Ancient Religion and Mythology in the Black Sea

This course’s subject is the study of those mythological incidents, e.g. the Argonaut expedition, Hercules’ labours, wandering Odysseus, punished Prometheus in the Caucasus, etc., which associate the myths of Greeks with the Black Sea region. The comparative mythology, that is, the systematic comparison of myths from different cultures, seeks to discover underlying themes that are common to the myths of multiple cultures. Myths of the Black Sea region, both from the Greek and the local cultures shall be thoroughly examined in order to define their origin and their possible connection with actual historical events (Colonisation), distorted over many retellings. There will also be an approach to the religious life of the Black Sea population in Hellenistic and Roman times, through the study of Greek and local cults (Dionysus and Orpheus in Thrace, Apollo and Artemis in the Tauris Peninsula, Cybele/Mother of God, Attis and other Eastern deities, Egyptian cults). According to the myth-ritual theory, a myth is closely tied to rituals and it also provides a religious experience. This approach will be based on the study of written sources (inscriptions, literary sources) and archaeological evidence (sanctuaries, shrines, temples, votive offerings, religious articles).

Learning outcomes

Upon completing the course, the students will have gained:

  • knowledge on the legends of Greek mythology referred to or linked to the Black Sea region
  • ability to interpret these myths based on historical events, such as the Greek colonisation, the foundation of cities etc.
  • knowledge of which Greek and Eastern deities were worshiped in different parts of the Black Sea area during antiquity
  • knowledge on the known ancient sacral monuments of the Black Sea area, the most important published worship objects, such as votive offerings found there, and the texts of the ancient sources referring to the worship of deities and worship practices in the Black Sea region
  • ability to interpret these myths in conjunction to historical events, e.g. the Greek Colonisation, the foundation of cities, etc.
  • knowledge on religions and deity/ hero cults related to the Black Sea area
  • ability to identify the major sacral monuments from the Black Sea settlements, important religious artefacts (e.g. votive offerings), discovered during excavations and published. They will also learn to study written texts (inscriptions, literary sources) associated with religion and religious practices in the Black Sea region.