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Famous Romans Lecture

Famous Romans

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Publisher's Summary

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

What Members Say

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4.6 (134 )
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  •  
    Abdur Abdul-Malik Sacramento, CA USA 07-24-13
    Abdur Abdul-Malik Sacramento, CA USA 07-24-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Captivating Biography"
    Any additional comments?

    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!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marc La Verkin, UT, United States 08-19-14
    Marc La Verkin, UT, United States 08-19-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Professor Fears is a joy, listening to him is fun."
    Would you listen to Famous Romans again? Why?

    Yes, the information is easy to follow, and fun to hear


    What other book might you compare Famous Romans to and why?

    And book by W.E.B Griffin.


    What does Professor J. Rufus Fears bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    His voice, it makes one think a friend of Caesar is telling the story.


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

    Yes


    Any additional comments?

    I'm going to buy more from him

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    kerry 11-10-13
    kerry 11-10-13
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    "Outstanding portraits of the Great Romans"
    What made the experience of listening to Famous Romans the most enjoyable?

    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.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Famous Romans?

    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.


    Which character – as performed by Professor J. Rufus Fears – was your favorite?

    Can I say all of them? His channeling of Cicero is pretty fabulous. The section on Scipio (the first) is wonderful, too.


    Any additional comments?

    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).

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ben.doublett 02-12-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Choose a different course"

    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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christopher BROOKLYN, NY, United States 11-12-15
    Christopher BROOKLYN, NY, United States 11-12-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Not Enough Biography, Too General, and No Women?!"

    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.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ji M. 09-11-16
    Ji M. 09-11-16 Member Since 2015
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    "My favorite Roman history course"

    I'm not saying it's the best, but it's my favorite. I've read Roman history books with lots of facts, and also stories about famous Romans which are attractive but losing perspective. Professor Fears did a wonderful job giving dramatic stories, providing adequate backgrounds and perspective, and finally, explained why they are wonderful from the perspective of their own characters. I like what he said: the purpose to read history and biography is to make us better human beings.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris Beal 08-17-16
    Chris Beal 08-17-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Amazing"

    1st rufus fears is such a good story teller. I will buy famous greeks now just to listen to him. Easily one of the best courses out there for any history person.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    truebalance2010 07-24-16 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "To understand today, look at yesterday...."

    Dr. Fears brings Famous Romans to life and extracts from them lessons for the ages. Perhaps the most important lesson is that human nature doesn't change: there will always be someone trying to hurt you and take your property. War, not peace, is the natural state of things. Thank you Dr. Fears.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mike 05-09-16
    Mike 05-09-16 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Print the Legend"
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alexander Kirby Loretto, PA 12-22-15
    Alexander Kirby Loretto, PA 12-22-15 Member Since 2016
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    "A great introduction for the novice"
    What did you love best about Famous Romans?

    The author's enthusiasm and approach to his subject.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Famous Romans?

    I couldn't specify one moment.


    What about Professor J. Rufus Fears’s performance did you like?

    His enthusiasm for his subject.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    The greatness of Rome...


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Asha
    London, United Kingdom
    7/20/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Dumbed down and superficial"
    If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

    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.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • D
    5/17/15
    Overall
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    "too narrative."

    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.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Hanne
    Norway
    3/28/16
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    "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

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • SP
    8/2/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Disappointing"
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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