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Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes Mass Market Paperback – January 1, 2011
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About the Author
Edith Hamilton (1868-1963) was born of American parents in Dresden, Germany, and grew up in Indiana. Through the first quarter of the twentieth century she was the headmistress of the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore. Upon retiring, she began to write about the civilizations of the ancient world and soon gained world renown as a classicist. Her celebrated and bestselling books include Mythology, The Greek Way, The Roman Way, and The Echo of Greece. She regarded as the high point of her life a 1957 ceremony in which King Paul of Greece named her an honorary citizen of Athens.
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Those who may own older paperback or hardcovered editions of Hamilton's work will discover the 2012 ebook replaces the magnificent artwork of Steele Savage with somewhat less majestic illustrations by Chris Wormell (though the list of illustration topics remains the same). The text remains unaltered, and the formatting is exquisite. There is an active TOC (here at the very end), but (disappointingly) no index in the ebook version. Overall, it is a very handsome ebook and a delight to read.
It is hard to imagine retelling the great myths in a manner more concisely informative than rendered here by Hamilton. Critical reviewers who claim she is too difficult or too dry are certainly entitled to their opinions, but given the nature of the material and the purpose of this book, I would respectfully disagree with them. There is, of course, no substitute for reading the full-length originals from which these great tales have been culled and summarized, but this is by far a much more convenient way to initially encounter them; that is why this book has been (or, at least, once was) heavily used in public schools in conjunction with teaching these timeless stories.
Edith Hamilton's MYTHOLOGY belongs in the personal library of every literate person as an introduction to, summary of, and/or reminder of these Greek, Roman, and Norse myths. But for added insights and additional myths, I would encourage readers of it to also obtain and read BULFINCH'S MYTHOLOGY.
The aim of this book is to produce knowledge of the myths that had been recorded by ancient writers and poets. In fact, the myths as we know now are the creation of great poets, one of which is the Iliad by Homer. Unlike the Egyptian, the Greeks made their gods in their own image and breathed them with their emotions and feelings. It is uncertain how the genesis of the Greek mythology came into being; however the earliest Greek poets arrived at a new point of view which had never been dreamed of in the world before them. It was at this point that mankind regarded itself as the center of the universe, intent upon producing the beauty of human, which was the very consummation of reality.
According to Hamilton, what distinguishes Greek mythology from others is it’s foundation on the factual reality. The nonsensical took place in a world, which was essentially rational and matter-of-fact. For example, Hercules always had his abode in the city of Thebes, save when he took of a journey to accomplish his twelve labors; Aphrodite’s birthplace was just offshore from the island of Cynthera; Pegasus’s comfy stable was in Corinth. There was a sense of reality in the mythological world but no place for magic.
Mythology is not a tome that requires of modern readers perquisites for scholarly knowledge of academic languages, intellectual superiority, or historical knowledge of the ancient time. It is an anthology of entertaining and inspiring tales of gods, goddesses, nymphs, and mortals who fell out of favor with the divine, written in plain English; it’s like listening to a very well-read story-teller. In Mythology, we meet all from the mercurial gods and goddesses on the Mount Olympus even to Norse gods in Valhalla. We are fascinated with tales of Cupid and Psyche, Odyssey’s Golden Fleece, and forlorn Clytie whose love for Apollo pined away. We will discover that Paris of Troy used to live with a nymph called Oenone before deserting her for Helen of Sparta. Besides, we listen to the legends of constellations of the stars as well as many other references for literature, paintings, and music that have been deeply inspired by Greek mythology.
Mythology is the most comprehensive and lucidly accounted tales of mythology based upon Hamilton’s extensive collection of the sources from great ancient poets and writers. Of all other books on mythology of the western civilization I have encountered, this book is by far the most excellent in providing readers with both entertainment and knowledge without academically esoteric approach or literary pompousness. Mythology succeeds in offering education and appreciation of art that has been passed down to our present time for thousands of years. For this reason, Mythology by Edith Hamilton is a touchstone for books on mythology.