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.
Awards and Recognition
- One of CHOICE’s Outstanding Academic Titles for 2017
"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
"William Hansen . . . has extracted from a lifetime of reading seemingly all of ancient literature's most wonderful anecdotes, eerie stories, Aesopian fables, trickster tales and philosophical parables. The resulting anthology is an extraordinarily entertaining bedside book. . . . These anecdotes aren’t just classical, they’re classic, as much a part of our culture as Grimm fairy tales or stories from the Bible."—Michael Dirda, Washington Post
"William Hansen's enchanting collection of Greek and Roman folktales, legends and myths will prove indispensable. . . . The collection is as appealing to the advanced scholar as to a teenager first falling in love with the classics or to an aspiring author. . . . Hansen has succeeded in conveying to the reader his own love of and fascination with ancient storytelling, and his enthusiasm is infectious. The book is perfect reading for a summer holiday under Mediterranean skies. I cannot recommend it highly enough."—Edith Hall, Literary Review
"Hansen is arguably the most eminent folklorist currently active in the realm of classical scholarship. This long-awaited, astonishingly comprehensive volume represents the culmination of his scholarly explorations over a period of more than 50 years. It is a work of remarkable depth and scope, the consummate achievement of decades of research and collecting, analyzing, and classifying the literary memorializations of Greek and Roman oral narrative fiction. . . . All the tales are lucidly translated by Hansen himself. . . . This aesthetically pleasing and most welcome publication not only provides an excellent introduction to the multidimensional world of Greek and Roman storytelling, but also constitutes a delightful repository of literary entertainment."—Choice
"If there was ever a folklore book that exemplified perfectly the over-quoted Horatian dictum to ‘teach and delight’, William Hansen’s sparkling compendium of Classical tales would be it."—Jessica Hemming, Folklore
"This is a remarkable book, whose enormous range takes us deep into the world of oral storytelling enjoyed by the Greeks and Romans. . . . It is wonderful to have this treasure house of good stories from classical antiquity available in English in a form that will satisfy the scholar as well as the lover of a tale well told."—Joseph Russo, Journal of Folklore Research
"This book delivers precisely what it promises and should be delightful to scholars . . . and casual readers."—Anna Faktorovich, Pennsylvania Literary Review
"[A] delightful, eclectic anthology . . . this is a book of miscellaneous stories and quotes to amuse and fascinate the reader, and perhaps spark interest in a variety of topics such as ancient religion, philosophy, or historical figures."—Erin Warford, European Legacy
"If there was ever a folklore book that exemplified perfectly the over-quoted Horatian dictum to ‘teach and delight’, William Hansen’s sparkling compendium of Classical tales would be it. Highly recommended!"—Jessica Hemming, The Folklore Society
"The Book of Greek and Roman Folktales, Legends and Myths is a fascinating work. Hansen provides an enjoyable assortment of stories accompanied by a number of black and white illustrations, which can be enjoyed by academic and lay audiences alike."—Brittany Eldridge, AC Review of Books
"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
"A wonderful book. William Hansen has produced a hugely entertaining and informative anthology of ancient Greek and Roman folktales, legends, myths, fables, jokes, and much more. Nothing seems to have escaped his probing gaze. When it comes to the study of Greek and Roman verbal arts, there is absolutely nothing else like this. It is a pure delight and impossible to put down."—Richard P. Martin, Stanford University