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The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes | [The Great Courses]

The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes

The word "barbarian" quickly conjures images of Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan. Yet few people realize these men belong to a succession of nomadic warriors who emerged from the Eurasian steppes to conquer civilizations. It's a part of ancient and medieval history that's often overlooked, but for an accurate view of how the world evolved, it's essential. Covering some 6,000 miles and 6,000 years, this eye-opening course illuminates how a series of groups pushed ever westward, coming into contact with the Roman Empire, Han China, and distant cultures from Iraq to India.
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Publisher's Summary

The word "barbarian" quickly conjures images of Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan. Yet few people realize these men belong to a succession of nomadic warriors who emerged from the Eurasian steppes to conquer civilizations. It's a part of ancient and medieval history that's often overlooked, but for an accurate view of how the world evolved, it's essential.

Covering some 6,000 miles and 6,000 years, this eye-opening course illuminates how a series of groups - from the Sacae and Sarmatians to the infamous Huns and Mongols - pushed ever westward, coming into contact with the Roman Empire, Han China, and distant cultures from Iraq to India.

Along the way, you'll learn how these nomads caused a domino effect of displacement and cultural exchange; meet fascinating figures such as Tamerlane, the "Prince of Destruction"; witness struggles to control the legendary Silk Road; trace the spread of Buddhism and Islam, and more.

By looking past the barbarian stereotype, you'll understand who these people were, the significance of their innovations - which include stirrups, saddles, and gunpowder - and the magnitude of their impact. Of course, these warriors did wage campaigns of terror, and you'll hear many accounts of violence as well.

Led by an award-winning professor, these 36 lectures provide new insights on how the world was shaped and introduce you to cultures and empires you've likely never encountered.

©2014 The Great Courses (P)2014 The Teaching Company, LLC

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (305 )
5 star
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4.4 (269 )
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Story
4.2 (273 )
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Christopher Shanghai, China 09-25-14
    Christopher Shanghai, China 09-25-14 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "More than You Ever Wanted to Know re Steppe Nomads"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes to be better than the print version?

    This is a fabulous course. The course covers over 3 thousands years of Central Asian and Near Eastern history and is a wonderful introduction to the Empires that have flourished there over this period. You come to appreciate the mounted archer and the savagry of the great warriors of the plains as well as their military sophistication.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The discussion of Ghenghis Kahns, his sons and the history of their empires is fascinating. This is the best structured overview of this topic that I have ever hear (or seen). Really a wonderful course and presentation.


    Have you listened to any of Professor Kenneth W. Harl’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    To say that Professors Harl has an encyclopedic knowledge of Central Asian, Near Eastern and European history is an incredible understatement. You will be constantly dazzled by the facts, figures and analysis that rolls of Professor Harl's tongue seemingly without end.


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

    Ninja's of the dessert--3,000 years of the horse archer.


    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mike 02-20-14
    Mike 02-20-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Attila the Hun demands you read this book!!!"
    Any additional comments?

    Are you a lover of history who seeks out those rare books that explain those often mentioned but little known peoples and places of the globe? Have you ever wondered who the Huns, Turks, or Mongols were, where they came from, and why they did what they did? Then this book is definitely for you!

    The excellent lecturer gives a mostly chronological and comprehensive overview of the various peoples or "barbarians" that lived on the eurasian steppes and played a major role in world history. In fact, they play such a large role in world history that I left this read convinced we do a great disservice by not giving them a more prominent role in our textbooks. This book covers a serious blind spot in most of the world's history books.

    He starts from the steppes earliest Indo-European inhabitants and moves through the archaic period with peoples such as the Shueng-Nu, Scythians, and Huns, discusses the medieval period dominated by the Turks, and ends discussing the terrible and glorious legacies of the great Mongol conquests and the subsequent disappearance of the steppe way of life with the advent of the modern age. The series is thorough and detailed and will leave you with few major questions once it has been finished.

    Perhaps the most enlightening part for me was how the lecturer explained so clearly the geography and dynamics of the eurasian steppes. The unique environmental factors of the world of the steppes did just as much to shape their history, and that of the world's, as did the amazing lives of those who lived there. This feature alone makes this a worthwhile listen.

    I cannot recommend this series highly enough to fellow history addicts or those who are just curious. You will not be disappointed. It was definitely one of my best reads this year. Enjoy!!!

    16 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hume 12-26-14
    Hume 12-26-14 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
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    10
    4
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    "No Guidebook"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    If they would add the guidebook, which is always available when you buy a course directly from The Great Courses, and often when you buy from Audible


    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christopher SYLMAR, CA, United States 02-08-15
    Christopher SYLMAR, CA, United States 02-08-15 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    35
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    "One damn thing after another"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    The story is fascinating, the presentation is pedestrian


    What did you like best about this story?

    As the professor says,'six thousand years of history across six thousand miles', what's not to like?


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    Focus less on dates and more on the big picture.


    Could you see The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    I had just come from an incredible history course - 'The Story of Medieval England: From King Arthur to the Tudor Conquest' by Professor Jennifer Paxton. This suffered by comparison.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lajean Keller 09-22-14 Member Since 2015

    LaJean

    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
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    "ZERO STARS - Could You Spare a Gal a Map"
    Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Kenneth W. Harl?

    No more history from The Great Courses.


    If you’ve listened to books by The Great Courses before, how does this one compare?

    I believe that it is the subject matter that makes this not measure up to the other lectures I have purchased.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    The different dynasty genealogies get a bit confusing, and did not add to an actualized retention or learning of the subject matter. The lecture was obviously prepared to be seen and not simply heard. Also, instead of telling me that certain terms 'keep a students attention,' just keep my attention. I know he had a lot of material to cover, but his two day lecture on the silk road could have been clearer on its role in facilitating these different groups' rise to power. Professor Kenneth W. Hart may be an excellent teacher, but in the audio only version, he did not pull it off.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes?

    It is not the lectures that needs editing, but a PDF needs to be included. And not that piece of junk they put out for purchases from their site. First, there is no PDF 'booklet' with this purchase from Audible. However, a friend of mine got me a copy of the PDF. It was horrible. The included maps in the publication were at such low resolution that the place names on the maps could not be read. What makes it so difficult is that the lecturer constantly refers to places in ancient terms, and rarely makes reference to their modern names.

    The Great Courses NEEDS to, at the very least, include maps with these offerings at Audible to accompany these history courses. An abridged version of the PDF would have been more appropriate. Something that had maps, and a listing of key players with dates.

    This should have been planned out with the professor at production time. A transcript of the lectures along with a sprinkling of pictures was poor planning on the creation team's part.

    Each type of delivery of these lectures (audio vs. video) required different types of material to be created for the audio version to be a true learning experience.The Great Courses produce a video version of these lectures, and to simply extract the audio from the lecture has produced an unacceptable product. No wonder it is on sale at 75% off at their site.


    Any additional comments?

    I filled my wish list with many of these titles, and will be removing all titles dealing with history. This was a waste of time and a credit.

    9 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim "The Impatient" Springfield, MO, United States 06-05-15
    Jim "The Impatient" Springfield, MO, United States 06-05-15 Member Since 2015

    I will listen to NO boring book. Old Fav's,Card, King , Hobb. New Fav's, Hill, Scalzi, Sawyer, Interested in Lansdale, Crouch, Konrath

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "OGRES COME FROM HUNGARY"

    GURK TURKS
    I loved parts of this and I hated parts. I loved the parts on Attila the Hun and Genghis and his sons and grandsons. Attila was two lessons. Genghis and Sons about 10 lessons. There was some other interesting lessons, but there were about 12 lessons that were torture. Not about torture, but torture to lesson to. A lot of places, names and dates are thrown around.

    THE SULTANS OF DELI
    Overall it was worth the money. Did you know that, even though Attila is a popular name in Hungary, the Huns did not come from there? Did you know that the Turks' Homeland is Mongolia? A Hoard is an army.

    AAAAH, WELL, AND-AND, AH- AH - AH
    If you listen to the sample, you may be surprised that this guy gets paid to speak. I admit that it bother me a little, but only a little. Even though the Professor knows his stuff and he is an academic, he showed humility. He seemed like someone you would like to meet. Mostly his enthusiasm for the subject is very evident and infectious. He seems to get very excited. He stutters, says and a lot, but he delivers when it comes to the lesson.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    russell Tampa, FL, United States 05-31-15
    russell Tampa, FL, United States 05-31-15 Member Since 2011
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    "Professor's delivery leaves a little to be desired"

    Start counting the Umms and Ahhhs.tou can't think of anything else. He's clearly an expert and the information is interesting, but his speaking style irks me.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    royaa 05-30-15
    royaa 05-30-15

    Bookie

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    "Great series"

    I always enjoy Professor Kenneth Harl. Clear insights and organization. Had not appreciated the sweep, longevity, and consistency of the influence of the Steppe nomads on history prior to this lecture series.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Levi 05-24-15
    Levi 05-24-15
    ratings
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    1
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    "How to defeat an army of nomadic horse archers."
    Would you listen to The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes again? Why?

    Yes, because it's a great story, but too much information to process in a single time through.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I liked how it filled in the gaps between the major urban societies that one usually learns about. The scope of the material was enormous and putting it together was an impressive achievement.


    What about Professor Kenneth W. Harl’s performance did you like?

    The Harlisms. "How do you defeat an army of nomadic horse archers? You get your own army of nomadic horse archers!" Dr. Harl really makes some of the characters and scenes come to life. His description of Attila's invasion of eastern Europe was breathtaking. I added all of Dr. Harl's great courses to my wish list, because I really enjoyed this one and his one on Asia Minor.


    Any additional comments?

    Several people complained about the lack of a map. Those people should learn how to use google, because the internet is full of excellent maps.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bobby 05-04-15
    Bobby 05-04-15 Member Since 2012
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    3
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    "excellent"

    fantastic listen , enjoyed this course. I wish I had a map in front of my face the whole time I listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • David
    Leighton Buzzard, United Kingdom
    12/16/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fascinating insight into a huge subject"

    As with many of the Great Courses this deals with a subject I hadn't realised I was interested in until I saw the title and took the plunge. Professor Harl covers an enormous subject both in temporal and geographical terms and makes it manageable by bringing a human element to the characters involved.

    I have seen comments that a map is essential to understanding the subject and it would certainly help but it strikes me that is a limitation of audiobooks in general not specifically this course.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Nixon
    12/12/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Very informative"
    Where does The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is one of the best books I have listened to, it is great to listen to


    What did you like best about this story?

    I liked how he kept the chronology of the story, but was able to provide great detail about both the western and eastern steppe


    What about Professor Kenneth W. Harl’s performance did you like?

    I liked how he could bring the stories to life with small details about the main characters, and it seemed that he was also interested in the story


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

    The book is very long, it would take a day to listen to it, but if I could I would have


    Any additional comments?

    I would recommend this as a fascinating listen and a part of history that is often overlooked

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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