Unusually for items in The Memory Box, this hard-back book is modern, having been published as recently as 2010, but it concerns the myths that we may have encountered in our childhoods and which influence our culture today.
Philip Matyszak is a prolific British author who specialises in the history of the ancient world, especially of Rome. Here he moves from facts to myths. Those myths of ancient Greece and Rome can seem bewilderingly complex and most of us know certain names and the outline of tales. As the publisher states ‘This handy companion takes these fragments and weaves them into a comprehensible and enjoyable narrative, guiding you through the foundational stories of classical myth.’
The book has a lightness of touch, which makes it enjoyable to read; for example, page 148 says of Heracles that he was a ‘thuggish bully, who was as safe to be around as nitro-glycerine in a cocktail shaker.’ Even so, it may be regarded more as a work of reference than a book to read straight from cover to cover.
The book shows how the stories have not only survived, but profoundly influenced art and culture, from painting and sculpture to opera, music, literature, film, astronomy and everyday sayings, products and services. Think Achilles heel, Hermes delivery, Nike sportswear, Titan rockets, Trojan Horse malware, to name a few.