What Are Your Recommendations for Greek Mythology?

Poseidon and Polybotes
Poseidon and Polybotes. Clipart.com

Question: What Are Your Recommendations for Greek Mythology?

I received the following question:

"Which book would you recommend to an experienced person of Greek Mythology for a better understanding?"
I tried to answer it the way I suspected it was intended -- as well as the way it was written. Thus, the following recommendations are mostly for those inexperienced in Greek Mythology.

Answer: For young people, I would highly recommend the lovely, illustrated D'aulaires' Book of Greek Myths.

There are also online, out of copyright, and therefore somewhat old-fashioned versions of the Greek myths written for young people, including Nathaniel Hawthorne's popular Tanglewood Tales, Padraic Colum's story of the Golden Fleece, which is one of the central episodes in Greek mythology, and Charles Kingsley's The Heroes, or Greek Fairy Tales for My Children. When I was young, I read Tales of the Greek Heroes: Retold From the Ancient Authors, by Roger Lancelyn Green. When I was younger, I was read stories from anthologies I can no longer find. Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad, by Rosemary Sutcliff, is a good introduction to Homer and the tale of Troy that is so central to any study of ancient Greece. Here are some other recommendations for modern books: Top Picks on Books on Legendary Greek Heroes

For somewhat older people, I would recommend Thomas Bulfinch's The Age of Fable or Stories of Gods and Heroes coupled with Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Bulfinch is widely available, including online, and the stories entertain as well as explain, with the caveat that he prefers Roman names like Jupiter and Proserpine to Zeus and Persephone -- all explained in the introduction. Ovid's work is a classic that ties together so many stories as to be somewhat overwhelming, which is why I suggest combining it with Bulfinch, who, incidentally, developed many of his stories by translating Ovid.

To be truly familiar with Greek mythology, you really should know a good portion of the allusions Ovid makes.

For those already familiar with Bulfinch, I would suggest Timothy Gantz' Early Greek Myths, although this is a 2-volume reference work, rather than a book to read. If you haven't already read The Iliad, The Odyssey, and Hesiod's Theogony, those are essentials for Greek mythology, and the works of the Greek tragedians, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, are also basics. I find Euripides stylistically the easiest to digest.

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