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CLA 53 W — Greek Mythology: Gods and Heroes in Texts and Contexts

Quarter: Summer
Course Format: Online course (System Requirements)
Duration: 7 weeks
Date(s): Jun 26—Aug 11
Drop Deadline: Jul 4
Unit: 1
Tuition: $370
Instructor(s): Donna Zuckerberg
Limit: 40
Jun 26—Aug 11
7 weeks
Drop By
Jul 4
1 Unit
Donna Zuckerberg

What is Greek mythology? The answer to this question may seem obvious: It is the stories the ancient Greeks came up with to describe and explain their world. Sometimes these stories have a religious purpose, helping humans understand their relationship to the gods; sometimes they have a political purpose, narrating the origins of a city; sometimes they just tell a compelling tale to entertain an audience. These myths can be found in the art and literature of the Western world up to the present day.

In this course, we will study this unruly mass of stories and analyze what they can tell us about the cultural and historical contexts in which they were created and flourished. We will focus on the stories of how the Olympian gods came to power; the battles that Heracles, Perseus, and Theseus fought against legendary monsters; and the struggles of Achilles, Odysseus, and other heroes of the Trojan War. We will also attempt to understand why Greek mythology has inspired so many creative tellings and retellings throughout the past two millennia.


  • Course sizes are limited.
    You won't have 5,000 classmates. This course's enrollment is capped at 40 participants.

  • Frequent interaction with the instructor.
    You aren't expected to work through the material alone. Instructors will answer questions and interact with students on the discussion board and through weekly video meetings.

  • Study with a vibrant peer group.
    Stanford Continuing Studies courses attract thoughtful and engaged students who take courses for the love of learning. Students in each course will exchange ideas with one another through easy-to-use message boards as well as optional weekly real-time video conferences.

  • Direct feedback from the instructor.
    Instructors will review and offer feedback on assignment submissions. Students are not required to turn in assignments, but for those who do, their work is graded by the instructor.

  • Courses offer the flexibility to participate on your own schedule.
    Course work is completed on a weekly basis when you have the time. You can log in and participate in the class whenever it's convenient for you. If you can’t attend the weekly video meetings, the sessions are always recorded for you and your instructor is just an email away.

  • This course is offered through Stanford Continuing Studies.
    To learn more about the program, visit our About Us page. For more information on the online format, please visit the FAQ page.

This is an online course. While necessarily structured differently from an on-campus classroom course, this course maintains a similar level of instructor engagement through videos, interactive exercises, and discussion with fellow students, as well as optional online videoconferencing sessions.

Donna Zuckerberg, Instructor, The Paideia Institute

Donna Zuckerberg received a PhD in Classics from Princeton, where she taught courses on Greek literature, Homer’s Iliad, and classical mythology. She is editor-in-chief of the online Classics journal Eidolon, and she specializes in promoting the study and appreciation of the classical humanities.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Stephen Trzaskoma, R. Scott Smith, and Stephen Brunet, Anthology Of Classical Myth: Primary Sources in Translation (ISBN 0872207218)
(Required) Homer; Stanley Lombardo, The Essential Homer (ISBN 0872205401)
(Required) Roberto Calasso, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (ISBN 0679733485)
(Required) Helen Morales, Classical Mythology: A Very Short Introduction (ISBN 0192804766)
(Recommended) Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Mary Lefkowitz, James Romm, The Greek Plays: Sixteen Plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides (ISBN 0812993004)
(Recommended) Sophocles, Aeschylus, Bryan Doerries, All That You've Seen Here Is God: New Versions of Four Greek Tragedies Sophocles' Ajax, Philoctetes, Women of Trachis; Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound (ISBN 0307949737)