The ancient world has cast a long shadow, influencing our customs and religious beliefs, our laws, and the form of our governments. It has taught us when and how we make war or pursue peace. It has shaped the buildings we live and work in and the art we hang on our walls. It has given us the calendar that organizes our year and has left its mark on the games we play.
Grasping the full scope of your bequest from the ancient world can't help but give you a more nuanced base from which to make decisions and choose pathways in your own life. These 48 lectures take you on a multidisciplinary journey that ranges across not only the traditional domains of politics and war that are normally the province of history courses, but also those of religion, philosophy, architecture and the visual arts, literature, and science, and more.
You'll examine the ancient world's greatest civilizations from the Mediterranean, Asia, and the Americas - including those of Rome, Greece, China, Persia, India, and the Maya - not in isolation but in the full context of where they came from, the cultures that flourished around them at the same time, and the civilizations that were to come from them. Taking a comparative approach, Professor Aldrete's course includes in-depth analyses of not only key individuals and historical moments, but also history's most important themes, from the nature of rulership and the evolution of religion and philosophy to the practice of warfare and the expression of power through art and architecture.
With its mix of nuanced interpretation, vivid description, and constant attention to exploring history as a coherent whole, this is sure to be one of the most informative and thought-provoking history courses you have ever taken.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
©2011 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2011 The Great Courses
I've bought one audiobook a month from Audible for several years and this has to be in the top 3. If you're like me you've got an interest in the ancient world but wanted an overview before getting to know one civilisation better than the rest. This isn't just a whistle-stop tour, Prof Aldrete takes time to explain everything at exactly the right pace, weave the stories that make up history together smoothly and remain entertaining at all times.
Unlike some non-fiction, you don't have to concentrate on every word, the delivery is not too fast and not too heavy going. I find myself repeating interesting facts about the Indus Valley or Sparta when talking to friends and family, that I seem to have picked up without realising. It's not just the big things like the Pyramids and the Great Wall, but lots of small anecdotes about archaeologists and quirky historical figures. I genuinely look forward to getting in the car to listen to another instalment.
He's also very balanced. Often Western books can be somewhat Euro-centric but I genuinely feel I'm getting a world perspective here. And it's not simply a chronology of what happened when, but the significance of events is discussed, and the importance of ideas. For example a wonderful chapter focussed on the influence of a period in time when Buddha, Confucius, Zoroaster and the Ionian Rationalists were all spreading their knowledge with the world. You really get a sense of an exciting time in history.
If I had one criticism, it is that the good Prof overuses the word 'literally' to a criminal degree. He uses it correctly, but way too much. He literally says it dozens of times per lecture. But that's literally the only down side. It has literally been one of the best audiobooks I've heard. Go buy it!
In the last couple of decades there has been a welcome shift from world histories shaped on the Sumer-Greece-Rome narrative that focuses on the foundations of European history towards giving equal weight to the other great centers of world civilization. This course nods in that direction but is still hugely weighted to the old European focus.
Of the 48 lectures, fully half are either solely or mainly about ancient Greece or Rome. Although other major civilizations are covered, they receive far less attention. For instance, when setting up a series of comparisons between classical Rome and Han China, Prof. Aldrete spends 5 straight lectures on Roman history and just one on the Han. Greek literature and sculpture each get a full lecture. Not only does no other artistic tradition get similar treatment but the discussion makes no mention of, for instance, the fruitful interaction between Hellenistic and Indian sculpture. The entire history of Islamic civilization gets one lecture, the same as European monasticism or the Peloponnesian War, which are of minimal global significance. The whole of the Americas get three lectures - the same as the life and legacy of Alexander the Great.
This weighting aside, each lecture is interesting and well delivered. Aldrete is an engaging speaker. Even some of his debatable priorities, such as spending half an audio lecture describing Moche pottery, are overcome with his enthusiastic delivery. One some issues, particularly Roman history, he is a bit inclined to take the sources at face value, for instance with a long discussion of mad Emperors, but he covers the ground well.
But that still leaves many areas with frustratingly limited coverage. Despite the course covering the period to 800 CE, India get no mention after Asoka, who died in the 3rd century BCE. The artistic achievements of anyone but the Greeks (and Moche potters!) get very little discussion. The Persian empire, one of the greatest of all time, get no dedicated lecture; nor do the Israelites, although the development of Christianity in Rome gets lengthy treatment. I could go on.
I see many have enjoyed these lectures, and that's great. They are fun and informative. But for a genuinely global perspective you'll have to look elsewhere.
Really well delivered. The professor has an engaging style. Lots of breadth here too, as evidenced by the length of the thing. It was clear that a lot of work went into it.
Fascinating and wonderful series. Easy to absorb, great content and story telling. This has helped connect a lifetime of loose, independent learnings into something wholesome. It's inspired me to continue the journey armed with this course and branch into other connected areas, such as art. Many thanks Professor.
High. Possibly second only to Robert Garland's Daily Lives lecture series.
I found that rooting each story of a civilization in its physical geography very appealing. The importance of the physical environment in the development of the people that live in it is put across extremely well.
Unexpectedly I most enjoyed the parts about ancient American civilizations - a subject I had absolutely no previous grounding in.
The vivid accounts of the landscapes in Mesopotamia and Egypt.
The delivery really made it special - it has everything you want in a lecture; enthusiastic without being alienating, authoritative without being patronizing.
Listened in the car to and from work. I even played a few back twice to endure u understood fully. I recommend to all as the definitive ancient history course.
I loved listening to this. The narrator is engaging and I found the material covered fascinating. My only criticism is that it ended the course is over 20hrs listening yet I could happily have listened to over twice that.
This course was a delight to listen to. Books on history can be dry, or deal with the same things as lots of other books, but these talks are fun and easy to follow. I gained a much better understanding for the sweep of ancient history, and discovered many things both about history and ancient civilisations. This is not an academic course, but it is given by someone gifted with the ability to make history informative and easy.
Alexander the Great
Everything, every period and culture, every single lecture
Civilisation: location is everything
I'll be looking for other courses by the same guy, and I've already bought several in the same series.
"Outstanding - Informative AND Entertaining"
For me this was one of those 'Can't put it down' epic audio titles. What's more I feel a better person for having listened to it.
Overall, very informative, thought provoking and truly entertaining. I've learned loads and am now looking for more history titles of comparable quality.
It's massive in scope and is truly global in that it manages to weave in all the major civilisations of antiquity. I'd say he's best on Mediterranean and European cultures. At least the coverage of these cultures seems more detailed. It seems to me a Westerner's perspective. However, there's some good stuff on China, India and the Americas. I found it gave me a good introduction to these other cultures.
It's very easy to turn history into a dry collection of facts and dates. This lecture series strikes a good balance between facts and colourful anecdotes character examinations and other diversions. For example, there is a wonderful section on the mind boggling and downright weird Spartans. I couldn't stop laughing as he talked about them. But at the same time, I learned all about a culture that up until a couple of weeks ago, for me had been little more than the name of an ancient group of war-like people who'd once fought the Persians.
His presentation style is really good - full of enthusiasm, wonder and humour. For me he spoke at just the right pace, too. Unlike many other titles, even history - I found this very easy to listen to whilst on the treadmill, walking or doing household chores.
I'm going to listen to this again in a month or two. Can't recommend it highly enough, it's a really excellent listen.
"insight into culture, geography and circumstances"
The insights in how geography, circumstances of the time & place, and other factors have effected the cultures of ancient civilizations. Well presented, with enthusiasm and understanding, as well. I would love to listen to more by Dr. Aldrete.
Perhaps Guns, Germs, and Steel, but this is much more credentialed.
His enthusiasm for the topic might not come out as well. He has a nice speaking voice.
"Engaging but flawed"
The first chapter of this lecture series made me anticipate an enjoyable and dynamic course. The lecturer does indeed have an engaging way of speaking. I am VERY disappointed in the quality of the content, however. Aldrete totally ignores the need to qualify his statements and by this means, obscures the fact that he is taking certain positions on the known data. In other words, his interpretations are presented as the only ones.
I would warn the listener that there is FAR more to be learned about these cultures and that much of what the presenter says is debated material, skewed for dramatic value, or simplified past the point of being strictly reliable. He even fails to explain WHY he takes these positions.
As an example: he characterizes Egypt as (apart from the Nile) a largely forbidding and uninhabitable place in spite of the fact that prehistoric Egypt was much more humid and habitable than it is today, so that a large part of the oldest Egyptian archaeology is located in what is now desert; and the fact that agriculture took hold later in this region simply because the hunting and gathering OUTSIDE the Nile valley was so productive that agriculture was not necessary until the eastern and western deserts began drying out more (though not to the extent of today), and when Egypt had become a set of fledgeling states with larger populations and centralized authorities in need of profitable surplusses. Aldrete even makes the remark that he doesn't think anyone would have settled in Egypt were it not for the Nile; ignoring the almost certain fact that Egypt was the funnel through which humans settled, in multiple waves, Europe and Asia: BECAUSE it was a viable and relatively easy place to live and travel. This includes the areas outside of the river valley.
I would highly recommend instead the Great Courses series "Human Prehistory and the First Civilizations" by Professor Brian Fagan, which while it predates some of the most recent genetic information re: Neanderthals and modern humans, is scrupulous to point out the various sides of each debate in which he has a favorite perspective. Dr. Fagan also has the advantage of a great deal more hands on experience in the archaeology of ancient cultures. His presentation is dryer but his content is FAR superior.
"Absorbing grand vision, with flawed details"
Of all the Great Courses I've listened to so far, I've liked this one best, and not just for professor Aldrete's pleasant voice. I loved how he manages to discuss thousands of years in 24 hours, always going for the big picture, with some nice stories thrown in. He really shows how urban civilisation got started the world over, in the Middle East and China first, then in the Mediterranean and India. It is true that those interested in the Americas and (especially) Africa and Oceania will be disappointed, but at least Aldrete explains why he chose to pay so much attention to Eurasia: it was Europe that would eventually dominate the world, on the basis of ideologies and technologies many of which came from the Middle East and China.
The course is not without its flaws. Other reviewers have commented that the western alphabets were derived from hieroglyphics, not cuneiform (correct); that Egypt was not such an arid place when civilisation began there (don't know, but I suppose it's true); and I'm sure there's more. However, I also feel strongly that is nit-picking - not when you're a script expert or egyptologist, but for the rest of us. To put it bluntly: it doesn't matter to the main story.
And as for the person who found the course 'too much about manly deeds': that's not quite true. There is quite a bit about art, religion and economy in the course. And after all, the manly deeds (including those by the odd empress or queen) have in many ways shaped history.
The other books in the great courses series. 30 minutes is the perfect length of time.
Engaging, and easy to follow along. Good tempo and rhythm. The performance can really make or break a book, and this one was very good.
It wasn't really that kind of book.
Very well done.
"I love History"
Yes. This is a great introduction to a history of the ancient world.
I was surprised at how interesting the politics of Rome were.
The narrator is very enthusastic and you can tell he really loves this subject.
Yes, I found myself finding excuses to listen to these lectures.
"You won't be disappointed!!"
Passion for the material presented was very apparent.
Loved every moment...sad it had to end.
"Not exactly a global perspective..."
The lectures on China and the Grand Canal and the one lecture on mesoamerica
no, it was exhausting because it's a history lecutre, although I could peronally lisen to it for 3 to 4 hour at a time.
This was not gobal history by any means. It was primary Greco-Roman history with maybe a quarter of it being chinese history (but only when it could be related to greco-roman), and at most a tenth of the lectures covered civilzation other then the aforementioned. I was quite disapointed by how little other cultures and civliztions were covered and I feel the title is very misleading.Dont get me wrong though this history is very good and the lecutres were over all very intresting and informative. If you are looking for Greco-Roman history this is a great set of lecutres, if on the other hand you are looking for a gobal persective on ancient history you may be sorely disaponited with the euro centric view.
"Phenomenal lecture series"
Phenomenal lecture series packed with information presented in an engaging way. I would however recommend that you read Julius Caesar by Philip Freeman to get a much better idea of that time and character in history because the way it is presented in this series makes him appear quite different than if you actually read the full story of his life. Understandably you have to gloss over details If you are going to get through the entire world history however the image left of certain people can be far different than if you read their biographies which I absolutely recommend you do to compliment this course.
"I really enjoyed this audio book."
I listened to this book while doing household chores every day. I enjoyed learning more about the history of the world. It was well written and the author reads it in an interesting way. I'll be listening to this again soon. I love how long it is, well worth the cost.
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