The Anthology of Classical Myth is well-known to many teachers of Classical Mythology. The first edition, published in 2004, by University of New Hampshire colleagues Trzaskoma, Smith, and Brunet, was created as an accessible collection of ancient mythological sources for undergraduate students with no previous exposure to Greek and Roman sources. The impressive group of translated texts from 52 different Greek and Roman authors (or collections) is arranged alphabetically by author or collection name and is well contextualized, providing a date and language of composition for each author, a brief introduction to author and genre of the account, and quite often suggests other passages for comparisons. The book provides other helpful aids: maps, genealogical charts, timelines, good explanation on the transliteration of names and alternate spellings, and a glossary organized by mythological character. The second edition ups the number of appendices from three to four, retaining unaltered the ones on Linear B sources, inscriptions, and papyri, but adding a fourth one on Near Eastern Myth. Despite the additional 70 pages for the fourth appendix, the volume has a lowered page count because of the deletion of a considerable number of Hyginus’ Fabulae. The authors made the decision to eliminate the texts of only one author to minimize changes to instructors’ existing syllabi, and Hyginus in particular since the full text is available in another Hackett publication.1 The virtues of this book as a companion to textbooks on Classical Mythology or just as an enjoyable compendium of mythological sources have been laid out in reviews of the first edition,2 so this review will concentrate on the utility and quality of the new material added.
Appendix Four on Near Eastern Myth (437-507) contains five texts. The first three, the account of the flood by Utanapishtim in the Epic of Gilgamesh (Tablet XI), an excerpt from the Atrahasis recounting the creation of humans and their subsequent almost total destruction by the flood, and select passages from the creation story in the Babylonian Epic of Creation, are reprinted from Ben Foster’s translations and are prefaced with adaptations of his introductions. A new translation by R. Scott Smith and Gregory McMahon of the Hittite Song of Emergence comes next, and the appendix ends with the first nine chapters of Genesis from the Bible. Each text is preceded by an introduction that discusses its language, date, and transmission, as well as a brief summary to aid students in navigating the sometimes difficult narratives of these lacunose texts. Additionally, the whole appendix has a general introduction that rationalizes the choices of texts (“the most important Near Eastern texts for the study of Greek and Roman myth,” 439), and presents two glossaries, major Mesopotamian, Syrian and Anatolian cultures and primary deities of the ancient Near East.
The translations of these Near Eastern sources are admirably clear, and the glossaries and introductions are useful tools for those uninitiated into the complexities of Near Eastern mythology. The inclusion of Near Eastern precedents for Greek and Roman mythology will ultimately add depth to any study of the topic and makes the point that the Mediterranean region was connected cross culturally, causing the transmission of motifs, narratives, and ideas into Greece and Rome from the East.3 These sources will allow the instructor of myth who uses this volume as a supplementary textbook to incorporate a more diverse set of perspectives into the course. The Near Eastern texts presented allow the comparison of flood stories, intergenerational conflict among the gods, and the animosity of gods towards mortals. The inclusion of the Hittite Song of Emergence is particularly noteworthy and timely as the text and its parallels in Hesiod’s Theogony have received recent scholarly discussion about the interpretation of this cultural overlap.4
In short, the Anthology of Classical Myth remains an excellent supplementary text for mythology courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and the addition of the Near Eastern Myth appendix only broadens its scope. The only disappointment is that the Maps, Genealogical Charts, and Timelines were not updated to reflect the addition of the Near Eastern material to underline the proximity in time and space of the authors of those texts to the authors of the Greek and Roman materials.
1. Apollodorus’ Library and Hyginus’ Fabulae : Two Handbooks of Greek Mythology. Translated, with Introduction, by Stephen M. Trzaskoma and R. Scott Smith. Hackett 2007.
2. Reviews of the first edition: Burton, Diana. “Greek Myth.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 126 (2006): 144-48; Milovanovic, Čelica. The Classical Outlook 82, no. 4 (2005): 159-60; Blomqvist, Jerker, BMCR 2005.07.51.
3. “Near Eastern influence cannot be put down as a marginal phenomenon to be invoked occasionally in explanation of isolated peculiarities. It was pervasive at many levels and at most times,” M.L. West, The East Face of Helicon, Oxford 1997, 59.
4. van Dongen, Erik. “The ‘kingship in heaven’-theme of the Hesiodic Theogony: origin, function, composition.” Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 51, no. 2 (2011): 180-201; Strauss Clay, Jenny, and Amir Gilan. “The Hittite “Song of Emergence” and the Theogony.” Philologus 158, no. 1 (2014): 1-9.