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Zeus: A Journey Through Greece in the Footsteps of a God [Hardcover]

Tom Stone
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 5, 2008 158234518X 978-1582345185 1st
In the tradition of Walking the Bible, an irresistible tour through some of the most powerful stories ever told.

Lusty, lightning-tempered, polyamorous Zeus was the most powerful and charismatic of the Greek gods, and the progenitor of some of the most enduring stories of world mythology. In Zeus, author Tom Stone takes readers on a 4,000-year journey through the god’s tumultuous life, from his origins as a sky god in the Russian steppes and his scandalous reign on Mt. Olympus to his approaching end in a palace storeroom in Christian Constantinople. Crossing the length and breadth of Greece, Stone and his Iranian wife explore the most significant sites in Greek myth, from mountaintops to subterranean caves, Olympus to Crete, and Mycenae to Macedonia. Along the way, he reveals how Zeus’s story grew from the soil of Greece and changed along with the country’s history, all with a brilliant mix of erudition and bravura storytelling. Combining mythology, history, and travel, this is an indispensable book for anyone who loves Greece or its great stories of myth and legend.

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The supreme deity of Greek mythology has his lusty, tempestuous story recast in engaging fashion by Stone. Visiting sites Zeus’ worshipers associated with the thunder god, Stone fashions a contemporary travelogue around the myths about Zeus. He peeks into the Cretan cave where the Titan Rhea hid the infant Zeus from his cannibal father, Kronos; inspects the temple ruins of Zeus’ oracles; and gazes aloft at Mount Olympus, Zeus’ abode after overthrowing Kronos. Wry when need be about modern Greeks’ custody of places associated with the father of gods and mortals, Stone adopts a more credulous tone, consonant with ancient belief, in recounting Zeus’ career of populating the Greek pantheon, in addition to spawning heroes such as Herakles. Raping, metamorphosing, and generally disturbing the cosmos and the eastern Mediterranean, Zeus’ essential capriciousness echoes that of human affairs––the rises and falls of Minoan, Mycenaean, and classical Greek civilizations––with which Stone limns the myths. As a guide, Stone is informed, enthusiastic, and entertaining, the very qualities needed to ignite interest in the timelessness of Greek mythology. --Gilbert Taylor


"The supreme deity of Greek mythology has his lusty, tempestuous story recast in engaging fashion by Stone...As a guide, Stone is informed, enthusiastic, and entertaining, the very qualities needed to ignite interest in the timelessness of Greek mythology.”—Booklist

“[Stone is] a genial, self-deprecating and often felicitous docent…he intercuts his complex narratives of theogony, theology, history and hysteria with descriptions of his recent travels to many of the sites long associated with Zeus...A lucid and lucent retelling of those most marvelous tales.”—Kirkus

“Filled with viewpoints and facts I've never seen connected together elsewhere, this beautiful walk through the archaeology and evolution of Zeus really brings alive ‘the Old Thunderer,’ along with the people who loved him through the ages.”—Charles Pellegrino, author of Ghosts of Vesuvius: A New Look at Last Days of Pompeii, How Towers Fall, and Other Strange Connections

“Tom Stone has rescued Zeus and the other beguiling gods and goddesses of ancient Greece from the dusty pages of Bulfinch's Mythology and restored them to the rightful place in our cultural pantheon. At the same time, he invites us along on a remarkable odyssey through the exotic lands where they first worked their magic so long ago. Like Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell, Stone acts as both an expert guide and an enchanting storyteller. A beautiful and beguiling book!”Jonathan Kirsch, author of A History of the End of the World: How the Most Controversial Book in the Bible Changed the Course of Western Civilization

“For Tom Stone, the Greek landscape is a wonderland of history and myth – a place where the roots of Western culture bring forth some of the most wondrous stories ever told. In Zeus, his scholar’s knowledge and storyteller’s charm illuminate the land, her people, and their tales, always keeping one keen eye on the heavens and another on the ground.” An irresistible tour, led by a marvelous guide."Bob Brier, author of The Murder of Tutankhamen

"Ancient Greece swarmed with gods, none greater than the bearded Zeus, lord of the sky and head of the ancients’ moral order. Many centuries later, our devoted fascination with Zeus continues. To readers’ delight, author and adventurer Tom Stone takes us on a rollicking voyage through Greece, where we learn that the legend of Zeus can still warm the heart—and thrill the senses. Through Stone's observant eyes and beautiful prose, we are a witness to the beauty of a land and of a people who aroused the gods. This is a journey no reader should miss."Jean Sasson, author of Love in a Torn Land: Joanna of Kurdistan

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1st edition (February 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158234518X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582345185
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,495,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

TOM STONE has pursued a multi-faceted career as a novelist, travel writer, historian, and stage- and screenplay writer. Simultaneously, he had a very successful stint in the professional theater as a director, lighting designer, and stage manager.

In his early years, he devoured the myths of Greece and Norway. Later, he snapped up related books by Edith Hamilton, Robert Graves, Mary Renault, Lawrence Durrell, Nikos Kazantzakis and Joseph Campbell--among many, many others.

After graduating from Yale, where he gained a BA in English Literature and an addiction to the theater, he was able to first visit Greece as an assistant stage manager for Jerome Robbins' ballet company. He spent the next decade working as a stage manager and assistant director for Jerome Robbins and Harold Prince on the original productions of "She Loves Me," "Funny Girl," "Fiddler On The Roof," and "Cabaret" as well as the now-legendary efforts of Robbins' American Theatre Laboratory.

In 1969, he took a sabbatical from Broadway with the intention of spending a single summer on one of the islands writing a novel. Instead, he stayed twenty-two years, principally on the islands of Patmos and Crete and near the mainland capital of northern Greece, Thessaloniki. In the process, he became a father of two, a teacher of English and Theater at Anatolia College in Northern Greece, and a lighting designer and director for the Greek National Theater.

While in Greece, he wrote and published his first novel, "Armstrong," and numerous books and articles about living abroad. These include "The Essential Greek Handbook," "Greece: An Illustrated History," "Patmos: A History and Guide," and "The Greek Food & Drink Book."

In 1992, with his children in U.S. universities and his marriage moribund, he accept an offer by Harold Prince to become the Resident Director in London of Mr. Prince's new, Broadway-bound musical. "The Kiss of the Spider Woman." Subsequently, Mr. Stone directed the London company, starring Bebe Neuwirth. Shortly afterwards, he directed the German-language version in Vienna.

Upon returning to New York, Mr. Stone put Brian Stokes Mitchell into the cast of "Spider Woman" and then worked for a season with the Circle Repertory Company as casting director and stage manager. But breaking back into the theater proved to be impossible after so many years. When one of Mr. Stone's short stories was optioned for a TV movie, he headed west. He has since written eight film scripts for hire, but as of this writing, none have been produced.

He has now returned to teaching English as a Second Language in the adult school system of Los Angeles, and to occasionally lecturing on Greek history with Pierce College. Meanwhile, he is devoting most of his time to writing books.

His memoir of living on Patmos, "The Summer of My Greek Tavérna," was published by Simon & Schuster in 2002 and was selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club and Quality Paperback Club in 2003. It has been translated into ten languages, including Dutch, German, Danish, Hebrew, and Mandarin (Taiwan). It will soon be published in Greek, Russian, and Latvian. In 2013, it was optioned by Fox Searchlight Pictures for a feature film. Unfortunately, the option lapsed 18 months later with nothing accomplished.

In response, Tom has decided to try a spec screenplay on his own, having already had eight of his efforts in that field optioned - but again, not yet produced. But that's par for the course and nothing to lose sleep over.

In February, 2008, Tom published "Zeus: A Journey Through Greece in the Footsteps of a God"(Bloomsbury). It became a Main Selection of the History Book Club and the QPBC, and this led to his on-going appearances in three segments of the History Channel's series on mythology, "The Clash of the Gods."

His latest effort is "The Curse of the Minotaur: An Annotated Tale of Ancient Greece." As with all his books, Stone writes to both entertain and inform, and this action-packed adventure is appended by a large number end notes, images, and maps explaining the historical and mythological background of this timeless and fascinating story.

Currently he is preparing a second edition of "Zeus" as an e-book. It will offer updated information based on recent archaeological discoveries, many more maps as well as images.

He lives in Los Angeles with his lovely wife, Fárzaneh. His website and contact e-mail address are at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A GREAT TRIP WITH THE GODS! April 5, 2008
By Sam S-J
I have always loved Greek myths but I have never been able to get all the stories straight. Stone has performed the impossible task of doing just that. By putting them in their proper sequence in the story of Zeus -
Prometheus stealing fire, Pandora's jar ("box" was a bad translation),the Minotaur in its labyrinth, Perseus and Medusa, Hérakles, the House of Átreus, the Judgment of Paris,Helen of Troy, etc. -- and linking them to actual historical events such as the eruption of the volcano on Santorini, the fall of the Minoan Empire, the Dorian invasion, the Peloponnesian Wars, and the Roman conquest, Stone has made what has seemed to be an impossible labyrinth into a most enjoyable read. But in addition to all this, the travel parts of the book, which involve the story of his and Persian wife's travels through Greeceto research the book, are refreshing and delightful side trips to the main story. A deep and beautiful look into the Greek soul!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This book is a genuine gem! In its unabashed enthusiasm, it reminds me of David Hendon's Guide to Biblical Coins and its great to see an author so happily entrenched in a topic and so able to spread his infectious excitement for it.

Yes, on one level this is the story of the birth, life and ultimate death of a God. But along the way, we learn something about the people who worshiped him and why.

In the beginning Zeus wasn't even worhshiped in Greece. He was only brought there when invaders imposed him on the local people as a deified object of their superiority. In this respect, the story was kind of reminiscent of what happened in India when the idea of reincarnation was given to the locals as a salve for their resulting serfdom.

Over time, Zeus' trysts reflected the various ways in which other Greek peoples were knitted into the story. In this respect the Zeus myth was reminiscent of the Old Testament stories of Abraham and Sarah and their various relatives were related to each other (with a strong emphasis on the children of Jacob who came to be known as Israel).

And in time Zeus came to be snuffed out by new God and another religion.

Along the way, certain parts of the story are infused with such native flavor that I could almost taste the spinach cheese pie.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bringing it all together, an Olympian task! October 5, 2008
This unique book examines the human and psychic history of the Greeks by following the trail of its ever-evolving chief deity through the dark passages of history. It shows how a wide range of factors, - political, geographical, etc. - influenced the Greeks and their twisting mythical narratives. Not only does the book make sense of the sprawling but compelling cosmos of the Olympians, it also provides an insight into human consciousness, struggling to make sense out of a cruel yet wonderful world. What exactly these gods meant to the Greeks is still hidden in ancient ruins, but reading this book is like walking through those ruins and having everything come to life. Simultaneously scholarly and fun, clear, and full of mystery - Great book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fairy Tales for Grown-ups July 5, 2008
Everybody loves a good fairy tale, but as you get older you may feel silly reading "Cinderella" or "Hansel and Gretel". Thank goodness for the Ancient Greeks; their mythology stories are the perfect fairy tales for adults. There's plenty of double-crossing, emotional outbursts, sex, violence and jealousy, and you get the added benefit of learning about classical civilization while you read these soap-opera stories. In "Zeus: a journey through Greece in the footsteps of a god", author Tom Stone manages to blend these wonderful mythological tales with a travelogue of Greece. Since the stories that comprise Greek mythology are so numerous, with so many characters, Stone focuses his book on the tales involving Zeus, the most powerful of the gods. He also does a wonderful job of presenting the stories in a somewhat chronological order (time being a fuzzy thing when talking about mythological events), beginning with Zeus's early years and his struggles against his own father Kronos. Stone also weaves in the various ups and downs of Greece, conflicts with her Aegean neighbors, changes in Grecian society and the growing influence of monotheistic religions. A timeline, a map and a ton of endnotes helps round out this really engaging look at Ancient Greece. It's a wonderful read for anyone who likes Edith Hamilton (mythology), Simon Schama (history) or Peter Mayle (amusing anecdotes of interactions with colorful locals).
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A wonderful scholarly, but immensely readable odyssey through Greece. Stone visits ancient sanctuaries and shrines throughout the mainland and islands, and discusses the myth and the reality of this glorious civilization.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Origins of Greek Myths January 21, 2009
"ZEUS" is a great idea: with tongue held firmly in check (or cheek), retell all those salacious Greek myths (weird sex, freaky violence, and anthropomorphic brutality) in sequence, so we can keep the Gods' histories straight. Zeus was central to almost all of them, so it makes sense that Stone presents the chronology as a sort of personal biography of the God. But the chronology is also a cultural and anthropological history of the belief in Zeus and of those who held it. When you see the growth of the myths against their historical and archaeological background, you realize that myth is simply religion you don't happen to believe in; I developed a new respect for it.

"ZEUS" includes comprehensive notes, bibliography, and index, and the chronology that precedes the text is the perfect thing: just what you need to follow the story.

The text cries aloud for graphics: comparative illustrations of Linear A and Linear B alphabets, drawings of lost artworks, and pictures of the present sites, etc.; and the puny map is far beneath what Stone's text deserves. His use of unusual transliterations of the names of Gods and heroes is pointlessly distracting; if there is a case for reinterpreting the Greek alphabet, it deserves a book of its own.

But five stars anyway.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
I first encountered Tom Stone's 'The Summer of My Greek Taverna' during my first trip to Greece four years ago and loved it! Read more
Published 10 days ago by Ion Corcos
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
If you love Zeus and the tangled web of myths he's involved in you'll love this book. I like how Stone attempts to put the myths in chronological order.
Published 2 months ago by Mike Stebbins
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
I enjoyed this book and found it to be informative. I learned a great deal about the ancient Greeks. Everyone should read this at least once.
Published 3 months ago by Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must for any student of Greek Mythology
A very well-written look at Zeus through the ages.

Tom Stone's 22 years in Greece were well spent and his love of Greek mythology shows through in his writing. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Daniel Scallon
5.0 out of 5 stars Zeus at his Best!
Great book on the origins of Zeus and all of the Greek gods/mythology. Tom Stone has traveled throughout the Mediterranean
researching and visiting the places of mythology... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Gale Storm
1.0 out of 5 stars A Waste Of Good Paper
For someone who lived in Greece for 22 years, he doesn't seem to know there are still many followers there of the Greek Gods, otherwise he wouldn't be so disrespectful to start off... Read more
Published on June 25, 2012 by Anastasia
3.0 out of 5 stars A Misleading but Enjoyable Read
Author Tom Stone adopts a casual style of prose that is meant to make for an entertaining story, not be academic. Read more
Published on February 27, 2012 by Double Espresso in Decaf Town
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Review Of Mythological Stories
This is a good book for getting a perspective on Greek mythology and its relationship to actual historical events. Read more
Published on April 25, 2010 by Jeff Marzano
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down...
I expected it to be a bit dry, but after the first chapter, I found I could not put it down, and read it cover to cover in one night.
Published on July 24, 2008 by Kristi Gilleland
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