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Myth in the Greek and Roman worlds

What is myth? This module is a broad interdisciplinary study of Greek and Roman myth in its social, historical, literary and visual context. It combines the detailed study of individual works of literature, art and architecture with an exploration of context, function and purpose. As well as studying myth in antiquity, you will also explore the reception of mythical ideas and images in later European culture. The module's digital resources include interactive visual explorations of key ancient and modern sites, monuments and artefacts, together with audio interviews with experts tracing the influence of myth on, for example, drama, science and medicine.

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Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
3 10 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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What you will study

The module consists of an introduction and four main blocks.

The main emphasis of the first two blocks is on obtaining knowledge of a specific range of myths, mythical characters and their function. Also on a critical analysis of the presentation of myths in a variety of sources, such as history, poetry, drama and art.

The later blocks add more detailed analysis of poetry and its very influential reception in medieval and Renaissance poetry and visual art. In the final block, philosophy is added to the range of sources to be studied and analysed.

As the module progresses, you're expected to develop a degree of independence in learning to the extent that you are able to complete independent analyses using the skills you have learned in the course of your study. This leads to you writing a project-type essay at the end of the module.

The module content is as follows:

In a short introduction, we ask basic questions like ‘What is myth?’, and ‘Why Greek and Roman myth?’ There are sections on ‘catch-up’ reading for those unfamiliar with classical antiquity, learning outcomes and the basic structure of the module. This leads to a ‘taster’ that introduces you to the mythical narrative of the Roman poet Ovid, and how the famous myth of the Fall of Icarus is represented in Renaissance and modern art and poetry.

Block 1: The myth of Hippolytus and Phaedra
In this block you'll trace the development of a particularly influential myth through the Greek and Roman worlds. This is the myth of the Greek youth Hippolytus, whose tragic fate is explored through the contrasted presentations of a range of sources from Greek drama to Roman and early Christian art. This block concludes with a study of the cult of Hippolytus at Nemi near Rome and the famous treatment by Sir James Frazer in the Golden Bough.

Block 2: Myth in Rome: power, life and afterlife
In this block you'll concentrate on how myths of origin and power functioned in the Roman Empire. You investigate the role of myth in the validation of Roman imperial rule, and how myth related to history. At the other end of the social scale, you explore how myth impacted on everyday life and related to Roman attitudes to death.

Block 3: Ovid and the reception of myth 
In this block you'll focus on Ovid’s Metamorphoses as a key source for the literary interpretation of Greek and Roman myth. There is close reading of selected sections from this seminal poem, with a concentration on different types of interpretation. This includes recent scholarship and with reference to its influence in medieval and Renaissance reception in literature and visual art, in particular looking at allegorical interpretation of the classical myths.

Block 4: Myth and reason
In this block you'll examine the relations and tensions between ‘mythical’ and ‘rational’ thought in Greek culture. Starting with origins, how the world began, you'll progress to consider emerging rational and scientific modes of thought. This is principally with the Presocratic philosophers and in Hippocratic medicine of the sixth to fourth centuries BCE. You'll conclude this block by considering how human life ends, with myths of the afterlife in mystery religion and Plato's philosophies. 

You will learn

By studying this module you will:

  • gain an in-depth knowledge of a specific range of myths and mythical characters, and learn to consider how myths function in a range of contexts, historical, social and cultural
  • study and analyse the presentation of myths in a variety of sources – such as poetry, drama, history, philosophy, art, architecture and archaeology – evaluating the context of the evidence and how different contexts may relate to each other
  • develop the ability to write a well thought-out analysis of texts/artistic representations and produce essays containing logical argument and analysis at an appropriate level
  • become familiar with critical analysis of the reception of Greek and Roman myth, including a range of theoretical approaches and modern scholarship relating to Classical Mythology
  • develop a degree of independence in learning that will enable you to complete analyses, using the skills you have learnt, including investigations of bibliography via the internet, libraries, etc.

You will also be required to undertake, with a degree of independence, a project at the end of the module.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You'll have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We also aim to provide online tutorials and recordings of these will typically be made available.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper. 

Your end-of-module assessment (EMA) must be submitted online.

Assessment is an essential part of the teaching, so you are expected to complete it all. You will be given more information when you register.

Future availability

Myth in the Greek and Roman worlds starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2021 when we expect it to start for the last time. A replacement Classical studies module is planned for October 2022. 


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    End-of-module assessment
    No residential school

    Entry requirements

    This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on the skills and subject knowledge acquired from studies at OU levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject, preferably at the OU.

    Although no particular modules are required before studying this one, we recommend that you should have taken at least two arts modules at OU levels 1 and 2. The OU level 1 module Discovering the arts and humanities (A111), or The arts past and present (AA100) (now discontinued) as well as a OU level 2 module would be ideal preparation. This is because this module has been designed to enable you to apply and develop skills in working with source material that you would get from an interdisciplinary or single-discipline OU level 2 module.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Preparatory work

    For further information on what preparatory work you can do, visit the faculty website.


    Start End England fee Register
    02 Oct 2021 Jun 2022 £3168.00

    Registration closes 09/09/21 (places subject to availability)

    October 2021 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2022. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 16/04/2021.

    What's included

    Module books, a DVD-ROM and access to a module website, which includes:

    • a week-by-week study planner
    • online activities
    • module materials that include electronic versions of the books
    • assessment guide
    • online tutorial access.

    Computing requirements

    You'll need a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of 64-bit Windows 10 (note that Windows 7 is no longer supported) or macOS and broadband internet access.

    To join in spoken conversations in tutorials we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

    Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

    Our OU Study mobile App will operate on all current, supported, versions of Android and iOS. It's not available on Kindle.

    It's also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook, however, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you'll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

    Materials to buy

    Set books

    • Ovid: Feeney, D. (Intro) & Raeburn, D. (trans.) Metamorphoses Penguin £8.99 - ISBN 9780140447897
    • Morford, M.P.O. & Lenardon, R.J. Classical Mythology (International 10th edn) Oxford University Press £39.99 - ISBN 9780199997398
    • Euripides: Rutherford, R. (Intro) Davie, J. (trans.) Medea and Other Plays (Alcestis, Medea, The Children of Heracles and Hippolytus) Penguin £8.99 - ISBN 9780140449297
    • Grimal, P.: Kershaw, S. (ed.) & Maxwell-Hyslop, A. (trans.) The Penguin Dictionary of Classical Mythology Penguin £12.99 - ISBN 9780140512359

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying A330 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.