Mythology Book Summary - Mythology Book explained in key points
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Mythology summary

Edith Hamilton

Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes

4.5 (150 ratings)
32 mins

What is Mythology about?

In Mythology (1942), Edith Hamilton takes the reader on a swift journey through the classical annals, surveying the fascinating stories of Greek and Roman mythology. The power of these stories impacted art and literature for centuries. Here, you can learn their essence. From the creation of the world to the epic siege of Troy, Hamilton gives you the grounding you need.

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    For the Greeks, the world came into being even before the gods.

    In the beginning – as far as the Ancient Greeks were concerned – there was nothing. There were no gods or humans. There was just nothingness, the void that was Chaos.

    Then, though no one quite knew how, something happened. Two children emerged from this oblivion, by the names of Night and Erebus, in which darkness and death were each said to reside.

    Night then laid an egg in Erebus and from the darkness within Night and the death within Erebus, Love was born, bringing order to the chaotic void.

    Love then created two new entities of its own, Light and Day.

    What’s really interesting about the Greek creation myth is there was no attempt to explain the rationale. No god was an architect or initiator; things just happened. The same was true for the creation of the Earth itself.

    The Greek poet Hesiod simply wrote that Earth came to be, and afterward gave birth to starry Heaven, equal to herself.

    You might also have spotted that in these myths there is no difference between an object and a personified agent – sure, Earth and Heaven are places, but they also operate as individuals. That’s why Mother Earth also goes by the name of Gaea, while Ouranos is commonly used for Father Heaven.

    Gaea and Ouranos had a series of monstrous children. Here we have a connection with the Greeks. We know that the world was once filled with monsters. The Greeks were no different. It’s just that their monsters were often a bit more human – it wasn’t a world populated by giant lizards or mammoths. The only difference is that the Greek monsters had more human qualities.

    Three of their children had 100 hands and 50 eyes, and three were born with one eye each – Cyclops. Last of all were the gigantic Titans.

    But Ouranos hated his own children. The youngest of these, Cronos, was so angered by this that he castrated his father, deposed him and instead became ruler over everything in his place.

    Cronos chose to rule with his sister Rhea, and they had many children together. But Cronos would also become an anxious parent, learning that one of his children would eventually dethrone him. To prevent this from happening, Cronos set about devouring his sons and daughters. Only one son, Zeus, managed to escape as Rhea succeeded in hiding him on the island of Crete.

    Eventually, Zeus decided to overthrow his father. With the assistance of the Titan Prometheus, Zeus defeated Cronos and the remaining Titans to become the sole ruler over the world.

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    Best quote from Mythology

    The Greeks did not believe that the gods created the universe. It was the other way about: the universe created the gods.

    —Edith Hamilton
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    About the Author

    Edith Hamilton was a classicist and educator who was active from the turn of the twentieth century right up until her death at age 95 in 1963. She was renowned for bringing the classics of ancient literature to a wider public and her books on Greek and Roman mythology have been rightly lauded. She displayed a talent for distilling the complexity of antiquity and relating it in a clear and exciting way for a modern audience.

    Who should read Mythology?

    • Students of ancient history and classics
    • Any art lover who’s ever viewed a classical mythology-inspired painting with confusion
    • Dinner table conversationalists looking for a classical analogy to spice things up

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