The Genealogy of Greek Mythology

Book cover: 'The Genealogy of Greek Mythology'
Author(s): 
Vanessa James
Copyright: 
2003
Publisher: 
Gotham Books (a division of Penguin)
Binding: 
Sewn Hardcover
Number of pages: 
107 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

"An Illustrated Family Tree of Greek Myth from the First Gods to the Founders of Rome" This unique fold-out book helps readers make connections between various classical stories from sources such as: Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles by organizing them into a "family tree". One side of the chart depicts the "gods" and the other side shows their mortal offspring. The interconnecting red lines between sides help you easily trace the connections and the book can easily be flipped from side to side when a small portion is unfolded. Roman names of each of the gods are presented along with the anglicized Greek names.

One nice thing is that the chart is entirely illustrated with full-color reproductions of classical Greek artwork, statuary, etc. It nicely complements the written information. Small text-boxes summarize the stories of the principal characters. Be forewarned, though, that there are plenty of classical nudes and one illustration and text box explaining the story of Apollo and Hyacinth, while subtle enough to be missed by young children, might make some parents uncomfortable (a rather primitive illustration of two male nudes embracing).

The reader will naturally understand that although many parts of Greek Mythology are based on historical fact, a great deal of it is fictitious and studied for the purposes of understanding Ancient Greek literature and culture. Quite rightly, after introducing that, the author's tone treats the events and characters as true and historical, with a few explanations here and there such as: "The Greeks assigned human bodies to concepts such as love and hate. This kind of personification was a device that helped to describe and explain the mysteries of the natural environment and of human behavior." (pg. 7)

The fold-out format is neat (you can open up a segment of the desired length to study - a little like a scroll) and fairly sturdy (printed on heavy cardstock), however it isn't particularly friendly for small children who might twist and tear it if they attempt to open it. Although I wouldn't object to having this around the house and it could be used as a supplement to classical studies in high school, it's probably best suited as a gift book for college students and adults who are particularly interested in mythology.

Here are a few words from the author from her website that might be helpful in further understanding this resource:

"As I fit the family trees together and researched their literary origins my chart began to grow in all directions. It is at this point that I knew that I should try to make it conform to a rough timeline so that, for instance, all the participants in the Trojan War could be located horizontally within three generations. I re-read Homer, Hesiod, Apollonius Rhodius, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Eurypides; Vergil and Ovid, making notes and consulting old and new classical dictionaries. I became fascinated with the complexity of the family relationships that bound these extraordinary characters together and affected every aspect of their lives. The big surprise was that almost every one seemed to be related to someone else.

I found myself learning about mythological history through genealogy. On rereading, for instance, the Iliad, minor characters that I had previously overlooked now leapt freshly to life as real people who I could recognize from their family connections. These myths about friendship, passion and retribution all began to make very personal sense to me. It is interesting to observe the continuing power and pleasure that these stories still exert over our minds to this day." - Vanessa James

Additional notes: 

double-sided fold-out chart with slipcase - over 17 feet long!

Donated for review by Penguin-Putnam

Review Date: 
3-17-04
Reviewed by: