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The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours (Hours 6-11): Signs of the Hero in Epic and Iconography

Focusing on the interaction of Homeric epic and the visual arts, this is the second of five modules on the Ancient Greek Hero as portrayed in classical literature, song, performance, art, and cult.

Cost: Free

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About this Course HUM 2.2x. The second of five modules in The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours, “Hours 6-11: Signs of the Hero in Epic and Iconography” explores the interactions of text and image in a culture where the “text” is not a written document but a live performance and where the “image” is not based on anything that is written down but exists as a free-standing medium of the visual arts, expressing the same myths that are being systematically expressed by the medium of Homeric poetry. Almost all of the images we will be studying are samples of a form of vase painting known as the “Black Figure” technique. We will practice how to “read” such a medium, analyzing what it tells us about ancient Greek heroes like Achilles, in conjunction with our “reading” the performance tradition of the Homeric Iliad itself. It is important to keep in mind, as we read these images and texts together, that the myths expressed by these media were meant to be taken very seriously. In the ancient Greek song culture, myth was not mere fiction. Just the opposite: myth was a formulation of eternal cosmic truths! So, the myths conveyed by the images of the paintings we will study are just as “truthful,” from the standpoint of ancient Greek song culture, as are the related myths conveyed by the Homeric Iliad. We need to read both the texts and the images of these myths as an accurate formulation of an integral system of thought the expresses most clearly and authoritatively all those things that really matter in life. Additionally, this module foregrounds the historical fact, explored more fully in the third module (“Hours 12-15: The Cult of Heroes”), that the heroes who were characters in the myths of ancient Greek epic, lyric, and other verbal media were at the same time worshipped as superhuman forces by the communities where their bodies were thought to be hidden from outsiders. When we take for example the Homeric Odyssey, we find that the main hero of this epic, Odysseus, was a cult hero, not only an epic hero. And the agenda that center on the idea of a cult hero, like the prospect of immortalization after death, can be clearly seen in the overall plot of the Odyssey, especially in the memorable scene where the hero experiences his homecoming to Ithaca at the same moment when the sun rises as he wakes from a mystical overnight sleep while sailing homeward. See other courses in this series: Module 1, “Hours 1-5: Epic and Lyric” Module 3, “Hours 12-15: Cult of Heroes” Module 4, “Hours 16-21: The Hero in Tragedy” Module 5, “Hours 22-24: Plato and Beyond” HarvardX pursues the science of learning. By registering as an online learner in an HX course, you will also participate in research about learning. Read our research statement to learn more. WAYS TO TAKE THIS EDX COURSE FOR FREE: Audit this Course Audit this course for free and have complete access to all the course material, activities, tests, and forums. If your work is satisfactory and you abide by the Honor Code, you'll receive a personalized Honor Code Certificate to showcase your achievement. WAYS TO TAKE THIS COURSE FOR A FEE: Earn Harvard Credit Optionally, you can enroll in the traditional, semester-long course at Harvard Extension School. Courses are offered in fall or spring semesters, or both. You have the option to enroll for undergraduate or graduate credit and will receive grades on a Harvard transcript. Learn more about the course on the Harvard Extension School website.

Details

  • Days of the Week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
  • Level of Difficulty: Beginner
  • Size: Massive Open Online Course
  • Instructors: Natasha Bershadsky, Jeff Emanuel, Claudia Filos, Kevin McGrath, Leonard Muellner, Gregory Nagy
  • Cost: Free
  • Institution: EdX

Provider Overview

About EdX: EdX offers interactive online classes and MOOCs from the world’s best universities. Topics include biology, business, chemistry, computer science, economics, finance, electronics, engineering, food and nutrition, history, humanities, law, literature, math, medicine, music, philosophy, physics, science, statistics and more. EdX is a non-profit online initiative created by founding partners Harvard and MIT.

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