Steve Kershaw is the author and tutor of Oxford University's Greek Mythology, The Fall of Rome, and Minoans and Mycenaeans Online Courses. These typically run in the Michaelmas, Hilary, and Trinity Terms each academic year.


What are Greek myths? How can we interpret them? Why are they still so powerful? How much history do they contain? How do they differ from legends and fairy tales? Who told them and why? Did the Trojan War really happen? What might lie behind the tales of Odysseus and the Cyclops, Prometheus, Perseus and Medusa, or the myth of Atlantis? Are the myths damaged history, allegories, or reflections of the inner workings of our minds? By going back to the original texts (in translation), and the analysis of ancient works of art, this course will explore some of these fascinating tales from the past and evaluate various ways in which scholars have tried to make sense of them from antiquity to the present day.

The course covers the following topics:

  1. Myths and mythology
  2. Homer's Iliad, Troy and the historicity of myth
  3. Homer’s Odyssey, allegory and comparative mythology
  4. Hesiod: the origins of the Gods and the world
  5. Sophokles' Oedipus Rex, Freud and the psychoanalysis of myths
  6. Hidden meanings: Medusa and Prometheus
  7. The Labours of Herakles: myth, art and ideology
  8. Jason and the Argonauts
  9. Structuralism and beyond
  10. Plato and the myth of Atlantis.
For further details and to apply for the course, visit: 


The ‘Decline and Fall' (or 'transformation') of the Roman empire has long been a fascinating and controversial topic which invites comparisons with the modern world. But how, why and, indeed, did Rome fall? The course is an introduction to various aspects of the intriguing history, vibrant culture and fascinating personalities of Ancient Rome and its enemies during its ‘decline and fall' (or 'transformation') in the last two centuries of the Empire in the West. We will examine the period from Diocletian’s ‘restoration' of the Empire to the deposition of Romulus Augustulus, the last western emperor, in AD 476. Touching on many engaging historical, social, artistic, political, and religious issues, and brushing shoulders with a variety of engaging emperors, empresses, eunuchs, Christians, pagans and barbarians, this course aims to be an interesting, and perhaps surprising, look at one of the most important periods in world history.

The course covers the following topics:

  1. Sources and Context
  2. Diocletian and the Dominate – the Empire Strikes Back
  3. Christianity Ascendant: Constantine the Great
  4. Constantine’s Heirs and Julian the Apostate
  5. The East/West Divide
  6. The Northern Barbarians – the Huns, Goths and others
  7. The Sack of Rome
  8. Roman Empresses; Barbarian Kings
  9. The End of Rome in the West
  10. Epilogue: ‘Fall’ or ‘Transformation’ – how, why, and indeed, did Rome fall?
For further details and to apply for the course, visit:


Excavation of these sites turned archaeologists like Schliemann, Evans and Marinatos into superstars, as stunning architecture, sculpture, frescoes, weaponry, ceramics and jewellery were revealed. The finds were perhaps only rivalled by those of the later discovery of Tutenkhamun’s tomb. The mythical enigmas of Agamemnon, Odysseus, the Minotaur, the Trojan War and Atlantis were called into question in the process.

“Today I gazed upon the face of Agamemnon”. Heinrich Schleimann

Visually rich, archaeologically fascinating and replete with material for discussion, this course will examine recent exploration into the social, political and religious contexts of the Minoan and Mycenaean world. But who were these people? Why did they succeed? Why (or) did they fail? Students will be invited to analyse and reflect on the current controversies and dilemmas posed by the material evidence, and assess the influence of a culture that has been described as ‘the first European civilisation’.

The course covers the following topics

  1. Welcome to the Greek Bronze Age
  2. Cretan myth and the ‘Palace of Minos’ at Knossos
  3. The Minoans beyond Knossos
  4. Minoan culture: lifestyle, religion, art and writing
  5. Akrotiri: The Pompeii of the Aegean
  6. The Mycenaeans: Myths, origins and discovery; the Citadel at Mycenae
  7. Mycenae ‘Rich in Gold’: Grave circles B & A; Tholos tombs
  8. Mycenaeans: Lifestyle, economy, religion, art and bureaucracy
  9. Mycenaean architecture and engineering
  10. Troy

For further details and to apply for the course, visit: