Bibliography of Classical Folklore Scholarship: Myths, Legends, and Popular Beliefs of Ancient Greece and Rome
Ancient Greek and Roman literature contains rich troves of folklore and popular beliefs, many of which have counterparts in modern contemporary legends. For a number of reasons, today’s folklorists are generally unaware that valuable primary source material from antiquity exists in English translation (for a wide selection of Greek and Latin literature in translation, see the Loeb Classical Library volumes in any good library). Classical scholars have published numerous studies of legends, myths and folklore from antiquity, yet their work remains generally unknown to folklore scholars. And for their part, most classicists have no idea that analogues of what they consider to be tales confined to the ancient Greco-Roman world still circulate today.
Both disciplines would reap benefits if they renewed their acquaintance. (The estrangement between classics and folklore since the 1920s is discussed in William Hansen’s insightful essay of 1997, “Mythology and Folktale Typology: Chronicle of a Failed Scholarly Revolution,” in Journal of Folklore Research 34; see also the interview in Folklore Forum 29 :91-108, esp. 101-3).
The lack of communication between classicists and folklorists is manifested in the dearth of classical examples in folklore motif indexes and reflected in the lack of classical scholarship in the most up-to-date folklore bibliographies. In Contemporary Legend: A Folklore Bibliography (New York: Garland, 1993), for example, Gillian Bennett and Paul Smith annotated 1,116 publications from ten countries and in eight languages, drawing together international legends from a “very wide range of material … in many different sorts of communication-modes and over a surprisingly long time-span.” The compilers expressed surprise that analogues of :modern contemporary legends existed “as long ago” as the sixteenth century (p. xvii).
As a classical folklorist, I was dismayed to find only three entries representing legends from antiquity in the Contemporary Legend Bibliography. Those three–Raymond Himelick’s 1946 note on the “Poisoned Dress” in ancient Greek legend, Bill Ellis’s 1983 article on the ancient Roman roots of the “Blood Libel” legend, and my 1991 note on classical Greek parallels of a Gulf War legend–were published in folklore journals, which accounts for their inclusion. When I contacted Bennett and Smith about classical folklore’s regrettably low profile, they, encouraged me to gather this list of classical legend publications of interest to the folklore/contemporary legend community. This bibliography of classical folklore scholarship is not intended to be exhaustive, of course, but it does demonstrate the wide variety of sources and commentaries available on ancient myth and popular lore. I hope that this list will encourage a new and creative dialogue between those who study legends and beliefs that were current in the ancient world and those who investigate recurrent legends of the present day.
Traditionally, most ancient folk material has appeared in publications directed toward antiquarians. In 1994, however, John Miles Foley noted a “burgeoning of scholarly activity in ancient Greek studies” with “direct relevance for folklorists” in his review essay of six exemplary classical books for the Journal of American Folklore. A small group of scholars who define themselves as classical folklorists are making an effort to communicate with colleagues in folklore by publishing their findings in folklore-oriented journals as well as classical venues. Classical folklore goes by many aliases: popular literature, oral tales, folk tale, myth, novel, paradoxography, and recurrent, international, or migratory legends. The problem of clear terminology–whether “contemporary” can refer to tales that circulated in past societies–is unresolved. The difficulty of identifying a recognised field of classical legend studies is compounded by the negative perceptions of “popular folklore” among traditional classicists and ancient historians, many of whom would be surprised to find themselves cited here. The lack of a motif or theme index for classical mythology and folklore is another serious drawback to comparative study of ancient material. I can report, however, that in June 1999 an international group of classical scholars, folklorists, and others such as art historians, met at the Norwegian Institute at Greece to discuss the creation of a Motif Index of Classical Antiquity, modelled on motif indexes published by folklorists.
This annotated bibliography was compiled in consultation with classical folklorists and scholars of ancient literature, religion, magic and history. The list of more than 150 publications embraces a broad range of classical legend methodologies and material. (A few highly recommended entries that I have not seen appear without annotation.) I concentrate on recent works in English, but pioneers, old standards, and unique texts (such as Calame, Hartland, Jedrkiewicz, Oesterley, Rose) are included, along with previous bibliographies (Carnes, McCartney, Perry, Scobie). A few classical legend studies have been reviewed in folklore journals (for example, Carnes, Wiseman, Hansen, Gantz, Gardner, Reece) and the Journal of Folklore Research devoted an issue to classical folklore in 1983 (vol. 23:2/3). Some new translations and commentaries of ancient writings are veritable treasuries of ancient popular beliefs (Hansen, Stem, Temple). For non-classicists who want to work with classical lore, the previously mentioned Loeb volumes, and the encyclopaedic works by Gantz and Rose are indispensable. (I also recommend the 1993 Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 2 vols, and the Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd edn.) William Hansen’s book in progress on more than one hundred international oral tales with parallels in ancient Greek and Roman literature will be a landmark in classical folklore (see later).
Anyone interested in the stories that circulated in ancient Greece and Rome, either in their historical and narrative context or in comparison with modern lore, will find here a fine array of primary and secondary sources under-utilised by most students of international or migratory legends. Studies that explicitly compare motifs and meanings of ancient and modern beliefs and tales (for example, Dodds, Dundes, Ellis, Felton, Hansen, Lawrence, Levine, Leavy, Mayor, Panofsky, Payne, Penzer, and Sobol) are of special interest to contemporary legend scholars. Classical folklorists have analysed the meaning of UFOs in ancient Rome, prototypical vampire tales, voodoo dolls, “Poison Dresses” in ancient Greek myths, a “Choking Doberman” urban legend in the late Roman empire, the earliest recorded ghost stories, Swan Maidens as “runaway brides,” Greek epics in modern comics and science fiction, ancient “ouija boards,” and rumours of flexible glass as an “Improved Product” legend in ancient Rome. I hope that these examples will stimulate fellow folklorists to search out the ancient parallels of what may appear to be newly emergent urban legends, and invite them to delve into ancient folklore for its own sake.
I would like to thank Bob Daniel, Lowell Edmunds, Christopher Faraone, Debbie Felton, Bill Hansen, Stefano Jedrkiewicz, Sarah Iles Johnston, David Jordan, Larry Kim, Henrik Lassen, and Liz Locke for valuable suggestions.
Aycock, Wendell M. and T. Klein, eds. Classical Mythology in Twentieth Century Thought and Literature. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech Press, 1980. Essays trace patterns of ancient Greek myth in modern culture, from oracles and seers, to death and rebirth, and science fiction and fantasy literature.
Barrett, D. S. “‘One-Up’ Anecdotes in Jewish Literature of the Hellenistic Era.” Prudentia 13 (1981):119-26.
Bergman, Charles. Orion’s Legacy: A Cultural History of Man as Hunter. New York: Penguin, 1997. Explores male hunting traditions since antiquity, using Orion (the great hunter of Greek myth) as the central metaphor. Drawing on narratives of legendary hunters from antiquity (Nimrod, Gilgamesh, Orion, Heracles), the Middle Ages, and modern times (Daniel Boone, Hemingway), Bergman shows how the experience and imagery of hunting permeates male sexuality and helps explain stalking, rape, and murder.
Bernstein, Alan E. The Formation of Hell: Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993. The idea of Hell–exile from God, subjection to worms, demons, flames, darkness–has shaped dread and solace for millennia. Comparative study of folklore, myth, and theology of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, and Israel in the development of the concepts of eternal punishment.
Bodson, Liliane, and Daniel Marcolungo. L’oie de bon aloi: Aspects de l’histoire ancienne de l’oie domestique [The goose in ancient life and folklore]. Vise: Musee Regional d’Archeologie et d’Histoire de Vise, 1994. Covers the image and lore of domestic geese in classical antiquity, with a separate chapter on the goose in folklore.
Bonner, Campbell. “Demons of the Baths.” In Studies Presented to L. L. Griffith. 203-8. London: Egypt Exploration Society, 1932.
Braginston, Mary V. The Supernatural in Seneca’s Tragedies. Menasha, WI: George Banta, 1933. Surveys ghosts and sensational occult phenomena on the Roman stage in the time of Nero (first century AD).
Brewster, Paul G. “The Foundation Sacrifice Motif in Legend, Folksong, Game, and Dance.” In The Walled-Up Wife: A Case-Book, ed. Alan Dundes. 35-62. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996. Drawing on biblical, Roman, and early European examples of an international folk motif, Brewster searches for the origins of the belief that ritual human sacrifice ensures successful construction of an edifice.
Bruce, J. Douglas. “Human Automata in Classical Tradition and Medieval Romance.” Modern Philology 10 (1913):511-26.
Buxton, Richard. Imaginary Greece: The Contexts of Mythology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Essential for decoding the function of Greek myths in their narrative and historical settings. Buxton’s engaging book builds on etiological, religious ritual, and structuralist interpretations to gauge the “distance and interplay” between the realities of Greek life and imaginary situations in legend and myth.
Calame, Claude. “Les legends du Cyclops clans le folklore European et extra-European: Un jeu de transformation narrative” [Legends of the Cyclops in European and non-European folklore]. Etudes de Lettres (Bull. de Fac. des Lettres Lausanne) (1977):ser. 3-to pt 2: 45-79. Compares the Cyclops episode in Homer’s Odyssey with modern international tales of one-eyed, cave-dwelling ogres.
Calame, Claude. The Craft of Poetic Speech in Ancient Greece. Trans. Janice Orion. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995. Rethinks the principles of ancient myth-making, using semiotics to explore Homeric epic, Greek tragedy, and history.
Carnes, Pack. Fable Scholarship: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland, 1985. This user-friendly bibliography collects nearly 1,500 works, from traditional Aesopica to Sumerian animal tales and modern fabulists such as James Thurber. Carnes includes three indexes: the first contains names and topics; the second is keyed to the Greco-Roman fable texts found in Perry (see later); and the third covers tale-types.
Carrubba, Robert W. “Englebert Kaempfer and the Myth of the Scythian Lamb.” Classical World 87 (1993):417. The fabled “vegetable-lamb” believed in the Middle Ages to grow in Central Asia is shown to have roots in classical Greek texts. Argues that tale of the fur-bearing plant was a garbled description of the unfamiliar cotton plant.
Casson, Lionel, trans. The Periplus Maris Erythraei, Text and Commentary. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989. A Roman merchant describes customs and lore of the Red Sea area and India, in this memoir written c. first century AD; with explanatory notes by Casson.
Cherry, John, ed. Mythical Beasts. London: British Museum Press, 1995. Chapters on ancient and medieval legends of unicorns, sphinxes, griffins, mermaids, and other creatures, with up-to-date bibliographies and fine illustrations.
Comotti, Giovanni. Music in Greek and Roman Culture. . Revised and expanded edn, trans. Rosaria Munson. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989. Drawing on a full range of ancient sources, from Plato to recent papyrus finds, Comotti examines musical forms, instruments, composers, and the roles of music in Greece and Rome.
Crum, Richard Henry. “Additions to the Bibliography of Greek and Roman Folklore.” Classical Weekly 42 (1949):234-6. Crum’s list enlarges on McCartney’s 1947 “Bibliography of Greek and Roman Folklore,” listed later. Crum adds ten secondary sources relating to Apuleius, one on Nonnius, and twenty-two on Petronius.
Daniel, Robert W. and Franco Maltomini. Papyrologica Coloniensia XVI. Vols 1-2, Supplementum Magicum. Opladen, 1990-2. English translations of one hundred magical papyri from ancient Egypt, with commentaries and full indexes. The subject index makes these protective charms and magical spells accessible to folklorists interested in occult practices by ordinary people in antiquity.
Dingwall, E. J. Ghosts and Spirits in the Ancient World. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1930.
Dodds, E. R. “Supernormal Phenomena in Classical Antiquity.” Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 5 (March 1971):189-237. Reprinted in The Ancient Concept of Progress and Other Essays on Greek Literature. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973. Classic essay by a distinguished classicist and student of the paranormal. Collects beliefs about the occult in ancient Greece and Rome, including ghosts, poltergeists, false memories, magic, divination, dream interpretation, telepathic experiments, evil eye, “slate-writing” oracles, clairvoyance, seances, ESP, “crystal balls,” and even ancient “ouija boards.”
Dowden, Ken. Death and the Maiden: Girls’ Initiation Rites in Greek Mythology. London: Routledge, 1989.
Dundes, Alan and Lowell Edmunds, eds. Oedipus: A Folklore Casebook. New York: Garland, 1983. A folklorist and a classicist trace motifs and themes of the Oedipus legend across cultures and times.
Edmunds, Lowell. “Thucydides on Monosandalism.” In Studies Presented to Sterling Dow. 71-5. Durham, NC: Duke University, 1984. The ancient Greek historian Thucydides reported that a party of Athenians made a daring escape across a Spartan blockade in 428 BC; each man had only his left foot shod. The historian’s explanation, that this was to avoid slipping in the mud, has gone unquestioned by classicists, but Edmunds marshals evidence to show the religious significance of monosandalism: gods and mythical heroes are often depicted with only one sandal.
Edmunds, Lowell. ed. Approaches to Greek Myth. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990. This collection of eight essays by classicists is a valuable spectrum of methods for the study of ancient Greek myth, from historical to comparative, iconographic, psychoanalytic, and semiotic.
Edmunds, Lowell. Myth in Homer: A Handbook. 2nd edn. Highland Park, NJ: Mill Brook Press, 1993. A treasury of evidence and examples of ancient Greek folklore in Homer by a classicist well versed in folklore scholarship. Ch. 5 shows how Homer’s Odyssey relied on older oral legends; other chapters apply the comparative approach to Homeric narratives. Two appendices contain comparative texts of the Abduction of file Beautiful Wife and the Homecoming Husband tale types.
Edmunds, Lowell. “Oedipus in Burma.” Classical World 90 (1996):15-22. Typological comparison of the ancient Greek Oedipus myth with several Burmese versions.
Edmunds, Lowell. “Myth in Homer.” In New Companion to Homer, ed. Ian Morris and Barry Powell. 415-41. Leiden: Brill, 1997. As in his other writings, Edmunds argues that oral storytelling was the primary medium of what is called Greek myth. Includes reference to an international tale type, Abduction of the [Beautiful Wife, as the typological matrix of the Trojan War story.
Eggert, Gerhard. “Ancient Aluminum? Flexible Glass? Looking for the Real Heart of a Legend.” Skeptical Inquirer (May-June 1995):37-40. Ancient Roman writers related that various emperors had the inventor of unbreakable glass executed; Eggert explores the early nineteenth-century belief that the tales referred to the (anachronistic) invention of aluminum.
Ellis, Bill. “De Legendis Urbis: Modern Legends in Ancient Rome.” Journal of American Folklore 96 (1983):200-8. Traces anti-Semitic Blood Libel tales to anti-Christian rumours in the Roman empire and relates them to the Castrated Boy urban legend.
Emeneau, M. B. “A Classical Indian Folk-Tale as a Reported Modern Event: The Brahman and the Mongoose.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 83 (1940):503-13. Discusses a modern version of the classical Indian tradition of the Brahman and the Mongoose (“animal companion wrongly accused”) in a village of South India.
Faraone, Christopher. “Binding and Burying the Forces of Evil: The Defensive Use of `Voodoo Dolls’ in Ancient Greece.” Classical Antiquity 10 (1991):165-220.
Faraone, Christopher. Talismans and Trojan Horses: Guardian Statues in Ancient Greek Myth and Ritual. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. A survey of legends and historical accounts of special statues and ritual images believed to protect Greek cities and houses from evil, with comparisons to ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern practices.
Faraone, Christopher and Dirk Obbink, eds. Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Basic introduction to magical beliefs in classical antiquity.
Farkas, Ann E., Prudence O. Harper and Evelyn Harrison, eds. Monsters and Demons in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds. Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 1987. Nine illustrated chapters on magical and monstrous creatures of ancient Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Greco-Roman art and literature. Imaginary, real, and composite monsters include reptiles, crocodiles, lions, deformed humans, dragons, sea and land monsters, centaurs, satyrs, and devils.
Felton, D. “The Motif of `Enigmatic Counsel’ in Greek and Roman Texts.” Phoenix, 1998. Examines the motif of Enigmatic Counsel (H599.5) in Greek, Roman, and rabbinic tales. The earliest motif occurs in the fifth-century BC historian Herodotus, when a Greek tyrant is advised to cut down prominent stalks of wheat. Later versions appeared in Livy, Ovid, the Midrash, and the Talmud. Felton argues that the motif was employed as political criticism of tyranny.
Felton, D. Haunted Greece and Rome: Ghost Stories from Classical Antiquity. Austin, TX: University Texas Press, 1999. Modern translations and interpretations of popular ghost lore from ancient Greece and Rome. Discusses beliefs and rituals about ghosts, poltergeists, haunted houses, crisis and other apparitions, with a fascinating section on legal issues of selling haunted properties in antiquity. The conclusion traces the influence of ancient ghost tales on modern ghost traditions.
Felton, D. “Folkloric Anomalies in a Scene from the `Mostellaria.'” Quaderni Urbanati di Cultura Classica, 1999. A haunted house tale in a Roman comic play by Plautus can be traced to Greek traditions of the third century BC. Felton, a classical folklorist, shows how Plautus deviates from the expected narrative sequence for comic effect.
Foley, John Miles. “Ancient Greek Studies and Folkloristics.” Journal of American Folklore 107 (1994):437-49. Foley’s book review essay surveys Gantz and Reece (see later), and four other recent books on ancient Greece with direct relevance to folklorists.
Fontenrose, Joseph. Python: A Study of Delphic Myth. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1959.
Fontenrose, Joseph. The Ritual Study of Myth. Folklore Studies, 18. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1966.
Fontenrose, Joseph. “The Hero as Athlete.” California Studies in Classical Antiquity 1 (1966):73-104.
Fontenrose, Joseph. The Delphic Oracle. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1978.
Fontenrose, Joseph. Orion: The Myth of the Hunter and the Huntress. University of California Publications in Classical Studies, 23 (1981).
Fontenrose, Joseph. “The Building of the City Walls: Troy and Asgard.” Journal of American Folklore 96 (1983):53-63.
Forbes Irving, P. M. C. Metamorphosis in Greek Myths. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990. Analyses the origins and meanings of ancient Greek folklore about humans and animals magically transformed into other creatures or inanimate objects.
Forsyth, Phyllis Young. Atlantis: The Making of the Myth. London: Croom Helm, 1980. Summarises interpretations of Plato’s Atlantis myth, with useful overview of evolutionist and diffusionist approaches to ancient folklore.
Fredericks, Sigmund Casey. “Plato’s Atlantis: A Mythologist Looks at Myth.” In Atlantis: Fact or Fiction? ed. Edwin S. Ramage. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1978. Evaluates the Atlantis myth in Plato, with discussion of modern scholarship. Fredericks stresses the shortcomings of euhemeristic and archaeological approaches; he sees the tale as “an echo” of earlier Near Eastern myths now lost.
Fredericks, Sigmund Casey. “Greek Mythology in Modern Science Fiction.” In Classical Mythology in Twentieth Century Thought and Literature, ed. W. Aycock and T. Klein. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech Press, 1980. Intriguing look at the figure of Prometheus and other classical imagery in modern science fiction and fantasy literature.
Gager, John G. Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from the Ancient World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. Magical texts, curses, and spells from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome by a scholar of ancient religion.
Gantz, Timothy. Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993; paperback edn, 2 vols, 1996. Indispensable handbook for classical folklore research. Traces specific characters and motifs in the entire body of archaic Greek myth, from Homer to the fifth century BC. Gantz summarises narratives and all known variants, with meticulous ancient references. Discusses the emerging notion that ancient art constitutes a parallel body of myth in its own right.
Gardner, Jane F. Roman Myths. Austin, TX: University of Texas, 1993. Intended to introduce readers to Roman “reshapings” of traditional Greek myths to fit ancient Roman culture; also contemporary “urban legends” that circulated during the Roman republic and empire.
Goldman, Shalom. The Wiles of Women/the Wiles of Men: Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife in Ancient Near Eastern, Jewish, and Islamic Folklore. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995. Opening with the question of influence of Homer’s Iliad, the Bible, the Koran, and Egyptian literature, Shalom examines various “Joseph” narratives and the motif of the “spurned wife” in ancient Mediterranean cultures.
Graf, Fritz. Greek Mythology: An Introduction. Trans. T. Marier. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993. Highly regarded text for understanding the origins and the historicity of the continuum of myths in ancient Greece.
Greene, Mott T. Natural Knowledge in Preclassical Antiquity. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992. Greene, a historian of geology, examines ancient Egyptian, Indian, and Greek myths and writings for natural knowledge about volcanoes, intoxicating plants, and other geophysical phenomena.
Gunkel, Hermann. The Folktale in the Old Testament. Trans. M. D. Rutter. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1987. Analyses biblical narratives of giants, demons, magic, and so on.
Halliday, W. R. “`The Superstitious Man’ of Theophrastus.” Folk-Lore 41 (1930):121-53.
Hansen, William. “An Ancient Greek Ghost Story.” In Folklore on Two Continents: Essays in Honor of Linda Degh, ed. N. Burlakoff and C. Lindahl. 71-7. Bloomington, IN: Trickster Press, 1980.
Hansen, William. “Verbal Folklore of Ancient Greece.” Journal of Folklore Research 20 (1983): 97-9. This essay introduces the journal’s special issue on classical folklore, including Hansen on the impact of nineteenth-century folkloristics on the classical discipline; Fontenrose on riddles, tasks, and predictions in ancient oracles; Russo on ancient Greek proverbs and folktales; and Hague on ancient wedding songs.
Hansen, William. “Greek Mythology and the Study of Ancient Greek Oral Story.” Journal of Folklore Research 20 (1983): 97-112. Hansen argues that classicists should collect and classify ancient oral traditions themselves, since the standard categories created by older folklore disciplines are antiquated, inadequate, and misleading.
Hansen, William. “Folklore.” In Civilization of the Ancient Mediterranean. vol. 2, Greece and Rome, ed. M. Grant and R. Kitzinger. 1121-30. New York: Scribner’s, 1988. Defines fable, anecdote, joke, magic tales, novella, legend, proverb, and riddle with classical examples. The bibliography is especially valuable.
Hansen, William. “Contextualizing the Story of Philinnion.” Midwestern Folklore 15 (1989):101-8. In analysing two versions of the Cupid and Psyche (supernatural lover) tale set in fourth-century BC Greece, Hansen shows how context reveals the storytellers’ motives.
Hansen, William. “Odysseus and the Oar: A Folkloric Approach.” In Approaches to Greek Myth, ed. Lowell Edmunds. 239-72. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990. Traces the oral folktale of the Sailor and the Oar, first written down in Homer’s Odyssey in the eighth century BC, through twenty-five texts up to twentieth-century comic strips. Hansen’s approach melds comparative and contextual methods. See also “Folklore of the Sea: Carrying an Oar,” in FLS News: Newsletter of the Folklore Society 25 (June 1997):5-6.
Hansen, William. “Abraham and the Grateful Dead Man.” In Folklore Interpreted: Essays in Honor of Alan Dundes, ed. Regina Bendix and Rosemary Zumwalt. New York: Garland, 1995. Relates the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac to the cluster of modern European Grateful Dead Man tales and finds vestiges of the motif of this international legend in ancient Greek literature.
Hansen, William. “The Theft of the Thunderweapon: A Greek Myth in Its International Context.” Classica et Mediaevalla (Copenhagen) 46 (1995):5-24. Compares the themes of ruse and counter-ruse in the Scandinavian myth of the theft and recovery of Thor’s thunder hammer in the Elder Edda with a fifth-century AD Greek myth about Zeus. In the latter, a monstrous giant steals Zeus’s thunderbolts, which are retrieved in a manner similar to Thor’s thunderweapons.
Hansen, William. “The Stuck Couple in Ancient Greece.” FOAFtale News 36 (January 1995):2-3. Compares a recent African news story about a man who cast a spell to magically bind his wife to her lover during sex to the ancient anecdote in Homer’s Odyssey about the gods Aphrodite and Ares, who were trapped by the god Hephaestus, the wronged husband.
Hansen, William. “The Protagonist on the Pyre: Herodotean Legend and Modern Folktale.” Fabula 37 (1996):272-85. Complex analysis of the international tale of the hero or heroine who glimpses a forbidden sight and suffers for it. Hansen finds evidence for an ancient but incomplete version in a famous Lydian story recorded by Herodotus in the fifth century BC.
Hansen, William. trans. and comp. Phlegon of Tralles’ Book of Marvels. Exeter: Exeter University Press, 1996. First English translation of a compendium of bizarre natural wonders from the second century AD. Hansen’s commentary on this lively example of ancient popular literature explains the classical context of Phlegon’s marvels, and compares the genre of “paradoxography” to today’s tabloid press. One long tale is an early and influential version of modern vampire legends.
Hansen, William. “Mythology and Folktale Typology: Chronicle of a Failed Scholarly Revolution.” Journal of Folklore Research 34 (1997):275-80. Provocative essay argues that the scholarly discovery of the international folktale and the creation of folktale typologies began to change the study of classical mythology in useful ways, but after the 1920s folklorists and classicists parted company and the revolution in mythology study has yet to occur. Hansen advises folklorists to look back to ancient literature and classicists to look forward to folklore methods.
Hansen, William. “Homer and the Folktale.” In New Companion to Homer, ed. Ian Morris and Barry Powell. 442-62. Leiden: Brill, 1997. A survey of scholarly work on international oral tales in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.
Hansen, William. “Idealization as a Process in Ancient Greek Story-Formation.” Symbolae Osloeses 72 (1997):118-22. Examines two instances in which comic ancient Greek tales were refashioned into non-comic narratives to illustrate serious ideals.
Hansen, William, ed. Anthology of Ancient Greek Popular Literature. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1998. Argues that popular literature, a genre now associated with the printing press and tabloids, existed in classical antiquity, especially after the first century AD. Hansen, a classical folklorist, seeks to rescue such literature from marginalisation; this compilation includes romantic and comic novels, fables and wisdom literature, ancient jokes, and popular gravestone verses.
Hansen, William. Ariadne’s Thread: A Guide to International Oral Narratives in Classical Literature. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, Forthcoming. A mini-encyclopaedia of more than one hundred international oral stories that have numerous parallels in ancient Greek and Roman literature. The most extensive investigation ever undertaken of contemporary folklore in classical literature.
Hartland, E. S. Mythology and Folktales: Their Relation and Interpretation. London: David Nutt, 1900. Argues that folktales originated from a body of believed myths, and that their character of “playful fiction” was a later development.
Hartland, E. S. The Legend of Perseus. 3 vols. London: David Nutt, 1894-6. An old but still valuable comparative study of mythical and folklore materials (including art) relating to dragon-slayer/ seeker-heroes, beginning with the Greek legend of Perseus.
Hickman, Ruby Mildred. “Ghostly Etiquette on the Classical Stage.” Iowa Studies in Classical Philology 7 (1938):1-226. The appearance and behaviour of ghosts in ancient Greek drama.
Himelick, Raymond. “Classical Versions of `The Poisoned Garment.'” Hoosier Folklore 5 (June 1946):83-4. Brief discussion pointing out basic similarities between the modern urban legend of the Poison Dress and two ancient Greek legends.
Huys, Marc. The Tale of the Hero Who Was Exposed at Birth in Euripidean Tragedy: A Study of Motifs. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1995. This clearly written, interesting book combines folkloric and philological approaches to interpret Euripides’s tragedies, focusing on the tale-pattern of the hero exposed at birth. Huys compares the narrative sequence of motifs in this tale pattern in Euripides’s tragedies (mostly fragmentary). Uses folkloric methodology but his arguments are heavily philological and the Greek and Latin (and other languages) are not translated.
Jastrow, Joseph. Error and Eccentricity in Human Belief. . New York: Dover, 1962. Chapter 2, “An Ancient Miracle-Monger: Lucian’s Alexander,” discusses a trickster-huckster, faith healing, blackmailing hoaxer of the late Roman period.
Jedrkiewicz, Stefano. Sapere e Paradosso nell’Antichita: Esopo e la favola [Wisdom and paradox in antiquity: Aesop and the fable]. Rome: Edizioni dell’Ateneo, 1989. Discusses the first to fourth century AD “Life of Aesop” as a work of popular literature, resulting in part from oral traditions of stories about unconventional “wise men.” Aesopic fables evolved as literary and folkloric forms.
Jedrkiewicz, Stefano. “The Last Champion of Play-Wisdom: Aesop.” In Itaca-Quaderns Catalans de Cultura Clasica 6, 7, 8 (1990-92):115-30. Argues that in the Hellenistic and Imperial period of Greco-Roman culture, the storyteller Aesop came to represent popular wisdom as opposed to established, “scientific” knowledge.
Jedrkiewicz, Stefano. Il convitato sullo sgabello: Plutarco, Esopo ed i Sette Savi. Rome: Istituti Editoriali e Poligrafici Internazionali, 1997. Studies examples of popular wisdom in Plutarch and Aesop, such as fable, proverb, and riddle, as ancillary wisdom necessary to practical knowledge in antiquity.
Johnston, Sarah Iles. “Crossroads.” ZPE 88 (1991):217-24. Studies the variety of rituals performed at crossroads by ancient Greeks. Johnston argues that intersections were perceived as liminal places where the supernatural and real world interact.
Johnston, Sarah Iles. Introduction to “Exploring the Shadows: Ancient Literature and the Supernatural.” Helios 21 (1994):99-105.
Johnston, Sarah Iles. “Defining the Dreadful: Remarks on the Greek Child-Killing Demon.” In Ancient Magic and Ritual Power, ed. Paul Mirecki and Marvin Meyer. 355-81. Leiden: Brill, 1995. Evidence for legends about babykilling demons in classical antiquity. Ghosts of women who died before reproducing, or after failing to raise children successfully, return to inflict the same fate on other women.
Johnston, Sarah Iles. “Corinthian Medea and the Cult of Hera Akraia.” In Medea, ed. J. J. Clauss and S. I. Johnston. 44-70. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996. Argues that the Euripidean portrait of Medea as an infanticide had roots in the folkloric paradigm of the child-killing demon.
Johnston, Sarah Iles. Restless Dead: Encounters between the Living and the Dead in Ancient Greece. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1999. Studies ancient Greek ideas of the dead influencing the living (including ghost stories) and the living affecting the dead (e.g. through rituals). Topics include the angry dead, professionals who mediate between the living and dead, and the demonisation of the dead.
Kemper, J. A. R. “How Ill This Taper Burns: Spirits, Revenge, Philosophers, and the Demonic Power of Rhetoric.” File: A Literary Journal (Groningen) 7 (1993):9-27. Kemper begins with Robert Pirsig’s musings on ghosts and Platonic ideals in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and ends with Shakespearean ghosts in this discussion of the influence of dramatic and rhetorical ghosts in classical antiquity on modern conceptions of demonic haunting. Besides Plato, ghosts appear in texts by Homer, Aeschylus, Euripides, Virgil, and Seneca.
Klotsche, Ernest Heinrich. “The Supernatural in the Tragedies of Euripides as Illustrated in Prayers, Curses, Oaths, Oracles, Prophecies, Dreams, and Visions.” University Studies of the University of Nebraska 18 (1918):55-106. Magical and paranormal phenomena as portrayed on the Athenian stage in the fifth century BC.
Kos, Marjeta Sasel. “Draco and the Survival of the Serpent Cult in the Central Balkans.” Tyche 6 (1991):183-92. Traces vestiges of ancient snake/dragon worship in Macedonia and Dalmatia from classical antiquity to twentieth-century villages in former Yugoslavia.
Krauss, Franklin Brunell. An Interpretation of Omens, Portents, and Prodigies Recorded by Livy, Tacitus, and Suetonius. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania, 1930. Valuable survey of signs and portents during the Roman republic and empire.
Kronenberg, Andreas. “The Fountain of the Sun: A Tale Related by Herodotus, Pliny, and the Modern Teda.” Man 55 (May 1955):74. A current legend about a boiling spring told by a tribe in Libya is identical to a story about the same oasis recorded by the Greek historian Herodotus in the fifth century BC and the Roman natural historian Pliny in the first century AD.
Lassen, Henrik R. “The Idea of Narrative–The Theory and Practice of Analyzing Narrative Types, and Legends of Suppressed Inventions.” PhD dissertation, Odense University, Denmark, 1998. Chapters 5 and 6 present a detailed tracing of the Improved Product tale type, beginning with examples from first-century AD Rome, through medieval, and culminating in late twentieth-century versions.
Lassen, Henrik R. “The Improved Product: A Philological Investigation of a Contemporary Legend.” Contemporary Legend 5 :1-37. Applies a diachronic approach to legends about impossible, or “too good to be true” inventions. The earliest examples of the Improved Product appeared in imperial Rome, in claims of flexible glass. The genre continues today in tales of perpetual light bulbs, ever sharp razors, cars that run without gas, disks that clean laundry without soap, etc.
Lawrence, Elizabeth Atwood. “The Centaur: Its History and Meaning in Human Culture.” Journal of Popular Culture 27.4 (Spring 1994):57-68. The contradictory image of the half-human, half-horse creature in art and literature from Mesopotamia of the second millennium BC to novels by John Updike and others. Useful for folklorists despite a preoccupation with origins.
Lawson, John Cuthbert. Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion ; reprint, New York. New York: University Books, 1964. Recounts survivals of ancient legends and rituals in modern Greek village life.
Leavy, Barbara Fass. To Blight with Plague. New York: New York University Press, 1992. Traces transmission of disease in literature, from classical “poison damsel” lore to plague in the Middle Ages and today’s AIDS urban legends.
Leavy, Barbara Fass. In Search for the Swan Maiden: A Narrative on Folklore and Gender. New York: New York University Press, 1994. Study of the legendary “swan maiden,” an otherworldly female who is obliged to marry a mortal man, keep his house, and bear his children, because he has appropriated something she owns. When she regains the item, she escapes to her supernatural domain. Comparing numerous versions, Leavy argues that the “runaway wife” theme resurfaces in popular culture as an outlet for feminist rage.
Leinweber, David Walter. “Witchcraft and Lamiae in `The Golden Ass.'” Folklore 105 (1994):77-82. The second-century Latin novel by Apuleius of North Africa is regarded as the finest source of magic as practised and perceived in late antiquity. Leinweber discusses the development of beliefs about sorcerers and female vampires (lamiae) in Greek and Roman texts through Apuleius and shows how they prefigured modern witchcraft and vampire legends.
Levine, Daniel. “Classica Americana Troglodytica: V. T. Hamlin’s Alley Oop, April 1939-February 1940; the Epics meet the Comics.” Classical and Modern Literature 14 (Summer 1994):365-86. Entertaining investigation of Homeric influences on the creator of the Alley Oop comic strip.
Lincoln, Bruce. Discourse and the Construction of Society: Comparative Studies of Myth, Ritual, and Classification. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. Explores how myth, ritual, and classification bind and reconstruct societies during crises. Draws on Platonic philosophy, the Upanishads of India, ancient Celtic nabquets, the Spanish Civil War, the Iranian revolution, and professional wrestling.
Littleton, C. Scott and Linda A. Malcor. From Scythia to Camelot: A Radical Reassessment of the Legends of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, and the Holy Grail. New York: Garland, 1994. On the basis of linguistic, historical, literary, and archaeological evidence, the authors propose that the sword-hero lore at the core of medieval Arthurian legend originated among a group of Alan/Sarmatian soldiers from the Caucasus who settled in ancient Britain during the Roman occupation.
Lloyd, G. E. R. Science, Folklore, and Ideology: Studies in the Life Sciences in Ancient Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983. Using comparative anthropology, Lloyd studies the interaction between scientific theory and popular assumptions in ancient Greek medicine and biology, especially relating to folklore about animals, women, and drugs.
Locke, Liz. “Orpheus and Orphism: Cosmology and Sacrifice at the Boundary.” Folklore Forum 28 (1997):3-29. To find new meaning in the myth of Orpheus’s descent to retrieve Eurydice from the Underworld, Locke considers ancient natural philosophy, Plato, Orphic, and Christian world-views via a feminist anthropology of sacrifice.
Luck, Georg. Arcana Mundi: Magic and the Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985.
Matthews, John. “Macsen, Maximus, and Constantine.” Welsh Historical Review 11 (1983):431-48. Matthews compares a tale in the Welsh Mabinogion, the “Dream of Macsen Wledig,” to historical accounts of Roman emperors and Usurpers in ancient England and Northern Europe, concluding that the Welsh legend conflates real details from the lives of Maximus and Constantine.
Mayor, Adrienne. “Paleocryptozoology: A Call for Collaboration between Classicists and Cryptozoologists.” Cryptozoology 8 (1989):12-26. Legendary creatures in classical literature and art.
Mayor, Adrienne. “Home in a Body Bag: Classical Parallels for a Persian Gulf Rumor.” FOAFtale News 24 (1991):5. Links a Gulf War atrocity to tales of despotic rulers of Persia told in fifth-century Greece by Herodotus.
Mayor, Adrienne. “Derelict Ships.” Sea Frontiers 38.4 (August 1992): 52-63. Covers seafaring lore of “ghost ships” from Homer’s Odyssey to “phantom” or haunted ships of the twentieth century.
Mayor, Adrienne. “Ambiguous Guardians: The `Omen of the Wolves’ (AD 402) and the `Choking Doberman’ (1980s).” Journal of Folklore Research 29 (1992)3:255-68. Using a comparative and contextual approach, Mayor analyses a rumour that aroused fear during the collapse of the Roman empire. An encounter between the emperor and wolves was taken as a bad omen despite official reassurances, a familiar contemporary legend dynamic. The ancient Latin narrative parallels the modern urban legend of the “Choking Doberman.”
Mayor, Adrienne. “Libation Titillation: Wine Goblets and Women’s Breasts.” Journal of Popular Culture 16 (April 1994):61-71. Traces the modern trope of comparing wine glasses to women’s bosoms to the earliest known instance, recounted by Pliny in the first century AD, in which a bronze wine-cup was supposedly cast in the form of Helen of Troy’s breast.
Mayor, Adrienne. “Guardians of the Gold.” Archaeology (November-December 1994):52-9. Considers palaeontological-archaeological-geological evidence for the classical griffin legend. Close readings of Greek and Roman descriptions suggest that the image of the griffin originated in ancient observations of dinosaur fossils by gold-mining nomads of central Asia in the seventh century BC.
Mayor, Adrienne. “Mad Honey!” Archaeology (November-December 1995):32-40. Legends and facts about toxic honey from classical antiquity to the present. Suggests that intoxicating nectar may have inspired the mantic states of maenads and the Delphic oracle in ancient Greece.
Mayor, Adrienne. “The Nessus Shirt in the New World: Smallpox Blankets in History and Legend.” Journal of American Folklore 108 (Winter 1995):54-77. Discusses historical reality and international narratives about the deliberate contamination of clothing used as weapons against enemies, from ancient Greek tragedies to the colonial period in the New World and in modern conflicts.
Mayor, Adrienne. “Fiery Finery.” Archaeology (March-April 1997):55-8. Traces the Poison Garment motif in classical Greco-Roman literature. A specially treated combustible cloak was a lethal weapon of revenge in myth, drama, and history. Mayor argues that knowledge of volatile substances used in textiles and warfare influenced ancient narratives of flammable clothing.
Mayor, Adrienne. “Dirty Tricks in Ancient Warfare.” MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History 10 (Autumn 1997):32-7. Investigates biological warfare in classical Greek myths of the Trojan War, and rumours and the actual use of such weapons in Greek and Roman military history.
Mayor, Adrienne. “Grecian Weasels.” Modern Ferret 15 (1998):17-21. Collects ancient Greco-Roman lore about weasels and domestic ferrets, from a broad range of sources, including Aesop’s fables, Aelian, Aristophanes, and Pausanias. Some ancient weasel tales survive in modern Greece.
Mayor, Adrienne. “Giants in Ancient Warfare.” MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History 2.2 (Winter 1999):98-105. Surveys legendary and historical battles with giants, from Goliath to the Germanic tribes defeated by the ancient Romans, and medieval giant knights to the Prussian regiment of giant soldiers.
Mayor, Adrienne. The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000. Examines literary evidence for discoveries of, and legends about, prehistoric fossils in ancient Greece and Rome. Argues that Greek myths of giants and monsters were influenced by observations of large remains of extinct animals around the Mediterranean.
Mayor, Adrienne and Michael Heaney. “What Were the Griffins? Who Were the Arimaspeans?” Folklore 104 (1993) and 40-66. Mayor argues that the classical Greco-Roman griffin legend was inspired by descriptions of beaked quadruped dinosaur fossils in gold deposits of Central Asia. Heaney marshals linguistic evidence for the continuity of the ancient Arimaspean legends of Scythia in the Almas (a Yeti-type figure) of modern Mongolia.
Mayor, Adrienne and Josiah Ober. “Amazons.” MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History 3 (Summer 1991):68-77. Reprinted in R. Cowley, ed., The Experience of War. 12-23. New York: Norton. 1992. The meaning of ancient Greco-Roman and modern legends of warrior women, with archaeological evidence, maps, illustrations.
McCartney, Eugene S. “A Bibliography of Collections of Greek and Roman Folklore.” Classical Weekly 40.13 (1947):99-101. An index of classical folklore studies and sources up to 1947, compiled by a classicist; particularly useful for its list of annotated editions of ancient authors “who preserved rich stores of folklore material.” This list is supplemented by Crum; see earlier.
McDonough, Christopher. “Forbidden to Enter the Ara Maxima: Dogs and Flies, or Dogflies?” Mnemosyne 52 (1999):464-77.
McDonough, Christopher. “From Parnassus to Eden,” American Journal of Philology 120 (1999): 297-301.
Mondi, Robert. “The Homeric Cyclopes: Folktale, Tradition, and Theme.” Transactions of the American Philological Association 113 (1983):17-38.
Murray, Oswyn. “Herodotus and Oral History.” In Achaemenid History II, ed. H. Sancisi-Weedenburg. 93-115. Leiden: Brill, 1987. Using the anthropological model of African oral history, Murray considers the sources and transmission of oral folk narratives in Asia and Africa collected by the fifth-century Greek historian Herodotus.
Nagy, Gregory. Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Applying comparative evidence of oral traditions to Homeric epic, Nagy traces the ways that oral poetry recreates ever new variations of the “same” stories until old tales are crystallised in written texts. Nagy argues that a song cannot be fixed as a final written text as long as the oral poetic tradition stays alive.
Oesterley, Hermann, ed. Gesta Romanorum. Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1872. This Latin edition of a body of popular romantic and fantastic tales from late antiquity contains ground-breaking lists of other classical, medieval, and modern versions of the ancient stories from a huge variety of sources. A valuable tool for comparativists.
Oliphant, S. G. “The Story of the Strix.” Transactions of the American Philological Association 44 (1913):133-49; and 45 (1914):44-63. Ancient witch lore.
Omidsalar, M. “Of the Usurper’s Ears, the Demon’s Toes, and the Ayatollah’s Fingers.” In The Psychoanalytic Study of Society: Essays in Honor of Alan Dundes, ed. L. Bruce Boyer, Ruth M. Boyer and Stephen M. Sonnenberg. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press, 1993. Compares Iranian and US rumours about the Shah of Iran and the Ayatollah Khomeini (1988-90) to earlier Greco-Persian and Judeo-Muslim versions about leaders and impostors in ancient Persia.
Page, D. L. Folktales in Homer’s “Odyssey.” Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973.
Panofsky, Dora and Erwin Panofsky. Pandora’s Box: The Changing Aspects of a Mythical Symbol , 2nd rev. edn. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992. Explains how imaginative reshaping and transcribing errors by writers and artists (67 illus.) have transformed the classical Greek myth of Pandora, from antiquity to the present. The ambivalent symbolism of Pandora makes the myth a sensitive marker of the “ebb and flow of the sex-war.”
Parry, Hugh. Thelxis: Magic and Imagination in Greek Myth and Poetry. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1992. Engaging chapters on important folklore themes in classical literature, including fatal gifts, enchanted spaces, aphrodisiacs, magic, and magicians.
Payne, Martha. “Alexander the Great: The Polis, Afterward.” In Myth and the Polis, ed. Dora C. Pozzi and John M. Wickersham. 164-81. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991. Payne discusses the legend cycles surrounding the figure of Alexander the Great, especially tales of nereids (mermaids).
Pecere, Oronzo and Antonio Stramaglia, eds. La letteratura di consumo nel mondo Greco-Latino [Popular literature from Greco-Roman world]. Cassino, Italy: University degli Studi di Cassino, 1996. Papers from an international conference on ancient popular literature: two essays in English treat the Aesop romance (a comic biography) and survey ancient compilations of marvels, ancient predecessors of Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
Penzer, Norman. Poison Damsels and Other Essays in Folklore and Anthropology London: Sawyer, 1952. Compares tales of the Poison Damsel from ancient Greece, India, and Europe.
Perry, Ben E. Aesopica: A Series of Texts Relating to Aesop or Ascribed to Him. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1952. A valuable collection of the ancient evidence about Aesop the person and the Aesopic fable, including one text of every Greek or Latin fable in the Aesopic tradition, making this a virtual type-index of the Greco-Roman fable.
Ransome, Hilda. The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore. London: Allen and Unwin, 1937. Classical Greek myths and legends related to honey and bees.
Reece, Steve. The Stranger’s Welcome: Oral Theory and the Aesthetics of the Homeric Hospitality Scene. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1993. Innovative study of the typical hospitality scene in Homeric tradition. Reece employs folkloric tools, creating a motif-based description of the twenty-five elements of the type-scene, e.g. “dog at the door,” “identification,” “feast,” “guest-gifts,” “departure libation.”
Roller, Lynn. “The Legend of Midas.” Classical Antiquity 2 (1983):299-313. Fascinating consideration of the historical and archaeological evidence for the Greco-Roman legend of Midas (of the golden touch and the ass’s ears). Midas was a ruler of Phrygia (now Turkey) in the eighth century BC; Roller shows how the Midas traditions about greed and wealth served different purpose for Greek audiences over the centuries.
Romm, James. The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought: Geography, Exploration, and Fiction. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992. Focuses on ancient Greek and Roman traditions about exotic cultures as a literary genre. Many classical “wonder-tales” about “barbarians” contain familiar folklore motifs and themes that survived into Renaissance Europe. Good source for contemporary legends that circulated among Greeks and Romans; the ancient writers also preserved fragments and hints of beliefs that circulated within Africa and Asia as retold by Mediterranean travellers.
Rose, H. J. Handbook of Greek Mythology. London: Methuen, 1928. Standard survey of ancient Greek myth and legend. Once revolutionary, Rose is sometimes contradictory and lacks historical accounts, comic tales, and fables, but the handbook is still a valuable tool.
Russell, W. M. S. “Greek and Roman Ghosts.” In The Folklore of Ghosts, ed. H. R. E. Davidson and W. M. S. Russell. 193-213. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer for the Folklore Society, 1981.
Russell, W. M. S. “`A Funny Thing Happened …’: Humour in Greek and Roman Life, Literature and Theatre.” In Spoken in Jest, ed. Gillian Bennett. 83-115. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press for the Folklore Society, 1991.
Russo, J. “Greek Proverbs.” Journal of Folklore Research 20 (1983):121-30. By studying the phonetics and structural devices of fifth-century BC proverbs in Herodotus, Russo recognises traditional proverbial material in other Greek literature.
Salles, Catherine. “Assem para et accipe auream fabulam–Quelques remarques sur la litterature populaire et le repetoire des conteurs publics dans le monde romain.” Latomus–Revue d’Etudes Latines 40 (1981):3-20. An interesting, if controversial, essay on popular Roman literature.
Sax, Boria. The Frog King. New York: Pace University Press, 1990.
Sax, Boria. The Parliament of Animals. New York: Pace University Press, 1992.
Scobie, Alex. “Strigiform Witches in Roman and Other Cultures.” Fabula: Zeitschrift fur Erzulung-forschung 19 (1978):74-101.
Scobie, Alex. “Storytellers, Storytelling, and the Novel in Graeco-Roman Antiquity.” Rheinisches Museum fur Philologie 122 (1979):229-59. Collects evidence for professional and amateur storytellers in ancient Greece and Rome. Discusses hostility of “elite” authorities to popular story performers in classical Greece and the impact of literacy on oral narrative in the first and second centuries AD in Rome. Alexander the Great and the Emperor Augustus were patrons of itinerant storytellers.
Scobie, Alex. Apuleius and Folklore. London: Folklore Society, 1983. Scobie, a classical folklorist, notes the deficiencies of the Stith Thompson Motif-Index for ancient Near Eastern, Greek, and Roman narratives. Chapter 1 surveys ancient oral literature, storytelling, and the novel. Chapter 2 addresses witchcraft and shapeshifting; chapters 3 and 4 analyse the migratory legends about witches and human-animal transformations in Apuleius’s second-century AD novel The Golden Ass. Appendices contain several variants.
Segal, Robert A., ed. In Quest of the Hero. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990. Excellent discussion of various interpretations of hero myths; reprints Rank’s 1909 Myth of the Birth of the Hero; part of Raglan’s 1956 Hero; and Dundes’s 1976 Hero Pattern and Life of Jesus.
Sifakis, G. M. “The Structure of Aristophanic Comedy.” Journal of Hellenic Studies 112 (1992):123-39. The final section of this paper by a classicist compares the use of folklore in ancient Greek comedy to narrative strategies in European folk tales, especially in the way ordinary characters are allowed to consummate “wishful thinking.” Sifakis concludes, however, that distinctions between legend and myth are useless in pre-Christian cultures and denies that folk belief existed apart from religious myth in ancient Greece.
Small, J. P. Cacus and Marsyas in Etrusco-Roman Legend. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982.
Smith, Kirby Flower. “Popula Duplex” in Martial, the Epigrammatist and Other Essays. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1920. A discussion of the ancient Roman superstition about “double pupils” and its implications for a passage in Ovid.
Sobol, D. Amazons of Greek Myth. Cranbury, NJ: A. S. Barnes, 1972. Summarises legends of warrior women, from ancient Greece to Hitler’s nightmares. The bibliography lists ancient and modern artistic and literary sources.
Stanford, W. B. “Ghosts and Apparitions in Homer, Aeschylus, and Shakespeare.” Hermathena 56 (1940):84-92.
Stern, Jacob, trans, and comm. Palaephatus: On Unbelievable Tales. Wauconda, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci, 1996. First English translation of a fourth-century BC student of Aristotle who attempted to rationalise Greek myths of heroes and monsters; includes the original Greek text. Palaephatus sought kernels of truth in fantastic ancient tales of winged horses, dragons, Pandora’s box, sea monsters, Amazons, the Sphinx, etc.
Stoneman, Richard, trans, and ed. Legends of Alexander the Great. London: J. M. Dent, 1994. A comprehensive collection of legends of late antiquity and the Middle Ages surrounding the historical figure of Alexander the Great, with notes and appendices. Legends include Alexander’s battles with monsters, conversion to Judaism, voyage to heaven, etc.
Temple, Robert and Olivia Temple, trans. Aesop: The Complete Fables. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1998. New translation of 358 Aesopian fables with commentary and notes. More true to the earthy social commentary of the ancient texts than familiar Victorian versions, but the lack of an index is a serious shortcoming.
Terpening, Ronnie H. Charon and the Crossing: Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance Transformations of a Myth. London and Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1985. Traces the folk theme of an afterlife voyage by boat, using literary history, structuralism, and aesthetic criticism. The attributes of the ferryman Charon vary as the tradition was adapted over time.
Trenkner, Sophie. The Greek Novella in the Classical Period. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958. Discussion of folklore themes in ancient novels.
Versnel, H. S. “Polycrates and His Ring.” Studi Storico-Religiosi 1 (1977):17-46. Argues that previous comparative scholarship on the tale of valuables lost at sea which are later recovered inside fish, first recounted by Herodotus in the fifth century BC, neglects the ancient Greek context and meanings, which enhance the story’s tragic impact.
Veyne, Paul. Did the Greeks Believe in Their Myths? An Essay on the Constitutive Imagination. . Translated by Paula Wissing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988. As students of urban folklore know, legends are perpetuated for reasons other than simple credulity. This is the first serious inquiry into the overlapping belief and disbelief in official myths and popular lore of classical antiquity. Stimulating, if sometimes hard to follow.
Vitaliano, Dorothy B. Legends of the Earth: Their Geologic Origins. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1973. Vitaliano, a geologist, invented the term “geomyth” for tales that attempt to explain volcanoes, earthquakes, disastrous floods, and other geological events. Discussions of the Greek myths of Deucalion’s Deluge and Atlantis; many other international examples of geomyths are given.
Winkler, Jack. “Lollianos and the Desperadoes.” Journal of Hellenic Studies 100 (1980):155-81. Extensive discussion of Greek and Roman ghosts by a classicist, with thorough source material.
Wiseman, T. P. Remus: A Roman Legend Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. A provocative explication of all the variants of Rome’s foundation myth, in which the twins Romulus and Remus were nursed by a wolf. Wiseman explains the political and psychological reasons for Romulus’s murder of his twin Remus at the moment of the city’s founding, and suggests that human sacrifice ritual lay behind the legend. This insightful book historicises the story’s origin and development in a non-literate society.
Wittman, Richard G. “Flying Saucers or Shields.” Classical Journal 63 (1968):221-6. Fascinating study of unusual celestial phenomena observed in ancient Rome. Wittman finds striking similarities between the sky-watching Romans and modern UFO believers. Fiery “columns” and “shields” correlate with today’s cigar-shaped and saucer-like UFOs, but even more telling is the way both groups interpret their observations, as reflections of tension on earth and as portents for the future.
Adrienne Mayor is an independent folklorist specialising in natural history and legend. Her articles have appeared in Archaeology, Folklore, Journal of American Folklore and Journal of Folklore Research. She is the author of The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times (Princeton University Press, 2000).
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