Classical Mythology: A Very Short Introduction

ISBN : 9780192804761

Helen Morales
168 Pages
110 x 72 mm
Pub date
Aug 2007
Very Short Introductions


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  • Classical myths are a subject of enduring fascination, widely evoked and re-told in both high art and popular culture.
  • A lively and wide-ranging exploration, placing the emphasis on understanding the myths rather than simply retelling them.
  • Examines topics ranging from classical literature to contemporary art, Hollywood film, politics, psychoanalysis, and the Bible.
  • Asks why sex is such a preoccupation in classical myths, looking at examples from 'Xena, warrior princess', to Mozart's 'Apollo and Hyacinthus'.
  • Examines how classical myths have been used throughout history and around the world, to debate and dramatize questions of conflict, politics, sexuality, and our sense of our own origins.

From Zeus and Europa, to Diana, Pan, and Prometheus, the myths of ancient Greece and Rome seem to exert a timeless power over us. But what do those myths represent, and why are they so enduringly fascinating? Why do they seem to be such a potent way of talking about our selves, our origins, and our desires?
This imaginative and stimulating Very Short Introduction goes beyond a simple retelling of the stories to explore the rich history and diverse interpretations of classical myths. It is a wide-ranging account, examining how classical myths are used and understood in both high art and popular culture, taking the reader from the temples of Crete to skyscrapers in New York, and finding classical myths in a variety of unexpected places: from arabic poetry and Hollywood films, to psychoanalysis, the bible, and New Age spiritualism.


1: Without bulls there would be no Europe
2: Contexts, then and now
3: Gods and heroes
4: Metamorphoses of mythology
5: On the analyst's couch
6: The sexual politics of myth
7: Mythology, spirituality, and the New Age
References and further reading

About the author: 

Helen Morales is University Lecturer and Director of Studies in Classics at Newnham College, Cambridge. She researches and teaches in Greek and Latin literature and culture, with special interests in classical mythology, the ancient novel, feminist approaches to literature, and the relationship between images and texts. She is the author of Vision and Narrative in Achilles Tatius' Leucippe and Clitophon' (Cambridge, 2004) and co-editor of Intratextuality: Greek and Roman Textual Relations (Oxford, 2000).

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