I loved this book.
There is no shortage of books about Greek mythology or featuring gods and goddesses pulled from the Greek (and Roman) myths, so to stand out in this field you really need to provide something unique to be a draw. Author Liv Albert manages to do just this and thereby provides a tremendous resource.
The book is separated into four parts. The first part is an essay on “What is Greek Mythology?” I really appreciated that Ms. Albert spends a good amount of time in this section discussing the role of the Titans and how they begat the Gods. The Titans’ stories are so rarely told today – or at least rarely told in the context as ‘Titans’ but instead referred to as gods. Here we learn about power-hungry Kronos and how he castrated his father Ouranos and, when his wife Rhea gave birth to a child, Kronos would eat the child. Rhea finally got wise and took a child to be hidden away and instead gave Kronos a rock, wrapped up in a blanket as if it were a child, and Kronos swallowed the bundle whole. That child, however, was taken down to Mount Ida on the Isle of Crete and was named Zeus.
In this section of the book we also learn the names of some of the groups of gods and monsters that we don’t often hear about (and some we think we know a lot about): The Hecatonchires; The Erinyes; The Gigantes; Naiads, Dryads, Hamadryads, Hesperides, Nereids, Lampades, the Muses, the Fates, the Furies, Sirens, Satyrs, Centaurs, etc.
Sections 2,3, and 4 of the book present the gods, goddesses, and heroes in a slightly different manner. Here each figure is given their own attention, starting in ‘The Olympians’ section with their name and title (such as Zeus, God of the Sky, Weather, Destiny, and Law and Order; King of the Gods) as well as other names the figure may be known as (ie: “Jupiter, Jove (both Roman/Latin)” for Zeus). Then there’s a little bit about the figure in a section Albert calls “What His Deal?” followed by “The Story You Need to Know” and “Now You Know.”
In ‘The Olympians’ we get to know a little more about: Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Persephone, Hectate, Cerberus, Demeter, Hera, Athena, Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Hephaestus, Ares, Hermes, Dionysus, and Hestia.
Part 2, “Deities Etc” follows the same format with the following: Prometheus, Pandora, Leto, Daphne, Eros, Psyche, Echo and Narcissus, Typhon and Echidna.
Part 3 struck me as really interesting because it gives the same kind of information but veers away from the gods a bit. The section is titled “Heroes and Mortals” and includes: Semele, Io, Europa, Leda, Actaeon, Theseus, Hippolyta, Ariadne and Phaedra, Heracles, Perseus, Medusa, Jason, Medea, Cadmus, Atalanta, Daedalus, Icarus, Pasiphae and Minos; The Minotaur, Orpheus and Euridice, Phaethon, Oedipus, Procne and Philomela, Tantalus and His Family, The Danaids, Paris, Agamemnon, Achilles and Patroclus, Clytemnestra and Her Children, Odysseus, Polyphemus, Circe, and Scylla and Charybdis.
This makes a lot of sense, and admittedly I’ve thought about some of the humans as gods, given their exploits.
Most of the figures in this book I’ve at least heard of, though there were some new names to me, but I learned quite a bit about some of the stories. I had not realized that “together, Typhon and Echida spawned most of the most famous monstrous creatures of mythology.” Nor was I familiar with the story of Echo and Narcissus.
The book is delightfully illustrated by Sara Richard who provides some bold, unique portraits throughout. I wish there was a painting for each name in the book, but there is not.
I’ve already used this book as a reference to look something up in regards to the Greek gods and I have no doubt that this will be a well-used resource. I like the ease of access and the brevity of the information while still giving a solid report on each individual..
Looking for a good book? I wouldn’t say anyone should throw out their Edith Hamilton Mythology book just yet, but for a quick snapshot for modern readers, Liv Albert’s Greek Mythology book is a must-have.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Greek Mythology: The Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes Handbook: From Aphrodite to Zeus, a Profile of Who’s Who in Greek Mythology
author: Liv Albert
publisher: Adams Media
hardcover, 240 pages