This easy-to-understand guide to Greek mythology (equivalent in length to a physical book of approximately 100 pages) consists of four parts. Part I presents an overview of Greek mythology and explains different types of myths. Part II describes, in alphabetical order, 150 different gods, goddesses, heroes, places and things, including Zeus, Athena, Apollo, Poseidon, Aphrodite, Hercules, Achilles, Odysseus, and Helen of Troy. Part III describes the Trojan War, the Iliad, and the Odyssey. Part IV contains five full-length Greek myths—the stories of Persephone, Phaethon, Arachne, Pandora, and Atalanta.
Most of the material that makes up this book was written especially for, and originally published in, the esteemed multi-volume reference work “World Book: Organized Knowledge in Story and Picture” (1920).
(from Part I) Hundreds and hundreds of years ago, when Greece and other nations of the world were in their infancy, there were many questions for which people could find no answers. There were no works on astronomy to explain to them that the sunrise is not a real rising of the sun, but is caused by the turning of the earth on its axis; or that the coming of winter after summer is a natural effect of natural causes, and not the work of some malignant power. There were no works on geology to tell of the slow upbuilding of the world through thousands and hundreds of thousands of years; no works on physics to explain that an echo is not an answering voice, but the same voice thrown back by some obstruction. But all of these were natural questions, and the inquiring minds of those primitive people must have satisfaction, so they made up answers and wove them into some of the most beautiful stories and fancies the world has ever known.
(from Part II) In Greek mythology, Echo was a beautiful nymph, an attendant of Artemis, the huntress, and noted for her conversational powers. On one occasion when the jealous Hera was seeking her husband Zeus, believing him to be with the nymphs, Echo detained her in conversation until Zeus escaped. The goddess punished her by condemning her never to speak first, and always to repeat the last word she heard from others. A more poetic version is that Echo fell in love with Narcissus, a beautiful youth insensible to love, and because he did not return her affection she pined away until nothing was left but her voice, which may still be heard in the mountains, speaking only when spoken to and replying only in the exact words of the speaker. Many poets have found inspiration in this legend, among them Shelley in his poem “Adonais.”
(from Part III) But the crafty Odysseus devised a plan. He induced the Greeks to build a gigantic wooden horse and to conceal in it a body of armed men, while all the rest of the Greeks took to their ships, apparently with the intention of sailing for home. The stratagem was successful. The curious Trojans, despite the warnings of Laocoon, priest of Poseidon, dragged the wonderful horse within the city walls, and in the night the armed men crept out and let into the city the Greek forces, which had stolen back under cover of the darkness. The terrified Trojans rushed from their houses only to fall by the swords of the Greeks, and in a brief time the whole city was in flames.
(from Part IV) One day, as Persephone and her friends played in the meadows, they heard a strange, rumbling sound and looked up hastily. A huge, dark chariot with dark horses and a handsome, but gloomy-looking driver was coming toward them. The girls screamed in terror and started to scatter. But the driver stopped his chariot, leaped to the ground, and seizing Persephone, bore her away with him in his chariot. The frightened girl called to her companions and to her mother, but the black horses carried them on too swiftly for any help to follow her. Meanwhile the stern-looking man explained to Persephone that he was Hades, king of all the regions below the earth; that he loved her and wanted her for his wife.