The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony Critical Essays

Roberto Calasso

The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

THE MARRIAGE OF CADMUS AND HARMONY combines myth, history, philosophy, religion, anthropology, and literary criticism in a loose novel form. Calasso uses Homer’s ILIAD and ODYSSEY as primary models, together with many other sources, including Aeschylus, Euripides, Sappho, Apollonius of Rhodes, esoteric religious poems of the Orphics, and even writers of late antiquity such as Lucian and Nonnus. The result is a celebration of the mythic variant, a recognition that the real meaning of myth lies not in the single story line, but in its multiplicity.

Calasso also retells the myths via ancient artwork. In order to capture the drama preceding Pelops’ memorable chariot race, he describes the pedimental sculptures from the temple of Zeus in Olympia, Greece. In order to illustrate the religious feeling of the ancients, he recreates in words Pheidias’ lost statue of Zeus at Olympia, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Calasso brings to life the religious meaning of the myths and argues that their core does not center on humanity’s search for immortality but on the mysterious death of gods such as Dionysus. These ancient myths are based not upon belief but upon faith and enchantment, upon the human sense of overwhelming awe before the power of deity.

In THE MARRIAGE OF CADMUS AND HARMONY religious treatise merges with myth commentary. The scholar Calasso cites both ancient and modern commentators as well as material from...

(The entire section is 475 words.)