Ancient Mesopotamia

Life in the Cradle of Civilization
Length: 11 hrs and 16 mins
Categories: History, World
4.5 out of 5 stars (613 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

When we imagine what life might have been like thousands of years in the past, the images we often conjure are primitive ones: reed and mud huts or plain brick dwellings, cooking pits, villagers, and simple farms. That was indeed what life was like in the earliest settlements, but by 5,000 years ago, life in some places had become much more sophisticated than we might think. Impressive achievements - like stepped temples that towered like mountains, elaborate palaces (some with bathrooms and plumbing), and complex houses - were also a part of life for people who lived in cities that arose thousands of years ago, particularly in the fertile region that emerged along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

Welcome to Mesopotamia, the ancient name for the region that is now Iraq, a remarkably advanced civilization that flourished for two-thirds of the time that civilization has existed on Earth. Mesopotamians mastered irrigation agriculture; built the first complex urban societies; developed writing, literature, and law; and united vast regions through warfare and diplomacy. While civilizations like Greece and Rome have an unbroken tradition of written histories, the rich history of Mesopotamia has only been recently rediscovered, thanks to the decipherment of Mesopotamia's cuneiform writing less than 200 years ago. In this 24-lecture course taught by Professor Podany, you'll fill in the blanks of your historical understanding as you witness a whole new world opening before your eyes.

Riveting stories about kings and priestesses as well as ordinary people from all walks of life transport you back in time, giving you invaluable insights into the history of a landmark region that has long been known as the cradle of civilization.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2018 The Great Courses (P)2018 The Teaching Company, LLC
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    5 out of 5 stars

Time with a great scholar & fantastic lecturer

Best course this year! Sometime ago I read Amanda Podany's "Brotherhood of Kings How International Relations Shaped the Ancient Near East" and enjoyed the lively vigorous and compelling narrative regarding the birth of diplomacy I found her lectures for Ancient Mesopotamia were likewise, and some of the very best I have ever listened to. Professor Podany has a great speaking voice, a fine sense of humor and has the unique ability in a series of well-organized lectures to bring the world of Sumer and Akad to life. As a scholar Podany is able to both translate the four thousand year old cuneiform tablets and reveal the world's first literature, legal systems and civic governments. Her lectures are lively, well paced and display a wide knowledge of the ancient world.

12 people found this helpful

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An Interesting Introduction

Prof. Podnay is interesting and engaging, but the series is not as good as it might have been. Here's why: (1) Despite the chapter titles, the organization is not always temporal. (2) The version of Gilgamesh she's reading from seems very sanitized to me, which is ahistorical. (3) She is reluctant to criticize, even where criticism is pretty obviously warranted. (4) There are some pet topics that could have been omitted, like the whole lecture on Hana.

8 people found this helpful

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Captivating, informative, an amazing experience.

Unlike some of the Great Courses, which tend to be conveyed in the usual fact-listing monotone with little or no background story, these lectures captivate you from the start. The way Dr. Podany describes everyday life in the context of Mesopotamian history brings the entire period to life and holds your attention from beginning to end. She truly loves her work and you can hear this in her voice. She uses what we know to understand the people. Suddenly, you feel as if you were there, sharing their lives, understanding their thinking and how they saw their own world. This is the best course in the Great Courses series that I listened to so far.

16 people found this helpful

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Awesome listen

Awesome listen but is not standalone. Other sources (especially maps) are required to understand what is happening and where.

6 people found this helpful

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Professor Podany Makes it Real!

Hard-evidence-based research and understanding complemented by an artful, conversational deilvery made this an entertaining as well as educational escape to the very-relevant past. Brava, Professor!

4 people found this helpful

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No cell phones in ancient Mesopotamia

The valuable information in this course focuses on daily life in Mesopotamia and Mesopotamian society and government. There is also an unusual amount of “storytelling” in this course which I found annoying and at times obnoxious.

There are moments of interesting interpretation and new and updated information in this course. I found those moments too few and too far in between.

13 people found this helpful

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EXCELLENT!!

This audiobook could be the best I have ever owned....Professor Podany's enthusiasm and knowledge lift this audiobook to wonderful heights, and makes most other audiobooks sound dreary. I had cycled through other histories of the time/place and was despairing - why couldn't someone write a book that was well-written AND interesting about an inherently interesting time? Well this is it! I listened to it twice, and I couldn't have had better company on my daily dog walks. THIS IS EXCELLENT!

3 people found this helpful

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Solid!

The Western world traces its religious and ethical outlook to Ancient Mesopotamia and would do well to better understand this period of history. Dr. Podany has done an excellent job of opening up the Mesopotamians to a modern audience. As she presents them, you are unaware of how long ago they lived, worked, prayed, and died. They are almost contemporaries.

Thank you Great Courses and thank you Professor!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Ed
  • 06-27-18

very informative but could be better

liked it but thought it could go into more detail about the life and day to day of Mesopotamians instead of who was ruling when

2 people found this helpful

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Excellent

One of the best Great Courses I've listened to. scholarly but not dry. The enthusiasm of the lecturer is infectious.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Happy Shopper
  • 08-04-18

Excellent - I've learnt so much

This is a brilliant set of lectures, I feel like my time has been very well spent and I now am eager to learn more about ancient Mesopotamia, a time I knew nothing about. I'm a historian but lecture on 19th century British history so this was several millennia out of my comfort zone, but have enjoyed it so much I'm planning to listen again and read around the subject.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-06-19

Sparkling overview of a fascinating era

This is a great course. Prof Podany is a brilliant lecturer who really brings to life a period that is very poorly taught (if at all) in general education despite being the literal cradle of civilisation. A civilised world before the Egyptians, before the Greeks and Romans, it is replete with brilliant characters, jaw-dropping cultural development and astonishing clarity of documentation. I found myself googling throughout to follow-up. Highly recommended.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Michael Tierney
  • 03-15-19

really enjoyed

really enjoyed it made history interesting and opens up a window into the past that opens up a vista to the present.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Roy foley
  • 01-19-19

another great look into the past.

the great courses content is always informative and easy to listen to, much better than some others I've tried.

2 people found this helpful

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  • iain ramponi
  • 06-08-20

Entertaining History

I really enjoyed this well read and interesting book, it reinvigorated my interest in this period of history.

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  • hadis
  • 05-30-20

Highly recommended!

At first, I was really sceptical of learning anything from an audiobook in this format, i.e. lectures. I thought the course would be as boring as listening to the podcast of a lecturer teaching in a classroom. But I was wrong! This course was really engaging. Both the content and the lecturer were amazing. The lectures corrected many misconceptions I had about Mesopotamia.

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  • Ramya Kirtisinghe
  • 05-26-20

immersive

Enjoyed every minute of this lecture. Easy to absorb and very interesting. Definitely would recommend.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-01-20

very good

a very good course, well delivered by the author, who was not just well informed about her subject, but passed on her enthusiasm as well as the facts. interesting information about the archeological history as well as general overview of the history of the region. thoroughly enjoyed and recommend.

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  • t.baruch
  • 01-09-20

Wanderful

Really enjoyed this lector’s . Will presented .
Very interesting to discover where the roots of our
Modern societies come from ...

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-04-19

Ancient history

Loved being immersed in this once great culture. These courses are are great way to access history.

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  • Anthony C
  • 06-17-20

Stunning

By far the best audio book on Mesopotamian history. This audio book deserves to be highly praised.
Excellent historian, beautifully narrated, puts you in the shoes of ancient Mesopotamians.
I highly recommend it and will listen to it again right now :)

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  • Mark Freeman
  • 03-17-20

It is good but a bit of a re-hash. And mis-named.

This somewhat negative review is probably my fault because I was expecting some new information on Mesopotamian lifestyles. Sadly (for me) it didn't reflect the lifestyles of those 5K BCE people but rather became a recitation of already well known history of the elete.
I was hoping for a 'What the workers ate, how they slept, where they shit, how did they deal with teenager daughters".
If you espouse 'Life in the' ....' you should deal with the life of the locals.
It is a bit like stating a series of "Life in the USA 2020" and concentrating of the life style of Donald Trump.
It is not a bad ancient history series of lectures but miss-named.
Mark freeman.