The Greek and Roman Myths: A Guide to the Classical Stories

Thames & Hudson
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Full of intriguing facts and diverting stories—the ideal introduction to the myths and tales that lie at the heart of Western culture. Who was Pandora and what was in her famous box? How did Achilles get his Achilles heel? What exactly is a Titan? And why is one computer virus known as a Trojan horse?

The myths of ancient Greece and Rome can seem bewilderingly complex, yet they are so much a part of modern life and discourse that most of us know fragments of them. This comprehensive companion takes these fragments and weaves them into an accessible and enjoyable narrative, guiding the reader through the basic stories of classical myth.

Philip Matyszak explains the sequences of events and introduces the major plots and characters, from the origins of the world and the labors of Hercules to the Trojan War and the voyages of Odysseus and Aeneas. He brings to life an exotic cast of heroes and monsters, wronged women and frighteningly arbitrary yet powerful gods. He also shows how the stories have survived and greatly influenced later art and culture, from Renaissance painting and sculpture to modern opera, literature, movies, and everyday products.
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About the author

Philip Matyszak has a doctorate in Roman history from St. John’s College, Oxford, and is the author of numerous books, including the bestselling The Greek and Roman Myths: A Guide to the Classical Stories, as well as Legionary: The Roman Soldier’s (Unofficial) Manual and Ancient Rome on 5 Denarii a Day.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Thames & Hudson
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Published on
Nov 15, 2010
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Pages
224
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ISBN
9780500770696
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Ancient / Greece
History / Ancient / Rome
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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This book offers a clear and concise historical overview of the major religious movements of the ancient Mediterranean world existing from the time of the second millennium BCE up until the fourth century CE, including both the Judeo-Christian and pagan religious traditions. Recognizing the significant role of religious institutions in human history and acknowledging the diversity of religious ideas and practices in the ancient Mediterranean world, “religion” is defined as a collection of myths, beliefs, rituals, ethical practices, social institutions and experiences related to the realm of the sacred cosmos. Without focusing too much attention on technicalities and complex vocabulary, the book provides an introductory road map for exploring the vast array of religious data permeating the ancient Mediterranean world.

Through an examination of literary and archeological evidence, the book summarizes the fundamental religious beliefs and practices of the ancient Near Eastern world, including the religious traditions of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt and Israel. Turning westward, the fascinating world of ancient Greek and Roman religion is considered next. The discussion begins with a description of Minoan-Mycenaean religion, followed by a consideration of classical Roman and Greek religion. Next, the numerous religious movements that blossomed during Hellenistic-Roman times are discussed. In addition, the fundamental theological contributions of various Greco-Roman philosophical schools of thought, including Orphism, Stoicism, Pythagoreanism, Platonism and Neo-Platonism, are described. Greco-Roman philosophy functioned as a quasi-religious outlook for many, and played a decisive role in the evolution of religion in the classical and Hellenistic period. The theological speculations of the philosophers regarding the nature of God and the soul made a huge impact in religious circles during the classical and Hellenistic era.

Moving forward in history from archaic and classical times to the later Hellenistic-Roman period, the old religious order of the past falls by the wayside and a new updated religious paradigm begins to develop throughout the Mediterranean world, with a greater emphasis being placed upon the religious individual and the expression of personal religious feelings. There are several important social and historical reasons for this shift in perspective and these factors are explained in the chapter focusing upon personal religion in Hellenistic times. Since the entire religious topography of the ancient Mediterranean world is rarely outlined in a single volume, this book will be a welcome addition to anyone’s library.

“[A] startlingly original history that traces the obscure origins and tangled relationships of the Orpheus myth from ancient times through today” (Library Journal).
 
For at least two and a half millennia, the figure of Orpheus has haunted humanity. Half-man, half-god, musician, magician, theologian, poet, and lover, his story never leaves us. He may be myth, but his lyre still sounds, entrancing everything that hears it: animals, trees, water, stones, and men.
 
In this extraordinary work, Ann Wroe goes in search of Orpheus, tracing the man and the power he represents through the myriad versions of a fantastical life: his birth in Thrace, his studies in Egypt, his voyage with the Argonauts to fetch the Golden Fleece, his love for Eurydice and the journey to Hades, and his terrible death. We see him tantalizing Cicero and Plato, and breathing new music into Gluck and Monteverdi; occupying the mind of Jung and the surreal dreams of Cocteau; scandalizing the fathers of the early Church, and filling Rilke with poems like a whirlwind. He emerges as not simply another mythical figure but the force of creation itself, singing the song of light out of darkness and life out of death.
 
“Did Orpheus exist? Wroe thinks he did, and still does, and dedicates this lyrical biography to doubters.” —The New Yorker
 
“This insightful and visionary study, treading a perfect line between imagination and scholarship, is as readable and necessary as a fine novel. Ted Hughes, another mythographer, would have loved it.” —The Independent
 
“A book to make readers laugh, sing and weep.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 
“[Orpheus] will leave you dancing.” —New Statesman
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