Origins of Great Ancient Civilizations : The Great Courses: Ancient History

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Kenneth W. Harl
  • Series: The Great Courses: Ancient History
  • 6 hrs and 0 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

Locales like Mesopotamia or the Indus Valley, peoples like the Hittites or Assyrians, or rulers like Sargon, Hammurabi, and Darius are part of a long-dead antiquity, so shrouded with dust that we might be tempted to skip over them entirely, preferring to race forward along history's timeline in search of the riches we know will be found in our studies of Greece and Rome.
But, according to Professor Harl, these civilizations, "act as the cultural basis for many of the civilizations that will emerge on the Eurasian landmass and will dictate the destinies of many of the people living today on the globe." These remote, ancient civilizations stand behind the traditions of Greece, so it is critical to understand these great societies in order to better understand those that would come later - including our own.
These 12 fast-paced lectures cover many civilizations that may only receive a few lines of cursory discussion in the average Western civilization textbook. Beginning in the Bronze Age and the emergence of urban-based literate civilizations, the story continues through the demise of Persia's great empire at the hands of the Greeks.
Along the way, you'll examine advances such as the invention and evolution of writing, the development of vast empires dependent not only on military might but on laws and administration, the growth of trade, and the contributions of the Hebrews to the religious and ethical future of Western civilization.
History lovers will appreciate this course for its deep insights and its rock-solid foundation for deeper exploration.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Fantastic, but too short.

I highly recommend this course as a broad introduction to the subject matter.

Focusing exclusively on the ancient civilizations of the Near East, professor Harl manages to cover a lot of ground in just a small number lectures.

The course begins with Sumer and the early city states of Mesopotamia. continues with Egypt, the Hittites, Minoan & Mycenaean Greeks, the Phoenicians, Hebrews, Assyrians, and concludes with the Persian Empire of the Achaemenids.

One drawback of moving so quickly is there isn't enough time to go into greater detail.

This is just a quick survey, but it is delivered by a wonderfully entertaining and informative lecturer.

Professor Harl is enjoyable to listen to, and this is the 3rd course of his I've purchased (from the Great Courses Series).

His lectures are organized, and his familiarity with the subject matter is especially impressive considering his background is classical Roman history.

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- M. Brian Burchette

Great material lecture

What made the experience of listening to Origins of Great Ancient Civilizations the most enjoyable?

It lays a foundation for further historical review


Would you be willing to try another book from The Great Courses? Why or why not?

Yes and I have many volumes in my wish list. They have valuable information which lays a foundation for further study.


What about Professor Kenneth W. Harl’s performance did you like?

He had a strong deliverance, however I felt that he was a bit rushed in his execution of the speech. This might not be his fault however. The producer might have only given him so much time to cover this vast portion of history. I would have preferred a more relaxed lecture where he would have been able to go into more detail of the story lines within these dynasties. Many times it is easier for us to remember history if it is in a story form, rather than a facts and figures regiment.


Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I would say that it is material that needs to be listened to over a few days. If this is the first time you have covered this material then it needs to be digested over a time span of a week. I would suggest listening to it about 3 times to let the information permeate. For myself, my minor was history at TCU, but predominately American History. My only real exposure to Ancient History beyond my own personal research, was an Art History class I had in the Fall of '91.


Any additional comments?

Though I gave this lecture a lower rating in performance and story, I did give it a high rating overall. It received a lower rating in performance because the professor seemed to rush the lecture as previously mentioned. On story I gave it a low rating because it was more of a brief on the facts and figures of the topic and less on the in-depth story line of some of the individuals. Overall I will be interested to listen to this professor in further lectures, as I do have others by him marked in my line up within my wish list.

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- AlexIndia "I am a national speaker on the relationship between the ancient western civilization and present day politics. Follow me!"

Book Details

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