The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology

By Robin Hard | Go to book overview

PREFACE

Although this is essentially a new book in its present form, I originally embarked on it with the intention of producing a revised version of H. J. Rose’s classic Handbook of Greek Mythology, and the final product remains indebted to that work in many respects, incorporating some material from it and following its general plan in parts, especially in the chapters on divine mythology. Herbert Jennings Rose (1883-1961), who was professor of Greek at St Andrews from 1927 to 1953, wrote extensively on ancient religion and mythology, publishing an edition of Hyginus’ mythological manual in 1928, and was also an accomplished translator who introduced works of notable continental scholars such as M. P. Nilsson and R. Pettazzoni to an English-speaking audience. He remarks in the preface to his mythological handbook that he felt impelled to write it because, as a teacher of Classics, he had often felt handi-capped by the lack of book of moderate length containing an accurate account of Greek mythology in accordance with the results of modern research; and the resulting volume, which was first published in 1928, certainly fulfilled a need among students and others who were interested in the subject. It has continued to be of service, moreover, in more recent times, even though many books of a related kind have been published since it first appeared, including various dictionaries of classical mythology and the two-volume surveys of Robert Graves (which has proved very popular in spite of its eccentricities) and Carl Kerényi (the second volume of which, The Heroes of the Greeks, was translated into English by Rose himself). After it had remained in print for seventy years, however, its present publishers thought it desirable that it should be revised to take account of advances in knowledge and the changing needs of its readership. The book has inevitably come to seem old-fashioned or even unreliable in certain respects. To take only one example, advances in archaeology and other disciplines and the decipherment of Linear B (a Mycenaean script) have affected our understanding of the origins and earliest history of some of the major gods (see e.g. p. 170). As a guide to the canon of Greek myth, the book also had one notable shortcoming from the beginning, namely that the coverage of heroic myth is disproportionately brief, especially when it is considered that Greek myth as recorded in classical literature consists predominately of heroic legend (for surprisingly few stories are recorded about the actions of the gods among themselves). I therefore undertook to prepare a revised edition by extending the coverage

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