Since its original publication by Little, Brown and Company in 1942, Edith Hamilton’s Mythology has sold millions of copies throughout the world and established itself as a perennial bestseller in its various available formats: hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, and e-book. Mythology succeeds like no other book in bringing to life for the modern reader the Greek, Roman, and Norse myths and legends that are the keystone of Western culture – the stories of gods and heroes that have inspired human creativity from antiquity to the present.
Edith Hamilton loved the ancient Western myths with a passion–and this classic compendium is her tribute. “The tales of Greek mythology do not throw any clear light upon what early mankind was like,” Hamilton explains in her introduction. “They do throw an abundance of light upon what early Greeks were like–a matter, it would seem, of more importance to us, who are their descendents intellectually, artistically, and politically. Nothing we learn about them is alien to ourselves.” Fans of Greek mythology will find all the great stories and characters here–Perseus, Hercules, and Odysseus–each discussed in generous detail by the voice of an impressively knowledgeable and engaging (with occasional lapses) narrator. This is also an excellent primer for middle- and high-school students who are studying ancient Greek and Roman culture and literature. –Gail Hudson
The New Yorker
Edith Hamilton retells the Greek, Roman, and Norse myths with a sure taste and scholarship that help to restore their quality as perennial and refreshing fables about human nature, including our own.
The New York Times
No one in modern times has shown us more vividly than Edith Hamilton ‘the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome.’ Filtering the golden essence from the mass of classical literature, she proved how applicable to our daily lives are the humor and wisdom of more than 2,000 years ago.
About the Author
Edith Hamilton, an educator, writer and a historian, was born August 12, 1867 in Dresden, Germany, of American parents and grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her father began teaching her Latin when she was seven years old and soon added Greek, French, and German to her curriculum. Hamilton’s education continued at Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut, and at Bryn Mawr College near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from which she graduated in 1894 with an M.A. degree. The following year, she and her sister Alice went to Germany and were the first women students at the universities of Munich and Leipzich.
Hamilton returned to the United States in 1896 and accepted the position of headmistress of the Bryn Mawr Preparatory School in Baltimore, Maryland. For the next twenty-six years, she directed the education of about four hundred girls per year. After her retirement in 1922, she started writing and publishing scholarly articles on Greek drama. In 1930, when she was sixty-three years old, she published The Greek Way, in which she presented parallels between life in ancient Greece and in modern times. The book was a critical and popular success. In 1932, she published The Roman Way, which was also very successful. These were followed by The Prophets of Israel (1936), Witness to the Truth: Christ and His Interpreters (1949), Three Greek Plays, translations of Aeschylus and Euripides (1937), Mythology (1942), The Great Age of Greek Literature (1943), Spokesmen for God (1949) and Echo of Greece (1957). Hamilton traveled to Greece in 1957 to be made an honorary citizen of Athens and to see a performance in front of the Acropolis of one of her translations of Greek plays. She was ninety years old at the time. At home, Hamilton was a recipient of many honorary degrees and awards, including election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Edith Hamilton died on May 31, 1963 in Washington, D.C.
I have never read, or even seen, a book quite so straightforward, compact, and simply written that brings together the mythology of the ancient Greeks and Romans (even a little Norse mythology thrown in).
I picked up this book for some beach reading. (I imagine that sounds strange, but I don’t read novels very often.) As I expected, it was dry in parts and entertaining in other parts. Overall, I can’t imagine getting a better introduction to the subject. I feel much better prepared to read the original writers, having some context and overall perspective.
My other goal was to become a better reader and writer. Hamilton’s style is simple and friendly without embellishment. I’m glad because this book could otherwise have been twice the size. I was interested in the content, to plant the seeds of myth and literary allusion that I hope to include in my own writing and to recognize in what I read.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in an overview of Greek and Roman mythology. It’s very well organized and easy to navigate. I read it straight through, but it would also be a great reference on the subject. The index is exhaustive and helpful.