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The University of Southampton

HIST2223 Myth and the Ancient World

Module Overview

What are myths and what do they do? In “Myth and the Ancient World” you will explore how the Ancient Greeks used myths to make sense of the world and their position in it. The module covers a time span of some 900 years, from the time of Homer and Hesiod to the late Hellenistic era. You will study a selection of well-known and less well-known myths from different perspectives; this may include themes such as home and identity, suffering and loss, male and female. You will be introduced to a range of written and non-written sources and learn to analyse them as evidence of their social, cultural, and political climate. All texts will be studied in an English translation.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The shifting nature of myths and how variations are created to meet the specific needs of different communities or individuals.
  • The significance of medium, including genre and literary context, for the retelling of a myth.
  • The political and religious context of a number of important Greek myths and variants of myths.
  • The key trends in modern scholarship for understanding and interpreting myths.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • develop orally and in writing sound and well supported arguments.
  • elaborate and express your ideas and critical reflections in essays, using primary and secondary sources.
  • gather and digest relevant primary and secondary source materials including via electronic and web resources
  • put forward your ideas and arguments in group discussions, and consider the arguments put forward by your fellow students
  • engage in independent study and research.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Draw connections between different historical periods.
  • Analyse critically a diverse range of primary material.
  • Identify and critically assess scholarly views and arguments.
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Analyse the relationship between myths and their political, social, and cultural contexts
  • Analyse different types of sources, written and non-written and evaluate how their form (genre, function of object etc) affects their transmission of the myth.
  • Make connections between the study of myth and the study of History.
  • Critically analyse a range of primary and secondary material.


This course will cover topics including: Introduction. Multiform deities Making Sense of the World/Myths as Identity: Creation and Foundation Myths Heroes and Monsters The Underworld Fate and Retribution Myth and Mystery Myth transformed

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods will include: • weekly one-hour lecture and one-hour seminar • directed individual and group activities around primary sources • short presentations given by students on the module • group discussions including feedback from the tutor Lectures are designed to introduce you to key themes, historical debates and historians' approaches. Further reading and seminar discussions of primary and secondary source material are designed to consolidate your knowledge and understanding. In seminar discussions you will be expected to engage in critical analysis of primary sources and to formulate and articulate arguments. And you will be encouraged to express your own ideas about a topic. Learning activities will include: • independent study, reading and research in preparation for each seminar • putting together and delivering short presentations as directed by the lecturer • in-depth study of textual and visual primary sources • participation in small group and whole seminar discussions This module, like all of the 15 credit History modules offered to second year students, will be research led and it will focus heavily on primary sources. You will study an individual source in depth each week. As such, this module will provide you with a sound preparation for the source-based work undertaken in year 3 during the Special Subject and the dissertation.

Completion of assessment task54
Wider reading or practice12
Preparation for scheduled sessions36
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

K. Dowden (1992). The Uses of Greek Mythology. 

J-P. Vernant (1980). Myth and Society in Ancient Greece. 

Marcel D. (2003). The Writing of Orpheus: Greek Myth in Cultural Context. Translated by JanetLloyd. 

R.D Woodard (2007). The Cambridge Companion to Greek Mythology. 

J-P. Vernant (1983). Myth and Thought Among the Greeks. 

H. Versnel (2011). Coping with the Gods. 

M. Morford and R. Lenardon (1995). Classical Mythology. 

J. Bremmer (1998). Interpretations of Greek Mythology. 

L. Edmunds (1990). Approaches to Greek Myth. 

Clay, J.S. (2003). Hesiod's Cosmos. 

F. Graf (1993). Greek Mythology: an introduction. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 50%
Written assignment 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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