Hydromythology and the Ancient Greek World

Hydromythology and the Ancient Greek World is the first integration of hydrology (water science) and karstology (a branch of geology) with Greek and Latin literary works spanning the millennium from Homer to Pausanias. In this book, author-editor Cindy Clendenon shows readers the richness of naturalistic, water-related interpretations. Ancient accounts about water in the landscape may have contained embellishments regarding causation, but the physical facts behind the stories are well grounded in the earth sciences. Look below to learn more about this book.

~ What is hydromythology?
~ What is karst?
~ What about the book Hydromythology?
~ Who should read the book?
~ What does Hydromythology conclude?
~ Who is the author?

Go to Sample Chapters to see Table of Contents and read selected chapters.

What is hydromythology?

In general usage, the word “hydromythology” can mean misperceptions and deliberate distortions of facts regarding water resources. But in the specialized definition by author Cindy Clendenon, hydromythology is the scientific study of the hydrologic origins of tales that historically explained natural water features in nonscientific terms.

The topic of hydromythology is closely related to geomythology, a field of study that sprouted from the term coined in 1966 by the late Dorothy Vitaliano, a technical translator for the U.S. Geological Survey. Although geomythology languished as a field of inquiry for 35 years, it has surged in popularity since the year 2000 as journal articles increasingly have demonstrated that certain ancient texts were geologically accurate.

Despite its burgeoning popularity and far-ranging scope, geomythology strongly favors the study of catastrophic earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis. Geomythology overlooks the everyday water environments of streams, lakes, springs, and seas as experienced by ancient peoples during nonextreme environmental conditions. In particular, geomythology ignores myths set in karstic terrains. The book Hydromythology and the Ancient Greek World fills the gap by surveying ancient stories about karstic and nonkarstic waters in the Mediterranean region.

What is karst?

Karst describes landscapes dominated by soluble rocks (such as limestones) that have slowly dissolved to yield caves, sinkholes, underground water passages, and large perennial springs. Karsts occur worldwide, and some UNESCO World Heritage Sites include karst features. Across the globe, various institutions are dedicated to karst research, conservation, and public education.

What about the book Hydromythology?

Book Title: Hydromythology and the Ancient Greek World
Subtitle: An Earth Science Perspective Emphasizing Karst Hydrology
Author: Cindy Clendenon
ISBN: 978-0-9818421-0-3
Year of publication: 2009
Categories: Earth and Environmental Science / Nature / Mythology / Classical Studies
Readership: Specialists, Generalists, Students, Library Patrons
Trade Paperback / 6" x 9" / xviii + 502 pp., 7 maps, selected references, glossary, index
Retail Price: $32.95 US
Designer: Fiona Raven
Publisher: Fineline Science Press

Who should read the book?

Because it weaves water science, earth science, and classical literature into a readable, understandable presentation, Hydromythology and the Ancient Greek World is appropriate for university and community college libraries and public libraries. Although written for the educated lay reader, Hydromythology contains enough specialized information to hold the interest of geologists, hydrogeologists, karstologists, environmental scientists, ecotourists, mythologists, and classicists.

What does Hydromythology conclude?

Hydromythology and the Ancient Greek World begins by describing the evolution of geomythology and hydromythology; establishing Greek historical and mythographical frameworks; classifying ecological Nature deities; and defining karst for non-geologists. The book then presents original ideas linking natural water features with ancient travelogues and myths. Author Cindy Clendenon concludes:

~ The natural dislodging of a sinkhole plug caused the sudden drainage of Lake Stymphalus and the associated drowning of a determined deer hunter who literally was sucked down the drain;

~ The karstic landscapes of Arcadia and Argolis are figuratively represented in the interwoven myths of the Danaids, Poseidon, Amymone, and Hera;

~ The myth of Alpheus and Arethusa articulates the physical possibility of the distal offshore movement of fresh terrestrial groundwater through the seabed;

~ The Archaic Greek concept of Hell was a wind-whipped, water-filled karstic pit that in later centuries was supplanted by the Romanized concept of a volcanic lake of fire;

~ An earthquake-triggered karstic collapse swallowed Amphiaraus during the Seven Against Thebes battle; and

~ The now-extinct Lake Tritonis once was a Cyrenaican lagoon-sabkha complex near today’s Sabkha Ghuzayyil and Marsa Brega, Libya (contrary to popular opinion which places Tritonis in Tunisia).

In addition, Hydromythology and the Ancient Greek World examines phrases by ancient writers that relate to specific environmental features. For example:

~ When Homer referred to “purple ribbons” on coastal rocks, he probably was witnessing a natural event related to the murex mollusk, and was envisioning the appearance of a warp-weighted loom outfitted with murex-dyed purple threads;

~ When Ovid wrote about coral “turning to stone,” he was using a physical analogy to describe the biological decay of a Mediterranean red coral that exposed the coral’s hard inner skeleton; and

~ When ancient mythographers wrote about Heracles’ death from Hydra’s poison, they probably were describing the ravages of a necrotizing skin infection.

Who is the author?

Cindy Clendenon holds a master's degree in environmental science and water resources from Indiana University. She has more than twenty years of experience in the environmental fields of water resources, weather and fisheries communication, and solid waste management. For four years, Cindy served as project editor for a major publisher in the library reference market. Some of her editorial projects included student-level, color-illustrated encyclopedias on mathematics and water sciences. Currently Cindy works at a state environmental protection agency where she manages water and wastewater infrastructure projects.