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259 Elizabeth Vandiver: Great courses: Classical Mythology

Explore the world of ancient Greek and Roman mythology, and how it continues to influence modern culture.

Elizabeth Vandiver: Great courses: Classical Mythology


This Great Courses series delves into the myths and legends of ancient Greece and Rome, exploring their origins, meanings, and impact on modern society. Professor Vandiver provides fascinating insights into the ancient world and how it continues to shape our language, art, literature, and popular culture.


Title: Classical Mythology

Author: Elizabeth Vandiver

Publishing year: 2013

Publisher: The Great Courses

Length in hours: 12 hours and 25 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. Mythology as a reflection of ancient cultures and their beliefs
  2. The heroes and gods of Greek and Roman mythology and their stories
  3. The significance of myths in art, literature, and philosophy
  4. The influence of mythology on modern culture and society
  5. The enduring relevance of ancient myths in understanding human nature and the human experience
Elizabeth Vandiver: Great courses: Classical Mythology

5 funny quotes

  • "In ancient Greece, people didn't speak of their horoscope, but of their haplotypes."
  • "A recurring theme in Greek myths is that you should really think twice before accepting a gift from a god."
  • "All heroes have to start somewhere, and in Greek myth, that place is usually a stable, a cave, or a broom closet."
  • "Greek gods are like cats: they do what they want, when they want, and it's up to you to deal with the consequences."
  • "If you're going to have a hundred-headed monster guarding your treasure, you might as well make it a hydra, because then you don't have to keep track of all the heads."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  • "Myths are not true, but they are not false either"
  • "A myth is a story about something that never happened, but always is."
  • "Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth–penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words."
  • "The ancient Greeks were not just inventing stories, they were creating archetypes that would endure and resonate for centuries."
  • "The myths show us not how the world is, but how people imagined it to be."

5 dilemmas

  • The conflict between Apollo and Cassandra, where Apollo gives Cassandra the gift of prophecy but curses her so that no one will believe her predictions.
  • The dilemma faced by King Midas, who is granted his wish of turning everything he touches into gold, but soon realizes the downside of his newfound wealth.
  • The choice of Paris, who is asked to judge which of the three goddesses Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera is the most beautiful, and ultimately chooses Aphrodite, which leads to the Trojan War.
  • The dilemma faced by Odysseus, who must choose between staying with the beautiful sorceress Circe or continuing on his journey home to his wife Penelope.
  • The conflict between Oedipus and the Sphinx, who poses the riddle "What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?" and threatens to destroy Thebes if no one can solve it.

5 examples

  • The Trojan War, which is the subject of the epic poem "The Iliad" by Homer.
  • The twelve labors of Heracles, which involve feats such as killing the Nemean lion and capturing the Erymanthian boar.
  • The story of King Midas, who is granted the ability to turn anything he touches into gold.
  • The myth of Persephone and Hades, which explains the changing of the seasons.
  • The story of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun with wings made of wax and feathers.

Referenced books

  1. "Metamorphoses" by Ovid
  2. "The Iliad" by Homer
  3. "The Odyssey" by Homer
  4. "Theogony" by Hesiod
  5. "The Library of Greek Mythology" by Apollodorus

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"A recurring theme in Greek myths is that you should really think twice before accepting a gift from a god."

Elizabeth Vandiver: Great courses: Classical Mythology
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