Greek and Roman Mythology

Texts and Resources:

Stephen Harris and Gloria Platzner, Classical Mythology, Images and Insights, Fifth Edition

Aristophanes, The Frogs (on reserve)

Grene, Euripides I, Alcestis and Hippolytus (on reserve) and on-line via moodle

Perseus on-line


Let's say Dionysos (a.k.a. Bacchus) is a pretty familiar kind of god for you--especially the wine part. Like many Greek stories (Herakles, Zeus, and all the great monsters), he seems so approachable, so understandable. When you start reading some of our stories, you find out he changes shapes, he is the master of cross-dressing, he brings down buildings, his mom gets zapped by lightening so he must be sewn in his dad's thigh, he has amazing sibling rivalry, and he punishes those who neglect the goat sacrifice. Women worship him in secret at night, if men come near, they are eliminated. Women are said to tear kids (both animal and human) apart. Men dress up in outfits that look like Viagra ads and dance, sing, and write poetry honoring him. You find him scary, harsh, unpredictable and as you realize he resonates with ancient Greeks as powerful, awe-inspiring, and vital, suddenly the familiar is alien. You realize that this is not our culture.

In this course, we will examine the myths of the Greeks and Romans, and study their origins, their meaning in their own culture ( through literature and art as well political and social history), their relationship to the East and North Africa in what is really the Greco-Asiatic world, and influence of classical mythology on a select few later cultures, including our own. We will approach our study primarily through Greek and Roman literature and art. We will start at the beginning of the Greek world and progress through time until the Roman conquest, ending with the literature of the Augustan age.

The basic text book (Harris and Platzner) contains extended quotes from several authors, and also contains useful background material for the literature assignments. The major authors that we will read are Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod, Homer, Homeric Hymns*, Plato*, Vergil, Ovid*, & Lucian*, and from the post-classical period, a few short poems of Byron, Yeats, and Auden will round out the course.

Since classical mythology is understood in artifacts in addition to literature, many class presentations will be accompanied by images of ancient art and some limited examples of post-ancient art. One of the goals of the course is to provide the tools necessary for a student to recognize myths and characters in art. This requires looking at and LEARNING the art in order to recognize which gods are being depicted (often through symbols) and to recognize changes in artistic representation that reflect changes in political and social history of Greece and Rome.

What we call Greek literature back in its own day was not read in isolated silence but was read aloud and very frequently sung and danced. It was a group activity. It was intended to be discussed and to be wondered about and even to be awarded prizes. We continue that great tradition by having discussion classes, which are labeled on the syllabus. It would be really great if we could dance and sing to the poetry as was done back in the day, but alas, not in this course.

Enjoy it--it's a great ride through time!

Requirements, carved in stone

Exams. There will be three exams during the semester (dates given in schedule below). Each exam will include objective questions (for example, provide dates for a person or event), slide identifications (specifically, the myths or characters represented and their importance), and short essays. Please note that make-up exams are the rare exception, not the rule, and are allowed at the discretion of the instructor; such matters must be arranged in advance of the regularly scheduled exam time. There is NO final exam.

Paper. The paper, 10-15 pages in length, is to be on a work of literature (ancient or post-ancient) that makes extensive use of classical myth (a work that is not otherwise assigned as one of the course readings). You can not, repeat, can not read a work we have or will read in class--that would be unfair to your fellow scholars--do not ask for an exception, as it will not be given. More detailed instructions and advice will be provided later in the semester. The paper must be written using with a word processing program. Deadlines are Friday, Sept. 24 for the paper approval (form on moodle), Wednesday, Nov. 3 for the rough draft of no fewer than four (4) pages with footnotes and Wednesday, Nov. 17 for the final draft, and are noted in the schedule below. Deadlines are firm, and penalties will be assessed for each day late (one day ends, and another begins, at 5:00 p.m.): rough draft, 5 points per day off final paper grade; final draft, 10 points per day off final paper grade. Your instructor is cold and cruel, and very strict about these matters. PAPERS MUST BE SUBMITTED IN HARD COPY ONLY. ELECTRONIC VERSIONS ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE. You may submit more than one rough draft.

Final project. Each student will prepare a final project, due on Wednesday, December 8 (8:30-11:30, time of the final exam this replaces). This class does not have a final exam, but a final project. The basic point of the project is the following: you take an ancient Greek myth and compare or contrast it to two or three examples of the same myth in post-classical times (including what happened yesterday). The shape of the project is only limited by your imagination--some of you will write an essay; some will prepare a power-point presentation, but others will take a quite different path. You can find a myth, define it briefly, find two artistic representations (painting, sculpture, music) and then present your own version inspired by all three--a painting, a piece of music, or a pot. You can write a short play (or part of one). You must include the ancient myth and two (or three) interpretations of it--and include your sources for this in a bibliography. This project should be undertaken early in the semester and should be a culmination of your efforts and not a last minute, badly prepared power-point. Your instructor has the ability to discern the difference. The final project must be approved in advance to encourage a good outcome, the approval is due on Oct. 18, form on moodle. Thinking about this project in advance always makes for a professional presentation and for a deeper level of understanding. This final project allows you complete freedom, documented in the bibliography.

Group Project. A current concern among faculty is "social justice," which is usually taught as a module within another course. In our class, we are fortunate to be able to read the first definitions of justice in Greco-Asiatic (western) literature. What your group will do is define justice as sung by the mythmakers in the Iron Age. In order to do this, reread the sections on justice in Homer (especially the Scales of Zeus) and Hesiod (especially the Ages of Humankind). Compare and contrast them and come up with a definition. Don't forget to consider how justice is defined (charter myths, etiological myths). You may also want to illustrate your submission with one or two images we've studied. You will do this in class on Friday, October 1 and one member of your group will submit your definition with quotations and illustrations by 5 pm Friday October 1, submitted on moodle.

Class participation, attendance. The final factor is class participation/attendance. The normal expectation is that students will be at every class, for one cannot participate in absentia! Participation also involves preparation of homework assignments before class. Participation will be assessed not so much on quantity as on quality. Certain classes are designated for the discussion of a literary work and students are expected to read the work before the discussion class in order to have a discussion. Students should feel free to express their own opinions on various matters related to the course and to ask questions. Students' interpretations need not necessarily be the same as those of the instructor. As long as interpretations are based upon reasoned assessments of the evidence (literary, historical, archaeological), they are as valid as the instructor's. One thought that may bear repeating here is that ancient peoples are first and foremost people who took their civic participation, religious obligations, and familial ties as seriously as other civilizations. It is important to view the ideas of these peoples with an un-biased, open mind. We are going to try to figure out together what the ancients thought of their myths. Many pieces of the mosaic are missing and so there is no certainty about the answers. What we avoid is reading the literature and interpreting it as if it is a twenty-first century work, but we try, in so far as possible, to understand it with reference to the ancient world.

This concept has been reinforced through cooperative work of SU students and faculty, which resulted in a provision of the SU Academic Rights for Students. It bears repeating here:
Faculty members should encourage free thought and expression both in the classroom and out. Students are entitled to disagree with interpretation of data or views of a faculty member and reserve judgment in matters of opinion, but this disagreement does not excuse them from learning the content of any course for which they are enrolled or from demonstrating skills and competencies required by a faculty member. Students should be evaluated solely on academic performance.

Southwestern will make reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Students should register with the Office of Academic Services, on the third floor of Cullen Building. Please be advised that I need to be advised before the accommodation is needed. In that way, I can best serve the person with a documented disability.

Summary of requirements, with percentages: (all submissions due 5 pm on date assigned except for the final project which replaces the final exam and is to be turned in during the time of the final--if you perform your final project, you will turn in the bibliography and such on Dec. 8):


Exam 1



Exam 2

Wed., October 27
(the Wednesday in the week of Oct. 25***week 10)


Exam 3

Fri., December 3



Topic approval Sept. 24 (submit on moodle by 5 pm), Rough Draft, Nov. 3 (MoodBridwell 223); final paper, Nov. 17 by 5 pm, Mood-Bridwell 223


Final Project

Approval Monday, October 18, submit on moodle; final project due Wednesday, Dec. 8, 8:30-11:30 a.m., MoodBridwell 223


Group Project

Class Participation, Attendance

Done in Class on Friday, October 1; due by 5 pm on moodle on Friday, October 1

All semester




The Daily Ritual

* Syllabus. You should check the syllabus for each class on line at least once before each class assignment. This document is a fluid work; each student responsible for changes and corrections to the syllabus.
* Web assignments. Requirements for this course do not change; they are announced on the first day of class and it is your responsibility to remember them and to meet the deadlines. Each day in class, the "webhandout" will be the starting point for discussion, the outline of the lecture, and the place from which all technical terms, names, dates, maps, and images to be learned are gathered. It is your responsibility to access the handouts on the web before class. They are also available at all times for studying for exams. Computer labs are available all the time at Southwestern.
* Homework and Reading. The average amount of thoughtful study that is required (check the handbook) for each class period is an hour and a half. More is needed for reviewing for exams and for paper writing. Do the work as it is assigned, not the week before the exam. Experience has proven that learning it as you go and discussing the work help you achieve an "A" for the course.

Grading. The grading is that set forth in faculty guidelines. The plus and minus grading system will be used for final grades. Semester % averages will translate to the following letter grades:









































How you can reach me:
Pam Haskell
Office hours, MWF at 10 am or by appointment, Mood Bridwell 223. Phone, 863-1554.

I am a diurnal animal (gets up by day, sleeps at night). If you email me, therefore, at 2 am, don't expect an answer. Most email and voice mail messages are not very thoughtful (in fact, most read like verbal vomit); I prefer the handwritten note. To my way of thinking, it is best to meet face to face no matter what the circumstance. You may always hand me a note at the end of class for a meeting time.

For mythology, many people have found it helpful to have a fourth hour where we just meet and talk about different aspects of the readings (especially the weird, the challenging, or the truly absurd). The times we meet are: noon Monday on the patio near the Cove (bring a lunch!); Tuesday at 6 pm on the porch of Mood-Bridwell. You can always come at those times as well for a very informal session. We can always review the discussion questions in your textbook--you know, some of them appear on exams! Just come to one of the hours; not both. This way we really get to know one another.


Weekly schedule


Week 1


Mon Aug 23


Look over moodle site; all relevant assignments and dates are there. Please make sure you go to "requirements, carved in stone." These pages have links to relevant stuff. You are responsible for knowing the dates (it's your grade you want to improve). This idea is self-evident, that all materials assigned for the date are to be read BEFORE CLASS. Read before class, review after class!

Wed Aug 25

Theory about myth; history; sources

HP p. 15; 22-24; pp. 38-57 following p. 57, **questions 1-3

HP is abbreviation for your textbook; ** indicates this is what will be discussed.

Fri Aug 27

Minoan Ritual

The Great Goddess

Marinatos, Minoan Religion, 8-12

HP pp. 24-31; the webhandout labled Fri. Aug. 27 is for the next week of classes--do not panic when you see it!!!

**discuss Marinatos' article, which you will read BEFORE CLASS

Virtual Pylos Tour


Mon Aug. 30

Last Day to Register Late

Mycenaean Ritual; Linear B
The Great Goddess and a Polytheistic System

Remember that the "webhandout" for this and next lecture are all on 27 Aug (that way you really get to see the time line).

HP 29-31

Wed Sept. 1

Mycenaean Ritual; Time of Troubles, Iron Age

HP 31-35; learn dates in the box

Fri. Sept 3

Hesiod; Creation Myths

Ages of Humankind

READ BEFORE CLASS: HP 61-72; 88-105 (concentrate on these bold-faced pages, the actual reading-don't worry about all the different early civilizations) and

Theogony translated by M. L. West

**Discussion, Theogony, both versions
HP 31-35; learn dates in the box


Mon. Sept. 6

Labor Day

No Class


Wed. Sept. 8

Creation Myths; Ages of Humankind

READ BEFORE CLASS HP Chapter 4, 106-143.

**Discussion, Prometheus Bound

How would YOU, reacting as someone living back in the day, possibly end the tragedy? In doing so, how would you present Zeus?

Fri. Sept 10


Conflict in the Cosmos and Society

HP pp. 367-387


Mon. Sept 15

Iliad I

Learn Images

(The Iliad to Book 20)

Wed. Sept 17

Iliad I

(The Iliad to Book 20)

***Discussion, Iliad I

Friday September 17

Iliad, part two

HP pp. 424-449

**Discussion, Iliad II



Mon. Sept. 20

Exam number 1--in classroom

Now Wed. Sept. 22

Exam number 1--this is a closed book exam with no notes of any kind allowed. There will be short identifications, short essays, and two longer essays. All will be concerned with the reading material in the textbook, the art, and the literature. Have faith in yourself--if you've studied, nothing will be obscure!! Review the discussion questions at the end of each textbook chapter.

Now Wed. Sept. 22Exam number 1

Wed. Sept. 22


Don't forget, you always read before class, HP 460- 504

**Discussion, Odyssey

Fri. Sept. 24

Odyssey, part two

HP 505-540

**Discussion, Odyssey

Paper Topic Approval by 5 pm, use moodle to submit form


Mon. Sept. 27

The Olympians

Last Day to Drop with Record of No change

HP, pp. 179-221

Learn pictures

Wed. Sept. 29

The Goddesses
Sanctuary of Demeter and Kore at Eleusis

Note that in class we use the term "Great Goddess" to refer to the goddess worshipped in Minoan culture (and probably also Mycenaean). The text uses the term "Great Goddess" to a presumed universally worshipped mother goddesses who later morphs into different aspects and who later is dominated by male gods.

HP, pp. 145-178

**Discussion, Homeric Hymn to Demeter

Fri. Oct. 1

Today I will not be in class, but you will be, finishing a very small group project. You will compare and contrast the definitions of "justice" given by Hesiod and by Homer to MAKE YOUR OWN DEFINITION OF JUSTICE AS DEFINED BY THE MYTHMAKERS OF IRON AGE GREECE.

Project submitted on moodle by 5 pm.


Mon. Oct. 6

Apollo, Sanctuary at Delphi

Reconciliation of Opposites as Apollo the civilized destroying Python the uncivilized and as Apollo the voice communicating between immortals and mortals

*** we will begin class with any leftover discussion of Homeric Hymn to Demeter
HP pp. 229-255

**Discussion, The Homeric Hymn to Apollo

Wed. Oct. 6

Hades, Lord of Many, and the House of Hades

Hermes, Messenger and Bringer of souls to the Underworld

**Discussion, Homeric Hymn to Hermes, 222-235
HP 292-310

KEEP UP WITH YOUR READING! Don't forget we have the final project topic due and the second exam; don't forget the optional ask-question-session.

Fri. Oct. 8

Orpheus and Mystery Cults, the Dherveni Krater. Is there a fourth century revolution in religious thought?

Fall Break Begins at 8 pm

HP pp. 305-310



Mon. Oct. 11
Fall Break

Fall Break

Fall Break--a great time to read!!!

Wed. Oct. 13

Dionysos I


**Discussion, Hymn to Dionysos

Fri. Oct.15

Dionysos II

HP 542-556

Myth and the Tragic Vision; pay particular attention to the dates on p. 544, fig. 14-1 and
learn the dates of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides!


Mon. Oct. 18

Dionysos III, the Bacchae

Final Project Approval by 5pm, use moodle to submit form

Discussion Questions
Alternative translation, Bacchae
**Discussion, The Bacchants

Wed. Oct. 20

Dionysos IV,

Humor and the Gods


Frogs (Internet Library, MIT)

**Discussion, the Frogs

Fri. Oct. 22

House of Cadmus I

HP pp. 646-659, pp. 665-714.
**Discussion, Sophocles, Oedipus the King
Questions to consider for discussion are on the daily webpage (the one to the left labeled Fri. Oct. 22)
It is self-evident that if you want to discuss Oedipus the King you need to read it first; please read the play in your book. Whether or not you read the introductory material in the chapter is optional; make sure you can answer the discussion questions on the webhandout and at the end of the chapter.


Mon. Oct. 25

House of Cadmus II

A Crisis in the Household over which laws are to be obeyed, gods' laws or men's laws, reflecting an ethical crisis

HP 659-751

**Discussion, Sophocles, Antigone

Wed. Oct 27

exam number 2--taken in class

exam number 2

exam number 2

Fri. Oct. 29

House of Atreus I

HP, pp. 543-607
Oresteia Notes
Seferis, Mycenae
**Discussion, Aeschylus, Agamemnon


Mon. Nov. 1

House of Atreus II

Last Day to Drop

HP 529-604

Wed. Nov. 3

Rough Draft of Paper Due due by 5 pm, take to Mood-Bridwell 223 (or bring to class)

House of Atreus III

HP 605-629
**Aeschylus, Eumenides

Fri. Nov. 5

House of Atreus IV



Mon. Nov 8

Heroines of Myth
House of Aeolus I

HP chapter 11, pp. 344-364.

Atalanta notes

Wed. Nov. 10

House of Aeolus II

HP, pp. 753-816.
**Discussion, "Medea"

Fri. Nov. 12

Heroes of Myth
House of Danaus I

Learn images, especially the Olympian representation of the labors!

Review the Propp "steps of the hero"

HP 311-343


Mon. Nov. 15

House of Danaus II


Wed. Nov. 17


FINAL DRAFT OF PAPER DUE, 5 pm, Mood-Bridwell 223. PAPERS MUST BE SUBMITTED IN HARD COPY ONLY. ELECTRONIC VERSIONS ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE. If Bibliography page is missing or is really wrong, 10 points off; if footnotes are not at the bottom of the page OR are not at the end of the paper, 10 points off; if the paper is delivered after 5 pm, 10 points off every day late (a day begins and ends at 5 pm).

Euripides, Hippolytus, multiple copies on reserve OR you can read it online!

reading, Hippolytus

Fri. Nov 19

The Aeneid, Rome's great epic

HP 875-950
(through Book 4)

**Discussion Aeneid


Mon. Nov. 22


HP, pp. 950-975

**discussion, The Aeneid

Tues. Nov 25

Thanksgiving Holiday Begins







Week 15

FINAL PROJECT DUE, 8:30-11:00 am, Wednesday, Dec. 8, MOOD-Bridwell 223--complete with bibliography.

If you have a power point presentation, you must bring it in on a disky-thing, no electronic submissions.

Mon. Nov. 29

Classes Resume

Classical Influences

We will be considering "recrystallizations"--it should help with your final projects!!

HP, 1031-1037

Wed. Dec.

Course Evaluation
Date for Final Project Performances, if any, the bibliography and attendant materials due on final project due date, Wed, Dec. 8, 8:30--11:00 am.

Review Sesssion


Fri. Dec. 3

Exam #3, emphasis on assignments after exam number two

Exam #3

Exam #3