What is Greek mythology? The answer to this question may seem obvious: It is the stories the ancient Greeks came up with to describe and explain their world. Sometimes these stories have a religious purpose, helping humans understand their relationship to the gods; sometimes they have a political purpose, narrating the origins of a city; sometimes they just tell a compelling tale to entertain an audience. These myths can be found in the art and literature of the Western world up to the present day.
In this course, we will study this unruly mass of stories and analyze what they can tell us about the cultural and historical contexts in which they were created and flourished. We will focus on the stories of how the Olympian gods came to power; the battles that Heracles, Perseus, and Theseus fought against legendary monsters; and the struggles of Achilles, Odysseus, and other heroes of the Trojan War. We will also attempt to understand why Greek mythology has inspired so many creative tellings and retellings throughout the past two millennia.
Donna Zuckerberg received a PhD in classics from Princeton, where she taught courses on Greek literature, Homer’s Iliad, and classical mythology. She is editor-inchief of the online classics journal Eidolon, and she specializes in promoting the study and appreciation of the classical humanities.
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