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Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece (The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library) Paperback – October 9, 2001
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“A superb volume, the keystone for any home library.”
—The New Yorker
“A book to be grateful for. . . . Schwab retells the legends of ancient Greece with splendid vigor and charm.”
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German
Top customer reviews
While it is admittedly true that some of the lesser-known or miscellaneous myths scattered throughout the Greek culture have been either neglected or omitted; however, I believe this was necessary to maintain the fluidity of his work as one myth transitions into another. This book is not simply a collection of myths; it's a chronology of Ancient Greece's more fictitious historical identity. Through this novel approach, Schwab combines historical accuracy with mythical legend and applies a writer's techniques with the heart of a poet. Needless to say, I believe that this novel is an essential and necessary piece of literary art for anyone interested in Ancient Greek history and/or mythology to own.
My only complaint is that by providing his singular interpretation, albeit one conceived from the various mythologies of ancient mythic authors, he is suppressing the fact that Greek mythology was in fact a religion based on local interpretation as compared to the universal doctrines so commonly found in later organized religions. There are hundreds, if not thousands or tens of thousands, of unique versions of each and every myth, depending on which location and time period one chooses to study. The fact of the matter is that there are no and never had been any dogmatism or strict doctrines within the Ancient Greek pagan beliefs. Until Gustav Schwab's epic interpretation (as found in this novel), the majority consensus among ancient Greeks regarding their theistic beliefs was ambiguous and relied primarily on the recognition of the most fundamental qualities of their faith. Outside of that, Ancient Greek paganism was a hazy conglomeration of local cults and deities assumed under a single system of belief.
I might also add that the telling of Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey" within this book are very basic and only fleetingly follows the original translation. In this, too, Schwab wove his own version of events in an artistic and relatively concise manner. That said, if you're seeking accurate, meticulously rendered translations of the original texts, you'll be sorely disappointed in this book. For these two reasons and these two alone, I believe this only deserves a four-star rating. Outside of that, this is an amazing and phenomenal book in every single way and if you have the opportunity to buy and/or read it, don't hesitate to jump on the chance while you still can.
After reading G&H for only a short amount of time you'll realized how complex many of the classic heroes are. While many of these figures are renowned by their great acts of bravery, heroes such as Heracles are also known for their self-less acts and compassion for their fellow man. G&H is for anyone who is interested in reading an intriguing account of the famous/infamous people and deities of ancient Greece.