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The Gods of Olympus: A History Hardcover – March 11, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books (March 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805091572
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805091571
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #323,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Children still learn about Zeus and Athena in elementary school, a fact we take for granted. But in this history of the Olympic gods in Western culture, classicist Graziosi makes it clear how remarkable that is. After all, the Olympians started as local gods on the small Greek peninsula. Thanks to the great artistic and philosophical achievements of the Greeks, Rome adopted the gods when it became a great power. Having survived the Roman takeover of the world, the gods faced their greatest challenge yet when Christianity swept the Mediterranean. As Christianity became less a matter of choice and more a matter of force, the gods were sidelined as either demons or abstractions. The survival of classical philosophy in this new world depended on Christian scholars who found in it useful figures of allegory or traces of the true revelation still to come. In this way, the gods made it to the Renaissance and beyond as symbols of creativity and the life force. Graziosi’s volume is an engaging trek through the gods’ story of persistence and transformation and their relationship to European history. --Lynn Weber


“An engaging introduction to a fascinating topic… Graziosi narrates the many metamorphoses of the Greek gods with humor and erudition.”
—The Christian Science Monitor

“Cutting-edge history… Deploying an intriguing combination of old-fashioned and inventive approaches to the classical world and its reception, Barbara Graziosi here breaks new ground in the interpretation of the major Greek gods.”
—Times Higher Education (London)

“There is still life in the Olympians… An erudite and engaging account of their history and remarkable survival.”
—The Literary Review (London)

“Graziosi’s knowledge is obvious, and easy to trust… Her writing is accessible and entertaining, her passion for her subject obvious; The Gods of Olympus will equally thrill longtime lovers of the classics, and appeal to readers seeking a friendly, engaging introduction.… For novices and enthusiasts alike, a comprehensive and absorbing study of the gods of Olympus and how their cultural roles have changed over the centuries.”
—Shelf Awareness

“Engaging… An intelligent and entertaining examination of the Greek deities’ timeless ability to ‘express different, human truths’… Graziosi crosses the centuries elegantly, using the gods’ constant presence to suggest that history is an ongoing continuum.”
—Publishers Weekly

“The examination of each period is fascinating… Accessible to general readers, this work will be fun for anyone wondering whatever happened to the Greek gods over the centuries, as well as those specifically interested in classical reception.”
—Library Journal

“A book to savor.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“A delightfully entertaining study… In an impressive feat of research and synthesis, Barbara Graziosi has made the Greek gods vivid, accessible, and relevant for all of us. Graziosi’s affection for her subject is exciting and infectious, and her beautifully seamless writing style, keen intelligence, and lovely sense of humor kept me eagerly reading. An excellent history.”
—Rosemary Mahoney, author of Down the Nile and For the Benefit of Those Who See

“Humankind is at its most creative—and most revealing—in its desire for the divine, and its imagining of gods. Barbara Graziosi’s absorbing history of the twelve Olympians follows their extraordinary journeys through the world and inside the human mind, where they have subtly coexisted with other gods, and continue to outlive us all.”
—Patricia Storace, author of Dinner with Persephone

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Customer Reviews

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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Manuel Gonzalez Aguade on February 5, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a great approach to the Olympians from a, at least to me, new perspective. Instead of retelling the familiar stories, the author takes the reader through a quick tour of Western history pointing out the parts these gods played at each stage. It is brilliant and fun. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves Greek myths.
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By d_oakley on July 18, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was a fun read, but not particularly deep or detailed. For more details about iconography and cult, see Lewis Richard Farnell, Cults of the Greek States (published between 1896 and 1909, but still good). For discussions of what it all meant, read Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy (1872); Jane Ellen Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (1903) and Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion (1912); Arthur Bernard Cooke, Zeus: A Study in Ancient Religion, (3 volumes, 1914–1925); Walter Friedrich Otto, The Gods of Greece (1929) and Dionysos (1933); Martin P. Nilsson, Greek Popular Religion (1940) and History of Greek Religion (1949); Eric Robertson Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational (1951); Karoly (Carl) Kerenyi, The Gods of the Greeks (1951), and many volumes on individual gods and mythological themes; Walter Burkert, Homo necans (1972) and Greek Religion (1987). There are many other writers on the subject, but the ones mentioned are a very good introduction to the field.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By L. Goldberg on March 16, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Very well done and fun to read. Included is an interesting account of how the Greek Gods became Roman Gods.
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