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The Gods of Olympus: A History

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The Gods of Olympus: A History Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

An elegant and entertaining account of the transformations of the Greek gods across the ages, from antiquity to the Renaissance and the present day

The gods of Olympus are the most colorful characters of Greek civilization: even in antiquity, they were said to be cruel, oversexed, mad, or just plain silly. Yet for all their foibles and flaws, they proved to be tough survivors, far outlasting classical Greece itself. In Egypt, the Olympian gods claimed to have given birth to pharaohs; in Rome, they led respectable citizens into orgiastic rituals of drink and sex. Under Christianity and Islam they survived as demons, allegories, and planets; and in the Renaissance, they triumphantly emerged as ambassadors of a new, secular belief in humanity. Their geographic range, too, has been little short of astounding: in their exile, the gods and goddesses of Olympus have traveled east to the walls of cave temples in China and west to colonize the Americas. They snuck into Italian cathedrals, haunted Nietzsche, and visited Borges in his restless dreams.

In a lively, original history, Barbara Graziosi offers the first account to trace the wanderings of these protean deities through the millennia. Drawing on a wide range of literary and archaeological sources, The Gods of Olympus opens a new window on the ancient world, religion, mythology, and its lasting influence.

Review:

"Durham University classics professor Graziosi offers an engaging, if simplistic, history of the Greek pantheon. She recounts mythic tales, of course, but her focus is on the Olympians' changing cultural role throughout human history. Fittingly, the gods are most prominent as individualized characters, as the archaic Greeks understood them to be human-like deities traversing the 'very real landscape' of the Aegean. Their identities become more abstract as cultural tides subsequently cast the gods as 'strictly literary' allegorical concepts, amoral political allies useful for 'personal advantage,' and 'trivial apparitions' and 'incidental decoration.' Graziosi crosses the centuries elegantly, using the gods' constant presence to suggest that history is an ongoing continuum, era divisions being the somewhat arbitrary constructions of later generations. Disappointingly, this account of the Olympians stops short of the modern era. Though Graziosi insists on their significance to any contemplation of humanity, and even suggests that her work is an addition to an ongoing dialogue, no attention is paid to more recent interpretations, such as the beloved and influential Harryhausen films, among other popular contemporary treatments. Still, it's an intelligent and entertaining examination of the Greek deities' timeless ability to 'express different, human truths.'" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Barbara Graziosi is the author of Inventing Homer and Homer in the Twentieth Century, among other works. In 2011, she provided the introduction and notes for a new translation of the Iliad for Oxford Worlds Classics. A professor of classics at Durham University, Graziosi is also a contributor to The Times Higher Education Supplement, the London Review of Books, and BBC radio programs on the arts. The Gods of Olympus is her first trade book. She lives in the U.K.

Table of Contents

CONTENTS

Preface: Simonides Was Wise          1

Introduction: A Family Portrait          5

Part I • Birth: Archaic Greece          15

     1. At Home in Greece          17

     2. Epic Visions          29

     3. Critical Views          43

Part II • Dialogue: Classical Athens          51

     4. An Education for Greece          53

     5. Exile and Death          65

     6. Fictions and Fantasies          77

Part III • Travel: Hellenistic Egypt          89

     7. Farther Than Dionysos          91

     8. Dead Gods and Divine Planets          104

     9. At Home in Alexandria          115

Part IV • Translation: The Roman Empire          125

     10. The Muses in Rome          127

     11. Ancestors, Allies, and Alter Egos          138

     12. Mutants          148

Part V • Disguise: Christianity and Islam          159

     13. Human Like You          161

     14. Demons          171

     15. Sackcloth and Scimitars          185

Part VI • Born Again: The Renaissance          197

     16. Petrarch Paints the Gods          199

     17. A Cosmopolitan Carnival of Deities          210

     18. Old Gods in the New World          225

Epilogue: A Marble Head          235

Appendix: The Twelve Gods          247

List of Illustrations          251

Notes and Further Reading          253

Acknowledgments          277

Index          281

Product Details

ISBN:
9780805091571
Subtitle:
A History
Author:
Graziosi, Barbara
Publisher:
Metropolitan Books
Subject:
World History-Ancient Near East
Subject:
Ancient - Greece
Subject:
Folklore & Mythology
Subject:
Mythology-Folklore and Storytelling
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20140311
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Language:
English
Illustrations:
34 images t/o text
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » World History » Ancient Near East
Humanities » Mythology » Classical
Humanities » Mythology » Folklore and Storytelling
Religion » Western Religions » General and Comparative Religion

The Gods of Olympus: A History New Hardcover
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Product details 304 pages Metropolitan Books - English 9780805091571 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Durham University classics professor Graziosi offers an engaging, if simplistic, history of the Greek pantheon. She recounts mythic tales, of course, but her focus is on the Olympians' changing cultural role throughout human history. Fittingly, the gods are most prominent as individualized characters, as the archaic Greeks understood them to be human-like deities traversing the 'very real landscape' of the Aegean. Their identities become more abstract as cultural tides subsequently cast the gods as 'strictly literary' allegorical concepts, amoral political allies useful for 'personal advantage,' and 'trivial apparitions' and 'incidental decoration.' Graziosi crosses the centuries elegantly, using the gods' constant presence to suggest that history is an ongoing continuum, era divisions being the somewhat arbitrary constructions of later generations. Disappointingly, this account of the Olympians stops short of the modern era. Though Graziosi insists on their significance to any contemplation of humanity, and even suggests that her work is an addition to an ongoing dialogue, no attention is paid to more recent interpretations, such as the beloved and influential Harryhausen films, among other popular contemporary treatments. Still, it's an intelligent and entertaining examination of the Greek deities' timeless ability to 'express different, human truths.'" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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