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The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours (Hours 1-5): Epic and Lyric

Focusing on Greek Epic (Homer’s Iliad) and Lyric (Sappho’s poems), this is the first of five modules on the Ancient Greek Hero as portrayed in classical literature, song, performance, and cult.

Cost: Free


The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours (Hours 1-5): Epic and Lyric's Full Profile



About this Course HUM 2.1x. The first of five modules on The Ancient Greek Hero, “Epic and Lyric” looks at ancient Greek heroes from the perspective of two different but related media of poetry and songmaking, epic and lyric. The major focus is Achilles, especially as viewed through the lens of the Homeric Iliad and through the “rose-colored glasses” of Sappho’s songs. While the epic of the Iliad is typical of verbal art that is performed by and for men, the lyric songs of Sappho derive from traditions of singing performed mainly by women of all ages, including adolescents about to be initiated into womanhood. These “women’s traditions” are best known for two kinds of singing, laments and love songs, which are interchangeable in contexts that will surprise the modern mind. Another surprise, as we will see, is that the Iliad too contains embedded “quotations” of such laments and love songs, and that our first impression of this epic as a “men’s tradition” obscures the fact that Homeric poetry channels the songs of women as well as men. A perfect expression of such “channeling” is the figure of Achilles himself, who was admired by Greek song culture as a virtuoso singer of laments and love songs in his own right. An analysis of Homeric passages that “quote” the singing of Achilles will be an integral part of our overall experience in close reading. See other courses in this series: Module 2, “Hours 6-11: Signs of the Hero in Epic and Iconography” 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.


  • 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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