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Long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World

Long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World

Professor Ian Worthington Ph.D.
University of Missouri, Columbia
Course No.  3310
Course No.  3310
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Course Overview

About This Course

48 lectures  |  31 minutes per lecture

300 Spartans guarding the pass at Thermopylae. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle engaging in a dialogue that will give birth to Western philosophy. Alexander the Great conquering nearly the entire ancient world. The military and political history of ancient Greece is famously endowed with stirring scenes such as these. But Greek history is much more than a series of gripping set pieces.

The four centuries that saw the remarkable rise of Greek civilization tell a complex story about the growth of the institutions that laid the foundations for Western civilization.

Traditions that we take for granted today—including open political debate, trial by jury, and the concept of the social contract—were born and reached a vigorous maturity during this era. Not only do the traditions of democracy, law, and empire connect the ancient world with the modern, they also tell us more about the Greeks than any other aspect of their society, including their celebrated artistic and cultural achievements.

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300 Spartans guarding the pass at Thermopylae. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle engaging in a dialogue that will give birth to Western philosophy. Alexander the Great conquering nearly the entire ancient world. The military and political history of ancient Greece is famously endowed with stirring scenes such as these. But Greek history is much more than a series of gripping set pieces.

The four centuries that saw the remarkable rise of Greek civilization tell a complex story about the growth of the institutions that laid the foundations for Western civilization.

Traditions that we take for granted today—including open political debate, trial by jury, and the concept of the social contract—were born and reached a vigorous maturity during this era. Not only do the traditions of democracy, law, and empire connect the ancient world with the modern, they also tell us more about the Greeks than any other aspect of their society, including their celebrated artistic and cultural achievements.

The Long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World immerses you in this exciting crucible of innovation in 48 fascinating lectures that focus on Greek democracy, law, and empire, as well as the people who molded them during the Archaic and Classical periods. Taught by award-winning scholar and educator Ian Worthington of the University of Missouri–Columbia, this comprehensive course takes you from 750 to 323 B.C.—a span of history that contains the emergence of Greece at the end of the Dark Ages and the final disintegration of Greek autonomy through the Macedonian kings Philip II and Alexander the Great.

Hard-Fought Struggles

Concentrating on the city-states of mainland Greece, with a special focus on Athens, The Long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World takes you through some of history's most hard-fought struggles—from armed conflicts (such as the Persian Wars, the Peloponnesian War, and the campaigns of Alexander the Great) to political and social struggles (including the late 6th-century civil war in Athens that pitted nobles against the lower classes and eventually produced the first stirrings of democracy).

This course, which covers more than three centuries of rich Athenian and Greek history, is an incredibly detailed look at the birth and maturation of our modern law and democracy. As you explore innovative Athenian approaches to law and empire, you discover how these approaches served as the bedrock for ideas and practices that you live with every day. You also encounter a wealth of intriguing links to many of our own contemporary institutions and attitudes:

  • Democracy: Ancient democracy, like its modern form, was more than a matter of showing up at an assembly to cast a vote. The practice had a complex structure from the start, along with an ever-changing system of checks and balances.
  • Law: Trial by jury was an invention of Athenian lawgivers, as was arbitration and the right of appeal. According to Professor Worthington, even lawyers originated in Athens in the form of professionals who were hired to write and deliver speeches in the courts.
  • Empire: The age that produced Alexander the Great, whose sprawling empire disintegrated after his death, holds lessons about the danger of imperial overreach. By contrast, Alexander's father Philip II knew how to conquer—and how to negotiate and compromise as well.

Explore a Time of Exciting Developments

The Long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World begins with a strong background on the Bronze and Dark Ages, the turbulent era that led up to the Archaic and Classical periods. In the popular imagination, the Classical period is synonymous with ancient Greek culture, thanks to its memorable achievements in drama, architecture, sculpture, history, philosophy, oratory, and other fields. The Archaic period, however, evokes something backward and unsophisticated—a misunderstanding that Professor Worthington quickly clears up for you.

The Archaic period, as you discover, was instead a time of exciting political, social, and cultural developments; the period's Greek root, arche, means the start of something new. It was during this time that an innovative spirit began to transform the old world through developments such as new pottery styles, the first Olympic games, the composition of the Homeric poems, the Greek alphabet, the establishment of colonies, and especially the codification of laws and the institution of new forms of government, notably democracy.

Throughout these insightful lectures, you explore the contributions of many celebrated figures from this period such as these:

  • Pisistratus, the benevolent Athenian dictator who practiced a peaceful foreign policy and encouraged the cultivation of olives to make and export olive oil—an industry that the area surrounding Athens continues to pursue
  • Lycurgus, Sparta's mysterious lawgiver who (according to legend) instituted the city-state's rigorous and notorious system of military training
  • Cleisthenes, a reformer who eased Athens's class strife through a radical reorganization of its citizen body and who is referred to by some as the father of democracy
  • Ephialtes, who completed the political revolution begun by the lawgiver Solon and inaugurated radical democracy in Athens
  • Pericles, the Athenian statesman and general who made Athens an imperial power and sparked the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War
  • Philip II, the king who transformed Macedonia from a backwater into the era's foremost military power
  • Alexander the Great, Philip's son and one of history's most renowned military figures, who furthered his father's imperial mission and conquered most of ancient Greece (and beyond) before his death

A Scholarly Detective Who Reevaluates Traditional Views

An expert in the Archaic period, Professor Worthington knows this period of history inside and out; his consummate knowledge of ancient Greece enriches every one of these in-depth lectures. What makes The Long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World such a refreshing look at this critical period in human history is that Professor Worthington is never shy about questioning received opinion. Throughout the course, he constantly pauses to reevaluate traditional views and employs the instincts of a detective to explore probing questions and issues:

  • Was Dracon really draconian? A Wild West style of justice prevailed in Athens before the aristocrat Dracon took the first steps toward a rational legal system by making the administration of justice uniform. This progressive measure has been overshadowed, however, by Dracon's prescribed penalty of death for all crimes.
  • When exactly did the Classical period begin? Many historians date the beginning of the Classical period with the start of the Persian Wars. Professor Worthington reveals, however, that Classical Greeks looked back on their victory in the Persian Wars as part of a bygone golden age, not as the prelude to their own strife-filled era.
  • Was Cleon a bad strategist? The reputation of the politician and military leader Cleon has suffered at the hands of the historian Thucydides and the playwright Aristophanes. Professor Worthington argues that instead of being such a disaster for Athens during the Peloponnesian War, Cleon was correct in many of his assessments and acted in the city's best interest.
  • Just what did Alexander the Great achieve? History has long viewed Alexander the Great as an icon of military skill and leadership. But Professor Worthington argues that the legends that glorify Alexander the Great obscure the truly great accomplishments of his father, King Philip II.

In addition, Professor Worthington continually questions and analyzes hallowed ancient historical sources. Comparing the historians Thucydides and Herodotus, he observes that "Thucydides never tells us his sources or his reasons for accepting or rejecting something, merely that he is right. Although Herodotus gets things wrong, he does cite his sources. ... This allows us the chance to make up our own minds."

And in presenting his alternative interpretations of history, Professor Worthington invites you to make up your own mind, as well.

What You Owe to History

An important reason to study the history of Classical and Archaic Greece is that the world the Greeks represent—and which we inherited—so clearly hung by a thread at many points during its long and thrilling evolution. By the end of Professor Worthington's final captivating lecture, you discover that there was nothing inevitable about democracy, the Western concept of justice, or any of the other traditions and institutions that now play such central roles in the politics of the modern Western world.

While our current political institutions continue to grow stronger with time, it is essential to recognize that at one point, they were fragile and haphazard, their fate uncertain. As with many eventful tales, The Long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World's story of how this tentative structure transformed into the firm foundation of our contemporary world is gripping, enlightening, and immensely rewarding.

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48 Lectures
  • 1
    Three Mainstays of Ancient Greece
    Begin your exploration of Archaic and Classical Greek history with a survey of the three major themes of this course: democracy, law, and empire. Then briefly examine the Bronze Age, which set the stage for many of the later developments you study. x
  • 2
    The 8th-Century Renaissance
    The Bronze Age was followed by four centuries of turmoil (1150–750 B.C.), termed the Dark Ages of ancient Greece. Investigate the civilization that emerged from this era, which ended with a renaissance in the 8th century, marking the start of the Archaic period. x
  • 3
    Politics and Tyranny in Greece
    This lecture considers the rule of the tyrants of three important states in the Peloponnese: Argos, Sicyon, and Corinth. "Tyrant" was a title assumed by those who illegally seized power. Surprisingly, many tyrants played a positive role in bringing peace and stability to their cities. x
  • 4
    The Exercise of Political Power in Athens
    Athens, like other states, was ruled by aristocratic families who felt threatened by the rise of tyrannies elsewhere. This background helps you understand the nature of political power in Athens before the revolutionary democratic reforms of Solon, Ephialtes, and Cleisthenes. x
  • 5
    Dracon of Athens and the Birth of Greek Law
    With Athens facing a revolt of the lower classes, the ruling families appointed a man called Dracon to codify the laws. His severity gave rise to the epithet "draconian," but his inauguration of a formal system of procedures, courts, trial by jury, and other measures earned him the Greek accolade "the father of law." x
  • 6
    Solon of Athens—Social and Economic Reforms
    In 594 the ruling nobles elected an Athenian named Solon to end civil strife, giving him absolute power for one year. Study the revolution wrought by this political genius, who invented democracy. x
  • 7
    Solon, Democracy, and Law
    Consider Solon's political and judicial legislation. How did he go about creating democracy? What did he do to help develop the legal code? You consider the view of Aristotle's Athenian Constitution on the three most democratic aspects of Solon's constitution. x
  • 8
    From Anarchy to Tyranny in Athens
    The decades after Solon were marked by anarchy, aristocratic faction fighting, and further civil war. Chart the rise to power of the tyrant Pisistratus, a nobleman who championed the cause of the poor. x
  • 9
    Pisistratus, Tyrant of Athens
    Examine how Pisistratus benefited Athens economically, artistically, and culturally by his exploitation of religion and his power as tyrant. This is when the first official texts of the Homeric poems were established, when tragedy was born, and when Athens began to emerge as the cultural center of Greece. x
  • 10
    Tyranny Overthrown—The Sons of Pisistratus
    To what extent did Pisistratus have the people's interests at heart, rather than cynically exploiting them to maintain his regime? After exploring this question, look at the inauspicious reign of his sons and the growing tension with the powerful military state of Sparta. x
  • 11
    Democracy Restored—Cleisthenes of Athens
    In the wake of the Pisistratid tyranny, a politician named Cleisthenes gained the upper hand by promising the people widespread changes. His legislation dramatically increased the fledgling democracy by revising the map of Attica to limit aristocratic influence. x
  • 12
    Cleisthenes, the Real Father of Democracy?
    Learn how Cleisthenes' political restructuring ended factional strife and is the forerunner of today's division of local, state, and federal administration. In taking democracy to the masses in a way that Solon had not, Cleisthenes may be more deserving of the title "the father of democracy." x
  • 13
    Sparta, the Odd-Man-Out State in Greece
    Turn to the polis that was the odd man out: Sparta. Other Greeks viewed the Spartans with a combination of admiration and alarm for their austere military culture. Yet in the early Archaic period, Sparta was developing like other Greek cities until it underwent a radical transformation. x
  • 14
    Death or Glory—Spartan Military Education
    Sparta's traditional lawgiver was a possibly mythical figure named Lycurgus. His reforms included a brutal system of military education called the agoge, with the aim of building the best army in Greece. You look at what this demanding and dangerous schooling involved. x
  • 15
    "Come Back Carrying Your Shield or On It"
    Spartan women played a more overt role in public life than their counterparts in Athens, exhorting their sons to die in battle rather than survive in defeat. Sparta's slaves, or helots, far outnumbered the Spartans—and created an internal security problem that may have triggered Sparta's obsession with military superiority. x
  • 16
    From Sparta to Persia
    Conclude your exploration of Spartan society with a look at its weaknesses, among them high mortality of Spartan males due to their constant military service. Further, Sparta's deteriorating relations with Athens in the 490s did not bode well for the Greeks as Persia prepared to invade the Greek mainland. x
  • 17
    Marathon—End of the First Persian Invasion
    In 490 Athenian troops fighting virtually alone defeated the invading Persian army at Marathon. Learn how this victory was crucial in Athens' coming of age as a military power. x
  • 18
    Thermopylae and the 300 Spartans
    The Persians sought revenge for their defeat at Marathon by invading Greece in 481 with a massive army and fleet led by the great king Xerxes. You focus on the famous battle at Thermopylae, where 300 Spartans led by Leonidas refused to surrender and were wiped out. x
  • 19
    Greece Triumphs—The End of the Persian Wars
    This lecture covers the advance of Persian forces deeper into Greece. At Salamis, Themistocles lured the Persian fleet to battle, virtually annihilating it. Then in spring 479 a pitched battle was fought at Plataea, in which the Persians were defeated. x
  • 20
    From the Archaic to the Classical Period
    Examine the aftermath of the Persian Wars, asking why the Persians lost. Then probe the surprisingly momentous question of whether the wars form the natural end of the Archaic period, or whether they should be considered the opening of the Classical period. x
  • 21
    The Delian League—Origins and First Steps
    Building on its military success in the Persian Wars, Athens formed an alliance of Greek states known as the Delian League, which became a de facto Athenian empire, alarming Sparta. Look at the working methods of Thucydides, the historian who recorded these developments. x
  • 22
    From Delian League to Athenian Empire
    Examine Thucydides' analysis of the early years of the Delian League and the growth of Athenian imperialism. Initially, relations between Athens and its allies were good, but from the 470s on Athenian expansion and the disregard of allied autonomy seriously strained ties. x
  • 23
    Ephialtes, Founder of Radical Democracy
    This lecture reads between the lines of the ancient sources to uncover the political and judicial revolution crafted by Ephialtes, a little-known general and politician who introduced radical or direct democracy to Athens, in which the people became sovereign in the state. He may also be responsible for trial by jury. x
  • 24
    Rhetoric—A New Path to Political Power
    Ephialtes' radical democracy created a demand for orators. These individuals were called rhêtores, or speakers. Out of this grew the term "demagogue," or leader of the people, which took on an odious connotation. You examine how rhetoric came to be exploited for political ends—and for deceiving the people. x
  • 25
    Democracy and Political Speech—Then and Now
    What is the difference between the democracy of Classical Athens and ours today? What were the shortcomings of the Athenian system? How democratic was it? After exploring these questions, you turn to the influence of ancient rhetoric on modern. x
  • 26
    The Causes of the Peloponnesian War
    Thucydides gave two reasons for the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War: Sparta's fear of the growth of Athenian power, and a sequence of actions that provoked the Spartans to declare war. You also hear the theory that Pericles, the leader of Athens, deliberately engineered the war. x
  • 27
    The War's Early Years and the Great Plague
    You cover the first few years of the Peloponnesian War, focusing on Pericles' strategy, the effects of the great plague that wiped out about one-quarter of Athenians, the rise of the demagogue Cleon, and the revolt of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos. x
  • 28
    Athenian Successes and a Temporary Peace
    This lecture takes the war down to the Peace of Nicias in 421, which was a temporary cessation of hostilities. You study the successful Athenian campaign at Pylos and Sphacteria and the pivotal role played by Cleon, whom history has treated dismissively. x
  • 29
    War Resumes—The Athenian Disaster in Sicily
    Thucydides attributed Athens's loss in the war to the Sicilian expedition and the decline in leadership after Pericles. You examine the collapse of the Peace of Nicias and the background to the Sicilian campaign, noting how Athenians committed rashly to the enterprise. x
  • 30
    Democracy Fails—Oligarchy in Athens
    Look at the results of Athens' great defeat, which led to the imposition of oligarchy in Athens in 411, an event foreshadowed in Aristophanes' biting comedy Lysistrata. The oligarchy was soon deposed and replaced by a moderate form of democracy. x
  • 31
    Final Battles—Sparta's Triumph over Athens
    Survey the war's last years and the climactic defeat of Athens at the Battle of Aegospotami in 405. The terms imposed on Athens by Sparta included the end of the Delian League, the abolition of Athenian democracy, and the installation of a cruel, pro-Spartan oligarchy. x
  • 32
    Why Athens Lost—The Impact on Greece
    Why did Athens lose the Peloponnesian War? This lecture examines the failure of the radical democracy, whose actions lay behind every event that was to Athens' detriment. The second half of the lecture takes Greek history to the accession of Philip II of Macedonia. x
  • 33
    The Household in the Polis
    Turn from military campaigns to a study of Greek law and society. Investigate the Athenian family and its integral role in law and society, focusing on the various members of the family, especially women, and what the state expected of them. x
  • 34
    Athenian Law and Society
    Three ancient literary works provide a window into Athens' legal system. You look at Aristophanes' Wasps, Plato's Crito, and Sophocles' Antigone for insight into how the Athenian legal code developed, how seriously citizens viewed it, and how it also afforded a means of entertainment. x
  • 35
    Historical Development of the Legal Code
    The rudimentary justice of the Bronze Age is depicted in a famous passage in Homer. You begin with this scene and follow the development of Greek law through the introduction of trial by jury and the protection of individual rights in the Classical period. x
  • 36
    The Judicial Machinery of the Legal System
    This lecture discusses the major components of Athens' judicial system: the magistrates, courts, and private and public arbitrators. Athenians attached great importance to the law and were enthusiastic participants in legal proceedings, both as litigants and jurors. x
  • 37
    Types of Cases, Sycophants, and Pretrial
    The origin of lawyers may trace to professional consultants in Athens, who composed and sometimes delivered court speeches on behalf of clients, whether for the prosecution or defense. You also learn of the positive role played in law enforcement by sycophants, or blackmailers. x
  • 38
    Going to Trial in Ancient Athens
    When a case got to Athenian court, how long did a trial last? What role did the jury have? How did it vote? What sorts of penalties were prescribed? The conduct of jurors would seem shocking by today's standards, but their frequent cheering and jeering were strictly professional. x
  • 39
    Macedonia, North of Mount Olympus
    Returning to the theme of imperialism, you investigate Macedonia in the age of Philip II and Alexander III, also known as "the Great." Before Philip's reign, Macedonia was a backwater with a weak army and no centralized rule, beset by frequent attacks by neighboring tribes. x
  • 40
    Philip II—"Greatest of the Kings of Europe"
    How did Philip become "the greatest of the kings of Europe in his time," according to one ancient historian? You follow his early steps to consolidate Macedonia's position by a combination of diplomacy, deceit, and a series of canny political marriages. x
  • 41
    Philip II and Macedonian Imperialism
    This lecture surveys Philip's war with Athens over Amphipolis and his involvement in the Third Sacred War, both of which he used as stepping stones into central Greek affairs. At their conclusion he had become a significant force in the politics of the region. x
  • 42
    Greece Conquered—The End of Greek Autonomy
    As Philip tightened the screws on the Greek states, the Athenian orator Demosthenes worked tirelessly to discredit him. The tensions reached a peak at the battle of Chaeronea in 338. Philip's victory put Greece under Macedonian control, and Greek autonomy came to an end. x
  • 43
    Philip's Assassination and Legacy
    Trace Philip's reign down to his assassination in 336, focusing on his incorporation of the Greek states into the Macedonian Empire, his plan to invade the Persian Empire, and his controversial seventh marriage that led to an open clash with his son Alexander. x
  • 44
    Alexander the Great—Youth, Early Kingship
    For all Alexander's brilliance as a general and strategist, was he truly great? Begin your investigation of history's most celebrated conqueror, getting at the man behind the myth. Alexander had ample motives to wish his father dead, and circumstantial evidence suggests that he was involved in Philip's assassination. x
  • 45
    Alexander as General
    Alexander enormously expanded Philip's foreign ventures. This lecture recounts his three major battles that captured the entire Persian Empire: Granicus, Issus, and Gaugamela. All were won against great odds. Alexander spread his conquests as far as present-day Pakistan before his army mutinied. x
  • 46
    Alexander as King
    Exploring Alexander's claim to greatness, you look at his increasingly erratic behavior during his conquests, evident when he used the excuse of two apparent attempts on his life to get rid of vocal opponents. You also consider the accuracy of the view that he was an idealist. x
  • 47
    Alexander as Man—and God?
    One of the most controversial aspects of Alexander's reign is whether he considered himself divine. This lecture explores his self-identification as son of Zeus, his desire to be worshiped as a god, and the attitude of his court and army toward this very un-Greek-like behavior. x
  • 48
    Beyond the Classical—The Greeks and Us
    The final lecture sums up the course by examining several questions: What happened to Greece after the Classical period? What has been the role of Greek civilization in the Western tradition? And what lessons have we learned—or not learned—from the Greek experience with democracy, law, and empire? x

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Ian Worthington
Ph.D. Ian Worthington
University of Missouri, Columbia
Dr. Ian Worthington is the Curators' Professor and Professor of History at the University of Missouri, where he has been teaching since 1998. The Curators' Professor title, which he received in 2013, is the highest research award in the UM system. Born in England, Professor Worthington earned a B.A. in Classical Studies from the University of Hull and an M.A. in Ancient History from the University of Durham. In 1987 he was awarded a Ph.D. from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, with a thesis on the Greek orator Dinarchus and Athenian history in the age of Alexander the Great. He went on to teach for 10 years in the classics departments at the universities of New England and of Tasmania. In 2005 Professor Worthington won the Chancellorπs Award for Outstanding Research and Creativity in the Humanities and in 2007 the Student-Athlete Most Inspiring Professor Award. In 2011 he was the recipient of the William H. Byler Distinguished Professor Award and the CAMWS Excellence in College Teaching Award. Professor Worthington has published 6 sole-authored books, 11 edited books, and 100 articles, book chapters, and essays on Greek history, oratory and epigraphy, including By the Spear, The Rise and Fall of the Macedonian Empire (Oxford University Press: 2014), Demosthenes of Athens and the Fall of Classical Greece (Oxford University Press 2013), Philip II of Macedonia (Yale University Press 2008), and Alexander the Great: Man and God (Pearson 2004), and the Blackwell Companions to Ancient Macedonia (2010; coedited with Joseph Roisman), and Greek Rhetoric (2007). He is also editor-in-chief of Brill's New Jacoby. He and Joseph Roisman just completed a commentary on the ancient lives of the Attic orators for the Clarendon Ancient History Series (forthcoming, 2015). He is working on a biography of Ptolemy I for Oxford University Press.
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Reviews

Rated 4.6 out of 5 by 59 reviewers.
Rated 5 out of 5 by The Greeks: Builders of Our World In the opening moments of this course, Professor Ian Worthington states that the lectures will provide (a) great detail about three major themes and (b) abundant critical commentary on the main topics. Without a doubt, those two objectives were met! This is a provocative history of ancient Greece in forty-eight lectures. Although the course focuses on the three principal topics of democracy, law, and imperialism, it is truly a comprehensive history, spanning the Greek Archaic Age to the death of Alexander the Great. There is a buoyant style to Professor Worthington’s lecturing with enthusiastic commentary like “It’s ok to get goose bumps” over the Battle of Marathon. There is also the emphasis on critical thinking, as we sort out the contradictions and limitations of our source materials about ancient Greek culture. The professor spices up the lectures with what he calls “heresies”--those controversial issues on which there exists scholarly debate. The lecturer always challenges us to weigh the evidence and make up our own minds about the contentious matters. The result is an opportunity to come to grips with complex and engaging historical questions about ancient Greece. Professor Worthington exhibits the problematic issues, then dissects the evidence like a scientist. Another strength of the lectures is the set of biographical profiles of famous Greeks. Such influential leaders as Solon, Cleisthenes, Pericles, Demosthenes, Philip of Macedonia, and Alexander the Great are covered chronologically. The lecturer does a masterful job of maintaining focus on the three major themes of democracy, law, and imperialism, plus developing the life stories that shaped new achievements in those areas. Another exemplary part of this course is the scholarship. From start to finish, the professor’s strong command of source materials is apparent, as he draws upon a wide range of texts to tell the story of the legal, democratic, and imperialistic developments. Aristotle’s summary of the Athenian Constitution is frequently cited as the basis for our knowledge of the democratic system of ancient Athens. There is also close work to the Greek historians, especially Thucydides’ account of the Peloponnesian War. For the Athenian legal system, Professor Worthington analyzes the surviving accounts of actual court proceedings. Miraculously, numerous documents from legal cases have survived. Because there were no attorneys in ancient Athens, individual citizens had to represent themselves in court. From the extant examples, it is clear that public speaking skills and argumentation were prerequisites for success in the legal arena. This is a thought-provoking set of lectures that will appeal to both introductory and advanced students of Greek civilization. It was inspiring to experience a set of lectures that analyzes minute details of the historical record while never losing track of the big picture of the foundations established by the ancient Greeks in the areas of democracy, law, and imperialism. The “long shadow” cast on future ages is a complex tapestry of issues still relevant to our lives today. In this regard, the Greeks were the builders of our world. COURSE GRADE: A March 8, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by A Truly Great Course! A very interesting and thought-provoking course. It goes beyond the basics and asks questions about the how and why of ancient Greece and its impact on the world. Definitely recommended! October 9, 2014
Rated 2 out of 5 by Some Strengths, Some Weaknesses As a lawyer and former student of Ancient Greek history, philosophy, and drama in college, I really looked forward to this course. Let me start with the positives. The professor goes into tremendous detail, particularly in historical accounts of major episodes in the Archaic and Classical periods of Greek history. I learned quite a bit of biographical and factual material that filled holes in my own knowledge. This was of real value. Yet, I can only give the course a fair rating. Here are the reasons. First, the course simply does not live up to its core promise. While there is considerable micro-detail about much of the history, there really is precious little in the 48 lessons that teaches deeply to the legacy of Greek law, government, and culture. It's promised throughout, but it's rarely and inadequately delivered. The last lecture is a good illustration of my point. It promises to teach "Beyond the Classical - The Greeks and Us." Yet, the good professor spends more time dispensing yet more detail about Athens after Alexander than he does teaching the Greek legacy for us. Other than some rather casual teaching about jury trials, minor time on other legal matters and a slight discussion of trends in democracy, I did not come away at all fulfilled in learning much about "The Long Shadow." This was a major disappointment for me. The professor enjoyed teaching "heresies." What he meant by this was that he disagreed with conventional historians on various matters, and he wanted to teach it his way. I am more than fine with that. I had been taught mostly positive accounts about Pericles, for example. Also, I have some considerable admiration for Alexander. Yet, I am always open to other views. What I didn't care for in this course was the professor's total inattention to the side opposite to his. It would have been far better, in my view, to have heard an account of Pericles' accomplishments and contributions and then heard the "heretical" other side. Instead we just get the criticism. Likewise, in the three lectures on Alexander, we learn about his treachery, all the deaths in the wars, and his claims to divine origins. Fair enough. But there was virtually nothing on the ways in which all that was the Greek legacy was spread throughout much of the ancient world through Alexander and his successors. This was the means through which "the long shadow" began to spread. How much credit Alexander deserves for all that is certainly up for discussion, but there's far more to Alexander than that he was a successful general, war criminal, and self-proclaimed god. The professor goes down numerous odd and unproductive trails. As an illustration, he spends a fair amount of time debating whether Solon or Cleisthenes was the true father of democracy. He seems to decide with Cleisthenes partly because Solon was ultimately unsuccessful in his own time. Sure, Solon was unsuccessful. He was trying something radical, and powerful interests opposed him. And Cleisthenes took steps, some of which are entirely irrelevant to our own time. What's the use of debating which is the true father of democracy? This seemed an unfortunate distraction. What I would have preferred would have been a more thorough and sophisticated set of teachings about how principles of law and government from Ancient Greece influenced Roman and, then later, our politics and jurisprudence. There's precious little of this in the course. So, if you're basically after a detailed historical and biographical account of some of the major events and figures of the period, you will find some value in the course (especially if you can deal better than I did with the biases the professor calls "heresies"). But if you're looking for a course that gives serious attention to the legacy of Ancient Greece on our law and jurisprudence, I cannot recommend this course. July 29, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Highly valuable This course is worth every cent, in fact it is underpriced. I would pay much more for this course. Ian Worthington is just as fluid a speaker as he is a writer, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him. He is able to cover a lot of information in a short time. What I love is how enthusiastic he is, you can tell he loves his work and probably would talk about it all day if he could. That makes it easy to love the course. I recommend this to everyone and especially anyone interested in Greek history. This course is a must! July 20, 2014
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