Required Reading and Viewing
Required Reading and Viewing
Mythology by Edith Hamilton
If you have players who know little about Greek Mythology steer them to this book. Hamilton is required reading in English class, but what I like about the book is the way it presents the mythology in an easy to digest fashion. If you’re playing with a middle schooler who is a strong reader and devoured Percy Jackson, this is a good gift. And you can get it for $1.42 used on Amazon.
The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer
The thing to understand about the Iliad and The Odyssey is that there are multiple translations. Some translations reveal the text in a way like Hamilton’s Mythology in paragraphs. Others try to repeat Homer’s meter and rhyming couplets. To really understand the Iliad I encourage you to read different versions, or to find one that has lots of good citations. Those citations can help to understand the content, it is like reading the book with the director’s commentary on.
Theogony by Hesiod
Other than Homer, Hesiod is the most important greek myth poet from the time period. Theogony talks about the origins of the world and the family tree of the gods. He is my primary source for anything about the gods and their connections. Authors over the centuries change some of the minor details, but I look to Hesiod for citations. His other epic poem Works and Days describes the five Ages of Man. This is where I get the name for my campaign: The Heroic Age.
Clash of the Titans (1981)
There have been lots of movies about Greek mythology. Mystery Science Theater 3,000 showcased Hercules starring Steve Reeves and countless other Italian produced Greek myth adventure films. However, the original Clash of the Titans really brings together an amazing cast (Maggie Smith as Thetis, Laurence Olivier as Zeus, it even has Burgess Meredith!). Ray Harryhausen’s special effects were cutting edge for the time, and the film captures the high adventure feel for this campaign.
This film is pretty good. It has a great cast (Brian Cox as Agamemnon, Brad Pitt as Achilles, Orlando Bloom as Paris, and Eric Bana as Hector). This film tries to focus on the more realistic aspects of the Trojan war, ignoring the fantastical elements. If I could make my perfect film, it would include the Olympians! The Trojan War is full of amazing side stories, most films about the topic focus in on Helen and Achilles.
Clash of the Titans (2010)
This film is not great. However, the special effects are good, and it is again a fantasy adventure. My one beef with the film is the fact that it fails to be swashbuckling fun like the original. It is much more of a dour film. If you have a young fan who you want to get excited to play a Greek mythology campaign, this might be the way to get them into it. They may not be ready to sit through the original if they are going in cold.
Wrath of the Titans (2012)
OK, so I know the first film is not great, but this film is pretty epic! If anything, this movie is the only reason the Clash of the Titans remake is on this list. I like the way the film makes Ares the villain instead of Hades. The way modern day Hades is treated clashes with the way the Greeks and Romans treated him. It shows that the gods are just as emotionally feeble as anyone else. And the gods can be killed.
Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Riordan’s works tap into the rich vein that is Greek Myth. If your players are too young to enjoy Hamilton’s Mythology then the Percy Jackson books will be a good resource to get them jazzed up. Riordan shows how much space there is to work with the mythology, from creatures, magic items, and magical spells.
The Trojan War by Barry Strauss
This is a good, short book that tries to answer the historicity of the Trojan war. It compares archaeological evidence with the poems to give us a gritty realistic view devoid of gods and goddesses. It is a worthwhile book, because it can help to provide surface details of what Mycenaean culture was probably like.
The Mycenaeans by Louise Schofield
This is a short book that provides an overview of the culture and history of the Mycenaeans. It takes archaeological evidence and tries to make sense of it. It also provides a history of Heinrich Schliemann’s work to find Troy and Agamemnon’s Mycenae.
The Mycenaean World by John Chadwick
This textbook is the go to handbook about Mycenaean history. It is dense, but provides everything you might want to know about the topic. These three books are my guiding light in describing the mortal world of Bronze Age Greece.
Age of Bronze series by Eric Shanower
Eric Shanower is an amazing talented artist and writer. I cannot express enough how amazing his graphic novels are. They are an adult take on the topic and firmly set in a realistic world sans divine intervention. But what makes Shanower’s work stand out is the realism he tries to put into his comics. The costumes and gear used are based on archaeological finds. The locations and cities are based on archaeological research. Any DM should check this series out.
Troy: C. 1700-1250 BC By Nic Fields
Mycenaean Citadels C. 1350-1200 BC By Nic Fields
These two last books are from Osprey. If you’re a person interested in military history or wargaming then you should be familiar with Osprey. They produce richly illustrated historical manuals, all of which are very short, but very informative.