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Publisher's Summary

These 24 lectures retell the lives of the remarkable individuals - the statesmen, thinkers, warriors, and writers - who shaped the history of the Roman Empire and, by extension, our own history and culture.

Among the fascinating gallery of individuals whose lives, ideas, actions, and legacies you'll explore are Hannibal (who caused the Second Punic War personally, much as Adolf Hitler caused World War II), Augustus (who, beginning at the age of just 19, brilliantly followed a doctrine of ruthless expediency in order to rescue Rome from a century of civil war), and Marcus Aurelius (that most noble and philosophic of rulers who may have hastened the Empire's decline by tolerating the wicked cruelty of his heir).

Professor Fears divides his presentation into three "turning point" epochs in Roman history: Rome's war with Hannibal (the Second Punic War); Caesar and the end of the Roman Republic; and the imperial era between Augustus and Marcus Aurelius.

As he presents the great figures of each period, he makes them seem personal and immediate. As you study these and many other significant Romans, you'll probe fundamental questions about the political and cultural history of Rome. What was the impact of Greek civilization on the Romans? Why did the Roman people, at the height of military, political, and economic power, abandon their republican liberty for the dictatorship of Caesar and his successors? What made the 2nd century A.D. one the most creative periods in world history? And why did the central figures of Roman history hold so much appeal for America's Founding Fathers?

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

©2001 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2001 The Great Courses

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Captivating Biography

Any additional comments?

Hands down one of the most thrilling historical courses I've ever listened to. The description of the Second Punic War makes me wonder why Hollywood hasn't tackled it yet. The war with Hannibal shows just how close Rome came to being eradicated. Had Hannibal fully pressed his advantages Rome may have been a historical footnote and we'd all be speaking a Phoenician derivative. <br/><br/>The sections on Julius Caesar were also extremely well done. The course ends with the philosopher King, Marcus Aurelius, the last of the "Five Good Emperors". His decision regarding succession is given a strong rebuke by Professor Fears.<br/><br/>The first lecture is done in a style a little different from the rest, so let the course build up. Once Hannibal starts crossing those Alps, you'll be hooked!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Marc
  • La Verkin, UT, United States
  • 08-19-14

Professor Fears is a joy, listening to him is fun.

Would you listen to Famous Romans again? Why?

Yes, the information is easy to follow, and fun to hear

What other book might you compare Famous Romans to and why?

And book by W.E.B Griffin.

What does Professor J. Rufus Fears bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His voice, it makes one think a friend of Caesar is telling the story.

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

Yes

Any additional comments?

I'm going to buy more from him

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Outstanding portraits of the Great Romans

What made the experience of listening to Famous Romans the most enjoyable?

The narrator (a college lecturer, actually) approaches his subject with infectious enthusiasm and an excellent grasp on the dramatic details of the lives, triumphs and and machinations of these great men. The anecdotes are excellent and well chosen, and they never stray away from the central thread- that these were the people who moved the world by their will.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Famous Romans?

The story of the Gracchi - Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus- the lecturer imbues his subjects with life, and you get to feeling the peril that they are willing to endure in order to save and shape Rome. And Hannibal- that was one of my favorite lectures. Hannibal and his foil, Scipio Africanus, was a wonderfully well-done piece. I could feel Hannibal's bone-deep hate of Rome and Scipio's implacable decision to stamp him out utterly.

Which character – as performed by Professor J. Rufus Fears – was your favorite?

Can I say all of them? His channeling of Cicero is pretty fabulous. The section on Scipio (the first) is wonderful, too.

Any additional comments?

I thoroughly enjoyed this course. I learned a lot, and intend to pursue Roman history more completely via these Great Courses and other work (as they weren't entirely covered in my education).

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Choose a different course

Do yourself a favor and go with Garrett Fagan's The History of Ancient Rome or Rome and the Barbarians by Kenneth Harl.

I have gone through several of the Great Courses on Roman history and have always been impressed, but Professor Fears did a terrible job with this one. This course is riddled with exaggerations and impositions of modern sensibilities and ideas onto historical figures.

He massively distorts the Stoic philosophy, presenting it as something much more familiar and attributing to it ideas that were developed by the early Christian church and others by Scottish and French Enlightenment philosophers.

He also treats the Roman concept of religion as if it were much the same as modern monotheism when in fact it was something entirely different, a blend of anthropomorphic polytheism and animism.

At one point he refers to Augustus as the Messiah, implying that this was how he was understood by contemporaries. In fact, the word Messiah does not mean 'savior', as Fears claims, but rather refers to a specific prophecy in the Hebrew bible and means "anointed one". For the Hebrews at the time to call Augustus this would have been unthinkable to them, and the Romans at the time would have no idea what such a term meant.

Fears takes the most sensationalist reports from historical sources, as well as long debunked myths (like that the Romans sewed the Carthaginian fields with salt so nothing would grow there ever again) and presents them unquestioned as historical facts.

His word choice is repetitive and on more than one occasion one can hear the producers giggling in the background when Fears makes a joke.

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Joseph
  • Somerset, Kentucky, United States
  • 12-04-17

Dr. Fears is the best!

Nobody teaches and entertains like Dr. Rufus Fears. His enthusiasm for his subject and for history are refreshing.

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if you love ancient history, and inspiring Tales

... from ancient history, you'll love this audio
recording. the author definitely has a classical view of individuals in history. Having said that, I think that everyone can find something inspirational about hearing how people took on the world either well or poorly, and left a mark on history.

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Extremely entertaining

Told from very personal points of view and with a moral. Very funny in some cases, very good narration.

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Another Excellent Course...

I have listened to numerous courses from Dr. Fears, his lectures take some getting used to but they are excellent. I would recommend this course to anyone interested in Roman history…

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My favorite Roman history course

I'm not saying it's the best, but it's my favorite. I've read Roman history books with lots of facts, and also stories about famous Romans which are attractive but losing perspective. Professor Fears did a wonderful job giving dramatic stories, providing adequate backgrounds and perspective, and finally, explained why they are wonderful from the perspective of their own characters. I like what he said: the purpose to read history and biography is to make us better human beings.

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Amazing

1st rufus fears is such a good story teller. I will buy famous greeks now just to listen to him. Easily one of the best courses out there for any history person.

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  • Asha
  • 07-20-15

Dumbed down and superficial

If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

This series claims to be university level, but if it is then all I can say is that standards at university have really fallen. <br/><br/>Admittedly I didn't get beyond the first two lectures, but as they both consisted of imaginary conversations between the subject of the lecture and his father, as well as irritating parallels with the the USA (the Ancient Romans got rid of their Kings, just as in the United States we got rid of King George....) it was just too dumbed down for me. A teenager with an interest in history, or someone who likes their learning superficial, may enjoy this - I did not. <br/><br/>A waste of money, and if I could give it no stars I would.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • D
  • 05-17-15

too narrative.

it is good. but it does not focus enough on the characters of each lecture. it follows the largely narrative route taken by most courses on roman history. for example only the last 10 or so minutes of claudius is on him. the first part focuses on the narrative from augustus through tiberius to caligula.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Alicia
  • 07-20-17

Good content, occasionally strange pronunciation.

The content was good and relevant, with clear parrallels being drawn between the time periods and contemporary events. The connections shown between America and the Roman Republic, which has had such a strong influence on Western civilisation, especially USA is far from being pointless.

I often have issues with the pronunciation of American speakers, sometimes it's the accent and sometimes it's just the diction, however that hasn't affected my understanding of the lecture, so it's not something to fuss over.

At points, there was some waffling and you seem to lose what the lecturer is talking about.

I would like to point out that lectures hold only a starting point for people to do their own independent study. Lecturers are not meant to feed you everything like teachers in promary and secondary edication. They are meant to give you a foundation on which to build your own knowledge base. Considering this, these lectures have achieved their purpose.

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  • Hanne
  • 03-28-16

i give up

couldn't finish. annoying narrator AF. overly focus on american comparisons. i give up. try the robert garland lectures, they are good

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  • SP
  • 08-02-15

Disappointing

Any additional comments?

After listening to some of the brilliant Great Courses, this has been a massive let down. The lives are recounted as stories with simplifications and generalisations which are misleading and lacking in any analysis or insight, and spurious opinions are dangerously offered as fact: the heroes of the Trojan War were historical figures, the Spartans were the most famous of Greeks, all city states aimed to be democracies, Schliemann found Agamemnon.... For high quality and balanced lectures, go for Elizabeth Vandiver, Jeremy McInerney and Robert Garland.