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.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.
©2006 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2006 The Great Courses
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.
Mesopotamian history is integral to an understanding of ancient history. It often gets overshadowed, though, by Egypt, Greece and Rome. I have had many courses where Mesopotamia was at least somewhat discussed—Ur, Babylon, the Assyrians, etc…. However, before this course I had not taken a course that focused exclusively on Mesopotamia. I am grateful that I took this course because it gave me a much greater appreciation of the role Mesopotamia served as the bridge between the East and the West. As explained in the course, Mesopotamian culture and politics profoundly influenced many aspects of the ancient world. This influence is made apparent through the professor's excellent instruction.
The professor, who is both humorous and knowledgeable, covers the history of this region from pre-history through the conquest of Alexander the Great. She generally follows the chronological political history of the region but takes frequent detours to cover topics such as religion, family life, architecture and food. The professor makes each lesson informative and enjoyable. I now have a better understanding of Mesopotamian history and a greater interest in visiting museums featuring exhibits from this region.
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.
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.
I want to start out by saying that the material covered in this course is extensive, the evidence is scant and requires a great deal of overall understanding of the subject to interpret it and there is little about the content that has direct bearing on human interaction today. Professor Castor is fastidious in her research, is clear about how she reaches her conclusions and is very careful in her pronunciation of words that have few clues for pronunciation. I have nothing but admiration for her academic acumen and the breadth of her knowledge about this subject.
There are several things that appear to be hopelessly missing in this course, however. One is a sense of how each lecture is winding down. Often at the end of a chapter, I am startled by the (canned) applause at the end of a sentence that doesn't sound like the end of a whole lecture. There is also a sense of "zig-zagging" in the coverage of the subject - and while Professor Castor explains why she chooses to do this, it is a bit disconcerting to the novice student. Finally, and this is my biggest thumbs down, Professor Castor seems incapable of any enthusiasm about her subject. I have listened to many of the Great Courses, and even when I feel little direct relevance to the subject, I have admired the Professor's enthusiasm about it. Often Professors interject small personal stories into their material that demonstrate why a particular point is of personal interest, and I find that to be quite charming - nor does it detract from the academic integrity of the content.
Would I listen to another lecture by this presenter? Probably not unless the subject were one that is riveting to me. Would I like to know more about this subject matter? Maybe yes and maybe not - certainly not for awhile.
And I echo the comment about the "canned applause." Really?? I never applauded a professor in my entire academic career nor would I think a professor would expect it. It would be great if someone could rethink this practice.
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).
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.
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.
One of the worst.
See FM Veteran review from AudibleUK May 2014.
I found some omissions odd, as well as the narrators silent implications that the Sumerians, Akkadians, and Persians were ultimately the same culture and group being given very strange. Overall, if you assume a fairly constant culture throughout, a good overview of the region.
"Comprehensive, Intelligent but incomplete"
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.
The subject was well set out and delivered as a whole.
A map or maps would have been extremely helpful though.
I would want to but it's too long to do that practically.
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.
"Educational and interesting"
I have not read the print version so I cannot compare.
It was factual, yet kept my interest without being patronising
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.
The pre-set reveiew questions do not seem particularly appropriate for an academic lecture series.
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.
People who can't think should enjoy this.
No, just from "Great Courses".
Everything. She talks like she doesn't understand the subject.
Rage. She attempts to persuade us that irrigation is a bad thing.
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.
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