The ancient world has cast a long shadow, influencing our customs and religious beliefs, our laws, and the form of our governments. It has taught us when and how we make war or pursue peace. It has shaped the buildings we live and work in and the art we hang on our walls. It has given us the calendar that organizes our year and has left its mark on the games we play.
Grasping the full scope of your bequest from the ancient world can't help but give you a more nuanced base from which to make decisions and choose pathways in your own life. These 48 lectures take you on a multidisciplinary journey that ranges across not only the traditional domains of politics and war that are normally the province of history courses, but also those of religion, philosophy, architecture and the visual arts, literature, and science, and more.
You'll examine the ancient world's greatest civilizations from the Mediterranean, Asia, and the Americas - including those of Rome, Greece, China, Persia, India, and the Maya - not in isolation but in the full context of where they came from, the cultures that flourished around them at the same time, and the civilizations that were to come from them. Taking a comparative approach, Professor Aldrete's course includes in-depth analyses of not only key individuals and historical moments, but also history's most important themes, from the nature of rulership and the evolution of religion and philosophy to the practice of warfare and the expression of power through art and architecture.
With its mix of nuanced interpretation, vivid description, and constant attention to exploring history as a coherent whole, this is sure to be one of the most informative and thought-provoking history courses you have ever taken.
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.
©2011 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2011 The Great Courses
For me this was one of those 'Can't put it down' epic audio titles. What's more I feel a better person for having listened to it.
Overall, very informative, thought provoking and truly entertaining. I've learned loads and am now looking for more history titles of comparable quality.
It's massive in scope and is truly global in that it manages to weave in all the major civilisations of antiquity. I'd say he's best on Mediterranean and European cultures. At least the coverage of these cultures seems more detailed. It seems to me a Westerner's perspective. However, there's some good stuff on China, India and the Americas. I found it gave me a good introduction to these other cultures.
It's very easy to turn history into a dry collection of facts and dates. This lecture series strikes a good balance between facts and colourful anecdotes character examinations and other diversions. For example, there is a wonderful section on the mind boggling and downright weird Spartans. I couldn't stop laughing as he talked about them. But at the same time, I learned all about a culture that up until a couple of weeks ago, for me had been little more than the name of an ancient group of war-like people who'd once fought the Persians.
His presentation style is really good - full of enthusiasm, wonder and humour. For me he spoke at just the right pace, too. Unlike many other titles, even history - I found this very easy to listen to whilst on the treadmill, walking or doing household chores.
I'm going to listen to this again in a month or two. Can't recommend it highly enough, it's a really excellent listen.
The insights in how geography, circumstances of the time & place, and other factors have effected the cultures of ancient civilizations. Well presented, with enthusiasm and understanding, as well. I would love to listen to more by Dr. Aldrete.
Perhaps Guns, Germs, and Steel, but this is much more credentialed.
His enthusiasm for the topic might not come out as well. He has a nice speaking voice.
The other books in the great courses series. 30 minutes is the perfect length of time.
Engaging, and easy to follow along. Good tempo and rhythm. The performance can really make or break a book, and this one was very good.
It wasn't really that kind of book.
Very well done.
Yes. This is a great introduction to a history of the ancient world.
I was surprised at how interesting the politics of Rome were.
The narrator is very enthusastic and you can tell he really loves this subject.
Yes, I found myself finding excuses to listen to these lectures.
Passion for the material presented was very apparent.
Loved every moment...sad it had to end.
The first chapter of this lecture series made me anticipate an enjoyable and dynamic course. The lecturer does indeed have an engaging way of speaking. I am VERY disappointed in the quality of the content, however. Aldrete totally ignores the need to qualify his statements and by this means, obscures the fact that he is taking certain positions on the known data. In other words, his interpretations are presented as the only ones.
I would warn the listener that there is FAR more to be learned about these cultures and that much of what the presenter says is debated material, skewed for dramatic value, or simplified past the point of being strictly reliable. He even fails to explain WHY he takes these positions.
As an example: he characterizes Egypt as (apart from the Nile) a largely forbidding and uninhabitable place in spite of the fact that prehistoric Egypt was much more humid and habitable than it is today, so that a large part of the oldest Egyptian archaeology is located in what is now desert; and the fact that agriculture took hold later in this region simply because the hunting and gathering OUTSIDE the Nile valley was so productive that agriculture was not necessary until the eastern and western deserts began drying out more (though not to the extent of today), and when Egypt had become a set of fledgeling states with larger populations and centralized authorities in need of profitable surplusses. Aldrete even makes the remark that he doesn't think anyone would have settled in Egypt were it not for the Nile; ignoring the almost certain fact that Egypt was the funnel through which humans settled, in multiple waves, Europe and Asia: BECAUSE it was a viable and relatively easy place to live and travel. This includes the areas outside of the river valley.
I would highly recommend instead the Great Courses series "Human Prehistory and the First Civilizations" by Professor Brian Fagan, which while it predates some of the most recent genetic information re: Neanderthals and modern humans, is scrupulous to point out the various sides of each debate in which he has a favorite perspective. Dr. Fagan also has the advantage of a great deal more hands on experience in the archaeology of ancient cultures. His presentation is dryer but his content is FAR superior.
Well worth your time . Nicely organized and presented. The "Great Courses" series has got a lot going for it. Easy to listen to and very informative.
The lectures on China and the Grand Canal and the one lecture on mesoamerica
no, it was exhausting because it's a history lecutre, although I could peronally lisen to it for 3 to 4 hour at a time.
This was not gobal history by any means. It was primary Greco-Roman history with maybe a quarter of it being chinese history (but only when it could be related to greco-roman), and at most a tenth of the lectures covered civilzation other then the aforementioned. I was quite disapointed by how little other cultures and civliztions were covered and I feel the title is very misleading.Dont get me wrong though this history is very good and the lecutres were over all very intresting and informative. If you are looking for Greco-Roman history this is a great set of lecutres, if on the other hand you are looking for a gobal persective on ancient history you may be sorely disaponited with the euro centric view.
You can clearly see how the history of the totalitarian regimes for many generations created a submissive peasantry that quietly held disdain for overlords, but were held in check by their cultural upbringing until a leader rises up that can be backed in a cause! How one mother of the last Emperor destroyed the Chinese monarchy and her empire by her vain selfishness and shortsighted vision.
The course hovers strongly around recent history and focuses on Mao Zhetung whose rise started in an era just after the fall of the last Chinese dynasty. How this little known upstart broke with Chinese tradition by running away from his prearranged marriage at 14. Later he fell madly in love and married only to have his young wife tortured to death by the government warlord. This was the turning point which placed him on a road of opposition to all power and hopes of freeing the all the peasantry under a Leninist Communist System of government that was eventually modified to a Chinese form. By happenstance, he survived many struggles and by stratagem became the last man standing. Almost snuffed out, he was saved by one man, and the advent of WWII. Out-manned, outgunned, and almost out maneuvered, he stood against his enemy, took the battle to the masses, and exiled his enemy from the mainland. He became that which he most despised: an all powerful dictator, who made rash decisions costing the lives of millions (which he blamed on the masses themselves). He was so brilliant and incompetent at the same time. Blackmailing his way into power, and maintaining an iron hand to maintain power. He dumbed down the populace to make himself the smartest man in the nation (which was not that smart). Chinese people live in constant fear of their government, but at the same time they fanatically support it.
The recent Chinese history showed the fallacy of the communist system, which looks great on paper, but clearly was shown how it fails with the intervention of our own human nature. Corruption when positions of power are maintained; freeloader mentality when no work will still provide food, shelter, and basic needs guaranteed. [Except when there is no food, then everyone starves... together (Even though large quantities of food were shipped as trade goods from your efforts).] ; and leaders surround themselves with yes men leading to lies, deceit, blame, and cover up to stay... yes men. Only one person's opinion mattered, and there are no rules on how to find favor with that one person. Laws, promises, and contracts were made and broken shortly thereafter for the convenience of the ruling few resulting in imprisonment, brainwashing, and execution. There law has little credence, people have a mussled voice, and "it's good to be the king" (Mel Brooks - History of the World part 2) or emperor/dictator.
I found the course very introspective. I understand why there is such animosity to the West. I do not blame them in the least when the Western nations were making record profits off of China's Opium drug addiction by actively pushing the drugs on the black market. When China pushed back, Queen Victoria turned a blind eye, the Western nations fought China and extorted money and lands. More money than China had a means to pay! They dissolved the Sovereignty of China through occupation, forced annexations, and coerced contracts under threat of violence. I would be pretty peeved at outsiders myself if I had to call this my country's history.
However, things seem to be turning around. For better or worse is to be seen. China is teetering on the edge of greatness or poised for world domination.
I really enjoyed the pace and clear way in which the lessons were organized. The professor has a friendly tone, and wonderful anecdotes of a personal nature for insight to the most recent of the modern Chinese history. I would recommend this course to anyone interested in trying to understand the far eastern culture.
Oh most definitely. The book "1421" and "1434" revealed how the ignorance of the Chinese Monarchy stopped man's progress, and then allowed the rest of the world to surpass it. The year 1421, the Chinese were 100's of years ahead of Europe and the rest of the world. By the end of the 19th century, the old rusty canons and aged ancient weapons were no match for the French, Russian, Japanese, and English forces. They were behind 100 years. What a twist of fate that could have changed the face of our world.
I have moved on to another Great Courses course "From Yao to Mao. 5000 years of Chinese History". We seem to be familiar with our Western Civilization, but ignore a whole other world on the other side of the globe as if it doesn't exist. I wonder what would have happened if Marco Polo hadn't brought that first firecracker back from China and the wonders traded from the silk road. The English would still be sipping their tea in little cups, and the feudal system in Europe may still have stayed in existence without the introduction of paper from China. How we seem to forget these great impacts in our own cultures.
He presents the material in a very organized way, with examples to expand on new terms and ideas. He clearly anticipates the questions that certain actions leave unanswered and quickly fills in the missing link to enlighten our understanding. He does not ramble, is not monotone, stays on subject. Any time he digresses, it is with a story that elaborates the subject matter being discussed. This enhances the experience of the listener. Overall, easy and a pleasure to listen to.
The man reviewed cuneiform then said some of our own sylabic alphabet includes characters descended from it. Our alphabet is not sylabic and some letters decend from hyroglyphics, not cuneiform. I double checked.
I have read entire books on the development of writing and would love to be corrected if I am mistaken.
Strange narrative "You will see nothing but sun baked mud" in Mesapotamia as far as the eye can see. Then it will rain and wash away the houses and crops (which you must have missed the first time).
Not that bad
No reason not to try it out. Not everyone knows about cuneiform etc and will not notice. I just lost confidence.
"A stand out purchase - fantastic"
I've bought one audiobook a month from Audible for several years and this has to be in the top 3. If you're like me you've got an interest in the ancient world but wanted an overview before getting to know one civilisation better than the rest. This isn't just a whistle-stop tour, Prof Aldrete takes time to explain everything at exactly the right pace, weave the stories that make up history together smoothly and remain entertaining at all times.
Unlike some non-fiction, you don't have to concentrate on every word, the delivery is not too fast and not too heavy going. I find myself repeating interesting facts about the Indus Valley or Sparta when talking to friends and family, that I seem to have picked up without realising. It's not just the big things like the Pyramids and the Great Wall, but lots of small anecdotes about archaeologists and quirky historical figures. I genuinely look forward to getting in the car to listen to another instalment.
He's also very balanced. Often Western books can be somewhat Euro-centric but I genuinely feel I'm getting a world perspective here. And it's not simply a chronology of what happened when, but the significance of events is discussed, and the importance of ideas. For example a wonderful chapter focussed on the influence of a period in time when Buddha, Confucius, Zoroaster and the Ionian Rationalists were all spreading their knowledge with the world. You really get a sense of an exciting time in history.
If I had one criticism, it is that the good Prof overuses the word 'literally' to a criminal degree. He uses it correctly, but way too much. He literally says it dozens of times per lecture. But that's literally the only down side. It has literally been one of the best audiobooks I've heard. Go buy it!
"As good as ancient history gets"
I had two criticisms of the last audiobook I read, namely the Great Courses’ “The Other Side of History”. One was that it didn’t cover enough of the globe, the other that its analysis was less empirically objective than politically correct. As if to order, along comes this one to fix those issues. Not only does it interestingly add India and the Americas to the normal roster of ancient lands covered, it also evaluates historical cultures in the context of their epoch, rather than as a pretext for advertising the speaker’s modern-day piety. True, even he’s not entirely immune from that disease: he suggests for example that maybe the notorious Empress Theodora was unfairly maligned by ancient male historians just because she was a bit of a proto-feminist - even though most would think that her role in massacring 30,000 of her own subjects provides a rather strong case for the prosecution. But at least he never sounds like he's grinding an axe.
In fact, a large part of the success of this course is Prof Aldrete’s style. He puts right one or two other issues I’ve encountered with Great Courses audiobooks, including hesitant delivery and dumbed-down language. I found the whole course intelligent, content-filled, and pacy. It’s true that he goes into less historical detail than some accounts I’ve heard, racing through a thousand years of Rome in two or three hours; but he compensates with some original material on culture, religion, philosophy and the like. I particularly enjoyed his analysis of the similarities and differences between the contemporaneous Roman and Han empires, as well as his attempt at the end to pull together the big picture.
It’s a shame that he blots his copybook by attributing the ‘theft’ (as he contentiously puts it) of the Parthenon marbles to the dastardly English lord Elgin; Lord Elgin was of course famously a Scot. It did make me wonder what other details he hadn’t checked. It’s almost inevitable however that there will be some blemishes in the course of 48 lectures. If you want to hear only one ancient-history overview, my advice is to get this one.
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