Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Edith Hamilton's "Mythology"

The wonderful "Midnight Summer Festival"
is in full swing!

Be sure to visit the host blogs,
as well as the participating blogs,
for interesting posts related to mythology,
as well as terrific giveaways!

Today I'd like to feature a book that
has become a classic in
the literature of mythology.

Hardcover, 497 pages
Published by Little, Brown & Co.
January 30, 1942

From Amazon's Product Description

Since its original publication by Little, Brown & Company in 1942, this author's Mythology has sold millions of copies throughout the world & established itself as a perennial bestseller in its various available formats: hardcover, trade paperback, & mass market paperback. Mythology succeeds like no other book in bringing to life for the modern reader the Greek, Roman & Norse myths & legends that are the keystone of Western culture - the stories of gods & heroes that have inspired human creativity from antiquity to the present.  (description for the Back Bay Books 1998 trade paperback edition)

I have just purchased a copy of this book on Amazon, and hope to read it soon -- that is, after I've finished my current and soon-to-be-read books...( There's just so much great stuff to read, and so little time in which to do so!)

The author presents skillful retellings of the original, classic Greek, Roman, and Norse myths.  As far as I know, this book has been in print continuously since it was first published in the 1940's.  

Here's a partial list of the Table of Contents:


I) The Gods
The Titans and the Twelve Great Olympians
The Lesser Gods of Olympus
The Gods of the Waters
The Underworld
The Lesser Gods of Earth
The Roman Gods

III) How the World and Mankind Were Created

IV) The Earliest Heroes
Prometheus and Io
The Cyclops Polyphemus
Flower-Myths: Narcissus, Hyacinth, Adonis


I) Cupid and Psyche

II) Eight Brief Tales of Lovers
Pyramus and Thisbe
Orpheus and Eurydice
Ceyx and Aleyone
Pygmalion and Galatea
Baucis and Philemon
Alpheus and Arethusa

And here's a quote from the book:

We do not know when these stories were first told in their present shape; but whenever it was, primitive life had been left far behind.  The myths as we have them are the creation of great poets. 

Aside from Bulfinch's Mythology, this is probably the book most read by those who love mythology, being used as an introductory textbook in many high schools.  It's impressive how long it has endured.

The author, Edith Hamilton, was a noted American educator and classical scholar.  Her first book The Greek Way, was published in 1930.  Another work, The Roman Way, was published in 1932, and yet another, The Echo of Greece, in 1957.

Born in Dresden, Germany, on August 12, 1867, she grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the United States.  She would return to Germany in 1895 to study humanities and classics at the University of Munich.

She had originally intended to pursue a doctoral degree in Leipzig, but was discriminated against merely because she was a woman.  She then planned to obtain it at Munich, but never did.  Instead, she accepted a position as head of the newly opened Bryn Mawr Preparatory School for Girls in Baltimore, in the U.S.  She remained for twenty-six years.

She received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Rochester and the University of Pennsylvania, both  in 1950. 

In 1957 she was awarded the Golden Cross of the Order of Benefaction by King Paul of Greece, thus becoming an honorary citizen of Athens. 

She wrote several other books related to classical studies, and died on May 31, 1963, in Washington, D.C.

The Wikipedia article I used as source contains more detailed information about this fascinating scholar.

Edith Hamilton
Classical scholar and author
(1867 - 1963)


  1. I read Mythology for one of my classes last year! Edith Hamilton tells the Greek and Roman myths beautifully, and she also includes a bit on Norse myth in the last section of the book. Fascinating post, Maria, and I hope you enjoy the book! :)

  2. Hey, Kat!! Thanks for the compliment! I know I will enjoy this book. I don't know why I never read it before. I had heard of it, of course, but just never read it! Incredible! You lucky thing -- you got to read it last year! Now I gotta catch up!! Lol.

    Thanks again for teh comment!! : )

  3. hola Maria! i love this book! i have a really old copy which i treasure and read every now and then. one can never get tired of reading these timeless stories. i used to have a paperback copy of Bulfinch's Mythology. again, it's one of the early editions but over the years it just disappeared! lol. i now have an ebook copy though but i still plan to get a replacement for the book that went GWTW! you might want to get one too! it's a keeper! c",)

  4. I will have to pick this book up! I think my dad has a copy of it in his office...

  5. Hi, Ao!!!

    This is truly a perennial classic! I have decided to order a hardcover copy as well! My paperback is already on the But I figure I should have one for display, and another for the actual reading. Although I do take excellent care of my books. When I finish a book, you can't tell I've read it. And NO ebooks for me!! I have to be able to handle a book, lovingly turn the pages, smell the paper, and also caress the cover... lol.

    And yes, I'm also planning to get "Bulfinch's Mythology", which I've heard a lot about, too.

    Thanks for the comment!! : )

  6. Hi, Susie!

    Oh, good! I can't wait to read mine -- it's still in transit from Amazon. Hope you enjoy the book!

    Thanks for the comment!! : )


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