To bring the dead to life
Is no great magic.
Few are wholly dead:
Blow on a dead man’s embers
And a live flame will start.
Let his forgotten griefs be now,
And now his withered hopes;
Subdue your pen to his handwriting
Until it prove as natural
To sign his name as yours…
—To Bring the Dead to Life, Robert Graves
“Do we need Greek myths? In 2019, we need justice more than anything else: racial justice, gender justice, economic justice. What Greek myths have going for them is that they can offer an imaginative road map by which we steer ourselves on the journey to equity. My cautious can places me in distinguished company. In Enraged: Why Violent Times Need Ancient Greek Myths (2017), Emily Katz Anhalt presses that trusty helping verb into service too: ‘Right now in the twenty-first century, Greek myths can arm us against the tyrants we might serve and the tyrants we might become.’ But if we’re to unlock the potential of these myths and turn possibility into actuality, it won’t do to pretend that the myths themselves come to us free and unburdened…. Among the shades, the World War I veteran Robert Graves stands taller than most—as does his provocative and irresistible take on the Argonauts…, Throughout his long career, Graves applied himself doggedly to teasing history out of the myths of the epic cycles, hoping to reconstruct what Greece was…recreating a world of matriarchal communities, all eventually to be swept away by invaders who enforced patriarchy at every level of society from family relations to religious cult.”
—Dan-El Padilla Peralta, Introduction to The Golden Fleece
This group begins with Graves’ The Golden Fleece, a retelling of Jason and the Argonauts voyages throughout the Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean. They roam by ship as defined acquisitive individuals striving for heroics, attempting to dominate the matriarchal societies Graves and others assert existed in no small number throughout the ancient world. Having stolen the fleece, the return to what is Greece is one where title, family and property take hold. We continue with Graves’ version of The Odyssey. Authored, as Graves believed by Nausicaa of Sicily, Homer’s Daughter is a “bold and presciently” told feminist novel about Nausicaa’s life and authorship. Both novels have recently been re-issued by Seven Stories Press in their Graves Project series. This first series of works by Graves will switch from considering the early antiquity of Greece to the days of Rome, many centuries later. We finish with a reading of Graves most popular novel, I, Claudius (1934), with Claudius recounting the imperial aspects of the rule and daily lives of those who preceded him—Augustus, Tiberius, and Caligula—up to his own ascendancy as emperor.