Gods and Heroes in Movies, Cities, and Ancient Spaces

Gods and Heroes in Movies, Cities, and Ancient Spaces


Gods and heroes in movies, cities, and ancient spaces

Classics 102 Spring 2016

Dr. Sandra Blakely, 221 F Candler LibraryTeaching Assistants: TBA

Office hours: MW 1-2 or by appointment

Gods, Monsters, and Heroes

The ancient world was full of gods, monsters, and heroes whose stories were models for emperors, objects of painting, material for playwrites and embodiments of cultural identity. In the modern world they have served as perennial topics for films and popular media, from Harryhausen’s Argonauts (1963) to Clash of the Titans(2010).Myths are powerful things for the mortals who tell them, and help create social solutions to real-world problems.In this course we will explore the stories themselves, the ancient materials which help us recover these tales, and the contexts – cultural, geographic, and historical - in which they are told, both ancient and modern.We will gain an understandingof myth ‘on the ground’ - more than literature, more than art, deeply practical and fundamentally human.


At the conclusion of this course, you will:

-be able to tell the stories of individual gods and heroes

-identify the different ancient sources – poets, painters, sculptors and historians - from which we build them

-understand the world in which they functioned – from Greek colonies to Hellenistic sailors to the Roman gladiatorial games

-explain how myths change when told in different contexts, historic, geographic, literary and visual

-contrast the use of myth in its different historical contexts, from Greek sailors to Roman gladiators and contemporary film

Grading:Your grades will be based on a combination of quizzes, exams, writing assignments and a final essay

Quizzes:3% each5 15%

Writing assignments:5% each 525%

-Carlos museum: iconography (1)

-Movie response and analysis (1)

-Text response: (3 total)

Midterms 15% each345%

Final essay – The Argonautica, ancient and modern15%


Making the world in the 14th, 8th and 1st centuries BC

In the first two weeks of the course, we will read and compare the accounts of the genesis of the world in texts from the Hittite and Hurrian tradition of Anatolia in the 14th century, Hesiod in 8th century Greece, and Ovid in first century Rome. The context for each will be established through (1) reading of ancient texts (2) positioning these texts on the map of the ancient world (3) function and iconography in context – temples, palaces, amulets, and toponyms (4) brief historical outline of these contexts

Writing assignment: compare and contrast TWO of these traditions, using ancient materials closely and analytically. At least one text and one image are required for each tradition.

Time:1.5 weeks

Meeting the Olympians:

In this unit we will meet the key figures of Greek mythology in a range of textual and visual forms. Zeus, Hera, Hephaistos, Ares, Poseidon, Athena, Aphrodite, Artemis, Apollo, Hermes, Pan, and Dionysos are included. Emphases for the gods in ancient context include Olympic games, sponsorship of crafts, function in colonization, appearance in love magic, protection of travelers, and the creation of the theatrical tradition.

Quizzes: will emphasize (1) the command of the ancient textual and iconographic traditions (2) maps of the chief cult sites of the gods for this unit.

Writing assignment:(1) Carlos Museum, iconographic analysis (2) textual analysis: Who Is Apollo? Pindar, Herodotus, and inscriptions about the god Apollo

Time:6 weeks

Heroes and monsters: moving around the Mediterranean

Perseus: analysis of Perseus will be based on ancient literary sources (Ovid, Apollodoros, ancient geographers), iconography, scholarly models for the myth, and the 2010 film version of the myth. Perseus traveled around the entire Mediterranean world, and students will meet the different locations which were linked into the Greek and Roman cultural imagination through this figure. The film will be the final element in this unit; one class lecture will be devoted to critical and scholarly analysis of the film, the questions raised, and its conditions of production.

Writing assignment: Perseus on film: context and meaning

Time: 1.5 weeks

Hercules: analysis of the myth of Hercules will pay particular attention to his presence in Rome, and his different articulations as a model for emperors on the one hand, gladiators on the other. We will read Greek, Roman, philosophical, and early Christian sources, visit online 4 chief cult centers which (a) celebrated his descents to the underworld (b) counted him as their founder (c ) included him in their coins and festivals as a mechanism of connection with other ancient cities.

Writing assignment: Hercules in different cities, different functions: students must compare and contrast the uses of the hero in (1) two different geographic locations (2) two different cultural functions

Time: 2.5 weeks

Jason and the Argonauts: in this unit the students will read ancient texts of the Argonautica from Greek, Roman and late antique sources, and be introduced to the iconographic tradition from the 5th century BC into the Roman period. Exploration of the geographic and historical realities of the various routes will be enabled through digital resources of Pleiades and the Samothracian network. The uses of the Argonauts for the divine authorization of political connections, and toponymns and sites which enabled ancient sailing, will form part of our course lectures for this unit. The significance of Jason for modern audiences of the late 20th century will be examined through Harryhausen’s 1963 film, Jason and the Argonauts.

Writing assignment: The final essay for the course, due on the last day of class, is a 5-page paper exploring the uses of the Argonauts in both ancient and modern contexts. Students are to draw on a combination of materials from the ancient world, and specify their geographic and historical locations; 2-3 discrete points of comparison with his modern presentation are required.

Time: 2.5 weeks