Greek Myths

theseusI first read Greek Myths in Roger Lancelyn Green’s Tales of the Greek Heroes, which succeeds in linking the stories of Gods and Heroes as if they actually formed a continuum, instead of being part folktales, part name-giving legends, part religious justification, part half-remembered history, part all kinds of other things. Pandora’s name means “All Gifts”, because that’s what the Gods have given her, though for their own purposes, to distract Epimetheus [whose name means “Afterthought”, just as that of his brother, Prometheus, means “Forethought”] and open The Box.

Robert Graves’s The Greek Myths is for reference, not reading, though he is a fine prose-writer in his historical novels. He also provides all kinds of alternative versions, but the in-depth discussions of religious implications which follow the plain tales are best avoided by all except the most dedicated.

My tellings are influenced by later versions – my version of House of Atreus would not be what it is if I had not read Goethe’s play Iphigenie and seen Gluck’s opera Iphigenia in Tauris, as well as reading Aeschylus and Sophocles, and Sartre’s  Les Mouches.


I have told the Life of Herakles in school, and was surprised how well it hung together, through climax and anti-climax, until it reaches a thundering finale on the funeral-pyre. Again, I have input from later users of the theme, from Moliere’s Amphitryon and Kleist’s play of the same name, as well as from Handel’s Hercules, which I saw in 2004 in Buxton.


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