Gods, Heroes and Mystery Cults: Religion in Ancient Greece - CL752

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
6 30 (15)







This module is an introduction to ancient Greek ritual and religion, including the Mystery cults. The module offers a comprehensive introduction to the major gods and goddesses of ancient Greece, spheres of influence, characters, relationships, exploits, and worship. It is concerned with the analysis of religious festivals, cults, beliefs, and the development of religious architecture. The module additionally briefly contrasts Greek religion to Christianity, as an example of investigating how Greek religion differs from, and resembles, modern religions. The materials of the module are drawn from archaeology, Greek poets, artists, playwrights, mythographers, and philosophers from the 10th–2nd centuries BC.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 30

Method of assessment

Presentation (20 minutes) – 20%
Essay (3,000 words) – 80%

Indicative reading

Alcock, S. and Osborne, R. (eds) (1999). Placing the Gods. Sanctuaries and Sacred Space in Ancient Greece. Oxford: Clarendon Press
Antonaccio, C.M. (1995). An Archaeology of Ancestors: Tomb, Cult and Hero Cult in Early Greece. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers
Burkert, W. (1983). Homo Necans. The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth. Berkeley: University of California Press
Burkert, W. (1985). Greek Religion. Archaic and Classical. Oxford: Blackwell/Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
Cole, S.G. (2004). Landscapes, Gender and Ritual Space. The Ancient Greek Experience. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press
Easterling, P.E. and Muir, J.V. (1985). Greek Religion and Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

- Demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of the archaeology and the historical sources on ancient Greek cults from the 10th–2nd centuries BC;
- Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the development of Greek religious architecture in relation to the needs of religious rites and cult practices;
- Demonstrate systematic understanding when assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the archaeological evidence and historical sources dealing with religious practice and cult for the periods covered;
- Demonstrate independent learning skills and discuss with confidence aspects of ancient Greek religion, beliefs of the cosmos and the divine;
- Using established techniques, accurately identify artistic representations of the major gods, goddesses, and heroes of ancient Greece, their spheres of influence, character, relationships, exploits, and worship.

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