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I've always been interested in Greek mythology, but in my country we don't have the kind of standalone college courses you find in the US, and I've never been able to find resources that seemed properly comprehensive.

I don't want to just read stories here and there, like Grimm fairy tales, but get a proper overview of the landscape of Greek mythology, how the stories go together, and so on.

Can anyone point me to a good source, or reading list, on the topic?

  • Why the downvotes? – San Diago Aug 7 '17 at 17:24
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    Probably seen as too opinion based. Nevertheless, I think it's a useful question. Welcome to Mythology! – DukeZhou Aug 7 '17 at 22:02
  • Even though I admire and respect DukeZhou answer, I learned that myths are told and retold, so they must be diverse in form. You may have good books encompassing some of the existing versions, but I think that "authoritative" may not be the best choice of word. – Rodrigo Aug 9 '17 at 9:52
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    @Rodrigo That's a fair point on "authoritative", but I suspect most would regard the OCD in that light. *(I actually listed it first for that reason, even though I rarely consult it myself;) – DukeZhou Aug 10 '17 at 21:22
  • It's a fair question, but answers are going to be subjective. Unlike say, reddit's mythology section, we don't have a resources list. (That I know of, anyway.) Actually, this question and ones like it get asked on reddit quite a bit. – solsdottir Aug 11 '17 at 20:54
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The Oxford Classical Dictionary is often referenced, and although not restricted to mythology, it contains much useful information on Classical civilization which provides critical context in understanding the mythology of the various periods.

Edith Hamilton's Mythology is another good compendium. Although not restricted to Greek mythology, and significantly less comprehensive than Graves, it is also less controversial, and Hamilton was a very fine scholar and translator, and has been widely utilized in education.

As a compendium reflecting the breadth and tradition of Greek Mythology in particular, I still like The Greek Myths, in that it is quite comprehensive and merges multiple, conflicting accounts of myths into a single narrative. It includes citations to the source material, and has a robust index that can be used to track the appearance of different characters from mythology across the canon.*


*Graves' commentary on the myths is not in favor, seen as overly speculative, a fair critique, but it is part of a modern tradition of interpretation deriving from Frazer, and which has significantly influenced the thinking of artists in the 20th century and beyond. (Nevertheless, I expect to get some down-votes for merely for mentioning this useful text;) Graves' most famous book, I, Claudius, is widely regarded as one of the best novels of the 20th century, which places Graves in the tradition of authors like Apollodorus and Ovid, who themselves created compendiums of the myths in there eras. I highly recommend both of those authors!

The full text of Ovid's Metamorphoses can be found on Perseus in English and Latin. (In Perseus' index of Greek and Roman texts, he is listed as P. Ovidius Naso.)

The full text of Apollodorus' Bibliotheca can be found on Perseus in Greek and English, translated by Frazer himself!

  • Exactly the kind of answer I was hoping for! Thanks! – San Diago Aug 8 '17 at 23:00
  • @SanDiago I added links to the compendiums of both Ovid and Apollodorus that you can read online in English and the original. – DukeZhou Aug 10 '17 at 21:43
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Depends if you are interested in scholarly approach or general approach.

General approach

In those books, I range those who are both fun and informative, while not being horrible 600+ pages books without illustration in 10 size fonts.

The everything classical mythology, affordable and fun to read; Offers a cover of the Greeks myth from the Gigantomachy up to Troy.

The complete idiot's guide to mythology. Another fairly simple and fun book to read. it's an Idiot's guide so don't expect too much, but nice.

Classical mythology & more. Another good and easy entry level book. This one, contrary to the first two, actually cites a lot of sources, and the juicy passages. this is overall a damn fairly good and solid book while of easy access. Note also it is designed with teaching in mind so in a way fairly great for a learner (there is little exercises at the end of each chapter).

D'Aulaire's Greek myth Fairly classical, not especially my recommendation.

Graphic Universe, if you love the way the D'Aulaire's are working you can check this wonderful graphic novels series, as for example Odysseus. As the series in its whole is covering a lot of myths you can gain a high knowledge of Greek myths.I am not the biggest fan of comics (eon of) and just read Odysseus which is "accurate". I would favor those over D'Aulaire.

Scholar approach

Those books are if you are interested. Lots of texts, few images, this is the fairly serious matter.

Early Greek myth, Timothy Gantz, you have everything there, sources, literacy; this is the defacto starting book. There are 2 volumes, and definitely NOT a beginner's guide. If you want a gentle introduction, refer to my general section.

Greek religion by Walter Burkert. Just note the author is German, and I pointed you to a translation. Burkert IS a must read, providing the subject interest you. Another extremely good one to read is Structure and history in Greek mythology.

Art and myth in ancient Greece T.H Carpenter, which offers a beautiful reading of myths and arts, here and there you see me using arts or hieroglyphs to explain this or that. While not a compendium, that is a fairly useful tool for you. Even Gantz or Burkert are not especially art oriented.

Greek mythology, an introduction by Fritz Graf, another German guy (learning German when you love myth is FAR from a bad idea, fact is learning English, German and French is pretty smart). This is less aggressive than Grantz (only 300 pages) but still should be read.

The Metamorphoses by Ovid, if you are looking for THE reference, you have it. Not only it is filled up to the root with mythologies BUT, cherry on the cake, it is one of the best poets on Earth who wrote it... you find there lots of alternate versions (read the myth of Romulus and Remus to see Ovid's giving you his opinion with subtlety)

The Penguin's dictionary it's some Penguin's material, solid, well written a good source and reference.

You can add DukeZhou's Hamilton && Oxford book.

To avoid

The Greek myth by Bob Graves. Lack of seriousness for the myth part and for the poetic aspect I would pick Ovid anytime. Quite cited here and there (especially here). If you have time, only (I just gave you 4000 pages. Not to mention the Greek/Roman authors. Come to me after Homer, Hesiod, Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato and Plutarch... Roughly 10k pages before Graves).

Rick Riordan. We saw Rick Riordan cited here and there here. While not a pejorative comment (at all), Riordan is a novelist writing and assuming writing novels. He cannot be considered a Greek source, either than "In Rick Riordan universe... blablabla" (I consider an answer beginning by that totally acceptable). I know Riordan published a compendium on Norse mythology, I have not checked it at all.

  • @SanDiago You are welcome, good readings XD – Gibet Aug 11 '17 at 5:34
  • If you are looking for an internet source, then theoi serves as a good reference. – user647 Aug 14 '17 at 2:14

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