Dr. Brier does an excellent job delivering this series of lectures -- they are a true pleasure to listen to. If you're shopping for your next Great Courses series and you're not immediately jazzed about ancient Egypt, after the first couple of lectures you will be, or at least I was. He keeps the narrative free from too much jargon while still packing in richly detailed descriptions. I also enjoyed the frequent anecdotes on the early Egyptologists and their contributions to the field.
Dr. Brier will bring up some details often enough to feel redundant, but to be fair, I will probably never forget now that the Nile flows North and the winds blow South, making it trivial to navigate. However, my biggest gripe having only the audio available was his aversion to giving dates. I agree with him that the relative dating is more important, but if you're familiar with other Near Eastern ancient history, it makes it pretty difficult to align with other events in the Fertile Crescent. Not worth taking any stars off though, it just means looking up some things in a reference as or after you listen.
I really enjoyed this series of lectures. Although the example clip is not exhilarating, Dr. Castor does an excellent job organizing the lectures and creating a coherent narrative. The series provides substantial content and details, including names, locations, dates, and the modern history of the excavations and excavators -- while still keeping it manageable if you just straight-play-through the audio without reading other references. The narrative performance is not at the engaging level of Dr. Brier's Egypt or Dr. McWhorter's Linguistics, but I didn't find it difficult to listen to. There are also some jokes thrown in too, which I found especially funny because they caught me off-guard. I recommend this series if you also buy Dr. Brier's "The History of Ancient Egypt", because of the numerous connections between the history of Egypt and Mesopotamia (such as the Armarna period or Assyrian empire).
Garland's ability as a story-teller and use of the second person to "put you in the sandals" of the ancient peoples that he describes, makes this is a vivid and engaging listen. He even has some pretty funny jokes if you listen for them. This would certainly be one of the most fun college courses to take at a University.
One of the most memorable moments I think is actually in the beginning, as he describes the chaos of the Thera volcano explosion and "your" flight from the island. I really got the sense of a peaceful fishing village in the Aegean bronze age being thrown into a nightmare-ish fit of destruction with the ensuing terror. But the description of medeival Britain and Chaucer's Canterburry Tales, battle as a Greek hoplite, and an Egyptian farmer are all quite memorable.
Although it's not a book but a lecture series, it would have been made for an entertaining read. However it's Garland as a story-teller that sets this apart as an audio-series.
This series would have been a pretty serious commitment to listen to all in one sitting, but with the continuity of topics, it's very easy to listen to for long periods.
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