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
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!
"A Series of Violent Episodes Create a Whole"
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.
With a wonderful speaking style, Professor Fagan pulls you into the story and makes you see the scenes he describes.
Haven't read the printed version.
The Presentation, the Professor Fagan is truly a great at what he does.
His knowledge, his presentation, and his objectivism.
I wish I was in this classroom :P
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).
"Engaging narrative, but a little too argumentative"
Cautiously. Professor is a little too obsessed with settling scores with other scholars. Final lecture goes off on a riff attacking Victor Hansen.
"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.
"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.
"my take on it."
Even if this lecture enhances your knowledge of warfare just a little, it will have amply served its purpose.
"Wikipedia tells the history better"
I came into this series very excited to hear more about the pivotal battles in ancient history. I stopped listening 2/3 the way through because I could no longer bear it.
The narrator, Prof. Fagan, turns an exciting topic into mundane details as though he was describing the past 7 days of bland weather. While I recognize that an academic approach to this history requires the numerous sources and potential conflicts between them, I felt the majority of the comparisons were unnecessary and only detracted from the story.
Maybe that is my mistake though? I came into this expecting an animated, but historically accurate, recounting of the actions and details surrounding some of history's more iiconic battles. I expected some form of entertainment, but instead received an orally dictated dissertation. I gave 2 stars because I must concede that Prof. Fagan knows the material.
I would not recommend this to any person looking to get a glimpse into history but still remain entertained. This may be more appropriate for a lullaby to help you sleep.
"Could have been better"
The professor speaks in stilted academic language which makes it hard to follow for the listener, also he speaks quite fast and it's sometimes difficult to understand what he says.
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