What sort of men were the Roman emperors (and were they all men)? What background and training, if any, prepared them for their awesome responsibilities? What depravities did they display? And what achievements can they claim: laws passed, monuments built, lands and peoples conquered?
Dive into these questions and more with this introduction to the complex personalities of emperors such as Augustus, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. These thirty-six gripping lectures bring to life the many emperors of Rome from the turn of the 1st century to the transition to the Middle Ages. For more than five centuries, these emperors-a checkered mix of the wise, the brutal, and the unhinged-presided over a multi-ethnic empire that was nearly always at war.
Professor Fagan takes you deep into ancient Rome, asking: How did this system of rule come about? What did it replace? And who were the colorful, cruel, and crafty men who filled the almost omnipotent post of emperor? One of the most intriguing questions about the emperorship is why it endured for so long.
As you witness the reigns of the successive rulers unfold, you will see how the office evolved with the political forces that sustained it, becoming more and more tightly bound to the military. Each step toward despotism was taken with a view toward expedience. But when that step became the new normal, it paved the way for the next step, and so on. As you explore these questions, you'll also study the amalgam of eyewitness reports, later compilations, archaeological remains, and inscriptions on monuments and coins. Contemporary accounts, when available, are not necessarily to be trusted, which means you play the role of detective, sifting for the truth of this spellbinding era.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.
©2007 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2007 The Great Courses
A fantastic and thorough examination of the Emperors from Augustus to Constantine.
I appreciated his balanced view of each Emperor, and his frank appraisal of the sources. Too many "scholars" take the most sensational tales from lesser sources at face value, but Fagan is careful to point out the problems with many of the most famous and outrageous episodes that have entered popular culture about Emperors like Caligula and Nero.
Fagan's delivery is entertaining throughout, although sometimes he does stumble a little, and it feels as if he is reading from a script rather than just delivering a lecture.
Overall, I would highly recommend this. Perhaps the best summary of the period in question, and I include both written and audio books when I say that.
First third consists entirely of Julius and Augustus Caesar, which didn't interest me much, but others might appreciate that. That aside, the material runs into a tough patch later trying to go through several emperors with very short reigns; to make up for it, there's a digression of a few chapters regarding the role of emperor, not directly focusing on individuals. In terms of content, I'm okay with three stars.
However, as this is an audio presentation, the title has some serious issues (flaws). I'm used to Irish speech, but the author sometimes pronounced words in such a strange way that I was left wondering whether English is his first language? Also, he stutters regularly. Sorry if that sounds a bit mean spirited, but there it is. To his credit, he does do a turn of phrase well every so often.
Recommended, perhaps, for those with a strong interest in Roman history, although as a general overview, not particularly useful.
There is, of course, a tremendous amount of material to cover, and if you are looking for an in-depth study of all the Roman emperors, you may find this moves too quickly over the details.
As a survey, however, I found this "course" to be informative and enjoyable, with consistent attention paid to themes--accession, religion, politics, succession--which, over time, help the listener to gain a grasp on the ways in which the character of the "office" of Emperor evolved as a result of the Men who wore the Purple.
I found Prof Fagan's presentation extraordinarily appealing. He has a manner which is direct enough to be authoritative yet still--to my ear--charming and easy to listen to. Now that the course is complete, I will miss having his voice in my ear.
"Interesting Narrative But Maybe Too Much Detail"
This course gives a very detailed account of the Roman Emperors, starting with a summary of the civil wars that lead to the reign of Augustus, and finishing at Constantine. I enjoyed it but for me it was a little too full of minor factual detail (dates, very detailed sequences of events etc) that are of limited value in an audio (rather than reference book) format. Nevertheless it is a valuable follow-up to Professor Fagan's Great Course on the History of Ancient Rome. I actually listened to the Emperors course first and that was a mistake -- definitely better to do the full history first. Another reviewer writes "Prof Fagan takes the time to explain what was happening politically in the Roman empire during the period covered". While I agree with this, it should also be noted that this course does not contain any significant information about the social context or the Roman way of life. These are covered in the History of Ancient Rome lectures. Finally, I comment that as with all Great Courses it is worth looking at the Great Courses web site before deciding to go with this course -- there one can find lots of detail on content, incl titles of each lecture.
"Excellent in a number of different ways"
I went on holiday to Rome and wanted something that would give me some historical background so this was one of a number of listens I downloaded. At first I was concerned that it might simply be a list of the emperors with some character details thrown in for entertainment ("megalomaniac; statesman; psychopath; pervert, followed by another pervert then a perverted psychopath....") which is a risk even for the best historians; even John Julius Norwich's "The Popes" suffers from a slight touch of it. But this is a really satisfying listen in which Prof Fagan takes the time to explain what was happening politically in the Roman empire during the period covered; how the emperors were forced to respond to the strategic context and how some of our contemporary images of them have been coloured by the way events were recorded at the time. Don't worry though; there are still plenty of inventively dissolute emperors, plotting slaves, nymphomaniac wives, imperial mothers who get busy with the poison to further junior's succession prospects and overly affectionate sons who can't seem to leave it at a box of chocolates on mother's day. Added to that Prof Fagan himself is a charming Irish guy who delivers his material in a very winning style. Highly recommended.
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