The Complete World of Greek Mythology

Richard Buxton, Author Thames & Hudson $39.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-500-25121-8
Engrossing and lavishly illustrated, this survey demonstrates once again why Greek mythology is so enduringly popular. Greek lit prof Buxton (Imaginary Greece: the Contexts of Mythology) treats the subject thematically, covering Greek origin myths, the character and functions of the Olympian gods, the exploits of heroes, the Homeric epics and the sagas of the House of Atreus and other tragic clans in which there is a""seamless connection...between heroic exploits and domestic catastrophes."" Maps and family trees are provided to chart the progress of mythic quests and to help keep straight the tangled ancestry and couplings of gods and mortals, along with hundreds of superb photos of landscapes, ruins and objets d'art that steep readers in the atmospherics of ancient Greece. Buxton does not bowdlerize the elements of rape, incest, adultery, homosexuality, castration, bestiality, phallic overstimulation and Dionysian abandon in these stories, or the ubiquitous motif of parents devouring (and regurgitating) their children. But he is alive to their more profound psychological and social import. As mythic cycles of violence and retribution, hubris and nemesis play themselves out, he pegs them as explorations in extremis of the tensions people feel as they are torn between squabbling relatives, family and polis, or duty and fate. Buxton's engagingly written blend of erudition and insight makes these primordial tales seem fresh again.
Reviewed on: 06/28/2004
Release date: 06/01/2004
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