Library of Classical Myths - Miguel Carvalho Abrantes - ebook
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How can you read Classical textual sources if you just don't know they exist? This work features a presentation of over 800 literary sources relevant to the study of Greek and Latin Mythology, Magic, Philosophy and Gnosticism. Along some of the most famous works of Cicero, Plato and Virgil, it also succinctly presents the ones of Ampelius, the Paradoxographus Florentinus and Tiberianus, among many, many others.

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Library of Classical Myths

Table of Contents

Title Page

Library of Classical Myths: Briefly presenting over 700 literary sources

0- Introduction

1- Anonymous Authors and Miscellanea

2- Section A

3- Section B

4- Section C

5- Section D

6- Section E

7- Section F

8- Section G

9- Section H

10- Section I

11- Section J

12- Section K

13- Section L

14- Section M

15- Section N

16- Section O

17- Section P

18- Section Q

19- Section R

20- Section S

21- Section T

22- Section U

23- Section V

24- Section W

25- Section X

26- Section Y

27- Section Z

Also By Miguel Carvalho Abrantes

 

Copyright © 2018 Miguel Carvalho AbrantesAll rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher.

Briefly presenting over 700 literary sources

Miguel Carvalho Abrantes

Index

0- Introduction.................................................................1

1- Anonymous Authors and Miscellanea..................7

2- Section A....................................................................23

3- Section B....................................................................47

4- Section C....................................................................53

5- Section D....................................................................65

6- Section E....................................................................75

7- Section F....................................................................85

8- Section G....................................................................91

9- Section H....................................................................97

10- Section I.................................................................107

11- Section J.................................................................109

12- Section K...............................................................113

13- Section L................................................................117

14- Section M..............................................................133

15- Section N...............................................................141

16- Section O...............................................................145

17- Section P................................................................151

18- Section Q...............................................................175

19- Section R...............................................................177

20- Section S................................................................179

21- Section T................................................................191

22- Section U...............................................................199

23- Section V...............................................................201

24- Section W..............................................................205

25- Section X................................................................209

26- Section Y................................................................211

27- Section Z................................................................213

0- Introduction

Every book ever written has a story behind it, and this one certainly isn’t an exception to that rule either. Many years ago I decided to start researching Greek and Latin Mythology through its original sources; as time went on, I accidentally found myself re-reading some of them, only to reach a point where I’d say “Wait a minute, I’ve already read this!”. In order to prevent myself from repeatedly studying the same sources, back in 2012 I decided to start compiling a small list of the primary sources I had been reading, along with some quick and personal notes about each of them[1]. This, I had hoped, would not only facilitate my personal research, but also make it possible for me to focus on newer and more diverse sources, always hoping to find entirely new myths or new versions of previous ones.

Now, if that original plan worked, it also led me to a significant problem – as a famous philosopher once said, knowledge that isn’t put into writing ends up getting lost sooner or later. No matter how much I studied, it is undeniable that, eventually, my personal knowledge will be lost. For that reason, to keep it all for myself would, at the end of the day, be a terribly narcissistic and self-centred thing to do. Yes, it tends to be an unfortunate trend in Classics, with some people preferring to keep all their knowledge for themselves instead of sharing it, as if they were afraid others would steal it away or take their jobs, but... realistically, knowledge is meant to be shared. That idea of the long-bearded sage, closed in his marble tower and uttering his best phrases for himself alone (be it in Ancient Greek, Latin, Coptic or Akkadian...), although poetically beautiful, is also based on a terribly absurd illusion of immortality.

When, approximately 20 years ago, I started my initial search, that was not the goal I intended, in any way. Back then – as today – I felt that knowledge was only as important as the usage that people made out of it. To keep it all for myself, perhaps inside a little secret box at home, would harshly transgress that ideal. Perhaps it was a chimeric one, perhaps nowadays people only care about knowledge as long as it gives them a lot of money or fame, but, again, that wasn’t what I was looking for – I simply wanted to learn more and more, and to be able to share what I had previously learned.

Then, one day, I was online and accidentally came across a young woman living a Canada who claimed to love the Trojan Cycle and who, day after day, appeared to research it as much as I did, or perhaps even much more. That led me to a problematic internal concern – no matter how much I had learned in the past, I still had to be there to tell people things along the lines of “Oh, you’re researching X? Did you already checked this or that obscure book?”. People frequently hadn’t heard about any of those works, a few were even happy and thanked me for my suggestions, but at the end of those days I still felt I wasn’t sharing as much as I could.

That’s why I decided to compile and publish this little book. While looking for more obscure classical myths, while attempting to find some kind of amazing source that I may have missed before, I ended up reading an enormous number of books on from Classical Antiquity. I’d love to read Cicero’s Hortensius, a work which Saint Augustine highly praised, or even Varro’s Human and Divine Antiquities, but I was only able to have those unusual wishes because, at one point in time, I had heard about those now-lost works... while many other people, no matter how much they want to learn, may not have ever heard about any of them. If they don’t know some particular works exist they can’t look for them, nor can they read them at all.

That’s what this book is all about. In the pages that follow you’ll be able to read quick references to many of the works – both primary and secondary sources – which I studied in the past, some of them complemented with my own brief and personal comments on their content. My hope is that by sharing this extensive listing I may get other people to know about those works and, in the long run, maybe even read them by themselves. Hopefully, they too will profit from the knowledge these works contain.

As my previous words may indicate I always focused essentially on mythological works, but I was also interested in gnostic stories, magical rituals and processes, and in the many ways in which philosophical commentaries and treatises may improve, even on our own day and age, our lives. At the same time, I didn’t care much about comedies, tragedies and historical works, and for that reason you’ll find fewer of those in the next chapters.

This is nowhere near a complete listing of all the works produced in the Antiquity and which reached our day and age, but it is essentially complete in all the main (and several obscure) mythological works, along with many unusual ones that few people seem to know about. I honestly hope you appreciate it, and hopefully this attempt to share my knowledge of Ancient Greek and Latin sources, along with many other miscellaneous works which are often significant for their study, will be as profitable to you as it once was for myself.

Miguel Carvalho Abrantes

1- Anonymous Authors and Miscellanea

This very first section contains the works of anonymous authors, along with others which, for one reason or another, I preferred not to assign any authorship to.

✓  Aetna  *

This was a small latin poem on the volcano Etna, with a few mythological references.

✓  Agrapha (i.e. the lost sayings of Jesus)

Although the sayings of Jesus are known to us essentially from the four gospels preserved in the Bible, some additional sources from the Antiquity also present additional phrases attributed to him. The most famous is certainly the Gospel of Thomas, found in the Nag Hammadi corpus, but there are also several modern compilations in which you can gather more information about other phrases attributed to Jesus in miscellaneous sources from the first centuries of our era.

✓  Argonautica Orphica

There are several different works reporting the adventures of Jason and the Argonauts, the most famous one certainly being Apollonius of Rhodes’. This one appears to be at least partially based on it, but presents the whole adventure through the eyes of Orpheus. Some episodes were adapted or amplified to exacerbate his role in the story; the magical ritual, exclusive to this version, with which the hero makes the dragon guarding the Golden Fleece fall asleep is perhaps the most prominent and interesting aspect of this work.

✓  The Bible

The Bible is, evidently, the collective name given to the literary corpus accepted by the Christians. Many and many pages could be written about it in here, but the essential idea is... if you believe in something, shouldn’t you know what it is all about? Of course it is not an easy book to read, it’s not something you’ll be able to do it in just a week, but for cultural and religious reasons (evidently, if you believe in God and Jesus) it’s certainly a work that deserves to be read across time.

✓  Book of the 24 Philosophers

In this short work are succinctly presented the opinions of several (nameless) philosophers on what constitutes a divine entity.

✓  Coena Cypriani

This work in prose presents a fictional marriage that is attended by many biblical figures. Then, some kind of situation unfolds and we are told how the people present there reacted to it. What is specially important is that those actions repeatedly offer some kind of connection to the biblical text, e.g. when picking some clothes Jesus selects some alike of a dove, in an almost evident reference to the Holy Ghost, and at one point Cain kills himself (as opposed to killing someone else, like his brother). It’s a short, and yet unpredictable funny, work, if you manage to understand all the intertextualities it contains.

✓  Contest of Homer and Hesiod

Beginning with a very short biography of the two authors and ending with reports of their supposed deaths, this is essentially a poetic contest between them, displaying the poetry of Homer as one of war and that of Hesiod as focusing more on times of peace. The winner is likely not who you’d expect.

✓  Culex

An intriguing poem about a gnat who is accidentally killed when saving a shepherd’s life. The spirit of the gnat comes back and reports everything he saw in the afterlife.

✓  Cupido Amans

A small poem about Cupid himself falling in love.

✓  Dead Sea Scrolls *

Contains lots of now-lost information on works related to Judaism. Most of them don’t seem to be as interesting as the (christian) ones from the Nag Hammadi Library, but they do preserve information on some sects[2] of that religion as they existed before the first centuries of our era.

✓  Decretum Gelasianum

This small text contains one of the earliest references to the biblical canon, along with a listing of texts that should be considered apocryphal. I always found it interesting that the work usually named Shepherd of Hermas was placed under that second category, after being highly praised in the previous centuries.

✓  Digenes Akritis

A byzantine epic on a non-mythological subject. I read it essentially to see how the classical forms were reused in a non-mythological work.

✓  Epic Cycle (f)

The “Epic Cycle” could best be defined as a continuous mythological story that went from the creation of the world all the way up to Odysseus’ death, according to what Photius of Constantinople tells us about Proclus’ lost Chrestomathy. Apart from the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey, this included many other poems which are now almost entirely lost. There are, however, several compilations of their extant fragments, which allow us to gain some insight on their original content, one very interesting for the study of the early versions of some particular myths.

✓  The Epic of Gilgamesh

Certainly famous as being among the oldest works of fiction, it deserves to be read due to its role in the history of world literature. Don’t get me wrong, it is also an interesting mythological text, preserving the oldest mention to a deluge similar to Noah’s, but its enormous cultural value certainly transcends those specific features.

✓  Epistle to Diognetus

Perhaps one of the earliest works defending Christianity.

✓  Greek Anthology

This is a collection of epigrams and poems from Greek and Byzantine times. It contains many wonderful pearls of knowledge, composed by several different authors and coming from a wide variety of sources.

✓  Gospel of Judas

This isn’t a “Gospel According to Judas”, meaning that nobody ever argued that the betrayer of Jesus was the one who wrote it himself. Instead, this gnostic work presents the theory that Judas Iscariot may have betrayed Christ because the latter asked him to. I always felt that such a theory does make a lot of sense – if the Son of God was expected to die for mankind’s sins, someone had to be the instrument of such death, even if someone wants to claim “Yes, but he did it for the money”, which can be countered by “... which he later returned” – but such opinion was, and still is, promptly discarded by most believers.

It is not an easy text to read, unless the person attempting to do so has, at least, some basic knowledge of gnostic literature.

✓  Historia Augusta

A compilation of biographies of some Roman Emperors, with disputed and various authorships.

✓  Homeric Hymns

A collection of hymns of varying length related to the gods. Of special importance is the fact that one of the hymns to Apollo (the first one?) identifies its author as a “blind man from Chios”. Although this compilation seems to have received its name from the linguistic resemblance to the Homeric Poems, this may also have been where the tradition that Homer was blind came from.

✓  Jesuit Ratio Studiorum of 1599

I once read this work hoping that it’d shed some light on the literary sources used by the Jesuit schools. Although it features plenty of interesting information on their educational method, unfortunately it does not contain what I was looking for.

✓  The Koran

I placed this particular work on the initial category because assigning an authorship to it can be complicated – according to Muslim belief, the Koran was dictated to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel, meaning the authorship, depending on how you want to define it yourself, could be assigned to Muhammad, Gabriel, or even Allah himself.

Leaving that problematic point aside, I always felt this could be considered a sort of sequel to the Christian scriptures, as the New Testament itself was seen as a sequel to the “Old” one. It treats Jesus as a prophet along the lines of Adam, Moses, or Solomon, more than as an essentially divine figure.

Unlike many people seem to think nowadays, there’s nothing wrong with this text. It does not incite to violence, or anything like that... or at least not any more than other religious texts do.

✓  Letters of Abelard and Heloise

To recall the entire story of Abelard and Heloise would be too big of a task for these synthetic lines (if you’re curious about it, read Abelard’s own Historia Calamitatum). Instead, it should suffice to explain that at one point in time they were unable to talk to each other in person any more, and so they exchanged these letters. Their correspondence ended up becoming quite famous in the Middle Ages, and I always felt that one of Heloise’s first letters even preserves extremely beautiful expressions of love.

✓  Lives of the Hellenistic Poets

Compiled by modern scholars based on information from scholia, this short resource presents precisely what its title describes, a basic outline of the lives of some hellenistic poets.

✓  (The) Nag Hammadi Scriptures

A complete edition of the mostly gnostic texts found in Nag Hammadi. Although the edition I read, edited by Mark Meyer, provides extensive commentaries and critical notes on all the texts, if you’re not familiar with the subject you definitely should start by reading Elaine Pagels’ Gnostic Gospels before focusing on this compilation.

✓  Origo Gentis Romanae

A short historiographic work, narrating the story of the Roman people from Saturn’s exile from Mount Olympus up to the times of Romulus.

✓  Orpheus, on Gems (i.e. Lithica)

I placed this work here because it was attributed to an evidently legendary figure, its real authorship being unknown. Regardless of that initial problem, the Lithica is not an easy resource to find, and despite the fact it preserves the supposed magical properties of some gems, it is not worth tracking down unless you really need it for some very specific study.

✓  Orphic Hymns