Emperors of Rome : The Great Courses: Ancient History

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Garrett G. Fagan
  • Series: The Great Courses: Ancient History
  • 17 hrs and 41 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

What sort of men were the Roman emperors (and were they all men)? What background and training, if any, prepared them for their awesome responsibilities? What depravities did they display? And what achievements can they claim: laws passed, monuments built, lands and peoples conquered?
Dive into these questions and more with this introduction to the complex personalities of emperors such as Augustus, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. These thirty-six gripping lectures bring to life the many emperors of Rome from the turn of the 1st century to the transition to the Middle Ages. For more than five centuries, these emperors-a checkered mix of the wise, the brutal, and the unhinged-presided over a multi-ethnic empire that was nearly always at war.
Professor Fagan takes you deep into ancient Rome, asking: How did this system of rule come about? What did it replace? And who were the colorful, cruel, and crafty men who filled the almost omnipotent post of emperor? One of the most intriguing questions about the emperorship is why it endured for so long.
As you witness the reigns of the successive rulers unfold, you will see how the office evolved with the political forces that sustained it, becoming more and more tightly bound to the military. Each step toward despotism was taken with a view toward expedience. But when that step became the new normal, it paved the way for the next step, and so on. As you explore these questions, you'll also study the amalgam of eyewitness reports, later compilations, archaeological remains, and inscriptions on monuments and coins. Contemporary accounts, when available, are not necessarily to be trusted, which means you play the role of detective, sifting for the truth of this spellbinding era.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Informative and thorough

A fantastic and thorough examination of the Emperors from Augustus to Constantine.

I appreciated his balanced view of each Emperor, and his frank appraisal of the sources. Too many "scholars" take the most sensational tales from lesser sources at face value, but Fagan is careful to point out the problems with many of the most famous and outrageous episodes that have entered popular culture about Emperors like Caligula and Nero.

Fagan's delivery is entertaining throughout, although sometimes he does stumble a little, and it feels as if he is reading from a script rather than just delivering a lecture.

Overall, I would highly recommend this. Perhaps the best summary of the period in question, and I include both written and audio books when I say that.
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- Hellocat

Flawed narration

First third consists entirely of Julius and Augustus Caesar, which didn't interest me much, but others might appreciate that. That aside, the material runs into a tough patch later trying to go through several emperors with very short reigns; to make up for it, there's a digression of a few chapters regarding the role of emperor, not directly focusing on individuals. In terms of content, I'm okay with three stars.

However, as this is an audio presentation, the title has some serious issues (flaws). I'm used to Irish speech, but the author sometimes pronounced words in such a strange way that I was left wondering whether English is his first language? Also, he stutters regularly. Sorry if that sounds a bit mean spirited, but there it is. To his credit, he does do a turn of phrase well every so often.

Recommended, perhaps, for those with a strong interest in Roman history, although as a general overview, not particularly useful.
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- John S.

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-08-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses