Enter the Magical World of Gods and Fiction Through Books on Greek Mythology
Since ancient times, gods have been a tangible presence in cultures by way of oral stories and tales, long before the era of Shakespeare’s parchment, Charles Dickens, or Harry Potter. The existence of myths in different cultures and times shapes the way people observe such works today. And, mythological gods were a part of many such cultures. While Greek mythology is the most popular one, Romans also co-opted various gods from them, often depicting vengeance, jealousy, and other behaviours.
In many traditions, Gods have been known to spy and trick humans for their amusement. Greek mythologies capture fascinating stories that have been created over thousands of years of work. Does the cast of gods and goddesses in the soap opera fascinate you? Books on Greek mythology have also been favourite among the readers for their ability to walk you through the magical world.
You can find a lot of works based on the concept including Homer’s epic poems and modern fiction. Below, you will be exploring the list of top 10 books on Greek mythology that will take you on a magical journey of ancient times when Gods existed.
What is Greek Mythology?
Back in time, primitive people didn’t have proper scientific explanations for the likes of sun, moon, floods, fire, and earthquakes. Then, Greek myths appeared as an explanation stating that the gods did it. That isn’t something alluring. Right? The fascination lies in the fact that gods were terribly humans that lived in Olympus and people recognized them. Having numerous foibles and quirks, they could lie, cheat, and do a lot of what humans could do.
However, Greek mythology doesn’t have a single origin unlike the Hindu Vedas or the Christian Bible. The beginnings are traced back to the Bronze age when the oral tradition started with a gradual unfolding of themes and plots through the classical and archaic periods. Moreover, Greece’s highest mountain, Olympus, is the home of a pantheon of deities who control all human life’s aspects. And these books on Greek mythology tell different myths (tales) in fascinating ways.
Know the Basics Before Starting Reading
As stated earlier, Greek mythology introduced Gods that lived in Olympus, and humans recognized them. Knowing this ensemble of the Olympian gods makes you read and understand books on Greek mythology better.
- Zeus: He is the king of the gods, law and order, weather, and the heavens, and uses thunderbolt as his weapon.
- Hera: Zeus’ wife and the goddess of family and marriage, Hera is the protector of women in childbirth and married women.
- Poseidon: The father of Pegasus, Poseidon is Zeus’ brother. He is also the God of horses, earthquakes, and seas.
- Hades: God of the dead and the underworld’s king, Hades is another of Zeus’ brothers
- Demeter: The goddess of grains, agriculture, and harvest, Demeter is Zeus’ sister
- Athena: The goddess of crafts, war, and wisdom and Poseidon’s rival, Athena is the daughter of Titan Metis and Zeus
- Apollo: Zeus and Titan Leto’s son, Apollo is the god of medicine, archery, music, and prophecy.
- Artemis: Apollo’s twin sister, Artemis is the god of the moon, the hunt, wild animals, and the wilderness.
- Ares: Zeus and Hera’s son, Ares is the god of courage and war
- Hephaestus: Zeus and Hera’s other son, Hephaestus is the god of craftsmen, smiths, fire, and metalworking.
- Hermes: Zeus and minor goddess Maia’s son, Hermes is the god of roads, shepherds, language, cunning, travelers, trade, and thieves. He is also the messenger of the gods.
- Aphrodite: The Goddess of beauty and love
- Dionysus: Zeus and Semele’s son, Dionysus is the god of vegetation, theatre, madness, festivity, and wine.
Greek mythology also features some famous heroes, known for battlefield glory, fighting monsters, and family tragedies.
- Heracles: The strongest Greek hero with a horrible temper
- Perseus: A hero is known for being cast as a child in a chest into the sea. He defeated the Kraken and the Gorgon Medusa.
- Theseus: Hercules’ cousin and equally strong and wise, Theseus escaped the labyrinth on Crete, defeated Minotaur, and attained the crown of the Athens’ King
- Achilles: A hero in the Trojan War, a tale in Homer’s Iliad, Achilles was dipped in water by his mother so that he could become immortal. He killed one of the greatest Trojan warriors, Hector.
- Odysseus: A hero from the Odyssey by Homer, Odysseus created the idea of a Trojan horse that hid Greek warriors inside its giant hollow body for defeating Troy.
- Jason: He discovered the golden fleece with the witch Medea’s help after combating Sirens and monsters on a journey with Argonauts.
Besides the stories of each hero, Greek mythology also features certain myths. Some of these include the following:
- Sisyphus: It’s about a trickster punished with rolling a boulder forever to a steep hill’s top that rolls back down once on the top. He cheated god multiple times and is popular for punishment in Hades’ underworld after his death.
- Europa: It’s about a beautiful woman Zeus fell in love with and approached her as a white bull. When Zeus bowed, she climbed on his back, and he took her to a cave before revealing who he is. Europe gets its name from her.
- The Fire Thief - Prometheus: The popular thief stole Zeus’ fire and taught its use to mankind. His punishment includes an eagle eating out his liver that gets restored overnight and the process repeats daily.
Best Books on Greek Mythology
Now, let’s explore the best works based on the epics of Greek mythology for the best experience of the fascinating world.
Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton
A perfect book for beginners, Mythology by Edith Hamilton takes readers through the sea of knowledge. Moreover, the book has earned the position of a quintessential introduction to the topic for adults despite many more options available. In the book, Hamilton has beautifully narrated all the major myths while providing a clear overview of all the heroes and gods.
Hamilton’s Mythology has retained its popularity since its first publication in 1942 for its ideal style to captivate both heart and head. The write-up is evocative and poetic with a lucid and clear writing style. Introduction to Norse mythology comes as a bonus. Read this book on Kindle for Rs. 691.41 or buy the Hardcover version for Rs. 1,212 from Amazon.
The Complete World of Greek Mythology by Richard Buxton
The next on the list comes from Richard Buxton. It’s another popular title that deserves to be known among the best books on Greek mythology for beginners. It covers a similar range of topics and myths as that in Hamilton’s Mythology. However, the difference lies in the way of narration as Buxton emphasizes geographical and historical contexts with lesser literary styling.
The book features 300 illustrations, out of which 139 are coloured, covering almost every page. The pictures include ancient Greek artifacts, landscape photos, and mythology scenes. For Rs. 2,230 the book is available on Amazon in the hardcover format.
D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire
The first two were for adults. This book here by Ingri and Edgar Parin is a wonderful guide to Greek mythology for kids. It’s popular for two specific reasons. The first one is its clear and simple language, enabling easy understanding for kids. The second one is the evocative and colourful language that keeps the readers entertained.
In addition, the comprehensive context of the book introduces all the major gods and heroes while retelling the myths. Plus, the lavish illustrations add life to the characters and stories. Let your kid imagine the enchanting world of Greek mythology while reading. Buy it from Amazon in the hardcover format for Rs. 1,198 or get access to the Kindle version for Rs. 425.28.
The Dictionary of Classical Mythology by Pierre Grimal
When reading about Greek mythology, you will find numerous words (places, characters, and more nouns) difficult to pronounce. In such a case, a book with a proper guide to all such terms makes the reading easy and enjoyable. And Pierre Grimal has ensured you get what you need without getting bewildered. That’s what makes it a part of the best guide to Greek mythology.
In addition to describing the key terms alphabetically, it also ensures readers don’t lose grip over the main points. Add this book to your library of Greek mythology collection from Amazon for Rs. 623 for the paperback variant. The hardcover version is also available for Rs. 11,900.98.
Myth and Philosophy: A Contest of Truths by Lawrence J. Hatab
This book by Lawrence J. Hatab combines Ancient Greek’s philosophies and mythologies fascinatingly. For any society, folklore is often considered as the strongest support to its moral backbone. And Hatab takes a deeper dive beyond the basic case studies explored by others. This approach allows the author to maintain a balance between the myths and objective, rational worldview.
Taking inspiration from Heidegger and Neitzsche’s works, Hatab has signified the use of mythology as a useful and intelligent tool. If you are interested in exploring the world of Greek mythology through the same lens, you can buy this book from Amazon. The paperback version is available for Rs. 2,569 and the hardcover version is priced at Rs. 11,612.
Greek Mythology Explained by Marios Christou
If you are not yet willing to go through everything in Greek mythology, you can only pick a book that tells a few tales. Marios Christou’s Greek Mythology includes only six classic tales while making sure that all the popular and unpopular characters are introduced in fresh ways.
In the book, the author makes readers follow characters including Artemis, Icarus, Lamia, Medusa, Odysseus, and Bellerophon. Go through the stories to walk through the sinister plots, shattered hearts, bloody trials, and devastating betrayals. The book expands your vision towards desires, motives, feelings, and thoughts. It’s available on Kindle with a price tag of Rs. 448.35. You can also buy the hardcover version from Amazon for Rs. 1,480.
The Greek Myths: The Complete and Definitive Edition
Mythologies can be complex with a long history and numerous characters, and various twists and turns. Robert Graves carefully uses his poetic voice to retell all the included Greek myths beautifully. Besides, the thoughtful organization of the context simplifies the complexities and lets readers enjoy exploring the details.
Some of the greatest stories covered by the author include the Trojan War, Theseus and the minotaur, Odysseus’ journey home, and more. Add this book to your Greek library from Amazon by paying Rs. 746 for the paperback version. Or get access to the kindle version for Rs. 450.76.
Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths, by Bernard Evslin
This book is one of the works from the popular playwright and author, Bernard Evslin. The title gets the most credit for Evslin’s popularity with over 10 million copies sold. Bernard captivates readers through his art of exciting storytelling in the book, introducing Greek gods and their stories.
The book covers the adventures and magical stories of various Greek characters. Examples include Zeus and his earth-shaking thunderbolts, Monstrous Medusa killed by Perseus, and the destruction of young victims by the gruesome beast minotaur. Read more such stories in the book by buying its paperback version for Rs. 9,726 from Amazon.
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
How would you like the idea of looking at the ancient tales from a refreshing perspective? Natalie Haynes retells the Trojan War story in this book “A Thousand Ships” while focusing on women. Read the viewpoint of the goddess of eloquence, Calliope combined with some epic poetry in the book.
It tells the tale of when Aeneas left Creusa behind with her city on fire and conquering Greek warriors choosing women of the slaughtered men. Explore the brutality, humour, and tragedy in the book available as a hardcover for Rs. 3172.99 and as a paperback for Rs. 416 on Amazon. You can also get a Kindle version for Rs. 295.
Circe by Madeline Miller
The author Madeline Miller created this spellbinding novel covering an immortal, ancient witch’s life. Born to Helios, the cruel sun god, Circe is popular for her casual relationship with Odysseus. All the aspects of her life are presented through lyrical prose. It follows Circe from her childhood home’s obsidian halls to a deserted island for an exile, Knossos’ golden palace, and a lot more.
The misunderstood and maligned woman gets a fresh portrayal. Also, explore the period when Circe has to choose between the mortals and the gods amidst a terrifying danger. Get the book from Amazon in hardcover format for Rs. 1,730 and the paperback format for Rs. 329. The kindle version is priced at Rs. 100.17
Above mentioned books are fabulous books with many beautiful illustrations. If you think the books are expensive, renting isn’t a bad option. If you rent a book, take as many notes as possible. Extract the valuable information so you don’t need to buy the book or rent it again.