Books and Good Reading
Alan & Maureen Carter provide 163 pages of information about the Greek Gods, in six chapters, including graphic family trees to make life a little easier for the passing scholar.

Our reviewer Ann Lisney describes the book seems to have found the book something of a maze -
'a lovely carpet with too many loose threads' - so maybe if you like your studies to be straightforward you might be advised to avoid, and please excuse the pun 'Chaos'.

Family tree enthusiasts should be in their element..

A LAYMAN'S GUIDE TO THE GREEK GODS. Author: Alan & Maureen Carter.
Efstathiadis GroupISBN  960 226 488 8 (Paperback).
7.99 GB Pounds.                                     
Source. Publisher. Bookshops. 


Is Uranus your Achilles? Try this illustrated pocketbook and see if it helps.

First there was nothing, a concept known as Chaos. Out of this came another concept, Eros, the personification of love. Chaos also created Erebus, the Kingdom of Shadows, Tartarus, the Kingdom of Hell, and Night. Erebus and Night got together and created Ether, the air, and Hemera, the day.

Chaos’s final creation was Gaea, the universal mother goddess who bore the first race of gods. She was the forerunner of the human race and presided over marriages and the sick.

Still with me? Gaea then takes over the job of creation. First is Uranus, the sky, who becomes her partner. Together, Gaea and Uranus become the grandparents of the world. First come six Titans, then six Titanesses. Then followed the Cyclops – the one-eyed giants – and if that wasn’t bad enough, three dreadful monsters called the Hecatoncheires. (Greek speakers among us will not be surprised to learn that these monsters had a hundred hands).

Well, poor old Uranus was a bit sick to have spawned the Cyclops and the Hecatoncheires, so he imprisoned them in the depths of the earth. This is when the trouble starts. Gaea, their mother, became furious at Uranus’s actions and persuaded one of her Titan sons, Cronus, to mutilate his father by severing his genitals with a sickle. The floating genitals were cast into the sea where they turned into a white foam that bore forth Aphrodite.

Poor old Uranus stood there bleeding and emasculated, and his blood turned into the three Erinyes – winged women with snakes about them – the Giants, who were huge of size with serpents for feet, and the Meliae, or ash tree nymphs.

So that was pretty much it as far as Uranus was concerned. His bloodthirsty son Cronus then took charge, leaving his siblings, the Cyclops and Hecatoncheires, imprisoned underground.

Cronus’s uncle/aunt Night also had a go at creation. He/she was responsible for creating Doom, Fate, Death, Sleep, Criticism and Misery. Not knowing when to stop, these were joined by the three Hesperides, the three Fates, then Nemesis, Fraud, Incontinence, and Old Age Strife. All in all, we could probably have done without Night putting in his/her twopenn’orth!

Are you getting the picture? There are dozens more in this ‘top layer’ of gods, including the Harpies, the Nerieds, the Phorcids, the Gorgons, Pegasus, Cerberus, the Chimaera, and the Sphinx.

The next layer of gods are the offspring of the Titans. Remember old Cronus, the nasty sickle-wielder? He took his sister Rhea as his wife and they had a series of children that old Cronus swallowed at birth because it had been prophesied that he would be dethroned by one of his offspring. So Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades – aka Pluto – and Poseidon were duly swallowed up by Cronus almost as they saw the light of day. But when Rhea gave birth for the sixth time, she sent the baby Zeus off to her mother for protection, and fooled Cronus by giving him a rock wrapped up in a shawl to swallow.

Another Titan, Oceanus, also married a sister, this time Tethys. They were responsible for producing 3,000 sons (the rivers of the world) and 3,000 daughters, the water nymphs. They also had other offspring including Metis, the goddess of wisdom, Tyce, the goddess of fortune and chance, Styx, who lived in the river of the same name in the underworld, the nymph Clymene, and Prometheus.

This is where I begin to lose the thread a little. Up to this point, the family tree is presented in a reasonably chronological order. But now some of the stories about the individual gods start creeping in, and because each time a god is mentioned the name is in capital letters, I kept having to refer back to the charts and the text to see if we had come across him/her already, and where they fitted into the overall scheme of things.

Frankly, by the time I got to ‘The Major Olympian Gods and Goddesses’, I had lost the will to live. There is so much too-in and fro-ing and getting ahead of ourselves that the whole thing becomes a muddle – a lovely carpet with too many loose threads. I was beginning to wish that the book had just been a list of names in alphabetical order, with a page or so devoted to each one, listing their parentage and any interesting titbits about them.

Oh dear - I see there is another book in the same series called ‘The Layman’s Guide to the Greek Heroes’. I shall have to sharpen my wits first if Wilf asks me to review that one!

Ann Lisney.