Polybius boldly declared that 'now that all places have become accessible by land or sea, it is no longer appropriate to use poets and writers of myth as witnesses of the unknown' (4.40.2). And yet, in reality, the significance of myth did not diminish as the borders of the known world expanded. Storytelling was always an inextricable part of how the ancient Greeks understood their environment; mythic maps existed alongside new, more concrete, methods of charting the contours of the earth. Specific landscape features acted as repositories of myth and spurred their retelling; myths, in turn, shaped and gave sense to natural and built environments, and were crucial to the conceptual resonances of places both unknown and known. This volume brings together contributions from leading scholars of Greek myth, literature, history, and archaeology to examine the myriad intricate ways in which ancient Greek myth interacted with the physical and conceptual landscapes of antiquity. The diverse range of approaches and topics highlights in particular the plurality and pervasiveness of such interactions.
The collection as a whole sheds new light on the central importance of storytelling in Greek conceptions of space.
Greta Hawes is a lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the Australian National University. She specializes in the study of Greek myth, particularly the examination of ancient contexts for storytelling, the Greeks' assessment of mythic phenomena in their own culture, and the modes of interpretation to which these gave rise. Her first book, Rationalizing Myth in Antiquity (OUP, 2014), charts ancient dissatisfaction with the excesses of myth and various attempts to cut them down to size; it argues that this rationalizing tradition offers important insights into the practical difficulties inherent in distinguishing myth from history in antiquity and into the fragmented nature of myth itself as an emic concept. Her current research explores the spatial dynamics of ancient storytelling and the various intricate relationships between myths and land. She is currently working on a project exploring the place of myth in an ancient travel guide, the Periegesis of Pausanias (2nd century AD).