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 basic elements of the mythic beginnings of the Trojan War, including the implications of the competition between the Goddesses over the golden apple, and its origin at the hands of the uninvited wedding guest -- Eris (Discord) and the resulting conflicts involving human and the gods and goddesses.
    2. You should be able to discuss the cultural importance of a mortal judge -- Paris -- in the initial myth concerning the competition between Goddesses, especially in terms of idealized female roles and their status within the patriarchy; the concept of human perception as the defining element (a human male gets to decide the worth of these goddesses and their symbolic cultural roles, representing wisdom, family and beauty).

Part 2: The Decision of Paris

    1. You should be able to discuss the cultural implications of Paris' choice of the Goddess Aphrodite, both in terms of beauty versus wisdom (Athene) or status (Hera offers power over Asia Minor) and in terms of what the Goddess Aphrodite offers to Paris --both literally in terms of the "most beautiful woman in the world (Helen) and in figuratively in terms of the status of beauty within the value system of a male-oriented, patriarchal system.
    2. You should be able to discuss the basic story line of the events leading to the Trojan war: the guest, Paris (prince of Troy), abducting his host's wife, Helen -- the most beautiful (mortal) woman in the world -- and the Greeks pursuit of Paris and Helen on behalf of her husband, Menelaus; the concluding event of the siege of Troy by means of Odysseus' cunning, the Trojan horse; the return of Helen to her husband.
    3. You should be aware of the fact the epic poem, the "Iliad", is set in the ninth year of the Trojan War, which would last ten years in total, and be able to discuss the narrative choice of the author of the "Iliad" in selecting one event to focus his story rather than including the divine or mythic references, or following a chronicle of the war.

Part 3: The Implications of the Story

    1. You should be able to discuss the underlying theme of the sacred-ness of guest/host relationships in the "Iliad" and consider the implications of the beginning or motivating factors of the Trojan War -- was it Paris' abduction of Helen, or the God Zeus' rape of Leda (Helen's mother) because she would not betray her husband with a human lover, both violations of social codes.
    2. You should be aware of the many temporal paradoxes in the "Iliad", including the appearance of Achilles as a Suitor of Helen while beginning as the son of Peleus and Thetis (whose wedding party the Goddess of discord interrupted with the golden apple, etc, beginning the Trojan War fought over Helen (Achilles should still have been an infant) -- relating these temporal paradoxes to other myths that feature Hercules and Theseus, among others, out of their era.
    3. You should be able to discuss the concept of the gods and goddesses who interfere in human affairs as a divertissement, or as the trivial machinations of their inter-familial squabbles; and the belief that neither the God Zeus nor and of the other gods and goddesses are in control of the cosmos, or human choices; the belief that the gods and goddesses can't control human destiny as giving rise to a corollary belief in the freedom of human choice.
    4. You should recognize the implications of Heroes that reluctantly go to fight in the Trojan war -- including Odysseus, who pretend to be insane, and Achilles, who dresses like a girl because of his mother's prediction that he would die in the Trojan War.

Part 4: The Homeric Epics

    1. You should be aware that the authorship of the epics the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" is unknown and considered by academics to be a compilation of myths but that academics generally agree to attribute the works to the poet Homer.
    2. You should be able to discuss the similarities of the two myths: semi-divinity of the Hero; the descent into the Underworld; serious subject; the celebration of the cultural achievement and the deeds of the Hero who protects that culture, as well as narrative devises such as the use of dialogue and the omniscient narrator.

Part 5: The "Iliad"

    1. You should be able to discuss the implications of the contrasts between the works such as the characters of the gods and goddesses; the role(s) of women; the value of heroic life and the nature of the universe.
    2. You should be aware of the differences between an epic poem and the surrounding mythology; the closed narrative form with a definite beginning, middle, and end; the extended comparison and standard epitaphs; the cliff-hangers and flashbacks.
    3. You should be aware that the narrator/author of these epic poems is exploring the central questions of his/her culture; including what it means to be a Hero and what is its worth; how to create a meaningful life in the face of mortality.
    4. You should be able to discuss the concepts inherent in the Heroic ideal, including the Hero's potential versus limitations; acts of violence committed to preserve peace (destroying what he is trying to save); his readiness for death while pursuant of immortality his dependence on human society for validation (including prizes, word of his fame, etc.) and as motivation for conquering impossible obstacles (saving the culture from various threats to humanity).
    5. You should be able to discuss the three recurring themes of humans' determination of their own fate -- the image of the scales, the two urns of blessings and curses, and the dual destinies of the Heroes, to live and die by fighting or domestication.
    6. You should be able to discuss the need for a "worthy" opponent for the Hero to achieve any real victory and the related concepts of respect in combat while recognizing that one Hero's victory means the death of another; you should include consideration of the other aspects of this Hero's code: face to face combat, monitored by a referee, to keep the loser's armor but exhibit respect the corpse, and the point of such conflict --not the defeat of the enemy but the enhancement of the Hero's fame and reputation.
    7. You should be able to discuss the implications that, if war is a game for the gods and goddesses, it is also idealized by the ancient Greek culture (among others) into a kind of glorious game even while recognizing that, in the reality of war, idealism gives way to graphic savagery.

Part 5: The Role of Women

    1. You should be able to discuss the status of women in terms of their role(s) in the Heroic myth -- that while the men (Heroes) may become trapped in a nightmare of violence, it is of their own choosing, while women become the victims, whether as motivators or prizes of male aggression they are the property (whether as literal slaves or through familial bonds such as matrimony) of their husbands, fathers and brothers.
    2. You should be able to look at the representatives of female roles in the epic myths as helpmates or obstacles, temptresses, or as forces of civilization.
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