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Reviewed by:
  • Early Greek Mythography. Volume 2: Commentary by Robert L. Fowler
  • Lowell Edmunds
Robert L. Fowler. Early Greek Mythography. Volume 2: Commentary. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. xxi, 848. $250.00. ISBN 978–0-19–814741–1.

The first volume of this now complete project was an edition of the fragments of twenty-nine early Greek mythographers, from Hekataios and Akousilaos to the early fourth century. The two writers just named, like others in this edition, are also called logographers and early Greek historians, not without reason (see Fowler’s “Herodotus and his Prose Predecessors” in C. Dewald and J. Marincola [eds.], The Cambridge Companion to Herodotus [Cambridge, 2006]). Fowler, however, printed only the mythological fragments of his canon of twenty-nine and thus gave us a synoptic view of early Greek mythography never available before, impossible to get from Jacoby’s Fragmente der griechischen Historiker (or from Brill’s New Jacoby).

The second volume is commentary. It is divided into two parts: (A) mythological and (B) philological. In (A), Fowler discusses the fragments under twenty headings (for example, “Theogony” or “Attic Legend”); in (B), he provides an introduction to each author and comments on textual problems, dates, and so on. His introduction (xi–xxi) is a masterful, brief account of the place of the mythographers in Greek intellectual history of their time.

The indexes make this second volume accessible from various angles. Many scholars, like the author of this review, will use it in order to isolate the mythographic strand in the fifth-century reception of a myth known to them mainly in tragedy, vase-painting, Herodotus, or perhaps in all of these sources. Helen is an example, and one adds Gorgias’ Encomium. Fowler’s discussion of Hellanicus fr. 168 brings into perspective the importance in Attic legend of the fifty-year-old Theseus’ theft of the child Helen (469–70, 488–89). This event was cleaned up in iconography (he looks like an ephebe and she like a marriageable woman), glanced at by Herodotus (9.73.2), and difficult to put on stage. Students of the Helen myth have sometimes spoken of Theseus’ and Paris’ abductions as a doublet that shows something about Helen. In the mythographic perspective, Theseus’ is only one of the many that he perpetrated (488), and it shows more about him than about Helen. As for the story that Helen never went to Troy, but stayed in Egypt (Stesichorus, Euripides, rationalized in Herodotus), it seems not to have carried weight with Hellanicus. In Fowler’s interpretation of fr. 153 (Menelaus killed Thon, who tried to rape Helen), Hellanicus has reverted to the traditional Odyssean story that Helen was in Egypt when she and Menelaus stopped there on their return from Troy. Fowler cites Hekataios for the same version (FGrH 1 F 307–9, but he does not print these fragments). The variant known to us from the big names cited a moment ago was perhaps more exotic than we tend to think. (As Fowler points out [489], with reference to PMGF [End Page 303] 191, Stesichorus was also the one who promulgated the variant according to which Helen was impregnated by Theseus, bore a daughter whom she named Iphigeneia, and gave her to her aunt Clytemnestra to raise.)

Another way to use this volume is to study the genre of mythography in the mythographers themselves. It is discernibly (thus Fowler’s collection!) in statu nascendi and the writers in question would probably have described their intellectual activity in other terms (cf. vol. 1, xxviii; again “Herodotus and his Prose Predecessors”). We have the right to speak of “mythographers,” however, because of their obvious continuity with the rich mythography of the Hellenistic period and the genre’s continuation, in various forms for various audiences, in Roman times (Alan Cameron, Greek Mythography in the Roman World [Oxford, 2004] is to be laudatus, in both senses of the word). Pherecydes, whom Fowler calls “the real star of this collection” (706), leads on almost directly to the Library of Apollodorus (perhaps second century c.e.) (xiv, 708).

Mythography is in fact central in the current phase of the study of Greek myth. The past fifteen years...


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