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Robert Graves

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Robert Graves (24 July 1895–7 December 1965) was an English poet, novelist and classical translator. He wrote I, Claudius and Claudius the God in the 1930s, and his memoir Goodbye To All That is considered one of the great autobiographies of the 20th century. He also had 'homosexual experiences' as an adolescent,[1] though we're not so sure why that is relevant. Graves has had a considerable amount of influence on the Neo-Pagan movement that exists today, particularly Wicca and Goddess worship.

The White Goddess[edit]

In 1948, Graves published The White Goddess: a Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth, a book-length essay on the nature of poetic myth-making. In it, he argues that true or pure poetry is inextricably linked with the ancient cult-ritual of his proposed White Goddess and of her son. The book has proved influential among today's Neo-Pagan community. There is at least one notable Pagan website which derives its name from this text.[2] The White Goddess is said to have had a profound influence on Gerald Gardner, the influential Wiccan, who is credited with the modern reinvention of Paganism.[3] Due to the continuing influence of the book among the modern Pagan community, it has gone through four editions, in 1948, 1952, 1960 and 1997, and remains in print.[4]

The Greek Myths[edit]

Graves's two volume collection of The Greek Myths (1951) is one of the most frequently encountered and widely distributed synopses of Greek mythology. A typical entry in this tome will consist of two sections. The first will be a fairly accurate, if not based even on scholarship current in 1951, retelling of a Greek myth referenced generously to original sources. The next will be an interpretation of the previous story in terms of Graves' personal mythology of the White Goddess. This will be unreferenced, for the excellent reason that Graves has made it up entirely from his own imagination. As Nick Lowe has written, Graves' personal mythology is "a posher cousin of H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos: an elaborate shared-world fantasy prehistory for later writers to colonize, as most novelists of Mycenaean Greece have ended up doing one way or another."[5]

King Jesus[edit]

Graves published his semi-historical novel King Jesus in 1946. The book presents Jesus of Nazareth not as the son of God, but as a philosopher with a legitimate claim to the throne of Judaea through King Herod. The historical accuracy of the book is dubious at best and Graves excused himself from writing a historical justification for its content with a note stating:

A detailed commentary written to justify the unorthodox views contained in this book would be two or three times as long as the book itself, and would take years to complete; I beg to be excused the task ...[but]...I undertake to my readers that every important element in my story is based on some tradition, however tenuous, and that I have taken more than ordinary pains to verify my historical background.[6]

Needless to say, it is a frequent target of criticism from Christians.

See also[edit]


  1. Ian Firla, Robert Graves - A Critical Biography.
  2. About the White Goddess Site.
  3. The White Goddess by Robert Graves,
  4. The White Goddess, Macmillan Publishers. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN 9780374289331
  5. Nick Lowe, "Killing the Graves Myth"; (review of Songs on Bronze by Nigel Spivey).
  6. See the Wikipedia article on King Jesus.