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

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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.

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126 - 150 of 644 Reviews for Greek and Roman Mythology

By Aoife M

May 28, 2020

Peter Struck was a brilliant and fun lecturer and I have really enjoyed delving deeper into the world of greek and roman myth, getting to know the poets who have captured essences of their cultures and eras in their writings, and learning a new way of looking at myths with different, informed eyes.

By Gail H

Jul 14, 2017

An excellent overview, not only of the mythology itself but also various approaches to and ways of thinking about myth. Prof Struck is an engaging teacher, very easy to watch and listen to. This is a tempting hors d'oeuvre, which provokes an urge to learn more - many, many thanks to the creators!

By Sarah S

Dec 11, 2016

I really enjoyed this course although I'm not sure I would list it as an overview of Greek and Roman Mythology; more of overview of what various poets and scholars of the time thought of mythology. The excellent lectures did help expand how I looked at the various ways of looking at mythology.

By Ann F

Oct 22, 2020

This was an extremely interesting class, due in no small part to the professor who was excellent. I learned that there is much more to Greek and Roman mythology than cute little stories about the gods and goddesses. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and will look for more from this professor.

By JoJo D

Jul 28, 2020

Wow what a fun and educating course. Peter Struck rocks it out of the park, he really is a good teacher and the 10 weeks go by super quickly because it is so interesting! I am super happy I took this class. I recommend it for anyone wanting to know more about mythology!! Thumbs up Struck!

By gabriella b

Oct 27, 2022

Thank you professor Struck.

I have enjoyed your coursevery much, have learned a lot and have been inspired to re-read with greater attention some of the classics. Your course has been so enjoyable, that I've already signed up for all the other Greek and Roman courses taught at Coursera!

By Hongrun L

Sep 28, 2021

I really love this course. Professor Struck guided us through six main books on Greek and Roman Mythology, all fantastic classics. The best thing in this course is his interpretation, or at least he introduced us to the interpretations of many scholars which gave me much to think about.

By Charlotte R

Jun 12, 2020

Enjoyed every minute of this course. Peter explains things so well and I've learnt so much over the past 10 weeks, I've not always took part in the writing as this isn't my strong area but feel like I've soaked up a lot of new knowledge and I already want to learn more, so thankyou xx

By Anita S

May 20, 2020

I really enjoyed Prof Struck's excellent teaching of this subject area. I won't lie and say that I looked forward every day to lectures but within minutes of opening up a video - I was transfixed. It certainly has opened up a new area of learning for me and inspired a trip to Greece.

By Michelle H

Apr 6, 2021

Although this course covered so much material, Prof. Struck did a great job of relating the works to one another, comparing and contrasting the works so that it was easier to learn and retain the information. His manner is relaxed and almost belies his considerable intelligence.

By Aylin T

Sep 27, 2020

It was a quite experience for me to learn Greek and Roman mythology. I always thought that it would be complicated and hard to understand but with the professor's telling it was like very easy to understand without getting bored. I wish that I could attend a real class :) Thanks


Jul 12, 2020

I ´ve enjoyed a lot this curse, Ive learned many new things and tools to understand Myths, and greek ansd roman culture. Thanks to Peter Struck that shared his knowledge so clearly and passionate.It was very interesting to explore all the material we have seen this weeks. Thanks

By Evan S

Apr 15, 2021

So well-conceived! Works beautifully in this format. I really enjoyed Professor Struck's insights, and I believe that my perspective on ancient Greek and Roman culture has been significantly deepened from what I have learned here. One of the best courses I've ever taken.

By Rosey H

Feb 6, 2021

This was a great source to understand myths apart from the pure fun that they are. Dissecting and unpacking the history of mythology has made me see myths through a different lens. Peter Struck delivered in a wonderfully neutral way never deviating to his own opinions.

By Caelyn M

Dec 1, 2016

Wonderful course. I learned so much about greek and roman myth and myth in general from it. The lectures were engaging and well paced. The readings were really well chosen and much richer for having listened to the lectures first. I especially loved reading the Odyssey.

By Pablo L M

May 19, 2020

Este curso es fantástico. El mejor que he encontrado en Coursera con diferencia. Peter Struck es un orador magnífico y es a la vez lo suficientemente introductorio para los que no saben nada y lo suficientemente intenso para los que ya saben sobre el tema. Magnífico.

By Roger H

Mar 31, 2018

Exceptionally interesting, and gives a very broad but clear understanding of the themes of Greek and Roman mythology as well as an overview of what constitutes a myth and the theories behind understanding what the function of myth is to different times and societies.

By Rik v d M

Jan 6, 2017

Great little course, very insightful introduction to Greek and Roman mythology. Learned a lot from the epic poems, stories and tragedies as explained by Peter Struck, whose lectures were clear and whose insightful commentaries almost came to life. I had a lot of fun!

By Warwick B

Jul 25, 2021

The course provides a wonderfully engaging and throughly edifying introduction to Greek and Roman mythology. Peter Struck achieves exactly what he intends by encouraging the student to go much further and dive headlong into the wonders that mythology have to offer.

By Kerry M

Dec 5, 2016

I absolutely loved this course. I majored in Classical Civilizations and decided to take the class to further my knowledge in the field. I learned a great deal and thoroughly enjoyed the lectures. The course and materials are well organised and presented. Thank you

By Sophie C

Jun 11, 2020

This is a fabulous course, it had me enthralled the whole time. It is really good for beginners in myth, I myself had no prior technical experience with myth, other than an interest for the stories. 10/10 would recommend, you will not regret completing this course.

By Sena Ç

Jul 5, 2018

Peter Struck is a legend. And the course is really fun. The only problem is, it is really difficult for foreigners to understand. At least it was for me. I wish you can add more subtitles to this course because it's a great source. Thank you Struck! You're amazing!

By Barbara R H

Jan 7, 2017

Very interesting and well presented by the lecturer - style was engaging and challenging without being over my head. Varied by visuals and maps which enhanced the experience. Highly recommend this course for those who only have a superficial knowledge from before.

By Niels N

Dec 2, 2021

Professor Struck is an excellent lecturer. As he said in his conclusion, much of the point of this class is for us to read some terrific works. I thoroughly enjoyed both the videos and the readings. This is a class that rewards the effort to learn the material.

By Joanna T S E

Sep 12, 2020

This was an awesome course! Loved every bit of it. Never knew Greek & Roman Mythology could be so deep and insightful (and chaotic haha). Thank you very much Peter Struck for the great teaching. Would recommend this as an enrichment course to my peers and juniors!