Adrienne Mayor is renowned for exploring the borders of history, science, archaeology, anthropology, and popular knowledge to find historical realities and scientific insights – glimmering, long-buried nuggets of truth – embedded in myth, legends, and folklore. Combing through ancient texts and obscure sources, she has spent decades prospecting for intriguing wonders and marvels, historical mysteries, diverting anecdotes, and hidden gems from antiquity, medieval, and modern times. Flying Snakes and Griffin Claws is a treasury of fifty of her most amazing and amusing discoveries.
The book explores such subjects as how mirages inspired legends of cities in the sky; the true identity of winged serpents in ancient Egypt; how ghost ships led to the discovery of the Gulf Stream; and the beauty secrets of ancient Amazons. Other pieces examine Arthur Conan Doyle's sea serpent and Geronimo's dragon; Flaubert's obsession with ancient Carthage; ancient tattooing practices; and the strange relationship between wine goblets and women's breasts since the times of Helen of Troy and Marie Antoinette. And there's much, much more.
Showcasing Mayor's trademark passion not to demythologize myths, but to uncover the fascinating truths buried beneath them, Flying Snakes and Griffin Claws is a wonder cabinet of delightful curiosities.
Adrienne Mayor’s books include The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology, and The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World (all Princeton). She is a research scholar in classics and the history of science at Stanford University.
"Read this immediately! Whether you are a lover of lore, an armchair academic, or simply a curious soul, you will find inspiration in the pages of Flying Snakes and Griffin Claws. It is an excellent starting place if you're new to Adrienne Mayor's work and an excellent compendium if you're already a fan. Her books have been a must-read for me since she began writing. She is a treasure."
– Melissa Marr, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Hidden Knife
"Adrienne Mayor is one of our most brilliantly engaging writers on the ancient world, and Flying Snakes and Griffin Claws is a delightful cabinet of curiosities. Her inspired detective work reveals the natural-historical and paleontological phenomena that lurk behind the iconic imagery of classical myth, folklore, and history – and much else besides."
– Daniel Ogden, author of The Werewolf in the Ancient World
"Griffins! Dragons! Ghost ships! In her delightful new collection of essays, Adrienne Mayor traces the origin stories of a bevy of irresistible curiosities, from talking mynah birds and musical racing turtles to giants and mermaids. Her impressive scholarship is matched only by her infectious good humor as she plunges into the history behind tattoos and foot fetishes, sifting expertly between mythology and classical sources in pursuit of evidence. A treat to read from cover to cover."
– Nancy Goldstone, author of In the Shadow of the Empress: The Defiant Lives of Maria Theresa, Mother of Marie Antoinette, and Her Daughters