The stories of Greco-Roman gods and heroes permeate our culture in some form or another, in Edith Hamilton’s anthological collection ‘Mythology’ all the original tales are presented in a concise and readable fashion for those discovering them for the first time.
Taking her material from poems and plays from Greek and Roman writers, Hamilton structures the books chronologically through the various ages detailed in Greco-Roman mythology and keeping everything linked together through family relationships. At the beginning of every chapter Hamilton describes her process of choosing the source, or sources, of the tale giving the both the introductory reader and the knowledgeable one the basis for the next tale they are reading. The mythology of the Greco-Roman world and it’s place in both Greek and Roman culture are described in general detail that gives the reader a sense of how each perceived the world around them.
The minor inclusion of the Norse mythology at the end of the book was the biggest failing of the book, Hamilton gave cultural reasons for including but it felt both incomplete and an afterthought. Only Balder’s story was discussed and nothing of the adventures of Thor or others.
Edith Hamilton’s lifetime of research and teaching of Greek and Roman poetry and plays results in a very readable book of Greco-Roman mythology. The book is definitely for casual readers along with those starting their journey into the overall world of Greco-Roman mythology and is not a substitute for reading The Iliad, The Odyssey, or The Aeneid. If you fall into either of these two categories I wholeheartedly recommend this book, but I would look somewhere else if you’re interested in Norse mythology.