Show/hide main menu

Level 5

5AACTL28 Death in Greek myth and thought

Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutor: Professor Michael Trapp
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour seminar (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x 2-hour exam (50%) 1 x essay of 2,000 words (50%)

Assessment pattern for Graduate Diploma students

Assessment: 2 x 2,000 word essays (100%, worth 50% each)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

Death has always been one of the greatest challenges to human creativity and understanding.  This module aims to introduce students to a range of the ways death has been described and accounted for in Greek thought and reflective writing, from archaic and classical period myths, via Plato, to the philosophies of the Hellenistic period. In myth, it will examine contrasting portrayals and evaluations of the land of the dead, and differences of opinion over the possibility of return.  In philosophy, the aim will be to establish the major alternative positions taken, from Plato to the Stoics and Epicureans of the Hellenistic and Imperial periods.  Attention will also be given to the mobilization of this range of reflection in consolation literature and funerary epitaph.  

All texts will be studied in English translation.

This module goes closely with 5AACTL27 Death in Greek Literature, but can be taken separately from it.

Provisional teaching plan

  1. The mirror of myth: being dead in the Iliad and the Odyssey
  2. The mirror of myth: versions of the land of the dead
  3. The mirror of myth: katabasis and possibilities of return
  4. Plato on death: the Phaedo
  5. Plato on death:  the Republic, the Gorgias, the Phaedrus
  6. The Stoics on death: release and reabsorption
  7. Epicureans on death: Epicurus and Philodemus
  8. Epicureans on death: Lucretius
  9. Consoling the bereaved
  10. Funerary epitaphs

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

  • Ariès, P., Western Attitudes Towards Death (Johns Hopkins UP 1974)
  • Enright, D.J. (ed), The Oxford Book of Death (OUP 1987)
  • Lattimore, R., Themes in Greek and Latin Epitaphs (Univ of Illinois P 1942)
  • Mirto, M.S., Death in the Greek World (Univ of Oklahoma P 2012)
  • J. Scourfield, Consoling Heliodorus (OUP 1993)
  • Segal, C., Lucretius on Death and Anxiety (Princeton 1990)
  • Vermeule, E., Aspects of Death in Early Greek Art and Poetry (Univ of California P 1979)
  •  Warren, J., Facing Death: Epicurus and his critics (OUP 2006)
Sitemap Site help Terms and conditions  Privacy policy  Accessibility  Modern slavery statement  Contact us

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454