Greek myths are more than just important stories; the epic tales are rooted in the Mediterranean itself. That's the philosophy of author David Stuttard whose new book Greek Mythology: A Traveler's Guide from Mount Olympus to Troy explores Greece through myth. From 'must see' cities like Athens and Ephesus to less-explored places like Ithaca, Argos and Mount Pelion, he encourages readers to bring the Greek landscape to life through story.
Myths were common currency in the ancient Greek empire, Stuttard explains. They pervaded nearly all aspects of everyday life. Not only did individuals and whole cities believe they had divine ancestry, but the myths were known by nearly every Greek citizen. From Spain to the Black Sea, elders and children alike could have recited Perseus' quest to slay Medusa or named the god who sent a giant boar to destroy Calydon. The proof lies in what the Greeks left behind. As Stuttard writes, "Some myths resonate so closely with the evidence of archaeology that there are those today who passionately believe in their historical accuracy."
Greek myths appear to Stuttard everywhere, even in the land itself. He points out the three deep grooves in the rock of the Acropolis that were made by Poseidon's trident. In Magnesia, he shows readers the unique stone cliff that is Niobe, turned to stone when mourning the loss of her children. On a visit to the plains of Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games, readers see where Zeus pinned his father Cronus in an epic wrestling match.
Mixing travelogue with history and (of course) the myths themselves, Stuttard reveals Greece in a new light. His erudite chapters, which profile 22 ancient sites, are a unique look at ancient Greece and what occurred there -- historical and otherwise. The book provides excellent background for travelers, especially those who want to learn more about history and culture while also enjoying a thrilling tale.