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Classical Mythology

A Guide to the Mythical World of the Greeks and Romans

Second Edition

William Hansen

Publication Date - 01 July 2020

ISBN: 9780197506646

432 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock


Classical Mythology offers both newcomers and long-time enthusiasts new ways to navigate the world of Greek and Roman myths and legends, beginning by explaining what classical mythology is, how it came into being, and how we know about it today. Although classical myths and legends are often encountered separately, they actually make up a coherent, self-contained system--a corpus of narratives with geography, history, and interrelationships as well as narrative rules and conventions. The present book explores the individual stories and the cosmic realms in which they are situated, and introduces the principal characters--gods, nymphs, satyrs, centaurs, monsters, and humans--along with their relationships to one another: how they are similar, how they differ, and why deities and humans need each other. It describes the physical worlds in which the mythic action takes place: terrestrial landscapes and waters, the lofty abode of the Olympian gods, the lowly realm of the dead, and Tartaros, cosmic prison for defeated supernatural beings.

The main part of the book gives a detailed narration of the principal events of classical mythology in chronological sequence from the beginning of the cosmos to the end of the heroic age, showing the relationship of individual narratives to the whole. This chronological narration is complemented by a mythological dictionary of the most important characters and themes. In addition, the dictionary discusses key concepts that are crucial for understanding how classical mythology functions.

Richly illustrated with more than one hundred images drawn from ancient art, the second edition of this unparalleled guide includes a thoroughly revised introduction, augmented lexical entries, an updated further-reading section, and enlarged discussions about the reception of classical mythology and the impact of cognitive science on the study of myth.

Whether you wish only to explore the narratives or do research on a specific aspect of the whole, this handbook is the best available guide to an extraordinary cast of characters, to the fascinating world in which they play out their fates, and to current work on classical mythology.

New to this Edition

  • A thoroughly revised introduction, augmented lexical entries, an updated further-reading section, and enlarged discussions about the reception of classical mythology and the impact of cognitive science on the study of myth


  • Provides continuous narration and a mythological dictionary
  • Brings a classicist and folklorist perspective to ancient mythological narratives
  • Over 100 illustrations, all based on ancient art

About the Author(s)

William Hansen is Professor Emeritus of Classical Studies & Folklore at Indiana University, Bloomington. Along with the present work, his books include Phlegon of Tralles' Book of Marvels (1996), Anthology of Ancient Greek Popular Literature (1998), Ariadne's Thread: A Guide to International Tales Found in Classical Literature (2002), and The Book of Greek and Roman Folktales, Legends, and Myths (2017).


"A useful guide for nonspecialists." -- P. E. Ojennus, CHOICE

"Those interested in the folklorist approach to myth will welcome William Hansen's Classical Mythology. This is neither a straightforward dictionary of mythology, nor a retelling of myths, but an innovative mix of both ... Hansen adopts a folkloristic approach to Greek myth, and his entries on concepts such as wondrous objects, human and divine tricksters, triads, or tasks are especially valuable ... I highly recommend reading this book cover to cover." -- Ivana Petrovic, Greece & Rome

"It will help to orient those studying Classics and other courses on the ancient world, especially mythology, but students of English and other European literatures will also find assistance here.... Hansen is himself an expert storyteller, and his accounts of individual myths are always a pleasure to read.... The publishers have taken care to produce a reliable and accessible Guide at a price within the reach of virtually every undergraduate. This is no mean feat." -- Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Table of Contents

    Picture Credits

    1 Introduction

    2 What Happens in Classical Mythology

    3 Lexicon of Characters, Themes, and Concepts

    4 Annotated Resources

    Abbreviations and Selected Reference List

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