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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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Williams, Rose: The Labors of Aeneas

  Amazon  

4 stars

In the Aeneid Vergil (70-19 B.C.) tells the story of the Trojan hero Aeneas, who survived the Greek siege of Troy (the subject of Homer's Iliad) and went on, after considerable difficulty, to fulfill his destiny and found the Roman race. Anyone looking to dip their toes in Aeneas' story, either as a prelude to reading the Aeneid itself or merely to acquaint themselves with this major chapter of Greco-Roman mythology, would do well to spend a few hours with Rose Williams' brief, breezy retelling of the Aeneas legend. (Note that Williams' book is not precisely an abbreviated version of the Aeneid: she begins Aeneas's story in childhood while Vergil picks up the tale in the seventh year after the fall of Troy.)

Williams' tone throughout the book is light. In her discussion of the Trojan prince Paris, for example, who had been exposed as a baby but lived to tell about it, the author writes: "Anyone who has read much classical mythology knows that any babe abandoned on a mountainside was always rescued by a wandering shepherd and taken home to some unfortunate shepherd's wife. Thereafter the child was reared in flowery meadows tending sheep until a little bird told him one day about his royal heritage. Whereupon he descended on his true father's palace, or what he thought was his true father's palace, usually with disastrous results." In Paris' case those disastrous results would include the siege and destruction of Troy, which he brought about single-handedly by stealing Helen from her jealous Greek husband--her face launching a thousand ships and all that. Williams' writing is punctuated by cute asides which almost become cloying: "Pallas' war horse, Aethon, according to Vergil, was led in the procession with big tears rolling down his hairy cheeks. (The intelligentsia always scoffs at such statements, saying that horses do not cry in grief, or at all, for that matter. Maybe they just never encountered a  horse in a lachrymose mood.)" But for the most part the writing is very successful.

The Labors of Aeneas includes a handful of notes and an appendix of major gods. The book might have been improved by the addition of an introduction--covering Vergil's biography, for example, the history of Rome in a nutshell--but it is not strictly necessary. Readers who are unacquainted with the book's subject matter will find that the author does a good job injecting explanatory material into her account. Her book is, in short, a well-written introduction to the world Vergil describes. Readers should find it both instructive and entertaining.

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