The first edition of this book appeared in 1870 and was established immediately as one of the classical works on comparative mythology. It received appreciation and criticism in equal measures due to the very controversial nature of the conclusions drawn that were labeled as "momentous." However great scholars like Grimm, Max Muller, Breal, Kuhn, Preller, Welcker, H.H. Wilson, Cornewall Lewis, Grote and Thirlwall fully supported all the important findings of this work which came to be recognized as a masterpiece on Aryan mythology. The author argues that the common stock of philosophical material, which supplements the evidence of language for the ultimate affinity of all the Aryan nations, has been molded into an infinite variety of shapes by the writers of Greek and Latin, of Persian and Englishmen, of the ancient and modern Hindus, of Germans and Norwegians, Icelanders, Danes, Frenchmen and Spaniards. On this common foundation the epic poets of these scattered and long-separated children of one primitive family have raised their magnificent fabrics.
From this common source they have derived even the most subtle distinctions of feature and character for their portraits of the actors in the great drama which in some one or more of its many scenes is the theme of all Aryan national poetry. "The purpose of this work is to exhibit clearly and with sufficient fullness the general characteristics of Aryan mythology, as a system which has grown up from words and phrases denoting not one or two objects only, as the sun or moon, but all the phenomena of the sensible world, as they impressed themselves on the minds of primitive men."