Monmouth College, Fall 2003
Mythology and Religion
TH 9:30-10:45, Wallace Hall 114
Course description | Texts
| Class format |
Goals, requirements, and evaluation |
Web access | Schedule
Instructor: Dr. V. Wine
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Course description: This course fulfills the
senior-level Issues and Ideas component of the Monmouth College
General Education requirement for graduation. It is a liberal arts course
without prerequisites, designed for all students, whatever their majors may
be. The Monmouth College catalogue gives the following description of
Issues and Ideas courses:
[These courses] address issues and ideas that any responsible citizen
must confront. These are courses which draw upon the maturity and
intellectual flexibility of students in their senior year. They engage the
student with problems and ideas that directly address the conditions and
well-being of life.
These courses include, but are not limited to, issues and ideas such as
the continuing presence of war; what we understand a just society to be;
the question of personal identity and the self; or responsible
relationships with the natural world.
These courses incorporate the perspectives of various viewpoints since
they deal with questions that transcend immediate professional and
intellectual vantages. They elicit a recognition of and a critical
response to shared and continuing human concerns.
Classical Mythology and Religion uses the
myths and religions of the ancient Greeks and Romans as a framework for
discussing issues of religion and spirituality in the modern world. The
course challenges students to reflect upon and to develop their feelings
about how spirituality and deity factor in their lives and how humanity fits
into the "grand scheme of things." Classical Mythology and
Religion starts from the premise that one people's religion is another
people's myths and considers the relationship between religion and
mythology. The issues and ideas addressed in this course include the
What is religion and religious truth?
What is the role of deity in human life?
What is the place of a human being in the world?
Course readings, class discussions and lectures will provide background
on the relationship between religion and mythology in the ancient world,
especially among the Greeks and Romans. Students will be expected to use
this material in order to reflect upon their own religious beliefs and world
Athanassakis, Apostolos N.The
Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Ancient Mystery Cults
Cambridge: Harvard University Press
Meyer, Marvin W.
The Ancient Mysteries
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press
Nagle, Betty Rose.Ovid's
Fasti. Roman Holidays
Bloomington: Indiana University Press
Note: You are also expected to have ready access to a Bible. Click
for an electronic version.
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Class format: The emphasis of this class is discussion
of the assigned readings in terms of one's own religious beliefs and world
view. Willingness of class members to read and reflect upon assigned
readings in advance and to express their opinions in class is essential to
the success of each class. It is expected that everyone attend class
regularly, read the assignments carefully, and come to class prepared to
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Goals, requirements, and evaluation: The final grade
will comprise Class Participation and Quizzes (30%), Personal Statements
(30%), Individualized Project (30%), Group Presentation (5%), and Other
(5%). Daily participation in class discussions and readiness when called
upon is expected; the instructor will keep track of those who volunteer
information and opinions. Quizzes, whether announced or not, may not be made
up. Grading scale: A 100-90, B 89-76, C 75-61, D 60-50.
Personal statements will be assigned approximately each week on class
discussion and course reading. At least 600 words (two full typed pages) in
length, these statements are informal, short, non-research essays on
discussion topics. They are not just summaries of what was said or what was
read. They should go beyond mere recording of events to include personal
analysis and commentary. Emphasis will be on (1) integration of the
student's own ideas and thoughts with the subject matter of the course and
on (2) coherent and logical expression of these ideas. In these statements
you will briefly summarize the main points, offer your own opinion and
thoughts about the topics raised, and support your statement with specific
data. Submission of the work on time earns the student one point. Additional
points will be earned for following content and stylistic requirements and
for personal analysis and commentary.
The individualized project and group presentation are described on the
Web access: Readings, web links, this
syllabus, and other information are available via the MC website. Access the
Department of Classics homepage, Syllabi, Fall 2003; or
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Schedule: The following schedule outlines discussion
topics, reading assignments, and due dates for assignments, It may be
changed as necessary, and the student is responsible for making note of any
changes announced in class.
| (1)Aug. 26.
Discussion: How does
an Issues and Ideas course fit in the
Monmouth College Curriculum?
1. Use these
study questions to prepare for class discussion
of ISSI courses on Thursday.
2. Consider the relationship between the words "myth"
and "religion". See:
The Web of Myth Theory and
Myth and Religion: Some Definitions.
Issues and Ideas, Myth and Religion
the relationship between myth and religion.
1. Write a reflection on ways that you think
that the theme of myth and religion may fit the description of an ISSI
course in the Monmouth College Curriculum.
Due Sept. 2.
Cleanthes' Hymn to Zeus,
How is the Hymn to Zeus a prayer? How is it like the Lord's Prayer? How
is the prayer "myth"? How is it "religion"?
Assignment: Write a reflection comparing Cleanthes'
hymn to a prayer which is important to you personally.
Be sure to discuss the purposes of prayer and the relationship between
god and the person praying. Please submit a copy of the prayer you chose
along with your reflection. Due Sept. 4.
Personal Reflections on
What prayer did you compare to the Hymn to
Zeus? Why? What purposes do you think these prayers
served? How would you describe the relationship between god and the
person praying in these prayers?
Each member of the class
will explain what prayer they chose to compare
to the Hymn to Zeus and how the two prayers compare.
The class will then break down into small groups to discuss
reasons why people pray. What purposes does prayer serve? The groups
will use Cleanthes' Hymn to illustrate these purposes.
Each group will then report back to the entire class.
Colophon, and the fragments called
and look at these images of
How do the Greeks represent Zeus? What does
Xenophanes think about this? What is your image of God? Does your god
have anthropomorphic features? How does
your image of god compare to the Greek image of Zeus
1. Read Preface and introduction to Athanassakis,
Brief Survey of Christian Polytheism,
Islam and Polytheism,
Myths: The Ancient Sources,
and a review of A World Full of
Gods by Keith Hopkins (available in Public Documents under All
2. Write a reflection on monotheism versus
polytheism. Why would someone only believe in one god? Why would others
believe in many gods? Where do you stand? This assignment is due on
Thursday, Sept. 11.
Homeric Hymns and Polytheism
Discussion of class
reflections on Polytheism vs. Monotheism.
What do the introductory
materials tell you about the Homeric Hymns? What
image of Christianity and ancient religions does Hopkins create in this
statement: : "But I wanted to recover the passion of
that time. Re-create the confusion of voices. Think of it: Religion
absolutely everywhere. Gods and goddesses and demons and nightmares, and
sex mixed up into all of it. Christianity must have seemed so strange,
so absurd to good, decent pagans."
Christianity and the ancient religion is suggested by Hopkins' quote?
Assignment: Read Homeric Hymn 23 (Zeus),
Prometheus (and Hesiod's Theogony,
Prometheus Bound. Also
Catalogue of Greek Animal
The Homeric Hymn to Zeus. Types of Religious
How is the Homeric Hymn to Zeus similar to Cleanthes' Hymn? How is it
different? In what ways are the Cleanthes and Homeric hymns to Zeus
myth? In what ways are they religion? How is Prometheus' sacrifice a
form of worship? How is it a trick? What does this
story suggest about the Greek attitudes towards relationship between
human and god? How do these attitudes compare to your own?
Assignment: Write a personal reflection on religion.
This reflection should give your religious background and describe your
personal beliefs about god and religion. Due
here for some helpful questions. Click
here for Prof. Sienkewicz' personal statement.
Class discussion of personal religious
Assignment: Read the story of Abraham
and Isaac in Genesis 12-22 and the
sacrifice of Iphigenia. Also
Iphigenia as sacrificial
Review of Human Sacrifice in Ancient Greece.
Religion (focus on Anemospilia).
Minoan Snake Goddess.
Individualized Project. See
Individualized Project Guidelines.
The Greeks and Romans practiced animal sacrifice but
not human sacrifice. Do you make any distinction between the two? What
is the religious purpose of sacrifice? How is sacrifice important in
Theories on the Origin of Religion; pp.
22-27 of Nagle. Additional materials:
Some Definitions /
Beginnings of Religion /
Roman Divinities in Archaic Period / Religio
Introduction to Roman Religion
Discussion: What do
the documents dealing with the sources of Roman religion suggest to you
about the Romans and their religious beliefs? Why do you think humans
have developed religious beliefs? What purposes does religion serve in
1. Look for characteristics of
Roman Religion described in
Some Notes on Roman Religion in the
documents found in the
Sources of Roman Religion.
2. Write a reflection on these characteristics and compare them
to modern religious views and practices.
Due Oct. 7.
|Oct. 2. Roman
points of comparison did you find between Roman and modern religious
views and practices?
Assignment: Read Ovid's
Fasti: Introduction; January
Feast of the Gods.
Also the preface and
introduction to Nagle. See
Ovid's Fasti Overview /
The Roman Calendar /
Christian Liturgical Calendar
Discussion: How is
the Fasti organized? What were Ovid's purposes in writing this
poem? How is it religious? Why do the
Romans sacrifice an ass to the god Priapus? Why does Ovid tell this
story? What does Ovid tell you about the emperor's attitude towards
religion? How does a Christian artist like
Bellini use the ancient deities? To what
extent is our calendar religious? How is
the Fasti religious?
Assignment: Read Homeric
Hymns 3, 21 (Apollo) and 9, 27 (Artemis). See also
of Hymn, Study
and Discussion Questions, and
|Oct. 9 and 14.
What kind deities are Apollo and Artemis?
Compare the story of Apollo to the life of Jesus Christ. What
characteristics does Artemis have in common with Mary the Mother of
Jesus? How does he compare to your beliefs about deity? How is Artemis
similar to and different from her brother Apollo? How is a goddess
different from a god? What makes Delphi and Delos sacred places?
1. Compare Apollo to your god. Be sure to
deal with issues of anthropomorphism, forms of worship, and ethics.
Due Oct. 23.
2. Read Homeric Hymn 5, 6, 10 (Aphrodite)
Sappho's Prayer to Aphrodite.
Focus on the encounters between Aphrodite and the mortals
Anchises and Sappho.
Anchises and Sappho's encounters
with Aphrodite to that of
the sailors with Apollo. What do these
episodes suggest about the Greek attitude toward deity in general? Human
interaction with deity? Human free will? What ethical issues are
suggested in these episodes? What do you think about all of these
issues? Why do you think the Greeks had a goddess like Aphrodite? What
do you think about a goddess who seduces mortal men?
Class Activity on Epiphanies
Individualized Project DUE
1. Write a
for Oct. 18.
2. Read Fasti: February and
Fasti II: February ,
III: March /
III: Study Questions /
Some Characteristics of the Fasti
Coin / Church of San Nicola in Carcere in Rome:
3 / See
(and scroll to Juno Sospita) /
Laurenti Siciliano: The Triumph of Christianity over Paganism (1585)
/ For more on this painting, see the
Raphael Rooms of the
Babri Masjid (mosque) at Ayodhya /
The Ayodhya Dispute
Antoninus and Faustina /
the temple / Apotheosis
of an Emperor /
the Column base of the emperor Antoninus Pius /
The Lincoln Memorial /
of George Washington /
More on the Fresco
|(9)Oct. 21. Fall
Break. NO CLASS
|Oct. 23. Ovid's
Fasti II and III: Apotheosis, the Lupercalia, and Juno Sospita
Why does the Temple of Juno Sospita become the Church of San Nicola in
Carcere? What other examples of such religious building/site conversions
can you think of? Why do such things occur? Whose apotheosis does Ovid
describe in February? How does such an event
compare to modern religious beliefs? How many stories does Ovid tell to
explain why the Luperci run naked? Why does Ovid tell the story of the
Sabine Women in March? What is the feast of the toga virilis and what
might be some modern equivalents?
Read Fasti: April, May and
IV: April /
Study Questions for IV /
V: May /
Fasti VI: June /
Mars Ultor / Claudia
Ovid's Fasti IV, V, and VI
How is the Fasti a poem? How is the Fasti like
an encyclopedia? What elements of political propaganda can you find in
the Fasti? How religious do you think Ovid was? Why? Where does
Ovid sound religious in Fasti? Where does he sound less
sincere? What myth does
Ovid tell for the Feast of Cerealia in April? What does this myth have
to do with the powers of the goddess Ceres?
Apollo reflection due.
1. Write a reflection on characteristics of Roman religion in the
Fasti compared to modern religious views.
Due Oct. 30.
2. Read Homeric Hymn 4, 18 (Hermes),
Study Questions for the Homeric Hymn to Hermes. Also read
hymns #8, 11, 15-17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 25, 28-33
Discussion: What kind of god is Hermes? How
does he compare to your idea of deity? Which gods are honored in these
hymns? How are these hymns different from the Homeric Hymns to Apollo,
Dionysus, Hermes, Aphrodite, and Demeter? Why do you think these gods
received different hymns? What do the Homeric Hymns as a group tell you
about Greek religion and especially belief in god?
Some Definitions of Terms,
Some Notes on Mysteria,
Brief History of Greco-Roman Religion.
Also read the introduction
Burkert and consult study questions.
(Click on authors' names.).
Introduction to Ancient Mystery Religions
Discussion: What did the
Greeks mean by mystery? What
is a mystery religion? What personal needs does religion satisfy?
How are Burkert's and Meyer's books similar?
How are they different?
Read Homeric Hymn 2, 13 (Demeter)
Read Meyer, chapter 2. Sacred Places:
Eleusinian Mysteries: Some Documents /
Assignment: Work on individualized project.
Progress report due on Nov. 11.
and the Eleusinian Mysteries
Discussion: What personal needs does the
mystery religion of Demeter satisfy? Compare the Homeric Hymn to Demeter
in Athanassakis to the version in Meyer (pp. 20-31). How are these two
versions similar? How are they different? How is Demeter similar to and
different from your concept of a deity? Compare her to Artemis and
Assignment: Read Meyer, chapter 4 and Homeric Hymns 1, 7, 26
Outline of Homeric Hymn to Dionysus,
Dionysian Mysteries: Some Documents,
Some Dionysian Terms, Senatus Consultum de
and Dionysian Mysteries
divine powers does Bacchus (Dionysus) have?
Does he seem divine to you? To what extent does Dionysus fit his
modern stereotype? What personal needs does the mystery religion of
Dionysus satisfy? Why do you think that ancient Greeks and Romans were
afraid of this cult?
Villa of the
Villa of Mysteries 2
/ Take a Virtual Tour of
Reading Visual Evidence for the Dionysian
The Villa of the Mysteries
1. Write a reflection the Dionysian Mysteries. Due on Nov. 21.
2. Read Burkert, chapter 1-3 with
The Organization of the Ancient Mystery
How were the ancient mystery religions organized? How does this
organization compare to the organization of established churches in the
modern world? What is theologia? What do myth and allegory
have to do with mystery religions? Apply these concepts to the religions
of Demeter and Dionysus.
Meyer, chapter 5. Also
Catullus' "Attis" /
Study Questions about Cybele
Cybele and the Cult of the Great Mother
Compare the Great Goddess to deities like Demeter and Aphrodite? How is
she similar and different? What is Catullus' opinion
of the Great Mother?
1. Write a statement in which
you use some of the documents on Cybele in Meyer in order to reflect on
what was attractive in her worship to the ancients and what is
attractive and not attractive in her worship today.
Due Dec. 2.
Venus of Willendorf Website and
"Venus of Willendorf"
Thanksgiving Day. NO CLASS
|(15)Dec. 2 The
Female Image of Deity
Question: How does the cult of the Great Goddess
appeal to modern feminism? Why do you think that the
Venus of Willendorf was made? Is it a religious object? Do you think
that the earliest human image of god was male or female? Why?
Assignment: Read Burkert, chapter 4 with
"The Extraordinary Experience" (Burkert, chapter 4)
Question: What does Burkert mean by the
"extraordinary experience"? How did the ancients talk about this
experience? Do we talk about it today?
|Dec. 10, 6 P.M.
Group Presentations, Course Evaluations, etc.
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