Chevron Left
Back to Greek and Roman Mythology

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

4.8
stars
1,571 ratings
459 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

TS

Jul 08, 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.

KW

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.

Filter by:

76 - 100 of 454 Reviews for Greek and Roman Mythology

By Marc B C

Apr 02, 2020

Nice first approach to Greek and Roman mithology, I think the way the course is covered is pretty handy and easy-going. However, I would add additional online resources related to the course, apart from the books that must be read. It would make it a little bit more interactive. Anyway, it was very very interesting overall, thank you!!!

By Yudhanjaya W

Mar 07, 2017

This is one of the most useful courses on mythology I've ever come across. Peter Struck is an extremely thorough lecturer, and journeying through the Odyssey and the Aenied (among others) with him is a fascinating journey - not just into Greek and Roman mythology, but literature, culture, their psychologies, and their social structures.

By Christine

Jul 08, 2020

I loved this course. It was both enjoyable and instructive. Professor Struck offers a unique way of teaching this course with interesting views and lively explanations. It felt like I was having coffee with a friend who had something exciting to say. Thank you Professor, I truly hope you will teach more of these courses in the future.

By Kristine A M

Nov 21, 2016

This is a very entertaining course. There is a lot of reading, but the readings are so enjoyable that it doesn't seem like too much. I was able to obtain the books at my local library. This course refreshed and added a great deal to my understanding of the greek and roman mythology I studied years ago in high school and at university.

By Madhura V U

May 30, 2020

It is a very interesting course for beginners like me who want to know more about Greek and Roman Mythology. It was very systematic and made me read Greek and Roman Epics. I would like to thank Prof.Peter Stuck and the University of Penn for this course and last but not the least, to Coursera for making this course available.

By Kathleen M

May 04, 2020

This course was excellent--both in content and method. Professor Struck offered a deeply satisfying presentation of content about Greek and Roman Mythology in a context of delight and wonderment. I can imagine this is a wildly popular course at Penn and Struck a very popular professor. Thank you for a great experience!

By Charlotte M

Jun 27, 2020

I really enjoyed this course and it has, without a doubt, improved my knowledge vastly. I found Dr Struck's lectures interesting and engaging and the ability to learn online at my own pace over the week fitted in well with working at home. I highly recommend this course and wouldn't hesitate to embark on a further one.

By Cynthia W

May 06, 2017

I thoroughly enjoyed this course and it will enrich my upcoming trip to Greece. It has more than whetted my appetite to further studies of mythology which is something I was not particularly interested in before. I enjoyed Professor Struck's lecture style which was scholarly and organised yet informal and often humorous.

By Corie

Jun 22, 2020

This course was excellent. I enjoyed the rich detail and explanations given by Professor Struck. I also enjoyed the readings. I will definitely take any other online course he teaches.

The only problem I had with the course was the inaccuracies in the course transcripts. Those could definitely be improved upon.

By Frederic J S

Jun 21, 2020

Excellent presentation of material that I have long wished to study. At my stage of life, I have no need of career-oriented learning, but enjoy learning for the sake of learning. In the end, it won't make a difference but, then again, neither will career-oriented learning. Intellectual development is a joy.

By Oliver G

Jun 30, 2020

A great course that looks at a few myths, mainly from the Greeks but some Roman ones as well. Videos are a good length and go into great detail. Very interesting course, I recommend for anyone who likes to read myths and legends. Thank you Penn University and Peter Struck for making this very awesome course.

By Arun N M

Dec 29, 2018

10/10, Professor Struck! Thoroughly enjoyed the course from start to end. Loved the choice of texts chosen to study, in particular Homer's Odyssey and Sophocles' Oedipus Rex. As an aspiring academician in the field of Classical Studies, this course certainly gave me due impetus. You have my utmost gratitude!

By 陈意茹

Feb 20, 2017

really enjoyed it and learnt a lot.When I was a children,I grew up reading Greek and Roman myth and had a lot of interest on it.And in this class,I read Odyssey which might seems a little bit dull for common readers,but through taking this class and reading the book same time made it so much more meaningful.

By Ying X

Mar 07, 2017

gosh learned a lot, this course is very engaging, and there is even a mooc blog and various other websites that are very helpful for the course notes that meticulously recorded what Professor said.......the website is also pretty good......reading stories to learn about Greek and Roman culture is great~

By Camille S

Aug 18, 2020

I completed this course in lockdown after always having an interest in Mythology but never seriously acting on it. I can safely say that I would recommend this course to anyone! Professor Struck truly makes each topic enjoyable and compelling, and you will likely learn something you didn't know before!

By Ignacio M A

Jan 09, 2020

Great course, interesting and entertained. The best element is, without doubt, the lecturer, (Prof. Peter Struck), very cheerful but rigorous at the same time, with a deep knowledge of the mythology. It is not a simple exposition of gods and heroes, but the explication of theirs meanings and behaviors

By Alessandra M

Jul 07, 2020

Magnificent! Recommend to anyone who wants to learn about Greek and Roman Mythology. I did enjoy the course all the way through. Peter Struck is an amazing teacher and does it in a way that is easy and fun to learn. Thank you Peter for this incredible journey to Antiquity filled with amazing stories.

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 12, 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 29, 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 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 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