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.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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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- R. Bradley

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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- snakedoctor

Book Details

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