Oxford Bibliographies Online is a series of intuitive and easy-to-use “ultimate reading lists” designed to help users navigate the vast seas of information that exist today. To introduce you to the doors this new online tool opens Andrew Herrmann, Associate Editor of OBO, has excerpted some suggested reading related to Greek mythology. Use his study guide below to impress the date you bring to see the Immortals.
Andrew Herrmann, Associate Editor, Oxford Bibliographies Online
300, Troy, Percy Jackson & the Olympians, the reboot of Clash of the Titans, the forthcoming Immortals…Hollywood has been brushing up on its epic hexameter (or more likely picked up a Spark Notes guide to Homer) and has re-imagined the swords-and-sandals genre for the 21st century. While it is fun to see these classic works morph from the original Greek texts into flashy, raging battles between Brad Pitt and Eric Bana, classicists and mythology buffs alike often shudder at the blatant inaccuracies presented in these films (if Hector had killed Agamemnon in Troy, we wouldn’t have the Oresteia!). For those interested in knowing what happens in the true classic tradition, OBO recommends the following works on some of the central figures of these films.
Zeus, leader of the Olympians, has a rich mythology which extends beyond Liam Neeson’s now famous “Release the Kraken!” line in Clash of the Titans. Pura Nieto Hernandez’s Mythology entry offers a good starting point for those interested in this lightning-wielding god:
Dowden, Ken. 2006. Zeus. Gods and Heroes of the Ancient World. London and New York: Routledge.
In spite of its brevity, this introduction accomplishes a lot. Not only does Dowden concentrate on the cult of Zeus, he also provides the reader with ample mythological information about his rich subject. His careful presentation and analysis of the previous large bibliography makes this book a good introduction even to the study of ancient religion. Good illustrations add to its appeal.
Poseidon, father of Percy Jackson in the recent Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and soon to be played by Kellan Lutz in the upcoming film Immortals, is the stormy god of the sea. The Greek Religion entry by Angelos Chaniotis points users to a detailed study on the worship of Poseidon in ancient Greece. However, this one is not in English, so brush off your dictionary or head over to Oxford Language Dictionaries Online:
Mylonopoulos, Joannis. 2003. Pelopónnesos oiketérion Poseidonos = Heiligtümer und Kulte des Poseidon auf der Peloponnes. Liège, Belgium: Université de Liège.
Thorough discussion of the cult, sanctuaries, festivals, and political significance of Poseidon in the Peloponnese; an exemplary study in terms of method, approach, and combination of diverse source material for the interpretation of the cult and significance of a god in a specific geographical context.
Perseus, famously portrayed by Harry Hamlin in the 1981 original Clash of the Titans and more recently by Avatar star Sam Worthington, is one of Hollywood’s favorite heroes. The Mythology entry directs us to a book in which Perseus gets his own chapter:
Vernant, Jean-Pierre. 2001. The universe, the gods, and men: Ancient Greek myths. Translated by Linda Asher. New York: HarperCollins.
Treatment of the main myths of the gods before the sovereignty of Zeus, and of some heroes (with chapters on the Trojan War, Odysseus, Oedipus, and Perseus), in the always appealing style of one of the towering figures in the study of mythology. Translation of the French original, L’univers, les dieux, les hommes: Récits grecs des origines (Paris: du Seuil, 1999).
Wilk, Stephen R. 2000. Medusa: Solving the mystery of the Gorgon. Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
On the myth of Medusa and the hero Perseus, with parallels from world mythologies.
For those seeking some background on Achilles, Hector, and the Iliad more generally, the Homer entry of R. B. Rutherford directs us to the following:
Schein, Seth L. 1984. The mortal hero: An introduction to Homer’s Iliad. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
A reliable short study, well suited to those reading the poem in translation.