Since ancient times, myths have helped
us make sense of our world—where we’re going, where we’ve been. The classic
Greek stories—the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Argonautica, and the Oresteia,
among them—have endured through the centuries because they speak to archetypal
Myths teach. Myths interpret. And in
this issue of American Road, they
turn the highway into a labyrinth, and the roadside into a land touched by the
golden fingers of Midas.
American Road’s odyssey begins with a
trip through time: In 225 BCE, the Greek engineer Philo of Byzantium identified
seven wonders of the ancient world that he recommended every good citizen see.
We take his list and apply it to the USA, finding our own “Colossus of Roads”
and other marvels in “Seven Wonders of the Modern Road.” Did you know that the
modern-day Zeus sits at the corner of Woodward and Jefferson avenues in
downtown Detroit? No? Well, he does. And he’s green.
“Mythic Proportions,” this issue’s compendium,
is the largest we’ve ever assembled. In it, we visit thirty-six sites named for
Greek gods, heroes, and monsters—from California’s Hercules Tree to South
Carolina’s Mt. Atlanticus Minotaur Goff and Baltimore’s Orpheus with the Awkward Foot. You’ll even find a cyclops in
there—a one-eyed giant that serves as a fine introduction to our final feature,
“O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Revisited.” Fifteen years ago, the Coen brothers brought the songs of the
sirens, the winds of Aeolus, and John Goodman’s gluttonous Bible-thumping
Polyphemus to Mississippi and the moviegoing masses. We look back at the
production and its filming locations in the Magnolia State that managed to
capture the magic of ancient Greece and the lands Odysseus visited during his
Life is a poem and a journey—a sonnet and an
odyssey. Write it, mythically, on the road.