Hector and Achilles clash on the battlefields of Troy. Arthur discovers a magical sword and becomes a powerful British king. Jesse James pulls off daring crimes across the American frontier. Myths and stories such as these have captivated billions of people throughout human history. But these and other moments are more than just mere entertainment; they also serve a more important purpose.
Great myths and grand tales teach people about the hopes and values of their cultures, and they impart invaluable life lessons that can teach, guide, and inspire. The ways in which the human imagination can transform historical events, people, and themes into powerful myths that endure through the ages is nothing short of awe-inspiring. And to examine the core of the world's greatest myths and tales—and the larger-than-life characters who figure in them—is to confront some of history's most basic human truths. It's also an engaging opportunity to better understand them, learn from them, and possibly even apply them to your own everyday life.
Change the way you think about some of the greatest stories ever told with Life Lessons from the Great Myths by award-winning Professor J. Rufus Fears of the University of Oklahoma. A powerful work of storytelling prowess and historical insight, these 36 captivating lectures explore events and individuals that so gripped civilizations, they transcended to the level of myth and played an important role in shaping culture, politics, religion, and more. Taking you from the battlefields of Alexander the Great and the ships of Viking explorers to the conquests of Napoleon Bonaparte and the rough-and-tumble drama of the American West, this is the kind of engaging, personally rewarding Great Course that only Professor Fears can deliver.
Walk the Universal Path to Wisdom
Mythology, according to Professor Fears, is an essential part of the universal path to wisdom. We study myths and the heroes who populate them for the same reason we study any subject in the humanities: to gain wisdom. Using his decades of teaching experience and his highly popular perspective on history, Professor Fears shows you how to find, hidden within these breath-catching stories, the core sets of principles for the lives of people from around the world and across time.
To make the epic scope of world mythology more approachable, Life Lessons from the Great Myths focuses on what Professor Fears considers the most important and popular myths from key eras and cultures from more than 3,000 years of history.
- Myths from ancient Greece and Rome: You'll travel back to the veritable cradle of Western civilization and investigate how views on warfare, heroism, family, justice, and other human values were shaped by myths and tales about the Trojan War, the adventures of Jason and Theseus, the tragedy of the House of Atreus, the founding of Rome, the rule of Julius Caesar, and more.
- Myths from the Near East and the Middle East: Focusing on the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh and the books of Genesis and Exodus, you'll discover how ancient stories and events—including Gilgamesh's quest for immortality, the calling of Moses, and the bestowal of the Ten Commandments—can serve as the backbone for politics, culture, and spirituality.
- Myths from early and modern Europe: Europe is also rife with its own mythologies and tales that built the foundations of the modern West and that still impart lessons on leadership. Among those you look at are chivalric Arthurian legends, Viking travels to North America, the Battle of Kosovo, and the near-mythic life of Napoleon Bonaparte.
- Myths from the United States: America, you'll learn, was a fertile field for transforming history into myth and shaping the nation's unique approach to freedom and self-reliance. Here, you'll find out what you can learn from the lives and deeds of George Washington, Davy Crockett, Jesse James, General Armstrong Custer, and other bold American figures.
Throughout the course, you approach each myth from a perspective that considers both its (possible) historical roots and its hidden kernels of wisdom. Not only will you get a stronger sense of how myths work together to create a broad moral framework for civilizations, you'll see how in some cases—such as Julius Caesar's life serving as a direct inspiration for Napoleon Bonaparte's military career—earlier mythic and historical exploits inform and influence subsequent generations.
Uncover Enduring Sources of Wisdom
Every myth and story you explore in Life Lessons from the Great Myths—whether a completely unfounded story, such as the sinking of Atlantis, or one that can be verified by the historical record, such as the battle of the Alamo—have long since transcended into legend. And each tale conveys higher truths too profound to be described in ordinary, factual language.
Decoding them, Professor Fears reveals how they serve as vibrant and enduring sources of wisdom.
- Oedipus, Agamemnon, and Orestes: The tragic lives of these ancient Greek figures offered Athenians pointed lessons on subjects such as decision making, leadership, and family values.
- The Epic of Gilgamesh: The rich tapestry of supernatural events in this riveting epic provided support for Mesopotamian politics, including the need for a divinely appointed kingship.
- Beowulf: The furious battles between this bold hero and a bevy of monsters played an important role in cementing Germanic ideas of courage, heroism, glory, and honor.
- Napoleon Bonaparte: Promoted by the military leader himself, the myth of this French emperor shows what it takes to achieve military and political success—but also to overreach and lose it all.
- The battle of the Alamo: The dramatic last stand of Davy Crockett and other Americans at this Texas fort emphasizes the idea that liberty is worth any price, no matter what the odds of victory.
Relive the World's Great Myths
Professor Fears has won more than 25 awards for teaching excellence throughout his illustrious career as an instructor, lecturer, and historian. And with Life Lessons from the Great Myths, you'll see for yourself (if you aren't already a fan of this masterful orator) just why he has received such acclaim—from both his students and our own community of lifelong learners.
Professor Fears does more than just deliver insightful lectures. He tells vibrant stories with passion and drama, so much so that you'll find yourself not just learning about these myths and stories, but actually reliving them. You'll
- watch the brothers Romulus and Remus fight over where to build the city of Rome and, in the process, give birth to an iconic ancient empire;
- walk with Moses and the Israelites as they escape from Egyptian bondage and establish religious traditions that continue to this day;
- charge with Jesse James as he commits his daring crimes and transcends into a veritable folk hero of the American frontier;
- follow alongside American troops as they raise the U.S. flag over Iwo Jima for a photograph that would inspire the nation;
- and much more.
The search for wisdom is, according to Professor Fears, the paramount purpose in life. And there is much wisdom to be gleaned from the world's great myths. By the final powerful and stirring lecture of this course, you're sure to find yourself wiser than you were before you started.