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Masterpieces of Ancient Greek Literature

Masterpieces of Ancient Greek Literature offers a view of literature that highlights the importance of the ancient Greeks to so much of the world that came after them, and particularly to our own way of living in and seeing that world.
Masterpieces of Ancient Greek Literature is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 38.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great info, with a point of for being PC This was a very interesting course in which Dr. Schenker not only delivered the "basic" writers and pieces, but there were also some recent uncovered writings that have only recently come to light. He gave a good background of each writer as well. I only take a point off because of my pet peeve of Schenker always using the time references as "BCE" and "CE" as opposed to "BC" and "AD". What is his aversion to the "classical" reference to Christianity? Who is he afraid of offending, since everyone knows why this is now the "Common Era"? Because he was PC in this matter, my only concern is wondering what else he might have been PC in. Otherwise recommended
Date published: 2021-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Caught my interest It has fulfilled what I most wanted which was putting ancient Greek literature into historical and classical perspective. For years bits and unattached pieces of knowledge have swirled in my mind in a rootless way. The course has help to satisfy some of my curiosity. I also found myself engrossed and entertained.
Date published: 2020-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous overview! Although this was a summary course, Prof. Schenker covered the selected texts with enough depth to make it worthwhile. He has a great speaking voice (tone, inflection, enthusiasm) and he clearly loves his material. I sped through the lectures and learned even more than I expected I would. A great course and I recommend it highly.
Date published: 2020-02-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Glad I bought it, but... I haven't finished this course yet, but I'm close to being done. The instructor presents in a calm, organized, pleasant manner, and offers interesting insight into the course material. I personally found myself most interested in what we would ordinarily classify as "literature," ie. the poetry and plays, as opposed to, say, looking at the literary aspects of Plato (I'd rather read Plato for the philosophy). But for someone who is fairly new to this material, it's all illuminating in one way or another, and I'm most likely going to go back and listen to the course from the beginning a second time.
Date published: 2018-08-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Solid Overview TTC courses on the Greeks offer a wide variety of options. One can, for example delve into Professor Vandiver’s courses on individual works (Iliad, Odyssey, Herodotus, etc.) or the dialogs of Plato or even of just one of his works (Republic). This course is the exact opposite, as it attempts to cover classic Greek literature from Homer through the Hellenistic age. Even though this is pretty ambitious, devoting 36 lectures to the topic seems reasonable. Professor Schenker does a credible job of this survey course. He is reasonably engaging, though not overly enthusiastic in his presentation. Even so, his love of the topic does come through in his words, if not stylistically. This would be a fine course for anyone with little or no background in classical Greece (or anyone wanting a refresh of college courses of long ago), as Dr. Schenker manages to combine a bit of history, some biography, a sprinkling of culture and government of the time, along with brief plot summaries in a manner that allows us to have a reasonably comprehensive understating of the times and works. The flow of the course begins with Homer and follows a pretty much straightforward chronological approach. So, what’s not to like? The same problem that any survey course or overview has when one has done some recent reading in the area. Perhaps it is just me, but I expected a bit more emphasis on the literary aspects of the writings and a bit less of other background material. Even so Professor Schenker did touch on some points that I had not understood or raised dome differing aspects of works about which I thought I had a pretty good grasp (e.g. “Lysistrata”). For those with sufficient background, go straight to courses devoted to specific works. Otherwise a good place to start.
Date published: 2018-07-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mastepieces of Ancient Greek lit.& Classical Mytho I purchased this course after finishing the course on Classical Mythology . This is about the fourth or fifth time I have ordered the Great Courses. My main interest is Literature and I enjoy the CD`S that I play and listen to in my car . I drive 26 miles to the train station. I commute to Chicago three times a week. This gives me an half hour both to and from the station. I read the Course Guide while on the train. I have enjoyed the reeducaton and the many things that were brought to my attention by the professors who were teaching the course. I own the Great Books of the Western World and they have all the reading material I need to supplement my reading. I also enjoyed the streaming that was avaliable to me in the Classical Mythology course . Seeing professor Elizabeth Vandiver and listening to her teach was a great treat. I have just started the Masterpieces of Ancient Greek Literature. Thank you for all the enjoyment you have given me. John A.Perri
Date published: 2018-01-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Zeroed in on the specific interest. The lectures always bring to light an aspect or an example overlooked in other offerings, or a totally new definition unseen or unheard.
Date published: 2017-07-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course. I do love anchiet history and am familiar with these works but Professor Schenker got me to really enjoy them. Historical background really helped prior to discussing the particular work and he got me to appreciate the works as literature to enjoy instead of an academic topic to study.
Date published: 2016-11-07
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Open your mind to the epics of Homer; the dramatic genius of the playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes; and the poems of Archilochus, Sappho, and many others in this course taught by an award-winning professor of classical literature.


David J. Schenker

The best of ancient Greek literature retains a freshness and immediacy that reaches far beyond its time and place of creation and speaks to readers and audience members today.


University of Missouri, Columbia

Dr. David J. Schenker is Associate Professor of Classical Literature at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he has taught since 1991. Dr. Schenker earned his Ph.D. in Classics from the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Schenker was a recipient of the 2006 American Philological Association Awards for Excellence in Teaching. At the University of Missouri-Columbia, he has won several teaching awards, including the Provost's Outstanding Junior Faculty Teaching Award and the William T. Kemper Award for Excellence in Teaching. His primary research interest is Greek literature of the 5th and early 4th centuries B.C.E., with a focus on Plato and the tragedians, especially Aeschylus. He has published articles on these subjects in several academic journals and was coeditor of the journal Classical and Modern Literature for six years.

Definitions, Boundaries, and Goals

01: Definitions, Boundaries, and Goals

In this episode, define the terms "ancient," "Greek," and "masterpiece."

32 min
Homer I—Introduction to Epic and

02: Homer I—Introduction to Epic and "Iliad"

This lecture introduces the Homeric epics, examines how the theory that they were composed orally might influence our reading, and summarizes essential mythological background before moving on to an overview of the Iliad and a deeper discussion of Book 1.

27 min
Homer II—

03: Homer II—"Iliad," The Wrath of Achilles

Here, explore the themes and action of books 2 through 9 of the Iliad.

32 min
Homer III—

04: Homer III—"Iliad," The Return of Achilles

Complete the Iliad, focusing on Achilles's return to battle and its aftermath.

30 min
Homer IV—

05: Homer IV—"Odyssey," Introduction and Prelude

Consider the Odyssey's structure as a traditional nostos, or return story.

30 min
Homer V—

06: Homer V—"Odyssey," The Adventures

Consider the psychic and emotional distance Odysseus travels as he prepares to return home.

31 min
Homer VI—

07: Homer VI—"Odyssey," Reintegration

Cover books 13 to 24, following the adventures of Odysseus on Ithaca as he completes his return.

32 min

08: Hesiod—"Theogony" and "Works and Days"

We look at two works that share much with the Homeric poems in the form and manner of their composition but also exhibit considerable differences in presenting both a creation myth and a commentary on interactions with both humans and gods.

31 min
Homeric Hymns

09: Homeric Hymns

There is much we do not know about the poems referred to collectively as Homeric Hymns: Who composed them? When? For what purpose? The two examples considered in this lecture reveal much about the complex Greek attitudes toward the divine.

29 min
Lyric Poetry I—Archilochus and  Solon

10: Lyric Poetry I—Archilochus and Solon

This is the first of two lectures on a group of poems composed from about the mid-7th through the mid-5th century B.C.E. Although often personal, erotic, and confessional, they can also be strikingly public and political in their themes.

28 min
Lyric Poetry II—Sappho and  Alcaeus

11: Lyric Poetry II—Sappho and Alcaeus

We consider several types of "melic" poetry (from melos, meaning song), including works by Sappho and Alcaeus, and ponder why this type of public song effectively died out by the end of the 5th century.

30 min
Tragedy—Contexts and Conventions

12: Tragedy—Contexts and Conventions

In the first of 13 lectures that address Athenian drama of the Golden Age, we focus on tragedy as produced by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides and introduce the genre's roots, mechanics, and conventions.

32 min
Aeschylus I—

13: Aeschylus I—"Persians"

We discuss the life and some aspects of the dramatic technique of Aeschylus, the oldest of the three great Athenian tragedians, and we look at the earliest of his extant plays.

33 min
Aeschylus I—

14: Aeschylus I—"Agamemnon"

In this lecture and the next, we discuss Aeschylus's "Oresteia," the only tragic trilogy that survives intact from antiquity, beginning with its brilliant first play, which introduces the trilogy's many interwoven themes and questions.

31 min
Aeschylus III—

15: Aeschylus III—"Libation Bearers" and "Eumenides"

We see Aeschylus continue to explore the themes of "Agamemnon" in the second and third plays of the trilogy and then look back over all three to consider possible interpretations.

32 min
Sophocles I—

16: Sophocles I—"Ajax" and "Philoctetes"

We begin our examination of the most popular and successful of the three giants of 5th-century Athenian drama with an introduction to his life and some of the innovations and techniques of his work; then we look at two of his seven extant plays, "Ajax" and "Philoctetes."

32 min
Sophocles II—

17: Sophocles II—"Oedipus the King"

Although Sophocles's three Theban plays are not a trilogy, they are best considered together because they follow the same story. After introducing the mythology, we move into Sophocles's treatment of the early part of the myth in "Oedipus the King."

29 min
Sophocles III—

18: Sophocles III—"Oedipus at Colonus" and "Antigone"

We discuss the other two Theban plays: "Oedipus at Colonus," a work of Sophocles's old age, which gives us the end of Oedipus's life, and "Antigone," which takes us back to Thebes and the strife among Oedipus's successors.

32 min
Euripides I—

19: Euripides I—"Electra," "Orestes," "Trojan Women "

The next three lectures are devoted to selected tragedies of Euripides. We begin here with some historical and cultural background, which is especially important because Euripides's work serves as a vivid witness to the intellectual and political ferment of the later 5th century.

29 min
Euripides II—

20: Euripides II—"Medea" and "Hippolytus"

In "Medea," Euripides creates one of the most compelling female roles in theater history, while in "Hippolytus," the role he gives to the gods contributes to an ongoing discussion about Euripides's attitude toward traditional religion.

31 min
Euripides III—

21: Euripides III—"The Bacchae"

Euripides's final play, produced only posthumously, has been interpreted both as a criticism of the traditional view of the gods and also as an admission that he has been wrong to question the role of the Olympians in the lives of mortals.

32 min
Aristophanes I—Introduction to Old Comedy

22: Aristophanes I—Introduction to Old Comedy

We introduce the other theatrical genre that developed in 5th-century Athens. Although comedy shares some of the conventions and components of tragedy, it takes us, in many ways, into a different world.

31 min
Aristophanes II—

23: Aristophanes II—"Acharnians" and "Lysistrata"

The Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta lasted 27 years (431-404 B.C.E.), a period that coincided with the height of Aristophanes's career. We examine two of the several comedies he wrote that directly address aspects of that war.

30 min
Aristophanes III—

24: Aristophanes III—"The Frogs" and "The Clouds"

During Aristophanes's career, Athens was at the forefront of intellectual and cultural changes, and those innovations underlie several of his comedies. We look at two of them and conclude our discussion with a brief look at comedy after Aristophanes.

29 min
Herodotus I—Introduction to History

25: Herodotus I—Introduction to History

We begin our discussion of history with the man who has been called both the father of history—as the first practitioner of the genre as we know it—and the father of lies for his many so-called digressions and fantastic stories.

30 min
Herodotus II—The Persian Wars

26: Herodotus II—The Persian Wars

Herodotus's narrative approach offers historical depth, geographical breadth, and mythological background, often in the form of self-contained stories. Do these stories contribute to the history? Or do they lead us to suspect even the most straightforward and seemingly pertinent parts of it?

31 min
Thucydides I—The Peloponnesian War

27: Thucydides I—The Peloponnesian War

At the beginning of his History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides introduces himself as a different sort of historian—accurate, scientific, and careful of sources. Although he was more modern in his methods than Herodotus, questions about his objectivity and bias remain.

31 min
Thucydides II—Books 1-5

28: Thucydides II—Books 1-5

We discuss three famous passages from books 1–5, examining how Thucydides uses the Peloponnesian War as a stage for his larger considerations of human nature, particularly as it manifests itself in times of crisis.

31 min
Thucydides III—Books 6-7

29: Thucydides III—Books 6-7

Books 6 and 7 are something of a departure from the rest of the work, a self-contained unit on the Athenians' ill-fated expedition against Syracuse in Sicily. What begins with optimism and unparalleled wealth ends in complete and utter defeat for the Athenians.

32 min
Plato I—The Philosopher as Literary Author

30: Plato I—The Philosopher as Literary Author

We examine some of the literary qualities that appear throughout Plato's philosophical dialogues, focusing not on the philosophical ideas or systems that might be extracted from the dialogues, but at the way Plato has chosen to present those ideas.

31 min
Plato II—

31: Plato II—"Symposium"

Beginning an examination of two of Plato's most polished literary masterpieces with The Symposium, we see that distinctions between its philosophical and literary parts are impossible to draw, and that it is best read as the seamless whole Plato gave us.

32 min
Plato III—

32: Plato III—"Phaedrus"

The twists and turns of what seems merely a dialogue about love and rhetoric reveal Socrates's subtle and careful attempts to engage his interlocutor—and, by extension, Plato's readers—in a more serious study of philosophy.

31 min
Rhetoric and Oratory

33: Rhetoric and Oratory

From Homer on, Greek literature reveals a deep interest in the role and power of speeches. We consider some examples from other literary genres to see the evolution of rhetoric as a formal discipline.

30 min
Hellenistic Poetry I—Callimachus and Theocritus

34: Hellenistic Poetry I—Callimachus and Theocritus

With the next two lectures, we move into a new world, away from mainland Greece to Alexandria, from the democracy of the city-state to far-reaching monarchies, and from public forms of literature to works that demand of their audience more specialized forms of knowledge.

30 min
Hellenistic Poetry II—Apollonius

35: Hellenistic Poetry II—Apollonius

We look at the single extant epic poem from the Hellenistic period, an account of Jason's quest for the Golden Fleece. This lecture brings us full circle, taking us back to the Homeric epics that so clearly influenced this work.

31 min
Looking Back and Looking Forward

36: Looking Back and Looking Forward

This concluding lecture examines the survival and continued influence of Greek literature. We see that it was largely through the Romans that Greek literature survived antiquity, and largely through the literary activity of the Hellenistic period that the Romans accessed the Greeks.

30 min