Napoli (Treasury of Greek Mythology, 2011) again challenges readers to regard the old gods in new ways.
The author provocatively explores the thesis that ancient Egyptian worship could be considered monotheistic, considering how closely intertwined the culture’s gods were in origins and natures. She introduces 17 major deities and a handful of minor ones in a mix of equally lively stories and exposition, beginning with Ra’s self-creation from the unchanging (“Boring, really”) waters of Nun. The divine council known as the Pesedjet convenes, and Usir (Osiris) is killed by Set but magically revived for one night with his beloved Aset (Isis). A final chapter introduces Imhotep, architect of the first pyramid, who was born human but later deified. Depicted in a flat, art-deco style but reminiscent of Leo and Diane Dillon’s figures in gravitas and richness of color and detail, deities and earthly creatures lend visual dimension to the mystical, larger-than-life grandeur of the stories as well as reflecting their more human griefs, jealousies and joys. Reinforcing a sense of otherness, Napoli uses the Egyptian forms of names throughout, though they are paired to their more recognizable Greek equivalents in running footers. To shed light on the mortal Egyptians, she intersperses boxed cultural notes, as well as chapters on mummification and “The Great Nile.”
Sumptuous of format, magisterial of content, stimulating for heart and mind both. (map, timeline, gallery of deities, postscript discussion of sources, bibliography, index) (Mythology. 11-14)