cover image Athena: A Biography

Athena: A Biography

Lee Hall. Da Capo Press, $24 (281pp) ISBN 978-0-201-87046-6

Marred by shallow scholarship and a gratuitous rancor that at times veers toward parody, Hall's (Elaine and Bill) discussion of Greek mythology's intriguing warrior goddess and lawgiver offers disappointingly little fresh insight. After an opener in which Athena is characterized as having been ""taken hostage by white males, the power group that owns Western civilization""--a view ascribed vaguely to ""feminists and ethnocentrists""--Hall's heated rhetoric yields to a pedestrian synopsis of myths involving Athena. Here she apes the noncontroversial style of Edith Hamilton, but unlike the earlier popularizer of Greek antiquity, Hall's approach is scattershot. Nearly half the book is devoted to a recap of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, yet the story of Athena's most famous triumph, best known from Aeschylus's Eumenides, is relegated to a few paragraphs and is denied significant commentary (""Some say Athena lied to the Furies and tricked them""). Moreover, certain glaring inaccuracies, such as references to Ilithyia, the goddess of childbirth, as a male god, are symptomatic of Hall's weak grasp of the material. Illustrations. (May)