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Monday, February 16, 2015

The Gods of Olympus - Barbara Graziosi

People learn about the Greco-Roman deities through a number of sources. In literature classes they are studied as epics of their time and inspirations of modern plays and movies. Heroes like Hercules have their stories retold on television and in cinema. The deities reappeared over the centuries in paintings, sculptures, and other art forms.

The Greco-Roman deities have lived a long and varied life, much of it forgotten. Graziosi begins by explaining who the twelve deities of the pantheon were in their original Greek context. The features of these deities may only seem somewhat familiar, as she goes on to explain that when the Romans decided to adopt and adapt these deities, they took on more and curious attributes. Even more curious is how they managed to merge the Greek pantheon with that of the Romans.

Worship and understanding of the Gods changed as philosophy became a popular past time. And as Christianity grew in popularity, the cults and their gods had to go into hiding because of persecution. While the gods disappeared as religion, they reappeared in the pursuit of astrology and astronomy, which used references to mythology to identify constellations or star formations. In the renaissance, they saw a revival in sculptures in chapels, reimagined as saints or demons. Or in paintings of artists who were sometimes haunted by their presence.

For anybody who is interested in the history of the Greco-Roman Gods and Goddesses, this is a fantastic book that will provide insight into the ever-changing world.

Recommended Reads:
Mythology - Edith Hamilton
Bulfinch's Mythology - Thomas Bulfinch

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