History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective : The Great Courses: Ancient History

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Gregory S. Aldrete
  • Series: The Great Courses: Ancient History
  • 24 hrs and 27 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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.

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- Matt

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.
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- Gaston Dorren

Book Details

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