Gregory Nagy, PhD, Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature, Professor of Comparative Literature, and Director of the Center for Hellenic Studies, Harvard University
Kevin McGrath, PhD, Associate in Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University
The true “hero” of this ancient Greek literature course is the logos, or word, of logical reasoning, as activated by Socratic dialogue. The logos of dialogue requires careful thinking, realized in close reading and reflective writing. The last “word” read in the course comes from Plato’s memories of the last days of Socrates. These memories depend on a thorough understanding of concepts of the hero in all their varieties throughout the history of Greek civilization and beyond. This course is driven by a sequence of dialogues that lead to such an understanding, guiding the attentive reader through some of the major works of the ancient Greek classics, from Homer to Plato.
For a detailed syllabus and additional class materials, see the CLAS E-116 course website.
Lecture videos on the hero in ancient Greek civilization
The recorded lectures are from the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences course Literature and Arts C-14, which was offered as an online course at the Extension School.
Watch the lectures as streaming video or audio. Each lecture is about 50 minutes.
Introductions and Initiations
The Poetics of Lament
Equal to a God
Equal to a daimôn
Patroklos as alter ego of Achilles
The Sign of the Hero
A Psychology of Signs in Ancient Greek Visual Arts
The Return of the King (Physical and Metaphysical)
The Return of the King (Physical and Metaphysical); part II
Blessed are the Heroes
Longing for a hero
Better off Dead
Champions of dikê
Initiation into Tragedy
Birth of a Polis
The "Swan Song" of Sophocles
Shades of the Hero
Pollution of the Body Politic
A Masterpiece of Metonymy
Loose Hair and Social Disorder
The Living Word, Part I
The Living Word, Part II
The Last Word: The Hero as Savior
If you enjoyed this free ancient Greek civilization course, Harvard Extension School offers a wide variety of courses in numerous fields. Search for classes and enroll for credit during the fall and spring registration periods.