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    I have had this book since high school. I believe it was used as a textbook in some class. The image shown of it is from online because on my copy, I had colored in all the "Os" for some reason, and I would guess it was boredom. But as I've mentioned before, my perception of literature now, 45 years past high school, is vastly different. This time around, I am finding the information here very interesting indeed.
    I really do like mythology, and in the past decade or so, I've explored much more than just classic Greek and Roman. And while most of the mythology books I've read more recently are like reading fiction or tales, this book is more of a history of mythology, which includes tales, plus background information. It is in seven parts, and covers Greek, Roman and just a little Norse. There is particular emphasis on the Trojan War and heroes before the Trojan War, plus there are some lesser known myths. All around, a very informative and quite comprehensive volume, and for that reason I'm not covering everything, but will mention basics, highlights, and other materials that I find particularly interesting. I've taken quite a few notes as I read.
    The very first interesting point is right at the very opening paragraph, because this is something I gripe about all the time, and what is currently sending us down the road to utter destruction, and that is our disconnection to nature and to our imagination. "Modern" religion is much to blame for separating humanity from deity (nature). Here is the first paragraph:

Greek and Roman mythology is quite generally supposed to show us the way the human race thought and felt untold ages ago. Through it, according to this view, we can retrace the path from civilized man who lives so far from nature, to man who lived in close companionship with nature; and the real interest of the myths is that they lead us back to a time when the world was young and people had a connection with the earth, with trees and seas and flowers and hills, unlike anything we ourselves can feel. When the stories were being shaped, we are given to understand, little distinction had as yet been made between the real and the unreal. The imagination was vividly alive and not checked by the reason, so that anyone in the woods might see through the trees a fleeing nymph, or bending over a clear pool to drink, behold in the depths a naiad's face.

    Says a lot for our so-called "civilization." Perhaps, most likely, actually, the ancient ones perceived reality much more accurately. Perhaps this was the age before amnesia and willful blindness. Hamilton then goes on to distinguish the differences in how Greeks perceived the world. She says, "With the coming forward of Greece, mankind became the center of the universe, the most important thing in it. This was a revolution in thought." And she also points out, "The Greeks made their gods in their own image."

On earth, too the deities were exceedingly and humanly attractive. In the form of lovely youths and maidens they peopled the woodland, the forest, the rivers, the sea, in harmony with the fair earth and the bright waters.

That is the miracle of Greek mythology—a humanized world, men freed from the paralyzing fear of an omnipotent Unknown.

    And another point which I found surprising is that, "Astrology, which has flourished from the days of ancient Babylon down to today, is completely absent from classical Greece. There are many stories about the stars, but not a trace of the idea that they influence men's lives." She also differentiates between myth and religion. She says, "According to the most modern idea, a real myth has nothing to do with religion. It is an explanation of something in nature; how, for instance, any and everything in the universe came into existence: men, animals, this or that tree or flower, the sun, the moon, the stars, storms, eruptions, earthquakes, all that is and all that happens. Thunder and lightning are caused when Zeus hurls his thunderbolt."
    Of course, the Judeo-Christian philosophies basically say that God made everything, so they didn't have to bother with the colorful and creative explanations of earlier peoples. Myth may not be religion, but in the end, I think we will find that ALL religions are nothing but myths. Hamilton also says that myths were earliest attempts at science, "the result of men's first trying to explain what they saw around them," (such as why the Big Dipper never sets below the horizon). She also says that some stories were meant for pure entertainment.
    (I want to make a couple aside points here. Hamilton always uses the term "men" for "human." If this book had been written later in the century, (it was written in 1940), I think the latter word would have been chosen. Also, all stories here are from the B.C.E. period, unless noted.)
    Hamilton goes on to explain how the gods evolved along with the people. The amorous Zeus or the cowardly Zeus, or the ridiculous Zeus eventually became the more divine Zeus: "Our Zeus, the giver of every good gift, the common father and savior and guardian of mankind." Of course, the Judeo-Christian god has evolved, too. Compare him in the Old Testament to the New Testament. And for many, he (or she) is still evolving, (but of course it is merely our perceptions that evolve).
    According to Hamilton, there are a few ancient writers who have preserved these myths for us. The Greek Homer was certainly extremely important for his Odyssey, and Iliad, (the oldest Greek writings we have), and much later the Roman Virgil for The Aeneid. But unless you are very familiar with classical mythology, you may not have heard of Hesiod:

. . ."a humble peasant living on a lonely farm far from cities was the first man in Greece to wonder how everything had happened, the world, the sky, the gods, mankind, and to think out an explanation. Homer never wondered about anything. The Theogony is an account of the creation of the universe and the generation of the gods, and it is very important for mythology.

    I have found an extensive collection of Hesiod's writings, many consisting of fragments, which includes the Theogony, free at Project Gutenberg. This work will be making its way to these pages, as I am able. In addition to these writers, Hamilton also mentions Pindar, whom she calls "the greatest lyric poet of Greece," then goes on to mention several playwrights whose name most people should recognize: Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and my favorite ancient comedian, Aristophanes, along with numerous other writers progressively less ancient, as we head toward the end of the B.C.E. period and into the C.E. era.
    However, it is Ovid, upon whom Hamilton says most books of myths and stories have relied. But she calls him "frivolous" and says the stories were "sheer nonsense" to him. She says:

He says in effect to his readers, "Never mind how silly they are. I will dress them up so prettily for you that you will like them." And he does, often very prettily indeed, but in his hands the stories which were factual truth and solemn truth to the early Greek poets Hesiod and Pindar, and vehicles of deep religious truth to the Greek tragedians, become idle tales, sometimes witty and diverting, often sentimental and distressingly rhetorical.

    Whew! And all this is just from the Introduction, but it is good material for basics. Now, I will just highlight a few points of interest from each section. Part One is entitled The Gods, the Creation, and the Earliest Heroes:
The Gods
The Titans and the Twelve Great Olympians
The Lesser Gods of Olympus
The Gods of the Waters
The Underworld
The Roman Gods
The Two Great Gods of Earth
Demeter (Ceres)
Dionysus or Bacchus
How the World and Mankind Were Created
The Earliest Heroes
Prometheus and Io
The Cyclops Polyphemus
Flower-Myths: Narcissus, Hyacinth, Adonis

    In Part One, Hamilton introduces us to the family of gods, the most important and ones of lesser importance. She says the Greeks believed the universe created the gods, not vice-versa. Heaven and Earth were the parents, and their children were the Titans. The gods were their grandchildren. She then names the twelve Olympians, Including both the Greek and Roman names. I won't list them, but you can easily look that up. From there, she mentions their offspring, sometimes with disputed parentage, and a few interesting point about each.
    Here's just a couple facts I found interesting: Many of these gods behaved terribly. Zeus would certainly be attacked in the present by the #MeToo movement! Hamilton also says that most had two distinct opposite personalities. For instance, of the goddess of love, Aphrodite (Venus) she says:

The Goddess of Love and Beauty, who beguiled all, gods and men alike, the laughter-loving goddess, who laughed sweetly or mockingly at those her wiles had conquered: the irresistible goddess who stole away even the wits of the wise. . . . But she had another side, too. It was natural that she should cut a poor figure in the Iliad, where the battle of heroes is the theme. She is a soft, weak creature there, whom a mortal need not fear to attack. In later poems she is usually shown as treacherous and malicious, exerting a deadly and destructive power over men.

    Artemis (Diana) is another who has numerous personalities. Known mostly as the Goddess of the Hunt and "protectress of dewy youth," but also fierce and revengeful. She is alternately known as Phoebe and Selene, a moon-goddess, and later as Hecate, the Goddess of the Dark of the Moon, and associated with deeds of darkness. Here are two opposing quotes about her, first as Hecate and second as Artemis/Phoebe:

    Hecate of hell,
    Mighty to shatter every stubborn thing.
    Hark! Hark! her hounds are baying through the town.
    Where three roads meet, there she is standing.

    Whoso is chaste on spirit utterly
    May gather leaves and fruits and flowers.
    The unchaste never.

    But though the ancient peoples believed in these deities, they were really quite useless as helpers of humanity; if fact they caused more troubles:

Zeus a dangerous lover for mortal maidens and completely calculable in his use of the terrible thunderbolt; Ares the maker of war and a jealous pest; Hera with no idea of justice when she was jealous as she perpetually was; Athena also a war maker, and wielding the lightning's sharp lance quite as irresponsibly as Zeus did; Aphrodite using her power chiefly to ensnare and betray. they were a beautiful, radiant company, to be sure, and their adventures made excellent stories; but when they were not positively harmful, they were capricious and undependable and in general mortals got on best without them.

    However, there were two earth-dwelling gods who truly had humanity in their best interest, those being Demeter (Ceres), the Goddess of Corn, and Dionysus (Bacchus), the God of the Vine. The corn goddess would naturally be female, since, while the men were off to war, it was the responsibility of the women to tend the fields. She was truly worshipped as respected as a caring deity. Dionysus was a powerful god, who could be caring, but also cruel. Both gods suffered grief, Demeter for the abduction of her daughter Persephone by the god of the underworld, and Dionysus because he suffered "death" during winter and was "resurrected" in the spring. The stories of both explained the changing of the seasons, and I might add, were adopted by Christians in the death and resurrection of Christ. (Remember, Christian beliefs and rites came from the pagans.) Though not mentioned in this particular book, preceding these two Greek/Roman deities were the Egyptians Isis and Osiris, who were also protectors of agriculture and suffered death and resurrection every year.
    The chapter on creation gives several different versions of how everything came to be. As mentioned above, there was a hierarchy, with the Titans being the parents of the gods. And like a dysfunctional family, they fought tooth and nail.
    Here is an interesting quote that actually and amazingly pertains to where we are right now.

The fifth race is that which is now upon the earth: the iron race. They live in evil times and their nature too has much of evil, so that they never have rest from toil and sorrow. As the generations pass, they grow worse; sons are always inferior to their fathers. A time will come when they have grown so wicked that they will worship power; might will be right to them, and reverence for the good will cease to be. At last when no man is angry any more at wrongdoing or feels shame in the presence of the miserable, Zeus will destroy them too. And yet even then something might be done, if only the common people would arise and put down rulers that oppress them.

    Now, keep in mind that all humans that were created were men. But eventually women had to come along, and the first was a doozy. Pandora. You know, the one that let all the miseries out of the box. Here's what they thought of her, and all women.

When this beautiful disaster had been made, Zeus brought her out and wonder took hold of gods and men when they beheld her. From her, the first woman, comes the race of women, who are an evil to men, with a nature to do evil.

    Hey, Eve . . .
    But not all the gods suffered from a lack of moral integrity. The story of Prometheus is one of great suffering for the sake of righteousness. "His name has stood through all the centuries, from Greek days to our own, as that of the great rebel against injustice and the authority of power."
    There is also a story of the great Deluge, sent by Zeus to destroy the wicked. But a man and woman, Deucalion and Pyrrha, were warned to build a chest and stock it with provisions. The Greek version of the flood only lasts nine days and nights.

    And now on to Part Two, Stories of Love and Adventure:
Cupid and Psyche
Eight Brief Tales of Lovers
Pyramus and Thisbe
Orpheus and Eurydice
Ceyx and Alcyone
Pygmalion and Galatea
Baucis and Philemon
Alpheus and Arethusa
The Quest of the Golden Fleece
Four Great Adventures
Pegasus and Bellerophon
Otus and Ephialtes

    The remainder of the book is mostly a retelling of mythological stories, for which Hamilton usually provides a bit of history and cites the source(s) from which she created her synopsis. Many of these were familiar to me; actually throughout the rest of the book I found that to be true since I have become very interested in mythology in the years I've been writing reviews for this site. For instance, you may read the "comic version" of Pyramus and Thisbe in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Nathaniel Hawthorne re-wrote many mythological tales for young children in his A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales, both of which I've read in the past few years. That would include The Quest of the Golden Fleece and Pegasus and Bellerophon, and numerous others throughout this book. In the latter story, a phrase is used that shows up more than once in here, and refers to the anger of the gods when humans seek to expand their greatest potential. Please note: that has always been the goal of all "gods"—to keep humans small and powerless.

His eager ambition along with his great success led him to think "thoughts too great for man," the thing of all others the gods objected to.

    Part Three is a much shorter chapter, The Great Heroes before the Trojan War:

    Again here, Hawthorne has retold the stories of Perseus and Theseus, (see link above). The point is made in Perseus, and numerous times throughout these tales that the Greeks abhorred the idea of human sacrifice, and the idea of a host hurting a guest was just as ghastly.
    Most of the stories in this book are dead serious, not to mention adulterous, often concerning rapes or abductions perpetrated by the gods. There is also a fatalistic sense of destiny that hangs over so many of both humans and gods, prophesies of eternal torture or misery, with rarely a happy ending. However, one chapter did make me laugh and that was the one on Hercules. The guy was all brawn no brains, yet he had a sense of compassion and heartfelt guilt for all the people he accidentally killed or hurt, often inflicting punishment upon himself. Hamilton writes:

It would have been ludicrous to put him in command of a kingdom as Theseus was put; he had more than enough to do to command himself. He could never have thought out any new or great idea as the Athenian hero was held to have done. His thinking was limited to devising a way to kill a monster which was threatening to kill him. Nevertheless, he had true greatness. Not because he had complete courage based upon overwhelming strength, which is merely a matter of course, but because, by his sorrow for wrongdoing and his willingness to do anything to expiate it, he showed greatness of soul. If only he had had some greatness of mind as well, at least enough to lead him along the ways of reason, he would have been the perfect hero.
Great care was taken with his education, but teaching him what he did not wish to learn was a dangerous business. He seems to not have liked music, which was a most important part of a Greek boy's training, or else he disliked his music teacher. He flew into a rage with him and brained him with his lute.

    In Part Four, we read about The Heroes of the Trojan War:
The Trojan War
Prologue: The Judgment of Paris
The Trojan War
The Fall of Troy
The Adventures of Odysseus
The Adventures of Aeneas
Part One:From Troy to Italy
Part Two: The Descent into the Lower World
Part Three: The War in Italy

    These stories are taken primarily from Homer (The Iliad and The Odyssey), and Virgil's The Aeneid. I read both of Homer's works in my early twenties, but recently pulled them out and put them into my "to read again soon" box. Check the Greek, Roman, Byzantine Index Page for updates.

    Part Five is about The Great Families of Mythology:
The House of Atreus
Tantalus and Niobe
Agamemnon and his Children
Iphigenia among the Taurians
The Royal House of Thebes
Cadmus and His Children
The Seven Against Thebes
The Royal House of Athens
Procne and Philomela
Procris and Cephalus
Orithyia and Boreas
Creüsa and Ion

    Again, Hamilton has drawn upon a number of sources to assemble these stories. Many will recognize the titles and characters from great plays. I have reviewed The Seven Against Thebes, by Aeschylus and also Sophocles' version of Agamemnon entitled Electra. Cadmus and His Children is covered by Hawthorne, linked above, and Oedipus is probably the most well-known of all. Again, check the Greek Index above for updates on these plays, most of which I own and will slowly post.
    One point Hamilton makes here is that with The Royal House of Athens, the myths began losing their power. The story is told, in a conversation between Socrates and his friend Phaedrus, as they wandered where Boreas was said to have carried off Orithyia:

"Tell me Socrates," said Phaedrus, "Do you believe the story?"
"The wise are doubtful," Socrates returned, "and I should not be singular if I too doubted."
This conversation took place in the last part of the fifth century B.C. The old stories had begun by then to lose their hold on men's minds.

    Part Six is some odds and ends—The Less Important Myths:
    Midas—And Others
The Danaïds
Glaucus and Scylla
Pomona and Vertumnus
Brief Myths Arranged Alphabetically

    Most are familiar with Midas, although this version makes no mention of his turning his daughter to gold. Aesculapius (Greek Asclepius) may not be familiar to most but it is to me. For those who are aware of the "thirteenth" zodiac sign, Ophiuchus, (of which I am), would know that he is another that thought "thoughts too great for man." This angered Zeus, who slew him, but placed his body among the constellation Ophiuchus. Aesculapius was a renowned healer who gained some of his power from snakes. The Rod of Asclepius is a snake-entwined rod, (not to be confused with the symbol of the medical profession, the caduceus, which is the staff of the god Hermes). See image below.
    In the brief myths, the one I found most charming was the story of Clytie, a maiden who hopelessly fell in love with the Sun-god. She would follow him as he crossed the sky. Thus she was turned into a sunflower, whose heads turn all day with the sun, and having grown them for years, I can vouch for that.
    I mentioned above that these myths seem so fatalistic, people changed into non-people, and who often had terrible outcomes. But keep in mind that they were also stories to explain something in nature that science had not yet discovered. Clytie is one example.

    Part Seven is The Mythology of the Norsemen, and I am not sure why Hamilton even included this, she speaks so briefly of these rich tales. I have much more information on Norse Gods on my Nordic Index Page. She makes the comment that they are truly fatalistic, knowing that in the end, evil will prevail. The only goal is to be heroic. Well. I don't quite agree that that is our fate. She says:

The world of Norse mythology is a strange world. Asgard, the home of the gods, is unlike any other heaven men have dreamed of. No radiancy of joy is in it, no assurance of bliss. It is a grave and solemn place over which hangs the threat of an inevitable doom. The gods know that a day will come when they will be destroyed. Sometime they will meet their enemies and go down beneath them to defeat and death. Asgard will fall in ruins. The cause the forces of good are fighting to defend against the forces of evil is hopeless. Nevertheless, the gods will fight for it to the end.

Introduction to Norse Mythology
The Stories of Signy and of Sigurd
The Norse Gods
The Creation
The Norse Wisdom

    The book ends with Genealogical Tables and an Index. This book is a great read and comprehensive coverage of Classical Mythology.



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