Famous Romans : The Great Courses: Ancient History

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor J. Rufus Fears
  • Series: The Great Courses: Ancient History
  • 12 hrs and 26 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

These 24 lectures retell the lives of the remarkable individuals - the statesmen, thinkers, warriors, and writers - who shaped the history of the Roman Empire and, by extension, our own history and culture.
Among the fascinating gallery of individuals whose lives, ideas, actions, and legacies you'll explore are Hannibal (who caused the Second Punic War personally, much as Adolf Hitler caused World War II), Augustus (who, beginning at the age of just 19, brilliantly followed a doctrine of ruthless expediency in order to rescue Rome from a century of civil war), and Marcus Aurelius (that most noble and philosophic of rulers who may have hastened the Empire's decline by tolerating the wicked cruelty of his heir).
Professor Fears divides his presentation into three "turning point" epochs in Roman history: Rome's war with Hannibal (the Second Punic War); Caesar and the end of the Roman Republic; and the imperial era between Augustus and Marcus Aurelius.
As he presents the great figures of each period, he makes them seem personal and immediate. As you study these and many other significant Romans, you'll probe fundamental questions about the political and cultural history of Rome. What was the impact of Greek civilization on the Romans? Why did the Roman people, at the height of military, political, and economic power, abandon their republican liberty for the dictatorship of Caesar and his successors? What made the 2nd century A.D. one the most creative periods in world history? And why did the central figures of Roman history hold so much appeal for America's Founding Fathers?


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Customer Reviews

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Captivating Biography

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Hands down one of the most thrilling historical courses I've ever listened to. The description of the Second Punic War makes me wonder why Hollywood hasn't tackled it yet. The war with Hannibal shows just how close Rome came to being eradicated. Had Hannibal fully pressed his advantages Rome may have been a historical footnote and we'd all be speaking a Phoenician derivative.

The sections on Julius Caesar were also extremely well done. The course ends with the philosopher King, Marcus Aurelius, the last of the "Five Good Emperors". His decision regarding succession is given a strong rebuke by Professor Fears.

The first lecture is done in a style a little different from the rest, so let the course build up. Once Hannibal starts crossing those Alps, you'll be hooked!

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- Abdur Abdul-Malik

Not Enough Biography, Too General, and No Women?!

These lectures purport to "retell the lives of the remarkable individuals," but they aren't really biographical... They're much more about political history -- the kind of thing you could hear about in any other source about Roman history -- and very surface level, non-rigorous political history at that. To take an example, the lecture on Hadrian mentions his lover Antinoos only once, and calls him a "beloved friend," which is just not acceptable in a biography of Hadrian.

There are also no women covered in this lecture... Not one. If this were called "Roman Emperors" that could be excused, but surely Livia is a famous Roman. Or, since there's one on Hannibal (not a Roman), one on Cleopatra would've been a great addition.

In the beginning, he's passionate enough that you get swept up and let his imprecisions slide, but even his enthusiasm wanes in the later half.
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- Christopher

Book Details

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