This free course would be great for high school students or middle school students.
This short course introduces you to the study of myths handed down from ancient Greece and Rome. In this short course, you'll work individually, proceeding at your own pace.
The course consists of five online, text-based lessons. Each lesson includes a self-graded quiz to help you gauge your understanding of the material.
When you have completed this course, you will be able to
- identify the most important Greek deities and their primary areas of influence;
- identify the primary ancient literary sources for Greek mythology;
- explain the basic approaches to interpreting myths;
- identify the components of a Greek hero’s life; and
- relate the knowledge you have obtained throughout this course to your own experience, including an ability to recognize mythic elements and references in the art, literature, and music you encounter.
Of the many cultural artifacts we have received from the ancient Greeks, it may be argued that it is their rich and complex mythology—as conveyed via poems, dramas, paintings, and statues—that has exercised the greatest influence on modern Western culture. The extent of this influence—from Renaissance art to nineteenth-century psychoanalysis; from classical composers to modern filmmakers—results in part from the vibrancy of the ancient literary and artistic tradition that has transmitted the mythology to us and in part, frankly, from the captivating and universal nature of the myths themselves. Even a basic familiarity with Greek mythology, therefore, significantly enriches one’s appreciation of art, of literature, of music, and of film, while the myths themselves—if read carefully—provide fascinating insights into both the individual psyche and the societal concerns of the time. Finally, of course, the myths are in and of themselves exceptionally entertaining (if often not quite suitable for children!).
The Greek myths—and indeed all myths—are also fascinating because they may speak to our own dilemmas, impulses, anxieties, and fears (How do I return to normalcy after war? What if I become too much like my enemy? What if I have lost my identity? Can I trust foreigners?). In this sense, then, they may be viewed to represent archetypes of human behavior (the “hero” archetype, for example), or perhaps even universal truths about human action, fate, and responsibility (human responsibility remains even if an event appears to have been inevitable). The hero archetype, for example, speaks not of an average person who has striven to “do good things” (the modern concept of the term), but rather of an individual—usually semi-divine—who is fated to do what he (always he!) must, and is inevitably faced with those who would destroy him (Superman is an excellent example of this archetype—so are Moses and Jesus). As you read the Greek myths, then, think about the various themes and archetypes as they appear in the story and the ways in which they may be reflected in modern works of literature or cinema.