Reviewed by Mike Gleason
The Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth & Religion
by Simon Price and Emily Kearns
Published 2004 by Oxford University Press
Paperback 640 pages
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Most youngsters, in ages past, grew up with a knowledge of classical myths, especially (primarily) of ancient Greece and Roman. For them, this book would be a nice addition to their library. Unfortunately, in today's society (especially in the U.S.), the majority of youngsters get their only exposure to myths through cartoons, movies, and TV programs. There they are presented out of context and with no attempt to tie things together. For these youngsters, this book is a vital addition to their library.
Obviously, as a dictionary, it is not intended to be "read" but to be "referred to." Therefore, I made no attempt to do other than to sample a large number of its offerings. There are plenty of cross-references, which allow for easy expansion of the original inquiry.
The authors have made every effort to make this book "user friendly" by removing untransliterated Greek and various obscure language; by providing a thematic index in order to facilitate understanding a particular subject or theme; and by providing a SHORT annotated bibliography, consisting primarily of current (even if difficult to find) sources as well as some on-line resources.
Having bounced around through the book, checking entries on things I was thoroughly familiar with as well as some I only marginal knowledge of, I was impressed by the clarity of the information provided. The extensive cross-referencing makes the inter- relationships clear and easy to visualize.
While this isn't a book everyone needs to own, if you are interested in the religions of the Mediterranean world (Greece, Rome, the Middle East, and Egypt), you will find it a valuable work to have handy.
While the price may seem a bit high for a relatively small paperback, this book is well worth the price. Although illustrations would have been nice (there are only 3 maps at the end) their inclusion would have increased both the size and cost adversely.
There are half a dozen genealogical tables included to help illustrate the familial inter-relationships of the various mythologies. Although these tables are relatively they help to give a sense of familiarity which helps to make things more comprehensible.