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

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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


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.


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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101 - 125 of 220 Reviews for Greek and Roman Mythology

By Kaitlin L

Dec 09, 2017

was very exciting to learn and the teacher was a good teacher

By Arantza C P

Jun 24, 2018

This was an excellent course, with great tools that helped you analize the myths. Absolutely love it

By Nigel S

Jan 27, 2017

This course has given me a very approachable overview of a wide range of knowledge on Greek and Roman mythology. I have very much enjoyed hearing insights into all that we have studied, especially The Odyssey which remains a favourite reading; but now I have been led to see all sorts of subtleties in it which enriches each re-reading of it or parts of it.

I enjoyed everything else, I liked the use of paintings, and found the mapping out of key words and phrases very helpful too. Peter Struck's very approachable delivery struck just the right note of lightheartedness and seriousness.

This course has led me to read works I would never have read - and I'm so glad I have been encouraged to do so - so, a very big Thank You for all your hard work and enthusiasm for all this wonderful material!

I am now keen to learn much more about the Iliad!

By Rogelio J

Feb 05, 2018

Excellent introduction to a escolar approach to Mythology

By Aleeka K

May 26, 2018

A good course, Fairly in-depth exposure and a grand sweep of the important works in Greek and Roman mythology.

By Elena W

Nov 23, 2016

Very interesting and informative! Would definitely advise to take it!)

By Cecilia C

Jan 30, 2017

Great course! Professor Struck really brings mythology to life! I learned a lot and enjoyed myself immensely!

By Calvin O

Dec 10, 2016

An excellent course. Mr Struck is clearly an asset to the University of Pennsylvania. Fluid, easily understandable and ultimately thoroughly enjoyable. Well done.

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 Srishti G

May 23, 2017

The course was very good. I was able to understand everything.

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.

By Christine W

Feb 04, 2018

Truly enjoyed the course. Peter really dug deep and brought out the deep cultural meaning of ancient myth and how they shaped the human society.


Jan 03, 2017

I am new to these courses and took up three, of which this was one, at the end of last year. I completed all three of them, and can definitely say that this course was the most enjoyable of the three: although the lecturer was speaking to the already converted in that I was already interested in his subject matter, I felt the whole course was so well delivered: it was very methodically organised, the content, as split between the language, the storyline, the historical context, literary techniques and analysis, was good, and the lecturer himself made the whole subject so enjoyable by his easy and natural manner, and by his knowing his subject well and rarely referring to notes. THANK YOU!

By Emil

Jun 04, 2018

Done it

By marian d k

Mar 03, 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 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 Katie S

Apr 28, 2018

My only complaints is that I want more. The instructor was engaging, the stories were great and this has taken me back to being a student and living for mythology.

By Sally R

Oct 14, 2016

The course has given me the string to enable me to venture into Greek and Roman mythology knowing I shall be able to find my way back out.

By Marilyne T C

May 31, 2018

Very interesting, made me want to learn more!

By Badreldin A M

Dec 25, 2016

The best professor ever!

By Kerry M

Dec 06, 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 Vandhana C

Jun 02, 2018

I loved it. the material was precise and helped me to explore more. Thank you so much for such an awesome and well planned course.

By Marcio L d S G

Jul 11, 2016

Great course. I recommend.

By Jesus A B S

May 08, 2017

Loved it. I took this course because I wanted to know more about these particular myths, since they have always caught my attention. Since I can recall, I have always loved them. This course made see them in a way I would not, even if I read the same Tragedies, Epic poems and plays that I read during this course. Fantastic course to do. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes or has some kind of curiosity about these myths. Cheers! Best of luck to everyone out there! And congratulation to all the Penn team and professor struck. My respects to you.

By Rachel A

Jan 19, 2017

Loved it!