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?
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.
©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!
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.
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).
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