A Short Guide to Classical Mythology

A Short Guide to Classical Mythology

A Short Guide to Classical Mythology

A Short Guide to Classical Mythology


A user-friendly, quick reference guide for teachers, students, and general readers; an excellent, interdisciplinary resource for studies of classics, literature, and history.-- Complete reference list with pronunciations-- Variable entry lengths-- Principal stories of classical mythology-- Emphasis on literary importance of Greek myths-- References to English and European literature


Mythology has many aspects and many uses, and a guide to classical mythology might serve one or more of several purposes. It might stress the religious significance of the myths, or present them in the light of their meaning for Greek and Roman history, or analyze them from the point of view of anthropology or psychology. Or it might treat them, as they are treated in this book, essentially as stories, emphasizing their importance in literature. Whatever else a myth may be, it is a story, and the Greek word mythos means just that, [story.] No doubt the ancestors of many of these stories were once upon a time told to explain the phenomena that surrounded and puzzled the teller and his audience, or to authenticate customs and beliefs. But the one sure and consistent fact about the Greek myths is that they are, as they have come to us, lively and satisfying stories, and it is this that makes them continue, in age after age, to be a quarry for poets and a delight for readers.

In this book the selection and treatment of myths are, then, influenced by their importance in ancient and modern literature. (A few myths are included which are negligible in literature, the story of Melampus, for example. In this instance and some others, the intrinsic interest of the myth justifies its inclusion.) To aid the process of selection, the mythological references of a number of important English poets (Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Jonson, Milton, Dryden, Wordsworth, Byron, Keats, Shelley, Tennyson, Landor, Arnold, Browning, Swinburne, and Eliot) were compiled and used as a guide. An effort has been made to render the book useful also for the most commonly read classics of other European literatures: the Greek tragedies, for example, and the Divine Comedy. Completeness could not be attempted, but it is thought that no myths that have been conspicuously or repeatedly used in literature have been omitted.

A short book that tries to cover as much ground as this one must be compressed. It is hoped that by having many short entries, with a few long and comprehensive entries, two aims will be served: to provide a reasonably complete reference list for the student of literature, and to convey the principal stories of classical mythology in a way that does not wholly rob them of their quality as stories. Reference is made from one entry to another by printing in bold type, within the body of the text, the word (usually a name) for which the reader is to consult another entry. Reference is made only when some information about the person or thing concerned is to be found in the entry referred to; thus the Trojan War does not appear in the form Trojan War every time it is mentioned, but only when the topic of discussion is further discussed in the entry Trojan War.

A few of the longest entries have been divided into sections introduced by italicized headings, as an aid in finding references. Thus, for example . . .

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