Greek Mythology (Online)


What are Greek myths? Who told them and why? How can we interpret them? Why are they still so powerful? How much history do they contain? This course will explore these fascinating tales from the past and attempt to make sense of them.

Listen to Steve Kershaw talking about the course

What are Greek myths? How can we interpret them? Why are they still so powerful? How much history do they contain? How do they differ from legends and fairy tales? Who told them and why? Did the Trojan War really happen? What might lie behind the tales of Odysseus and the Cyclops, Prometheus, Perseus and Medusa, or the myth of Atlantis? Are the myths damaged history, allegories, or reflections of the inner workings of our minds? By going back to the original texts (in translation), and the analysis of ancient works of art, this course will explore some of these fascinating tales from the past and evaluate various ways in which scholars have tried to make sense of them from antiquity to the present day.

For information on how the courses work, please click here.

Programme details

1. Myths and mythology

  • Names and spellings
  • Sources
  • Myths and traditional tales
  • What is a Greek myth?

2. Homer's Iliad, Troy and the historicity of myth

  • Judgement of Paris
  • Homer’s Iliad
  • The Trojan Horse and the Ilioupersis (‘Sack of Troy’)
  • Inside the heroic mind
  • The Trojan War: myth or damaged history?

3. Homer’s Odyssey, allegory and comparative mythology

  • Homer’s Odyssey: books 1—4, the Telemachy
  • Homer’s Odyssey: books 5—8, Odysseus with the Phaiakians
  • Homer’s Odyssey: books 9—12, the ‘great wanderings’
  • Homer’s Odyssey: Ithaca
  • Beneath the tales: allegory and comparative mythology

4. Hesiod: the origins of the Gods and the world

  • From Khaos to the supremacy of Zeus
  • The twelve Olympians
  • Greek and Hittite myths of succession
  • Comparative mythology evaluated

5. Sophokles' Oedipus Rex, Freud and the psychoanalysis of myths

  • Sophokles’ Oidipous Tyrannos
  • ‘Multiple possibilities of misunderstanding’
  • Freud and Oidipous
  • Evaluating the method

6. Hidden meanings: Medusa and Prometheus

  • Medousa
  • The Freudian Medousa
  • Prometheus, Pandora and the culture-bringers
  • Interpreting the Prometheus/Pandora tales

7. The Labours of Herakles: myth, art and ideology

  • From birth to madness: Herakles before the Labours
  • The Twelve Labours of Herakles
  • The Twelve Labours and the Temple of Zeus at Olympia
  • From Labours to immortality
  • Herakles: an ideological analysis

8. Jason and the Argonauts

  • From Iolkos to the land of the Doliones
  • The voyage to Kolkhis
  • Jason and Medeia
  • Homeward bound
  • Jason: hero or anti-hero?

9. Structuralism and beyond

  • Perseus
  • Propp’s 31 functions
  • Propp and Perseus
  • Danae, Kallisto, Auge and Io
  • Burkert’s ‘girl’s tragedy’
  • Evaluating the approaches

10. Plato and the myth of Atlantis

  • Atlantis (1): Plato’s Timaios
  • Atlantis (2): Plato’s Kritias
  • In search of Atlantis

We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.

See more information on CATS point

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting the final course assignment. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.


Description Costs
Course Fee £350.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Steve Kershaw

Steve Kershaw has taught for the department since 1998. He has been fascinated by the culture of the Greek Bronze Age ever since he first encountered the works of Homer.

Course aims

This course aims develop an understanding of the presentation, content, and context of some of the major Greek myths, and of ways in which these might be interpreted.

The course will allow students to:

  • Gain a knowledge of some on the most important mythical tales to come down from antiquity.
  • Analyse the different contexts and media in which Greek myths are narrated.
  • Attempt to understand and assess different ways in which these tales have been interpreted from antiquity to the present day.
  • Endeavour to develop skills of observation and analysis with further applications in study, work and leisure, and provide an interesting, enjoyable and relevant course of study.

Teaching methods

  • Guided reading of texts
  • Group discussions of particular issues
  • Questions to be answered in personal folders

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will:

  • Have a general overview of some of the major Greek myths, along with the culture of the world of of the Greeks gained through a variety of types of literary and archaeological evidence.
  • Have grasped the nature of the evidence pertaining to Greek myths and the problems of interpretating this.
  • Have developed an awareness of the differences and similarities between the ancient Greek civilisation and our own, and of the influence of Greek mythological tradition.

By the end of the course students will have gained the following skills:

  • The ability to assess the context and importance of varying types of evidence.
  • An ability to think laterally across a range of issues, to see how different types of evidence interrelate, and to have an awareness of the potential diversity of response to any given problem.
  • The facility critically to discuss issues and evidence in a clear, balanced, and effective manner.

Assessment methods

You will be set two pieces of work for the course. The first of 500 words is due halfway through your course. This does not count towards your final outcome but preparing for it, and the feedback you are given, will help you prepare for your assessed piece of work of 1,500 words due at the end of the course. The assessed work is marked pass or fail.

English Language Requirements

We do not insist that applicants hold an English language certification, but warn that they may be at a disadvantage if their language skills are not of a comparable level to those qualifications listed on our website. If you are confident in your proficiency, please feel free to enrol. For more information regarding English language requirements please follow this link:


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an Enrolment form for short courses | Oxford University Department for Continuing Education

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.