What is the best Greek mythology book (in my chosen categories)?
July 9, 2022 7:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a book on Greek mythology with the best retellings, the best cultural/historical info, and -- most importantly -- the best art. I mean Classical relics, Renaissance paintings, maps, everything. Not just Edith Hamilton with some line drawings. Classical Myth from this question looks pretty good, but is there anything else?
posted by Flying Saucer to Religion & Philosophy (4 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Powell's Classical Myth is pretty much the standard 101-level textbook in the US and it's great, though it may be a bit thin on the kind of lavish art you're looking for [I just took a look at the publisher's page though and maybe they've added a lot more of that in the most recent edition?]. You might try Buxton's The Complete World of Greek Mythology for a bit more focus on illustrations. It takes a more basic approach to the subject matter, however.

Another one I'd highly recommend is Spivey's Greek Art, which isn't about mythology per se, but is a great supplement for any study of ancient Greece. It's from Phaidon Press so it's beautifully done, with lots of great photos of Greek art and relics -- though I don't know if it's been superseded since I got it for a class on Greek archaeology back in the late 90s.
posted by theory at 9:09 PM on July 9, 2022

Best answer: Best single reference probably is Gantz's Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources, but it's a guide integrating text with image traditions, not a picture book. You can use it to find what images interest you, then search for them online by name of the artwork, or via Perseus. For my money, the greatest books with images are the "Gods and Heroes ..." and "Myths and Legends ..." books by Karl Schefold. The One Website To Rule Them All is that of the LIMC.
posted by diodotos at 9:42 AM on July 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would love to see a book like this! In the previous thread, someone recommended Theoi Greek Mythology which is a website, not a book. It might just take a website to do what one imagines from a book like you describe. Every time you look at a myth, there are so many sources and comparisons available, from so many different time periods.

Even if you take just one myth or legend in whatever literary version, there's often a lot of debate to be had about how artistic and archaeological evidence compares and contrasts with it. (Or even if, for example, a Greek vase long said to depict a certain legend actually does that, or if the supposed representation is just a flight of fancy.) When I did classics in college, people were just really getting away from looking at a literary text and then sort of jamming the art and archaeology into that framework-- or just using the artistic evidence to illustrate the myth, rather than inform it. I just did some searching to see if someone had published a big beautiful book along those lines, but found nothing.

But I totally agree, there should be a visual element! I fell in love with Greek literature through D'Aulaires at my grandmother's house. I find those illustrations quite weird now but they stick in the mind, for sure.
posted by BibiRose at 11:07 AM on July 10, 2022

Response by poster: Thanks, all. It looks The Complete World of Greek Mythology is the winner.

And thanks Bibirose for showing me the Theoi site. I love it!
posted by Flying Saucer at 4:40 PM on July 12, 2022

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