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Myths are not simple narrative plots. In ancient Greece, as in other traditional societies, these tales existed only in the poetic or artistic forms in which they were set down. To read them from an anthropological point of view means to study their meaning according to their forms of expression - epic recitation, ritual celebration of the victory of an athlete, tragic performance, erudite Alexandrian poetry, antiquarian prose text; in other words, to study the functions of Greek myths in their permanent retelling and reshaping. Falling between social reality and cultural fiction, Greek myths were evolving creations, constantly adapting themselves to new conditions of performance. Using myths such as those of Persephone, Bellerophon, Helen and Teiresias, Claude Calame presents an overview of Greek mythology as a category inseparable from the literature in which so much of it is found. The French edition of this book was first published in 2000.
Claude Calame is Directeur d'etudes, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, and has published widely on Greek poetry and myth. His most recent books include Myth and History in Ancient Greece: The Symbolic Creation of a Colony (2003), Masks of Authority: Fiction and Pragmatics in Ancient Greek Poetics (2005) and Poetic and Performative Memory in Ancient Greece: Heroic Reference and Ritual Gestures (2008). Janet Lloyd is a highly regarded translator of scholarly books from French, who divides her time between Cambridge and Jaen.