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If you could sum up Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World in three words, what would they be?
Informative, fascinating, revealing.
What other book might you compare Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World to, and why?
No idea, this was the first book I listened to in this genre.
Which scene did you most enjoy?
Placing religions in the ocntext of civilisations made the book very interetsing, ot me to understand things I had not really picked up on during my primary and secondary studies. The distinction between philosophy, religion and to some extent magic is also eligtening.
Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
No, just made for interesting reading.
Any additional comments?
Hebrew religion could be looked into more shematically, but I suppose it is compòlicated and beyond the objective of this particular book; also, I would have been keen to find out osmething more about the Persian Empire's religion(s).
This course makes some attempt to give a comparative perspective on several of the religions of the ancient Mediterranean. The religions covered are mentioned in the publisher's summary, and if you know very little about the religions covered, you will no doubt learn something about each, as I did. However, some major mediterranean religions are left out, most notably Phoenician/Carthaginian religion; also absent is any treatment of Celtic or Iberian peoples' beliefs. Only the briefest mention of the Etruscans as well.
This is especially grievous in light of the large amount of time spent on Judaism and Christianity; these are no doubt Ancient Mediterranean religions, and thus worthy of some coverage, but they -- Christianity especially -- are covered in more detail than for instance the beliefs of classical Greece; this is unfortunate given that Christianity and Judaism are covered in-depth by so many other Great courses lectures, and are bound to be more familiar to most listeners besides.
There is also very little time devoted to the rituals and actual practice involved in each religion, and too much spent on discussing stories told in the context of ancient religion that are not actually religious documents, such as the various ancient epics. As much as I love the Epic of Gilgamesh, this doesn't seem like the place for a close reading of it; more information about each of the ancient Mesopotamian gods would have filled that time better.
However, if you know very little about ancient Mediterranean, this wouldn't be a bad place to start. And if you are primarily interested Christianity, this course would be a great place to learn about the context that gave rise to it. I definitely learned many things from this course, but I can't help feeling that I could have learned a lot more.
23 of 23 people found this review helpful
Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?
In general I would have to say yes.
Would you be willing to try another book from The Great Courses? Why or why not?
I have read/listened to several Great Courses lectures in the past, while this was certainly not the best, I have been very pleased in the past.
Did the narration match the pace of the story?
The tempo was normally fine, although Dr. Holland did overly repeat himself at times, which caused the tempo to lag.
Was Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World worth the listening time?
Yes. But it is not the most academically credible examination of the subject matter currently available.
Any additional comments?
This is not a lecture series in comparative religious studies. Whether or not it was Dr. Holland's intent, much of his treatment of ancient Hebrew and early Christian religious practices have more in common with Christian apologetics than a thoroughly credible examination of the known and demonstrable traditions/dogma of these rather well-known religions. This pro-Christian bias, while general subtle, is pervasive in the relevant chapters in which they are discussed. There was little to know examination of Hittite or Syro-Hittite states whose own religious practices are a continuing source of inquiry for modern historians. If I was to reconfigure the course's content, I would leave out a significant portion (say half) of the discussion on ancient Judaism and early Christianity and replace it with Hittite, Syro-Hittite, Canaanite (Phoenician) as well as the religion of the Carthaginians- which arose from largely from the earlier Canaanite tradition. Holland's treatment/analysis of other religious traditions is much more academically credible and sticking with the same degree of detachment throughout the entire course would have served him well. To be fair, this course is not without some redeeming qualities and many may find it useful, but don't expect to be awed by Holland or his analysis of the topic.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful