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

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229 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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126 - 150 of 226 Reviews for Greek and Roman Mythology

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 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 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!


Jul 23, 2017

Excellent contents and excellent teacher!

By Tami V L

Oct 30, 2016

I thoroughly enjoyed this course. The lectures were interesting, well-delivered, and the course materials offered a broad sampling of Greek and Roman mythology as well as various lens through which to interpret them. I would definitely recommend this course to others. I found myself taking trips to the library to find the recommended texts, watching theatrical performances of Oedipus online while reading the text, listening to an audio recording by Ian McKellen of the Odyssey (Fitzgerald translation) at bedtime, and finding all sorts of connections between the ancient myths and modern life. All in all, this was an excellent and very enjoyable course! Thank you to Peter Struck and all who helped offer this course in the Coursera open courseware format.

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 顾敏

Feb 04, 2017


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 Virgilio S

Aug 25, 2016


By Adriana

Mar 03, 2017

Great course! I enrolled knowing nothing (just the basic stories/myths you read everywhere) and I end literally Loving Greek and Roman Mythology. Unfortunately the time is short for such rich and deep topic. Professor Peter Struck was great transmitting the enthusiasm for the stories with a very understandable structure. Thank you for putting together this course, I guess it was and odyssey.

By Carla L G

Mar 25, 2018

Este é um curso que permite conhecer partes importantes da mitologia grega e romana e suas motivações. Existem várias teorias (muitas vezes conflitantes entre si) para explicar os mitos e seus fundamentos. Por ser complexo, cada teoria e cada parte da história são subdivididas em vários vídeos. Os temas são complexos e ao mesmo tempo fascinantes. A leitura antecipada dos livros indicados faz com que os vídeos sejam ainda melhores, pois muitas vezes jogam interpretações e análises que não conseguimos perceber ao lermos sozinhos. O contrário também é muito útil, principalmente com Virgílio: Assistir aos vídeos antes pode facilitar bastante a leitura desta obra complexa. (Eu fortemente recomendo a leitura de pelo menos os resumos de todas as obras abordadas no curso)

Novos cursos sobre análises de literatura mitológica são muito bem vindos. Não necessariamente de mitologia greco-romana.

By Beatriz M B

Jul 04, 2017

I'm so glad I took this amazing course!

By Paulo S

Jan 08, 2018

Very good lectures, content, and exercises.

By Barbara R H

Jan 07, 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 水云阁主人

Oct 06, 2016


By Linda C

Sep 01, 2017

The narrative really enriched the readings; increased my understanding of the Odyssey and exposed me to

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 Gizelle L

Jan 29, 2017

very good

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 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 Alex T

Aug 29, 2016

Absolutely phenomenal, it expanded and improved my whole view and perspective of Greco-Roman mythology! Professor Struck is the best!

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