The characters, stories, lessons, and themes of Greek mythology have molded art and literature for over thousands of years now. Scroll below to find out the best Greek mythology books to read.
“Myth has two main functions. The first is to answer the sort of awkward questions that children ask, such as ‘Who made the world? How will it end? Who was the first man? Where do souls go after death?’ The second function of myth is to justify an existing social system and account for traditional rites and customs.”
― Robert Graves, 1955
Ancient Greece dates back to the stone and bronze ages. An old Greek legend says that when God created the world, he sifted all the soil onto the earth through a strainer. After every country had good soil, he tossed the stones left in the strainer over his shoulder and created Greece. Greek mythology is a collection of stories of ancient Greeks that include their gods, goddesses, heroes, culture, and rituals. Some stories are opulently illustrated treasury of Greek myths, or lively retellings of brave heroes like Oedipus, and so many more.
This article puts together a hand-picked list of books based on Greek mythology that you can have in your book shelf.
Bulfinch’s Mythology – The Age of Fable, or Stories of Gods and Heroes
By: Thomas Bulfinch
This classic book is one of the most popular and best-selling books for those who want to read about Greek mythology. It is a collection of myths and stories from the three eras: Greek and Roman mythology, King Arthur’s legends, and medieval. The excerpts used in this book for explaining literature, various gods and goddesses, and other characters are good. It goes into depth about the creation of gods and humans.
By: Edith Hamilton
This book was published in the year 1942, and is one of the most well-known books for mythology. This renowned classic brings the heritage of Greece to life with enthralling tales and stories. Millions of copies were sold worldwide. The book tells us about how the universe was created, the 12 Olympians, the heroes before and after the Trojan War, and some lesser-known myths and stories. There are also brief tales from Norse myths regarding deities such as Thor, Odin, and Loki. Overall, a good read for beginners.
The Iliad is also referred to as the Song of Ilion or Song of Ilium. It is an ancient Greek epic poem, which was written by Homer. It is one of the oldest masterpieces of the Western literature. It is set during the Trojan war and tells us about the battles and events during the war in the city of Troy, although it covers only a small part of the war. It is combined with its sequel, the Odyssey, of what we famously know today as The Iliad and the Odyssey. A highly recommended book for adults, who have a basic idea about Greek mythology.
The Odyssey is one of the two famous ancient Greek epic poems, the other one being the Iliad. It was also written by Homer. It is considered to be the second oldest and a sequel to the Iliad. It is about the 10-year struggle of Odysseus (also known as Ulysses) to return home after the Trojan War, his battles with the mystical creatures, and his confrontation with anger of gods while his wife, Penelope, and son fend off others striving for her hand and the throne till the time Odysseus returns. Again, one of the greatest books for adults who want to know more about the happenings after the Trojan War.
Theogony means ‘the genealogy or birth of the gods’. It is a poem by Hesiod, which describes in detail the origins and genealogies of the Greek gods. It was written around the same time as the Iliad and the Odyssey. It is a narrative of the creation of the universe out of Chaos and genealogy of the gods.
By: Apollonius Rhodius
Another Greek epic poem, it was written by Apollonius Rhodius in the third century BCE. It tells us about the myth of the journey of Jason and the Argonauts to get back the Golden Fleece from Colchis. It is full of gods, fighting, and adventure.
The Library of Greek Mythology
It is a classic book that has dense writings about Greek mythology, from the origin of the universe to the Trojan War. It provides a detailed description and history of the Greek myth and has had a great impact on many writers. It is an excellent book for young adults.
The Greek Myths
By: Robert Graves
This book was written in 1955 by Robert Graves. It is a treasury of Greek mythology. His explanations, crisp narratives, and interpretations show an additional side of the history and rituals. This classic book describes in detail from the creation of universe out of Chaos and birth of the 12 Olympians to the Trojan War and Odysseus’s return. It is easy to read and enjoyable. It is a great book for beginners who want to get acquainted with Greek mythology.
The Lightning Thief
By: Rick Riordan
This book from the Percy Jackson novel series is a fantasy novel for young adults, which is based on Greek mythology. It was published in the year 2005. It uses some parts of Greek mythology, but in a modern way. It is about a 12-year-old boy Percy Jackson, who is about to be expelled from his school … yet again, and how he stops the war between gods and retrieves the stolen lightning bolt of Zeus.
Myths of the Ancient Greeks
By: Richard P. Martin
Another book for young adults, it deals with the catastrophic love of Orpheus and Eurydice or Demeter’s loss of her daughter, Persephone, the adventures of Heracles, Theseus, and Perseus, tragedies of Prometheus and Oedipus, the creation of gods, and the happenings of the Trojan War. It is written in a simple and easy-to-read, but discerning manner.
These were some of the best books on Greek mythology that you can add to your collection. Reading these will give you a glimpse of our history, because as Theodore Roosevelt opines,
The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.