Gods, Heroes & Monsters
The subject of Classical Greek and Roman mythology is a broad one, and this course will focus on myth as presented primarily in the medium of epic poetry. The course commences with Hesiod’s account of the birth of the Greek gods and goddesses and moves next to the most famous myth of all, the tale of the rape of Helen and the fall of Troy. Particular emphasis will be placed on the possible historical reality of the Trojan myth and on Homer’s depictions of the gods and heroes who participated in this saga. From Homer’s warrior hero Achilles and the wanderings of Odysseus, we will proceed to the strange Hellenistic Greek tale of Jason, the witch Medea, and the quest for the golden fleece. The remainder of the course will be dedicated to Roman myths and adaptations of Greek material. On the syllabus is Virgil’s Aeneid, the story of the Trojan Aeneas and his wanderings to Italy, where he will become the founder of the Roman race. Here emphasis will be placed on the new politicizing of myth and the manipulation of myth for propagandistic purposes. Next the bold and sacrilegious Metamorphoses of Ovid will be studied; here the familiar Homeric gods become something quite undeserving of respect and worship. The course will close with what is perhaps the strangest of all tales, the story of the “hero” Lucius who becomes, quite literally, an ass and a devotee of the seductive Egyptian goddess Isis.