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

4.8
848 ratings
220 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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176 - 200 of 216 Reviews for Greek and Roman Mythology

By Victoria J

May 06, 2019

The course gives you the knowledge to analyze myths with different conceptual tools and how myths are important in any culture. The professor explanations are very clear and the reading material is very useful.

By Karen G

Apr 21, 2019

A suprising, engaging and thorough exploration of the topic. Prof. Struck is a gifted teacher and the course material is wonderful. I thought I was taking a class to further my knowledge of mythological stories and characters- but I learned so much more. This course is a wonderful adventure and left with me with new ideas and new questions about the stories we tell and how they shape how we live and who we think we are.

By leslie w

May 07, 2019

If take this class you will love it

By Laurent G

Apr 26, 2019

Outstanding course. Pr. Struck gives a thorough overview of not just the "stories" but also the tools with which they can be understood and analyzed. I've found that after this course I was equipped to read -- and understand!-- some of the scholarly research into Greek mythology (eg. Vernant or Vidal-Naquet). This is a very illuminating course.

By Ian M

Apr 15, 2019

Really liked this class. Great presentations that tied in mythology, psychology, and psychoanalysis, which is exactly what I wanted to get out of the class. Thank you.

By DIAS

May 28, 2019

Hello, It' was so exciting to learn a lot of hereos stories and concepts from greek and roman mythology, thank you so much to Coursera , the University of Pennsylvania and a special thank to the professsor Perter Struck, he was so clear and interesting.

By THEARD O

May 18, 2019

Very interesting course, fun to follow

By Terry C

May 17, 2019

This was simply a wonderful course. Professor Struck is an excellent instructor who brings a lot of insight into the subject of mythology itself, different ways that mythology is interpreted, and Greek and Roman mythology itself. His humor, easy way of teaching a complex subject, and knowledge all contributed to making this one of my favorite online courses. Thank you, Professor Struck and your teaching staff at Penn for expanding my knowledge and insights of what it means to be human.

By Violeta B

Jun 03, 2019

Read a lot! Learned a lot! Love it!

By Geiber E P C

Jun 26, 2019

Very nice cours

By Aiden T

Jul 30, 2019

Interesting course.

By susan

Jul 30, 2019

Love this subject. Love the professor also. Took his course on the Odyssey and enjoyed so much. I could quote the text!!

By Renee N

Dec 13, 2018

Very comprehensive and interesting. Recommended for anyone who enjoys myth and stories.

By Gary

Jan 11, 2019

I have been interested in Greek and Roman Mythology, but was only familiar with the intriguing stories and never realized that we could actually integrate different tools of analysis into our reading. The beginning lectures were easy as they start from well-known stories. As we continue, however, we should be very careful since we have to know different poets, some of whom are not so familiar. Anyway, this is the first course I select. I finished and benefited a lot.

By Syed H A

Oct 15, 2018

I think its the best course to have an overview about Greek and Roman mythology, to know about important authors/ writers/ contributors & their famous characters around those mythic stories. Carefully designed to serve the purpose!

By Joy S

Aug 24, 2018

interesting class. I like it that the instructor tells the stories of what is going on in the myths. Sometimes old writings can be hard to understand.

By Meenu S

May 02, 2016

Very interest and thought provoking.

By morefreeze

Apr 25, 2018

I am a learner from China. Maybe it's problem of subtitle, I think some course (like 10.8 The Fall of Troy and the Founding of Rome) main point is not very clear. It seems Professor Struck talked everyone but only few information about them.

By Irina

Aug 13, 2016

The course is interesting, but Professor rhitoric skills are not good. He stumbles over his words, repeats his words, and doesn't have a structure of lessons, jumping from thought to thought. It's difficult to listen to him.

Nevertheless, I like Professor's enthusiasm and I like Greek and Roman Mythology. Professor makes me look at the myths from a different point of view. It's amazing! I hope I will finish this course, which I took for my pleasure.

By Alejandra C R

Dec 03, 2016

Excellent course. The professor is a Master in the theme. He is also very communicative and funny! The problem is that the course is like a class, and online course should include more media resources available in order to be more "interactive". I confess that I already taken the first week. So, I hope that it will change.

Thank you for letting me take this course, I am learning a lot!

By Zherui L

Mar 21, 2016

interesting; an insight,and probably good explanation of ancient stories。

By Ankita R

Mar 02, 2016

Excellent

By Ricardo R I

Jul 15, 2016

Excellent to introduce the issue.

By Jonathan G

Feb 25, 2018

Interesting course. However, I don't believe it covers everything that needed to be taught. You can easily read the Iliad and other ancient Greek books, but you don't need to be quizzed on it. It would make more sense if this course was about votive offerings and polytheistic worship. Much like a world religions course! If it covered Olympianism and its practices it would've made more sense

By Evangelia B

May 26, 2016

Nice course, just needs more video-included notes because we don't always watch the lectures online so that we can't always see the subtitles. And even if the changing questions when we retake the test are great cause they make us be more focused during the lecture, they were sometimes "too much".

Really enjoyed this course, thank you.