Of all the mythology reference books I own, my two main workhorses are The Oxford Classical Dictionary and Who’s Who in Classical Mythology. I find myself returning to The OCD and Who’s Who over and over when I’m writing for Mythography, or even when I simply want to know more about a figure from Classical myth. With this in mind, I wanted to share some of my thoughts about Who’s Who in Classical Mythology with you today.
Who’s Who in Classical Mythology was written by Michael Grant and John Hazel. My copy was published by Oxford University Press. The blurb on the cover of the book boasts that there are “Over 1200 entries covering Greek & Roman mythology”, and let me tell you, the vast majority of of these entries are quite comprehensive. The coverage of Hercules (aka Herakles) alone spans several pages and explains the hero’s legendary exploits in detail, from his famous Labors to his relationships with both gods and mortals.
The hero Hercules is in good company. There are also excellent entries on heroes and heroines such as Odysseus, Theseus, Antigone, and Ariadne. And don’t forget the gods and goddesses! From the Olympians to minor immortals, the book offers a great deal of information about the most popular divine characters in Greek and Roman mythology. In Who’s Who in Classical Mythology you can find compelling details about the loves of both Aphrodite and Zeus, or learn more about how the intriguing god Hermes used his guile to earn his place among the pantheon of Greek gods.
In addition to the entries, the book has a few other features that make it worthwhile reading for anyone interested in learning about Classical myth. There is a short but interesting introduction that makes the point that the timeless tales from Greek and Roman mythology are first and foremost fascinating stories. There are also a collection of genealogical trees. These trees clarify the complex and sometimes confusing relationships between various characters from myth and legend. If you want to learn more about, say, the descendants of Prometheus, this book will give you accurate information. And last but not least, there is a brief but informative section devoted to providing a “list of Greek and Latin writers referred to in the dictionary.”
Oh, one more comment about Who’s Who in Classical Mythology. While I consider it a scholarly resource, I want you to know that it is still a fun read. From tales of heroism and bravery to descriptions of menacing monsters, the characters featured in Who’s Who are the source of inspiration for contemporary writers like J.K. Rowling and Rick Riordan. And for the record, I especially enjoy reading a book from the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series and recognizing a mythological character even before Riordan reveals his or her name.
This book is available at Amazon.com :