Rated 5 out of 5 by NicC Asia Minor: Eastern & Western Trajectories
Professor Kenneth W. Harl’s course Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor and his other CLASSICAL and BYZANTINE presentations have cleared many pre-conceptions and stereotypes in my understanding of history in general. Concepts such as the barbarian, heresy, paganism, Oriental-ism, persecution, religion, etc. simple but deceptive ideas, have come into a much clearer, refined, and critical focus allowing further depth analysis and objectivity to my historical studies.
These lectures document the ancient civilizations that inhabited, developed, fragmented, and transformed the political, cultural, social, and religious landscape of ASIA MINOR (Anatolia / Modern Turkey) which covers a wide time frame. It ranges FROM early Neolithic settlements 6000 BC, domestication, writing, merchant trade, urbanization, and rise in city life; TO the Fall of Constantinople and the rise in the Ottoman Empire 1453 AD. The professor’s empirical data and conceptual historical narrative is supplemented with the disciplines of archaeology, anthropology, mythology, and theology helping to clarify the social processes taking place on this strategic landscape which is a geographical-cultural BRIDGE connecting the EASTERN and WESTERN TRADITIONS of yesterday and today. Its interior mountainous plateau regions gravitate toward Iran and the Near East, its northern shores / Black Sea towards Eastern Europe, and its western and southern shores / Aegean and Mediterranean Seas towards Western Europe. These pulls towards the East and West are still making the headlines today.
These lectures focus on five major HISTORICAL STAGES portraying the rise, maturity, decline, crisis, fall, transformation, and continuity of the great ancient civilizations that inhabited this Anatolian landscape: EARLY ANATOLIAN period (6000 – 500 BC), HELLENIZATION period (750 – 31BC), ROMANIZATION period (200BC – 395 AD), BYZANTIZATION period (395 – 1453 AD),
ISLAMIZATION period (1071…). Whether designed or unintended, the presentation is a microscopic view of macro-Mediterranean world history through the cultural lens of Asia Minor’s changing landscape. According to the professor, the CULTURAL and RELIGIOUS RE-WRITES on this soil by the Hittites, Phrygians, Lydia, Trojans, Greeks, Persians, Romans, Western-Latin Church, Byzantines, Eastern-Greek Orthodox Church, Arabs, Turks, and Muslims have contributed to today’s richness of its culture which is still evolving toward modernization. These earlier periods echo and are sketched with the DARKNESS and ILLUMINATION of kings, generals, emperors, pharaohs, sheiks, grandees, satraps, sultans, ghazi-warriors, theologians, philosophers, renaissance-artists-scholars, mystics, caliphs, popes, bishops, patriarchs, prized cultural artifacts, secular-religious architectures, gods-goddesses, competing theologies, ecumenical councils, iconoclastic controversies, pagan cults, Christians, Shiites-Sunni Muslims, Seljuk-Ottoman Turks, Sufis, crusaders, migrations, famous battles, civil wars, etc., much still vibrating today, are all documented in detail in the excellent course guidebook with accompanying maps, timeline, glossary, biographies, and bibliography. (Should become the standard on how to organize and document a detailed guidebook – just excellent!)
Finally, I close with a comment I previously made on Professor Harl’s Byzantium lectures since it also applies here: the only historical point not addressed concerns the Belgian scholar Henri Pirenne whose work MOHAMMED AND CHARLEMAGNE deals with this area and periodization of history. To quote from the book cover: “the cause of the break with the tradition of antiquity was the rapid and unexpected advance of Islam…an event of historical proportions…causing the axis of life to shift northwards from the Mediterranean for the first time in history”. To hear the professor discuss, critique, and interpret Pirenne’s thesis in light of the civilizations of ASIA MINOR and BYZANTIUM would be very enlightening indeed. *** AN HISTORICAL NECESSITY, EXCELLENT, and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED ***
September 16, 2015
Rated 5 out of 5 by highcking Another Splendid Set of Lectures
Professor Harl delivers once again a set of lectures that are crammed with information and delivered with passion, style, and humor. Over the years he is one of the real gems used by Great Courses. Not much else to say. If you want to learn about the ancient history of Asia Minor and enjoy every minute of the experience, buy these lectures and dive in.
October 20, 2016
Rated 5 out of 5 by martimedes Another Rollercoaster ride from 'our Kenneth'.
I use his name familiarly as he seems to be part of the family, now that I have watched so many of his courses. I have even gotten used to his 'argh, argh' punctuations !
This course is great because it fills in the geographical and historical gaps between Greece/Rome and the Middle East (see also his course on 'The Vikings' for a similar historical gap-filler to the north).
The singularly most appalling aspect is the type of maps. They are 'mud maps' of the worst sort ! Like molten chocolate, 'illuminated' from the northwest, giving gross shadows on the eastern side of countries. In some cases, this 3D visualisation often makes the seas stand forward - most uncomfortable. Certainly not up to the usual TGC's standard.
But don't let this one gripe prevent you from watching what is a most absorbing topic.
March 19, 2016
Rated 5 out of 5 by PacificNW Another Great Course by Professor Harl
Professor Harl has done a number of excellent courses for The Great Courses and this course is just as excellent as the others. Professor Harl presents history in a manner which is both informative and entertaining.
A lot of the courses on ancient history start with major well-known empires such as the Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. This course starts at the beginning with the first known civilizations and explains the evolutionary path from these earliest civilizations to the major empires.
Consequently, this course should be one of your first courses on ancient history so that you will have an appreciation of the “big picture” before delving into the other excellent ancient history courses by Professor Harl and other professors who have created courses for The Great Courses.
June 15, 2015