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Edith Hamilton

From Academic Kids

Edith Hamilton (August 12, 1867 - May 31, 1963) was a classicist and educator before she became a writer on mythology. Her most famous books are her first, The Greek Way, and Mythology, which remains in print after six decades and still introduces most American schoolchildren to the literary versions of Greek myths. A mark of its status is that study guides to the book exist.

Edith Hamilton was born in Dresden, Germany and grew up with her parents in Fort Wayne, Indiana. When she was seven, her father began to teach her Latin and soon added French, German, and Greek to her curriculum. Her education continued at Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut and Bryn Mawr College (M.A. 1894). In the following year, Edith and her sister Alice became the first female students accepted at the German universities of Leipzig and Munich.

Upon her return to the United States in 1896, Edith Hamilton became the headmistress of Bryn Mawr Preparatory School in Baltimore, Maryland, to which she devoted all her energies until her retirement in 1922. Upon retiring, she moved to New York City with her lifelong friend Doris Fielding Reed, and wrote and published various articles about Greek drama. Her approach to mythology was entirely through the literature of the classics, for she had not travelled to Greece and was not an archaeologist. The Greek Way appeared in 1930, and drew instructive parallels between life in ancient Greece and the present day. 1932's The Roman Way provided similar contrasts between daily life in ancient Rome and the present day. Other works published over the next three decades led to her travelling to Greece in 1957, where she stood in the theater of Herodes Atticus and was made an honorary citizen of Athens at ninety years of age. She was also elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Edith Hamilton's correspondence and papers are at Princeton University.

Quotes

  • "A people's literature is the great textbook for real knowledge of them. The writings of the day show the quality of the people as no historical reconstruction can."
  • "It has always seemed strange to me that in our endless discussions about education so little stress is laid on the pleasure of becoming an educated person, the enormous interest it adds to life. To be able to be caught up into the world of thought--that is to be educated."

Works by Edith Hamilton

The Greek Way (1930) It was such a perennial best-seller that it was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection in 1957
The Roman Way (1932)
The Prophets of Israel (1936)
Three Greek Plays (1937)
Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes (1942)
The Golden Age of Greek Literature (1943)
Spokesmen for God (1949)
Witness to the Truth: Christ and His Interpreters (1949)
Echo of Greece (1957)
Collected Dialogues of Plato, Including the Letters, ed. by Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, Bollingen Series LXXI, Princeton University Press, l961, fifth printing l969.

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