The first anthology ever to present the entire range of ancient Greek and Roman stories—from myths and fairy tales to jokes
Captured centaurs and satyrs, talking animals, people who suddenly change sex, men who give birth, the temporarily insane and the permanently thick-witted, delicate sensualists, incompetent seers, a woman who remembers too much, a man who cannot laugh—these are just some of the colorful characters who feature in the unforgettable stories that ancient Greeks and Romans told in their daily lives. Together they created an incredibly rich body of popular oral stories that include, but range well beyond, mythology—from heroic legends, fairy tales, and fables to ghost stories, urban legends, and jokes. This unique anthology presents the largest collection of these tales ever assembled. Featuring nearly four hundred stories in authoritative and highly readable translations, this is the first book to offer a representative selection of the entire range of traditional classical storytelling.
Set mostly in the world of humans, not gods, these stories focus on figures such as lovers, tricksters, philosophers, merchants, rulers, athletes, artists, and soldiers. The narratives range from the well-known—for example, Cupid and Psyche, Diogenes and his lantern, and the tortoise and the hare—to lesser-known tales that deserve wider attention. Entertaining and fascinating, they offer a unique window into the fantasies, anxieties, humor, and passions of the people who told them.
Complete with beautiful illustrations by Glynnis Fawkes, a comprehensive introduction, notes, and more, this one-of-a-kind anthology will delight general readers as well as students of classics, fairy tales, and folklore.
William Hansen, professor emeritus of classical studies and folklore at Indiana University, Bloomington, is one of the world's leading authorities on classical folklore. His books include Classical Mythology: A Guide to the Mythical World of the Greeks and Romans, Ariadne's Thread: A Guide to International Tales Found in Classical Literature, and Anthology of Ancient Greek Popular Literature. He lives in Bloomington.
"A dizzying, dreamy compendium of ancient stories. . . . Enchanting. . . . The collection aspires to be both a bedside tome that appeals to millennial attention spans and a hunger for cultural canapés elevated to an art form by Schott’s Miscellanies, and at the same time a serious contribution to scholarship on ancient narrative. But somehow the stories themselves–in their sheer, buzzing mass–take on a life of their own and spill over this carefully crafted frame. After a period of full immersion, we begin to hear the voices of the tipsy philosopher, the deadpan Spartan, the bored Roman soldier, the misanthrope, the adulterous wife, and to imagine the ancient laughter echoing through these tales as they were read, heard and replayed. The thrill is anything but anodyne."--Victoria Rimell, Times Literary Supplement
"This is an extraordinary collection of tales that are remarkable for their diversity and how contemporary they seem. Indeed, these ancient Greek and Roman stories, ably translated by William Hansen, forged most of the modern European genres such as the fable, legend, novella, fairy tale, anecdote, joke, and children's story. Hansen's work is an invaluable source not only for scholars but also for readers of contemporary fantasy and fairy tales."--Jack Zipes, translator and editor of The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm
"William Hansen's marvelous treasury lets us experience for ourselves the timeless tales that made the ancient Greeks and Romans think, shudder, and laugh."--Adrienne Mayor, author of The Amazons
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