Scholia Reviews ns 13 (2004) 9.

Harold Newman and Jon O. Newman, A Genealogical Chart of Greek Mythology. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 2003. Pp. vii + 263. ISBN 0-8078-2790-8. UK£54.95.

Elke Steinmeyer
Classics, University of Natal, Durban

Who of us has never faced the problem of how to answer the questions of students about the chronology of the ancient myths? Which story happened first and which one later? And although we all constantly deal with the ancient myths in our teaching, can we answer off the top of our heads, whether the story of Jason and Medea happened at the same time as that of Oedipus and the Sphinx, or earlier, or later? And which queen of the Amazons was first: Hippolyte (with Theseus) or Penthesileia (with Achilles)? We can turn for quick help to one of the numerous mythology books, such as Powell,[[1]] which provides a short chronology and genealogy for each chapter, but what about a comprehensive chronological overview, which links the genealogies of the different chapters together?

A solid and accurate answer can now be found in the publication under review. It has been in compilation since 1964 by Harold and Jon O. Newman as a father-and-son project, and although the authors are not trained Classicists, they have dedicated almost forty years to establishing a pedigree of 3673 names from Greek mythology in an extended family tree. Their professional training as lawyer and judge respectively is reflected in the meticulous way in which the book is structured and explained and how the sources are referenced. With the help of some Classicists (acknowledged in the preface), they used Homer and Hesiod as their principal sources and later authors and mythographers to fill in the gaps or for clarification. When these sources conflict, the authors have decided on one, but have also put the other source in the index.

The book consists of a Master Chart and a Complete Chart in seventy-two segments as well as a preface, foreword, introduction and two user guides. The Master Chart gives a rough overview of the principal characters in Greek mythology on a double page, keeping each generation of the extended family tree on the same line, and indicates below each name the segment for the detailed genealogy. The segments of the Complete Chart together form one horizontal chart with all the 3673 names, in which the authors attempt to classify in a very systematic way all the marital, extra-marital, hetero- and homosexual relationships of the mythological figures including their offspring from generation to generation, starting with Chaos and ending with Heracles and his countless lovers.

There is also an index of ninety-two pages where every name is listed in alphabetical order, with a short characteristic (son of..., king of...), together with the relevant ancient source(s). If a name appears more than once, it is indicated by superscripted numbers here given in square brackets (for example, Electra[1], Electra[6]). It must have taken the authors a tremendous amount of time and energy, but the result is one of the most thorough yet extremely clear and user-friendly mythological indices one can imagine.

The book is rounded off by a comprehensive bibliography of the primary and secondary sources used, a list of ancient authorsí names plus three appendices: the Roman counterparts of Greek mythological characters, Greek counterparts of Roman mythological characters, and a chronology of the principal sources.

Reading and browsing through the book provides a lot of interesting and surprising information. Did you know, for example, that Heracles is five generations younger than Oedipus and six generations younger than the heroes of the Trojan War? That Poseidon had one hundred and thirty-two offspring from eighty-two of his ninety-five paramours? That there are twelve different Glaucus(es) and nine different Callirhoe(s) in various mythological contexts? That Apollo had seven homosexual partners? That 'Sisyphus . . . can be seen to be the fourth cousin of Agamemnon . . . since both Sisyphus and Agamemnon are descended, after four generations, from the sons of Iapetus' (p. 5)? That Danae is the great- great-great-great-great-great-great-great daughter of Io (yes, to the eighth degree!)?

This book is full of invaluable insights into this aspect of Greek mythology. It collects disparate and scattered information in a condensed, clear and easily accessible way. We should be grateful that some enthusiastic scholars did undertake this enormous task for the sake of all of us, and I doubt that any Classicist could have done better genealogical work. The time and energy the authors have spent will save us a lot of effort. It is a great pity that the father died in 1993 (at the age of ninety-three) and cannot witness the fruits of his lifelong work. I consider this book an indispensable tool for every classicist who works in the field of mythology. It should find its way on the shelves of each Classics department as a standard reference book.


[[1]] Barry Powell, Classical Myth (New Jersey 2001[3]).