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

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870 ratings
224 reviews

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

PS

Jul 02, 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.

DA

Apr 13, 2016

This class is very interesting and I love the structure of it. I love how in depth he goes into the different mythological stories and how they connect to Greek culture and daily life.

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76 - 100 of 220 Reviews for Greek and Roman Mythology

By Andrea F

Nov 27, 2016

loved it!

By Joanna C

Oct 18, 2017

Really enjoyable and interesting course

By Teresa R

Jul 24, 2016

Beautifully engaging! Fun, informative, and thought provoking.

By Eagle Y

Jan 04, 2018

This class is really fun!! I love it and sincerely hope that this class can be more well known and taught to the public. Many thanks!

By Deleted A

Apr 13, 2016

This class is very interesting and I love the structure of it. I love how in depth he goes into the different mythological stories and how they connect to Greek culture and daily life.

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 Aaron J

Aug 15, 2016

Engaging instructor and amazing content.

By Itzel E M

Apr 27, 2016

Great course! It is a good introduction to Greek and Roman Mythology.

By Julie S

Dec 10, 2016

The professor was an absolute joy to learn from. His humor, candor, attention to detail, review of information from previous units, and intelligence made me eager to get to my coursework every evening once the kids were in bed. This was everything I never learned in my own Greek and Roman Mythology course in college many years ago. Thank you!

By Regan G

May 29, 2016

Very interesting and informative. Thanks to the makers of the course and the Professor.

By Adonay O G

Mar 30, 2018

A really great and complete college-quality course that everybody need to learn.

By Adam F C

Apr 22, 2017

A unique view into Greek and Roman mythology which includes various theories treating the concept of "myth". This course is not a simple re-telling of familiar stories but a critical review of Homer, Hesiod, Vergil and Ovid.

By Paul A

Dec 11, 2017

Informative. I really liked the instructor.

By Sergios

Sep 05, 2017

Amazing instructor, very enthusiastic, you can feel his energy and passion for mythology and ancient cultures.

By Anne R

Jun 13, 2017

Fantastic course, made so interesting by the Professor's enthusiasm for the content.

By Edouard G

Dec 12, 2017

🎇

By Misty D

Jan 21, 2017

love it !

By Davide-Giulio A

Oct 07, 2017

I strongly recommend this course to the students of archaeology and "classical" arts!

By Kaitlin K

Feb 16, 2018

Fun, educational, great lecture. Interesting.

By Joanna K

Apr 12, 2018

Excellent MOOC, greatly enriches reading Greek and Roman myths and leaves you with a proper academic approach to exploring myth in general.

By Peter S

Jul 02, 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 sena c

Jul 05, 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 David H

Aug 09, 2017

Anyone taking this particular course will be in for an awakening in what's real or not and how to see the difference in the story telling. A great way to show and explain life in ancient times even though stories have been told to express life as it was. A very worthwhile learning experience taught in a very relaxing atmosphere. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest or not.

By Halah K

May 01, 2017

Peter Struck is one of the best teachers i have ever studied from, really looking forward to more courses from him.

By Morgan E " P

Jun 17, 2017

Phenomenal course! The most engaging instructor I've ever had, Professor Struck is truly in the moment and whole heartedly putting forth a wonderful learning environment, rich with information - this class is sure to ignite your passion for the classics.