The Archaeology of Ancient Greek Myths

Course summary

  • Wed 18 Apr 2018 to Wed 20 Jun 2018
  • 10:30am-12:30pm 10 meetings
  • Ewert House, Ewert Place, Summertown, Oxford
  • From £199.00
  • 10 CATS points
  • Course code O17P657AHW
  • 01865 280892
  • In progress - closed to new applications

The Archaeology of Ancient Greek Myths


Fascinating heroes, gods, monsters and places in Greek mythology include Hercules, Jason and the Argonauts, the 12 Gods, the Minotaur and Troy. Join us as we unravel the best-known Greek myths through their archaeology in this visually rich course, through lectures, participatory exercises, ample illustrations, as well as documentary footage.

We will discover their origins, sources, representations and roles in the lives and art of the ancient Greeks. We will also analyse the social significance of myths as meaning-making narratives in antiquity, as well as in contemporary popular culture.

Programme details

Term Starts:   18th April

Week 1:          Introduction to archaeology and the Ancient Greek Myths

Week 2:          Cosmogony and The 12 Gods (1): Zeus, Hera, Hermes, Apollo.

Week 3:          The 12 Gods (2): Athena, Aphrodite (Venus), Ares (Mars), Hephaistos (Vulcan).

Week 4:          The 12 Gods (3): Poseidon, Demeter, Dionysus, Artemis. Pantheon dynamics.

Week 5:          Theseus, Minos, Ariadne and the Minotaur.

Week 6:          Ashmolean Museum Visit

Week 7:          Epic tales: The Iliad. The Odyssey.

Week 8:          Travelling Heroes: Hercules and his labours. Jason and the Argonauts.

Week 9:          Myths of the grotesque. Recurring themes.

Week 10:        What is ‘real’ and what is ‘fiction’? Archaeology, society and belief then and now.


Background Reading:

Buxton R.G.A., The Complete World of Greek Mythology (Thames & Hudson, 2004).

Mikalson J.D., Ancient Greek religion (Malden, Mass.; Oxford, Blackwell Pub., 2005).

Sourvinou-Inwood C., "Reading" Greek culture: texts and images, rituals and myths (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991).

Neils J., Ancient Greece, The British Museum Concise Introduction (The British Museum Press 2008).

Burkert W., Greek Religion: Archaic and Classical (Wiley-Blackwell, 1991).

Buxton R.G.A., Imaginary Greece: The Contexts of Mythology (Cambridge University Press, 2008).


If you are planning to purchase books, please note that courses with too few students enrolled will be cancelled. The Department cannot accept responsibility for books bought in anticipation of a course.

If you have enrolled on a course starting in the autumn, you can become a borrowing member of the Rewley House library from 1st September. If you are enrolled on a course starting in other terms, you can become a borrowing member once the previous term has ended.

Recommended reading

All weekly class students may become borrowing members of the Rewley House Continuing Education Library for the duration of their course. Prospective students whose courses have not yet started are welcome to use the Library for reference. More information can be found on the Library website.

There is a Guide for Weekly Class students which will give you further information. 

Availability of titles on the reading list (below) can be checked on SOLO, the library catalogue.

Recommended Reading List


Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes 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.

If you do not register for CATS points when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to do so.


Course Fee: £199.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00


Dr Anna Simandiraki-Grimshaw

Dr. Anna Simandiraki-Grimshaw is an Aegean Bronze Age archaeologist. She lectures in Archaeology at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, among other institutions. She is also affiliated with Durham University and Humboldt University in Berlin.

Course aims

This course aims to introduce students to how the Ancient Greek myths may have originated, why they formed living traditions and how they structured Ancient Greek religion, using the archaeological record as a fundamental resource.

Course Objectives

1.             teach and analyse the most important Ancient Greek myths, using concrete archaeological examples;

2.             approach the artistic, social and other origins and influences of the Ancient Greek myths;

3.             enable students to critically approach a belief system of the past by exploring wider, recurrent belief themes represented by certain Ancient Greek material culture.

Teaching methods

A variety of teaching and learning methods will be used, taking into consideration students' different learning styles and possible special needs. We will use tutor presentations and explanations, substantial visual material and handouts, some documentary footage and extensive discussion.

Group presentations will offer opportunities when main topics will be analysed by different teams. We will also use props. Students will study between sessions and will progress through a workbook according to their evolving understanding and skills. There will be the opportuntity of on-site learning during a museum visit in session 6.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students should be able to:

1.             outline and explain the most important Ancient Greek myths, using concrete archaeological examples;

2.             critically analyse the artistic, social and other origins and influences of the Ancient Greek myths;

3.             be able to critically approach a belief system of the past, by synthesising how myths (and beliefs more broadly) were expressed through material culture in the Ancient Greek past.

Assessment methods

For this course, all students will be given a workbook at the second session (Option A). This will contain 5 questions and guiding material, the answers for which will become apparent as we progress through the course. Students will be expected to draw on both what is covered in class and on their private study, reflection and museum visit(s). They will be expected to demonstrate their progression and development by completing the workbook and handing it in by the last session. The entire length of the answers should be approximately 1500 words, i.e. about 300 words for each answer. 

In the case of students who are unable to complete the workbook (e.g. who feel that their learning styles are not compatible), the tutor will be flexible in accommodating other ways of equivalent written assessment (Option B). Additional coursework, if a student wishes to produce it, will be very welcome.

Student progress will also be evaluated on the basis of analysis, collaboration, organisation and knowledge, as demonstrated during class activities.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.


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.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)