Ponder the term "the ancient world" for just a moment. What personalities, images, and events come to mind? For most of us, the legacy of the ancient world is symbolized by the twin pillars of Western civilization: the empires of Greece and Rome. But what about the empires that came before them?
Although realms such as Akkad, Assyria, Babylon, Hatti, and Ur dwell on the fringes of recorded history, they nevertheless represent human civilization's first experiments in empire building. Their intriguing reigns
- gave birth to the political, judicial, religious, and military systems that would influence the administration of subsequent empires;
- steered earlier societies on a course that would eventually lead to our modern world's intricate system of nations, states, and countries; and
- played key roles in episodes in ancient history, such as the Babylonian captivity, the Trojan and Peloponnesian wars, and the eventual rise of the Greek and Roman empires.
The fascinating stories behind these empires are required knowledge for you to develop a full understanding of the ancient world in its entirety.
Ancient Empires before Alexander is your opportunity to finally complete your knowledge of the ancient world with a comprehensive look at history's first empires. Professor Robert L. Dise Jr. of the University of Northern Iowa—an expert on the history of the ancient world—examines these fascinating kingdoms as their own unique subjects, ones that reflect the struggles, successes, and failures of establishing an empire. Over the course of 36 insightful lectures, follow the Egyptians, the Mycenaean Greeks, the Persians, the Carthaginians, and others as they rise to glory, create administrative and military structures, clash with one another, and eventually collapse.
How Do Empires Rise? Why Do They Fall?
Until 200 years ago, these empires were little more than names. Some had even been entirely forgotten. Recently, however, profound advances in archaeology and history have vastly improved our knowledge about the world's first empires—those that provided the foundation for future empires to follow.
As Ancient Empires before Alexander is a course on the rise and fall of history's earliest empires, you spend much of the course immersed in the political, administrative, and military details of these thrilling civilizations. While social and cultural issues are not unimportant to the rise and fall of empires, they often play secondary roles, according to Professor Dise; rather, the aim of his lectures is to place each of these empires within a larger exploration of empire building.
Employing a wealth of archaeological and archival evidence, Professor Dise brings the ancient world's diverse empires to life through an analysis of three basic questions:
- How did this particular empire emerge?
- How was it governed and defended?
- How and why did it ultimately fall?
These three seemingly simple questions, you quickly discover, raise a host of profound issues on the growth, development, and failures of vast imperial systems. Their answers also provide you with invaluable insights into the similarities and differences between the course's rich offering of empires—how one empire's success could be another's undoing, how administrative and imperial practices evolved from one realm to the next, and how the creation of new forms of rule and defense adapted to challenges from both geography and neighboring empires.
Ancient History's Greatest Empires—Revealed!
Throughout Ancient Empires before Alexander, you immerse yourself in the details of the dozen empires that flourished in the 2,000 years before the conquests of Alexander the Great paved the way for the triumphs of the Roman Empire. Grounded in a chronological approach, the lectures begin in ancient Mesopotamia and span the river valleys, deserts, and mountain ranges of the Near East. You encounter these empires and others:
- The Akkadian Empire, the first empire in human history established in the late 3rd millennium B.C. by Sargon the Great. Sargon and his successors pioneered the techniques of imperial rule and set a pattern on which later Mesopotamian empires would emulate and elaborate.
- The Empire of Hatti, which dominated Asia Minor. The emergence of this empire in the early 2nd millennium B.C. presaged the downfall of Mesopotamia's power in the ancient world. Unlike strongly centralized Mesopotamian empires, Hatti—home to the Hittites—was very loosely structured and almost feudal in nature.
- The Persian Empire, which would grow into the largest empire the ancient world had yet seen, stretching from Libya to India. This wealthy empire supported local autonomy within its imperial unity and displayed a tolerance for its bewildering diversity of peoples. Alexander the Great, however, would spell doom for this impressive civilization.
- The Carthaginian Empire, a sea empire (thalassocracy) that consisted of Phoenician settlements along the coast of the western Mediterranean and possessed far-flung trading networks. Carthage would eventually be destroyed by Rome during the Punic Wars of the 3rd century B.C.
In addition, you discover fresh new perspectives on more familiar ancient empires, including Israel, Babylon, and Egypt, as well as the interactions—both friendly and antagonistic—between these and other kingdoms.
These thrilling empires, you learn, owe much to the leaders who ruled them and the warriors who protected them. As you explore each empire, you also meet some of the ancient world's most captivating figures and place their lives and deeds in the context of their respective kingdoms. Throughout the lectures, you come across awe-inspiring individuals such as
- Hammurabi, famed for his code of laws and renowned for being a hands-on administrator of his empire;
- Solomon, who succeeded his father David as king of Israel and centralized royal power;
- Xerxes, who led a massive Persian invasion of the Greek city-states, only to leave the empire weakened and vulnerable to foreign attack; and
- Hannibal, the brilliant Carthaginian general who engineered a series of stunning defeats of the Roman army yet failed to stop Rome's rise to imperial power.
An Invaluable Guide through the Ancient World
You'll find no better guide through the palatial halls, administrative offices, war-torn battlefields, and sacred temples of these diverse empires than Professor Dise. A passionate teacher and military historian who has spent his career immersed in this historical era, he packs each lecture of Ancient Empires before Alexander with a range of rich historical sources on which our current understanding of the ancient Near East rests, including
- more than a million cuneiform tablets from imperial and municipal archives;
- colorful narratives written by Greek, Roman, and Hebrew sources; and
- archaeological remains excavated from once-lost cities and kingdoms.
With Professor Dise, you learn how to comb through these intriguing records, dodging pitfalls of misinterpretation and bias while teaching yourself how to examine historical documents and archaeological findings with a seasoned eye. You'll quickly become a more trained observer of human history and more informed about the ways the past is recorded and passed down to subsequent generations.
Spanning thousands of years of human history and encompassing regions both familiar and forgotten, Ancient Empires before Alexander is a remarkable tour through the unfamiliar reaches of the ancient world. It's an exciting way to explore the legacies of the world's earliest empires and an unforgettable opportunity to complete your grasp of the ancient world—in all its marvelous diversity.