Results 1 to 11 of 11

Thread: Starting with Greek philosophy and mythology

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Posts
    2

    Starting with Greek philosophy and mythology

    It seems difficult to get through a couple of pages through any philosophical treatise or even a sophisticated novel without a reference or two to Greek philosophy or mythology. So, I've decided to tackle what I've been avoiding for so long, but I really don't know where to start. There is a handsome amount of philosophy, and a dearth of Greek tragedy available to us, and it is scattered here and there. I do have a couple of necessary books in mind, but don't know which translations/editions to get for those.

    I would really appreciate a list of required reading on Greek philosophy, culture, and mythology, and your preferred editions of these famous books:

    • Metamorphoses, Ovid
    • The Iliad, Homer
    • The Odyssey, Homer
    • All of Plato's (Benjamin Jowett?) and Aristotle's works


    Thanks a lot!

  2. #2
    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Near Chicago, Illinois USA
    Posts
    9,420
    Blog Entries
    2
    I think that required reading lists are signs of hope that there exists a map that leads to the end of the quest one would like to start.

    I don't know enough about Greek philosophy and mythology, but I did enjoy reading Ovid's Metamorphoses and a small portion of Plato's Dialogues. I may have been forced to read small portions of Homer in school, but it was too long ago to remember.

    What I would do, instead of reading a list of books, is to create a list of questions and look for sources to answer those questions. Those initial questions will lead to more questions. The quest never ends, or rather could be longer than our lifetimes.

    Here are three questions that I have at the moment that I have looked at in the past:

    1) Who was the Goddess Diana? That may be her Roman name. She seems more important, or more interesting, than Zeus.

    2) Who were the muses?

    3) In what sense are all of these myths real? Calling them "myths" assumes they are not real. They are just different than what we think is real today.
    Last edited by YesNo; 04-13-2015 at 09:18 AM.

  3. #3
    Closed
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
    Posts
    6,375
    As always, your choice of translations depends on what you want; often it's a choice between fine old translations and newer innovative ones. Personally speaking, I favor older for prose and newer for (most) poetry. Here is a good newish translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses:

    http://www.amazon.com/Metamorphoses-...sap_bc?ie=UTF8

    I would recommend Brian Fagels for Homer and Virgil. Here is a box set, or you could get them separately:

    http://www.amazon.com/Iliad-Odyssey-...eywords=fagles

    But YesNo is right. Classical learning is vast. A cheap fix for mythology is to read Robert Graves The Greek Myths or Edith Hamilton's Mythology. I would recommend Graves, but don't bother with his footnotes. Hamilton is good for younger people, in my opinion. She was a professor are Bryn Mawr in the days when "ladies" weren't allowed to read much mythology because it was too violent, too sexual, too "pagan." Her accomplishment was to write a summary that didn't sacrifice many topics (although she tends to be a bit PG about things--to Graves' R). Her scholarship is also a bit antiquated; but I believe she includes some Germanic mythology (the ladies needed to be ready for Wagner--and Hamilton was German born), which Graves does not.

    But if you should take that course, make sure you don't shortchange yourself by missing out on Ovid's Metamorphoses. I would recommend reading that before Homer. Homer is a greater poet, but much less accessible to beginners. His works (if "he" ever existed) are from almost a thousand years before Ovid's, and they require more intellectual investment and understanding of his context. But he is magnificent. Don't shortchange yourself where Homer is concerned, either.

    I hope that helps some. If other questions come up, be sure to ask.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 04-13-2015 at 12:11 PM.

  4. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Posts
    98
    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    In what sense are all of these myths real? Calling them "myths" assumes they are not real. They are just different than what we think is real today.
    I love that you said that. To me, what is real is a lot more than what most people general consider to be real, mythology included.

  5. #5
    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Near Chicago, Illinois USA
    Posts
    9,420
    Blog Entries
    2
    Thanks, kari. I agree. There is more to reality than we realize and, being an optimist, I think it is far better than we ever imagined.

    Although it is not Greek philosophy and mythology, I am going through Patanjali's "Yoga Sutras" with the help of Dean Radin's "Supernormal", which tries to provide scientific evidence that the siddhis, or powers, mentioned in part 3 of "Yoga Sutras" could have actually been performed. These include things like de-materializing, materializing or levitating as well more acceptable forms of telepathy.

    Just to make sure I am not locking myself in a modern, scientistic box, I like to tell myself that the muses exist in some real way whether I emotionally feel as if I believe it or not.

  6. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Posts
    9
    Marcus Aurelius - Meditations, any translation is good
    Plato - Phaedo

  7. #7
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Location
    Scotland
    Posts
    23
    You should read Virgil's Aeneid, though if you only want an overall picture of the mythology you would be best finding a more recently written book (I found E M Berens' The Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome a nice overview, especially in comparing the two sets of deities).

    As far as Classical culture goes I would recommend reading some drama. Specifically Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides for Greek tragedy and Aristophanes for comedy (even thousands of years later and in translation he can be amusing and even Plato supposedly slept with a copy of his work under his pillow). Seneca is good for Roman drama. I'm afraid I can't recommend any specific translations.

  8. #8
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Munich
    Posts
    74
    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    1) Who was the Goddess Diana? That may be her Roman name. She seems more important, or more interesting, than Zeus..
    Zeus was originally a sky and warrior god of patriarchal Indoeuropean tribes which intruded into Greece around 2,000 BCE. There this god became mythologically associated to goddesses of the native non-patriarchal population (see Gimbutas, Marler, Haarmann, for example). His numerous mythological rapings of such goddesses (e.g. Hera, Persephone) as well as of human females (Europa, Leda, and Alkmene) are reflecting the violent nature of the colonization of Greece by the intruders. Diana is a late offshoot of the Neolithic pre-patriarchal mother goddess which acted, among other things, as ´mistress of the animals´. The most ancient forerunner of that type is the famous 'Seated Woman' of Catal Huyuk (ca. 7th mill. BCE). In the classical age, Cybele, Artemis, and Diana were the most prominent representatives. Chronologically, the Seated Woman is the blueprint of the Anatolian Cybele who is the blueprint of the Greek Artemis who is the blueprint of the Roman Diana.

    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    2) Who were the muses?.
    They stem from the type ´oracle goddess´ which was, in addition to the function as ´mistress of the animals´, another variant of the archaic mother goddess. According to psychoanalyst Erich Neumann they represent the feminine ´matriarchal´, that is, pre-patriarchal type of consciousness which was much more open to the unconsciousness than the masculine, analytical and purpose-oriented patriarchal consciousness. Since ´inspiration´ comes from the unconsciousness, it is connoted as feminine and therefore mythologically associated with female goddesses. The dark side of this idea is the exclusion of females from creative working in Antiquity due to the suppression of women in those times. Thus the feminine was restricted to ´inspire´ males who were privileged for creative production. Even in the 19th century females found it hard to start a creative career, e.g. Fanny Mendelssohn, sister of Felix Mendelssohn who even tried to hinder her career as a composer.

    Quote Originally Posted by YesNo View Post
    3) In what sense are all of these myths real? Calling them "myths" assumes they are not real. They are just different than what we think is real today.
    Of course myths have no reality but are pure phantasies. However they are phantasies of a very special type. First of all, man´s capacity for imagination is the basis for the development of myths. The rational purpose of imagination (or phantasizing) is to internally simulate situations with regard to action options. The emotional purpose is to internally simulate situations with regard to pleasure gain. The basic emotional drives behind phantasies stem from early sexual stages of individual development, that is, the oral, anal, and phallic stages. Moreover, an even more archaic pre-natal stage has to be considered as a source of feelings and mental images which contribute to the construction of phantasies. All that forms the basis of myths on which the cultural levels of myths are founded, with the purpose of world-explanation (forerunner of natural science), mediation of moral principles, and legitimation of social conditions. As to the latter, take the Genesis myth about the so-called Fall which is, among other things, designed to legitimize the suppression of women. So many myths are in a sense ideological, that is, they sham a natural or divine cause of something that is in fact man-made.
    Last edited by Tammuz; 01-19-2017 at 02:20 PM.

  9. #9
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Oregon
    Posts
    45
    METAMORPHOSES by Stephen Mitchell. Period. Outstanding, very readable, gorgeous prose and covers most of the major myths that appear in Shakespeare and other tomes of western literature. TIMELESS TALES OF GODS AND HEROES by Edith Hamilton. Hamilton is regarded as the definitive resource in the 20th century for mythology. What she doesn't know about mythology isn't worth knowing. Go to any library and check out THE GREAT WORLDBOOK SERIES. It is many volumes long, but grab the Iliad and the Odyssey volumes. They're written prose so you'll get the names and stories more readily. Believe it or not, the recent film TROY with Brad Pitt (yes, I can't believe I'm saying this) while not a brilliant film, still very lush and very accurately follows the Iliad. You might watch it a couple of times, then read the GREAT WORLDBOOKS version. As for Aristotle and Plato, they are both very easy to read. You may want to get yourself annotated versions just for cross references that may clarify.

  10. #10
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Posts
    9
    I highly recommend A Very Short Introduction to Classical Literature from the Oxford series. The study of Classical literature is a sizable undertaking and sifting through the various sub-genres and placing them in the proper context can be quite daunting. The book that I suggested was very helpful to me and saved me quite a bit of time.

  11. #11
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2019
    Location
    I am an alien on a training mission.
    Posts
    77
    "Bulfinch's Mythology" and Edith Hamilton's "Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes." But as there was no church to suppress, i.e. codify, textual meaning you should always have a copy of Penguin's "Dictionary of Classical Mythology" by Pierre Grimal at your side while reading. It contains multiple definitions as determined through the readings of multiple classical authors. My copy sits next to my Penguin "Dictionary of Symbols"; also quite valuable.

Similar Threads

  1. Greek Mythology in Modern Literature
    By connwl12 in forum General Literature
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 11-13-2012, 12:50 PM
  2. Greek mythology: The Cyclopes
    By Kyriakos in forum General Literature
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 09-20-2010, 01:44 PM
  3. Novels set within Greek Mythology
    By Mutatis-Mutandis in forum General Literature
    Replies: 15
    Last Post: 03-29-2010, 12:29 PM
  4. The matrix and literature+ Greek mythology
    By Venus_Severus in forum General Chat
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 10-29-2009, 08:12 AM
  5. Greek mythology, where to begin?
    By fleaaaaaa in forum General Literature
    Replies: 17
    Last Post: 09-19-2008, 05:49 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •