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Classical Mythology in Context

Second Edition

Lisa Maurizio

Publication Date - 01 August 2022

ISBN: 9780190081898

728 pages

Provides a contextualized treatment of classical myth, combining ancient sources, comparative perspectives, theoretical approaches, and artistic interpretations.


Classical Mythology in Context provides a contextualized treatment of classical myth, combining ancient sources, comparative perspectives, theoretical approaches, and artistic interpretations. It encourages students to directly encounter and explore ancient myths and to understand them in broader interpretative contexts. It features a modular structure that coincides with the four main components of a classical mythology course: history, theory, comparison, and reception.

New to this Edition

  • Reorganized Part II on Heroes/Heroines improves the sequencing of topics and offers more opportunities for comparisons between topics.
  • New translations of Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns, and the Bacchae in Part I and Antigone, Hecuba, Medea, Herakles, Vergil, and the tragedies of Seneca in Part II I provide more accessibility
  • Scholars and writers whose work now appears in the Second Edition include Simone Weil, Sue Grand, David Malouf, Pat Barker, Clare Pollard, Deborah Lyons, and Gail Carriger
  • Revisions of several the Reception modules increase the number of examples from popular culture, including the treatment of Achilles in contemporary fiction (chapter 10), casting Heracles in contemporary film (chapter 11), Penelope's Perspectives (chapter 13), and Antigone around the world (chapter 15)
  • Now offers an enhanced e-book with video clips, audio, flashcards, and quizzes to further increase opportunities for student engagement. Instructors now also have access to Oxford Learning Link Direct, which provides a course cartridge with test questions, PowerPoint slides, and other resources that can be embedded directly in the their LMS.


  • Modular structure efficiently organizes the material--saving time and effort for the instructor and providing the student with a framework for studying classical mythology
  • Provides a sustained discussion of religious practices and sacred places that offers a key approach to the historical contextualization of Greek myths
  • Offers an introduction to--and integration of--theoretical approaches to myth in each chapter that shows how these approaches affect the ways in which students understand myths and mythic figures
  • Includes an ample selection of primary sources with accessible translations
  • A robust comparative approach examining Greek myths alongside other myths from the Mediterranean Basin and the Ancient Near East
  • An approach to the reception of myths as interpretation and reflection in Western art, with an emphasis on contemporary culture
  • The text's modular approach lends itself to "chunking" assessment by learning objectives

About the Author(s)

Lisa Maurizio is Associate Professor of Classical and Medieval Studies at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.

Table of Contents


    Preface to the Second Edition
    About the Author

    PART I: Goddesses and Gods
    Genealogy of the Greek Gods
    Timeline of Classical Mythology
    Map: Greece and Greek-Speaking Cities in Anatolia

    1 Classical Myths and Contemporary Questions

    1.1 What Is a Myth?
    Myth, Legend, and Folklore
    A Three-Point Definition of a Mythological Corpus

    1.2 What Is Classical Mythology?
    Myths from Ancient Greece
    Myths from the Ancient Near East
    Myths from Ancient Rome

    1.3 How Do We Make Sense of Classical Myths?

    1.4 Why Study Classical Myths in the Twenty-First Century?

    2 Creation

    2.1 History: A Greek Creation Story
    Historical Settings of Hesiod's Theogony
    Hesiod's Creation Story: The Theogony
    Hesiod, Theogony

    2.2 Theory: The Social World Shapes Myth
    Ivan Strenski, from “Introduction” to Malinowski and the Work of Myth

    2.3 Comparison: Levant: Creation Stories
    Genesis 1:1-3:24

    2.4 Reception: Titans in Modern Art

    3 Zeus and Hera

    3.1 History: Order and Rebellion
    Aeschylus, from Agamemnon
    Hesiod, from Works and Days

    3.2 Theory: Universal Questions Shape Myth
    Wendy Doniger, from The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth

    3.3 Comparison: Levant: Flood Stories
    Genesis 6-9

    3.4 Reception: Leda and the Swan in Modernist Poetry
    Marie Laurencin, Leda and the Swan
    William Butler Yeats, “Leda and the Swan”
    Hilda Doolittle (H. D.), “Leda”

    4 Demeter and Hades

    4.1 History: Life and Death
    Unknown, Hymn 2: To Demeter

    4.2 Theory: Myths Reinforce Social Norms
    Helene P. Foley, from “A Question of Origins: Goddess Cults Greek and Modern”

    4.3 Comparison: Mesopotamia: Ishtar
    Unknown, the Descent of Ishtar to the Underworld

    4.4 Reception: Persephone in Contemporary Women's Poetry
    Rita Frances Dove, “The Narcissus Flower”

    5 Aphrodite, Hephaestus, and Ares

    5.1 History: Love and Strife

    Unknown, Hymn 5: To Aphrodite

    5.2 Theory: Myths Challenge Social Norms
    John J. Winkler, from “The Laughter of the Oppressed: Demeter and the Gardens of Adonis”

    5.3 Comparison: Mesopotamia: Ishtar
    Unknown, The Epic of Gilgamesh

    5.4 Reception: Pygmalion in Hollywood

    6 Athena and Poseidon

    6.1 History: Wisdom and War
    Athena's Birth
    Athena's Practical Intelligence and Men's Activities
    Athena and the City of Athens
    Aeschylus, from Eumenides

    6.2 Theory: The Mind Structures Myth in Oppositions
    Simon Goldhill, from Aeschylus: The Oresteia

    6.3 Comparison: Egypt: Neith
    Unknown, from “Cosmogonies at the Temple of Esna”

    6.4 Reception: Athena as a Political Allegory
    Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People
    François-Charles and Léopold Morice, The Statue of the Republic
    Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”
    Frédéric Bartholdi, “The Statue of Liberty”

    7 Hermes and Hestia

    7.1 History: From Herms to Hermes
    Hermes's Hills
    Ithyphallic Herms
    Beardless Hermes
    Unknown, Hymn 4: To Hermes

    7.2 Theory: The Mind Structures Myths in Archetypes
    Lewis Hyde, from Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth and Art

    7.3 Comparison: Egypt: Thoth
    Unknown, “The Hymn to Thoth”
    Plato, from Phaedrus

    7.4 Reception: Hermaphroditus in Pre-Raphaelite Art
    Edward Burne-Jones, “The Tree of Forgiveness”
    Aubrey Beardsley, “A Hermaphrodite Amongst the Roses”

    8 Artemis and Apollo

    8.1 History: From Adolescence to Adulthood
    Unknown, Homer, Hymn 3: To Apollo
    Unknown, Homer, Hymn 27: To Artemis

    8.2 Theory: Myth, Ritual, and Initiations
    Jane Harrison and the Cambridge Ritualists
    Arnold van Gennep and Rites of Passage
    Ken Dowden, “Initiation: The Key to Myth?”

    8.3 Comparison: Anatolia and Rome: Cybele
    Artemis and the Phrygian Great Mother
    Artemis in Roman Ephesus
    Xenophon, from An Ephesian Tale

    8.4 Reception: Daphne in Contemporary Women's Poetry
    Alicia E. Stallings, “Daphne”

    9 Dionysus

    9.1 History: Encountering Dionysus
    Viticulture, Wine, and Fertility
    Theater and Masks
    Mystery Cults
    Euripides's Bacchae
    Euripides, Bacchae
    Unknown, Hymn 7 (To Dionysus)

    9.2 Theory: Initiations and Inversions
    Liminality and Initiation Rituals
    Liminality and Dionysus
    Eric Csapo, from “Riding the Phallus for Dionysus: Iconology, Ritual, and Gender-Role De/Construction”

    9.3 Comparison: Anatolia and Rome: Cybele and Attis
    The Great Mother in Greece
    The Great Mother in Rome
    Catullus, “Attis”

    9.4 Reception: Dionysus and Dracula
    Bram Stoker, Dracula

    PART II: Heroes and Heroines
    Five Traits of Greek Heroes and Heroines

    10 Heroes at Troy

    10.1 History: Heroes in Homer's Iliad
    The Trojan War
    Heroes in Homeric Society
    Hector and Paris
    Homer, from the Iliad

    10.2 Theory: Heroes and Violence
    Simone Weil, “The Iliad, or a Poem of Force”
    Sue Grand, Hero in the Mirror

    10.3 Comparison: Rome: Aeneas
    Anger and Revenge in Vergil's Aeneid
    Vergil, from Aeneid

    10.4 Reception: Achilles in Contemporary Fiction
    David Malouf, Ransom
    Pat Barker, The Silence of the Girls

    11 Heroes at the Ends of the Earth

    11.1 History: Heroic Quests and Monstrous Encounters
    Euripides, from Herakles

    11.2 Theory: Monsters and Heroes
    Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Thesis V from “Monster Culture (Seven Theses)”

    11.3 Comparison: Rome: Hercules
    From Heracles to Hercules
    Seneca, from Hercules Furens

    11.4 Reception: Heracles in Films
    Hercules in New York

    12 Heroes at Home

    12.1 History: The Homecoming Husband
    Nostos and Nostalgia
    Homer, from the Odyssey

    12.2 Theory: The Quest Hero
    Joseph Campbell's Monomyth
    Subjective Experience and the External Landscape
    W. H. Auden, from “The Quest Hero”

    12.3 Comparison: Rome: Aeneas
    Aeneas in Avernus
    Vergil, from Aeneid

    12.4 Reception: African American Odysseus
    Sterling A. Brown, “Odyssey of Big Boy”
    Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

    13 Heroines at Home

    13.1 History: Heroines' Choices
    Heroines and Heroes
    Homer, from the Odyssey

    13.2 Theory: A Paradigm for Heroines
    Apuleius's Tale of Amor and Psyche
    Defining Heroism
    Lee R. Edwards, from Psyche as Hero: Female Heroism and Fictional Form

    13.3 Comparison: Rome: Penelope
    Ovid, Letter 1 from Letters of Heroines

    13.4 Reception: Penelope's Perspectives
    Joanne Kyger, The Tapestry and the Web
    Louise Glück, Meadowlands
    Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad

    14 Heroines and Revenge

    14.1 History: Heroines in an Unjust World
    Euripides, Medea

    14.2 Theory: Metamorphosis of the Heroine
    Deborah Lyons, from Gender and Immortality: Heroines in Ancient Greek Myth and Cult

    14.3 Comparison: Rome: Medea
    Ovid's Medea
    Seneca's Medea
    Seneca, from Medea

    14.4 Reception: African American Medea
    Countée Cullen, The Medea and Some Poems
    Owen Dodson, The Garden of Time
    Toni Morrison, Beloved

    15 Heroines and Honor

    15.1 History: Heroines and Death
    Sophocles, Antigone

    15.2 Theory: The Heroine's Journey
    Gail Carriger, from The Heroine's Journey for Writers, Readers and Fans of Pop Culture

    15.3 Comparison Rome: Thecla
    Saints and Martyrs in Early Christian Communities
    Heroines and Martyrs
    Thecla as a Christian Heroine
    Unknown, from “The Acts of Paul and Thecla”

    15.4 Reception: Antigone Around the World
    Jeff Ho, Antigone: Fong
    Sophie Deraspe, Antigone

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