Esteemed scholar David Leeming, who has authored more than twelve books on mythology, here offers the first comprehensive narrative study of the mythology of the Middle East, that tumultuous region that was the cradle of civilization.
Leeming begins with a brief, engaging history of the Middle East, spanning Neolithic cultures, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, the invention of writing and the rise of Egypt and Babylonia, Israel and Roman rule, and the early history of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims. This is followed by an in-depth discussion of the mythology of the region, covering individual pantheons, cosmic myths, mythic heroes, and much more. Leeming ranges from prehistoric figures such as the Mother Goddess of Çatal Hüyük to Mesopotamian gods such as Marduk and mythic heroes such as Gilgamesh, to the pantheon of Egyptian mythology, including the falcon-headed sky-sun god Horus and jackal-headed Anubis. The author also offers an illuminating exploration of the mythology of the three great monotheistic religions of the region: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In a provocative Epilogue, Leeming depicts today's crisis in the Middle East as "violent, clearly immoral, and illegal actions" justified by "what can only be called myths." He notes that fundamentalists in the area's three religions all see their way as the only way, forgetting that myths represent truths that are spiritual and philosophical--not historical events that can be used to justify acts of violence.
With key maps, illustrations, bibliography, and index, Jealous Gods and Chosen People provides an inclusive, authoritative, and captivating account of a mythology that remains a potent--and often destructive--force in the world today.
David Leeming is Emeritus Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Connecticut. His many books include Myths, Legends, and Folktales of America, with Jake Page (OUP, 1999), A Dictionary of Asian Mythology (OUP, 2000), and Myth: A Biography of Belief (OUP 2001). He lives in Riverdale, NY.