Classical Mythology Images and Insight, Third Edition

Following is an outline of the chapter along with the main learning objectives.  To help coordinate your studies, this outline and the learning objectives are organized to match your textbook.  This organization is also utilized in the chapter review section.

Part 1: Key themes

    1. You should be able to discuss the ancient Greek Heroes in terms of common or key elements, both over the span of time (during the ancient and classic Greek eras) and trans-culturally (comparing to common elements in myths from Mesopotamia, Egypt, etc.).
    2. You should be able to discuss the essential elements of the mythic hero in terms of their significance within their contextual culture.
    3. You should be able to discuss the epic narrative form in terms of the Hero, especially the significance of the Hero's quest/journey -- often giving the narrative a distinctive cyclic or circular form; in terms of epitaphs or set conventions in phrasing; the serious and awesome nature of the subject; the symbolism, metaphor and alliterative devices -- influences from the oral story-telling traditions of myths.
    4. You should be able to discuss the implications of the tension underlying the character of the Hero in terms of his god-like qualities versus his human mortality; his function within his contextual community as savior and threat; his need for glory vs. his need of human relationships (including admiration, rewards, to spread or even be aware of his fame).

Part 2: Heroic Pattern

    1. You should be aware of the cultural implications of the essential elements in the Heroic pattern as expressing values and concerns of the ancient Greeks.
    2. You should be able to discuss the Heroic pattern in terms of his extraordinary birth (usually divine parentage) which serves to connect him with divine or god-like qualities; which sometimes forms the basis of his quest to achieve immortality; which forms part of the basis for his quest for fame -- especially in terms of special gifts such as extraordinary strength; in terms of involving the Gods and Goddesses in human affairs on his behalf (or, as is often in the case of Hera's interventions -- against him); the gulf it creates between him and ordinary human concerns.
    3. You should be able to discuss the Heroic pattern as it relates to the ideals of his culture in terms of role models (masculine, patriarchal, spiritual/ethical), physical form and attributes, overall role within the culture as a rescuer, doer of impossible deeds -- sometimes as a savior and sometimes as a threat.
    4. You should be able to discuss the Heroic pattern in terms of his quest -- whether for immortality, riches, etc -- using cultural concepts of worthiness of goal, obstacles encountered (such as dragons and Gorgons), and as a metaphor for self-discovery or social concerns (such as the shift from beliefs centered on the Great Goddess to patriarchal belief systems such as the ancient Greeks mythology).
    5. You should be able to discuss the elements of the Heroic pattern in terms of symbolism, such as the concepts of dragons and monsters as representative of the concerns of the subconscious, or of the journey to the underworld as representative of the need to confront death or the need to return to the womb or returning to a lower level of existence -- instinct or the anima/animus.

Part 3: The Hero as Redeemer

    1. You should be able to discuss the role of the Hero in terms of humanity's quest for civilization and their own god-like potential, with the Hero protecting what has been gained from incursions of barbarians and savagery.
    2. You should be able to able to discuss the Hero's role as Redeemer in terms of the mythic "fall" from paradise in terms of the myths of the Gods Zeus and Prometheus, in conflict, and the social and psychological implications of the myths themselves -- Prometheus' trick, giving the God Zeus the poorer section of sacrifice and humans the best; stealing fire -- the spark of civilization -- for humans; punishing mankind with the lovely evil of woman; and Hesiod's rendering as mankind in a down-ward evolution symbolized by metals of decreasing worth.
    3. You should be able to discuss the Hero's relentless pursuit of immortality and fame by means of impossible tests and quests, which the Hero must attempt as part of his essentially dual nature of 1/2 divine, 1/2 human, mortal vs. god-like in potential, nature vs. culture (especially in terms of physical attributes -- strong enough to defend civilization or to smash everything in excessive aggression).

Part 4. The Isolation of the Hero

    1. You should be able to discuss the Hero in terms of isolation, as neither fully divine nor fully human, unique but accepted fully by neither culture -- and the concept of the Hero that craves the attention of the divine along with immortality as well as human contact along with their admiration and means of attaining fame.
    2. You should be able to discuss the Hero in terms of his gender role, especially the implications of his relationships with women as concerns of ancient Greek culture: the patriarchal structure; love, romance and sex; and social/domestic concerns such as peaceful, progressive civilization vs. savagery, violence and aggression.
    3. You should be able to discuss the corollary roles of women as portrayed in the Heroic myth in terms of gender roles, as narrative devices such as motivators or obstacles, distractions, temptresses and threats, priestesses and prizes of war, objects of love and desire, which also reflect social and cultural roles/status.
    4. You should be able to discuss the related concepts of women and civilization in terms of the Hero -- the Hero's need to reject, tame or kill women, else they tame, effectively kill, the Hero by means of domestic obscurity which is in direct conflict with his needs for fame and his need to accomplish extra-ordinary deeds, the fruits of his labors -- protecting civilization -- denied him.

Part 5. The Hero and Society

    1. You should be able to discuss the Hero's role in preventing "a backslide into savagery", in terms of his contextual culture, as expressing the concern for protection from beasts (both literal and figurative/symbolic beasts such as the forces of natures or the subconscious) and from human threats (enemies threatening both the cities and towns and the survival of the culture as a whole -- the Hero embodying culturally specific ideals of human potential, such as courage).
    2. You should be able to discuss the Hero's role in adding to the knowledge of the culture, often by means of extensive travels, providing geographical, economic (such as new trading resources), connecting different areas within the culture and adding information about other, more distant cultures -- always including the concept of myth being both literal and figurative and/or symbolic.

Part 6. The Hero as Centaur: Image of the Self Divided

    1. You should be able to discuss the concept of the mythical creature, the Centaur, in terms of the Heroic myth, including the implications of a creature that is half/human half/beast -- just as the Hero is half/human, half/divine -- in this case the contradiction of human potential (such as intelligence and knowledge, even wisdom) vs. the "voracious appetites and aggressive instinct of the animal".
    2. You should be aware of the relationship of the Hero to the Centaur in terms of image -- the best and the worst, "brains and brawn" -- and the cultural implications of why the two opposing qualities "inextricably joined".

Part 7. The Early Hero: Perseus

    1. You should recognize Perseus as one of the earliest Heroes and as representative of many Heroic qualities that form the basis for the later evolution of both the epic Hero and the cultural ideals (of masculine role models, courage, etc.)
    2. You should be able to discuss the basic elements of Perseus' myths: 1/2 divine, the son of the God Zeus and his mother Danae; his encounter with Medusa; his rescue of Andromache from the Krakon -- including discussion of his relationships with women as being more interactive, harmonious, even protective and his use of magic and intelligence to defeat his adversaries rather than brute strength.
    3. You should be able to discuss some aspects of the Gorgon, Medusa: her connection with Goddess worship (especially the symbolism of her physical and psychological aspects); the myth that Pegasus (the sacred horse of the Sky God Zeus, as well as his physical/symbolic characteristics) sprang from Medusa's neck as Perseus cut off her head; and her mythological and cultural importance in terms of gender, patriarchy and her adversarial role within the Heroic pattern.
    4. You should be able to discuss the implications of a Hero, Perseus, who settles down in later life, who chooses domestic life/civilization over the Heroic pursuit of fame/immortality -- though he ultimately achieves immortality by being turned into a constellation by Athene.

Part 8: The Archetypal Hero, Heracles

    1. You should recognize the Hero Heracles (Hercules) as the archetype Hero, and the essential elements of his myths: 1/2 divine, father the God Zeus and Alcmene, including the Goddess Hera's attempts at killing him as an infant; his own killing of his wife and children in a fit of rage; his famous 12 Labors in atonement for his crime; his two voyages to the Underworld; his death at the hands of his loving second wife.
    2. You should be able to discuss the elements of Hercules' mythology in terms of gender roles, patriarchal concepts (especially in terms of symbolic conflict with Goddess belief systems, employing or defeating symbolic elements related to Goddess beliefs systems such as snakes).
    3. You should be able to discuss concepts of the divine potential of humans (such as extraordinary physical prowess), the tension between god and mortal, the excessive nature and its resultant tension of redeemer/protector vs. threat embodied in the Hero Heracles.
    4. You should be able to discuss the elements of the Twelve Labors of Hercules in terms of cultural implications, such as the evolution from labors that require killing by brute strength to labors that utilize intelligence, cooperation with others (including advice), and result in protecting civilization from the threats operating on both the literal level and the symbolic level of preserving certain ideological and cultural conventions.

Part 9: Other Heroes: Theseus and Jason

    1. You should recognize the basic elements of the mythological Hero, Theseus: his similarities to Heracles in terms of half/divine birth and extraordinary abilities; his trip to the Underworld to abduct the Goddess Persephone; his encounter with the Minotaur.
    2. You should be able to discuss the Hero Theseus in terms of his human roles: as King of Athens, married, committed to his civilization/culture in tension with his Heroic pattern (for better and worse).
    3. You should recognize the Hero Jason, who shares many of the traits of the Heroes Heracles and Theseus -- half-divine and extraordinary attributes -- and be able to discuss the dominant mythology including: his journey with the Argonauts (which included Heracles and Theseus) to obtain the golden Fleece; his encounters with the enchantress Circe; the tragic consequences of his liaison with Medea.
    4. You should be able to discuss the gender roles prevalent in the mythology of Jason, especially concerning the implications of such women as the enchantress, Circe and the abandoned Medea and the representative symbols regarding the role of the Goddess (including the Goddess Hecate's direct influence) -- how the women are representative of cultural concerns about women's roles as well as their function within the Heroic pattern -- thus the patriarchy.
    5. You should be able to discuss the Hero Jason in terms of his cultural roles, particularly the implications of his succumbing to wealth, greed and status in his later life, his domestication that results into a "cowardly" character that "hides behind a woman", and the consistently functional role of the women he encounters and abandons.

Part 10: The Upper Limits of Human ambition: Phaeton

    1. You should be able to discuss the myth of Phaeton in terms of its symbolic "awareness of human limits", the moral to exercise self-control and be able to discuss the Hero Phaeton is his similarities to other Heroes (including his half/divine birth, his need for extraordinary deeds).  

Part 11: The Heroine: Women's Mysteries in a Man's World

  1. You should understand that women in Greek myths were not intended as role-models for young Greek women.
  2. You should understand the fundamental differences between Greek heroes and heroines in terms of the most comment elements in the hero myth.
  3. You should be familiar with the female initiation ritual, the Brauronia; especially its significance to the archetypal Greek heroine.
  4. You should understand the mythic role of the Amazon as feminine aberration.


Part 12: Patterns of the Heroine Myths

  1. You should understand the underlying pattern in the the heroine myth, that women are always portrayed in the context of their male relationships: their husbands, fathers, lovers, or sons.

Part 13: The Heroine as Mother or Wife

  1. You should understand 'divine passion' as it applies to the mothers of heroes and be able to use specific examples from Greek myth, for instance Semele or Danae, to illustrate your understanding.
  2. You should understand how the loyalty a wife shows her husband can lead to her ultimate death, imprisonment or other unfortunate fate.
  3. You should recognize Alcestis as the ideal model of the loyal wife. 
  4. You should recognize that in most cases, the fate of the mother or wife heroines is terrible.

Part 14: The Heroine as Helper - Maiden

  1. You should recognize Electra, Medea, and Ariadne as examples of the Heroine as Helper-Maden.


Part 15: The Heroine as Hero-Impersonator

  1. You should understand the ultimate fate of women who refuse to abide by their assigned gender roles and choose to follow the traditional male hero archetype.
  2. You should recognize Atlanta, Agave, and Clytemnestra as examples of the hero-impersonator.

Part 16: The Heroine as Bride of Death

  1. You should identify Cassandra, Iphigenia, and Psyche as examples of heroines of the Bride of Death.
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