Classical Mythology: A Very Short Introduction, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


From Zeus and Europa, to Diana, Pan, and Prometheus, the myths of ancient Greece and Rome seem to exert a timeless power over us.

But what do those myths represent, and why are they so enduringly fascinating?

Why do they seem to be such a potent way of talking about our selves, our origins, and our desires?

This imaginative and stimulating Very Short Introduction goes beyond a simple retelling of the stories to explore the rich history and diverse interpretations of classical myths.

It is a wide-ranging account, examining how classical myths are used and understood in both high art and popular culture, taking the reader from the temples of Crete to skyscrapers in New York, and finding classical myths in a variety of unexpected places: from arabic poetry and Hollywood films, to psychoanalysis, the bible, and New Age spiritualism.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area.

These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 168 pages, 24 halftones, 1 map
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Literary theory
  • ISBN: 9780192804761



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Discusses the uses to which mythology was and is put, and how those uses are what turn <i>stories</i> into <i>myths</i>. I found it more useful and credible than many academic theories treating myth as though it were an organic category. The first five chapters are quite good. Scattered through them is discussion of the coalescence of what is now considered classical mythology, and the reciprocal development of scholarly interest in it. The historical consumption of myth (<i>e.g.</i>, as allegory) receives far more attention than scholarly inquiries into the original functions of myths, many of which seem inductive rather than empirical. One chapter considers the importance of myth to psychoanalysis, and implicitly considers the possibility that Freud was just talking out of his backside (the fact that they acknowledge this as a possibility gives the entire argument that much more credibility). It left me thinking that, had he lived today, he'd be considered a quack. The last two chapters (politics of sex; hippies' use of myth) are muddled and weak. The first of them, I think, is so simply because of a paucity of VSI-appropriate research to summarize; the latter, I think, is so because pastiche is form without substance and there just isn't much <i>to</i> be said about it.