Hampden-Sydney College

CLAS 202: Classical Mythology                 Spring 2008
TTh 2:30-3:50                                                Morton 112

Dr. Janice Siegel
jsiegel@hsc.edu (email is best bet for contacting me)
Office: Maples 04
Office Phone: 223-7204
Office Hours: Tuesday 1-2, W/F 10-10:30 and by appt.
(I am in my office most afternoons after 4, so feel free to stop by, too)


The best way to succeed in this course is to engage with the material, with your classmates, and with me. We’ll learn lots and have fun doing it.

REQUIRED TEXTS (these particular translations are required)

Ovid, Metamorphoses, tr. Z. P. Ambrose (Focus)
Morford and Lenardon, Classical Mythology, any edition (Oxford)

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: This course offers not only the basics of classical (Greek and Roman) mythology, but also an introduction to various interpretive theories of myth. We will learn about the myths in various ways, including reading primary sources (the most significant of which is Ovid’s Metamorphoses, as translated from the Latin). We will also pay attention to other records of classical mythology, including a large range of literary sources, art (both ancient and modern), and the archaeology and architecture of (mostly) ancient Greece. We will learn that unlike us, the Greeks did not consider mythology to be separate from science, philosophy, religion, or even politics – it was all wrapped up together, an integrated life view. We will also try to understand what these myths meant to the Greeks. Why was mythology such an integral part of their culture? And finally, we will explore how their mythology has affected our own culture. When you are done with this course, you will wonder how you ever got along without it – not a day will pass by without your seeing how the study of the classical world enriches are lives in so many ways.


  • 1. To learn the myths of the Greeks and Romans by reading primary literature.
  • 2. To understand the myths of the Greeks and Romans: origins, nature, categories (myth, legend, folktale) and functions (e.g., aetiological, charter, etc).
  • 3. To understand the representation of individual, cultural, social, political, and personal (including sexual) identity in myth.
  • 4. To learn about Greek myth in the context of Greek culture: topography, archaeological sites, history, religious festivals (e.g., the Olympics), the importance of competition, reason, moderation, etc.
  • 5. To become acquainted with some major theories of myth interpretation (e.g., myth in ritualism, structuralism, functionalism, feminist, psychoanalytic, etc.).
  • 6. To recognize mythological themes in high and low modern culture, including art, architecture, literature, music, film, cartoons, humor, etc.


Reading assignments will be done by you in preparation for class. A study guide with a list of pertinent questions will be provided for each text. Using this guide will help prepare you for quizzes, response papers, and discussions. You should also jot down questions/observations of your own that you deem worthy of class discussion. You must have the appropriate text in class with you at every meeting. Class will be conducted in seminar format with regular introductory lectures.

All course materials beyond texts (extra readings, power points, weblinks, etc.) will be housed on the Blackboard website set up for this course. You are expected to consult this Blackboard site on a regular basis. If you have trouble accessing the site, please let me know immediately.

Attendance is required in this class. You will find that there is a significant correlation between excellent attendance and excellent grades. The reverse also holds true. After the third unexcused absence, the student will receive from me a WF (withdraw-fail warning letter) through the Dean of Student’s Office. If the student has a fourth unexcused absence I will either request that the student be dropped from the class with the grade of WF or simply fail the student with a grade of F. An absence may be excused only with a note from the dean of students indicating family emergency, a trip with a recognized club, team, or class, or consent from me prior to the class in question (please consult The Academic Catalogue, p. 43-44). Illness is not an excused absence unless I am notified by the Dean of Student’s Office. Court dates don’t count either (unless you are not the alleged perpetrator). If you are involved in any extra-curricular activities (including spring sports) that will cause you to miss this afternoon class on a regular basis, please consider the academic consequences before you sign up.

There will ordinarily be no opportunities to make up missed work unless the absence is deemed excused by the Office of the Dean of Students. If you know in advance that you will have an excuse for an absence, you should inform me in advance, and you may be allowed to take a quiz or test early, at my convenience. Your best approach is to fulfill your obligations as a student and to keep the lines of communication with me open. If you are struggling with any aspect of this course, please contact me immediately. I can usually help.


Preparation (5%): You are expected to come to class prepared every day. Being unprepared (not having your book, or your homework, or your study guide, or not having read the assignment, etc.) will result in a ZERO class grade for that day. You start with ten points and lose one point for each instance of unpreparedness. If I ask you a question about the assigned reading in class, I expect you to be able to answer it (or at least not be completely mystified by it). Voluntary participation in class discussions is very much encouraged but not required.

Response papers (45%): You will regularly be asked to respond, on paper, to a specific question about assigned reading. These assignments are to be completed outside of class (to avoid losing our precious class time) and handed in to me in person at the class following the one on which they are assigned (please – no email attachments and NO LATE PAPERS ACCEPTED). These are short assignments, 250-500 words. There will be six response papers over the course of the semester.

Midterm Examination (25%): A combination of objective, short answer and essay questions, based on the assigned readings, our class discussions, and your study guides.

Final Examination (25%): A combination of objective, short answer and essay questions, based on the assigned readings, our class discussions, and your study guides.