These 24 lectures retell the lives of the remarkable individuals - the statesmen, thinkers, warriors, and writers - who shaped the history of the Roman Empire and, by extension, our own history and culture.
Among the fascinating gallery of individuals whose lives, ideas, actions, and legacies you'll explore are Hannibal (who caused the Second Punic War personally, much as Adolf Hitler caused World War II), Augustus (who, beginning at the age of just 19, brilliantly followed a doctrine of ruthless expediency in order to rescue Rome from a century of civil war), and Marcus Aurelius (that most noble and philosophic of rulers who may have hastened the Empire's decline by tolerating the wicked cruelty of his heir).
Professor Fears divides his presentation into three "turning point" epochs in Roman history: Rome's war with Hannibal (the Second Punic War); Caesar and the end of the Roman Republic; and the imperial era between Augustus and Marcus Aurelius.
As he presents the great figures of each period, he makes them seem personal and immediate. As you study these and many other significant Romans, you'll probe fundamental questions about the political and cultural history of Rome. What was the impact of Greek civilization on the Romans? Why did the Roman people, at the height of military, political, and economic power, abandon their republican liberty for the dictatorship of Caesar and his successors? What made the 2nd century A.D. one the most creative periods in world history? And why did the central figures of Roman history hold so much appeal for America's Founding Fathers?
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
©2001 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2001 The Great Courses
Hands down one of the most thrilling historical courses I've ever listened to. The description of the Second Punic War makes me wonder why Hollywood hasn't tackled it yet. The war with Hannibal shows just how close Rome came to being eradicated. Had Hannibal fully pressed his advantages Rome may have been a historical footnote and we'd all be speaking a Phoenician derivative.
The sections on Julius Caesar were also extremely well done. The course ends with the philosopher King, Marcus Aurelius, the last of the "Five Good Emperors". His decision regarding succession is given a strong rebuke by Professor Fears.
The first lecture is done in a style a little different from the rest, so let the course build up. Once Hannibal starts crossing those Alps, you'll be hooked!
These lectures purport to "retell the lives of the remarkable individuals," but they aren't really biographical... They're much more about political history -- the kind of thing you could hear about in any other source about Roman history -- and very surface level, non-rigorous political history at that. To take an example, the lecture on Hadrian mentions his lover Antinoos only once, and calls him a "beloved friend," which is just not acceptable in a biography of Hadrian.
There are also no women covered in this lecture... Not one. If this were called "Roman Emperors" that could be excused, but surely Livia is a famous Roman. Or, since there's one on Hannibal (not a Roman), one on Cleopatra would've been a great addition.
In the beginning, he's passionate enough that you get swept up and let his imprecisions slide, but even his enthusiasm wanes in the later half.
Yes, the information is easy to follow, and fun to hear
And book by W.E.B Griffin.
His voice, it makes one think a friend of Caesar is telling the story.
I'm going to buy more from him
The narrator (a college lecturer, actually) approaches his subject with infectious enthusiasm and an excellent grasp on the dramatic details of the lives, triumphs and and machinations of these great men. The anecdotes are excellent and well chosen, and they never stray away from the central thread- that these were the people who moved the world by their will.
The story of the Gracchi - Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus- the lecturer imbues his subjects with life, and you get to feeling the peril that they are willing to endure in order to save and shape Rome. And Hannibal- that was one of my favorite lectures. Hannibal and his foil, Scipio Africanus, was a wonderfully well-done piece. I could feel Hannibal's bone-deep hate of Rome and Scipio's implacable decision to stamp him out utterly.
Can I say all of them? His channeling of Cicero is pretty fabulous. The section on Scipio (the first) is wonderful, too.
I thoroughly enjoyed this course. I learned a lot, and intend to pursue Roman history more completely via these Great Courses and other work (as they weren't entirely covered in my education).
Do yourself a favor and go with Garrett Fagan's The History of Ancient Rome or Rome and the Barbarians by Kenneth Harl.
I have gone through several of the Great Courses on Roman history and have always been impressed, but Professor Fears did a terrible job with this one. This course is riddled with exaggerations and impositions of modern sensibilities and ideas onto historical figures.
He massively distorts the Stoic philosophy, presenting it as something much more familiar and attributing to it ideas that were developed by the early Christian church and others by Scottish and French Enlightenment philosophers.
He also treats the Roman concept of religion as if it were much the same as modern monotheism when in fact it was something entirely different, a blend of anthropomorphic polytheism and animism.
At one point he refers to Augustus as the Messiah, implying that this was how he was understood by contemporaries. In fact, the word Messiah does not mean 'savior', as Fears claims, but rather refers to a specific prophecy in the Hebrew bible and means "anointed one". For the Hebrews at the time to call Augustus this would have been unthinkable to them, and the Romans at the time would have no idea what such a term meant.
Fears takes the most sensationalist reports from historical sources, as well as long debunked myths (like that the Romans sewed the Carthaginian fields with salt so nothing would grow there ever again) and presents them unquestioned as historical facts.
His word choice is repetitive and on more than one occasion one can hear the producers giggling in the background when Fears makes a joke.
A famous journalist once said, "If you ever have the choice between printing the truth, or printing the legend... print the legend." But this is history, not journalism. HOWEVER, it occurred to me that really when we study these Romans, we study them also - maybe even more so - for what the great generations after them *thought* of the Romans. Therefore, although it has been critiqued that perhaps this book takes just a few liberties with our legends, I found that here, even the legends are of historical significance. Great compilation of history this is. And amazingly relevant to us Americans.
The author's enthusiasm and approach to his subject.
I couldn't specify one moment.
His enthusiasm for his subject.
The greatness of Rome...
I thought the author did a good job making his subject enjoyable and approachable. Some of his lectures might be too simple for people who have already studied Roman history though.
This course would make a great primer for The History of Rome by Fagan course that is also available on Audible.
Sharon M. Fitzgerald
I am a huge Great Courses fan, and this is another excellent edition. If you don't care about the pre- Julius Caesar Romans, just skip ahead. Each has their own chapter.
Yes, always good.
I am a national speaker on the relationship between the ancient western civilization and present day politics. Follow me!
This was a great lecture. I am a constitutional conservative from Texas and I believe Prof Fears to be a man cut from mr own cloth. Listen to famous Greeks lecture first though as he makes reference to it in this lecture. This lecture runs to the 2nd Century AD.
This course is an attempt to cover a number of 'lives' in the manner of Plutarch.
From the first, I found myself comparing it unfavorably to both Plutarch, and Dr. Fear's other course on Churchill (which is top notch). His lives of the Gracchi are good, but IMHO, Plutarch's lives of the Gracchi were better and more thorough. Funnily enough, I enjoyed his life of Hannibal the best. The worst was probably his lives of Scipio (elder and younger). Dr. Fear's uses a rhetorical device (the father walking the son down a row of statues of their ancestors) which might work in a real classroom, but was confusing and even a little silly on this audio book.
Also, this format isn't really a good one if you are simply looking to learn more about Roman history. The transition from kingdom to republic is hardly mentioned, and the expansion of the republic is also glossed over. It may be possible to cover Roman history via a biography of its great men, but it would have to include more biographies, and be a great deal longer.
Still, if your only exposure to Roman history was in high school, you will probably find this interesting.
"Dumbed down and superficial"
This series claims to be university level, but if it is then all I can say is that standards at university have really fallen.
Admittedly I didn't get beyond the first two lectures, but as they both consisted of imaginary conversations between the subject of the lecture and his father, as well as irritating parallels with the the USA (the Ancient Romans got rid of their Kings, just as in the United States we got rid of King George....) it was just too dumbed down for me. A teenager with an interest in history, or someone who likes their learning superficial, may enjoy this - I did not.
A waste of money, and if I could give it no stars I would.
it is good. but it does not focus enough on the characters of each lecture. it follows the largely narrative route taken by most courses on roman history. for example only the last 10 or so minutes of claudius is on him. the first part focuses on the narrative from augustus through tiberius to caligula.
"i give up"
couldn't finish. annoying narrator AF. overly focus on american comparisons. i give up. try the robert garland lectures, they are good
After listening to some of the brilliant Great Courses, this has been a massive let down. The lives are recounted as stories with simplifications and generalisations which are misleading and lacking in any analysis or insight, and spurious opinions are dangerously offered as fact: the heroes of the Trojan War were historical figures, the Spartans were the most famous of Greeks, all city states aimed to be democracies, Schliemann found Agamemnon.... For high quality and balanced lectures, go for Elizabeth Vandiver, Jeremy McInerney and Robert Garland.
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