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.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
©2011 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2011 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By R. Bradley on 05-05-16

Not a global perspective

In the last couple of decades there has been a welcome shift from world histories shaped on the Sumer-Greece-Rome narrative that focuses on the foundations of European history towards giving equal weight to the other great centers of world civilization. This course nods in that direction but is still hugely weighted to the old European focus.

Of the 48 lectures, fully half are either solely or mainly about ancient Greece or Rome. Although other major civilizations are covered, they receive far less attention. For instance, when setting up a series of comparisons between classical Rome and Han China, Prof. Aldrete spends 5 straight lectures on Roman history and just one on the Han. Greek literature and sculpture each get a full lecture. Not only does no other artistic tradition get similar treatment but the discussion makes no mention of, for instance, the fruitful interaction between Hellenistic and Indian sculpture. The entire history of Islamic civilization gets one lecture, the same as European monasticism or the Peloponnesian War, which are of minimal global significance. The whole of the Americas get three lectures - the same as the life and legacy of Alexander the Great.

This weighting aside, each lecture is interesting and well delivered. Aldrete is an engaging speaker. Even some of his debatable priorities, such as spending half an audio lecture describing Moche pottery, are overcome with his enthusiastic delivery. One some issues, particularly Roman history, he is a bit inclined to take the sources at face value, for instance with a long discussion of mad Emperors, but he covers the ground well.

But that still leaves many areas with frustratingly limited coverage. Despite the course covering the period to 800 CE, India get no mention after Asoka, who died in the 3rd century BCE. The artistic achievements of anyone but the Greeks (and Moche potters!) get very little discussion. The Persian empire, one of the greatest of all time, get no dedicated lecture; nor do the Israelites, although the development of Christianity in Rome gets lengthy treatment. I could go on.

I see many have enjoyed these lectures, and that's great. They are fun and informative. But for a genuinely global perspective you'll have to look elsewhere.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By snakedoctor on 08-08-14

A stand out purchase - fantastic

Any additional comments?

I've bought one audiobook a month from Audible for several years and this has to be in the top 3. If you're like me you've got an interest in the ancient world but wanted an overview before getting to know one civilisation better than the rest. This isn't just a whistle-stop tour, Prof Aldrete takes time to explain everything at exactly the right pace, weave the stories that make up history together smoothly and remain entertaining at all times.

Unlike some non-fiction, you don't have to concentrate on every word, the delivery is not too fast and not too heavy going. I find myself repeating interesting facts about the Indus Valley or Sparta when talking to friends and family, that I seem to have picked up without realising. It's not just the big things like the Pyramids and the Great Wall, but lots of small anecdotes about archaeologists and quirky historical figures. I genuinely look forward to getting in the car to listen to another instalment.

He's also very balanced. Often Western books can be somewhat Euro-centric but I genuinely feel I'm getting a world perspective here. And it's not simply a chronology of what happened when, but the significance of events is discussed, and the importance of ideas. For example a wonderful chapter focussed on the influence of a period in time when Buddha, Confucius, Zoroaster and the Ionian Rationalists were all spreading their knowledge with the world. You really get a sense of an exciting time in history.

If I had one criticism, it is that the good Prof overuses the word 'literally' to a criminal degree. He uses it correctly, but way too much. He literally says it dozens of times per lecture. But that's literally the only down side. It has literally been one of the best audiobooks I've heard. Go buy it!

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Matt on 20-11-13

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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39 of 39 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Tommy D'Angelo on 23-05-17

Top 1% of All History Courses You'll Take

Would you consider the audio edition of History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective to be better than the print version?

I bought this course after "striking out" with the courses "The Foundations of Western Civilization" and "Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor" (i.e. I was extremely interested in learning about the time period and civilizations covered but was disappointed by the professors' teaching styles, wasn't engaged, and didn't take much from the courses).

This course was nearly perfect in exceeding all of my expectations going in.

This is a legitimate 5 star course that meets all of my criteria for such a designation:

1- The professor was easy to understand and listen to while at the same time prompting engaging discussions that led to me learning alot more than I knew going in.

2- The 24 hours of 48 lectures flew by. I would look at my phone and find out I had listened for large periods of time without even checking the remaining time or lecture number I was on. This is a rare experience even for the great ones I've listened to.

3- When the course concluded I was yearning for more and I scrambled to see if the professor taught any other courses. I was left wishing there would be a lecture 49 in which he would cover the next great civilization and just go on and on to the present time.

It has excellent historical narrative covering the following civilizations from aprx. 3500 BC-800 AD:
o Mesopotamia (Sumerians, Akkadians, Hittites, Babylon, Assyria, Chaldean/Neo-Babylonians, Persians)
o Ancient Egypt
o Ancient India (Lost civilization of the Indus Valley & the Vedics)
o Pre-Greek: Minoan and Mycenaean
o Ancient Greece
o China (Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han, Sui, and Tong)
o Macedonians
o Ancient Rome
o Early Mesoamerica (Olmecs and Mayans)
o Early South America (Chavin, Moche and Teotihuacán)
o Aborigines of Australia
o Polynesians
o Byzantine
o Early Christianity
o Early Islam (the Umayyad & Abbasid caliphates)
o Franks (under Charlemagne)
o Mentioned but not discussed in great detail: Carthage, Sassanians, and African empires Axum, Ghana, and Mali

The professor is a clear speaker with a good pace (does not rush things nor uses lofty language). This is such a breath of fresh air in contrast with other professors I've listened to. Professor Aldrete is the model by which all history professors should be held to.

This course was great right up to the end. Lecture 48 has an interesting take on why Europe would rise and supplant the Islamic and Chinese empires in the centuries following 800 AD (when at the time it would’ve seemed highly unlikely) and attempts to explain the origin of when Africa, Asia, and Europe split into regions of distinct linguistic, religious, and cultural differences.

I read a negative review that mentioned the course was too simplistic and I can see how some individuals may consider the professor's style as such but I think the mark of a good historian and teacher is one who can teach in a straight-forward, easy to understand manner, and keep you entertained while not stretching the facts of history to fit into a certain "story".

A course covering such a breadth of time, land, and civilizations must leave some things out but I found it somewhat curious these were omitted:

1- How does a lecture on Greek theater not include even a quick mention of Oedipus?

2- Would've liked a little more coverage of the end phase of the Peloponnesian War including Sparta's final victory over Athens

3- While Julius Caesar, Pompey, Marc Antony and Octavius Caesar were discussed, there was no mention of the two Roman triumvirates that I could recall

4- While the professor did reference specific years when discussing a specific civilization or dynasty, it would’ve been good if he mentioned the contemporary dynasties that were ruling in other parts of the world to give some global perspective; For example when discussing a dynasty ruling in China, mention it was the same time as when the X civilization was dominant in the Mediterranean or the X dynasty was ruling the Roman Empire

Yes, these four items border on nitpicking when considering the success of this course. I highly recommend this course to anyone interested in the rise of the world's earliest civilizations across the globe. Please bring back Professor Aldrete for another course preferably on medieval Europe focusing on the formation of current states like France, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, etc. I know there are some courses on 1600 Europe onward but I'd be interested in a course on political history of the major countries prior to that time period.

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16 of 16 people found this review helpful

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