The Dictionary of Classical Mythology is a unique companion to the ancient Greek and Roman myths and legends.
"Pierre Grimal is familiar to the English-speaking world as the editor of the Larousse World Mythology (Putnam, 1963). He has long been known in France as a professor at the Facult des Lettres at the Sorbonne and as the editor of the original French version of this translated dictionary. It was first published as Dictionnaire de le mythologie grecque et romaine (Presses Universitaires de France, 1951); the sixth edition was published in 1979. This scholarly dictionary identifies the gods, goddesses, heroes, and mortals of Greek and Roman mythology. Entry is by form of name commonly used in English; the Greek name in Greek letters follows in parentheses. Entries range in length from a paragraph to 14 pages. The articles identify every figure known by each name in literature or legend. Thus they describe and cite the evidence for three different heroes named Abas even though ``they are not easily distinguishable.'' Each entry explains its subject's genealogy and summarizes the legends about the subject. Many articles refer to one of the 40 genealogical tables in the appendix. The book is illustrated with black-and-white photographs. References to the ancient Greek and Roman texts that provide the sources for the legends summarized in the articles are grouped together after the articles. They are arranged in the same alphabetical order of names used in the dictionary proper. One must be familiar with the conventions of classical citation for these references to have much significance, although a list of the sources with bibliographical citations is included. The text includes numerous internal cross-references to other articles. The detailed index leads to main entries as well as to secondary mention of a person or place in other entries. Rather than present a large block of page numbers, the numerous entries under major figures such as Achilles and Hera indicate the context of each (e.g., Hera and Callisto, Hera and Tiresias). Grimal's dictionary generally presents a fuller picture than does The Illustrated Dictionary of Greek and Roman Mythology, reviewed later in this issue. It has entries for more mythological figures, and most entries are longer. Grimal, however, does not have entries for the Greek plays covered in Stapleton's book. Because it cites primary sources, Grimal sets the standard for a scholarly dictionary of classical mythology. A working knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology used to be one of the hallmarks of an educated person. Although this is no longer true, educated people continue to allude to these mythological figures and to read works written by those steeped in these legends. Thus the need for good mythology dictionaries is greater now than ever before. Even if they own other dictionaries of classical mythology, academic and larger public libraries ought to purchase Grimal."
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.