The Greek Myths by Robert Graves

This is, I think, the definitive rendering of Greek mythology in English and it is very good. It consists of the stories, nicely written, and then extensive commentary and analysis, essentially anthropological in nature, commenting on the real world events that, according to Graves, lie behind the myths. Which is a shame, in some ways, as it underplays the mystical, ineffable attractions of these famous stories.

I read the stories and missed out most of the commentary. To read the whole lot would be a sizeable academic undertaking.

The most striking thing about the myths is how the majority of them involve rape. Almost every story includes some man (or male god) forcing some woman (or female god, or nymph) to have unwelcome sex. Usually this leads to offspring, who then go on to do wondrous things, like founding cities.

I suppose they reflect human life as it is too often lived, as they do in so many other ways.

The other thing that comes through is that a lot of Greek heroes, Odysseus being a case in point, were horrible bastards.

But it is a great book.


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