When I was in college, with majors in history and Russian studies, I almost decided to become a professor. But upon the advice of my history professor(!) I decided to become an international lawyer, and to follow my passions for history, myth, religion, philosophy, and other fascinating subjects in my free time.
I had the privilege of doing rewarding international law work for 30 years at the world’s largest global law firm at the time, Baker & McKenzie, which enabled me to travel the world and experience its peoples and cultures, not just as objects of study but also at a practical working and personal level with colleagues, clients, lasting friends, and others. I ended up being able to combine law and my Russian studies background by working in Russia for over 8 years in Moscow and St. Petersburg, beginning when the Soviet Union was collapsing, and helped that new country’s legal system develop. This Russian experience, together with the fact that my wife Elena hails from St. Petersburg, enabled me to combine my professional work with my passion for writing history, and the result was authoring, together with Elena, what is now regarded as the definitive English-language history of one of the world’s most mythical cities, St. Petersburg, Russia. It won a literary prize in Russia in 2005 (the Antsiferov Prize), awarded by a jury of Russian academics. I later contributed a chapter to another history book about St. Petersburg, focusing on important historical events there in the 1990s.
All that time I was also pursuing my interests in ancient cultural history – especially that of the ancient Near East and Mediterranean – as well as mythology, religion, philosophy, and depth psychology. Serious study meant learning the relevant ancient languages, so I learned ancient Egyptian (hieroglyphs), biblical Hebrew, and ancient Greek (both Attic and biblical Greek), in addition to the fluent Russian and not-so-good French that I already knew. My first book resulting from this study is a “big” one written with Elena about the foundational and most influential myth in our Western culture, the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. We analyze the story from the perspective of mythological studies, so we call it The Mythology of Eden. It too recently received a book award, winning first place in the Religion-General Category at the 2015 International Book Awards, and being named Award-Winning Finalist in the 2014 USA Best Book Awards (also Religion-General Category).
In addition to writing books and articles, I also enjoy giving lectures at scholarly conferences as well as informal talks to other groups that share my interests. Recent and upcoming appearances can be viewed by clicking the Appearances button on the toolbar above. I am active at the scholarly community website academia.edu, where I have posted some of my work.
I am passionate about deepening my and my audience’s understanding of the interrelationship between cultural history, mythology, religion, and depth psychology in a way that will enrich and benefit our society and our own personal knowledge and spirituality. This blog provides one means for me to communicate and contribute on these topics, write about mythic travel, and post book reviews about books on these subjects. I look forward to interacting with interested readers who have questions and comments.
When I’m not pursuing such interesting things (or when I can combine them with something else), I like to enjoy downhill skiing, running, dancing, films, world travel, cooking, farming my backyard vineyard, making and enjoying wine, and enjoying our 2 cats.
What a full and rewarding life.
With the broad title of the blog, I was expecting there to be an equally broad scope of sources of myth from around the world, perhaps including mythology of the Americas, Asia, Africa, the Arctic, Oceania. What you do address is, of course, quite interesting.
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I love mythology !
Hailing from Indian originally ,my culture is deeply woven with stories and myths which no doubt you may be familiar with . I am part of an interfaith network and such articles are just my thing .
Have you read Karen Armstrong’s book ‘A short history of myth’?
I have just ordered your book about Eden and am looking forward to a week in the Scottish highlands reading it .
I do hope you publish more books and reading material
Many kind thanks
Thanks, Rinku, for your kind comments. I hope you enjoy my Eden book. I’ve read Armstrong’s myth book as well as some others of hers. Frankly, they are rather simple and I don’t get much out of them; I read them, well, because they are short and simple, and I want to make sure that I’m not missing or forgetting basic things. I have just finished another book about the mythology underlying our (American) seasonal holidays, and am now in the process of getting it published. I hope you will enjoy that once it comes out.
I recently obtained your book, The Mythology of America’s Seasonal Holidays, which is an excellent volume by and large I must add.
There is one thing that puzzled me. In your account of Romulus, you said he was “resurrected” (page 106) which seems wholly and entirely inaccurate and reductive of the term. I reviewed several variant stories about Romulus and every single one of them records either (A) he was taken up to the heavens while still alive, or (B) he died and was not. There is no account where he dies, and then is resurrected alive. This requires a strange, almost Christian apologist-like, harmonization of the texts.
Plutarch records (Romulus, 27):
“whereas Romulus disappeared suddenly, and no portion of his body or fragment of his clothing remained to be seen. But some conjectured that the senators, convened in the temple of Vulcan, fell upon him and slew him, then cut his body in pieces, put each a portion into the folds of his robe, and so carried it away. Others think that It was neither in the temple of Vulcan nor when the senators alone were present that he disappeared but that he was holding an assembly of the people outside the city near the so-called Goat’s Marsh, when suddenly strange and unaccountable disorders with incredible changes filled the air; the light of the sun failed, and night came down upon them, not with peace and quiet, but with awful peals of thunder and furious blasts of driving rain from every quarter, during which the multitude dispersed and fled, but the nobles gathered closely together again in the same place as before, anxiously sought for their king, the nobles would not suffer them to inquire into his disappearance nor busy themselves about it, but exhorted them all to honour and revere Romulus, since he had been caught up into heaven, and was to be a benevolent god for them instead of a good king. The multitude, accordingly, believing this and rejoicing in it, went away to worship him with good hopes of his favour.”
I see here two differing accounts. Plutarch even says, “some conjectured” for the senator’s killing him. Meanwhile, it is a completely different narrative for the being raised up to heaven, where he says “Others think”.
Ovid separates them as well. The accusation of murder was false. He was taken up alive, and they knew he was taken up alive because Julius Proculus saw him (Fasti 2.492-505):
“It happened, Romulus, that there you were dispensing justice to your people. The sun vanishes. Clouds come up and blot out the sky. The heavy rain falls down, the water streaming. On this side it thunders, on that the upper air is split by bursts of lightning. Everyone flees. / The king was seeking the stars with his father’s horses. / There was grief, and the Fathers were falsely accused of murder, and perhaps suspicion would have stuck in people’s minds. But Julius Proculus was coming up from Alba Longa; the moon was shining and he had no need of a torch, when the hedges suddenly shook and trembled to his left […] Romulus seemed to be there in the middle of the road, and to have spoken as well.”
This account wherein being seen by Proculus is proof that he was taken up alive is recorded by Cassius Dio as well (Roman History 56.46.2). Dionysius of Halicarnassus outright says they are different tales (Roman Antiquities 2.56.2-3):
“There are many different stories concerning it [Romulus’ fate]. Those who give a rather fabulous account of his life say that while he was haranguing his men in the camp, sudden darkness rushed own out of a clear sky and a violent storm burst, after which he was nowhere to be seen; and these writers believe that he was caught up into heaven by his father, Mars. But those who write the more plausible accounts say that he was killed by his own people; and the reason they allege for his murder is that he released without the common consent, contrary to custom, the hostages he had taken from the Veientes, and that he no longer comported himself in the same manner toward the original citizens and toward those who were enrolled later, but showed greater honour to the former and slighted the latter […]”
Given all of this, what is your response, and why did you call Romulus resurrected? There is simply no evidence of this. Even ancient Greek authors referred to him as having been translated (Cicero, On the Republic 1.16). This is a claim I’ve seen floating around in mythicist (that is Christ Myth theorist) circles, but I have found it to have no merit, and it seems to radically devalue any methodological rigor in using the term of “resurrection” if it can refer to living people who never died, being taken up into heaven. At that point, it just seems to be a Christian theological holdover, as D. Frankfurter noted in his criticisms of Tryggve Mettinger’s work (https://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2002/2002.09.07/).
I’m just curious. If we cannot even use any concrete and sensible terminology for “resurrection” or “dying and rising gods” why on earth do we continue saying the category is valid, and claiming that figures like Romulus are “resurrected” heroes, even though they never even died in the legends where they were taken up and made gods.