BA Latin and Spanish / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Ancient Greek Mythology

Unit code CLAH30221
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Classics & Ancient History
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Mythology was integral to the history, philosophy, religion and art of the ancient Greek world. In this unit we will focus on the way mythology was represented in literature, as a response to individual and social change, a way to understand the natural world, and way of exploring fundamental issues of mortality and morality.


Pre-requisite units: None for non-linguist version (where the texts are read in English translation). For the linguist version, (at least) CLAH30120 Advanced Greek 1 or equivalent (higher is fine).

Anti-requisite: This course cannot be combined with the Level 2 version of this course-unit.

Co-requisite units: None for the non-linguist version. For the linguist version: (at least) CLAH 30220 Advanced Greek 2 or equivalent (higher is fine). Student must be at Level 3..


This unit is designed to equip students with a range of techniques for the analysis of mythology as represented in Greek literature, as well as an ability to contextualize and compare material across different time periods, genres and cultures.  


Attention will be given to a range of literary genres and time periods, from the archaic to the Hellenistic. Topics will include the political manipulation of myth in the formation of ethnic identity, the interaction of ritual and storytelling, and relationship between ‘mythological and ‘scientific’ explanations for volcanic eruptions. By comparing various sources, including the fragmentary evidence found on papyri, we will reconstruct the development of particular stories, analyse the use of particular motifs in particular societies, and consider the nature of Greek myth in comparison to other world mythologies. The final section of the course will consider modern approaches to myth, including the ideas of Freud, Marx and recent feminist theorists, such as Kristeva and Cixous.  The reception of mythology in the modern world will also be considered as a source of both inspiration and authority for modern creative writing.

Teaching and learning methods

Plenary lectures will introduce key themes with examples, and provide a framework to guide students’ engagement with primary and secondary reading. Tutorials will provide opportunities for detailed study of particular texts and allow students to develop their own arguments in oral and written form.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate a good understanding of the issues we confront when dealing with texts in translation
  • Use appropriate terminology when discussing mythological and literary devices
  • At Level 3, students will also be expected to assimilate material from another set text, selections from Greek lyric poetry, and discuss a range of issues arising from the use of fragmentary texts.

Intellectual skills

  • Analyse a literary text with a range of theoretical approaches
  • Synthesize material from different sources to produce diachronic and synchronic analyses

Practical skills

  • Access relevant primary and secondary materials, e.g. in databases, catalogues of papyri.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Transferable skills and personal qualities include the ability to construct an argument in written and oral form
  • To pose questions about complex issues, to assimilate and summarise large quantities of evidence
  • To locate and retrieve relevant information from primary sources
  • To conduct bibliographic searches
  • To present the results in a professional manner with appropriate reference to sources and modern published scholarship
  • To use e-resources and gain knowledge of research methods and resources
  • To manage time and resources, and to engage in critical discussion.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 100%

Feedback methods

  • Written feedback on formative and summative assessment (see above)
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading

Preliminary reading should include:

Set Texts Level 2:

1. Selections from M. Morford, R. Lenardon, M. Sham (edd.) Classical Mythology: International Edition.

 (OUP, USA 2011 edition, ISBN: 978-0199768981).


Linguists will read a selection of texts in the original Greek. Passages at Level 2 will be provided from Euripides’ Herakles, Aristophanes’ Birds and Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, Book 4.


Indicative background Reading

Primary: Apollodorus, The Library of Greek Mythology.


E. Csapo, Theories of Mythology (Oxford 2005).

T. Gantz, Early Greek Myth (Princeton 1992).

¿E. Griffiths, Medea  (London 2006).

V. Zajko, M. Leonard (edd.) Laughing with Medusa (Oxford 2008).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 3
Lectures 22
Tutorials 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 164

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Emma Griffiths Unit coordinator

Return to course details