Democracy and Myth in Ancient Greece

A First-Year Ampersand Program

Democracy and Myth in Ancient Greece

This two-semester program offers an engaging and profound study of ancient Greek culture and literature, with a particular focus on Athens at the height of its political, literary, and intellectual influence.  Students will study the narratives that shaped religion and culture in the ancient world and then experience what it was like to be a citizen in the first democracy!  At the end of the program, we will travel to Greece and visit the very places we have been discussing all semester, such as the theater of Dionysus in Athens, the oracle at Delphi, and the stadium at Olympia. 

How To Apply

The application process for first-year programs and seminars opens on Thursday, May 12, at 4 p.m. (CT) and closes on Monday, May 16, at noon (CT). You will need your WUSTL Key to apply, so please be sure to sign up for your WUSTL Key by Tuesday, May 10 to give it 24 hours to activate. There will be a link to the application webform on the First-Year Programs homepage during this time for you to sign up. A statement of interest (no more than 500 words) is required when you submit your application online. ADDITIONAL PROGRAM COSTS: Please note that the travel component of this course costs an additional $3500 approximately. Need-based financial support is available.

First-Year Programs homepage


Fall Semester

In the Fall semester, in Greek Mythology (CLA 301C), we will read some of the most influential works of Greek literature, from Homer to Sophocles.  We will consider how these stories reflect the religion, culture, and world of ancient Greece.  We will think about the value as well as the malleability of the past in modern reception, and, ultimately, we will inquire what ancient Greece represents and contributes to our own discourses and cultures today.

Spring Semester

In the Spring, we will delve into Classical Athens (CLA 223), focusing on the historical and cultural context in which democracy emerged and thrived.  By looking at both the archaeological evidence and literary sources, we will learn how Athenian democracy functioned and the advantages and the limitations of its institutions.  We will debate some of the most pressing issues both then and now: what expectations we have of citizens, how we should integrate immigrants into society, and how (or whether!) we should forgive our enemies.  We will also explore how democratic institutions shaped other aspects of Athenian culture, such as tragedy, sculptural art, and religious practice. 


*This Ampersand Program typically has an international travel component, which could be affected by federal and local guidelines related to health, safety, and security considerations. This program's main academic component will not be affected.

The courses during the school year will prepare us for the highlight of this program: a two-week trip to Greece!  While in Greece, we will spend one week in Athens and one week traveling to archaeological sites throughout Central Greece and the Peloponnese.