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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Do yourself a favor and go with Garrett Fagan's The History of Ancient Rome or Rome and the Barbarians by Kenneth Harl.

I have gone through several of the Great Courses on Roman history and have always been impressed, but Professor Fears did a terrible job with this one. This course is riddled with exaggerations and impositions of modern sensibilities and ideas onto historical figures.

He massively distorts the Stoic philosophy, presenting it as something much more familiar and attributing to it ideas that were developed by the early Christian church and others by Scottish and French Enlightenment philosophers.

He also treats the Roman concept of religion as if it were much the same as modern monotheism when in fact it was something entirely different, a blend of anthropomorphic polytheism and animism.

At one point he refers to Augustus as the Messiah, implying that this was how he was understood by contemporaries. In fact, the word Messiah does not mean 'savior', as Fears claims, but rather refers to a specific prophecy in the Hebrew bible and means "anointed one". For the Hebrews at the time to call Augustus this would have been unthinkable to them, and the Romans at the time would have no idea what such a term meant.

Fears takes the most sensationalist reports from historical sources, as well as long debunked myths (like that the Romans sewed the Carthaginian fields with salt so nothing would grow there ever again) and presents them unquestioned as historical facts.

His word choice is repetitive and on more than one occasion one can hear the producers giggling in the background when Fears makes a joke.
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- ben.doublett

Captivating Biography

Any additional comments?

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 "The Tertiarty Adjunct to Unimatrix 01."

Book Details

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