Friday, February 1, 2013

Book Review of Mythology by Edith Hamilton 5.7

General Information:

Name of Book: Mythology

ISBN: 9780316341516

Publisher: First Black Bay

Year it was published: 1942

Overall theme:

"The Greeks did not believe that the gods created the universe. It was the other way about: the universe created the gods. Before there were gods heaven and earth had been formed. They were the first parents. The Titans were their children, and the gods were their grandchildren." (24)

Part Five: The Great Families of Mythology

17. The House of Atreus

Tantalus and Niobe

Observations: The famous heroes such as Menelaus and Agamemnon came from the accursed house and it goes back to record the story of Tantalus, his honor among the gods and goddesses and his treachery in cutting up his only son and serving him at a banquet. Gods brought Pelops back to life Pelops married Hippodamia and was happy in life. There was a daughter Niobe that suffered as well. Niobe was married to Amphion wo had Zethus as a twin. She had a bad streak too just like father and went against Leto who bore Apollo and Diana. Apollo and Diana struck her down. Atreus adn Thyestes were sons of Pelops. Thyestes fell in love with Atreus's wife, while Atreus killed Thyestes's children and cooked them and served them to Thyestes. While Atreus was not avenged, his children and descendants were.

Agamemnon and His Children

Observations: Begins with Zeus talking, reminding gods and goddesses of the prophecy that "the death of the son of Atreus will be avenged by Orestes." Agamemnon was killed by Aegistheus and his wife Clytemnestra at a table along with Cassandra. Later on the account changes to mother's revenge for her daughter killed by Agamemnon and Aegistheus fades away. Brief description of how Agamemnon's and Menelaus's lives ended up. Mention of Iphigenia's emotions during the time of altar as well as the curse suffered by the house of Atreus. Cassandra the Prophetess retells the house's dark history to the men. She enters the house, noises begin and she and Agamemnon are killed by Clytemnestra's hand. The two hope for happiness but it does not arrive. The other two children are Electra and Orestes. Electra is made miserable by Aegistheus while Orestes is away. Electra hopes for revenge. Orestes was in a dilemma but the oracle of Delphi encouraged him to kill Clytemnestra. Pylades, a cousin and a friend accompanied Orestes. They came up with a plan, Clytemnestra makes one last plea to her son, but he kills her. Soon he sees spectres throughout the years, begs to cleansed and is cleansed. He ends the curse of his house.

Iphigenia among the Taurians

Observations: At first the story had one ending, then another ending was offered up. Instead of being sacrificed, Iphigenia was miraculously rescued by Artemis who placed a slain deer upon her altar. She was taken away to the land of Crimea and began to serve Artemis in her temple. Orestes and Pylas arrive where she's at. They are captured and are supposed to be sacrificed. Iphigenia briefly reunites with Orestes and Pylas who is married to Electra but confesses his love towards him. Iphigenia gives them the message to take back to Mycenae. Brother and sister are revealed and escape due to divine protection.

18. The Royal House of Thebes

Cadmus and His Children

Observations: Cadmus is Europa's brother, and when Zeus stole her away, he went searching for her, but was told not to bother and to find his own city named Thebes. He married Harmonia and was gifted with a necklace that was to bring disaster later. Four daughters and a son were borne to them. All the daughters suffered misfortune; Semele because of Dionysus, Ino was the wicked stepmother, Agave killed her own son due to Dionysus, and Autonoe because her son died due to him accidentally seeing Artemis naked and her turning him to a stag and his friends killing him. They fled and were changed into serpents.


Observations:  King Laius was the great-grandson of Cadmus and he married a cousin named Jocasta. Apollo prophecied his death at the hands of his son. When a child was born he placed him on the mountain, convinced the baby had died. However he had proven the god right, although he never knew that. There were no investigations due to the Sphinx and her riddle, and Oedipus from Corinth, who is thought to be King Polybus's son, went to oracle where he was told he was destined to kill his father, thus he was in an exile. He solved the riddle, and married Jocasta. For many years there was happiness. After a long time, a strange plague came to Thebes, and Oedipus tried to find the killer which would help the plague go away. He sought Tiresias who at first refused to tell him the truth, but then revealed that he himself is the killer. Jocasta and Oedipus then begin a conversation where a lot is revealed. In the end he blinds himself by his hand and Jocasta kills herself by her own hand.


Observations: The four children of Oedipus were Polyneices, Eteocles, Ismene and Antigone. The daughters remained loyal, while the sons conspired to successfully expel him. Creon was the regent for the throne. Eteocles kicked his brother out and became king, while his brother went to Argos to incite a war against Thebes. Oedipus died in happiness while with the girls, and they went back to find out one brother marching against another. Creon's son sacrificed himself so that the city could be saved. After both brothers killed one another, Creon refused to bury the dead that fought against Thebes, including Polyneices. Antigone buries the brother and was most likely killed. Of Ismene, nothing is known.

The Seven Against Thebes

Observations: Others come over and start begging Theseus who is in charge of Athens to make war over Thebes over what is done. Theseus at first refuses but then holds the election and tries a diplomatic approach that they seek the dead only, not to make war with Thebes. Creon refused to listen, there was a war, Athens won the right to bury the dead. There was also mentions of the dead men, and a woman jumped into fire and killed herself. The young sons of the slain conquered Thebes ten years later as a revenge.

19. The Royal House of Athens


Observations: Origins of Cecrops, that he was a king of Attica and gave Athens to Athena for her gift of olives, while angry Poseidon flung a wave to the city, that he might be half dragon half man or an ordinary man who was related to mythological family. He was great- grandfather to Theseus. King Erechtheus was his father. Procne and Philomela were his sisters.

Procne and Philomela

Observations: Procne is an elder sister and was married to Tereus, a son of Ares and had a son named Itys. Tereus was a horrible husband. Procne wanted to see her sister, Tereus went to escort the sister but fell in love and told the sister Procne died and forced her into pretend marriage. He told Procne that Philomela has passed away. (Philomela  had her tongue cut off.) Philomela weaved her wrongs and told them they were for the queen's eyes only because she was shut off from the world. The sisters were reunited, Procne wanted revenge, thus she killed Itys and served him to her husband for dinner. Tereus was about to kill them when they were all turned into birds.

Procris and Cephalus

Observations: Procris was the niece of Procne and Philomela and for a while she was married to a grandson of Aeolus named Cephalus, of whom Aurora spirited away. Aurora taunted him about Procris's faithfulness, and he thought of a test he could do to test it. He tried to get her to fall in love, but for while couldn't until a statement caused him to reveal himself. He called her a cheater, she was tired of men, went to mountains, he followed to apologize, which she eventually accepted. However, after a while, tragedy struck them when he accidentally killed Procris.

Orithyia and Boreas

Observations: She was the sister to Procris, and Boreas spirited her away where she bore him twin sons named Zetes and Calais who participated in the Golden Fleece.

Creusa and Ion

Observations: Creusa was sister to Procris and Orithyia. One day she was gathering crocuses when Apollo abducted her. She became pregnant and went back to the cave to give birth and left the babe alone to die, except that he disappeared. Eventually she married Xuthus but the two had no children. They sought Delphi, where Creusa sees a strange boy and begins conversation with him. Xuthus then declares the boy to be his son because Apollo told him so. The truth is revealed that Ion is Creusa's missing son.

To be Continued...

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