For the upcoming five weeks this will be my blog covering my summer activities. This summer I was selected to intern at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in the paleobiology department. I was to be studying predation through deep time and its effects on sea urchin spine evolution. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my internship was cancelled. I was granted priority selection next summer if I was to reapply however I am required to complete a senior thesis and the data is oftentimes collected the summer before senior year. This summer I have been working on my thesis research virtually but also plan to continue this in the fall. In order to open up my schedule to have more time to finish my thesis, I applied to summer funding through PLA to take summer classes.
The grant from PLA is covering a course on classical mythology. This class will cover both a humanities requirement and intro class in the Classics and Mediterranean Studies minor. I love classical history and I am excited to take this class. The upcoming four blogs will be summarizing topics covered in the course for the week.
Classical mythology, or Greek and Roman mythology, is very well known. Many people grew up with the stories of Zeus and Hades, Medusa and Perceus, and Orpheus and Eurydice. These stories are still entertaining us in modern interpretations today from books like the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (was a big fan) and American Gods (currently reading and highly recommend) to movies such as Clash of the Titans (original is so much better) and Disney’s Hercules, and even musicals such as Hadestown.
For historians, these stories provide a window into the psyche and zeitgeist of the ancients. Mythology helped explain the natural phenomena of our world during a time when science was in its infancy. Why does a river flood, lightning strike, a peacock have extravagant colors, the tides change, storms form? This was always the reason I was taught in school but not all myths fit this mold. Mythology also helped people cope with the inevitability of life, and death. Knowing that there is an afterlife allows people to process the end of life. Finally, mythology gives people purpose, knowing that they are not an accident but placed on the planet by the will of the gods and being watched.