Greek Mythology 101 – From Chaos to Olympus: A Six Part Survey Course with Wendy Fossen

Greek Mythology 101 – From Chaos to Olympus: A Six Part Survey Course with Wendy Fossen


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Since the dawn of humanity, the triumphs, trials, and tribulations of Mount Olympus’ leading gods and goddesses have captivated our imaginations. This six-part course will overview the major plot points and headlining characters of Greek mythology’s most popular stories. This course is open to participants with any level of interest in Greek mythology and art – beginner or advanced knowledge will be accommodated. 

Relying on sources like Hesiod’s Theogony and Homer's Odyssey and Iliad, our discussions will center on visual artists across time who have used their talents and imagination to illustrate these written Greek sources in ceramics, marble, painting, and many other media. 

Mythology plays such an important role in the arts - in some periods more than others - that mythological stories tend to be associated with great artists. For instance, when one thinks of the Rapture of Persephone, one thinks of Bernini and others too might have certain associations of a story with an artwork. 

Alongside these mega-famous artworks, we will review creations by artists, especially from classical antiquity, who have remained anonymous but nonetheless have played a crucial role in how we visualize the stories. 

To explore Context Learning’s additional seminars focused upon Ancient Greece, we invite you to click here.

Lecture 1 – Birth of the World

Our first class will outline the course structure and set the stage for deeper conversations. At the beginning of the Greek world, there was just Chaos, the big nothing. From here stems the first dynasty with the Uranus-Gaea resulting in the fights between the Titans, Cyclopes, and Uranus, Cronus. With the victory of Cronos and his union with Rhea, the second dynasty starts, and the first Gods were born. Some gods were more popular or more interesting than others, which is reflected in the frequency in which they are depicted in art. 

Lecture 2 – Introducing the Olympian Gods (part 1)

This class will focus upon the six main Olympian gods: Zeus, Hera, Hestia, Poseidon, Hades & Demeter. We will overview each of their primary characteristics – how they were born, what their role was on Mount Olympus, whom they wed, which children they had, and more. 

Lecture 3 – Introducing the Olympian Gods (part 2)

A number of other Olympian gods are also widely known and venerated of time so they have rightly earned our attention in this third class. Together we will meet Aphrodite, Hermes, Dionysus, Athena, Hephaistos, Ares, Apollo, Artemis. In this conversation, we will explore their lives as illustrated by many masterful painters and sculptors across time.

Lecture 4 – An Overview of the Trojan War

Our fourth class focuses on the start, events during, and the end of the Trojan War. It all started with the apple for the fairest of all goddesses and was concluded with the one and only Trojan Horse. Since not all episodes are equally popular, we will only focus on those who were and only briefly touch on the lesser important ones.

Lecture 5 – The Famous Odyssey

Reluctant to participate in the Trojan War in the first place, Odysseus’ fate was not to return home for another decade. During his journey home he faced numerous challenges about which many artworks were made and which easily could fill an entire semester. 

Lecture 6 – Herakles and His Twelve Labors

Our final class focuses on Herakles, a hot-tempered God who was punished for his misdeeds by having to fulfill twelve labors. Being very strong but not always smart, he needed the help of Athena to accomplish these seemingly impossible tasks. Forgive us for the spoiler alert, but Herakles does ultimately succeed and take his place on Mount Olympus. 

There will be time available at the conclusion of each seminar for questions.

Wendy Fossen is a freelance art historian with a number of degrees, one of them being in Art History. She loves a wide variety of art and shares this passion in her work as a museum guide in the Kunstmuseum and Mauritshuis (both in The Hague, The Netherlands), as a tourmanager in Europe (mainly Italy), and as an art history docent.

How does it work?

This is a six-part course held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule above for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

When will I receive the Zoom link?

The link used to enter your Zoom room will be the same for each lecture in the course. It will be sent to the email address that was used to place your order 30 minutes prior to each session's start time.

Is there a reading list?

Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there will be suggested readings made available for further investigation. These will be provided to all participants at the course's conclusion.

How long are the lectures?

Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time included for Q&A.

How much is the course?

The course is $210 USD for six lectures.

Is a recording available?

Yes. All registered participants will be sent a recording within 48 hours of each event's conclusion.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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