Greek Heroes in Popular Culture Through Time: Track 1

Featuring: Video Video Audio Audio

What does ‘2001: a Space Odyssey’ have to do with Odysseus? How does Brad Pitt's Achilles in 'Troy' match up to Homer's original hero? And is Arnold Schwarzenegger the new Heracles? This collection of video animations and audio discussions examines how the heroes of Greek mythology have been represented in popular culture, from ancient times to the modern day. Odysseus is the archetypal questing hero - a blank canvas on which every era has projected its own values. Heracles is the original strongman. And Achilles is the fighter whose sexuality vies with his heel for popular attention. The videos mix archive film and TV clips with character animation, bringing a playful approach to classical myth, while the audio discussions shine a more scholarly light on how today’s popular culture sees these myths differently from the Ancient Greeks.

By: The iTunes U team (Programme and web teams)

  • Duration 1 hour
  • Updated Monday 10th October 2011
  • Introductory level
  • Posted under History & The Arts
Share on Google Plus Share on LinkedIn View article Comments

Track 1: Achilles

Achilles discusses how his sexuality has been perceived by Hollywood in and how everyone seems to just concentrate on his poorly heel!

© The Open University 2011

Tracks in this podcast:

Track   Title Description
1 Achilles    Achilles discusses how his sexuality has been perceived by Hollywood in and how everyone seems to just concentrate on his poorly heel! Play now Achilles
2 Achilles discussion    The lowdown on what popular culture chooses to keep in its portrayals of the Greek hero Achilles … and what gets left out. Play now Achilles discussion
3 Heracles    Heracles, the famous demi-god, drops by to assert what his macho image really means by talking us through clips of Arnie, Popeye, Steve Reeves and Kevin Sorbo. Play now Heracles
4 Heracles discussion    The changing portrayals of Heracles: how the ancient Greeks’ bad boy turns to virtuous saviour by the C19th, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the C20th. Play now Heracles discussion
5 Odysseus    Odysseus, famed for his 10 year journey home, joins us with his wife Penelope discussing how the legacy of his long voyage has been portrayed by the Coen Brothers, James Joyce, Tennyson and George Melies. Play now Odysseus
6 Odysseus discussion    From personal odyssey to space odyssey, the myth of Odysseus keeps cropping up. What is it about this hero that makes him so pervasive? Play now Odysseus discussion

Copyright information

Tags, Ratings and Social Bookmarking


Your rating None. Average rating 4.6 out of 5, based on 13 ratings


Be the first to post a comment

Leave a comment
Sign in or create your OpenLearn account to join the discussion.

We invite you to discuss this subject, but remember this is a public forum.
Please be polite, and avoid your passions turning into contempt for others. We may delete posts that are rude or aggressive; or edit posts containing contact details or links to other websites.

Other content you may like

Good god! 12 labours of Putin is all about Vlad’s personality cult Creative commons image Icon Wikimedia under CC-BY-4.0 licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

History & The Arts 

Good god! 12 labours of Putin is all about Vlad’s personality cult

Is an art exhibition in Russia, conveying Putin as the Greek hero Heracles (Hercules), narcissistic, sinister or hilariously ironic?


History & The Arts 

Exploring Greek vases

What can you learn about an archaic community from the art they created? Can the way in which their artefacts are displayed enhance the experience of viewing it? Very few remains still exist from Ancient Greek culture on the whole. However because of the durability of the material, pottery is a large part of the archaeological record from this period in Greece’s history, and as a result these vases have exerted a disproportionately large influence on our understanding of Greek society. These films show how you can an insight into Greek civilisation by observing the designs on the ceramics that have been acquired by these museums. The Open University’s Jessica Hughes analyses their religious mythology and Lucilla Burns discusses presentation at the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge.

5 mins
The power of popular culture Creative commons image Icon By Ben Sutherland via Flickr under Creative Commons license under Creative-Commons license article icon

History & The Arts 

The power of popular culture

Mark Banks explores the power of popular culture, as Thinking Allowed looks at comic book heroes.


History & The Arts 

Pygmalion meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The popular American TV series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" spanned seven seasons and gained a cult following. But how is it linked to the culture of ancient Greece and Rome? On closer inspection, its characters and narratives are revealed to be new incarnations of ancient classical myths that have filtered down into modern media. This album explores one episode, "I Was Made to Love You", in which Warren creates an artificial perfect girlfriend, just as Pygmalion sculpts an ivory statue to be his partner in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Many interesting parallels demonstrate the way in which universal human anxieties about gender identity, femininity, control and sexuality are continuously being re-examined through myth. This material forms part of The Open University course A330 Myth in the Greek and Roman worlds.

55 mins
article icon

History & The Arts 

Cultural studies and what to do now

Jason Toynbee takes us into the world of cultural studies

Iain Stewart introduces Journeys From The Centre Of The Earth Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team article icon

TV, Radio & Events 

Iain Stewart introduces Journeys From The Centre Of The Earth

The warm sun, the blue sea, the wonderful food - the Mediterranean certainly has its attractions. But the landscape is more than the backdrop to a great holiday - it tells the story of civilisations, as Iain's welcome explains.

The Harm Principle: How to live your life the way you want to Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC video icon

History & The Arts 

The Harm Principle: How to live your life the way you want to

This animation explains The Harm Principle argued by John Stuart Mill. 

5 mins
World-Changing Women: Cynisca Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: Public Domain article icon

History & The Arts 

World-Changing Women: Cynisca

Spartan females had much more freedom than other women in the ancient world; this allowed Cynisca of Sparta to win the Olympics twice. Find out more about her victories here...

Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin free course icon Level 2 icon

History & The Arts 

Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin

The free course, Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin, gives a taste of what it is like to learn two ancient languages. It is for those who have encountered the classical world through translations of Greek and Latin texts and wish to know more about the languages in which these works were composed.

Free course
12 hrs