The Hero in Ancient Greek Civilization Open Learning Course

The free video lectures of this course are made available as part of Harvard Extension School's Opening Learning Initiative.

About this Course

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.

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Harvard Faculty

Gregory Nagy, Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Center for Hellenic Studies, Harvard University. Nagy has published over 100 articles, several books including The Best of the Achaeans: Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry. He has served as chair of Harvard’s undergraduate literature concentration, chair of the classics department, and president of the American Philological Association.

Kevin McGrath, Associate in Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University. McGrath's field of research centers on the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata, and he has published two works on the poem: The Sanskrit Hero and Stri. The hero as a figure for humanistic analysis and study is the focus of much of McGrath’s work.

Course Website

For a detailed syllabus and additional class materials, see the CLAS E-116 course website.

Lecture Videos

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.

To watch these videos, please visit the archived course page

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