The Greek Myths that Shape the Way We Think by Richard Buxton
How do ancient Greek myths find themselves retold and reinterpreted in cultures across the world, several millennia later? In this volume, bestselling author Richard Buxton explores the power that eight iconic Greek myths hold in the modern world. Buxton traces these stories and archetypes from their ancient forms through their transformations over time in literature, art, cinema, psychology, and politics.
I bought this book and started reading it last year but I only read the first chapter then for some reason I stopped reading it. This week I decided to pick the book back up and I will be honest I couldn’t put it down or work out why I stopped reading it in the first place.
As my regular followers will probably know I completed a Masters degree in Classics a couple of years ago and since then I try to regularly read nonfiction about Ancient Greece and Rome. I have never read anything by Buxton before so I was excited to read this book and see what Buxton had to say about some of the myths we know so well.
The first thing I realised about this book was just how accessible it was. You really don’t have to have a background in Classics to understand this book because Buxton explains everything in a way that anybody can understand. He explains the original myth and what texts the myth appears in. He then explains how the myths appear in Ancient Roman texts and plays and goes from there through history right to modern day. There were some films that he mentioned like The Others (2001) starring Nicole Kidman that I hadn’t even associated with an Ancient Greek myth but when Buxton highlighted the fact it all became clear.
The other thing I loved about this book was the clever use of images. It is really clear that Buxton has carefully selected his visual sources to help highlight his examples. The images are of ancient vases, ancient sculptors, medieval paintings and modern day images from movies. The images are mainly black and white but there are also some fantastic colour images.
I will be honest the book only skimmed the edges of the political and psychological aspects of the ancient myths but I suspect that was because Buxton wanted to keep the book as accessible as possible. The focus on the literature, art and cinema definitely makes it more relatable for people. I would have liked a more in-depth look at the political and psychological aspects but I’m not overly disappointed.
I really enjoyed this book and once I started reading it this week I couldn’t put it down. The book is a fantastic introduction for people who are not familiar with the Ancient Greek myths and makes the myths applicable and relevant to modern day thinking. The book is expertly researched and written and a fantastic read. I will definitely be reading more books by Buxton. 5 out of 5 Dragons from me.
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About the author
Richard Buxton works on ancient Greek literature (especially tragedy), and ancient mythology and religion. One of his main aims is to explore the contexts – for example, social life and the landscape – which can help us to recover the meanings which myths had for their tellers and hearers/readers (see his Imaginary Greece, 1994, and The Complete World of Greek Mythology, 2004).
In 1996 he organized a major international conference at Bristol, whose proceedings appeared as From Myth to Reason? (1999) Since 2003 he has been one of the editors of Thesaurus Cultus et Rituum Antiquorum and since 2006 he has been President of the LIMC Foundation. His book ‘Forms of Astonishment: Greek Myths of Metamorphosis’ was published in 2009. He will next be revising for publication a selection of his papers on Greek myth and tragedy.
He has taken part in a number of radio programs about myth. His work has been translated into nine languages.