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Between the Rivers: The History of Ancient Mesopotamia | [The Great Courses]

Between the Rivers: The History of Ancient Mesopotamia

All cultures lie in the shadow of ancient Mesopotamia-the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers that is now mostly encompassed by the borders of modern Iraq. In this fascinating series of 36 lectures, an award-winning teacher leads you on a vivid journey through Mesopotamian history-from Neolithic times to the age of Alexander the Great.
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Publisher's Summary

All cultures lie in the shadow of ancient Mesopotamia-the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers that is now mostly encompassed by the borders of modern Iraq. In this fascinating series of 36 lectures, an award-winning teacher leads you on a vivid journey through Mesopotamian history-from Neolithic times to the age of Alexander the Great-and into the lives of mighty emperors, struggling farmers, ambitious merchants, and palace servants to reveal why this ancient culture occupies such a foundational position in our history.

The lectures look back to the time when the first cities arose in Mesopotamia and kings created complex bureaucracies to rule their expanding territories, thus fostering the invention of writing and other technologies. You peer into the lives and fortunes of Mesopotamia's people and learn about the birth of the urban lifestyle.

Professor Castor creates a detailed image not only of larger Mesopotamian society but of life on the level of the individual Mesopotamian as well. Among the many fascinating insights into daily Mesopotamian life you examine are how they ate, worked, learned, worshiped, married, and reared children; used scientific ideas to help them order and understand the natural world; engaged with their powerful neighbors in Egypt, Syria, and Anatolia (modern-day Turkey); waged war and experienced peace; and endured the collapse of their cities.

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

©2006 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2006 The Great Courses

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (117 )
5 star
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4.2 (101 )
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3.8 (104 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    tamim 03-11-15
    tamim 03-11-15 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    "Kinda Tells you what u need, but not really"

    OK this is complicated, I'm a history lover, and when usually people yawn or call asleep in history lectures I find myself most intrigued. until this audio book. I don't know the exact problem, the lecturer's tone was quite monotonous, as if reading from a paper.
    also the progression wasn't chronological as I hoped it would be, one moment we're talking about Sargon of Akkad the next she's discussing late Assyrian kings and their kingly roles.
    all in all I learned TONS and for that I'm grateful, but the layout of the lectures leaves big room for improvement.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew 03-10-15
    Andrew 03-10-15 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent Introduction to Ancient Mesopotamia"

    Other reviewers complained that the first few introductory lectures were too long or that the presentation was bland. I believe that this probably stems from a lack of appreciation of standard academic rigor. The Professor's careful explanation of 'how we know what we know' is an invaluable insight that most mainline textbooks or introductions seem to render peripheral or even ignore. This creates a false sense of epistemic confidence with something that is, admittedly, a rough reconstruction of the past. The reference to the looting of the Iraq museum makes this point that much more clear.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jamie 02-09-15
    Jamie 02-09-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great for Lovers of History"

    As a lover of history, I enjoyed this audiobook a lot. The audiobook covers many important aspects of Ancient Mesopotamia. The speaker is a bit dry but, if you can get past that and enjoy (or have a strong interest in) Ancient Mesopotamian history, I definitely would recommend it.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lady 09-10-13
    Lady 09-10-13

    Amazon Power Reader

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Takes too Long to Educate"

    To be fair, I have not yet made it past Chapter Four. My main problem with the course is that the introduction is far too long. The professor seems more focused on the Iraq war and the ramifications of the war. In fact, even in Chapter Four, we are still being introduced to the topics that we will be talking about, at some point. I don't want a four chapter (or more) introduction.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    brian Puyallup, WA, United States 08-04-14
    brian Puyallup, WA, United States 08-04-14 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A substantial yet engaging series"

    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).

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kindle Customer 06-06-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Trying to get through"
    Would you listen to Between the Rivers: The History of Ancient Mesopotamia again? Why?

    There is a very good review from May 2014 (FM Veteran) which says everything I would have written here. If I were reading this lecture rather than listening, my eyes would have become permanently crossed. As it is I am trying very hard to get through this droning presentation. On a side note: Why are there instances of canned clapping before and at the end of each chapter? Distracting and not warranted as an appreciation of this person's presentation.


    If you’ve listened to books by The Great Courses before, how does this one compare?

    One of the worst.


    What didn’t you like about Professor Alexis Q. Castor’s performance?

    See FM Veteran review from AudibleUK May 2014.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    No.


    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adam J. Davidson 11215 07-11-15
    Adam J. Davidson 11215 07-11-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Great survey course"

    Wonderful teacher. A detailed, accessible tour through ancient Mesopotamia. Made me want to learn even more.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phillip 07-08-15
    Phillip 07-08-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Archeology in detail"

    Dr Castor is more heavily focused on the physical archeology that some of the other course lecturers, and I found that intriguing. Her discussion is based with fact, but that may be tedious for some who want more story. In her speaking, she will stop abruptly, then restart (like she just thought of something else), which was both interesting and a bit bothersome.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles 07-02-15
    Charles 07-02-15 Member Since 2014
    ratings
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    2
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    "Weak"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Not sure


    Would you ever listen to anything by The Great Courses again?

    Yes


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    She tries too hard to sound "academic". Phraseology is often awkward and distracting.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment


    Any additional comments?

    An exciting place and time was treated mundanely.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christian Bonnell 06-07-15 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "One of the best courses I have listened to!"

    This is definitely one of the best of the Great Courses. I would recommend it to anyone with a scholarly bent, or just an interest in history or literature.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Alex
    Mayfield, United Kingdom
    7/15/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Comprehensive, Intelligent but incomplete"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Between the Rivers: The History of Ancient Mesopotamia to be better than the print version?

    The needlessly flamboyant music and obviously fake applause are clearly aimed at a more childish audience, hard to think why they'd do that.
    The audio version was very well read apart from that and the author clearly knows her subject.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Between the Rivers: The History of Ancient Mesopotamia?

    The subject was well set out and delivered as a whole.
    A map or maps would have been extremely helpful though.


    Have you listened to any of Professor Alexis Q. Castor’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    n/a


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I would want to but it's too long to do that practically.


    Any additional comments?

    Supplementary learning material, critical to make cohesive sense and memory of this great course is widtheld from customers. A mistake that undermines the value of the book immensely.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Rachel
    Didcot, United Kingdom
    12/2/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Educational and interesting"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Between the Rivers: The History of Ancient Mesopotamia to be better than the print version?

    I have not read the print version so I cannot compare.


    What did you like best about this story?

    It was factual, yet kept my interest without being patronising


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    This was not really an emotional type of book - more of an audio text book, so I was not expecting to laugh of cry, but it did make me think, which is what I want from such a book.


    Any additional comments?

    The pre-set reveiew questions do not seem particularly appropriate for an academic lecture series.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    UK
    12/21/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Terrible performance."
    Any additional comments?

    Well, I was really looking forward to listening to this. I have listened to several of the Great Courses lectures, and enjoyed them immensely. However, the performance here made it quite difficult for me to follow.
    I know that with Great Courses, speakers are reading from notes, not from a completed text. Of course, one makes allowances for this, and most lecturers in the series lack fluidity to some extent. It isn't usually a big problem. However, Professor Castor is just too jarring for me. She too frequently starts sentences that she struggles to finish.
    I have tried listening again, but the performance gets in the way.
    I've given three stars for story. That is very arbitrary. I haven't listened to most of it. It's almost certainly a five-star story.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Carl
    United Kingdom
    2/24/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not good."
    If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

    People who can't think should enjoy this.


    Has Between the Rivers: The History of Ancient Mesopotamia put you off other books in this genre?

    No, just from "Great Courses".


    What didn’t you like about Professor Alexis Q. Castor’s performance?

    Everything. She talks like she doesn't understand the subject.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Rage. She attempts to persuade us that irrigation is a bad thing.


    Any additional comments?

    The facts are broadly correct, but this woman has this weird agenda where she seems to be against the important facts of history and wants to focus on "what women did" and has a particular fetish for the wonders of hunter-gathering despite the "high infant mortality rates" and has a serious aversion to "work". Avoid if you're interested in serious history, or thinking.

    2 of 7 people found this review helpful

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