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

Engaging but flawed

The first chapter of this lecture series made me anticipate an enjoyable and dynamic course. The lecturer does indeed have an engaging way of speaking. I am VERY disappointed in the quality of the content, however. Aldrete totally ignores the need to qualify his statements and by this means, obscures the fact that he is taking certain positions on the known data. In other words, his interpretations are presented as the only ones.

I would warn the listener that there is FAR more to be learned about these cultures and that much of what the presenter says is debated material, skewed for dramatic value, or simplified past the point of being strictly reliable. He even fails to explain WHY he takes these positions.

As an example: he characterizes Egypt as (apart from the Nile) a largely forbidding and uninhabitable place in spite of the fact that prehistoric Egypt was much more humid and habitable than it is today, so that a large part of the oldest Egyptian archaeology is located in what is now desert; and the fact that agriculture took hold later in this region simply because the hunting and gathering OUTSIDE the Nile valley was so productive that agriculture was not necessary until the eastern and western deserts began drying out more (though not to the extent of today), and when Egypt had become a set of fledgeling states with larger populations and centralized authorities in need of profitable surplusses. Aldrete even makes the remark that he doesn't think anyone would have settled in Egypt were it not for the Nile; ignoring the almost certain fact that Egypt was the funnel through which humans settled, in multiple waves, Europe and Asia: BECAUSE it was a viable and relatively easy place to live and travel. This includes the areas outside of the river valley.

I would highly recommend instead the Great Courses series "Human Prehistory and the First Civilizations" by Professor Brian Fagan, which while it predates some of the most recent genetic information re: Neanderthals and modern humans, is scrupulous to point out the various sides of each debate in which he has a favorite perspective. Dr. Fagan also has the advantage of a great deal more hands on experience in the archaeology of ancient cultures. His presentation is dryer but his content is FAR superior.
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- Rachel "Girltron/Rabbithorn"

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

Book Details

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