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Publisher's Summary

Forget Hollywood's portrayal of violence and mayhem in ancient warfare and find out what the ancient battles were really like. What were the weapons, tactics, armor, training, and logistics? What were the crucial factors that could turn the tide of battle, giving one side victory and the other defeat?

In 24 exciting lectures, Professor Fagan introduces you to the many fateful battles that became crucibles of history: the fearsome clash between the Athenians and the invading Persian army at the Marathon, Alexander the Great's crushing hammer-and-anvil tactics against the Persians at Gaugemela, and the Roman mastery of siege warfare at the Jewish fortress of Masada.

Encompassing the region from Mesopotamia to western Europe-including Egypt and Northern Africa-this course charts the development of warfare from prehistoric times and examines battles and warfare from the city-states of early Sumer to the fearsome Assyrian war machine, the Greeks' distinctive form of combat, the Persian invasions, and the legions of Rome, which evolved brutally effective tactics that gained them dominion over the entire Mediterranean basin.

Although the battles you study were fought long ago, considerable controversy exists among contemporary historians. Professor Fagan presents contending theories without losing sight of the grim realities of war, and the many millions who have died on the battlefields.

"We owe it to them," he concludes, "and to the thousands who continue to perish in our planet's wars, to understand as fully as possible what it was that killed them. If this course has advanced its audience's comprehension of war even a little, then it has amply fulfilled its purpose."

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

©2005 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2005 The Great Courses

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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A Series of Violent Episodes Create a Whole

Would you listen to Great Battles of the Ancient World again? Why?

This course presents a unique look at ancient history by focusing on key battles. The context of the battle is established and its conduct and outcome discussed in detail.

While this is a series of episodes, Professor Fagan makes it a whole story. The battles are presented in a narrative of the emerging civilizations and empires of the ancient world. This ties them together so you can see how they affected the course of history.

The detail on strategy, tactics, and armaments is excellent. The descriptions are complete. There is never a dry moment.

What about Professor Garrett G. Fagan’s performance did you like?

With a wonderful speaking style, Professor Fagan pulls you into the story and makes you see the scenes he describes.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Excellent!

Would you consider the audio edition of Great Battles of the Ancient World to be better than the print version?

Haven't read the printed version.

What did you like best about this story?

The Presentation, the Professor Fagan is truly a great at what he does.

What about Professor Garrett G. Fagan’s performance did you like?

His knowledge, his presentation, and his objectivism.

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

I wish I was in this classroom :P

Any additional comments?

If there is only one issue I would take with this is his lack of descriptions of various weapons and how they were likely used in the battles he presented. I realize that this is difficult given our (lack of) knowledge, but even speculations would be great.

Otherwise, I love Professor Fagan and will listen all of his books (I already listened to his lectures on Ancient Rome).

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Engaging narrative, but a little too argumentative

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Cautiously. Professor is a little too obsessed with settling scores with other scholars. Final lecture goes off on a riff attacking Victor Hansen.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Worth the read

Would have given 5 stars if it had focused more on the weapons, tactics, and fighting methods.

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Very Off-putting Presentational Format

While I finished the whole series, I did so reluctantly due to the seemingly competitive and highly critical structure the Professor uses in each of the lectures.

After a brief topical introduction he begins each lecture by calling attention to the work of a fellow academic or expert. He highlights one of their theories or observations about the subject he's covering and then spends most of the rest of the time for each class discrediting their suppositions with more recent archeological evidence, some element they overlooked, or simply his own brilliant illuminations of the records available. It's hard to tell whether this is done due to some academic insecurity, professional envy, or simple competitiveness, but its not hard to imagine he takes some joy in the skewering. In the end it's obvious the lecturer knows his stuff, but it feels like his knowledge on the subject is almost overshadowed by his awareness of his peers work.

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RIP Dr. Fagan

I loved this and all your great courses, I had so many questions I wanted to ask you, but you're up there and know all the answers now.

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Terrible Delivery, Not a "Great Course"

What disappointed you about Great Battles of the Ancient World?

The professor read his text the whole lecture series, but he doesn't read well. There was no attempt to bring the stories to life, he merely read his text. And he tended to get deep into the weeds with proofs and attestation of ancient battles and events and stray off the story unnecessarily. One of the most irritating aspects of this series is that he spent more than 50% of these lectures dwelling on ancient battles and stories that have no detail by his own admission. The first 8 or so lectures could have been wrapped up neatly in 3 lectures.

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

My favorite lecture was about the civil war, masterful series. This one is the worst. If not for the interesting subject matter near the end of the series, I would have stopped listening.

What didn’t you like about Professor Garrett G. Fagan’s performance?

Very much everything. There was no humor, not attempt to actually engage the audience. I can tell that he's very passionate about this subject. But that's not enough. You have to infect your audience as well.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Great Battles of the Ancient World?

The first 50% of the material.

Any additional comments?

I wish Great Courses would take the time to listen to these things themselves. And Audible should do the same and include a separate series of ratings "editor's ratings" like they do on CNET.

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Entertaining, challenging, and educational

Prof Fagan delivers a well considered and researched look at key points in ancient history. Incorporating multiple points of view and considering all sides of history he provides intriguing insight into why events played out as they did and how they impact our world today.

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Good content, narration not so much

I found the material interesting, however the narration felt like it was simply being read. The narrator stumbled over words frequently and it just seemed a little clumsy.

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my take on it.

Even if this lecture enhances your knowledge of warfare just a little, it will have amply served its purpose.

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  • Chris
  • 05-21-15

Very well written and fascinating

This course covers several major battles that took place in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa during ancient times (prehistory - ~400 AD). In doing so, discussions range from detailed descriptions of military technology to more anthropological musings on the nature of human conflict.

The first two lectures are taken up with pure anthropology, essentially trying to define war and find when the first human wars occurred. I would actually skip these had I known about them as they come over as quite dry and technical discussions on what "counts" as a war. I found myself thinking "get to the battles already!" during these lectures.

Once we move passed the anthropology, the lectures become much more engaging. With discussions of the Assyrian empire and their military methods. This being a topic I knew nothing about, I found these very enlightening. However, the author is an academic historian and it very much shows. He spends a huge amount of time discussing differing theories placed upon the evidence, which sometimes is illuminating, and other times just detracts. For example, I remember a good stretch where he talks about different views on what chariots were used for...

As soon as the sources become a bit stronger, once we get into the Greek and Roman battles especially, the course comes into it's own. The final five or six lectures are brilliant, and the descriptions of the Roman defeats at Cannae and the Teutoberg forest are enthralling.

I'm giving 4 stars overall, and I would suggest this course to interested folk. But be ready to skip a few lectures and get to the good stuff!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Deus
  • 04-14-17

An exceptional and open minded review

My favourite great courses lecturer so far. His ability to explain concepts that he does not agree with succintly is very refreshing.

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  • Adam
  • 12-14-17

Solid discussion for history buffs

not for beginners, but a very good concise discussion of war, tactics and battles in the ancient Mediterranean world, if you have a decent historical background. Very well presented by Prof Fagen, although many of his pronunciations were not what I was used to.