I love stories about ancient gods and heroes. Magical stories set in strange and ancient worlds were my favorite bedtime reading when I was young, and they still are today. What could be better than Zeus wielding his mighty thunderbolt or Hercules slaying monsters?
When we use the word “myth” today, we usually mean a story that isn’t true. The ancient Greeks used the word “mythos” to mean anything spoken—tales told by great bards and poets in story and song. The Greek and Roman myths were traditional tales that held important meanings, whether they were true or not.
The Greeks had their own stories, but they were also a people of the wine-dark sea. Everywhere Greek colonists settled, the stories of their gods and heroes flourished. They were quick to adopt new tales, and stories flowed into Greece from places like Asia Minor, the Nile valley, and Mesopotamia. When Phoenician traders introduced their alphabet to the area around the Aegean Sea, the Greeks adapted the symbols to their own language and began to write their stories down.
Sometime around the year 750 BC, a poet named Homer recorded the greatest of all the Greek stories: the story of the Trojan War. Others wrote down other tales as well, and throughout Greece, festivals were devoted to tragedies and comedies about the gods, goddesses, heroes, and monsters of ancient times.
Far to the west, a small village on the banks of the Tiber River in Italy had begun to expand beyond its seven hills. The Romans inherited a rich mythology from their own ancestors, but they added many of the Greek stories and made them their own. As Rome grew and its power extended across the Mediterranean and beyond, the Romans spread the ancient myths throughout their empire.
In this book you’ll find modern retellings of all the major Greek and Roman myths. These stories are so full of beauty and magic and disturbing twists that today’s readers can still find truths in the ancient tales.
May you never lose your love for old stories.