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1. The Nature of the Myth
The ancient Greeks themselves were greatly puzzled about the nature of their myths. So, we will start with a short review of ancient Greek and modern theories about what a myth is. We will continue with a detailed analysis of three myths as examples of these theories: the Minotaur and the Labyrinth, the role of Hermes in the Orpheus and Eurydice story, and the birth of Aphrodite.
2. The Birth of the Olympians
This lecture traces the rise of the Olympian deities and their struggles against the Titans and Giants. The origins of most of the Olympians are outlined in detail.
3. Athena, Poseidon and Zeus
The odd manner in which Athena and Poseidon were worshipped and depicted in classical Greece is only explicable by their strange origins in the Bronze Age. This lecture examines the origins and evolution of Athena and Poseidon and explores the manner in which Zeus became the supreme god of the Greeks.
4. Dionysos: Ecstasy and Enthusiasm
To identify Dionysos as simply “the god of wine” is to miss the tremendous impact the primordial cult of the god had on Greek religion. Far from bringing only the gift of wine to mankind, Dionysos promised salvation, a blessed afterlife. And this revolutionary idea came to influence other cults in ancient Greece, like the Eleusinian Mysteries.
5. The First Heroic Age
In the generation before the Trojan War, the first age of Greece’s heroes roamed the earth performing great deeds - men like Herakles, Theseus, Bellerophon, Perseus, and Meleager (and women like Atalanta). While their exploits were all inspiring, their ends were unenviable. Although Herakles was welcomed on Olympus, Theseus died in obscurity, Bellerophon ended as a lame beggar, and Meleager was killed by the hand of his mother.
6. The Second Heroic Age
With the abduction of Helen from Sparta, the Greeks (Agamemnon, Menelaos, Odysseus, Ajax, Diomedes and Achilles) battled the Trojans and their allies (Hector, Paris, Priam, Penthesileia, and Memnon) for ten years before the walls of Troy. A great epic cycle grew up around this decade of war; only Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey survive of this cycle.
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