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Excellent guide to the Classical Myths
on 20 July 2011
The Greek and Roman myths have become one of the most recognisable features of Western Civilisation; think of all the tv shows, art, films, and literature these myths have spawned. Nearly everyone has heard of the Apollo Missions to the Moon, or have seen cupid decorating Valentine cards, or seen films like Disney's Hercules or the Clash of the Titans at the cinema. Long after the religions that propped these myths up have disappeared, the images created by these tales still resonate with us.
Even so, I, like a lot of people, wasn't really familiar with the details of these tales - how they related to each other, or who was who. Thankfully this book provides a witty, well-researched and readable introduction to these ancient Myths.
All of the major gods and godesses are covered, including their origins, as well as other creatures such as the Titans, cyclopses, the Hydra, cerebrus; not to mention other magical creatures such as nymphs, satyrs, nereids and so on. We are also taken on a tour of the major stories from Greek and Roman mythology, such as the epic Trojan War, the Odyssey, Jason and the Argonauts, Theseus and the Minotaur, and so on. What's interesting is how the author explains the why and how's of these stories as well as giving us a look at how they impacted everything from Renaissance art to modern pop culture.
I personally found this book much better than Thomas Bulfinch's highly acclaimed work on the subject. For one, it is far more accessible - the writing is erudite and clear, without being pompous or dull. If anything the writing here is quite witty and funny - this isn't your average dry textbook, but then again it isn't as wacky as Horrible Histories either; which allows the author to pull off a good balancing act between being serious or humorous. The book is also quite beautiful, with over 90 illustrations (in black and white) inside a small gold leaf decorated hardback.
If you really are interested in dipping into ancient myths, and you can't be bothered wading through 'Victorian' tomes on the subject, then this is your best bet as it's a brilliant introduction.