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Literature

New from TASCHEN- Greek Myths: A Great Gift Idea

November 8, 2021

Greek mythology has long been an inspiration to artists as it highlights the human condition and the constancy of human nature from ancient times to the present day. The adventures and dramas have captivated audiences from the first tellings of these tales to modern retellings in novels and film adaptations inspired by the myths. Published by TASCHEN, Greek Myths by Gustav Scwab (1792–1850), edited by Michael Siebler, and illustrated by Clifford Harper with artworks from the leading figures of the Golden Age of Illustration, including Walter Crane, Arthur Rackham, and Virginia Frances Sterrett, is a wonderful collection of 47 tales from Greek mythology.

The Evils of the World Spill out from Pandora’s Box by Walter Crane, 1893. Photo: TASCHEN/Library of Congress, Washington, DC: Rare Books and Special Collections Division

The enchanting book is a great gift idea for the holiday season, especially for those interested in the Greek myths. From the story of Perseus and Medusa, the tales of Troy and the Trojan Horse, to the famed tragedy of Oedipus, the book details the immortal dramas and rich narratives of Greek mythology that form the bedrock of Western culture and literature. Bringing ancient Greece’s heroism, tragedy, and theater to life, Greek Myths is a beautifully illustrated collection. The exploits of Heracles, Jason, Odysseus, and a host of heroes are recounted in this well-written volume. Each chapter begins with a brief summary of the tale about to be read. Perseus’ story begins “even the sons of gods do not always have it easy.”

The Tales of Troy: The Death of Hector begins dramatically: “Unfettered lust for revenge: Achilles gleams like Ares, god of war, when he meets Hector on the battlefield.”

Artemis by Gustaf Tenggren, 1950s. Photo: TASCHEN/Gustaf Tenggren Papers, Children’s Literature Research Collections, University of Minnesota Libraries

The stories of these “ancient superheroes” are relevant and fascinating for readers of all ages. There is a great deal of violence in this easy to read book, since Greek mythology is full of battles, war, killings, and vengeance, so be advised if you are squeamish. The illustrations are complemented by scene-setting vignettes for each story and a genealogical tree of Greek gods and goddesses by Clifford Harper, commissioned especially for this volume. Placing the tales in context, the book contains a historical introduction by Dr. Michael Siebler and is rounded off with biographies of all featured artists as well as an extensive glossary of ancient Greece’s most famous protagonists.

With so many recent novels inspired by Greek mythology being published, and taking the point of view of the less well-known characters and sharing their unheard voices, Greek Myths offers the classic stories perhaps more closely to how Greeks of the diaspora first heard them with the larger-than-life characters embodying universal characteristics and truths – whether it be the courage of Perseus, the greed of Midas, the vaulting ambition of Icarus, the vengeance of Medea, or the hubris of Niobe.

The map Argonautica by Abraham Ortelius, from a supplement to Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, 1604. Photo: Courtesy of TASCHEN

The book is a must read for all those who agree with Aristotle who noted that “even the lover of myth is in a sense a lover of wisdom, for the myth is composed of wonders.”

The hardcover features 336 pages and is available in English, French, and Spanish.

More information about the book is available online: https://bit.ly/3mQrl9I.

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