It Came From Greek Mythology

And when I was a schoolchild, I loved those old stories ... They have mystery, treachery, murder, loyalty, romance, magic, monsters—everything is in there. So I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in mythology and that just continued when I was a teacher.

— Rick Riordan, from: Episode for Families: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief at the Met

Monsters, gods, and heroes ... all surefire favorites in the classroom and the stuff of Greek mythology. But Greek mythology offers so much more: inspiration for many works of art (both written and visual), insight into the human condition, a glimpse at an ancient people trying to make sense of phenomena they could not explain, and the source for many names and terms we use today. Your students might be surprised to find they're wearing shoes with the name of a Greek goddess (Nike), rooting for (or against) a team named after Greek gods (Tennessee Titans), and even listening to rock groups with mythological names (Styx).

The lessons in this unit provide you with an opportunity to use online resources to further enliven your students' encounter with Greek mythology, to deepen their understanding of what myths meant to the ancient Greeks, and to help them appreciate the meanings that Greek myths have for us today. In the lessons below, students will learn about Greek conceptions of the hero, the function of myths as explanatory accounts, the presence of mythological terms in contemporary culture, and the ways in which mythology has inspired later artists and poets.

Although myths convey exciting stories about gods and heroes, they are not equivalent to "stories" either in the modern sense of a deliberate fiction or the traditional sense of a folk tale or tall story. Rather, myths are traditional narratives often of gods, goddess, and heroes, great deeds and supernatural powers, that are passed down through various textual and visual sources and convey commonly held beliefs in a particular society about natural phenomena, historical events, and proper behavior. The lessons below will help students to understand this important distinction.

The Greek myths were not composed as stories for children. The Greeks were not shy about treating sexually explicit subjects. Although the links provided below are generally "cleaned up" versions of the myths, you should review all materials for appropriateness before presenting them to your students.

Guiding Questions

What meanings did myths about gods, goddesses, and heroes have for the ancient Greeks?

What meanings do the Greek myths have for us today?

Learning Objectives

Describe the basic plots of several Greek myths.

Discuss three types of themes in Greek myths: stories about heroes, stories about "how it came to be," and stories about the consequences of unwise behavior.

Cite examples of contemporary use of terms from Greek mythology.

Analyze artistic and literary works based on or inspired by Greek myths.