Chevron Left
Back to Greek and Roman Mythology

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

2,076 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:

176 - 200 of 613 Reviews for Greek and Roman Mythology

By veronica b

Feb 12, 2021

I really enjoyed following Prof. Struck's lessons! everything is explained clearly even for a non english speaker.

The topics covered were very interesting and it is not easy to find such a specific course in universities.

By Linda N

Aug 30, 2020

Really interesting and stimulating course, I have wanted to read some classical texts: Homer, Ovid et al. This course has given me some useful tools to carry on reading more on my own. Thank you Prof Struck and the team.

By Andrew N

Jun 20, 2020

Excellent course. Well constructed, well paced - with a really interesting selection of topics from significant myths. My first non-science study course in quite a while! Really enjoyed the last few weeks. Thank you.

By Sepand M B

Jun 29, 2016

A very interesting and through course on mythology. I thoroughly enjoyed the instructor method of delivery and his interesting insights as we delve deeper into myths and their implications for us, humans of 21st century.

By Efrat t

Apr 15, 2020

thank you!

I am teaching mithology for elementry' middle and high school students for many years now. you made me understand deeper and made my knowledge broader.

it was great to have time foe this during the corona time.

By Gajdos G

May 31, 2020

This course is really enjoyable, Prof. Struck is really entertaining and its obvious he really loves theaching. I can recommend everyone who is intrested about the antique literature or/and the ancient mythic stories.

By Mauricio G C

Nov 15, 2018

Exceptional opportunity to develop a deeper grasp of the meaning and many interpretations behind some of the most famous classical myths and stories. I cannot recommend it enough to anybody interested in the classics.

By J H

Dec 7, 2021

This course was brilliant as it helped provide the context in which many of these poems and plays would have been performed in. I find myself wanting to learn more on the topic and shall be exploring it on my own,

By David M

Aug 1, 2021

El curso es excelente, la dedicatoria de quien lo conduce es de un nivel alto y la exposición de las clases muy bien organizada, detallada y entendible. Es un curso intenso con mucha información y muy recomendable.

By marian d k

Mar 3, 2018

Very intersting course. peter Struck is a good teacher, I enjoyed his lessons very much.

Learned a lot and I know I will be going on reading this fascinating readings.

Thanks to all that made this course possible.

By Katerina G

Jun 11, 2020

Awesome course! I really loved the professor and the range of topics that this course covers. I'm so glad that I decided to do this course in all honesty. It is truly so interesting and I just loved it so much!!!

By Eliška B

Nov 1, 2020

Great course, I really enjoy it. Mr Struck was a great speaker and he made the topic interesting and very informative. Thanks to his interpretation I see much more in the literature that we read in this course.

By Amanda M M

Oct 23, 2020

The course was brilliant. It was incredibly in-depth and honestly, the best part of it was Prof. Struck. He's amazing! He brought the mythological and literary world of antiquity right to us. I loved the class.

By Victoria J

May 6, 2019

The course gives you the knowledge to analyze myths with different conceptual tools and how myths are important in any culture. The professor explanations are very clear and the reading material is very useful.

By Angela G

Jun 11, 2020

I really enjoyed the breakdown of the myths chosen and I think they represent some of the best stories each of these cultures has to offer. Thank you so much for such an enjoyable way to learn this material.

By Ilse

Jan 30, 2021

I really enjoyed this course and would highly recommend it! Even though I have taken lessons in Ancient Greek and Latin in high school, I learned a lot of new things and new ways to look at classical myths.

By mackenzie b

Jul 14, 2022

Thank you so much for offering this course. I have a degree in Classics and have read all of the books that were discussed in this course but I love how you presented them and I always seem to learn more!

By manulukas

Feb 8, 2021

mejoraría un poco la traducción de los textos. y quizás que el orador hablara un poco más despacio pero por lo demas es ameno e interesante y también muy curioso por los temas que trata y que desconocía

By Caroline S

May 30, 2020

Great course! I enjoyed Struck's lectures on myths. It teaches you to look at myths through different lenses and perspectives. Thoroughly enjoyed, I wish that there were more courses like this one here.

By Luis E J G

Apr 3, 2020

It's a great course. It's a magical journey to understand greek and roman mythology by reading the classics and applying some ancient and modern tools of analysis. After finishing it one wants go deeper.

By Thomas A S

Jul 8, 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.

By Katharine W

Aug 20, 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.

By Karoline G

Oct 21, 2021

This is one of the best courses i have ever seen. Professor Struck is a great teacher and I really enjoyed his classes. I am really sad that this Course is'n longer. I can 100% recommand this!

By Brandon D M R

Jan 21, 2021

Excelente. Me agradó ka explicación aunque pude ser más concisa, pero se nota la pasión y el profesionalismo, asi como el interés del profesor Struck. En verdad gracias. Una grata experiencia.