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Publisher's Summary

All cultures lie in the shadow of ancient Mesopotamia-the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers that is now mostly encompassed by the borders of modern Iraq. In this fascinating series of 36 lectures, an award-winning teacher leads you on a vivid journey through Mesopotamian history-from Neolithic times to the age of Alexander the Great-and into the lives of mighty emperors, struggling farmers, ambitious merchants, and palace servants to reveal why this ancient culture occupies such a foundational position in our history.

The lectures look back to the time when the first cities arose in Mesopotamia and kings created complex bureaucracies to rule their expanding territories, thus fostering the invention of writing and other technologies. You peer into the lives and fortunes of Mesopotamia's people and learn about the birth of the urban lifestyle.

Professor Castor creates a detailed image not only of larger Mesopotamian society but of life on the level of the individual Mesopotamian as well. Among the many fascinating insights into daily Mesopotamian life you examine are how they ate, worked, learned, worshiped, married, and reared children; used scientific ideas to help them order and understand the natural world; engaged with their powerful neighbors in Egypt, Syria, and Anatolia (modern-day Turkey); waged war and experienced peace; and endured the collapse of their cities.

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

©2006 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2006 The Great Courses

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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Kinda Tells you what u need, but not really

OK this is complicated, I'm a history lover, and when usually people yawn or call asleep in history lectures I find myself most intrigued. until this audio book. I don't know the exact problem, the lecturer's tone was quite monotonous, as if reading from a paper.
also the progression wasn't chronological as I hoped it would be, one moment we're talking about Sargon of Akkad the next she's discussing late Assyrian kings and their kingly roles.
all in all I learned TONS and for that I'm grateful, but the layout of the lectures leaves big room for improvement.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Mesopotamia as a Bridge Between East and West

Mesopotamian history is integral to an understanding of ancient history. It often gets overshadowed, though, by Egypt, Greece and Rome. I have had many courses where Mesopotamia was at least somewhat discussed—Ur, Babylon, the Assyrians, etc…. However, before this course I had not taken a course that focused exclusively on Mesopotamia. I am grateful that I took this course because it gave me a much greater appreciation of the role Mesopotamia served as the bridge between the East and the West. As explained in the course, Mesopotamian culture and politics profoundly influenced many aspects of the ancient world. This influence is made apparent through the professor's excellent instruction.

The professor, who is both humorous and knowledgeable, covers the history of this region from pre-history through the conquest of Alexander the Great. She generally follows the chronological political history of the region but takes frequent detours to cover topics such as religion, family life, architecture and food. The professor makes each lesson informative and enjoyable. I now have a better understanding of Mesopotamian history and a greater interest in visiting museums featuring exhibits from this region.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Excellent Introduction to Ancient Mesopotamia

Other reviewers complained that the first few introductory lectures were too long or that the presentation was bland. I believe that this probably stems from a lack of appreciation of standard academic rigor. The Professor's careful explanation of 'how we know what we know' is an invaluable insight that most mainline textbooks or introductions seem to render peripheral or even ignore. This creates a false sense of epistemic confidence with something that is, admittedly, a rough reconstruction of the past. The reference to the looting of the Iraq museum makes this point that much more clear.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Great for Lovers of History

As a lover of history, I enjoyed this audiobook a lot. The audiobook covers many important aspects of Ancient Mesopotamia. The speaker is a bit dry but, if you can get past that and enjoy (or have a strong interest in) Ancient Mesopotamian history, I definitely would recommend it.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • brian
  • Puyallup, WA, United States
  • 08-04-14

A substantial yet engaging series

I really enjoyed this series of lectures. Although the example clip is not exhilarating, Dr. Castor does an excellent job organizing the lectures and creating a coherent narrative. The series provides substantial content and details, including names, locations, dates, and the modern history of the excavations and excavators -- while still keeping it manageable if you just straight-play-through the audio without reading other references. The narrative performance is not at the engaging level of Dr. Brier's Egypt or Dr. McWhorter's Linguistics, but I didn't find it difficult to listen to. There are also some jokes thrown in too, which I found especially funny because they caught me off-guard. I recommend this series if you also buy Dr. Brier's "The History of Ancient Egypt", because of the numerous connections between the history of Egypt and Mesopotamia (such as the Armarna period or Assyrian empire).

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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You have to force your self to keep listening

Strong & clear scientific description and analysis of ancient​ messopotamia, quite difficult to understand & imagine without maps & pictures. can be boring.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Takes too Long to Educate

To be fair, I have not yet made it past Chapter Four. My main problem with the course is that the introduction is far too long. The professor seems more focused on the Iraq war and the ramifications of the war. In fact, even in Chapter Four, we are still being introduced to the topics that we will be talking about, at some point. I don't want a four chapter (or more) introduction.

15 of 22 people found this review helpful

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Interesting material made boring

You know how one person can tell a joke and it's hilarious and another person tells the same joke and it's a disaster? Well, this professor manages to take all the interest out of this subject, say things in boring ways, focus on generalities rather than on specifics, and read with the emphasis oddly placed on various words.

I have read and listened to many books on this subject and I love the subject. I just couldn't bear this book though.

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Struggle to finish

The lecturer was all over the place, monotone, and uninteresting to listen to. I found my mind wandering through most of the lectures. I feel like Professor Castor is knowledgeable about the subject but not very engaging. Perhaps it would have been better if the content was organized differently, making it easier to follow her train of thought. I did enjoy her Gilgamesh retelling.

For a truly engaging history lecture, try Bob Brier's Egypt course or Philip Daileader's Middle Ages courses.

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Not enough analysis/in-depth discussion

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

I had a hard time getting into this course. While the topic intrigues me and the professor seems like a pleasant person, I just don't think it got into any deep analysis or thought-provoking concepts. I would expect more from a 36 lecture course focusing on one region. In a way it was too simple. I don't consider myself an expert in ancient Mesopotamian history but I honestly am not sure if I learned much from this course. And that is rare for me to say after 60+ courses.

The professor has a clear, steady speaking style which is helpful but the downside is she seems to be so concerned with avoiding filler words ("um", "Uh") that she pauses in strange locations when delivering a sentence as if she is grasping for the right word and at times it is hard to understand what she is trying to accent.

I also had a hard time following the organization/structure of the course. There were lectures on the political/military narrative as well as those concentrating on everyday life in Mesopotamia but I didn't sense a rhythm in bringing these lectures together. It was as if the course was struggling for an identity: is it more focused on one or the other? Sure the answer can be "both" but the synthesis of it all seemed to be off. What were the main learnings/topics/themes of this course? And how does the everyday life and political narrative bring it together?

If you're interested in Mesopotamia I would instead recommend "History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective". The professor was spectacular and did justice to the various empires he covers (one of the few 5 star courses in my view). However, be warned that due to the breadth of the course you will not find an in-depth survey on the region. It looks like other possibilities would be "Ancient Empires Before Alexander" and "Origins of Great Ancient Civilizations" (I have not taken these courses).

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  • Alex
  • 07-15-14

Comprehensive, Intelligent but incomplete

Would you consider the audio edition of Between the Rivers: The History of Ancient Mesopotamia to be better than the print version?

The needlessly flamboyant music and obviously fake applause are clearly aimed at a more childish audience, hard to think why they'd do that.
The audio version was very well read apart from that and the author clearly knows her subject.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Between the Rivers: The History of Ancient Mesopotamia?

The subject was well set out and delivered as a whole.
A map or maps would have been extremely helpful though.

Have you listened to any of Professor Alexis Q. Castor’s other performances? How does this one compare?

n/a

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

I would want to but it's too long to do that practically.

Any additional comments?

Supplementary learning material, critical to make cohesive sense and memory of this great course is widtheld from customers. A mistake that undermines the value of the book immensely.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • G
  • 10-08-16

Fascinating detailed history

This course is absolutely packed with information in a comprehensive account of this area. It is aimed at an audience seeking a real depth of knowledge rather than having a passing interest and I found it really fascinating.
The lecturer presents the information well and varies her delivery and approach to the subject matter. However, a word of warning here - I found her voice had a strangely hypnotic quality. This was particularly apparent while I was driving leading to drooping eyelids and necessitating frequent caffeine stops ! Im very happy to recommend this course but take care !

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • The Kinsella Bunch
  • 09-25-16

Interesting Information. Very dry

I'm struggling through this. Duty forbids me to stop as I want to get my money worth. the information is good, as it relates to my area of interest, the Bible and the history surrounding it. But it just feels like a long list of facts. The lecturer seems nice enough, and her voice is bad. But very little life is put into it. It's all at the academic level. Other lecturers I've listened to on similar topics such as the Early Church or the Dead Sea Scrolls make fresh and exciting it comes alive in your mind. If I didn't have the interest and background that I do in Biblical history I probably would not be able to finish this, but it is interesting how so much of what we see in the Bible is mirrored in more powerful surrounding nations of ancient Israel. And the question is who influenced who? I think it's clear that in almost all cases the bigger more powerful cultures and nations always influence the smaller ones. But of course Biblical literalists amd inerrantists will tell us otherwise.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Rachel
  • 12-02-13

Educational and interesting

Would you consider the audio edition of Between the Rivers: The History of Ancient Mesopotamia to be better than the print version?

I have not read the print version so I cannot compare.

What did you like best about this story?

It was factual, yet kept my interest without being patronising

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

This was not really an emotional type of book - more of an audio text book, so I was not expecting to laugh of cry, but it did make me think, which is what I want from such a book.

Any additional comments?

The pre-set reveiew questions do not seem particularly appropriate for an academic lecture series.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Dr Nik Jewell
  • 02-22-17

Excellent Overview

A thoroughly enjoyable tour of the earliest civilisations and the later history of the fertile crescent up until Alexander. It should be noted that due to the nature of the subject material this is as much a course about archaeology as about history.

The chronological account is interspersed with fascinating asides into themes such as writing, religion, government, law, medicine, food etc..

There are a number of complaints in other reviews about Prof Castor's delivery with which I cannot sympathise. I had no problems with it and felt it was eloquent and clear.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-21-14

Terrible performance.

Any additional comments?

Well, I was really looking forward to listening to this. I have listened to several of the Great Courses lectures, and enjoyed them immensely. However, the performance here made it quite difficult for me to follow.
I know that with Great Courses, speakers are reading from notes, not from a completed text. Of course, one makes allowances for this, and most lecturers in the series lack fluidity to some extent. It isn't usually a big problem. However, Professor Castor is just too jarring for me. She too frequently starts sentences that she struggles to finish.
I have tried listening again, but the performance gets in the way.
I've given three stars for story. That is very arbitrary. I haven't listened to most of it. It's almost certainly a five-star story.

2 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Carl
  • 02-24-14

Not good.

[{ "answer" : "People who can't think should enjoy this.", "type" : "Overall", "question" : "If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more? ", "id" : 230, "typeString" : "overall" }, { "answer" : "No, just from \"Great Courses\".", "type" : "Story", "question" : "Has Between the Rivers: The History of Ancient Mesopotamia put you off other books in this genre?", "id" : 204, "typeString" : "story" }, { "answer" : "Everything. She talks like she doesn't understand the subject.", "type" : "Performance", "question" : "What didn’t you like about Professor Alexis Q. Castor’s performance?", "id" : 213, "typeString" : "performance" }, { "answer" : "Rage. She attempts to persuade us that irrigation is a bad thing. ", "type" : "Genre", "question" : "What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment? ", "id" : 244, "typeString" : "genre" }, { "answer" : "The facts are broadly correct, but this woman has this weird agenda where she seems to be against the important facts of history and wants to focus on \"what women did\" and has a particular fetish for the wonders of hunter-gathering despite the \"high infant mortality rates\" and has a serious aversion to \"work\". Avoid if you're interested in serious history, or thinking. ", "type" : "Misc", "question" : "Any additional comments?", "id" : -1, "typeString" : "misc" } ]

3 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-23-15

Worth the Purchase

Very interesting series. Good sense of broader Ancient History.
Having been doing my listening for more modern periods I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the archaeological discussion.