Chevron Left
Back to Greek and Roman Mythology

Learner Reviews & Feedback for Greek and Roman Mythology by University of Pennsylvania

2,321 ratings

About the Course

Myths are traditional stories that have endured over a long time. Some of them have to do with events of great importance, such as the founding of a nation. Others tell the stories of great heroes and heroines and their exploits and courage in the face of adversity. Still others are simple tales about otherwise unremarkable people who get into trouble or do some great deed. What are we to make of all these tales, and why do people seem to like to hear them? This course will focus on the myths of ancient Greece and Rome, as a way of exploring the nature of myth and the function it plays for individuals, societies, and nations. We will also pay some attention to the way the Greeks and Romans themselves understood their own myths. Are myths subtle codes that contain some universal truth? Are they a window on the deep recesses of a particular culture? Are they a set of blinders that all of us wear, though we do not realize it? Or are they just entertaining stories that people like to tell over and over? This course will investigate these questions through a variety of topics, including the creation of the universe, the relationship between gods and mortals, human nature, religion, the family, sex, love, madness, and death. *********************************************************************************************************** COURSE SCHEDULE • Week 1: Introduction Welcome to Greek and Roman Mythology! This first week we’ll introduce the class, paying attention to how the course itself works. We’ll also begin to think about the topic at hand: myth! How can we begin to define "myth"? How does myth work? What have ancient and modern theorists, philosophers, and other thinkers had to say about myth? This week we’ll also begin our foray into Homer’s world, with an eye to how we can best approach epic poetry. Readings: No texts this week, but it would be a good idea to get started on next week's reading to get ahead of the game. Video Lectures: 1.1-1.7 Quiz: Complete the quiz by the end of the week. • Week 2: Becoming a Hero In week 2, we begin our intensive study of myth through Homer’s epic poem, the Odyssey. This core text not only gives us an exciting story to appreciate on its own merits but also offers us a kind of laboratory where we can investigate myth using different theoretical approaches. This week we focus on the young Telemachus’ tour as he begins to come of age; we also accompany his father Odysseus as he journeys homeward after the Trojan War. Along the way, we’ll examine questions of heroism, relationships between gods and mortals, family dynamics, and the Homeric values of hospitality and resourcefulness. Readings: Homer, Odyssey, books 1-8 Video Lectures: 2.1-2.10 Quiz: Complete the quiz by the end of the week. • Week 3: Adventures Out and Back This week we’ll follow the exciting peregrinations of Odysseus, "man of twists and turns," over sea and land. The hero’s journeys abroad and as he re-enters his homeland are fraught with perils. This portion of the Odyssey features unforgettable monsters and exotic witches; we also follow Odysseus into the Underworld, where he meets shades of comrades and relatives. Here we encounter some of the best-known stories to survive from all of ancient myth. Readings: Homer, Odyssey, books 9-16 Video Lectures: 3.1-3.10 Quiz: Complete the quiz by the end of the week. • Week 4: Identity and Signs As he makes his way closer and closer to re-taking his place on Ithaca and with his family, a disguised Odysseus must use all his resources to regain his kingdom. We’ll see many examples of reunion as Odysseus carefully begins to reveal his identity to various members of his household—his servants, his dog, his son, and finally, his wife Penelope—while also scheming against those who have usurped his place. Readings: Homer, Odyssey, books 17-24 Video Lectures: 4.1-4.8 Quiz: Complete the quiz by the end of the week. • Week 5: Gods and Humans We will take a close look at the most authoritative story on the origin of the cosmos from Greek antiquity: Hesiod’s Theogony. Hesiod was generally considered the only poet who could rival Homer. The Theogony, or "birth of the gods," tells of an older order of gods, before Zeus, who were driven by powerful passions—and strange appetites! This poem presents the beginning of the world as a time of fierce struggle and violence as the universe begins to take shape, and order, out of chaos. Readings: Hesiod, Theogony *(the Works and Days is NOT required for the course)* Video Lectures: 5.1-5.9 Quiz: Complete the quiz by the end of the week. • Week 6: Ritual and Religion This week’s readings give us a chance to look closely at Greek religion in its various guises. Myth, of course, forms one important aspect of religion, but so does ritual. How ancient myths and rituals interact teaches us a lot about both of these powerful cultural forms. We will read two of the greatest hymns to Olympian deities that tell up-close-and-personal stories about the gods while providing intricate descriptions of the rituals they like us humans to perform. Readings: Homeric Hymn to Apollo; Homeric Hymn to Demeter (there are two hymns to each that survive, only the LONGER Hymn to Apollo and the LONGER Hymn to Demeter are required for the course) Video Lectures: 6.1-6.7 Quiz: Complete the quiz by the end of the week. • Week 7: Justice What counts as a just action, and what counts as an unjust one? Who gets to decide? These are trickier questions than some will have us think. This unit looks at one of the most famously thorny issues of justice in all of the ancient world. In Aeschylus’ Oresteia—the only surviving example of tragedy in its original trilogy form—we hear the story of Agamemnon’s return home after the Trojan War. Unlike Odysseus’ eventual joyful reunion with his wife and children, this hero is betrayed by those he considered closest to him. This family's cycle of revenge, of which this story is but one episode, carries questions of justice and competing loyalties well beyond Agamemnon’s immediate family, eventually ending up on the Athenian Acropolis itself. Readings: Aeschylus, Agamemnon; Aeschylus, Eumenides Video Lectures: 7.1-7.10 Quiz: Complete the quiz by the end of the week. • Week 8: Unstable Selves This week we encounter two famous tragedies, both set at Thebes, that center on questions of guilt and identity: Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Eurpides’ Bacchae. Oedipus is confident that he can escape the unthinkable fate that was foretold by the Delphic oracle; we watch as he eventually realizes the horror of what he has done. With Odysseus, we saw how a great hero can re-build his identity after struggles, while Oedipus shows us how our identities can dissolve before our very eyes. The myth of Oedipus is one of transgressions—intentional and unintentional—and about the limits of human knowledge. In Euripides’ Bacchae, the identity of gods and mortals is under scrutiny. Here, Dionysus, the god of wine and of tragedy, and also madness, appears as a character on stage. Through the dissolution of Pentheus, we see the terrible consequences that can occur when a god’s divinity is not properly acknowledged. Readings: Sophocles, Oedipus Rex; Euripides, Bacchae Video Lectures: 8.1-8.9 Quiz: Complete the quiz by the end of the week. • Week 9: The Roman Hero, Remade Moving ahead several centuries, we jump into a different part of the Mediterranean to let the Romans give us their take on myth. Although many poets tried to rewrite Homer for their own times, no one succeeded quite like Vergil. His epic poem, the Aeneid, chronicles a powerful re-building of a culture that both identifies with and defines itself against previously told myths. In contrast to the scarcity of information about Homer, we know a great deal about Vergil’s life and historical context, allowing us insight into myth-making in action. Readings: Vergil, Aeneid, books 1-5 Video Lectures: 9.1-9.10 Quiz: Complete the quiz by the end of the week. • Week 10: Roman Myth and Ovid's Metamorphoses Our consideration of Vergil’s tale closes with his trip to the underworld in book 6. Next, we turn to a more playful Roman poet, Ovid, whose genius is apparent in nearly every kind of register. Profound, witty, and satiric all at once, Ovid’s powerful re-tellings of many ancient myths became the versions that are most familiar to us today. Finally, through the lens of the Romans and others who "remythologize," we wrap up the course with a retrospective look at myth. Readings: Vergil, Aeneid, book 6; Ovid, Metamorphoses, books 3, 12, and 13. Video Lectures: 10.1-10.9. Quiz: Complete the quiz by the end of the week. *********************************************************************************************************** READINGS There are no required texts for the course, however, Professor Struck will make reference to the following texts in the lecture: • Greek Tragedies, Volume 1, David Grene and Richmond Lattimore, trans. (Chicago) • Greek Tragedies, Volume 3, David Grene and Richmond Lattimore , trans. (Chicago) • Hesiod, Theogony and Works and Days, M. L. West, trans. (Oxford) • Homeric Hymns, Sarah Ruden, trans. (Hackett) • Homer, The Odyssey, Robert Fagles, trans. (Penguin) • Virgil, The Aeneid, Robert Fitzgerald, trans. (Vintage) • Ovid, Metamorphoses, David Raeburn, trans. (Penguin) These translations are a pleasure to work with, whereas many of the translations freely available on the internet are not. If you do not want to purchase them, they should also be available at many libraries. Again, these texts are not required, but they are helpful....

Top reviews


Jul 7, 2020

Well thought out well presented. I feel I have gained a very knowledgeable and thorough understanding of both Greek and Roman mythology and their historical gods and goddesses from taking this course.


Aug 19, 2020

I loved this course. It covers material that is generally available to those who can afford an expensive private education. It was a great way to keep myself occupied during the coronavirus lockdown.

Filter by:

1 - 25 of 680 Reviews for Greek and Roman Mythology

By Evelyn T

Jan 30, 2020

The course started out really interesting and I felt like I was learning a lot. However, by the middle to end, the quality of the lectures started degrading-- I felt like the professor was talking in circles and at times I was unable to figure out what he was trying to say. Summarizing and taking notes became a lot harder.

I'm not sure how much of this was due to the terrible quality of the transcript. There are literally parts that are annotated as [UNKNOWN] or [SOUND] mid-sentence. There is also a lot of grammatical error.

Although much of the readings were not compulsory, there are test questions about the myth that you would only know from the reading and not from what's learned in the lecture. In this case, it would probably be better to just mark them as necessary so that everyone is on the same page.

By Brandy L

Mar 16, 2019

I thoroughly enjoyed this course. Greek and Roman Mythology has always been something I was interested in and this class introduced many new ways I could actually look at these myths.

By eileen r

Sep 24, 2016

This course is exceptional. in large part because Professor Struck is thoroughly skilled, knowledgeable and enthusiastic in his lectures. From the first lecture, and consistently throughout the course, he imbues the material with both contemporary relevance and historical connections. He makes the student a part of the conversation, and always ties together concepts that in less skilled hands might seem disparate. He lends his own intellectual brand of assocations to certain of the more complex ideas, thus rendering them accessible to learners who are new to the literature, history, "litcrit" and psychology of myth. Perhaps most important, Professor Struck's love of his subject(s) is infectious; though he does not appear to teach another Coursera course, I am sufficiently interested now, to take the other offering Greek history on Coursera. However, I wish that he were teaching a continuation of the class. As he said in the final lecture, we but skimmed the surface. It would be awesome if he could lead a more in-depth journey into the creations of these poets and their peers. I also appreciate the fact that Professor Struck recommended excellent editions of the texts. There are so many from which to choose; it was a gift to have his recommendation. I highly recommend this class. You will learn about myth - and you will learn about learning.


Feb 1, 2018

The content is interesting but transcripts really need improving. It's very hard to follow because punctuation and spelling are often wrong.

By Angelia J M

Apr 12, 2016

The only thing that I can TRULY remember from this course is the instructor saying ,,,huh,huh,huh,...

By Barbara G

Oct 13, 2018

Much was good, so let me move to suggestions and critiques. The instructor/lecturer makes a lot of grammar errors, mostly related to pronominal objects of prepositions. It's distracting. He also constantly characterizes the material under discussion as "awful, nasty, horrible," and so forth. I find it both a cop-out and offensive! What are the materials aiming to communicate? What is the instructor wanting to show us, beyond "horrible and nasty"? The somewhat superficial technique of asking us to consider ourselves as ancient Greeks and Romans fails utterly, since without a fair degree of learning that is not provided here and not possible, we are manifestly NOT ancients; it's misleading to imply we easily can be. Thank you.

By Anne M

Dec 8, 2016

I wish I could give this more stars, but considering all aspects of the course, 2 stars is fair. It started out great, but I grew bored after 3 sections (each containing 10 lectures, each about 1/2 hour long). The instructor is great, the material is interesting but lacks few visual aids or interactive aspects that could heighten enjoyment and aid retention of the material. The test at the end of each section is very difficult much of it focuses on the minutia of the lectures, rather than major issues. In some cases, I couldn't even find the answers amid the text of the lectures that I had printed out.

By David J M

Dec 28, 2018

This is an excellent course with an excellent instructor. The course uses primary sources in translation and teaches the student different ways of analyzing and interpreting myths.

By Laurence B

Mar 2, 2018

Very interesting topic

The way it is taught is not very good. Script full of errors and lack of support throughout the lessons

By Maria M

Jul 15, 2017

Extremely boring, couldn't get through the first 10 minutes of "What is myth?" Needs more concrete information and not vague extrapolation on how ~*~cool~*~ myths are.

By Rikki W

Jun 1, 2020

Wow! Peter Struck has a strong passion for Mythology that comes through in his lectures. I really enjoyed reading the Odyssey with the class and gaining a deeper understanding of it's meanings and purpose. It was great to learn not only about ancient myths, but their roles in ancient societies and the different lenses to look at them with today.

If I could change one thing about this course, I would rename it Greek Mythology. It is an overstatement to say that this course is on Greek AND Roman Mythology when only two of the ten weeks cover Roman myth. I would have liked to spend more time with the Aeneid or Ovid's work.

I decided to take this course when I got back from Italy two days before the boarder closed and entered into a seemingly unending quarantine. I have always had a moderate interest in Greek and Roman mythology and am so glad to have finally had the opportunity to begin exploring the subject. Thank you Professor Struck!

By Tais R G

Nov 16, 2017

The transcrips are not edited. THe content is very interesting and well presented. I would have liked even more accompaning visual examples.

By Hun-Yong J

Jan 16, 2019

Love the class. Professor Struck provide the necessary back-drop and necessary tools to properly enjoy classical myth. Name changes from Greek vs Roman myth was made clear by Professor Struck. And because of this clarification, contrast in myth can be realized, except for Ovid.

By Peter S

Jul 2, 2017

Thoroughly enjoyable and instructive introduction to a different world and our historical and present interpretation of its meanings and mysteries. Would recommend to a friend or family member.

By Valeria W

May 9, 2019

This course was excellent and I am very grateful to Professor Struck for his interesting views and explanations about the different texts. He gave me a strong motivation to pursue my reading and studies. There is however a point which did not give satisfaction: as I am not a native speaker of English, I had to have constantly recourse to the transcriptions and they are appalling, at times incomprehensible. This detracted from the full enjoyment of an otherwise excellent course. I very much look forward to other courses from Professor Struck. Thank you very much for giving me this great opportunity to learn.

By Sonia R R R

May 5, 2020

It is a great source of information. New ways to understand mythology trough various tools. How to analyse myths according to Ancient and modern eyes. A new understanding was born in my mind.

By Anne S

Jan 24, 2019

Excellent. This course is extremely well presented and very interesting. I learned a lot about Greek and Roman mythology. I wish Professor Struck would offer a follow up!

By Kate m

May 14, 2017

This is a great course that looks into many ancient pieces of literature from Greek and Roman times. Professor Peter Struck is a teacher who looks at many details normally missed by others. As a thirteen year-old who loves ancient cultures and civilizations, I must say that I was not bored, and that Professor Struck had a way of capturing my attention. The pictures, lectures, and discussions are devised to help the student gain a better understanding of the subject. The stories we looked at, such as the Odyssey, Greek Tragedies, and Ovid's Metamorphosis, were hard but exciting. I recommend this course to anyone who wants to look into Greek and/or Roman literature, culture, and even some history.

By Neringa B

Jan 3, 2017

Prof.Struck's lively presentation manner sustained my interest in Greek Mythology (initially considered as irrelevant to me knowledge) until the end of the course. Myth analysis tools helped me establish a number of connections between ideas of the past and those of the present day. In addition, I've gained new insights into the phenomenon of words/speech. As a consequence, a short poem sprang to mind:

Theatre of the Absurd

I've noticed Speaker thy one word

So many meanings can begird

But have you noticed from the start

Mislabelled noumena tear lives apart

(From Trojan city to Dido's heart).

By Jamie S

Jul 19, 2020

This course was inspiring and a sheer delight to take part in. It is well written and structured, the reading is fun, the lectures are engaging and the end of week tests and assignments are just as interesting as the lessons leading to them. The Discussion Forums are a brilliant place to share your views on the material covered. Professor Struck is an inspiration and I look forward to learning more about Ancient Myth in the future.

TLDR: If i could give this course 6 stars, I would ;)

By Julia F

Sep 12, 2021

Strucks way of teaching can get anyone hooked to the stories in an exciting way, while still teaching theorical lessons in a way that isn't boring, but instead easy to understand and fun. It's extremely easy to do the course and form a connection to it, time really passes by. I completely recomend it!

By Shabna C

Jul 16, 2020

Professor Struck was absolutely wonderful and the ideal guide for this course. Loved all the lessons, throughout the weeks and all the added tidbits and info that he was able to throw in to make the course all the more worth while. Highly recommend to those interested in mythology.

By Melanie

Sep 30, 2017

This class was amazing and Peter Struck was a great instructor. My only request is that readings for each section be put clearly at the beginning of the section instead of the end of the discussion question, so that they can be read before going through that week's videos.

By Lim X N

Sep 12, 2021

It was fun listening and learning about the epics, stories and myths of Greece & Rome! I enjoy learning about the different strategies that can produce different interpretations of what was written, which gave many interesting & eye-opening perspectives.

By Yaron K

Jul 18, 2020

Annotated reading of the classic mythology texts such as Odysseus, Hesiod's Theogony, Homeric hymns, Virgil. Well presented. Professor Struck clearly knows his material and presents both the specific texts, and general frameworks to analyze them.