- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 14, 2001

Greek mythology has been ingrained in world culture. From popular films featuring the exploits of Jason and the Argonauts to a lexicon including phrases such as "Achilles' heel," the heroes and gods of the ancient world are still with us. One man's herculean effort has led to a Web site espousing the virtues of studying these legends through silly illustrations and plenty of information on the myths of the mortals and immortals of long ago.

Mythweb

Site address: www.mythweb.com

Creator

Joel Skidmore developed Mythweb at his own expense and as a public service through his media company, San Francisco Production Group, in San Francisco.

Creator quotable

"I created Mythweb with the help of my artistic collaborators in order to foster the study and enjoyment of Greek mythology," Mr. Skidmore says.

"I myself was bitten by the bug in preschool and reinfected in sixth grade. I also had the benefit of a country day school curriculum that included healthy doses of Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, et al. I personally enjoy Greek mythology, and I like to share it with other enthusiasts, especially middle schoolers in the course of becoming enthusiasts."

Word from the Webwise

Drawing upon Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey" and the works of Apollodorus who wrote centuries after the myths were first narrated, but provided a solid retelling Mr. Skidmore has assembled an efficient site featuring cartoony representations of the characters and stories to which he pays tribute.

The site's opening page shows a Disney-style Zeus wielding a lightning bolt and accompanied by cronies who come to life as visitors pass the cursor over the main sections, "Gods," "Heroes," "Today" and "Encyclopedia."

An obvious starting point, "Gods" begins with a gorgeously drawn page by Gordon Dean that depicts the 12 major Olympians: Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Athena, Demeter, Dionysus, Hephaestus, Hear, Hermes, Poseidon and Zeus, as well as the "intruder" Pan.

A click on each deity displays a biography, such as that of Artemis, the virgin goddess of the hunt, who helped women in childbirth but could bring sudden death with her arrows. Unfortunately, the text is set in a painfully narrow column.

Next, the "Heroes" section offers a colorful look at Jason, Hercules, Bellerophon, Theseus and Odysseus. Visitors get a multipage illustrated presentation of each hero's story, including an index of characters involved in the story. I chose Theseus, grandson of the king of Troezen, to learn about his adventures while journeying to Athens to discover his true heritage.

Finally, the recent addition "Today" offers a place for Mr. Skidmore to explain the relevance of these mythological characters in today's world. He uses Hercules to demonstrate the phrase "herculean effort" and features the story of his exploits. This section has potential but needs deeper content.

I found a tiny link on the front page, "Mythology in the News," more interesting. It had a small feature on how dinosaur bones found in ancient times might have helped inspire some of the Greek mythologies.

Ease of use: Mythweb should be compatible with all browsers currently in use, with no plug-ins required. The site is concise and does not need a search engine, but in the design department, I did not understand laying out the text within such narrow margins. Also, in the content department, I would love to see a bit of history on Greece and some of the real players involved at the time of the myths' creation.

Don't miss

Mr. Skidmore originally released a CD-ROM game called Wrath of the Gods, and some of the leftover media elements have become the artistic core of the Encyclopedia of Greek Mythology. This simple-to-navigate online book offers more than 200 words, with accompanying definitions and images. Visitors quickly will learn about everything from the multiheaded dragon Ladon that guarded the garden of Hesperides to the significance of the Wandering Rocks.

Family activity

A handy "Teachers" area not only sheds light on why schools should incorporate mythology into their curriculum, but also gives a few ideas on projects to do away from the computer. These include visiting an art museum, creating a "family tree" based on one of the gods and developing a tabloid newspaper on some of the bizarre stories surrounding Greek myths.

Cybersitter synopsis

The site won't captivate younger children, but students in sixth grade and older will find a wealth of knowledge that will greatly enhance a school report.

Overall grade: B+

Remember: The information on the Internet changes constantly. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]washingtontimes.com).

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