Other than about five merely 4-star minutes on what medieval knights wore in one of the later lectures, I can find little to fault with this Great Course. Robert Garland makes the past come alive in colorful, carefully chosen, elegant prose. One shouldn't let oneself be fooled by a posh British accent, but let's face it - it doesn't hurt. Nor does Garland's dry humor. He describes the ancient Egyptians, for example, as wearing a lot of "bling", and notes that while the Norman invasion brought to the English language words for cooked cow and pig, i.e. "beef" and "pork", the frenchified Norsemen neglected to teach the Brits how to cook and left them to eat appalling food for another thousand years.
Surrounding these lighter moments is endlessly fascinating information about how people lived, such as that Rome was full of five-story apartment buildings. Who knew? And that the ancient Egyptians were such a conservative society that only experts can tell the age of paintings they made 500 years apart -- so little did their art change over time. I also came away with a rather different impression of Ancient Greece than I went into the course with, thanks to Garland's detailed descriptions of the separation of the sexes and the way slavery worked. In many ways Ancient Greece reminded me more, in the end, of the Arab world where I have lived, than of modern Western democracies.
Some might bristle a bit at the slight academic leftist bent to some of the lectures, with their focus on the poor, the slaves, women, the everyman. This is, however, the point of the course, after all, and once you get past the occasional sense that someone's been hanging out a bit too long with the sociology department the information conveyed is all fascinating, not least the nuanced descriptions of how slavery worked in the ancient world (also reminiscent of how slavery still works in remote areas of the Sahel and Maghreb).
One insight I found provocative was that there was what Garland calls a lack of a social conscience in the ancient world. It occurred to no one, apparently, that slavery was in any way wrong, or that the sexes or even all men were deserving of equal rights. Given the many modern-seeming sentiments -- about love, virtue, self-discipline, ambition, etc.-- that Garland describes among the ancients, it's surprising that none of the many great thinkers of these early civilizations came up with at least the idea that no kinds of humans were, deep down, better than any others, or deserving of the status of chattel. (Of course then Jesus came along and had these ideas to some extent, and he was a product of that world.)
Another thing I liked about this course was that just when you were thinking, "Really? How can we know that?" about one or another factoid, Garland would explain the source of the information, without every burdening the lecture with too much referencing. And again, just when you would start thinking, "Really? Did they really say that or think that? Am I supposed to just take your word for it?" he would pull out the perfect quotation from an ancient source, giving credence yet again to the sense he delivers so elegantly throughout, that these people really were not so different, in the end, from ourselves.
When I drive, I read... uhm listen. I like SciFi, Fantasy, some Detective and Espionage novels and Religion. Now and then I will also listen to something else.
Focussing on Everyman throughout history, Dr. Robert Garland, Roy D. and Margaret B. Wooster Professor of the Classics at Colgate University, USA, attempts to put you, the listener, in the everyday sandals of different people of the Ancient World. Cladding the listener with the respective identities of a Palaeolithic human (1 lecture), a Mesopotamian (1 lecture), an Egyptian (4 lectures), a Greek (11 lectures), a Roman (11 lectures), the different ancestors of the British (4 lectures) and that of a Medieval person (7 lectures), he confronts you with the lives of ordinary humans. This is probably the reason why the material presented is so interesting.
The comparisons with our own day and age makes it fascinating. Dr. Garland is a tour guide that takes you through the proverbial looking-glass to show you the other side of history. This metaphor he uses in various way throughout the course hence he is able to bind 48 30 minute lectures together in a whole. I admire the way he carefully compiled and structured the course. He kept me with him even though I am not British or American. (I was acutely aware of his Western bias during the course. It is probably also the reason for its popularity.)
Throughout the lectures, Dr. Garland was engaging. I didn’t count any ‘uhm’ or ‘ah.’ The course is highly polished and tremendously informative. So if you are interested in history or just everyday life, recline at this table the cuisine is ready to be enjoyed.
I'm not much interested in who won which wars, or in developments in weaponry and battle tactics, or in ancient politics. This series of lectures delves into what *does* interest me: how everyday people lived their lives, in as much detail as possible, in a generous selection of ancient (western) cultures. Professor Garland's delivery is the icing on the cake. He seems knowledgeable and clearly interested in his subject matter, but lightens his lectures with a gentle and sometimes irreverent (but never disrespectful) twinkle. One credit bought me more than 24 delightful hours of pleasant and informative listening. One of my best purchases from Audible.
This was my first Great Courses book. What a treat to learn so many things that I had no real Idea about. I have bought several courses since then and find that if I speed up the voice to 2 times the normal speed I can digest all kinds of information rather quickly. If I had payed more attention in school, this info would not be so new to me. The narrator was very interesting to listen to and gave a perspective of the common man that I found very enjoyable.
The time didn't drag, but I didn't learn much new, having read many well-researched books about these eras.
I was expecting richer content, total immersion on other cultures and times, like what's in David Hackett's Albion's Seed. This didn't come close to that.
For a college professor, his delivery was excellent. Could tell he'd rehearsed, researched, and written about the content extensively.
No. This is more for background use by film producers and set and clothing designers.
If I'd paid Colgate's tuition for this course, I would have been shocked. For one thing, I can't imagine how someone could come up with in-depth exam questions from content this light.
Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!
The Villa of the Papyri is nestled on the bluffs of the Pacific Palisades in California. Finished in 1974, it was closed for renovations and reopened in 2010 as "The Getty Villa." J. Paul Getty's Villa - and The Getty Center in West Los Angeles are, as Getty promised, free to all.
Okay, maybe the original Villa dei Papiri was in Herculaneum, which was destroyed in AD 79 - along with Pompeii - when Mt. Vesuvius erupted. Pompeii is now temporarily at the California Science Center in Exposition Park, near the LA Coliseum and USC.
I coincidentally finished listening to Dr. Robert S. J. Garland's "The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World" (2010) just before I took out of town family to the Pompeii exhibit. Garland's lectures were so concise and vivid, I recognized every single artifact and I knew what it was used for - and keep in mind, I listened to the Audible version which doesn't come with books. I knew what kind of artisan made something, the training they had, and whether they were a slave, a manumitted slave, or free born. I looked at a restored fresco, and impressed my sister by telling her that the ancient Romans would have changed the painted scene as fashions changed. Trends and fads are as old as Ancient Greece. Just as the 1980's Laura Ashley overstuffed and frilled pastels and floral wallpaper gave way to furniture and frames various hues of the same color, tailored linens, hardwood floors and painted walls 30 years later, the painted harbor scene popular during one emperor's reign gave way to starkly contrasting blocks of color, proving that abstractionism isn't a modern construct. I even knew when I got to the gift shop which replica jewelry belonged with the exhibit, and the social class of the women who would have worn it. It didn't stop me from buying the regionally misplaced and historically non-existent Sphinx earrings just because I liked anyway.
The title of this series of lectures is a misnomer, though. Garland's lectures on Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt, and to a limited extent Ancient Persia, are worth the price and the listen. However, he's missing entire major ancient civilizations: China's written history is more than 4,000 years old; there's the Mayans, who were a civilization for about 3000 years, until the Spanish arrived, with their viruses, in 900 AD; and many other cultures that flourished and vanished or were absorbed by conquerors. These civilizations had writing, so they were historic, not pre-historic.
If the title had been accurate, I'd give this 4 instead of a 3. It's not higher because some of the lectures are repetitive. I did enjoy Dr. Gardner's voice and his delivery, but I wasn't so excited that I listened to more than one lecture a day.
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I love listening and usually get in at least three hours a day. I like fiction, biographies and medical non-fiction.
This is (I think) my sixth Great Course, and it is my favorite by far. The range of history covered is remarkable, and I loved getting details about the life of an ordinary person in Babylonia, Rome or (especially) Egypt. Medieval times were far more interesting than I expected. I think I had grown to think the middle ages were a time when the sun didn't shine and old women were constantly being put to the flame as witches. Not so. People were learning, loving and moving forward.
In past Great Courses, the lecturers (who are not the professional readers in most of the Audible selections) frequently annoyed me with verbal tics. Not Professor Garland. This was especially surprising since he has a slight lisp. His selection of stories, detail and occasional glimpses of his own life added to the enjoyment of this course.
I feel I know far more about our distant ancestors and will look for other courses by Professor Garland.
Intriguing until you realize how many times the author says some version of, "we don't know of course, but we can speculate that..." We apparently KNOW a lot less about daily life in the ancient world than the title implies. There a whole sections that are pure speculation.
The author speaks in short clauses, not complete sentences, with pauses between the clauses. It's distracting, but passable.
Disappointing for all the speculation. Sure, it's a tough subject but "speculation" isn't the solution.
If the "speculation" were removed and the content was limited to what the author can actually support, this might be condensed to 10 half hour lectures.
This lecture series is packed with very interesting information, and professor Garland is very easy to listen to. If you're at all interested in history and what daily life was like in the past, I would heartily recommend it to you.
The author's unique perspective on history...i.e. from "the other side".
I felt as if I was a part of history again...loved it!
No, it was better broken up into manageable chunks...gave me time to chew over what I'd just heard.
Wish Professor Garland had more similar lectures...