Chevron Left
Back to Greek and Roman Mythology

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

4.8
888 ratings
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

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.

Filter by:

151 - 175 of 226 Reviews for Greek and Roman Mythology

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 Chelsea S

Apr 29, 2016

This course took me on an adventure I would always remember!

By Marcio L d S G

Jul 11, 2016

Great course. I recommend.

By Emma M B

Jul 23, 2017

Me encantó. Escribiré en el Foro. Gracias al Prof. Struck volvía leer esos magníficos textos.

By Azyabeth O G M

Aug 08, 2016

Great course!

By Ger K

Jun 08, 2017

I thoroughly enjoyed this course. I was initially weary of the course beginning with 4 weeks of the Odyssey as I was familiar with this book and enrolled in the course to learn more about the non Homeric tales. However, I am glad to admit that I was wrong in this pre judgement as the pacing of the course, the content of the course and the richness of the course made for a wonderful learning experience. Well done to Prof. Peter Struck and his team for developing a marvellous course.

By Stanislaus G

Sep 21, 2016

Excellent class!

By gandha k

May 02, 2016

An excellent course, very comprehensive. Great lectures too. Much better many MOOCS online.

By Kevin T

Apr 15, 2018

Professor Stuck is outstanding. The course is very well structured to provide a great easing in point for ancient mythology, which helps allay the fear that can come from undertaking such a daunting challenge as trying to understand the lessons and stories from texts that are thousands of years old. Once you've got your toes in the water, Professor Struck quickly gets you up to speed so that by the end of the course, you've learned to recognize a lot of the subtleties that flew right over your head at the beginning. Cannot recommend highly enough!

By Merle W

Mar 06, 2017

This is a really good course. It takes some time, but that's okay :)

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 Murdo A M

Sep 07, 2016

E

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 Rachel A

Jan 19, 2017

Loved it!

By Luis M X d C

Sep 23, 2016

Fantastic course!

By Bel E

Nov 09, 2016

I loved it

By Rik v d M

Jan 06, 2017

Great little course, very insightful introduction to Greek and Roman mythology. Learned a lot from the epic poems, stories and tragedies as explained by Peter Struck, whose lectures were clear and whose insightful commentaries almost came to life. I had a lot of fun!

By David P

Aug 05, 2016

great, fun course

By Symbliene G

Aug 17, 2016

Don't take this class if you don't have time for the (extensive) reading. But even if you DON'T have time? Listen to the first week's lectures!

The class is great!

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 Georgina M G

Jun 19, 2017

Wonderful Class. I really enjoyed reading the books and taking notes and discussing the class with my family and friends and college age young people. Thank you!

By aybige t

Jan 28, 2018

lov

By Lynda Z

Nov 18, 2017

I very much enjoyed Professor Struck's course. His lessons were quick but packed with information. He didn't talk down to his students with high brow knowledge but spoke on the same level as those who desired more in depth understanding of Mythology. Thank you.

By Gerald H

May 02, 2019

The course is presented in a quite interesting and humorous manner. I ended up really enjoying the course and acquired a number of the reading materials for personal use after the course. I had never thought about myths beyond simple stories, why they exist, how it might be they come about, and now am always thinking about the world I live in today and how myths play a role. Great Course!

By Soren K

Apr 20, 2019

I have taken this course twice and now I am returning for a little refresh. To its excellence, that speaks.