Life Lessons from Ancient Myths

with Nickolas Pappas / In Person

Myths — stories of divine actions — were the first human narratives. They spread through ancient cultures to accompany ritual, explain natural phenomena, and teach moral lessons. With the rise of writing came the first retelling of these tales, and already myths were being reinterpreted and reapplied. In this seminar, Professor Nickolas Pappas will explore how these old stories may have felt when they were new, and what lived human conditions they respond to: mourning; anxiety about the future; love and seduction. Our sessions will feature characters of epic proportions; understanding how we share their problems allow their journeys and trials to resonate with us, even in this latter age of humanity we occupy. So in a way — we’re still living within mythic narratives.

6 In-Person Sessions


Sept 13 – Nov 22, 2021

2:00pm – 3:15pm EST


Session 1: SEPT 13

How have myths been used in people’s lives? We come back to the toolbox of mythical narratives and see what they’re capable of doing.

Session 2: SEPT 27

Mourning and relief from heartbreak. How do we move forward when there is no “how-to” guide? The abduction of Persephone; the adultery of Aphrodite.

Session 3: OCT 11

Fate & Doom: What’s the good of knowing the future? Cassandra at the death of Agamemnon; Oedipus seeking the monster who turns out to be Oedipus.

Session 4: OCT 25

Love: Strength & desire. Men, women, and gender roles in erotic attachments. Stories from Ovid.

Session 5: NOV 8

Leadership: Valor, crises & self-control as told by Odysseus’ adventures.

Session 6: NOV 22

From gold to iron: The proud, fabled origins of humanity to the doldrums of today. Living mythology within our modern world. Prometheus, Pandora & Hesiod’s five ages.

Meet the moderator

Nickolas Pappas

Nickolas Pappas received his PhD in philosophy from Harvard University. In 1993 he began teaching in New York City. He writes mostly on subjects in aesthetics and ancient philosophy, his books including GuideBook to Plato’s Republic (3rd edition, 2013); The Philosopher’s New Clothes: The Theaetetus, the Academy, and Philosophy’s Turn against Fashion (2016); and most recently Plato’s Exceptional City, Love, and Philosopher (2021). He is now the chair of Philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center. Learn more.