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

4.8
853 ratings
221 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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201 - 217 of 217 Reviews for Greek and Roman Mythology

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.

By Clotilde D

Jun 03, 2018

Great class, thanks a lot for all your work and explanations !

By LapYin F

Jun 27, 2017

i think the course material is well organized and the professor did a great job to make it interesting

By Jiayang T

Feb 02, 2018

The videos are interesting, but they are rather long each one comparing to other courses. Maybe the teacher can separate those long videos into short ones.

By gowtham K

Apr 19, 2018

good course..

By Sierra N

May 26, 2018

Great course.

By Stennis W

Nov 14, 2016

Interesting and inspiring. Good for people doing writing or literature related work. Also fun for leisure reading.

By Sindhura

Aug 11, 2016

This course is a wonderful introduction to greek and roman mythology. I was always interested in knowing more about it, but didn't know where to start. The suggested reads in the course are a good starting point. I learnt a lot and got lots of pointers to read more. And most of the course was really fun.

One suggestion I have though is to reduce the number of lectures, and make the content a bit more succinct.

By Phillip M

May 28, 2017

Excellent course, lots of information, but some of the slides could be better organized. I could not always see them behind Dr. Struck.

By Sebastian H

Jun 05, 2016

Quite interesting course, learned a lot about the motivations of the Greek and Roman poets, and their relations to myths. For example, before this course I did not realize that myths tells us a lot about the beliefs are values of the Greeks and Romans. Thanks for the opportunity to follow this course!

By Birgit G

Jul 12, 2016

A very enjoyable mixture of deep understanding and entertainment!

By Jefferson C

Jul 01, 2018

Enjoyed reading the material and most of the lectures. Particularly the Odyssey and Oresteia - good introductions to these works.

By Ivelina M

Mar 17, 2016

It requires some more time then other courses on the website. And it sometimes it's hard to follow the teacher on all videos (they are longish). But I like the subject a lot and it is nice to have it explained by someone who has a deep understanding of it.

If you think the videos are too long, try increasing the playback speed. It worked for me!

By Christopher N

May 27, 2016

The course was absolutely fantastic. I apologize for giving it 4 stars; I feel that, to get that high a score, the course would need to have been constructing critical arguments rather than just observing those of others. HOWEVER, I definitely improved the basis of my knowledge of mythology, which was my goal. Professor Struck's presentation of the information was wonderful; he communicated a palpable enthusiasm in his subject, and had this wonderful habit of hilarious understatement: "The most powerful piece of this episode is that Odysseus's men get turned into pigs. Now that's...terrible." I consistently laughed at these understated descriptions, and appreciated the contextual explanations that Professor Struck gave. I would definitely take additional in-depth courses by Struck if they were to be offered in the future!

By Davy v d Z

May 12, 2019

A very good introduction in mythology with a teacher that shows great enthusiasm!

By Zlatica S H

Jul 28, 2019

Good course.

By Arthur H

Mar 20, 2019

Very informative.