This book begins with an enlightening discussion of what myth is exactly. Graf explains many opposing viewpoints of the myths throughout history and from an arrangement of scholars, from ancient times right up to the modern day.
The author next goes into a discussion on the origins of the epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey, attributed to Homer. He presents arguments and counterarguments as to why these epic poems may be historically accurate, passed down from long standing oral tradition, or from an even earlier, Indo-European tradition.
Graf continues by discussing Hesiod’s account of the origin of the gods and of the world, and how those stories compare to the origin myths of other cultures. He then focuses on the set of myths which are set in the sanctuary of Apollon on the island of Delos.
Further on, the author compares myth to ritual accounts, namely that of initiation rites and explores the idea that the two may have been linked. Continuing along those lines, he discusses the links between history, especially genealogies, and myths.
The next chapter discusses choral song and tragedy in relation to myth. Here Graf analyzes the ideas of morality, justice, values, and retaliation in Greek myth, as well as the idea of the family as the main area of socialization in Greek society.
In the final chapter, the author details the attitudes of ancient philosophers on the subject of the myths, explaining that they widely rejected the way in which the gods were depicted in them.
Overall, this book was very enlightening and I think a good addition to any Hellenic Polytheist’s library. Having said that, it isn’t exactly great for total beginners. It assumes knowledge of the myths, and some previous knowledge of the ancient philosophers and their works is helpful. It may be intimidating as one of the first books to read on Greek mythology even though it is titled as an introduction. It’s also a scholarly work, so it should be noted that it’s a bit more dense and not a book one reads in a couple of afternoons. For those who have a little bit of knowledge, however, I think this book is an essential read in order to understand the function of myth in our religion.