The Vatican Mythographers offers the first complete English translation of three important sources of knowledge about the survival of classical mythology from the Carolingian era to the High Middle Ages and beyond. The Latin texts were discovered in manuscripts in the Vatican library and published together in the nineteenth century. The three so-called Vatican Mythographers compiled, analyzed, interpreted, and transmitted a vast collection of myths for use by students, poets, and artists. In terms consonant with Christian purposes, they elucidated the fabulous narratives and underlying themes in the works of Ovid, Virgil, Statius, and other poets of antiquity. In so doing, the Vatican Mythographers provided handbooks that included descriptions of ancient rites and customs, curious etymologies, and, above all, moral allegories. Thus we learn that Bacchus is a naked youth who rides a tiger because drunkenness is never mature, denudes us of possessions, and begets ferocity; or that Ulysses, husband of Penelope, passed by the monstrous Scylla unharmed because a wise man bound to chastity overcomes lust. The extensive collection of myths illustrates how this material was used for moral lessons. To date, the works of the Vatican Mythographers have remained inaccessible to scholars and students without a good working knowledge of Latin. The translation thus fulfills a scholarly void. It is prefaced by an introduction that discusses the purposes of the Vatican Mythographers, the influences on them, and their place in medieval and Renaissance mythography. Of course, it also entertains with a host of stories whose undying appeal captivates, charms, inspires, instructs, and sometimes horrifies us. The book should have wide appeal for a whole range of university courses involving myth.
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