Saturday, October 8, 2016

Classical Mythology

Classical Mythology
Eighth Edition
Oxford University Press (2007)
Mark P.O. Morford, Robert J. Lenardon

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This is a college textbook I found in my sister's room that I decided to read.  It covers mostly Greek mythology with a short chapter devoted to Roman mythology towards the end.

The first part of the book centers around describing the different characters and their importance, the gods and goddesses as well as demigods like Hercules, minor characters like nymphs and centaurs.

The second part is concerned more with examining the epic sagas like the Odyssey and Iliad.

The third and fourth sections are significantly shorter with information on Roman mythology and also how mythology is used today.

Table of Contents

  • Plates, Maps, and Figures
  • Preface
  • About the Authors
  • About the Website
  • Part One - The Myths of Creation: The Gods
    • Interpretation and Definition of Classical Mythology
    • Historical Background of Greek Mythology
    • Myths of Creation
    • Zeus' Rise to Power: The Creation of Mortals
    • The Twelve Olympians: Zeus, Hera, and Their Children
    • The Nature of the Gods
    • Poseidon, Sea Deities, Group Divinities, and monsters
    • Athena
    • Aphrodite and Eros
    • Artemis
    • Apollo
    • Hermes
    • Dionysus, Pan, Echo, and Narcissus
    • Demeter and the Eleusinian Mysteries
    • Views of the Afterlife: The Realm of Hades
    • Orpheus and Orphism: Mystery Religions in Roman Times
  • Part Two - The Greek Sagas
    • Introduction
    • The Theban Saga
    • The Mycenaean Saga
    • The Trojan Saga and the Illiad
    • The Returns and the Odyssey
    • Perseus and the Legends of Argos
    • Heracles
    • Theseus and the Legends of Attica
    • Jason, Medea, and the Argonauts
    • Greek and Roman Legends in Ovid's Poetry
  • Part Three - The Nature of Roman Mythology
    • Roman Mythology and Saga
  • Part Four - The Survival of Classical Mythology
    • Classical Mythology in Literature and Art
    • Classical Mythology in Music, Dance, and Film
  • Glossary of Mythological Words and Phrases in English
  • The Greek Spelling of Names
  • Indexes
    • A. Index of Authors, Composers, and Titles
    • B. Glossary/Index of Mythological and Historical Persons, Places, and Subjects

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I'm sorry...I just love puns.

My favorite section of this text book was part two about actual Greek stories rather than just descriptions of specific gods.  I got a bit confused in the first section because it would jump around a lot to describe everything that happened to a Greek character.  For instance, they may talk about Hermes and everything he did that was significant.  As the described his life, they would reference certain stories and events that I was not very familiar with which would cause me to zone out and lose my place.

The second part was much better at going through in chronological order and for this reason it was easier and more entertaining for me to read.  Since this is a university textbook, it wasn't necessarily the simplest thing in the world and requires some close reading.  I don't think I really understand everything that was said in this section, but I think I have the majority of it down.

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This piece of art is not included in the book, but it is a depiction of events in The Odyssey

Part three was very short and just ran through how the Romans changed things from Greek mythology.  I learned some interesting facts here.  I thought that Romans just completely adopted the Greek mythology without any adaptation, save the names, but apparently Romans already had their own ideas and molded Greek mythology around them.  For this reason, the names are not interchangeable.  For instance, Mars is a much bigger character in Roman mythology than Ares ever was in Greek mythology.

Also very interesting, you can learn a bit about the culture of the Greeks and Romans through their mythology; for instance, because Mars was such a big player in Roman mythology, we can deduce that war played a large part in daily life (which is backed up by historical fact as well).

The last section references lots of movies and books that talk about Greek and Roman mythology.  I didn't really find reading this part cover to cover very interesting, but now if I ever need to find something that fits the categories, I know where I can look.

Image result for odyssey meme

The whole book had lots of beautiful color photos of art, both sculptures and paintings.  It astounded me how much art is based around the Greek and Roman gods.  I would really recommend checking out this book just to see some of the artwork...with that said, beware young eyes because some of this artwork is not very...erm...modest.  Sculpting figures naked was apparently some sort of reference to their absolute glory (think of David by Michelangelo) so a lot of the art is not very well covered.  Within context, there should be no problem, but this is not necessarily a book for little kids!

Anyway, I am happy I have access to this book for reference, but I don't know that it was the most thrilling cover-to-cover read.  If you're interested in Greek and Roman mythology, I would maybe give it a try, but I think this book is best suited for students in a class, with a teacher.  Without an instructor, this book can be very confusing and isn't necessarily meant for entertainment.

Have you ever read Classical Mythology?  Which was your favorite section?
Are you going to read Classical Mythology?  What do you already know of the topic?

Image result for olympians greek

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