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
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.
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).
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.
"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.
"Solid material, patchy production"
I came to this course straight from its companion piece, The Great Courses’ ‘History of Ancient Egypt’. The two couldn’t be more different. While the latter is populist and frothy, ‘Between the Rivers’ bears the mark of proper scholarship. This will make it a boon to students and a joy for serious amateurs of ancient Mesopotamia, but may be a turn-off for the less zealous reader. Only if you’re ready to listen to half an hour on ‘Assyrian trade routes’, for example, should you press the buy button.
Dr Alexis Castor plainly knows her stuff and speaks clearly and intelligently. The fly in the ointment is that the production of this one does not appear to have been plain sailing, possibly because her delivery can at times be surprisingly diffident and halting. Hence there are oddities like a first ‘lecture’ that is clearly being read from a script, with ‘spontaneous’ stumbles thrown in; and then, after a couple of perfectly good pseudo-lectures, you get the first of several chunks that have obviously been recorded with a dictating machine! It’s not only shoddy but also distracting, and does no favours to the engaging material. I must say that these two courses together have made me wonder whether The Great Courses isn’t scraping the barrel somewhat for academic talent.
My one other complaint was that Dr Castor takes every opportunity to drag in references to persons of her own sex, such that she sometimes threatens to sound like Monty Python’s ‘News for Parrots’. That, however, may not be all her fault – I suspect it's mandatory if one wants to impress in American academia nowadays.
"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.
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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