Classical Mythology: The Basics  book cover
1st Edition

Classical Mythology: The Basics

ISBN 9780415715034
Published May 9, 2016 by Routledge
184 Pages

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Book Description

This is an engaging introduction which explores the latest thinking about Classical mythology, the history of interpreting myths and the role of myths in cultural tradition, from painting to opera, philosophy, politics, drama, and religion in the modern day. It answers such questions as

  • what are ancient myths and who invented them
  • where do gods come from
  • what makes a hero
  • how is Classical myth used in the modern world
  • and what approaches are there to the study of myth?

Featuring further reading and case studies from antiquity to the modern day, this is an essential introduction to the myths which have been a fundamental part of Western culture throughout history.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations



Chapter 1: Stories that stay

Myth as Speech

Myth and community traditions

Myth and belief

The range of tradition

Rejecting myth

Rationalizing myth

Allegorizing myth

How we get myth

The sources--a brief chronological list

Further reading

Chapter 2: Talking of Gods

Origin stories

Hesiod’s Theogony

Other origin myths

Where gods come from

What are gods good for?

Further reading

Chapter 3: Heroic dimensions

Hero: the ancient idea

Heroes in Homer and Hesiod


Heroic quests and their meaning

Hero patterns


Hero as politician

Heroine as athlete

Further reading

Chapter 4: Interpreting myths--symbols and societies

Myths as symbols: Greeks to Romantics

Myths as symbols: Freud, Jung, and others

Myths and society: early forerunners

Myths and society: the role of ritual

Myths and society: functionalists and structuralists

Further reading

Chapter 5: Myths, media, memories

Roman reception of myth

Mythic media, from ancient to modern






Visual art


Comics, graphic novels, video games

Further reading



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Richard Martin is Professor in Classics at Stanford University and has twenty-five years' experience in teaching an introduction to Classical Mythology to undergraduate students. He is widely published on Homer, Hesiod, Pindar, Aristophanes,Theognis, and other ancient authors and genres in which mythic narration figures prominently.


"An engaging and insightful introduction that explains the character and significance of Classical mythology in the ancient world and outlines how and why it continues to matter today."

- Fiona Hobden, University of Liverpool, UK


"Classical Mythology: The Basics is a good first approach to the vast field of mythology ... the clear and complete nature of the book makes it accessible to a wide audience whose knowledge of the subject [may not be] extensive."

- Sarah Lagrou, Universite Grenoble Alpes, France, in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review


"This excellent book, by Stanford classicist Richard Martin, gives a packed yet pellucid overview of Greek and Roman mythology ... There are succinct discussions of myths of origin, especially of Hesiod’s Theogony, which Martin helpfully matches up with the Babylonian Enuma Elish. Discussed at length are hero myths, which some sticklers in folklore would rather call legends. Here Martin most helpfully distinguishes ancient conceptions of heroism from modern ones, where heroes can be ordinary rather than exceptional ... Managing in addition to find space to discuss the appearance of ancient myths in a host of modern media, Martin offers a superb presentation of classical mythology."

- Robert A. Segal, University of Aberdeen, UK, in Reading Religion, a publication of the American Academy of Religion