Here’s an exciting newsflash! My reconstruction of the Shield of Achilles is prominently featured on the cover of Oxford University Press’ 2nd edition of Gods, Heroes, and Monsters by Carolina López-Ruiz!
Several months ago, I was contacted by Oxford University Press requesting permission to use an image of my Shield of Achilles on an upcoming mythology textbook for university students. I agreed, naturally, and am very pleased to announce that the book is now published and available!
Accompanied by great critical acclaim, this new and expanded second edition of Gods, Heroes, and Monsters: A Sourcebook of Greek, Roman, and Near Eastern Myths in Translation edited by Carolina López-Ruiz is quite a thriller for those of us enthralled by such ancient and glorious lore.
Critical Acclaim for Gods, Heroes, and Monsters
Placing the study of classical myth within a wider geographical and historical context, this exciting sourcebook offers a broad perspective with a very rich view. The following are several reviews from leading Classicists printed on the back cover of the new edition:
“Gods, Heroes, and Monsters: A Sourcebook of Greek, Roman, and Near Eastern Myths successfully reflects the current trend in Classical Studies toward viewing the ancient Mediterranean as an interconnected world, one in which people and texts circulated widely. By bringing such a rich variety of texts and mythological traditions together in translation this collection will make it possible to offer introductory students a rich and complicated view of the ways in which the different cultures of the ancient Mediterranean interacted and influenced each other over time.”
—Carol Dougherty, Wellesley College
“In 1984, Walter Burkert argued that Greek myths ought to be viewed in a broad Near Eastern perspective. In this important new volume, Carolina López-Ruiz presents a unique compendium of Egyptian, Hittite, Ugaritic, Biblical, Greek, and Roman sources that enable us to study the connections further. It includes many rarely or never before published texts in English enhanced by authoritative introductions and organized in novel ways that strike a good balance between student accessibility and high-level scholarship.”
—Nanno Marinatos, University of Illinois at Chicago
“This is an excellent sourcebook. Its main strengths are the great variety of sources included, ranging from the familiar to the less well-known; the outstanding translations introduced with up-to-date scholarship; and the extremely useful study aids; the detailed timeline and maps, the glossary of terms, and the bibliography with copious suggestions for further reading organized thematically.”
—Gary Matthews, North Carolina State University
“Gods, Heroes, and Monsters is, by a wide margin, the best anthology of its kind available. Among its many strengths: the historical and cultural breadth of selections, the use of recent and new translations, the thematic organization rather than chronological or cultural, the use of the term ‘Yahweh’ in Biblical selections where it occurs in the Hebrew, the use of both literary and epigraphic sources, and its affordable price.”
—Thomas M. Bolin, St. Norbert College
Reading Greek Mythology With a Broader Geographical Perspective
From my perspective as a mythology fan captivated by Homer’s glorification of Achilles as the hero who sacrifices his life for the ultimate victory of the Achaeans over the Trojans, López-Ruiz’ anthology is quite an appealing eye opener.
In Section 4, Of Cities and Peoples, the 1983-85 discovery of the Hurro-Hittite Song of Release in Hattusa is discussed. This ancient Anatolian text was inscribed in the Middle Hittite period, ca. 14th Century BCE, in a bilingual format with the Hurrian version in columns i and iv and the Hittite version in columns ii and iii.
López-Ruiz explains the discovery of Song of Release as a “momentous event for scholars interested in the history of the epic genre in the eastern Mediterranean.” She notes that the story records the destruction of Ebla (Tell Mardikh) in Syria in terms closely paralleling the plot of the Iliad. She confirms, “the opening scenes of the Iliad, which create the motivation for Achilles’ refusal to fight, retell in a nutshell the same plot, with the request to return a female captive (Chryseis), backed by a god (Apollo).”1
Furthermore, in Section 3, Epic Struggles: Gods, Heroes, and Monsters, López-Ruiz shines a brilliant spotlight on the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, noting the fascinating similarity between the grief of Gilgamesh over the death of his beloved friend Enkidu and the mourning of Achilles for Patroklos.
With roots extending to the end of the third millennium BCE, the Epic of Gilgamesh represents the finest literary work of ancient Mesopotamia. Copies and translations circulated throughout the Near East, enjoying great popularity throughout the ages, often with different titles. In the Late Bronze Age, ca. 1550-1200 BCE, versions in Akkadian, entitled Surpassing All Other Kings, circulated widely, with fragments found throughout the Levant and Anatolia.
In 1849, British explorer and diplomat Austen H. Layard found another, expanded version, also written in Akkadian, in the ruins of the palace of Ashurbanipal (r. 668-627) BCE. This version of the Gilgamesh epic is entitled He Who Saw the Deep and is known as the “Standard Babylonian Version” (SBV).
López-Ruiz notes that “many of the narrative tropes of the Gilgamesh story were adapted by Canaanites and Hittites in the Late Bronze Age and most probably by their Iron Age heirs (Phoenicians, Aramaeans, Luwians, etc.), whose literature is largely lost. The Greeks, too, adapted elements from the Gilgamesh story: Achilles and his lament over his soulmate Patroklos…”2
Particularly in Tablet VIII, the parallel between Gilgamesh and Achilles is quite notable:
“We who met, and scaled the mountain, seized the Bull of Heaven and slew it, demolished Humbaba the mighty one of the Pine Forest, now, what is the sleep that has taken hold of you? Turn to me, you! You aren’t listening to me!
But he cannot lift his head. I touch his heart, but it does not beat at all.”
—Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet VIII
This passage is strikingly similar to the grief expressed in Iliad 18.317 when Achilles puts his hands on the breast of his beloved Patroklos and laments with heart-wrenching eloquence:
…but the Achaeans  the whole night through made moan in lamentation for Patroclus.
And among them the son of Peleus began the vehement lamentation, laying his man-slaying hands upon the breast of his comrade and uttering many a groan, even as a bearded lion whose whelps some hunter of stags hath snatched away  from out the thick wood; and the lion coming back thereafter grieveth sore, and through many a glen he rangeth on the track of the footsteps of the man, if so be he may anywhere find him; for anger exceeding grim layeth hold of him. Even so with heavy groaning spake Achilles among the Myrmidons…
–Homer’s Iliad Book 18, lines 315-324
López-Ruiz notes, as well, that there are other striking similarities between Gilgamesh and Achilles, including that “neither wants to bury his friend, they are both compared with anxious lions deprived of their cubs, and they both wail like women.”3.
An Enticingly Expansive View of Human Creativity
Offering such an expansive view of the ingenious creativity of ancient poets, bards, and writers is incredibly enticing! This new 2nd edition of Gods, Heroes, and Monsters: A Sourcebook of Greek, Roman, and Near Eastern Myths in Translation edited by Carolina López-Ruiz of Ohio State University and published by Oxford University Press is sure to enjoy great popularity.
I am deeply honored and grateful to have my reconstruction of Homer’s Shield of Achilles gracing the front cover of this awesome anthology of ancient mythology from the wider Near East. Whether you are a current student of the Classics or a lifetime lover of ancient history, folklore, and mythology, I am sure you will enjoy this excellent and exciting new book.
1. López-Ruiz, Carolina. Gods, Heroes, and Monsters. 2nd edition. Oxford University Press (2018, New York) Section 4.2, pg 301.
4. Full Disclosure: I am not being financially compensated for the use of my image on this book, nor for this review. I’m very happy to share ;^)