CLA 308: Religion in the Greek world

Spring 2012
Tuesday 5-8 pm | Northrop Frye 004

Professor Dimitri Nakassis
Office:                  LMB 123A (Lillian Massey Building, 125 Queen’s Park at Bloor)
Office hours:     T 10 am – 12 noon (or by appointment)
Phone:                 (416) 978-8716

Class Description

This class will provide an introduction to what we know about Greek religion, how we know it, and different ways of thinking about it.  We will focus most of our attention on a synchronic analysis of the religious beliefs and practices of the Archaic and Classical periods, but not to the exclusion of the changing history of Greek religion from the Late Bronze Age to the Roman period.

Required reading

Kearns                 E. Kearns, Ancient Greek Religion: A Sourcebook (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009)
Price                    S. Price, Religions of the Ancient Greeks (Cambridge University Press, 1999)
BB                         Blackboard readings

  1. Class participation (25%)
    1. Participating in class discussion on  a regular basis
    2. Reading response papers: due every week for which reading is assigned, about 500 words. The papers shouldn’t respond to all of the reading, but to one aspect of it – you can ask (and begin to answer) a question that occurred to you while doing the reading, critique the reading, apply ideas from the reading to things you’ve read for other classes, and so on. These papers will be turned it to me (electronically or in hard copy) at the beginning of class.
  2. Term test (20%): 90 minutes, short identifications (what it is and why it is important), 14 February
  3. Research essay (30%)
    1. Abstract of 400-600 words plus bibliography, due 6 March (5%)
    2. Essay of 3000-5000 words, due 5 April (25%)
  4. Final exam (25%): non-cumulative,  short identifications and a short essay

I grade according to the U of T Faculty of Arts and Science standards printed in the Calendar:



Strong evidence of original thinking; good organization; capacity to analyze and synthesize; superior grasp of subject matter with sound critical evaluations; evidence of extensive knowledge base.



Evidence of grasp of subject matter, some evidence of critical capacity and analytic ability; reasonable understanding of relevant issues; evidence of familiarity with literature



Student who is profiting from his/her university experience; understanding of the subject matter; ability to develop solutions to simple problems in the material.



Some evidence of familiarity with subject matter and some evidence that critical and analytic skills have been developed.



Little evidence of even superficial understanding of subject matter; weakness in critical and analytic skills; with limited or irrelevant use of literature

Academic Policies

Academic honesty: I take academic honesty very seriously and I expect you to do the same, if not for your own benefit, to be fair to your fellow students. Do not represent someone else’s work as your own. You should acquaint yourself with the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters; the full text is available at

Religious holidays: If you need to miss a class or other required class activity for the observance of a religious holiday you must notify me at least 14 days in advance so we can make alternative arrangements for your absence.

Make-up tests: Make-up tests will be given only in the case of properly documented religious holidays (see above) or in the case of properly documented medical or other emergencies. You must request a make-up as soon as you are reasonably able. In some extraordinary cases, the percentage weight of a missed test may be allocated to the final exam.

Late assignments: Written work turned in late is subject to a penalty of one full letter grade (10 percentage points), with additional penalties for each day thereafter (5 percentage point per additional day). I may grant extensions, but not at the last minute. Do not wait until the very end of the semester to begin work on your paper.

Class etiquette: Be considerate of myself and your fellow classmates.

Remarking: If you believe that your work has been incorrectly or unfairly marked, you may ask for remarking. You must make this request as soon as is reasonably possible after receiving the marked work. If the test is remarked, you are required to accept the remark, whether it goes up or down.

Communication: I will make announcements verbally in class and electronically via Blackboard and e-mail. It is your responsibility to check Blackboard and your University e-mail address on a regular basis.

11 March 2012 is the last date to drop the course without penalty.

Accessibility Services

The University of Toronto is dedicated to fostering an academic community in which the learning and scholarship of every member may flourish with vigilant protection for individual human rights, and a resolute commitment to the principles of equal opportunity. 

Students who request accommodations for their academic programs and related activities at the University are obligated to disclose their disabilities to the respective campus Service for Students with Disabilities, and request accommodations in a timely manner to facilitate the implementation of support and services. It is important that students discuss their needs as early as possible with the Service in order to put accommodations in place. Students must present relevant and up-to-date documentation, as outlined on our website, from an appropriate health care professional. Any information about a student’s disability is confidential and is not shared outside the Service unless the student gives permission. Students are encouraged to meet and discuss their academic accommodation needs with their instructors.

Accessibility Services, St. George Campus
Robarts Library, 130 St. George Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3H1
Voice: (416) 978-8060 / TDD: (416) 978-1902 / Fax: (416) 918-8246
web site:


The schedule is subject to modification.  Note that readings should be completed before the class for which they are assigned.



Assigned reading


Week 1


Course intro



Week 2




Price: pp. 1-10

Kearns: Intro, 3.1, 3.2, 4.4,6.1, 6.2, 6.5


Week 3




Price: pp. 11-46, 126-142

Kearns: 1 (all), 2 (all)


Week 4



 Festivals I

Price: pp. 47-88

Kearns: 3.5, 4.1-4.3


Week 5



Festivals II

Kearns: 5 (all)


Week 6


—Midterm exam —

5:10-6:30 pm



Week 7





Week 8



BB: Parker (pp. 187-191), Burkert (pp. 1-48, 135-143), Vernant (pp. 290-302), Katz (pp. 155-178), Obbink (pp. 272-286), Bremmer (pp. 132-144)


Week 9


Polis religion

Paper abstract due

BB: Sourvinou-Inwood (Oxford Readings), Parker ch. 3, 12


Week 10



Boys and girls



Price: pp. 89-102

Kearns: 3.3

BB: Parker ch. 11 (pp. 218-252), Richer (Companion, pp. 235-252), Strabo 10.4.20-21


Week 11


Demeter and Dionysus

BB: Parker ch. 13, 14, Cole (Oxford Readings, Companion)


Week 12


Elective cults

Price: pp. 102-125

Kearns: 3.4, 6.3, 6.4

BB: Parker ch. 15


Week 13



Paper due on 4/5

BB: Dickie (Companion), Ogden, pp. 9-32, 210-244, 275-277