Look beyond the abstract dates and figures, kings and queens, and battles and wars that make up so many historical accounts. Over the course of 48 richly detailed lectures, Professor Garland covers the breadth and depth of human history from the perspective of the so-called ordinary people, from its earliest beginnings through the Middle Ages.
The past truly comes alive as you take a series of imaginative leaps into the world of history's anonymous citizens, people such as a Greek soldier marching into battle in the front row of a phalanx; an Egyptian woman putting on makeup before attending an evening party with her husband; a Greek citizen relaxing at a drinking party with the likes of Socrates; a Roman slave captured in war and sent to work in the mines; and a Celtic monk scurrying away with the Book of Kells during a Viking invasion.
Put yourself in the sandals of ordinary people and discover what it was like to be among history's 99%. What did these everyday people do for a living? What was their home like? What did they eat? What did they wear? What did they do to relax? What were their beliefs about marriage? Religion? The afterlife?
This extraordinary journey takes you across space and time in an effort to be another person - someone with whom you might not think you have anything at all in common - and come away with an incredible sense of interconnectedness. You'll see the range of possibilities of what it means to be human, making this a journey very much worth taking.
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.
©2012 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2012 The Great Courses
Other than about five merely 4-star minutes on what medieval knights wore in one of the later lectures, I can find little to fault with this Great Course. Robert Garland makes the past come alive in colorful, carefully chosen, elegant prose. One shouldn't let oneself be fooled by a posh British accent, but let's face it - it doesn't hurt. Nor does Garland's dry humor. He describes the ancient Egyptians, for example, as wearing a lot of "bling", and notes that while the Norman invasion brought to the English language words for cooked cow and pig, i.e. "beef" and "pork", the frenchified Norsemen neglected to teach the Brits how to cook and left them to eat appalling food for another thousand years.
Surrounding these lighter moments is endlessly fascinating information about how people lived, such as that Rome was full of five-story apartment buildings. Who knew? And that the ancient Egyptians were such a conservative society that only experts can tell the age of paintings they made 500 years apart -- so little did their art change over time. I also came away with a rather different impression of Ancient Greece than I went into the course with, thanks to Garland's detailed descriptions of the separation of the sexes and the way slavery worked. In many ways Ancient Greece reminded me more, in the end, of the Arab world where I have lived, than of modern Western democracies.
Some might bristle a bit at the slight academic leftist bent to some of the lectures, with their focus on the poor, the slaves, women, the everyman. This is, however, the point of the course, after all, and once you get past the occasional sense that someone's been hanging out a bit too long with the sociology department the information conveyed is all fascinating, not least the nuanced descriptions of how slavery worked in the ancient world (also reminiscent of how slavery still works in remote areas of the Sahel and Maghreb).
One insight I found provocative was that there was what Garland calls a lack of a social conscience in the ancient world. It occurred to no one, apparently, that slavery was in any way wrong, or that the sexes or even all men were deserving of equal rights. Given the many modern-seeming sentiments -- about love, virtue, self-discipline, ambition, etc.-- that Garland describes among the ancients, it's surprising that none of the many great thinkers of these early civilizations came up with at least the idea that no kinds of humans were, deep down, better than any others, or deserving of the status of chattel. (Of course then Jesus came along and had these ideas to some extent, and he was a product of that world.)
Another thing I liked about this course was that just when you were thinking, "Really? How can we know that?" about one or another factoid, Garland would explain the source of the information, without every burdening the lecture with too much referencing. And again, just when you would start thinking, "Really? Did they really say that or think that? Am I supposed to just take your word for it?" he would pull out the perfect quotation from an ancient source, giving credence yet again to the sense he delivers so elegantly throughout, that these people really were not so different, in the end, from ourselves.
Intriguing until you realize how many times the author says some version of, "we don't know of course, but we can speculate that..." We apparently KNOW a lot less about daily life in the ancient world than the title implies. There a whole sections that are pure speculation.
The author speaks in short clauses, not complete sentences, with pauses between the clauses. It's distracting, but passable.
Disappointing for all the speculation. Sure, it's a tough subject but "speculation" isn't the solution.
If the "speculation" were removed and the content was limited to what the author can actually support, this might be condensed to 10 half hour lectures.
When I drive, I read... uhm listen. I like SciFi, Fantasy, some Detective and Espionage novels and Religion. Now and then I will also listen to something else.
Focussing on Everyman throughout history, Dr. Robert Garland, Roy D. and Margaret B. Wooster Professor of the Classics at Colgate University, USA, attempts to put you, the listener, in the everyday sandals of different people of the Ancient World. Cladding the listener with the respective identities of a Palaeolithic human (1 lecture), a Mesopotamian (1 lecture), an Egyptian (4 lectures), a Greek (11 lectures), a Roman (11 lectures), the different ancestors of the British (4 lectures) and that of a Medieval person (7 lectures), he confronts you with the lives of ordinary humans. This is probably the reason why the material presented is so interesting.
The comparisons with our own day and age makes it fascinating. Dr. Garland is a tour guide that takes you through the proverbial looking-glass to show you the other side of history. This metaphor he uses in various way throughout the course hence he is able to bind 48 30 minute lectures together in a whole. I admire the way he carefully compiled and structured the course. He kept me with him even though I am not British or American. (I was acutely aware of his Western bias during the course. It is probably also the reason for its popularity.)
Throughout the lectures, Dr. Garland was engaging. I didn’t count any ‘uhm’ or ‘ah.’ The course is highly polished and tremendously informative. So if you are interested in history or just everyday life, recline at this table the cuisine is ready to be enjoyed.
I'm not much interested in who won which wars, or in developments in weaponry and battle tactics, or in ancient politics. This series of lectures delves into what *does* interest me: how everyday people lived their lives, in as much detail as possible, in a generous selection of ancient (western) cultures. Professor Garland's delivery is the icing on the cake. He seems knowledgeable and clearly interested in his subject matter, but lightens his lectures with a gentle and sometimes irreverent (but never disrespectful) twinkle. One credit bought me more than 24 delightful hours of pleasant and informative listening. One of my best purchases from Audible.
This was my first Great Courses book. What a treat to learn so many things that I had no real Idea about. I have bought several courses since then and find that if I speed up the voice to 2 times the normal speed I can digest all kinds of information rather quickly. If I had payed more attention in school, this info would not be so new to me. The narrator was very interesting to listen to and gave a perspective of the common man that I found very enjoyable.
The time didn't drag, but I didn't learn much new, having read many well-researched books about these eras.
I was expecting richer content, total immersion on other cultures and times, like what's in David Hackett's Albion's Seed. This didn't come close to that.
For a college professor, his delivery was excellent. Could tell he'd rehearsed, researched, and written about the content extensively.
No. This is more for background use by film producers and set and clothing designers.
If I'd paid Colgate's tuition for this course, I would have been shocked. For one thing, I can't imagine how someone could come up with in-depth exam questions from content this light.
Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!
The Villa of the Papyri is nestled on the bluffs of the Pacific Palisades in California. Finished in 1974, it was closed for renovations and reopened in 2010 as "The Getty Villa." J. Paul Getty's Villa - and The Getty Center in West Los Angeles are, as Getty promised, free to all.
Okay, maybe the original Villa dei Papiri was in Herculaneum, which was destroyed in AD 79 - along with Pompeii - when Mt. Vesuvius erupted. Pompeii is now temporarily at the California Science Center in Exposition Park, near the LA Coliseum and USC.
I coincidentally finished listening to Dr. Robert S. J. Garland's "The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World" (2010) just before I took out of town family to the Pompeii exhibit. Garland's lectures were so concise and vivid, I recognized every single artifact and I knew what it was used for - and keep in mind, I listened to the Audible version which doesn't come with books. I knew what kind of artisan made something, the training they had, and whether they were a slave, a manumitted slave, or free born. I looked at a restored fresco, and impressed my sister by telling her that the ancient Romans would have changed the painted scene as fashions changed. Trends and fads are as old as Ancient Greece. Just as the 1980's Laura Ashley overstuffed and frilled pastels and floral wallpaper gave way to furniture and frames various hues of the same color, tailored linens, hardwood floors and painted walls 30 years later, the painted harbor scene popular during one emperor's reign gave way to starkly contrasting blocks of color, proving that abstractionism isn't a modern construct. I even knew when I got to the gift shop which replica jewelry belonged with the exhibit, and the social class of the women who would have worn it. It didn't stop me from buying the regionally misplaced and historically non-existent Sphinx earrings just because I liked anyway.
The title of this series of lectures is a misnomer, though. Garland's lectures on Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt, and to a limited extent Ancient Persia, are worth the price and the listen. However, he's missing entire major ancient civilizations: China's written history is more than 4,000 years old; there's the Mayans, who were a civilization for about 3000 years, until the Spanish arrived, with their viruses, in 900 AD; and many other cultures that flourished and vanished or were absorbed by conquerors. These civilizations had writing, so they were historic, not pre-historic.
If the title had been accurate, I'd give this 4 instead of a 3. It's not higher because some of the lectures are repetitive. I did enjoy Dr. Gardner's voice and his delivery, but I wasn't so excited that I listened to more than one lecture a day.
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Over all a very interesting lecture series. But the lecturer is clearly anti Catholic hierarchy. That is revealed at Lecture 41 approx. 20:40 when he discusses Francis of Assisi. First he states that Francis order was known as Fratichelli. Then is states the Church's rejected the "little brothers" and excommunicated them. WOW. The Church excommunicated St. Francis' order? Well not quite. St. Francis and the Franciscans were never excommunicated and were always embraced by pope and the Church. Some orders that the Italian people designated as Fraticelli were considered heretical by the Church. It's a bit disappointing that type of juxtaposition is used to create a false impression of historical facts.
The lecture's anti-Catholic hierarchy is clear in his discussions of the Churches influence on medieval daily life. I emphasize his disdain is directed at Church hierarchy because he goes out of his way to laud the contributions of monks, priests, nuns and other church people in their aid and comfort of everyday people.
With that caveat, I would recommend this series.
I love listening and usually get in at least three hours a day. I like fiction, biographies and medical non-fiction.
This is (I think) my sixth Great Course, and it is my favorite by far. The range of history covered is remarkable, and I loved getting details about the life of an ordinary person in Babylonia, Rome or (especially) Egypt. Medieval times were far more interesting than I expected. I think I had grown to think the middle ages were a time when the sun didn't shine and old women were constantly being put to the flame as witches. Not so. People were learning, loving and moving forward.
In past Great Courses, the lecturers (who are not the professional readers in most of the Audible selections) frequently annoyed me with verbal tics. Not Professor Garland. This was especially surprising since he has a slight lisp. His selection of stories, detail and occasional glimpses of his own life added to the enjoyment of this course.
I feel I know far more about our distant ancestors and will look for other courses by Professor Garland.
As the title indicates, this is unequivocally one of the best listens I've ever had the delight of finding here on Audible!
Knowing a thing or two about anthropology, I had one or two very minor quibbles with one detail or another, (specifically whether pre-Neolithic Revolution life was characterized by fear and suffering, where fossil evidence shows the rampant rise of malnutrition and disease afterwards indicating a lower quality of life for several millennia) but there are always debates in this field. These are, however, far, far, over shadowed by Garland's profound humanity, conscientiousness, and care. There were a number of times his heartfelt compassion for right's of men, women, children, and the disadvantaged literally brought tears to my eyes. There were a few times I think Garland had tears in his eyes! His critiques of the discriminations of ancient attitudes towards sexual identity, culture, class, etc., are canny, and obviously informed by a genuine empathy and open mindedness. They are not the natural insights of someone who is posturing these qualities, and it was refreshing to hear.
Garland himself has a staggered sort of way of speaking, one brought on I think by fervour, and which I found quite charming. He is entertaining and articulate.
The course often employs a second person narrative, and this walkthrough of ancient life was almost like a dramatic exercise or hypnosis. It draws you right along, puts you right in the shoes, and is very effective, absorbing, and quite fun.
The information fed my curiosity for the minutiae of day to day ancient life, while also providing enlightening geopolitical context. It was also lovely to hear such up to date information, including homonids like the recently unearthed Homo Floresiensis.
This course was engaging, educational, entertaining, inspiring and insightful. I can say something of this series which I think to be the truest compliment, that is that I've learned so much by it. I've come away with more from this course than many of the myriad books I've read collectively, and never felt my mind stray for a moment. Garland has only two courses here on Audible, the other of which I gobbled up immediately, sincerely cannot wait for his next.
"Nearest thing to time travel available"
Superb, loved his Greece and Rome, bought this and couldn't get enough. A natural story teller just brings the lives of ordinary people to life. Just relax and let Professor Robert Garland read the narrative to you. Got to be even better than reading it for yourself.
The leader of the Roman bandits which he did with an east end accent like Fagan from Oliver Twist or an English pirate.
Infant mortality in the ancient and medieval world 25-30%. Starvation of the children left behind after their family were wiped out by the plague and having to beg in the streets. Throwing ones relative onto a passing plague cart from an upstairs window which for a deeply religious people must have been terrible, but they had no choice.
At 53 years of age I want to go to university and study history under Professor Garland. Along with the Time Travellers Guide to Medieval England and the Time Travellers Guide to Tudor England by Ian Mortimer this is a must for those that wish to learn about history from the viewpoint of ordinary people. Works such as these have taken a long time to appear, but now they they have I hope there is more to come.
"Well worth the listening"
It informed about ordinary people through many cultures.
Very well researched and read. Obviously interested in his subject and puts it across in an interesting and accessible way.
"Excellent empathic history"
Excellent narration with extraordinary breadth of research and insight into the other side of historical life across the classical and medieval periods. Wonderful example of empathic social history done with wit, intelligent charm and compassion.
"Brilliant Trip Back In Time"
This was one of the best audiobooks I've purchased. The 48 30-minute lectures give a fascinating glimpse of what life was like for ordinary people in ancient and medieval times. The lectures are informed by a wealth of learning but are never stuffy or dry. On the contrary, they are very well written and are delivered in an excellent speaking voice by Professor Garland who brings the people "on the other side of history" brilliantly to life. Another reviewer has said that they are the nearest we'll get to a a trip by time-machine and that captures the essence of the lectures: as Prof Garland speaks we are back there with those ordinary people, sharing their hopes and fears and marveling how they coped without basic things we take for granted - medicine that is effective, spectacles to correct our vision, and so forth. Highly recommended.
"A great Listen. plenty of it. Slight repetition."
Entertaining and informative. Well presented by the prof. who sounds a bit of a stereotype, but his enthusiasm is evident and his empathy for ancient lives is clear.
"A Captivating Journey!"
It was an adventure to be sure and one that has kindled a new desire to know more about history, society and the human condition.
The narrator is easy to listen to becuase he loves his job which brings you into the story without much struggle.
I managed to listen all the way through doing a bit every day and highly recommend. I'll certainly resist a lecture or two.
"Accessible, satisfyingly detailed, and fascinating"
The Other Side of History is a delightful idea for a series of lectures. It makes ancient history seems so much more tangible, real, and fascinating. The macro-scale progression of ancient society is woven into the details of how its citizens actually lived their lives in such a coherent and natural way. Professor Garland is consistently entertaining, and his obvious passion for the subject is wonderfully infectious. Highly recommended.
"No prior knowledge needed"
Never did he presume prior knowledge but was not patronising to those who had it, he connected with the audience rather than talking 'at' his listeners.
At 24 hours length that would be difficult, the half hour sections made it easy to listen to and easy to keep on listening.
Robert Garland involves the listener and makes them feel like a time traveller by staging the scene before describing the events. It is difficult not to relate to the topics as they cover daily life of the average citizen in various civilisations, from birth to death and beyond. His style is clear and easily understood with few 'long' words, it presumes no prior knowledge yet at the end of it the listener is left with a remarkable knowledge of the ancient world which can be used as a gateway to more indepth study or as a means to really understand and end enjoy dramas depicting the era covered.
Just get it, delivery great. Story great. I was very excited about listening to this, outstripped my expectations.
"Everyday history in a nutshell"
Really enjoyed this book. Although it is of historic interest it was like listening to mini autobiographies. Feel as if I know much more about ancient history and what life was like. Would have preferred more detail but at least the pace was good. Shame about the narrator - pleasant voice but too often a bit stuttery and robotic. Nontheless I would recommend.
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