The Pimlico Dictionary of Classical Mythologies is a unique work of reference which breaks new ground by treating for the first time the classical mythologies of the Old World as a whole. Never before have the mythologies of Greece, Rome, Persia, India and China been encompassed in a single volume, despite the fact that the first four have much in common through their Indo-European ancestry.
Arthur Cotterell shows how much more can be understood about 'classical mythology' by comparison and contrast of its five major traditions. Fascinating indeed are the parallels he signals between, for instance, Greek and Indian myths. Just as amazing are the different attitudes towards such fundamentals as heroism, love and death to be found in these two great mythologies. There is nothing quite like the Indian emphasis on the power of the ascetic outside the Indian sub-continent, nor any real equivalent of Oedipus' tragedy beyond the shores of Greece. That it is suggested the heroic failure of the latter may have owed something to his swollen feet reveals another key aspect of The Pimlico Dictionary of Classical Mythologies, since myths are not simply recounted. Their least accessible features are helpfully interpreted by reference to the culture in which they arose. Thus the profound influence of the Iranian prophet Zoroaster's thinking on Persian mythology is made clear, along with the far-reaching consequences its adoption would later have for Christian thought.
The Pimlico Dictionary of Classical Mythologies also includes over two hundred original illustrations, which have been specially commissioned in order to reveal how gods and goddesses, heroes and heroines, sages, villains and demons were actually envisaged during the classical period. Nearly every illustration is based on a contemporary work of art, and not on post-classical views of the past. Taken together with the well-devised entries and the informative introduction, these unusual illustrations make The Pimlico Dictionary of Classical Mythologies an indispensable handbook for both students and the general reader.