Arha 214: Mythology and Religion

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ARHA 214: Mythology and Religion

Spring 2009

Dr. Carolyn Aslan

SOS 261, e-mail:

Office phone: 338-1511

Office hours: Thursday 3:30-5:00 or make an appointment.

Teaching assistants: Gökçen Çinar, Reyhan Durmaz
Description: In this course, students will learn about many of the religious traditions from the Mediterranean and Near Eastern regions including ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Judaism and Christianity. We begin by studying the history and cultural contexts of these religions. Class discussions will focus on interpreting the myths and traditional stories of these religions as well as religious practices and beliefs. Students will also compare the mythology of different areas according to themes in mythology such as creation myths, hero myths, the afterlife, fate, and the relationship between people and divine power. By the end of the course, students will be able to read and interpret a myth by themselves. Students will also improve their understanding, speaking and writing abilities in English.

Assignment Percentage Date

Odyssey quiz 10% March 10

Midterm exam 20% March 26

In-class writing 20% May 21

Final exam 20% finals week

Discussion 15% all semester

Class notes and homework 15% all semester

Class Lectures and discussions: Every class will begin with a lecture giving information about the history, culture, religious practices, mythology, religious art and architecture of an ancient society. The second part of each class will be class discussion, where students will examine a particular myth or religious text in detail and practice analyzing and interpreting myths. Students should come prepared for discussion having read the assigned text and having written answers to the homework questions. Homework questions will be collected on Tuesdays in class. Discussion grades will be based on preparation and participation in the discussion.
Class notes: One goal of the course is to improve your note-taking and oral comprehension skills. At the end of each lecture, your notes on the lecture will be collected. In some class, you may be asked to do various short writing exercises that will also be put within your class notes. The notes will be graded and then returned to you with suggestions on improvement. The notes will also be used as a way to take attendance.

The grades on your class notes together with the homework grades will form 15% of your final grade. To calculate the grade, the three lowest grades will be dropped and the rest will be averaged. You are expected to turn in notes for each class session unless you have a valid university excuse.

Odyssey assignment: In this course, we will read the Greek epic adventure called The Odyssey by Homer and we will dedicate two weeks of discussion to this epic. A translation is available for purchase in the bookstore or it is on reserve in the library. There will be a short quiz on the Odyssey on March 10.

Exams: There will be two exams, which will include short answer and essay questions. The first exam (March 26) will cover ancient Greece and will take place during the scheduled class time. The final exam will be cumulative and will include the class material from the entire semester.

In-class writing exercise: By the end of the course, you will be able to read a myth and interpret it by yourself. On May 21, in class we will do an unknown myth writing challenge. You will be given the text of a myth that we have not previously discussed in class and you will write an essay about the interpretation of the myth, based on the types of interpretative analysis that we have discussed throughout the semester. You may bring a Turkish-English dictionary to help you understand the vocabulary.
Attendance: The university attendance policy will be followed; if you miss more than 8 classes, you will fail the course. Please come to class on time or you will lose points on your class notes.

Academic honesty: In order for you to learn the material and skills from this class, students are expected to do all their own work on assignments and exams. Plagiarism, cheating or other forms of academic dishonesty will result in failure of the assignment and referral to the academic disciplinary council. If you need help in the course or are worried about your grade, please come and talk to me or to one of the teaching assistants.

Readings: The readings are available through e-reserve, but it is best if you photocopy the course packet at the photocopy center in the library. You need to bring the reading packet to each class because we will be examining the texts in detail during class time.
There are books with optional readings on reserve at the library. The following sources may be useful to you for more information or when preparing for the exams
Classical Mythology by M. Morford and R. Lenardon

Ancient Greek Religion, by Jon D. Mikalson, Oxford: Blackwell, 2005

Civilizations of the Ancient Near East vol. III. Ed. Jack Sasson

Religious Traditions of the World. Ed. H. Byron Earhart. 1993.

Feb. 10 Introduction to the course

How to read a myth: in-class reading of the Adam and Eve story

Feb. 12 Interpretation and meaning of myth

Reading: “Some Modern Interpretations of Myth. p. 37-53. In S. Harris and G. Platzner. Classical Mythology. London, Mayfield, 2001.
Feb. 17 Greece: cultural and historical background: the Bronze Age
Weekly discussion: Greek Creation Stories

Reading: Hesiod: Selections from Theogony and Works and Days (from Thurby and Devinney, Introduction to Mythology, ch. 3)

Apollodorus: Selections from Book 1
Feb. 19 Greece: cultural and historical background: Iron age - Archaic, Homer

Feb. 24 Greece: cultural and historical background: Classical period, religious practices, temples

Weekly discussion: The Goddess Demeter

Reading: Homeric Hymn to Demeter (ch. 14 in Classical Mythology by Mark Morford and Robert Lenardon)
Feb. 26 Greece: gods and goddesses: Zeus, Hera, Athena, Poseidon, Demeter

March 3 Greece: gods and goddesses: Apollo, Artemis, Dionysus, Hermes, Aphrodite, Hephaestus

Weekly discussion: Heroic ideals

Reading: Selections from the Iliad by Homer

(p. 63-68, 87-91 in The Norton Book of Classical Literature, ed. Bernard Knox. New York: W.W. Norton, 1993).

March 5 Greece: the Iliad, the Odyssey, archaeology and Homer
March 10 Quiz on the Odyssey
Weekly discussion reading: The Odyssey by Homer (entire epic)

-purchase book at bookstore, or it is available on reserve in library or on the internet at

March 12 Greece: Hero stories

Myths of Herakles, Theseus, Perseus, Jason, Achilles, Hector

March 17 Greece: Hero stories continued
Weekly discussion reading: Odyssey continued
March 19 Tragic heroes

Myths of Agamemnon, Orestes, Oedipus

March 24 Roman religion

Bring questions for exam review

March 26 Midterm exam – in class
March 31 Egypt – historical and cultural background
Weekly discussion: Isis and Osiris and the Egyptian afterlife

Reading: “The Murder of Osiris”

Egyptian Book of the Dead
April 2 Egypt – gods, religion and the afterlife
Spring break
April 14 Mesopotamia – historical and cultural background
Weekly discussion: Babylonian creation story and legitimization of power

Reading: Enuma Elish (from Dennis Bratcher,

April 16 Mesopotamia – gods and goddesses, religion and politics

April 21 Mesopotamia – Inanna/Ishtar
Weekly discussion: Gilgamesh, Enkidu: an analysis of the Civilized/Wild dichotomy

Reading: Selections from the epic of Gilgamesh (from
Holiday April 23

April 28 Judeo/Christian - background to the Bible

Cain and Abel, Noah
Weekly Discussion: Formation of the stories in Genesis: Adam/Eve, Cain/Abel, Noah

Reading: Old Testament Bible: Genesis 1-9
April 30 Judeo/Christian – Noah, Abraham and his descendants

May 5 Judeo/Christian -Moses, Exodus, 10 commandments

Reading: Old Testament Bible: Genesis 16-17, 22 Exodus 1-3, 12, 14, 20

May 7 Christianity – cultural and historical background, birth of Jesus

Reading 2: New Testament Bible: Matthew 1-2, Luke 1-2, Matthew 3, 5-6, Luke 22-24
May 12 Christianity – death of Jesus, St. Paul, spread of Christianity, early church
Weekly discussion: Martyrs as the new heroes?

Reading: “The Martyrdom of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas.” (from www. “From Jesus to Christ”)
May 14 Formation of the Bible, the Gnostic gospels, Gospel of Mary

Debates within the early church

May 19 holiday

May 21 In-class writing exercise: myth interpretation

Final exam: to be scheduled during exam week

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