Classical Mythology, Day 21

In this class we continue to examine the relationship between storytelling and human life in the Archaic Age and later by considering the relationship between stories about death, dying, and the afterlife and Greek ritual practices and cultural beliefs. We start by reconsidering the poetics and meaning of Greek ideas of mortality and immortality before a brief overview of funerary practices and ideas of the underworld in Homer and later. Once we have established some general traits, we will discuss how the discourse of the afterlife changes over time from rather unclear notions in Homer to more specific ideas of reward and punishment.


Ancient Authors Discussed

Homer, Archaic Age

Plato, Classical Period

Vergil, Roman Republican Period

Ovid, Roman Imperial Period

Apuleius, Roman Imperial Period


Some Suggested Course Texts

Ovid, Orpheus and Eurydice from Metamorphoses 10.1-85

Vergil on Orpheus and Eurydice, Georgics 4

Apuleius, “Cupid and Psyche”, from Metamorphoses or The Golden Ass

Walter Burkert on Funerary Ritual (from Homo Necans)

Burkert on Hero Cult (from Greek Religion)

Homer, Odyssey 11

Plato, Phaedo

Links to Blogposts

The healing Music of Pythagoras

A Funeral Epitaph

Talking about Death

Death Burial and the Afterlife: Metropolitan Museum of Art


Modern Authors Mentioned

Victor Turner

Walter Burkert

Other Articles for Additional Reading

Alexiou, Margaret, The Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition.

Elizabeth Manwell, “Learning to Look at Death with Herodotus,” Eidolon March 3, 2016.

Morris, Ian. “Attitudes toward Death in Archaic Greece.” Classical Antiquity 8, no. 2 (1989): 296-320.

Jaeger, Werner. “The Greek Ideas of Immortality: The Ingersoll Lecture for 1958.” The Harvard Theological Review 52, no. 3 (1959): 135-47.

Edmonds, Radcliffe III. “Imagining the Afterlife in Greek religion.”

Similar Myths



Student Links



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