|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Pages||2 volumes (370 pp, 410 pp)|
The Greek Myths (1955) is a mythography, a compendium of Greek mythology, with comments and analyses, by the poet and writer Robert Graves. Many editions of the book separate it into two volumes. Abridged editions of this work contain only the myths and leave out Graves' commentary.
Each myth is presented in the voice of a narrator writing under the Antonines, such as Plutarch or Pausanias, with citations of the classical sources. The literary quality of his retellings is generally praised.
Following this, Graves presents his interpretation of its origin and significance, influenced by his belief in a prehistoric Matriarchal religion, as discussed in his book The White Goddess and elsewhere. Graves' theories and etymologies are rejected by most classical scholars. Graves argued in response that classical scholars lack "the poetic capacity to forensically examine mythology".
Graves interpreted Bronze Age Greece as changing from a matriarchal society under the Pelasgians to a patriarchal one under continual pressure from victorious Greek-speaking tribes. In the second stage local kings came to each settlement as foreign princes, reigned by marrying the hereditary queen, who represented the Triple Goddess, and were ritually slain by the next king after a limited period, originally six months. Kings managed to evade the sacrifice for longer and longer periods, often by sacrificing substitutes, and eventually converted the queen, priestess of the Goddess, into a subservient and chaste wife, and in the final stage had legitimate sons to reign after them.
The Greek Myths presents the myths as stories from the ritual of all three stages, and often as historical records of the otherwise unattested struggles between Greek kings and the Moon-priestesses. In some cases Graves conjectures a process of "iconotropy", or image-turning, by which a hypothetical cult image of the matriarchal or matrilineal period has been misread by later Greeks in their own terms. Thus, for example, he conjectures an image of divine twins struggling in the womb of the Horse-Goddess, which later gave rise to the myth of the Trojan Horse.
Graves's imaginatively reconstructed "Pelasgian creation myth" features a supreme creatrix, Eurynome, "The Goddess of All Things",who rises naked from Chaos to part sea from sky so that she can dance upon the waves. Catching the north wind at her back and rubbing it between her hands, she warms the pneuma and spontaneously generates the serpent Ophion, who mates with her. In the form of a dove upon the waves she lays the Cosmic Egg and bids Ophion to incubate it by coiling seven times around until it splits in two and hatches "all things that exist ... sun, moon, planets, stars, the earth with its mountains and rivers, its trees, herbs, and living creatures".
In the soil of Arcadia the Pelasgians spring up from Ophion's teeth, scattered under the heel of Eurynome, who kicked the serpent from their home on Mount Olympus for his boast of having created all things. Eurynome, whose name means "wide wandering", sets male and female Titans for each wandering planet: Theia and Hyperion for the Sun; Phoebe and Atlas for the Moon; Metis and Coeus for Mercury; Tethys and Oceanus for Venus; Dione and Crius for Mars; Themis and Eurymedon for Jupiter; and Rhea and Cronus for Saturn.
Graves's retellings have been widely praised as imaginative and poetic, but the scholarship behind his hypotheses and conclusions is generally criticised as idiosyncratic and untenable.
Ted Hughes and other poets have found the system of The White Goddess congenial; The Greek Myths contains about a quarter of that system, and does not include the method of composing poems.
The Greek Myths has been heavily criticised both during and after the lifetime of the author. Critics have deprecated Graves's personal interpretations, which are, in the words of one of them, "either the greatest single contribution that has ever been made to the interpretation of Greek myth or else a farrago of cranky nonsense; I fear that it would be impossible to find any classical scholar who would agree with the former diagnosis". Graves's etymologies have been questioned, and his largely intuitive division between "true myth" and other sorts of story has been viewed as arbitrary, taking myths out of the context in which we now find them. The basic assumption that explaining mythology requires any "general hypothesis", whether Graves's or some other, has also been disputed. [ page needed ] Robin Hard called it "comprehensive and attractively written," but added that "the interpretive notes are of value only as a guide to the author's personal mythology". The Disraeli scholar Michel Pharand replies that "Graves's theories and conclusions, outlandish as they seemed to his contemporaries (or may appear to us), were the result of careful observation."The work has been called a compendium of misinterpretations. Sibylle Him refers to Graves' "creative mishandling of the Greek myths."
H. J. Rose, agreeing with several of the above critics, questions the scholarship of the retellings. Graves presents The Greek Myths as an updating of William Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (originally published 1844), which Graves calls "the standard work in English", never brought up to date; Rose is dismayed to find no sign that Graves had heard of the Oxford Classical Dictionary or any of the "various compendia of mythology, written in, or translated into, our tongue since 1844". Rose finds many omissions and some clear errors, most seriously Graves's ascribing to Sophocles the argument of his Ajax (Graves §168.4); this evaluation has been repeated by other critics since.
Graves himself was well aware of scholarly mistrust of The Greek Myths. In a letter to Ava Gardner, he wrote:
Hera is the goddess of women, marriage, family and childbirth in ancient Greek religion and mythology, one of the Twelve Olympians and the sister and wife of Zeus. She is the daughter of the Titans Cronus and Rhea. Hera rules over Mount Olympus as queen of the gods. A matronly figure, Hera served as both the patroness and protectress of married women, presiding over weddings and blessing marital unions. One of Hera's defining characteristics is her jealous and vengeful nature against Zeus' numerous lovers and illegitimate offspring, as well as the mortals who cross her.
Robert von Ranke Graves was a British poet, historical novelist, critic, and classicist. His father was Alfred Perceval Graves, a celebrated Irish poet and figure in the Gaelic revival; they were both Celticists and students of Irish mythology. Graves produced more than 140 works in his lifetime. His poems, his translations and innovative analysis of the Greek myths, his memoir of his early life—including his role in World War I—Good-Bye to All That, and his speculative study of poetic inspiration, The White Goddess, have never been out of print.
In Greek mythology, Atlas was a Titan condemned to hold up the celestial heavens or sky for eternity after the Titanomachy. Atlas also plays a role in the myths of two of the greatest Greek heroes: Heracles and Perseus. According to the ancient Greek poet Hesiod, Atlas stood at the ends of the earth in extreme west. Later, he became commonly identified with the Atlas Mountains in northwest Africa and was said to be the first King of Mauretania. Atlas was said to have been skilled in philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy. In antiquity, he was credited with inventing the first celestial sphere. In some texts, he is even credited with the invention of astronomy itself.
Aglaea or Aglaïa is the name of several figures in Greek mythology, the best known of which is one of the three Charites or Gratiae (Graces).
In Greek mythology, a Gorgon is a mythical creature portrayed in ancient literature. While descriptions of Gorgons vary and occur in the earliest examples of Greek literature, the term commonly refers to any of three sisters who later were described as having hair made of living, venomous snakes, as well as a horrifying visage that turned those who beheld them to stone.
Eurynomê is a name that refers to the following characters in Greek mythology:
In Greco-Roman mythology, Leuce, also spelled Leuke, was the most beautiful of the nymphs and a daughter of Oceanus. Hades fell in love with her and abducted her to the underworld. She lived out the span of her life in his realm, and when she died, the god sought consolation by creating a suitable memorial of their love: in the Elysian Fields where the pious spend their afterlife, he brought a white tree into existence. It was this tree with which Heracles crowned himself to celebrate his return from the underworld.
In some versions of Greek mythology, Ophion, also called Ophioneus (Ὀφιονεύς) ruled the world with Eurynome before the two of them were cast down by Cronus and Rhea.
The name Pelasgians was used by classical Greek writers to refer either to the ancestors or forerunners of the Greeks, or to all inhabitants of Greece before the emergence or arrival of Greeks aware of their Greekness. In general, "Pelasgian" has come to mean more broadly all the indigenous inhabitants of the Aegean Sea region and their cultures, "a hold-all term for any ancient, primitive and presumably indigenous people in the Greek world".
The White Goddess: a Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth is a book-length essay on the nature of poetic myth-making by author and poet Robert Graves. First published in 1948, the book is based on earlier articles published in Wales magazine, corrected, revised and enlarged editions appeared in 1948, 1952 and 1961. The White Goddess represents an approach to the study of mythology from a decidedly creative and idiosyncratic perspective. Graves proposes the existence of a European deity, the "White Goddess of Birth, Love and Death", much similar to the Mother Goddess, inspired and represented by the phases of the moon, who lies behind the faces of the diverse goddesses of various European and pagan mythologies.
In Greek mythology, Orion was a giant huntsman whom Zeus placed among the stars as the constellation of Orion.
In Greek mythology, Medusa also called Gorgo, was one of the three monstrous Gorgons, generally described as winged human females with living venomous snakes in place of hair. Those who gazed into her eyes would turn to stone. Most sources describe her as the daughter of Phorcys and Ceto, although the author Hyginus makes her the daughter of Gorgon and Ceto.
The world egg, cosmic egg or mundane egg is a mythological motif found in the cosmogonies of many cultures that is present in proto-Indo-European culture and other cultures and civilizations. Typically, the world egg is a beginning of some sort, and the universe or some primordial being comes into existence by "hatching" from the egg, sometimes lain on the primordial waters of the Earth.
The Triple Goddess is a deity or deity archetype revered in many Neopagan religious and spiritual traditions. In common Neopagan usage, the Triple Goddess is viewed as a triunity of three distinct aspects or figures united in one being. These three figures are often described as the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone, each of which symbolizes both a separate stage in the female life cycle and a phase of the Moon, and often rules one of the realms of heavens, earth, and underworld. In various forms of Wicca, her masculine consort is the Horned God.
Euhemerism is an approach to the interpretation of mythology in which mythological accounts are presumed to have originated from real historical events or personages. Euhemerism supposes that historical accounts become myths as they are exaggerated in the retelling, accumulating elaborations and alterations that reflect cultural mores. It was named for the Greek mythographer Euhemerus, who lived in the late 4th century BC. In the more recent literature of myth, such as Bulfinch's Mythology, euhemerism is termed the "historical theory" of mythology.
In Greek mythology, Hegemone was a Greek goddess of plants, specifically making them bloom and bear fruit. According to Pausanias, Hegemone was a name given by the Athenians to one of the Graces. Auxo represented the spring, and Hegemone autumn.
Eurynome was a deity of ancient Greek religion worshipped at a sanctuary near the confluence of rivers called the Neda and the Lymax in classical Peloponnesus. She was represented by a statue of what we would call a mermaid. Tradition, as reported by the Greek traveller, Pausanias, identified her with the Oceanid, or "daughter of Ocean", of Greek poetry.
A matriarchal religion is a religion that focuses on a goddess or goddesses. The term is most often used to refer to theories of prehistoric matriarchal religions that were proposed by scholars such as Johann Jakob Bachofen, Jane Ellen Harrison, and Marija Gimbutas, and later popularized by second-wave feminism. In the 20th century, a movement to revive these practices resulted in the Goddess movement.
Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the origin and nature of the world, the lives and activities of deities, heroes, and mythological creatures, and the origins and significance of the ancient Greeks' own cult and ritual practices. Modern scholars study the myths to shed light on the religious and political institutions of ancient Greece, and to better understand the nature of myth-making itself.
Mary Lefkowitz, Greek Gods, Human Lives
Kevin Herbert: review of TGM; The Classical Journal, Vol. 51, No. 4. (Jan. 1956), pp. 191–192. JSTOR link.