Centre for Continuing Education

Greek Myth Course: Gods and Heroes

History. See the future. It’s in the past.

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses both online and in-person. Please check the delivery format for each class before you enrol.

Please note that course materials for all classes (excluding prescribed textbooks) are shared electronically within 48 hours of a course starting. Printing is not available.


The ancient Greeks used a wide range of stories to examine the nature of the world and the human condition. In this course, we explore some of the most important myths of the ancient Greeks including: the creation of the world, the labours of Herakles, the quests of Perseus and Theseus, and the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts. The vivid imagination of the Greeks has left us a rich artistic heritage and we explore how the ancient Greeks used paintings and sculpture to represent these tales.

Aims

The aim of this course to leave you with a rich understanding of the literary and art-historical evidence for Greek myth, in order to identify how this heritage united the Greek speaking peoples and formed the basis of their cultural outlook.

Outcomes

By the end of the course, you should be able to:

  • identify major gods and heroes on the basis of their traits
  • summarise the universal attributes of a ‘hero’ in Greek myth and compare them with heroes found in diverse cultures
  • identify the cultural and historical roots of Greek myths.

Content

1. Cosmogony

We explore the Greek myths regarding the creation of the world, as proposed by the author Hesiod in his work Theogony. This epic poem deals the rule of Ouranos and Chronos, the battle of the Titans and Gods, and how Zeus came to rule the world.

2. The Gods of Olympus

The 12 gods of Olympus are examined with emphasis on their representation in ancient art. Zeus and Hera rule over the world, while Poseidon rules the sea and Hades the underworld. Demeter and her daughter Persephone are the goddesses of agriculture and the seasons. Athena is the goddess of considered warfare, while Ares is bloodlust. Hephaistos is the god of creativity while Apollo is the embodiment of human arts.

3. Perseus and Theseus

The great heroes of Greek mythology, often the children of the gods, set out on a challenge and overcome various hardships to win great fame. Perseus defeated the gorgon Medusa and used her head to turn his enemies into stone. Theseus defeated the Minotaur and returned as King of Athens.

4. Herakles and the 12 labours

Herakles was one of the most important figures in Greek mythology and was often represented in ancient Greek art. A tormented and flawed character, Herakles must make amends for his violent acts by undertaking 12 difficult labours. Reconciled with the gods, Herakles becomes an immortal on Olympus.

5. Jason and the Argonauts

The hero Jason sets out on a quest to acquire the famous golden fleece of Colchis. He meets the witch Medea who uses her powers to aid his quest. This lecture examines some of the common elements that define the ‘hero’ in literature.

Intended audience

Members of the general public who have an interest in history, archaeology and ancient literature.

Prerequisites

None.

Delivery style

Five face-to-face lectures delivered over one-day, illustrated with artefacts, maps, plans and photographs of the sites. The lecturer will provide a handout with maps, plans and family trees.

Materials

Handouts are provided in class. Please bring a pen and paper.

Features

  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

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