classicist has gone on record with the opinion that, just by itself, Frazer's "Apollodorus" would justify the whole Loeb Classical Library! {Edited to add: see #12 below for a technical problem with the Kindle edition.}

Finally, the Trzaskoma and Smith translation, which I personally found the most readable. Unfortunately, I rediscovered the fact that it lacks annotations of much value to the novice reader -- there are a few notes on minor points, but the section of Notes at the end records differences between Greek editions, and whose version they are following, or emending. (This signaled by asterisks in the translation, but they are not hyperlinked.) Having Hyginus' "Fabulae" at hand is convenient, but hardly makes up for the absence of supplementary information.

This absence certainly made the volume less expensive, and thus more likely to be used as a textbook, with the instructor providing explanations and assigning further readings, some of them to be found, from the same translators big Anthology Of Classical Myth (Note that the link Goodreeads link goes to the first edition: the revised and expanded second edition is to be preferred.)

By the way, also attributed to Hyginus (whoever is behind that all-too-common name), is a Latin collection of Greek constellation myths, The Poetic Astronomy. It is translated by Robin Hard, along with the surviving summary of its main source, by the polymath and mathematician Eratosthenes (of the "sieve" for prime numbers, calculating the size of the earth, etc.), with in addition a poetic version of basic Greek astronomy and some of the associated myths. This last was very popular in antiquity, having no less than three Latin translations. Constellation Myths: With Aratus's Phaenomena.

If you went to an elementary or high school that still had a place for Classical Mythology, you probably spent a disproportionate amount of time on stories concerning people and things that were turned into, or commemorated by, various constellations. These works, rarely read directly, are their prime sources.

Aratus turned into a problem for professional astronomers in the following centuries: his out-of-date information and theories were common knowledge among educated Greeks and Romans, rather as if moderns were generally well-acquainted with the Newtonian universe of the nineteenth-century, and thus had never heard of galaxies, black holes, and quasars, let alone Relativity, and thus couldn't understand the concerns of modern astronomers.

There is another translation of Eratosthenes and Hyginus available, but according to the review in the on-line Bryn Mawr Classical Review, it is unreliable. And, in my opinion it reads rather poorly, which is an issue with the already awkward Hyginus: Star Myths of the Greeks and Romans: A Sourcebook Containing the Constellations of Pseudo-Eratoshenes and the Poetic Astronomy of Hyginus, translated by Theony Condos.

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Lia Thanks Ian.

Hope this is not OT, but, is CHS down? Or have they migrated? Or is it just me being exiled?

They did have an Apollodorus “book club” with linked resources including free texts online, but I can’t seem to enter the page...

message 9: by Ian (last edited Sep 13, 2020 08:58AM) (new) - added it

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments I tried various links provided by Googling the name, and they all went to a dead end. is still up, which suggets that the problem is with CHS. I haven't used it for months, so I have no idea how long this has been the case.

The Perseus Project acknowledged their help in June, so it was up and running on some scale, pandemic notwithstanding: or there may have been a lag in posting the update. Of course, I have no idea if their system for some reason requires physical access to servers, or instead can be operated remotely.

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Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments CHS itself was active enough to show up in this August announcement (of an exhibition postponed to next year)

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Lia From R. Hard’s intro:

“ It may seem surprising that this unpretentious handbook should have survived when the most important works of the ancient mythographers have been lost. Fortune, of course, plays a large part in such matters...”

Fortune did not smile on CHS 😭

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Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments IMPORTANT NOTE: I've been re-reading, or trying to, parts of the main text of the Delphi Classics edition, and discovered (or re-discovered) a serious problem.

The hyperlinks to the notes do not work properly. I think that I had forgotten this because I mostly use the notes, which are collected at the end of each book, not the translation. However, clicking on a link does not take you to the note: instead it takes you to the beginning of the notes for that book, and you have to scroll to get to where you want. This would be fine if they were chapter notes, but the numbering of the notes is continuous in each book, and there are hundreds of them.

I purchased it quite some time ago (2016), and this may have been quietly fixed by Delphi in the meantime. If they haven't, you might want to keep it anyway, for the Greek text.

There are work-around for this problem, if it still exists, but both require either two devices, or a device which will keep open both the Cloud Reader and the Kindle app. Have one open to the main text of the translation, and the other relevant page of notes, so as to refer back and forth, by-passing the hyperlink problem entirely.

Or, do, as I have been doing, and use two devices/apps, keeping both the Delphi version and another translation open, using Frazer's notes as a supplemental commentary. (The reference points of the notes are usually fairly obvious.)

You can also do this with a 99-cent copy of another Kindle version of the Frazer translation, which eliminates the problem of accidentally syncing the Delphi edition to the farthest place read, loosing your place in the main text. This version doesn't have hyperlinks to the notes, which it does contain, just their numbers, so it is otherwise undesirable.

message 13: by Ian (last edited Sep 14, 2020 07:06PM) (new) - added it

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Lia wrote: "Fortune did not smile on CHS 😭..."

Yesterday it was unreachable: today (or at least this afternoon, LA time) it is back up and running at

PS: the book club you were searching for seems to be (for Book One of Apollodorus)

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Lia Thanks Ian! You found my lost kleos!

I should take fortune into my own hands and download/backup all their contents just in case.

message 15: by Ian (last edited Sep 15, 2020 07:37AM) (new) - added it

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments I discovered yesterday that two very relevant which books I thought were long out of print (maybe since the 1980s) are available -- sort of.

They are rather Apollodorus-like compendiums of divine and heroic mythology, but much more inclusive, written by Kerényi Károly, better known outside his native Hungary as Carl/Karl/Carlos Kerenyi. The books in question are:

"The Gods of the Greeks," for which see (a rather muddy pdf is available), or, for a paperback or a Kindle edition (from a different publisher), or
Amazon reports that this is 304 pages long. The price for the paperback seems to me rather steep.

And: "The Heroes of the Greeks," for which there is a not-very-good pdf at
(Many of the pages are at angles, and the inner edges of some are nearly illegible -- presumably someone couldn't get the hard copy flat enough.)

Amazon reports that it is 440 pages long.

There is no current edition on Amazon, or anywhere else I have checked. For the moment, used copies are available at what I think are reasonable prices.

Both books are profusely illustrated with relevant ancient art. But the really important feature of these book is that Kerényi tried to be comprehensive, using every Greek source available (and Latin, if it clearly had a Greek origin).

As a result, there are a great many notes, all of them just source identifications, and all of them abbreviated in ways that are not transparent. However, the lists of abbreviations in each volume, with full references, amount to a conspectus of source texts, one section for gods, the other for heroes.

It will be noted that the Heroes get almost 150 pages more than the Gods. Apollodorus knew what he was doing when he spent the bulk his "Library" on human beings, not just the gods.

In contrast, the old "A Handbook Of Greek Mythology, Including Its Extension To Rome" by H.J Rose skimped on the heroes. Robin Hard's "revision" as "The Routledge Handbook" is supposed to correct that. A curious fact is that Rose translated "Heroes," and possibly "Gods" -- I don't have a copy of that in which I can check.

Kerényi also wrote extensively on the interpretation of the myths, sometimes with C.G. Jung as co-author, or contributor to the volume. Some of these books are available, but I was never persuaded by them, and hesitate to recommend them. For one thing, they demand a knowledge of the texts to be understood. Kerenyi's two big surveys would probably be perfect for the role....

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Cphe | 586 comments CHS must read the posts here to be back up and running.......Ah.......influence

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Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Another source of Greek Mythology, but highly processed by a "rationalizing" historian, is the work of Diodorus Siculus, who can barely bring himself to endorse the miraculous, but is full of piety toward the established religion. His work, part of which survives, was by him titled Bibliotheke, "Library," of History, and to that extent resembles Apollodorus' much shorter "Library."

Diodorus set himself the task of writing a universal history, based on earlier writers (hence the "library" title), and the first books are interesting for showing what educated Greeks (and probably Romans) knew, or thought they knew, about the Ancient Near East and Ancient Egypt.

However Book IV, with 80 chapters, is given over to Greek mythology, which Diodorus (or one of his predecessors) reworked to eliminate the merely mythical, and replace it with improbable possibles, and moralizing interpretations. Despite this, his narrative preserves, sometimes as asides disparaging the poets and the vulgar masses, details we should otherwise have lost.

His account of Heracles, and of his descendants, for example, is the only real rival to Apollodorus, and draws connections with later Greek history that are extremely important for how the myths probably developed.

Fortunately, if any of you are curious, there is an inexpensive ($1.99) Delphi Classics Kindle edition, the first part of which is based on the standard, and out-of-copyright, Loeb Classical Library text and translation by C.H. Oldfather (and others). The remainder is drawn from an early nineteenth-century translation, which isn't good news, but we need not pay any attention to anything after the fourth book.

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Lia Cphe wrote: "CHS must read the posts here to be back up and running.......Ah.......influence"

Must be all those libations I poured ... into my stomach! (Some did end up on the floor!)

Ian, looking through the anthology, it’s surprising how many named sources I have not heard of!

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Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Lia wrote: "looking through the anthology, it’s surprising how many named sources I have not heard of! .."

I think I had heard of all, or almost all, of them, at least from citations (since I read footnotes, and sometimes bibliographies). Some I remember that I actually looked for, but found that they existed only in scarce nineteenth-century German edition. These day, a lot of those are being made available on-line, or in print-on-demand editions, but I'm talking about the 1970-1990s.

But I suspect that some cases could be called "false positives," due to having read about them in the same translators' introduction to Apollodorus and Hyginus a few years ago, from which I absorbed the information without recalling exactly where it came from. (This is a perpetual problem with me. I try to take notes on what I find on-line, but sometimes I forget, or are just too tired, and figure I will go back to it later...)

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Lia The older edition of the anthology started with Acusilaus, right from page one there’s someone I’ve never heard of.

“ a scholion (ancient footnote) summarizing Acusilaus’ intriguing notion of the cause of the Trojan War...
An oracle was issued that when the rule of the family of Priam was ended, the descendants of Anchises would be kings of the Trojans. So Aphrodite slept with Anchises though he was already past his prime. She gave birth to Aineias and, wanting to create a pretext to depose the family of Priam, she filled Alexander with desire for Helen. After he stole Helen away, Aphrodite, though she was really pressing for the Trojans’ defeat, pretended to fight on their side so that they would not completely lose hope and give Helen back. The account is in Acusilaus.

Intriguing indeed!

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Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments I haven't mentioned a fairly recent (as such things go) work, Myths of the Ancient Greeks, by Richard P. Martin, with illustrations by Patrick Hurd, originally published in 2003.

Amazon considers it suitable for 18-year-olds and above, and it is apparently aimed at the college market, with maybe some High Schools thrown in.

A good many years ago, using the "Look Inside" feature, I found it a little too breezy and conversational for the price of the hard-copy editions.

I recently noticed that it has been praised by some classicists, who apparently have used it in the classroom, and they consider it quite accurate, so far as it goes -- fifty-six stories, including, I think, all of the major ones anyone is likely to come across in modern literature.

{Correction: despite entries in the very thorough index, it does not tell the story of Bellerophon and Pegasus: I have to assume that some other important myths are included only in passing references.}

So I took another look, and I discovered that now there is a much less expensive Kindle edition, which is a much more attractive purchase. It might make a good supplement for anyone who finds Apollodorus too lean, and other works less than user-friendly.

(One word of caution: I had some problems getting the file to download onto one of my devices, and it took trying a variety of options to finally install it.)

message 22: by Ian (last edited Sep 29, 2020 10:31AM) (new) - added it

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 619 comments Confession: I had forgotten that the book "Gods, Heroes, and Monsters," edited by Carolina Lopez-Ruiz, which I had shelved with my Ancient Near Eastern books last January, is subtitled "A Sourcebook of GREEK, ROMAN and Near Eastern Myths in translation" (capitals added). It was published in 2014, with a second edition copyright 2017, but possibly released in 2018..

It runs to about 600 pages (including a very comprehensive index, unfortunately in a tiny typeface), and has color maps on the inside of the front and back covers, which is a pleasant touch.

While the selection of Greek and Roman material is more conventional than that in "Anthology of Classical Myths: Primary Sources in Translation" (which I've mentioned earlier), it would be hard to assemble a set of books with the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Anatolian (Hittite, mainly), Ugaritic, and Phoenician myths (the last through Greek and Latin filters) and many of the translations were new for the first edition, and in some cases have been updated for the second edition.

{ADDENDUM: to "conventional" add: "much smaller."

It mostly avoids Apollodorus and Hyginus, two major sources, and the other mythographers. A reviewer of the first edition in the online Bryn Mawr Classical Review seems to have been shocked at the limited range of Greek sources used. I say seems because the review is in German, and while Google Translate seems to give the general sense, I don't think it conveys tone very well.}

The great bulk of it is of less use than the "Anthology of Classical Myths" for understanding most of Apollodorus. And it is a bit expensive ($32 in paperback), although the price is reasonable given the sheer size of it. (This versus the "Anthology" in a searchable Kindle edition -- which I didn''t have to squeeze into my bookcases).

In some case the translator uses the professional technical conventions of brackets, carats, etc., to indicate the damaged [state] of some of the [text], which makes for awkward reading, although it may prevent the incautious reader from jumping to conclusions from tentative translations based in part on restored words.

"Gods..." does contain several Hittite myths which I plan to cite, where relevant during the first week's readings: They provide the best parallels now known to the rise of Zeus. And it has some material for the second week, although that is also available in the "Anthology."

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