Online Introduction to
GREEK AND ROMAN MYTHOLOGY & HEROIC LEGEND
In the last 200 years, Germany has produced more leading scholars than any other nation. Their work on antiquity is unparalleled. This book, Greek and Roman Mythology & Heroic Legend, by Professor Hermann Steuding, is an early modern work on classical mythology and comparative religion. Not only is it short and to the point, but it also addresses the native Roman religion before the importation of Greek gods and goddesses. This is not done so clearly, if at all, in most classical texts on the subject that you usually run across.
It is also helpful because Steuding explains the basis for some of the confusing variations in the adventures of the gods, goddesses, and legendary heroes, including Hercules and Theseus. Different regions had their own local versions that could differ significantly from those told in more distant places. The major epic cycles of poetry are also summarized. A few engravings of some of the well-known Greek sculptures and some reliefs are included in the book.
The spellings are proper transliterations of the Greek, to give the correct pronunciation. Kirke, the sorceress, is thus properly spelled, although currently it is spelled Circe — leading to her mispronunciation everywhere in the modern hemisphere! The same goes for Kyklopes, plural, and Kyklops, singular; the K’s hold the clue to the proper pronunciation for the/those one-eyed Cyclops (this form is now used as both the singular and plural).
Roman gods and goddesses are also spelled as in the original Latin. So you have Iuppiter and Iuno, instead of Jupiter and Juno. The reason for this is that “consonantal I” was pronounced as we pronounce the letter J today. The actual letter J was not used in Latin until the Middle Ages. For a more detailed explanation, see this page: The Pronunciation of Classical Latin, by Zdravko Batzarov, on the Orbis Latinus website. (Don’t confuse this with the letter J being pronounced as our letter Y, which occurs in many Germanic languages, ja?)
Lionel D. Barnett, the translator, also has a bone to pick with all the authors who spell — in the English alphabet — Clytemestra as Clytemnestra. He says the addition of the ‘n’ has no authority and this mistake is still passed on uncritically, as it has been for centuries.
Barnett worked at the British Museum and has added only a handful of notes. There is a Bibliography of 19th century works on Classical Mythology. He also compiled an Index, which includes the “marks of quantity” in the proper names. These are the long (macrons) and short marks (breves) over the vowels, to aid in pronunciation.
The original German text has been scanned by Google Books. Comparing the texts it seems that Barnett has taken several liberties, including some major re-arranging, and the addition of numbered sections. Since I don’t speak German, I can’t say if the translation has suffered in other ways by his editing. Since the book is no shorter than the original, I don’t quite see the reason for such major reorganizing.
Despite this, the information is very useful as a reference tool, especially for lesser known alternative titles (by-names) of the deities. It also mentions entities, like Ma the Earth Mother, and the erotes, the love-gods who spun off from Eros, including those little cupids: Passionate Desire and Lover’s Yearning. Of course, the existence of the goddess Trivia is an interesting little bit of trivia, too.
Like I say, the book is short and sweet, as well as complete. Get going:
Oh !!! I almost forgot. My copy of the text belonged to H. Clive Barnard, a teacher and author. He signed his name, in very neat handwriting, along with the date as: Nov. 19th 1902.
Title Pages and Preface.