The career of Pericles, the leading Athenian politician and general from c. 450 to 429 B.C., is a prism through which to view the "Golden Age" of Greece, a brief but remarkable era when Athens experienced a cultural flowering of extraordinary power and importance for Western culture.
In the generation that followed Pericles' appearance on the public stage shortly after the Persian wars, Athens rapidly transformed the alliance of Greek states - an alliance first created as a defense against the Persians - into a true Aegean empire, dominated by the Athenians and their mighty navy. But this dramatic increase in military power, cultural influence, and prestige was also accompanied by something unique: the growth of full participatory democracy. But in examining the lives of Athenian men and women, one has to ask what freedom and autonomy really meant to a society that relied on slaves and was ruthless in its treatment of its subjects.
These 24 stimulating lectures present a well-rounded portrait of almost every aspect of Athenian life during the Golden Age, including. the different ways Athens and Sparta raised their children; the fate of Athenian girls as mothers and managers of the household; young Pericles' role in bringing Aeschylus's masterpiece, The Persians; why the Spartans rejected the aid of Athens in putting down a slave revolt; and Thucydides' terrifying description of the plague's physical and social impact on Athens - including the death of Pericles - and its possible role in the ultimate defeat of Athens by Sparta.
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©2004 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2004 The Great Courses
Anyone can tell you that Western civilization owes much to the ancient Greeks. But few people can give you the insight of this lecturer. He gives an in depth tour of ancient Greece in the 400s BCE and he does not attempt to hide the ugly aspects of a society that used slave labor. He uses the Persian and Peloponnesian wars as bookends for his examination.
He gives a detailed portrait of life for generals and politicians as well as everyday citizens and foreigners. In doing so he covers the historical and cultural events that shaped the city.
Finally, he discusses how the ancient Greeks were similar and different from us in their conception of ideas of freedom and democracy.
I would recommend this to anyone looking for an in depth look at the ancient Greeks, but you do need some familiarity with the material to get the most out of it. I would not recommend it as a first book about the ancient world.
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