Heaven and Earth: Myth, Religion, and Archaeology in Ancient Greece

Fall Open
Class Standing
Andrew Reece
Ulrike Krotscheck

What belongs to the human world, and what to another? Where are the boundaries between the world of the gods, that of humans, and the underworld, and what happens when they are transgressed?

The ancient Greeks held a variety of beliefs about worlds that living humans did not, or should not, occupy, as well as places and spaces in which they ought to act only with great care. These included the realms of the Titans, the Olympic Gods, the groves and sanctuaries sacred to certain deities, and the underworld. Even animals associated with certain gods had the power to fundamentally alter humans’ lives if they weren’t avoided or at least treated with the utmost caution.

Tales about humans’ intersections and interactions with these realms and beings abound in ancient Greek literature. These narratives and ideas were not formulated in a vacuum but were influenced by traditions from other cultures nearby, particularly from the Near East. In this program, we seek to understand these myths and the cultural ideals, anxieties, values, and beliefs that they reveal. We do so through the study of primary texts, ranging from epic poetry to drama to religious scripture; of scholarship on ancient religion; and of the archaeological remains that give us insight into the myths and rituals of both the literate and pre-literate ancient Mediterranean.

We begin with Homer’s Odyssey, a story featuring multiple and varied intersections between human and divine. Then, we trace the origins of these tales from the ancient Near East with the Gilgamesh Epic and the Enuma Elish. Excerpts from Genesis, Hesiod’s Theogony, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and the New Testament will illustrate early visions of the creation of the world and of human beings and the uneasy relationship between gods and humans that soon resulted in the expulsion of the first people from paradise, a worldwide flood, the multiplicity of languages, the necessity of death, and repeated attempts at reconciliation. Reading the Homeric Hymns, we will deepen our understanding of the anthropomorphic Greek gods and their place in nature and culture, in life and death. Greek tragedy and philosophy will help us learn how the Greeks of the Classical age grappled with the mysteries of fate, the demands of enigmatic deities, and the possibility of immortality.

Parallel to studying these texts, we will engage in an archaeological survey of the ancient Greek world, with particular attention to sacred sites and locations from the Bronze Age to the Hellenistic period, including their architecture, sculpture, ceramics, and painting. In doing so, we will discover connections between the imagined worlds and the physical practices in which myth and cult were expressed and enacted.

Heaven & Earth is a reading and writing-intensive program suited for any student interested in history, myth, religion, or more broadly, the humanities and the ancient world. Faculty will support students as they develop their skills in the analysis and interpretation of literary and material artifacts, critical thinking, and persuasive composition. Class sessions will be devoted to faculty lectures, collaborative seminars, writing workshops, films, and discussions.

Greener FoundationsGreener FoundationsThis program is coordinated with  for first-year students. Greener Foundations is Evergreen’s in-person 2-quarter introductory student success course sequence, which provides first-year students with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive at Evergreen. Students expected to take will be prompted to register for a 2-credit Greener Foundations course in addition to this 14-credit program during registration. Students will be prompted to register for Greener Foundations with their new winter program to complete the 4-credits of Greener Foundations.


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (14): 10045
So (14): 10365

Academic Details

History, Anthropology, Archaeology, Classics, Writing, Cultural Studies, Public history, Museum Studies, Art History


$50 for museum entrance


In Person (F)

See definition of Hybrid, Remote, and In-Person instruction

Schedule Details
SEM 2 C2105 - Workshop