Published in 1942, Mythology by Edith Hamilton is one of the most comprehensive guides to mythology ever written. In her stories she makes the characters come to life. From the Greek gods to the Roman gods and on to the Norse gods. She also includes stories about the heroes in mythology such as Jason and his Argonauts, Hercules, and the Trojan War.
This book has been used in high schools and colleges for years. For many people, it is their introduction to mythology. Broken into seven different sections, Mythology provides easy to follow research for writers. The first section covers the Greek gods and their myth of creation. These stories include the Titans and Zeus. The second section covers Greek and Roman myths that are more adventurous and romantic. There are stories about Cupid and Psyche, Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece and Perseus taking the head of Medusa. The third and fourth section is filled with the Trojan War and stories of some of the heroes after the war. These stories include Odysseus, Aeneas, and Pyrrhus.
The fifth and sixth sections cover some of the lesser known mythological figures and their stories. Such as Midas and the Amazons. The last section covers the mythology of Norsemen. There are stories covering creation through to Ragnarok. There are stories with Odin, Thor, and the Valkyries to name a few.
Edith Hamilton taught classical studies for twenty-six years at Bryn Mawr College then after she retired she became an author. She used her gift and knowledge to write a book that is informative and entertaining.
In the introduction, Edith says that unlike the common misperception that myths told stories about the accord between gods and nature, they are stories full of violence, disease, and hardships. The Greeks gods were in human form as opposed to the Egyptian and Mesopotamian that are more animal like. For the Greeks, their gods had many of the foibles of humans including jealousy and adultery. No matter how fearsome the gods and their minions, in the end, the hero always wins.
Edith points out that the myths are meant to explain natural phenomena or tell stories as opposed to worship. But in the later stories, Zeus becomes more omnipotent, and the gods begin to be worshiped. In this book, Edith accesses a variety of sources including Ovid, Euripides, Homer, and Sophocles.
The Gods, the Creation, and the Earliest Heroes
“The Greeks did not believe the gods created the universe.” First, it was the heaven and earth; their first children were the Titans. The children of the Titans were the gods. The gods live in Olympus where there is no rain, and they spend their time drinking, eating a lounging about. There are twelve Olympians. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades are brothers; their sisters are Hestia and Hera. Hera is also the wife of Zeus. The children of Zeus are Ares, Athena, Apollo, Hermes, and Artemis. In some stories, Hephaestus and Aphrodite are also his children.
Among the lesser gods are Eros, Hebe, the Graces and the Muses. Poseidon is the god of the sea, and the creatures of the waters are under his domain. That includes the sea nymphs and Triton. Hades is the ruler of the underworld. His queen is Persephone. He is the ruler of the dead. There the souls are separated with the good going to the Elysian Fields and the wicked going to eternal torment.
There are also the lesser gods that live on Earth, including Pan and Silenus. There are the forest nymphs, the Centaurs, and the Gorgons. The Fates are not assigned to Heaven or Earth. They are in charge of the threads of men’s lives, and all are at their mercy. Including Zeus.
How the World and Mankind were Created
From Chaos comes Night and Erebus. From them comes Light and Day. Out of Love, Light and Day, the Earth emerges. From Earth is Heaven. The two of them create all of life. The first they create is the monsters. Next, come the Titans. Then Cronus, a Titan kills Heaven, and the Titans become rulers of the universe. But from the blood of the dying Heaven comes the Giants and the Furies.
Cronus learns from the Fates that one of his children will kill him, so he eats all of them at birth. But Rhea, his wife saves one of them by putting a stone in its place. That baby becomes Zeus. He forces Cronus to vomit the children he ate. Then the gods defeat the Titans. Since one of the Titans, Prometheus aided them he is not imprisoned, neither is his brother, Epimetheus, but the rest of the Titans are chained and sent to the bowels of the Earth. Atlas is made to hold the world on his shoulders as punishment.
In one story of the creation of man, Prometheus and Epimetheus were given the job of creating life. Unfortunately, Epimetheus gave most of the best traits to animals, so Prometheus decided to level the field by making humans in the image of gods and giving them fire. This infuriated Zeus, so he punished Prometheus by chaining him to a rock where an eagle eats his intestines every day.
The next creation myth involves metallurgy. The first humans were made of gold. The next was silver then brass. The last, and where we are now, is iron. Each generation gets worse, and the myths say that soon Zeus will destroy them. Meanwhile, he sends the first woman, Pandora down with a box and instructions never to open it. Curiosity gets the better of her, and she peeks inside. The evils of the universe are released, but luckily she closes it in time to save Hope.
The third myth of creation begins with humans made out of inanimate substance. Zeus then becomes angry and brings on the Flood. The only two mortal beings left alive are the son of Prometheus, Deucalion and the daughter of Epithemeus and Pandora, Pyrrha. The two are ordered to drop stones behind them as they walk, and the stones become people.
The Earliest Heroes
Zeus has an affair with a beautiful princess named Io. Fearing his wife, Hera’s anger he turns Io into a cow. Hera finds out about her, anyway and sends a gadfly to torment her. It is sent to wander the Earth aimlessly and morosely. She comes across Prometheus chained to the mountain and he cheers her by telling her she will soon be human again and will give birth to a son. From her offspring will someday birth Hercules, who will release Prometheus from his torment.
The next woman Zeus seduces is Europa. He finds her in a meadow. She is charmed by his form as a white bull and rides on his back. He suddenly whisks her away to Crete where he transforms back into his manly shape and seduces her away from Hera’s eyes. Two of her descendants become the Hades’ judges, Minos and Rhadamanthus. Europe is named after her.
Polyphemus, a Cyclopes, falls in love with a sea nymph, Galatea. The love in unrequited. He had lost his eye after an encounter with Odysseus. She would sneak up on him to tease and torture him. Finally, she fell in love with a young prince named Acis. In a jealous rage, Polyphemus killed him.
Flower Myths: Narcissus, Hyacinth, Adonis
In the first story of the narcissus, Zeus created it so Hades could use it as bait to lure and capture Persephone. The second story is about a handsome young man named Narcissus. He is self-centered and breaks the hearts of women everywhere. The goddess, Echo falls in love with him. But she can only repeat what is said to her and cannot speak to him. Finally, the goddess, Nemesis calls on her righteous anger to punish him and makes him only able to love himself. He sees a reflection of himself in the water and cannot look away. He dies while trapped in his reflection. The nymphs, who are also enamored with his beauty create a flower and name it after him.
Apollo accidentally kills his friend, Hyacinth with a discus and creates the flower to honor him. The red anemone is created because of the death of Adonis. He was a young man that was so beautiful that everyone who saw him loved him, including Aphrodite and Persephone. The two goddesses shared him until he was gored by a bull. After he went to the underworld, the red anemone flowers grew where his blood spilled.
Cupid and Psyche
This story is a precursor to the Beauty and the Beast stories. Psyche is the most beautiful girl in Greece. Her beauty is so magnificent that men worship her, instead of Aphrodite, who becomes jealous. She orders her son, Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with a beast. But when he sees her he falls in love with her himself. Finally, Apollo convinces her father to put Psyche on top of a hill and offer her in marriage to a monster. But, Zephyr, the west wind, picks her up and carries her to a magical castle. There she is taken care of by invisible servants.
Every night a man lays next to her in the dark and tells her he is her husband, but she can never see him. Days flow past and Psyche becomes lonely. She asks her husband to allow her sisters to visit. But when they do, they are jealous of all her riches. They make her doubt her husband and convince her he is a monster. That night she takes a knife to bed with her with intentions of killing him is he is a monster. But when she lights the lamp she sees her husband is the beautiful Cupid. Unfortunately, she drops oil on him and wakens him. He is angry and hurt. He flees to his mother to doctor him.
Psyche goes to Aphrodite to find her husband, but Aphrodite is furious and gives her four tasks to complete if she wants to see Cupid. For the first task, she has to sort seeds. But ants come to aid her. Then she has to gather golden fleece from a vicious sheep, but a reed tells her where to find fleece the sheep snagged on a branch. For the next task, an eagle helps her fill a flask from a treacherous water fall. For the last task, she must ask Persephone to put some of her beauty in a box. But a tower tells her how to achieve it. But, her curiosity gets the better of her and Psyche opens the box for a peek. She falls into a sleeping sickness. Finally, Cupid goes to Zeus and asks him to make Psyche immortal and Cupid forces Aphrodite to accept his wife.
Pyramus and Thisbe
Pyramus and Thisbe are two lovers along the tale of Romeo and Juliet. The two fall in love but their families hate each other. They only communicate through a hole in the wall. Finally, they decide to elope, but Thisbe arrives at the rendezvous first and is frightened by a lioness. She drops her cloak and flees. When Pyramus arrives, he sees the cloak and the lioness and assumes the lioness killed Thisbe. So he stabs himself with his sword. His blood turns the mulberries red.
When Thisbe gathers enough courage to return she sees Pyramus dead. She takes his sword and kills herself. Since then the berries on the mulberry tree are red.
Orpheus and Eurydice
The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is a little like Lot’s wife. Orpheus is the son of a Muse. He makes beautiful music. After his wife, Eurydice is bitten by a snake he convinces Hades to allow him to bring her out of the underworld. He must lead her out, and if he looks back too soon, she will return to the underworld. He loses his nerve and looks back too soon. She goes back to the underworld, and he wanders the world until he is killed by Maenads. The Muses find him and bury him at the foot of Mount Olympus. There the Nightingales sing for the gentle musician.
Ceyx and Alcyone
When Ceyx goes to sea, his wife, Alcyone prays to Juno for his safety. Unfortunately, his ship had already gone down. Juno sends Ceyx to his wife in a dream to tell her he is dead. When she wakens, she goes to the shore and sees his dead body. She tries to jump into the sea to be with him but instead finds herself flying over it. Juno turned her into a bird and then turned Ceyx into a bird as well, so they could be together. Every year, for seven days, the waves are calmed so she can lay her eggs. These are called the Halcyon Days.
Pygmalion and Galatea
Pygmalion is an artist who hates women. One day he makes a statue of a woman that is so beautiful that he falls in love. Venus thinks their romance is interesting and brings the statue to life. He named the statue Galatea and Venus’ favorite city, Pathos, was named after their son.
Baucis and Philemon
Jupiter and Mercury want to test the humans. They disguise themselves and walk among them. The only people who show hospitality is an old couple named, Baucis and Philemon. Jupiter drowns everyone else but them. He asks them what reward they want, and they say they want to be together forever. He gives them longer lives, and when they do die, he turns them into a linden tree and oak tree that grow out of one trunk.
Endymion is a handsome shepherd. Selene, the Moon, falls in love with him. She puts him to sleep, and she visits him every night to cover him with kisses. He never wakes up, so he can never return her love.
Apollo falls in love with Daphne, but she doesn’t want him. She runs to her father, the god of the river, Peneus. He turns her into a laurel tree. Apollo makes the laurel tree sacred.
Alpheus and Arethusa
Arethusa does not want to marry, but Alpheus wants her. She begs Artemis for help. The goddess turns her into spring, and she dives deeply into the Earth. Alpheus turns himself into a river and chases after her. The two join under the Earth. “If a wooden cup is thrown into the Alpheus in Greece, it will appear in Arethusa’s well in Sicily.
The Quest for the Golden Fleece
King Athamas put his first wife away and married Ino. The new wife became jealous and wanted to dispose of the son of the first wife, Phrixus so her son would be the first in line to the throne.
During a famine, Ino convinces the king to sacrifice his oldest son. As the boy is being led to his death, a golden ram swoops him and his sister up and flies them to safety. Their mother had prayed to Hermes to save them. Along the way, the sister falls off and dies. Phrixus reaches the country of Colchis on the Unfriendly Sea. In gratitude, Phrixus sacrifices the ram to Zeus and then gives the fleece to the king of Colchis, Aetes in exchange for his daughter’s hand.
The uncle of Phrixus was a king in Greece. Another of the king’s nephews took his throne. When the king’s son, Jason reached adulthood, he returned to take the throne back from his cousin, Pelias. On the journey, Jason loses one of his shoes. Pelias becomes terrified because an oracle had told him he would lose his kingdom to a man with one shoe. Pelias lies to Jason and tells him that he will give him the throne but that the gods told him Jason must get the golden fleece first. “The dead Phrixus bids us bring back the Golden Fleece and thus bring back his spirit to his home.”
Jason gathers a group of heroes to go with him on the ship, Argo. Among his crew are Hercules, Castor and Pollux, and Peleus. They call themselves Argonauts, and with Hera’s help, they set sail. After many challenges including Amazons, Harpies, and smashing rocks they reach Colchis. King Aetes tells Jason he must complete two tasks before he can have the fleece. Aphrodite has Cupid make a powerful witch, Madea, fall in love with Jason. She uses magic to help him complete the tasks and then helps him thwart the king who tries to kill him. Jason steals the fleece, and the Argonauts set sail with Madea on board.
After many more challenges, they arrive back in Greece and discover Pelias killed Jason’s father, and his mother died because of sadness. Madea convinces the daughters of Pelias that she can restore his youth. They must kill their father and chop up his body. Then she puts the body in her pot and leaves with it. But first, she restores Jason’s father.
Jason and Madea are happy and have two children. But Jason decides to marry a princess. He marries the daughter of the king of Corinth. The new wife banishes Medea and her children. Since Jason does nothing to save her and their children she takes revenge. She makes a magical robe and tells her children to give it to the princess as a bride gift. The robe burst into flames and killed her.
Fearing her children would become slaves, Madea killed them. When Jason rushed to find Madea and kill her, he found their children dead and Madea “stepping into a chariot drawn by dragons.” As she flew away, he cursed her, but never himself.
Phaethon learns he is the son of the Sun. He asks his father for a gift and the Sun promises by the river Styx to give him one wish. Phaethon wants to ride the Sun’s chariot across the sky, but soon loses control of the horses. The world begins to burn but then Jove kills Phaethon, and the River Eridanus puts the flames out.
Pegasus and Bellerophon
Bellerophon, a handsome and strong young man, wants to own Pegasus, the winged horse. After sleeping in the temple of Athena, he wakes to find a golden bridle and uses it to harness Pegasus. The two go on many adventures including fighting Amazons and killing the Chimera. But when Bellerophon wants to ride Pegasus up to Olympus the horse bucks him off and escapes. Bellerophon wanders the world while Zeus keeps Pegasus in his stables.
Otus and Ephialtes
Otus and Ephialtes are two giants. They are also brothers and the sons of Poseidon. They see themselves as far superior to the gods and kidnap Ares to prove it. Hermes stealthily freed him. When they try to kidnap Artemis, she tricks them into killing each other.
Daedalus is a master inventor and architect. He and his son are imprisoned because the Athenians found their way out of the Labyrinth and the king thought he helped them. Daedalus builds wings for him and his son, Icarus so they can escape the prison. But Icarus flies too close to the sun, the wax melts, and he falls to his death.
An oracle tells King Acrisius that his future grandson will kill him. So he locks his daughter in a tower so no man can get near her. But Zeus does. She gives birth to Perseus. He father locks her and the baby into a chest and tosses them into the sea. But they wash up on the shore and are taken in by Dictys. His brother, King Polydectes wants to marry Danae, Perseus’ mother but wants to get rid of the son first. He sends the boy to kill the Gorgon, Medusa. Athena gives him a magical shield that works like a mirror so Medusa can’t turn him into a statue with her gaze. He chops off her head and takes it home. Along the way, he frees Cassiopeia, a beautiful princess.
When he gets home, he discovers the evil king drove his mother into hiding. Perseus uses Medusa’s head to turn the king and all his minions into stone. Then during a discus throwing contest, he accidentally kills his grandfather.
King Aegeus has a son who is raised by his mother far away, Theseus. The king puts a sword and a pair of shoes under a rock and says that as soon as the boy is strong enough to move the rock, he can bring them to him. When Theseus reaches maturity, he moves the rock and sets out. After adventures on the road, he arrives in his father’s kingdom. The witch, Madea, tells the king that he must kill the stranger. But the king recognizes the sword and shoes and saves his son. Madea flees to Asia.
Many years prior a son of King Midas of Crete was killed while he was a guest of Theseus’ father. The two kingdoms went to war. Midas won and as punishment the Athenians must send seven girls and seven boys into the Labyrinth of the Minotaur where they will be sacrificed. Theseus tells his father that he will go and defeat the Minotaur. He promises to replace his ships black sail with a white one, so his father will know he is safe.
At Crete, the daughter of Midas, Ariadne, falls in love with Theseus. She tells him how to survive the Labyrinth. He takes a spool of golden thread to find his way. When he reaches the Minotaur, he beats him to death. Ariadne escapes with Theseus on his ship, but she goes to shore on an island, and a wind blows his ship away. She dies, and in his grief, Theseus forgets to lower his black sail. His father sees the ship with the black sail and commits suicide by jumping into the sea. It is then called the Aegean Sea. Theseus is made the king of Athens and has many adventures. He is finally killed by King Lycomedes.
Hercules is the son of Zeus and Alcmene. Zeus disguised himself as her husband. Because Hercules is a demigod, he is extremely strong. The only thing that can harm him is magic. Although he isn’t always wise, he is noble and courageous. He marries a princess and has three children. But, Hera in her jealousy about his birth, makes him go insane and kill his wife and children. As penance, he must complete the Twelve Labors, including killing a nine headed Hydra, an immortal lion, and cleaning the stables of King Augeas in one day.
After many heroic deeds, Hercules is felled by a woman. His second wife, Deianira becomes jealous and treats his robe with the blood of a centaur. This would kill most men, but Hercules is in such pain that he is forced to kill himself. He burns himself to death. Then he ascends to Olympus where he marries the daughter of Hera, Hebe.
A female hero. Her story begins with killing a wild boar sent by Artemis. She has many suitors and agrees to marry the one who can beat her in a race. All the men lose to her until Melanion. He has a bag of golden apples and drops them one at a time on the race track. She is distracted by them and loses the race. The two marry and are later turned into lions by Zeus.
The Trojan War
Eris is not invited to the wedding of King Peleus and Thetis, a sea-nymph. So in retribution, she brings enchanted apples with ‘for the fairest’ on them. The goddesses argue over who is the fairest. Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite are the main combatants. Paris, who is the son of King Priam of Troy, is the judge.
Each goddess tries to bribe him. Power from Hera, success in battle from Athena and Aphrodite offers him the most beautiful woman in the world. He accepts Aphrodite’s bribe and chooses her as the fairest. Although already married to King Menelaus of Sparta, Helen is chosen as the most beautiful woman. Aphrodite helps Paris kidnap her. While Helen was young, all the greatest warriors courted her. Her mother made each man who courted her daughter to swear to help whichever man Helen chose.
The only two heroes who don’t go on the rescue mission are Odysseus and Achilles. The latter because his mother feared for him since she knew he would die in Troy and the former because he didn’t want to leave his family. As the group sail towards Troy, Artemis stops the wind to push the sails because she is angry with them. In trying to appease Artemis, Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter.
The battle rages for nine years. Achilles enters the battle when his friend dies and avenges his death. The Trojans retreat behind their walls. Paris kills Achilles with an arrow guided by Apollo to his one vulnerable spot, his heel. Odysseus comes up with the idea to build a giant wooden horse. The Greeks make the Trojans think they had left the horse behind when they retreated. The Trojans bring the horse inside their gates only to discover that night the horse was full of Greeks. The Greeks destroyed Troy.
The Adventures of Odysseus
Athena convinces Poseidon to attack the Greeks returning after the Trojan War. The ship of Odysseus is blown off course. The next twenty years are filled with adventures and dangers for him and his crew. Athena is working against Odysseus because one of his crew raped Cassandra in her temple.
After twenty years have passed Athena finally stops tormenting him and Odysseus returns home. His son has grown, and his wife has been trying to find ways to put off suitors who want her because they think Odysseus is dead. She has told them that she would choose one of them after she finishes the burial cloak for her father in law. Each night she removes the weaving she did throughout the day.
The suitors learn of her deception and force her to make a choice. She tells them that whoever can string Odysseus’ bow will be her husband. Meanwhile, Odysseus is disguised as a beggar and manages to string the bow. He begins shooting the suitors who try to draw their weapons only to discover Odysseus’ son has taken them all away. The suitors are all killed, and Odysseus and his wife live happily every after.
The Adventures of Aeneas
Aeneas is the only Trojan who escaped the war when the Greeks killed all the male Trojans and made slaves of all the females. With the help of his mother, he took his father on his back and his son by the hand, and they fled. After many adventures including the Harpies, hurricanes, After more battles, Aeneas marries Lavinia the daughter of the King of the Latins and begins the Romans. They settle in Italy.
The House of Atreus
The family of Atreus was cursed by the gods beginning with Tantalus who cooked his son and served him to the gods. They punished him by sending him to Hades. He stands in a puddle of water he can never drink and tries to reach some hanging fruit he can never reach. His daughter Niobe tries to equal the gods and make people worship her. The gods kill her seven sons and seven daughters. She turns into a rock that is always wet with tears.
Agamemnon is one of this line. For sacrificing his daughter on the way to Troy, his wife plots her revenge. When he returns after the war with Cassandra, the prophetess no one listened too; they are both killed. Just as Cassandra prophesied. The curse finally ends with Orestes. After killing his mother who was cruel to him and her equally cruel lover, he is tormented by the Furies for matricide. He appeals to Athena who calls them off and ends the curse.
The Royal House of Thebes
The royal family of Thebes is lead by Cadmus. While searching for his brothers for their sister Europa, he leaves the search and establishes Thebes. Although he is successful, his children are cursed. Cadmus and his wife are turned into serpents. Generations later an Oracle tells King Laius of Thebes that his son will some day kill him and marry his wife. When his son is born, he leaves him on a mountain to die. Time passes, and a stranger kills the King on the road.
Meanwhile the king’s son, Oedipus has grown up as the son of another king, Polybus. Oedipus has also heard the oracle’s prediction and leaves home thinking he is destined to kill Polybus. Oedipus arrives at Thebes and frees the city from a Sphinx that was terrorizing the city. He becomes the king and marries the Laius’ widow.
Time passes, and a plague hits the city. They learn it is a punishment from the gods until they find the murderer of King Laius. Through the seer, they learn that Oedipus killed him on the road after an argument and he is married to his mother. She kills herself and Oedipus put his own eyes out. Oedipus abdicates to Creon. One of his daughters, Antigone goes with him into exile to care for him. His other daughter and two sons stay behind. The two sons fight for the throne. The winner goes to war against Creon.
Creon wins, and the two sons kill each other. Creon declares none of the warriors with them can be buried in the city. But when Antigone returns and learns her brothers were not buried, she buries them. Creon kills her. The families of the other dead warrior’s petition to bury their dead, but Creon refuses. They go to war and this time they win. In the end, the only thing left of Thebes is the necklace given to the wife of Cadmus on their wedding day.
The Royal House of Athens
The kings and queens of Athens are full of tragic love stories. There are the two sisters who were lied to by the son of Ares. He imprisons them and when they finally escape the gods turn them into birds so he can’t catch them.
Another is the story of a man who is kidnapped by Aurora. She tries to seduce him, but he remains faithful to his wife. Out of spite, Aurora tries to convince him his wife has not been faithful. The misunderstanding almost ruins their marriage; then he accidentally kills her with a javelin when he is hunting.
After performing a good deed for Bacchus, Midas is given the curse of everything he touches turning into gold. When he asks for the “gift” to be lifted, Bacchus tells him to go to the river Pactolus and wash. Apollo gives him the ears of a donkey when he says Pan is a better musician.
Aesculapius is the son of Apollo. He is raised and trained by a centaur who teaches him to be a healer. He is too good at it and is killed by Zeus. Apollo takes revenge by attacking the Cyclopes who make Zeus’ thunderbolts. As punishment Zeus makes Apollo serve King Admetus as a slave for a few years.
The fifty daughters of Danaus. They are forced to marry their cousins in a large ceremony. That night they each take a dagger and kill their new husbands, except one. The sisters imprison the one girl who didn’t kill her husband, but the other forty-nine are tormented in the after life.
Glaucus and Scylla
Glaucus is a fisherman who eats magic grass and becomes a sea god. He asks Circe for a love potion because he has fallen in love with a nymph, Scylla. Circe falls in love with him instead and makes a potion for Scylla’s bath water that turns her into a monster made of rock.
Erysichthon cuts down a sacred tree and is punished for starving but never find relief no matter how much he eats.
Pomona and Vertumnus
Pomona is a nymph who falls in love with Vertumnus. She rejects him but is persuaded when he convinces her Venus does not like women to reject true love. The two marry and keep an apple orchard for the rest of their lives. The rest of the chapter is lesser myths, including Chiron, a great centaur, and healer who is killed accidentally by Hercules. The Plaeiades, the seven daughters of Atlas who become stars. And Sisyphus, who angers Zeus, so he is condemned to push a rock up a hill forever in Hades.
Signy and Sigurd
Signy marries an evil man who kills all but one of her brothers, who she rescued. Many years later, she and her son kill the husband. Her brother, Sigmund has a son named Sigurd. He rescues Brynhild, a Valkyrie and plans to marry her, but then he leaves her and visits his best friend, Gunnar. Gunnar’s mother wants Sigurd for her daughter, so she gives him a potion to forget Brynhild. Gunnar wants to marry Brynhild. But she is angry at Sigurd and punishes him for forgetting her and has Sigurd killed, instead.
Odin is the ruler of Asgard. He has two pet wolves and two ravens, Memory and Thought that travel the world and bring back information to him. He gave wisdom, the alphabet, and liquor that changes men into poets to mankind. Thor is the god of thunder and the strongest of the gods. Freyr is the god of crops, Tyr is the god of war, And Freya is the goddess of love. Hamilton gathered most of the information about the Norse gods from the Elder Edda which held stories from how to cure insomnia to Ragnarok, the end of the universe. The last few pages of the book include family trees of the gods, goddesses, and heroes of ancient mythology.
Zeus – Zeus is the Greek name. In Rome, he is called Jupiter or Jove. He is the ruler of Mount Olympus and the king of the gods. His weapon of choice is the thunderbolts that are made by the Cyclopes. Zeus became ruler by killing his father, Cronus. He is married to Hera but is never faithful. He has no regard for humans. Zeus impregnates many human women, often through rape or subterfuge. He is the ultimate justice for the gods and man and is often cruel in his punishments.
Hera – Hera is her Greek name. Juno is her Roman name. She is the wife and sister of Zeus. She is extremely powerful, and one of her names is the goddess of the hearth. She is the goddess women prayed to when giving birth. Throughout most of the myths involving Zeus, she is the shrewish, jealous wife. She often punishes the women her husband sleeps with.
Poseidon – Poseidon is his Greek name. Neptune is his Roman name. He is the god of the sea, and his anger is the blame for storms at sea and lost vessels. He is a brother of Zeus.
Hades – Hades is his Greek name. Pluto is his Roman name. He is the god of the underworld. He is a brother of Zeus and Poseidon. He gives the punishments in the afterlife. He is married to Persephone who can only spend the winter months with him.
Athena – Pallas Athena is her Greek name. Minerva is her Roman name. She is the goddess of Wisdom, Reason, and Purity. Her bird is the owl. She is also a warrior and remains chaste.
Apollo – son of Zeus and Leto. He is the twin of Artemis. He is also the god of Light, truth, poetry, music, and archery.
Artemis – Artemis is her Greek name. Diana is her Roman name. She is the twin of Apollo and daughter of Zeus and Leto. She is a huntress.
Aphrodite – Aphrodite is her Greek name. Venus is her Roman name. She is the goddess of love, beauty, and romance. Her son is Cupid, the god of love. She is often jealous of other beautiful women. She is married to Hephaestus.
Hephaestus – Hephaestus is his Greek name. Vulcan or Mulciber is his Roman name. He is the son of Zeus and Hera. He is ugly and crippled, which makes him unique. He is a smith and makes all the armor of the gods. He is also kind and generous. He is married to Aphrodite.
Hermes – Hermes is his Greek name. Mercury is his Roman name. He is the son of Zeus and Atlas’s daughter, Maia. He is the messenger of the gods and is fast because of his winged shoes. He is also a thief and cunning. He is the god of commerce. He is the transporter of the dead.
Ares – Ares is his Greek name. Mars is his Roman name. He is the god of war. He is the son of Zeus and Hera but hated by both of them because he is vicious. He is a ruthless bully but often comes out as a coward in the myths.
Edith Hamilton Biography
Edith Hamilton was born in 1867 in Dresden, North Germany. Her parents were Americans who returned to America shortly after her birth. They settled in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her father was a scholar and man of leisure. He attended Princeton, Harvard and studied in Germany. The Hamilton’s lived on inherited wealth from her grandfather, Allen Hamilton who was a land speculator and successful businessman. Her mother, Gertrude spoke several languages and was active in her community socially.
Her father tried his hand at a business but failed to cause a bit of financial hardship. This taught Edith to train for a profession to support herself. She became a teacher. Edith was the oldest of six children. All of them were successful in everything from medicine to artist. Only one of them married, but he and his wife never had children.
Edith and her siblings her home schooled because her parents did not like the public school system. They learned Latin, Greek, French, and German. Since it was a tradition for the Hamilton’s Edith attended Finishing School in Connecticut. Afterwards, she attended Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. She became the first woman to enroll at the University of Munich.
Although she had planned to stay in Germany, Edith was persuaded by the president of Bryn Mawr College to become the head administrator. Along with her job as an administrator, Edith taught classics. She was named the first headmistress in the school’s history. After a career of pushing for better education for girls and a more rigorous curriculum, she retired at the age of fifty-four.
After her retirement, she moved to New York City and became an author. She wrote about ancient Greek and Roman civilizations and is well known for her compilation of myths. For the next fifty years, she wrote Greek drama and comedies as well as essays and articles. She was sixty-two when her first book was published, The Greek Way. It was a best seller that compared ancient Greek and modern day.
Her next book gave the same treatment to ancient Rome. Then she went on to study the Bible. Through her comparisons between the prophets in the Bible and modern day people, she proved the prophets were practical, and their ideas were modern. Her book Mythology sold over four and a half million copies in 1957 and has since been used in mythology curriculum.
In 1929 she and Doris Fielding Reid became life partners. Reid was a stockbroker, and the two had residences in New York and Maine. They are buried next to each other in Connecticut. At ninety years old, Edith traveled to Athens. There she saw her translation of Prometheus performed at the ancient Odeon theater of Herodes Atticus and was awarded the Golden Cross by the King of Greece. She was made an honorary citizen of Athens.
Edith Hamilton died at the age of almost ninety-six on May 31, 1963. She was a world renown classical scholar and author. She was also a beloved educator. She was a feminist who pushed the rights of women and blazed the trail for future female scholars.