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HeadStart Classical Studies

Updated Monday, 18 March 2024

Explore the worlds of ancient Greece and Rome with this collection of free courses on the classical world.

Find out more about The Open University's Arts and Humanities courses and qualifications.

The birth of the goddess Athena from the head of her father, Zeus. Image by Flaroh Illustration.

The courses are:

  • Exploring Homer's Odyssey
  • Exploring ancient Greek religion
  • The many guises of the emperor Augustus
  • Herodotus and the invention of history 
  • Ovid and the idea of the human (coming soon)

HeadStart Classical Studies is designed for anyone and everyone who is interested in finding out more about ancient Greece and Rome. With no prior knowledge assumed, these courses are designed to allow you to get a head start with each topic, whether you are currently studying – or thinking about studying – a classical subject at school or university, or are simply interested in knowing more about the ancient world and the people who inhabited it.

In these courses you will explore for yourself the art, literature and archaeological remains of the classical world, learning about what ancient Greeks and Romans believed, how they lived their lives, and the vibrant ways in which the ancient world can still help us to understand the world today. Since each course is free-standing, you can choose to study as few or as many courses as you like in whatever order that suits you.

The course authors are all Open University Classical Studies experts who share exciting and accessible insights based on their own research into the topics you will study.

So, dive into HeadStart Classical Studies and find out more!

In Exploring Homer’s Odyssey by Emma Bridges, you will get to know Homer’s ancient Greek epic poem, which tells of the soldier Odysseus’ long and fantastical journey home to his wife Penelope after the Trojan War. You’ll meet both Penelope and Odysseus, and by exploring the mythical story of their reunion you’ll learn more about what it means to be a hero in their world as well as in our own.

In Exploring ancient Greek religion by Alexandra Wilding, you’ll consider how people went about the business of worshipping gods through the case study of Amphiaraos, an ancient Greek hero associated with healing through the medium of dreams. By looking at a wide range of textual and visual evidence connected with his worship, you’ll build up a fascinating picture of ancient religious practices and explore the importance of religion both to individual Greeks and to the communities in which they lived.

In The many guises of the emperor Augustus by Ursula Rothe, you will learn about Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, who lived from 63 BCE to 14 CE. You will examine the various roles Augustus constructed in an attempt to appeal to as many people as possible, and consider the central importance of dress in Augustus’ imagery. To illustrate this, you will also look at Abdullah II, who became king of Jordan in 1999, who applies a similar principle to his portraiture.

In Herodotus and the invention of history by Elton Barker, you will explore how the Greek Herodotus put together his enquiry, Histories, in the fifth century BCE, in which he examined why his people, the Greeks, and the Persians went to war with each other. 

Links to the courses will appear as and when they are published.

The concept of the HeadStart Classical Studies series was devised by James Robson and developed in collaboration with Emma Bridges, both of whom acted as academic advisers on the courses. The teacher adviser was Danny Pucknell.


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