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Summary

For years, The Great Courses has taken lifelong learners on stirring explorations of our ancient roots; ones that bring you face to face with what history means, and how we use it to understand both the past and the present. So where's the best place to start? Right here with this eclectic and insightful collection of 36 lectures curated from our most popular ancient history courses.

Guided by some of our most highly rated and award-winning professors - including archaeologists, classicists, military historians, and religion scholars - you'll hopscotch around the world and across time to experience the fascinating variety of what ancient history has to offer.

Because the subject itself spans roughly five millennia, this "best of" collection does all the legwork for you, selecting captivating lectures that offer both introductions to and deep dives into some of the most prominent ancient civilizations, including the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. This collection also takes you far afield into the dramatic stories of cultures in Europe, the Middle East, South America, India, China, and other parts of the world.

Listening to some of our brightest academic minds talk about the ancient world, you'll truly understand why we're still captivated by people and events from thousands of years ago, and why they still have much to tell us about where we are. And where we're headed.

©2014 The Great Courses (P)2014 The Teaching Company, LLC

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A good listen

This series consists of lectures from various great courses series. I found them to be an informative trip through history.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Emily
  • 10-06-14

Ancient World Greatest Hits Playlist

What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The narrators are professors speaking directly to the listener so their personalities and enthusiasm for the topics really comes through. No dry voice reading in monotone here.

Any additional comments?

This course is like a greatest hits playlist of topics in ancient history, or an ancient world highlight reel. This isn't the "deep cuts" so it is a good place to start if you like ancient history movies or documentary films. It covers the high points, important points and the popular points. These lectures don't include endless background information or things interesting only to academics. These lectures focus on aspects of the ancient world that are still relevant and interesting to the modern world.

Here's the table of contents:
JOY OF ANCIENT HISTORY LECTURES
1 Lessons of the Peloponnesian War
2 Parthenon and Acropolis
3 Heroes at Thermopylae
4 On Athenian Tragedy
5 The Parable of the Cave
6 Famous Greeks—Solon
7 Aristotle's View of the Natural World
8 The Battles of Megiddo and Kadesh
9 Greco-Roman Views on Death—and Beyond
10 Gaius Julius Caesar
11 Early Germanic Europe
12 Gladiatorial Games
13 Dining in Imperial and Republican Rome
14 The (Mad) Emperor Caligula
15 Being a Rich Roman
16 The Mystery Cults
17 Herodotus’s Account of Egypt
18 The Great Pyramid of Giza
19 Being an Egyptian Worker
20 Cleopatra—The Last Pharaoh
21 What Do the Mayan Glyphs Say?
22 The Amazon—Civilization Lost in the Jungle
23 Chalice of Blood in Ancient Peru
24 Attila the Hun—Scourge of God
25 Mesopotamian Creation Stories
26 The Empire of Hammurabi
27 The Epic of Gilgamesh
28 The Chariot Revolution
29 The Assyrian War Machine
30 The Art and Architecture of Power
31 Cyrus, Xenophon, and the Ten Thousand
32 Opening the First Dead Sea Scroll
33 Jesus in His Context
34 The Legend of Troy
35 The Qin and the First Emperor of China
36 Alexander Invades India

82 of 82 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jacobus
  • 02-07-14

An Ancient History Fruit Salad

The 'Joy of Ancient History' is a fruit salad of the best lectures from a vast array of courses on Ancient History by 'The Great Courses.' As an anthology it gives you a taste of everything, without expecting you to finish every fruit. Unfortunately this collection also suffers the shortcomings of anthologies in general. While a tremendous job was done to try and establish cohesion it didn't always work. Listening to the lectures I couldn't help to sometime wish that I could hear a previous lecture just to get into the picture. It spans a vast array of subjects, times and topics. That said, I am grateful for listening to it, because I was introduced to the Terracotta Army, and Prof. J Rufus Ferus' biographical sketches on Julius Caesar (from 'Famous Romans') and Solon (from 'Famous Greeks') made two figures I found boring come alive. Prof. Glen S Holland's lecture on 'Mesopotamian Creation Stories' (from 'Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World') was very interesting. The lost civilisation of the Amazons introduced by Prof. Edwin Barnhart was absolutely fascinating.

You will have difficulty in not gaining something you never knew from these lectures. 36 of the best lectures by professors of the Great Courses is not something you should just pass by. While I didn't like one or two lectures and I felt it sometimes suffered continuity, I thought the choices was generally excellent, intriguing, gripping and awe-inspiring. A must have for anyone interested in some or other aspect of ancient history.

32 of 32 people found this review helpful

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  • SAMA
  • 29-12-14

Not all historians are created equal

This is a quick overview of ancient history, consisting of various lectures taken from various courses. Some will inevitably be more interesting to you than others. And you'll have to deal with the professor in each lecture referencing something he or she mentioned at a different point of the original course from which the lecture is taken. Once you're done with this, pursue the courses that you think are most interesting.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • M Beth Waters
  • 15-08-15

Varied and interesting

What did you love best about The Joy of Ancient History?

The different subjects and different professors. I added many new titles to my wish list.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Joy of Ancient History?

The sections on South American cultures. I knew very little about them, but I want to learn more.

Which character – as performed by the narrators – was your favorite?

Several of the lectures mentioned Ramses II, who's one of my favorites.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No, but it definitley kept me interested. I couldn't wait to see what the next subject was going to be.

Any additional comments?

A good introduction to ancient history as a whole, and a way to sample different titles to see which ones might interest you. Great Courses needs more compilations like this.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • William
  • 14-01-15

Great overview and highlights of ancient history

Good overview of the great courses ancient history offerings.
Let's you sample various lecturers and courses. Most are very good.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Thomas
  • 23-07-14

Interesting History Outlines...

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

Yes, Brief narrative, interesting topics.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Joy of Ancient History?

Outline of ancient Athens.

Which character – as performed by the narrators – was your favorite?

- Tough to recall. However, a few have such strong accents the narration suffers.

Could you see The Joy of Ancient History being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

Perhaps...

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Frank
  • 22-10-16

Excellent

There are references to earlier and later lectures, but that's expected. I had a hard time understanding the Irish guy, though his lectures are brilliant.

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  • Rowan Zoe
  • 11-08-16

This covers many different cultures great listen

Over all very good listen, some topics I wish were more in depth but over all well worth the time to get a great overview of Ancient history

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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Catholic hermit
  • 06-07-16

sad naming of a cours

Very sad that this course of Ancient History starts with the Greeks rather than a truly Ancient Civilization in the East.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Robert
  • 08-11-15

Makes History Accessable

Would you consider the audio edition of The Joy of Ancient History to be better than the print version?

Yes

Any additional comments?

Good over view of the topic, not a book that gets down in the weeds but then it doesnt claim to either. Makes history very accessable for people who find it hard to read the subject.