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Publisher's Summary

When Octavian, who took the title of Augustus as the first emperor of Rome, defeated Mark Antony to become the sole ruler of the Roman world, it was a major turning point in Western civilization. Not only did his decades-long rule completely transform the old Roman Republic into the Roman Empire, but it also profoundly shaped the culture and history of our world today. The Roman Empire: From Augustus to the Fall of Rome traces this breathtaking history from the empire’s foundation by Augustus to its Golden Age in the 2nd century CE through a series of ever-worsening crises until its ultimate disintegration.

Taught by acclaimed Professor Gregory S. Aldrete of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, these 24 captivating lectures offer you the chance to experience this story like never before, incorporating the latest historical insights that challenge our previous notions of Rome’s decline. You’ll examine the major events and familiar figures of the Roman Empire, including:

  • The political innovations of Augustus
  • The mental instability and cruel acts of Caligula and Nero
  • Writers such as Ovid, Horace, and Virgil
  • The stoic philosophy of Marcus Aurelius
  • Constantine’s startling conversion to Christianity

You’ll also look beyond the famous figures and delve deeply into the lives of ordinary Roman citizens. You’ll hear the messages they left on tombstones or scribbled on walls as graffiti; examine what life was really like for average city-dwellers and the hazards they faced every day; spend a day at Rome’s spectacular public entertainments, such as gladiator games and chariot races; and explore some of the city’s marvelous architectural and engineering works, including the Pantheon and the aqueducts.

We cannot truly understand ourselves unless we comprehend the vital influences of Rome on the modern world - and the lessons the empire can still teach us. The Roman Empire: From Augustus to the Fall of Rome is an excellent guide to one of the most important periods in world history.

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

©2019 The Great Courses (P)2019 The Teaching Company, LLC

What listeners say about The Roman Empire: From Augustus to the Fall of Rome

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Gregory S. Aldrete is a treasure

I've been looking forward to this since I listened to The Rise of Rome. He makes history relatable, presents opposing viewpoints, and gives a great perspective on the subject. I love all of Aldrete's Great Courses audiobooks. Even my husband, who generally dislikes audiobooks, enjoys his work.

14 people found this helpful

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A Good Listen but Incomplete

20 lectures on the 500 years of the western empire and one lecture on the 1000 years of the Eastern Roman empire makes the series very unbalanced for those interested in history. The lecture style can be best described as 'forced conversational' in that it's clear that the professor is reading, but he tosses in a style to make it seem conversational' which ultimately leads to it being more distracting than easy listening. The four stars is based on the fact that what is presented is of good quality and we'll prepared.

9 people found this helpful

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Not well structured

There's too much emphasis on the Roman emperors as a cult of personalities rather than as executives of economic and social policy. Why, for example, was Augustus such a great emperor? If you listen to this series, the answer is: "he ended the civil war [i.e., killed off belligerents] and didn't piss off the elites." Really?! That's it?! What about founding one of history's first ever fire brigades? What about his welfare policies? Bread and circuses? Admittedly, this stuff does come up in one of the later lectures, but it should have been a running theme throughout. If you like to think of Roman history as a Hollywood action film, this might be for you. If you're looking for some depth in constitutionalism and what made Rome, by the standards of its own time (emphatically not by the standards of ours), a relatively enlightened and prosperous empire, this does not deliver.

6 people found this helpful

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Professor Aldrete Delivers Again

Professor Aldrete Delivers Again

I just love Professor Aldrete's style. From his clear and easy to understand delivery to his great storytelling to how he keeps every lecture engaging and exciting to how he gets us to think and join the discussion and debate, he is easily in the top 1% of Great Courses lecturers.

He delivers another spectacular work of art with "The Rise of Rome". It has excellent historical narration on the Roman Empire from its first emperor Augustus to its last (in the west) covering the empire’s rise to its high point in the 2nd century to its fall in the west in the 4th. There was even a surprising (if short) history of the Eastern (Byzantine) Empire through 1453 AD.

He is thorough in his approach: the first 33 Emperors (until 238 AD) were covered in depth until the heavy turnover during the Crisis of the 3rd Century made this exercise difficult. Relating the story of one emperor after another can get tedious but the professor keeps things fresh and intriguing. Although I have to admit I was a little surprised there wasn’t more time spent on Marcus Aurelius and his reputation as a stoic philosopher.

Lecture 10 is one of the most unique lectures you’ll find in a course on ancient history: a discussion on the various forms of graffiti found in Pompeii---giving you insight into the thoughts of the common person. And they aren’t very different at all from today’s common graffiti (lecture 11 was also unique in describing tombstone epitaphs---in this case much different from today’s counterparts). Of the thousands of TGC lectures I've listened to these two are perhaps the most offbeat, unexpected but entertaining.

The last 5 lectures were the highlights of the course for me: the barbarian peoples overwhelming the western empire (20), brief history of the Byzantine Empire (21), debate on when and how the Roman Empire fell (22), scholar re-interpretation of the period now known as Late Antiquity (23), and influences of Rome on today’s societies (24). All were excellent choices for inclusion in the course and executed with brilliance.

The professor takes every opportunity to say something about the common Roman or give him or her a voice. Most if not all of the written sources we have are from upper class men so to have the perspective of the everyday man or woman was enlightening. We know about the long shadow of Rome's legacies impacting us today but what struck me was just how alike we are to the Romans. Whether it was their obsession with sporting events or their enjoyment in relating stories of haunted houses, the professor calls out the similarities that make us feel connected to a people that have lived 2,000 years ago.

The fall of the western empire has always fascinated me and I thought the professor did a great job relating it in the latter lectures. However, there were questions that (to me) were just begging to be answered but weren’t touched:
o Where was the Roman army when the numerous barbarian migrations were overwhelming the western empire? I know it was a shadow of itself but did it stop some of the migrations/loss of land? Or was it helpless to provide any resistance at all? When did it reach that helpless point? One seemed to exist since Odoacer was part of the Roman army when he deposed the last western Emperor
o What lands of the empire were lost first? Next? A visual depiction of the contraction of the Roman Empire land over time would’ve helped see how this story progressed
o What happened to the Senate? There is no mention of the continuance or dissolution of this and other Roman institutions

While everyone brings their own perspectives and viewpoints on how to define the when and why of Rome's fall, to me I see it as a question of when the Roman authorities could no longer protect its people, it had lost enough land to cease being a world power, and its sovereignty lost all meaning both to the barbarians who migrated/invaded (choose the term that fits your interpretation) and to Romans themselves. Sure there was a long fall spanning perhaps centuries but I see that more as the decline. The actual "moment" of fall itself is the great topic of debate.

In my view this occurred in the 5th century AD when shifting alliances made it difficult to tell "barbarians" from "true Romans", invasion from migration, and confrontation from assimilation. But the precise moment of no return in which the barbarians could carve out kingdoms at will due to the weakening of the imperial system is the big mystery. This is why my earlier questions about pinpointing when the Roman army lost its effectiveness and when certain lands were lost would help narrow this down. But I think the chaos/transformation (again pick your word) of this century makes that impossible which is why this debate will rage on for as long as there are people to debate.

The controversy is inherent in the question itself. No one will ever be able to definitively say when Rome fell...because not everyone agrees it did indeed fall! There was no one great battle that saw Rome conquered by a unified powerful enemy nor the rise of a new people or culture that supplanted it either militarily, politically, or socially. Heck most of the barbarians wanted to BE Rome and imitate it. Yet despite the lack of such a climatic moment, what can be termed the most powerful and influential empire the world has ever seen had disappeared from the world scene. No wonder why the debate has enraptured so many people.

It should go without saying but I highly recommend this and his other courses: "History of the Ancient World - A Global Perspective", "The Decisive Battles of World History", and "The Rise of Rome". If you're going to listen to only one history lecturer it has to be Professor Aldrete. Time well spent.

1 person found this helpful

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Good overview of Roman History

Gregory Aldrete takes us by the hand from the times of Augustus to the fall of Rome. Though sometimes complacent with main stream history of the Empire, there are some special chapters in which Professor Aldrete gives take a deep focus on certain parts of Roman history that are notably interesting. In particular, I enjoyed his analysis of the fall of the Empire and his various passages on everyday life and spectacles of the inhabitants of the city of Rome. I would have liked more mentions about the sources and their reliability.

1 person found this helpful

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Great information

This is a great follow up course to his previous course on Rome. You will learn a lot.

1 person found this helpful

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History comes alive!

Gregory S. Aldrete has done an amazing job! Great amount of information and so captivating! Many thanks from Russia.

1 person found this helpful

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Eh...its OKAY,,though seemed a bit monotone/boring

This "Course" is just a quick overview/ relisting of all the major "stories" of the fall of the Roman Empire from Augustus onwards. I didn't think it was a bad listen, though , I have listened to far better and more exciting/interesting courses/books.

The voice narration of the professor seemed also different than in previous other Great Courses that I have listened to. Mainly it seemed more kind of monotone and like it had been re-recorded and edited and was not a real passionate, enthusiastic (thinking engaged with speaking) "speech" type of course.

5 people found this helpful

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An Engaging Listen

I really loved this series on Rome, learned a lot, the reader had a great intonation and expressed himself well, kept me awake and laughing, I didn't expect that!

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So Thoroughly Enjoyable

Aldrete is a real treasure. I have about every single one of his courses. Here were some of my favorite lectures:
Lectures 3 & 4 on the despots of Rome in the 1st century
five good emperors (lectures 5 & 6) in the 2nd century
Hazards of ancient Rome (lecture 7)
Lecture 10 on the ordinary people of Rome - very good insight & how we are really quite similar to ancient Romans
Crisis of the 3rd century (lecture 13) - covers a huge topic succinctly, in a very engaging manner
The Roman army (lecture 19) - their structure and weapons,
Lecture 20 when the barbarians overwhelm the empire
Lecture 21 - the Byzantine empire
Lecture 24 - Roman contributions to modern civilization

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  • smjm
  • 02-01-19

Enjoy Gregory S. Aldrete as a narrator

I have listened to the Rise of Rome, Roman Emporers: Good, Bad, and Crazy, and Spartan Warfare also narrated by Gregory. The content is always well put together and Gregory’s passion for the topic comes through and I never felt any part was difficult to listen to. I also listen to all audiobooks twice and have done the same with these.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Nick Bedson
  • 03-09-19

Entertaining and informative.

A good listen. Pleasent speaking voice and full of interesting anecdotes. Particularly interesting to hear the emphasis on everyday folks' experiences.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Benjamin Wright
  • 06-16-20

Great overview of the Roman Empire

This series does a great job of giving the listener top-down information about the Roman empire. While there is no discussion about the reliability or historical sources, nor much nuance at how ancient evidence can be interpreted - it still gives a good overview of major historical figures and goings-on. For a more in depth book on Rome I would recommend SPQR by Mary Beard. However, this is a great, well organized series.

2 people found this helpful

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  • lucylocket
  • 01-31-19

Hard to listen to

Sorry to the narrator but I found him really difficult to listen to so I abandoned it after the first chapter. I’m really interested in the subject but his delivery was putting me off.

5 people found this helpful

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  • NorthernStar!
  • 05-18-21

comprehensive and accessible

loved this. didn't care for the literature overview, but that is personal preference. i will listen to it again

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-20-20

Educational!

Very succinct! enjoyed it thoroughly. great place and the breadth of topics covered is amazing. I know so much about the Roman Empire now.

2 people found this helpful