Greek Mythology, in other ancient cultures, was used as a piece of evidence to explain the environment in which humankind lived, the natural phenomenon that they witnessed, and the passing of time, through days, months, and even years. Myths were used to retell historical events so that humans could maintain contact with their ancestors, their land, and their history. Greek Mythology has several monsters and creatures, which represent chaos, lack of reason, and may also represent the other-worldliness of different places. Greek Mythology is, for some people, a dark and fascinating topic. It involves so many topics, for which there used to be no answers earlier, but today, people have been trying to understand, making it a challenge for the readers to participate in their precarious intellectual abilities.
There are various books, which have proved their worth time and again. There is an array of books on Greek Mythology, both for beginners and professionals. Different people have different takes on Greek Mythology. For some, the beautiful tales and larger-than-life description make for a wonderful piece of Literature, and for some, the prediction of the Gods and the religion is a means of understanding Western civilization and thought.
1. The Complete World of Greek Mythology by Richard Buxton.
A beautiful piece, which deserves its popularity, with an impeccable newbie-friendly introduction to the topic, Richard Buxton’s The Complete World of Greek Mythology, covers almost the same ground as Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes. However, it is written in a less literary manner, for the general public to understand better, and focuses more on the geographical and historical aspect in which the myths were told.
Buxton provides an educational insight on the wider religion and society, of which the Greek Mythology was a part of, the specific roles of the features that the Greek landscape played in ancient myths and lastly, he states how the following centuries have used and preserved the Greek Mythology by re-imagining it in their way.
However, the biggest attraction for a reader of The Complete World of Greek Mythology will be its 330 illustrations, which include 139 colored illustrations that can be seen on practically every page of the book. These illustrations range from artifacts from ancient Greece to photos of Greek landscapes to the classic paintings of Greek Mythology.
2. The Iliad by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles:
Can one even consider themselves a lover of Greek Mythology, if he/she does not have familiarity with Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey? Knowing the topics in summaries is no substitute for the original epic poems. Having knowledge about Homeric Greek is an added advantage if you want to read the original text by Homer.
Earning experience in reading Homer’s work is just as valuable as knowing ancient Greece. As Homer is considered as one of the greatest poets of his time, his works are distressingly beautiful and worth every read.
The Iliad tells the story of the conquest of the city of Troy by a Greek army, led by Achilles, Agamemnon, and Odysseus. The war is taking place for Helen, who was known as the most beautiful woman on the earth, and the daughter of Zeus, who is abducted by one of the Trojans. The plot of the book is constantly changing one way or another, due to the character’s complexities, twists of fate, and divine interventions.
3. The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles:
The second major poem by Homer, The Odyssey, is a continuation of the Iliad and where it has left off. It begins with the conquer of Troy, but, for Odysseus, one of the heroes of the victorious army, there are still many battles which he must face, before setting his feet onto his homeland to his wife, Penelope, and son, Telemachus. Over a period of twenty years, Odysseus must face battles and captivity against the hands of a nymph, the curse of Poseidon, a Greek god, a battle with Cyclops, malevolent spells and drugs, and many other trials and tribulations before he can return to his homeland.
Meanwhile, Penelope and Telemachus must fend off the other suitors who are fixated on getting Penelope’s hand for marriage to win over Odysseus’ wealth. It is Robert Fagles, who makes the translation of both Iliad and Odyssey easier to read and understand in simple English.
4. The Library of Greek Mythology by Apollodorus, translated by Robin Hard:
The Library of Greek Mythology, which is also known as Bibliotheca, is known as the only piece of work surviving from classical antiquity, which provides a wide-ranging account of all the Greek Mythology, inclusive of its larger parts. It has been the main source of the ancient history of Greek Mythology, which scholars have used to put together the fragmented pieces.
The Library of Greek Mythology covers the creation of the world and the birth of the Gods, the exploits of the Gods, and the mighty deeds of heroes like Hercules, Perseus, Theseus, and the women and men of the Trojan War.
It is the translation of Rabin Hard, which is modern and accessible easily, that makes this text worth reading.
5. Myth and Philosophy: A Contest of Truths by Lawrence J. Hatab:
An individual with particular intellectual interests will find the work of Lawrence J. Hatab, enlightening and captivating.
The author offers an overview of the Greek Myths and Religion, from a philosophical view, which is inclusive of what a myth is, what the implicit theory of knowledge is, its relation with the political system, as well as a view of the self in the early Greek days.
The book specifically then considers the historical transformation of myth to philosophy and the roles that the above-mentioned themes played in the changes. Myth and Philosophy has an indispensable attraction for people interested in myth and philosophy.
6. The Penguin Dictionary of Classical Mythology by Pierre Grimal:
This book, specifically has a collection of key terms, which make it easier to understand the nouns and terms, names of characters, places, etc. Pierre Grimal’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology is the best guide available today for understanding Greek Mythology. It covers every noun and pronoun that you encounter while reading a Greek Mythology text. There is a specific description for every character, place, concept, and makes it thorough for the reader, so that, he/she does not get confused among the main points.
7. Greek Religion by Walter Burkert:
If one is interested in going beyond the myth and learning more about the aspects related to the ancient religion to which the Greek Mythology belonged, then, Greek Religion by Walter Burkert is the perfect piece to be read.
Burkert goes much further than simply stating Greek Mythology and its relation to the Gods and other aspects of Greek religion. This text offers a comprehensive detail about the ancient Greek sanctuaries, deities, rituals, theology, rituals of heroism, views on afterlife and death, and many more. There is an ideal synthesis of the factual details and conceptual interpretation.
8. Theogony by Hesiod, translated by M. L. West:
M. L. West’s translation makes it easier to understand, comprehensive, and is full of poetic fruitfulness and distinction.
These few books on Greek Mythology are a great source of information and it can be found woven into every aspect of the modern culture. A reader, who prefers to read about Greek myths and religion is sure to find what he/she is looking for in the above-mentioned books. Without thinking twice, a lover of Greek Mythology will find any source of reading these books.
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, you will enjoy our review of the best Books on Greek Mythology, here