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Customer Review

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More scholarly than entertaining., 11 Feb. 2004
This review is from: Star Myths of the Greeks and Romans: A Sourcebook (Paperback)
Star Myths is an excellent sourcebook - for a serious student. If you're looking for entertaining and engaging writing, look elsewhere. If you want a learned (if brief) overview of how the Greek and Roman constellations were named, by whom, and the identities of some of the stars contained therein, then you've got the right volume!
Theony Condos, the translator, draws mostly on two prime sources; Poeticon Astronomicon (Poetic Astronomy), attributed to Hyginus; and Catasterismi (The Constellations), by Eratosthenes. In the introduction, Condos discusses the backgrounds of Hyginus and Eratothenes, their influences and sources, and some supporting and relating works by their contemporaries and historical peers. Moving on from the (mercifully!) brief introduction, Condos procedes directly to the heart of the matter, and launches into an alphabetized listing of the major 'western' constellations, each with a idealized line-drawing of the constellation and its namesake image, a brief discussion of the associated legend(s) as discussed in the primary works, and a translator's commentary. Primary stars, where possible, are indicated by their symbols (rather than spelling out their names) in the text. This last I found most frustrating, for while a serious scholar of Latin and Greek would recognize these symbols immediately, I found myself struggling to interpret them.
This book comes with fairly extensive end notes and appendicies, useful to the student looking for more insight, and explaining (to a degree) some of the more obscure information presented in the body of the book. While I find this volume to be useful in a limited way, it's really aimed towards the more serious student, and not to a casual sky-watcher such as myself. If you want an education on the origins of the Greco-Roman constellation names, this is a good place to start, though it's not the ultimate word on the subject. However, if you want to identify that intriguing cluster of bright lights in the nighttime sky, you'll probably want to go elsewhere.
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