In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Mythology

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Introductory Works
  • Bibliographies
  • Encyclopedias and Genealogical Lists
  • Dictionaries
  • Origin of Greek Myths
  • Origin of Roman Myths
  • Mythography
  • Allegory
  • Studies on Women and Gender in Myths
  • Folklore

Classics Mythology
Pura Nieto Hernández
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 February 2010
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 February 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0036


“Classical mythology” is a modern conceit that presents as a unified and relatively coherent whole what for the ancients themselves were Greek and Roman multiform traditions, which often (especially in Greece) had no unity, but rather many local variations. Indeed, “mythology” itself is an ambiguous term, since it designates both the collection of myths of a certain culture and the scholarly study of those myths. In addition, there is no definition of myth that is universally accepted by scholars and capable of encompassing all cases of known myths. Furthermore, the mythology of Greece and Rome is closely connected with Greek and Roman religion, since the gods and heroes who populate myths were also celebrated in religious rituals. Some scholarly approaches even postulate an intimate connection between myth and ritual (see Myth and Ritual). Hence, important works on Greek and Roman religion need to be consulted also by the student of classical mythology. (“Classical” in this connection is used to mean “Greek and Roman.”) The present bibliography offers some guidance to the reader in the field of mythology. Priority has been given to works that are either recent or of historical importance or enduring value. The bibliography treats all aspects of myth, from the concept of myth itself to studies of individual gods and heroes, from the relationship between myth and ritual to the reception of myth in the modern era. The headings are designed to facilitate consultation on individual subjects and do not represent a particular theoretical view.

General Overviews

Most handbooks of mythology and religion have introductory chapters on the methodological and theoretical questions involved in the study of myth. In this section are included works devoted more specifically to the problems of definition and interpretation of the concepts of “myth” and “mythology,” and the development of mythology as a discipline. A second heading in this section presents some general introductions to classical mythology. Feldman and Richardson 1972 is one the best starting points for those interested in the historical development of the study of myth as a modern discipline. The contributions in Calame 1988 demonstrate the plurality of meanings that myths had for the Greeks and elaborates on the difficulty of finding a sufficient definition of the concept, while Calame 1991 reflects on the problem of applying “myth” and “ritual,” as modern intellectual categories, to the ancients. Detienne 1986 concentrates on the birth and intellectual longevity of the view that myth is opposed to reason, which, he proposes, we inherited, together with their myths, from the Greeks. Veyne 1988 attempts to elucidate how the ancient Greeks themselves related to what we call “myths.” Bettini 2006 examines the Latin terms for “myth.”

  • Bettini, Maurizio. 2006. Mythos/fabula: Authoritative and discredited speech. History of Religions 45:195–212.

    DOI: 10.1086/503713

    Original in that it discusses Latin terms, such as fabula (and not only the Greek mythos, etc., as is more usual), for what we call “myth.”

  • Calame, Claude, ed. 1988. Métamorphoses du mythe en Grèce antique. Geneva, Switzerland: Labor et Fides.

    In his introduction to this excellent work, Calame reflects on the difficulties of pinning down the “essence” of “myth.” The volume’s diverse contributions exemplify the polyvalence of the concept and its varied applications in Greek culture (in both texts and the plastic arts), which bear witness to its complexity.

  • Calame, Claude. 1991. “Mythe” et “rite” en Grèce: Des catégories indigènes? Kernos 4:179–204.

    Poses the important question of the legitimacy of applying to the Greeks the concepts of “myth” and “rite,” which are creations of the modern era. Learned and interesting.

  • Detienne, Marcel. 1986. The creation of mythology. Translated by Margaret Cook. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    Discusses the birth of the modern concept of myth as opposed to reason (which the author attributes to Plato and Thucydides in particular), and of mythology as a discipline. Although not easy to read, its influence is felt in subsequent treatments of the issue. Translation of the French original, L’invention de la mythologie (Paris: Gallimard, 1981).

  • Feldman, Burton, and Robert D. Richardson, eds. 1972. The rise of modern mythology, 1680–1860. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.

    This is a classic collection of the most relevant sources in the development of the modern science of mythology. The forerunners of the discipline (Vico, Herder, Heyne, etc.) are all presented in English translation.

  • Veyne, Paul. 1988. Did the Greeks believe in their myths? An essay on the constitutive imagination. Translated by P. Wissing. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    This is an interesting evaluation of the role and relevance of myths in Greek culture; it poses important questions about myth and truth, myth and history, and so on, and attempts to determine the conduits by which myths became established truths. Translation of the French original, Les Grecs ont-ils cru à leurs mythes? Essai sur l’imagination constituante (Paris: du Seuil, 1983).

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