Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire

Course No. 3390
Professor Kenneth W. Harl, Ph.D.
Tulane University
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Course No. 3390
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Course Overview

With the exception of Jesus Christ, virtually no figure in antiquity is more renowned in the history of the West than Alexander the Great. His feats are the stuff of legend, inspiring medieval romances, painting and sculptures, and even blockbuster movies. And more than two millennia after the legendary ruler's death, Alexander's remarkable victory over the Persians in 331 B.C. still stands as an emblem for superlative military leadership. The young Julius Caesar compared his achievements to those of the Macedonian king—and found them lacking. Napoleon styled himself as a new Alexander, even invading Egypt in the shadow of his Macedonian predecessor. Even U.S. general Norman Schwarzkopf, when asked to comment on the U.S. victory in the Gulf War, cited a surprising inspiration: Alexander the Great.

But the historical Alexander—the man behind the legend—is even more intriguing than the stories that have sprung up about him in the centuries since his death. Alexander was more than simply a battle lord or king; through his remarkable achievements, he changed the face of the ancient world and laid the foundation for the great traditions of the Roman Empire. And he did it all in fewer than 12 years.

In Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire, go beyond the myth to learn about this great military leader and his world. In 36 spellbinding lectures, you'll enter the world of Alexander and witness the astonishing feats of military genius that made his name renowned for millennia after his death.

Your guide into the life of this legendary leader is Professor Kenneth W. Harl of Tulane University. An expert on the classical world, Professor Harl presents Alexander within the context of his life and times. You'll see Alexander as the successor to great political and cultural traditions as well as an innovative military genius who forged a new world order. Through this detailed portrait, you'll go beyond the legends and the myths to truly understand what made Alexander great.

Who Was Alexander?

The story of Alexander starts generations before his birth, in the tumultuous conflicts that shook ancient Greece. Professor Harl takes you deep into this history, providing a context for understanding Alexander's daunting challenges and incredible achievements.

The course begins with an overview of history in the Greek city-states in the centuries prior to Alexander's reign. You'll learn about the battles, alliances, and competing interests that shaped Alexander's world, from the clashes among Greek forces, to the earth-shattering conflict with the Persians, to the surprising rise of the Macedonians under Alexander's father, Philip II.

Next, you'll witness Alexander's sudden ascendance to the throne of Macedon and trace his remarkable military career as he conquered the Balkans, Persia, central Asia, and Egypt and pushed the boundaries of the known world with his historic invasion of India. In the final section of the course, you'll consider Alexander's legacy, examining the struggles for power that arose after his death and exploring his influence on later history.

Along the way, several Alexanders emerge: the military general, Macedonian king, Persian emperor, Egyptian pharaoh, and leader of the Hellenic League. You see all sides of Alexander and learn about the many aspects of this extraordinary individual—the passions that drove him, the extraordinary talents and insights he brought to the battlefield, and the intensive training that helped mold his character.

Throughout, Professor Harl cites contemporary sources, including classical histories and eyewitness accounts, to reveal Alexander as he was seen in his own time. You'll weigh and balance these various accounts and learn how Alexander has been interpreted by both ancient and modern historians.

On the Field of Battle

Key to understanding Alexander's greatness is an appreciation of his genius on the battlefield. With Professor Harl's expert guidance, you'll learn how battles were fought and won in the ancient world as you survey some of the key battles that rocked the Mediterranean prior to Alexander's reign. From the historic clash of the Persian pretender, Cyrus, against his brother Artaxerxes to Philip's extraordinary victory over the Greeks, Professor Harl illuminates the brilliant battlefield tactics that would later inspire Alexander.

Professor Harl elucidates Alexander's great martial achievements within this larger military history. You'll survey how Alexander continued the reorganization of the Macedonian army begun by his father and consider the methods he used to motivate his troops, inspire loyalty, and maintain discipline.

You'll also head onto the battlefield, where you'll take a tactician's perspective on some of Alexander's greatest triumphs:

  • The Battle of the Granicus River: Alexander waited to start the battle late in the day and employed audacious tactics to lure his Persian enemy off high ground and onto the river bank where the troops were most vulnerable.
  • The Battle of Issus: Alexander conducted a spectacular strategic march to surprise the great King Darius on the banks of the Pinarus in late afternoon and smashed the Persian weak left wing with a furious cavalry assault.
  • The Battle of Gaugamela: In his climactic clash with Darius, Alexander brilliantly manipulated his enemy's strategies, the local terrain, and the placement of his troops to deliver a staggering defeat that was his greatest martial masterpiece.
  • The Battle of the Hydaspes River: After undertaking a perilous nighttime river crossing, Alexander launched a masterful cavalry battle against daunting Indian forces.

Each battle is brought vividly to life through detailed lectures and schematic representations of Alexander's innovative troop maneuvers and tactics. Professor Harl provides a blow-by-blow account of each conflict, illustrating how this great general assessed the terrain, predicted the movements of his enemy, and moved his forces to win the day.

How Alexander Changed the World

Alexander's empire did not survive beyond his lifetime. After his untimely death at the age of 33, the vast empire he had so brilliantly united was divided among his various successors. And yet, despite the collapse of his empire, Alexander's legacy has cast a long shadow on the history of the West.

Professor Harl traces the many ways that Alexander continued to shape the world of the Mediterranean, the Near East, and beyond. You'll consider, for example, how Alexander transformed the economy of the ancient world through his various military and civic projects. Drawing on his special expertise in the study of ancient coins, Professor Harl illuminates how Alexander's large-scale projects put into circulation wealth that had been locked away in royal treasuries, creating a new and robust commercial economy.

You'll also examine the impact of Alexander's influence in other spheres:

  • The spread of Greek culture: Although a Macedonian by birth, Alexander espoused many Greek traditions and exported these "Hellenistic" practices to the lands he conquered.
  • The founding of new, Greek-style cities: Alexander founded a string of cities—his Alexandrias—throughout the Mediterranean world, the Near East, and central Asia.
  • The image of military leadership: After Alexander, subsequent rulers modeled their appearance on the iconic image of the young Macedonian conqueror.
  • The practice of religion: Alexander assimilated gods of his conquered lands to his system of Greek gods, and through his presumption of divine birth, laid the foundation for the veneration of later rulers.

An Enduring Legacy

As you examine Alexander's achievements, you'll see how, in Professor Harl's words, "a single individual can rapidly, fundamentally, and irrevocably change his world." From his dissemination of Hellenistic culture, which served to unify the Western world and lay the foundation for the Roman Empire, Alexander reshaped his world and left a legacy that is still felt today.

With Professor Harl as your guide, you'll gain a uniquely comprehensive understanding of this legacy. A noted scholar, teacher, and researcher, Professor Harl shares the fascinating insights drawn from his expert knowledge of historic battles, ancient writings, and the latest archaeological excavations. He neither faults nor praises Alexander's strategies and decisions, but instead gives an unbiased, wholly factual account of this enduring figure's life and its resonating impact on the world.

Join Professor Harl for this journey into the world of Alexander and see how the Western world—and, indeed, our world—still bear the marks of this legendary conqueror.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Alexander the Great—Conqueror or Tyrant?
    Who was Alexander, and how has his story come down to us? Learn about the ancient sources that contribute to our understanding of Alexander's life and legacy, and examine the ways this great figure has been perceived by modern scholars. x
  • 2
    Greece in the Age of Hegemonies
    The story of Alexander starts centuries before his birth, in the Greek city-states scattered throughout the Aegean. Trace the conflicts, alliances, and political crises that shaped the Greek world in the generations before Alexander and paved the way for his father Philip's remarkable conquest of the region. x
  • 3
    Achaemenid Persia
    The Persian Empire of the 4th century offered a formidable opponent to Alexander in his conquest for world domination. Explore the history and conditions of this mighty empire in the two centuries before Alexander's rise and examine the political and administrative structures that contributed to its success as a world power. x
  • 4
    The World of Early Macedon
    Although they would ultimately unite Greece, Philip and Alexander were not considered full-fledged Greeks. Learn about their "barbarian" homeland of Macedon, and investigate its relationship to the more culturally influential city-states of Greece. x
  • 5
    Philip II and the Macedonian Way of War
    In his victories, Alexander was indebted to his father, Philip II, for his remarkable innovations in warcraft. Investigate Philip's achievements, including his reorganization of the Macedonian army, and gain an appreciation of his achievements through a study of three decisive battles. x
  • 6
    The Third Sacred War
    Examine a turning point in Greek political history, the Third Sacred War, a conflict that pitted major powers in Sparta and Thebes in a battle for dominance. Trace the complicated negotiations in this conflict that led to Philip's control of Delphi and, ultimately, the Aegean. x
  • 7
    The Macedonian Conquest of Greece
    By 346 B.C., Philip of Macedon could congratulate himself on some stunning victories, but his greatest achievement was yet to come. Investigate the ingenious political and military maneuvers, culminating in the decisive Battle of Charonea, which gave Philip control of the Greek world. x
  • 8
    The League of Corinth
    Philip's defeat of Greece was matched only by the diplomatically ingenious settlement of his newly conquered territories. Analyze the ruler's strategies for running his empire, and take a close look at one of his most impressive administrative projects, his creation of the League of Corinth. x
  • 9
    Alexander, Heir Apparent
    Gain an introduction to Alexander as you learn about the influence of his parents, Philip II and Olympias. Examine the shaping force of life at the Macedonian court of Pella, explore the sense of "destiny" that would motivate the young king throughout his meteoric career, and investigate the lurid politics that put Alexander on the throne. x
  • 10
    Securing the Inheritance, 336–335 B.C.
    When Philip died, Alexander was only 20 or 21 years old. In this lecture, discover how the young king secured the remarkable political legacy left by his father, including his efforts to subdue Balkan peoples and take control of the League of Corinth. x
  • 11
    The Invasion of Asia
    When Alexander crossed into Asia in 334 B.C., he was essentially conquering the known world—or most of the civilized known world—for his generation. Take a close look at the forces Alexander brought to bear on this excursion, including his superb army, talented officers, and remarkable engineering corps. x
  • 12
    The Battle of the Granicus
    Join Alexander on the field of war for the first of his four greatest battles as he encountered the Persian forces at the Granicus River in May 334 B.C. Analyze the audacious and ingenious strategies that allowed Alexander to defeat his Persian foe in a stunning victory. x
  • 13
    The Turning Point—Issus and Tyre
    With three decisive victories—one battle and two sieges—Alexander essentially conquered the western half of the Persian Empire, and all in fewer than three years. Follow the battle strategies of Alexander as he drove the Persian king Darius from the battlefield in their first conflict. x
  • 14
    Alexander, Pharaoh of Egypt
    Following his remarkable victories over the Persians, Alexander entered the rich territories of Egypt. Explore the reasons for Alexander's easy conquest of the land of the pharaohs and learn about his great achievements there, including his establishment of a new city, Alexandria. x
  • 15
    Heroes, Oracles, and the Gods
    Alexander famously equated himself with heroic, semi-divine forebears, such as Achilles and Heracles. But did he really consider himself a god? Examine the evidence of Alexander's divine aspirations, and consider whether his emulation of the gods was pragmatic or idealistic. x
  • 16
    The Campaign of Gaugamela
    Two years after Alexander's resounding defeat of Darius, the two foes met again on the battlefield of Gaugamela. Study the strategies and tactics that Alexander employed in his most inspired campaign, which effectively gave the Macedonian king control of the entire Persian Empire. x
  • 17
    The Conquest of Iran
    Following his stunning victory at Gaugamela, Alexander pushed on into ancient Iran in pursuit of Darius. Trace his steps as he pursued the former Persian king, subdued the various satraps who ruled these vast territories, and established his reign over the eastern regions of Bactria and Sogdiana. x
  • 18
    Alexander on the Rim of the World
    After defeating the Persian Empire, Alexander defied expectation and continued his expansion into central Asia. Examine Alexander's wars of pacification to keep this new frontier under control, as well as his reorganization of the Macedonian army to prepare for fresh conquests. x
  • 19
    Governing and Taxing the Empire
    Alexander is often seen as the supreme man of action, conquering new lands and expanding his frontier. But how did this man of action rule the lands he had conquered? Explore how Alexander administered his extensive territories and consider whether he deliberately sought a policy of cultural unification. x
  • 20
    Alexander and the Macedonian Opposition
    Despite Alexander's military successes, between 330 B.C. and 327 B.C., there were signs of unrest among the Macedonian forces. Consult contemporary sources to learn about three major incidents that provide evidence of a growing sense of opposition to Alexander. x
  • 21
    The Invasion of India
    Embark with Alexander on his most stunning campaign into the Indus Valley. Explore Alexander's reasons for wanting to undertake this expedition, learn about Indian battle methods and terrain, and examine why the Indian rajahs presented such formidable opposition to the invading Macedonians. x
  • 22
    The Battle of the Hydaspes
    During the India campaign, Alexander waged his most remarkable battle at the Hydaspes River. Learn why this battle—which required intense fighting in a rising river against forces backed by trained elephants—represents the general Alexander at his best. x
  • 23
    Mutiny and Withdrawal
    Continue your study of Alexander's difficult eastward campaign by following the Macedonian forces as they trekked toward the mouth of the Indus River, and hear about the so-called mutiny of the Macedonian forces that halted Alexander's continued press into this forbidding territory. x
  • 24
    The Gedrosian Desert and Voyage of Nearchus
    After nearly 10 years on the march, Alexander's troops were ready to return to Macedon. Follow their long and dangerous march out of India across bleak stretches of landscape, and learn of the accompanying journey taken by Alexander's fleet, which would lay the course for future trade routes. x
  • 25
    Deification and Succession
    When Alexander returned from his India expedition, he had been away from his empire for almost six years and hadn't visited Macedonia in 10 years. Examine the administrative challenges he encountered upon his return and explore the changes he made to get his empire under control. x
  • 26
    Alexander and the Macedonians—Opis
    Learn about the final years of Alexander's reign before his premature death at the age of 33. Discover how his need to appease his new Persian subjects led to unrest among his Macedonian troops, culminating in the mutiny of Opis, and the steps Alexander took to quell this uprising. x
  • 27
    Alexander and the Greeks—The Lamian War
    Unlike his father, Philip, Alexander had a tenuous relationship with his Greek subjects and made many mistakes in his dealings with them after returning from India. Examine Alexander's position as the head of the League of Corinth, including the Greek uprising that followed his disastrous Exiles Decree. x
  • 28
    The Diadochoi, 323–316 B.C.
    At his death, Alexander failed to name a specific successor, saying instead that his empire should go to "the strongest." Meet the key players in the battle for supremacy of the Macedonian Empire, including some of Alexander's key generals, governors and satraps, and family members. x
  • 29
    The Partition of the Empire, 316–301 B.C.
    Continue your consideration of the break-up of Alexander's empire after his death and investigate the critical conflict in this confrontation, the Battle of Ipsus. Review the key players who maneuvered for power and examine their various solutions to the problem of how to rule the empire. x
  • 30
    The Hellenistic Concert of Powers
    The immense Macedonian Empire built by Alexander was completely dismantled in the aftermath of the climactic Battle of Ipsus. Trace the contours of the newly divided territories as they were divvied up by the victorious leaders: Seleucus, Lysimachus, Cassander, and Ptolemy. x
  • 31
    Macedonian Courts in the Near East
    By 275 B.C., the Macedonian Empire had been divided into three kingdoms. Explore the ways the rulers of these new kingdoms attempted to emulate Alexander in their use of coinage, their definition of kingship, their interest in exploration and voyages of discovery, and their founding of new cities. x
  • 32
    The Hellenization of the Near East
    Begin your consideration of the legacy left by Alexander with a study of the political consequences of the great Macedonian ruler's reign. Investigate the traces of Alexander's "Hellenizing" influence as seen in the Greek-style cities, sponsorship of athletic and cultural festivals, and political administration in Asia, Egypt, and Macedon. x
  • 33
    The Monetization of the Near East
    What was the effect of Alexander's massive military spending and city-building efforts on economic life in the Mediterranean? Explore how Alexander drastically transformed the economy of the ancient world through the widespread coinage of money, the creation of new markets, and the establishment of long-distance trade. x
  • 34
    Hellenization and the Gods
    Wherever he went, Alexander viewed the foreign gods he encountered as versions of the Greek deities he worshiped in Macedon. Delve into the effect of this practices on religion in the ancient world and examine to what extent Alexander can be said to have "Hellenized" worship in his empire. x
  • 35
    The Limits of Hellenization
    Why did Alexander's empire dissolve after his death? If his legacy was not his empire, what did he bequeath to his heirs? Consider the impact of Alexander's dissemination of Hellenistic culture on the ancient world and in later empires. x
  • 36
    Alexander the Great and the Shadow of Rome
    What would've happened if there had been no Alexander? Trace the influence of this great leader conqueror after his death, and explore his ultimate legacy as history's premier military general and the standard of excellence in leadership. x

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Your professor

Kenneth W. Harl

About Your Professor

Kenneth W. Harl, Ph.D.
Tulane University
Dr. Kenneth W. Harl is Professor of Classical and Byzantine History at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he teaches courses in Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader history. He earned his B.A. from Trinity College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University. Recognized as an outstanding lecturer, Professor Harl has received numerous teaching awards at Tulane, including the coveted Sheldon H. Hackney Award. He has...
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Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 75.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent Lectures/Poor Summaries AUDIO: CDs I learned a lot from this course and eagerly looked forward to each lecture, sometimes doubling up when I just had to move forward with the story. Professor Harl has a straight-forward no-nonsense style that is engaging (for instance, referring to “Alex” and his father “Phil”), full of interesting and pertinent detail. He is not at all shy about taking issue with scholarly opinion, and gives his reasons for doing so. He also assesses the ancient sources for what we know about Alexander and other key figures, notably Plutarch and Arrian, rendering many interesting judgments on their accuracy and/or usefulness. While Professor Harl is excellent in treating Alexander and his conquests, providing us with extensive word pictures of battles (which I assume are accompanied by maps and other illustrations in the video version), what I appreciate the most is the extensive treatment of the periods before and after Alexander. Indeed, less than half of the thirty-six lectures deal with Alexander. In some important ways, Professor Harl continues the story from immediately after the Peloponnesian War to the coming of the Romans. This includes a great deal on the truly significant accomplishments of Alexander’s father, Philip II, and the extended and complicated story of the break-up of the Alexander’s empire after his death. Professor Harl takes issue especially with those that minimize Alexander’s accomplishments, noting for instance that the logistical capabilities on campaign were not equaled until Napoleon, and, despite scholarly sniping at Alexander’s military genius, shows how his successes were truly his own and not simply that of his generals, again favorably comparing Alexander to Napoleon (the victory at the Granicus equal to Austerlitz). Likewise, Professor Harl has his own take on the nature and extent of Hellenization, set in motion by Alexander, which is detailed and well-argued. Though this is another fine course by Professor Harl, it is marred by lecture summaries in the guidebook that are the poorest I have ever encountered. It also lacks maps. Many of the lecture summaries do not even extend to a full page, others are only a short paragraph or two beyond that. I cannot help but compare this guidebook with that for Professor Harl’s TC course ‘The Peloponnesian War’, also 36 lectures. That guidebook’s lecture summaries (also including suggested readings and questions to consider) totaled 193 fairly detailed pages and eleven pages of maps compared to the 86 pages and no maps in this course guidebook. Fortunately, the rest of the guidebook is excellent, with detailed timeline, glossary, and more than fifty pages of biographical sketches of figures mentioned in the lectures. There is also an extensive annotated bibliography that includes televised documentaries, works of fiction, and movies. If it were not for the abbreviated lecture summaries and lack of maps, this would be a five star course.
Date published: 2015-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Context and Alexander This is my second time through these audio lectures (for those considering purchasing you might consider the video version since the accompanying text/pdf version is dismally inadequate...or you can supplement with internet research). My first time through the lectures I had not had the benefit of the background or context provided by courses like the GREEK and PERSIAN WARS and the PELOPONESIAN WAR. There are many fine reviews included here, so I won't restate the details...suffice it to say that Dr Harl again provides a wonderfully detailed account of possibly the most fascinating and complex figure in classical history. Alexander was a man of his times, not ours. His method of conquest (brutality and plunder) were in step with 4th BCE methods. His actions were well planned yet dictated by the moment...his motives, well, were his motives (whatever that means...from just wanting Mom to be proud to megalomania). His results...his impact on history is enormous, almost beyond comprehension. As Dr Harl summarizes (and I paraphrase): "If there had been no Alexander the Great, there would have been no Caesar, no Christ, no western civilization as we know it....and, Ladies and Gentlemen, we wouldn't be here right now!" Highly is often on sale, and coupons help a lot.
Date published: 2015-04-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from More than Alexander This course includes extensive background such as battles and alliances among the Greek and surrounding political entities. I felt inundated with dates, people, and events. If you are looking for a broad background on Greek history this could be the course for you. I was expecting something narrower --- more targeted on Alexander and his exploits.
Date published: 2015-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course about a Great Individual of Ancient H Professor Harl does his usual excellent presentation about Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire. Professor Harl explains the feats of Alexander and why is he is given the title of “Great”. The first several lectures describe history and environment of the ancient world prior to Alexander becoming King of Macedonia. These lectures provide the necessary background to understanding the current state of the ancient world at the time of ascension of Alexander to King and how this influenced Alexander’s actions and successes. The last several lectures describes the legacy of Alexander’s empire after his death and why this empire did not continue onward. Professor Harl provides excellent descriptions of the greatest battles of Alexander. His presentation explains how the forces were aligned at the start of the battle and how the battle unfolded after the conflict started. Additionally, Professor Harl provides information about the personality and experience of Alexander’s opponents as well as the disposition of these opponents are the end of the conflicts. I highly recommend this course for anybody interested in history of the ancient world and especially the history of Alexander the Great.
Date published: 2015-02-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great survey of Alexander and the Hellenistic age I found this course to be a wonderful introduction to Alexander, his historical context, and his impacts on Greece and the ancient Near East. Dr. Harl lectures with a lot of enthusiasm for the subject and supplements the historical narrative with numerous illuminating asides and often funny comments on the major players and situations. The course outline provides a nice context for understanding what motivated Alexander, with a good deal of attention paid to the Greek situation and Alexander's relationship to Phillip, as well as Phillip's achievements in creating the Macedonian army and institutions that Alexander drew upon to do what he did. The content of the course is well balanced between setting the scene for Alexander, describing Alexander's own life and accomplishments, and outlining what happened to Alexander's conquests after his death. I was happy to find that Alexander himself was featured heavily in the core content, which Dr. Harl delivered using an engaging and clear narrative approach while still discussing the ancient sources and varying ancient and modern interpretations of Alexander's actions. I've read a couple books on Alexander, and this course does as good a job as anything in humanizing this otherwise legendary person and sympathetically explaining his actions in the political, religious, and social contexts of his day. I should note that I've listened to a few of Dr. Harl's other TTC lectures and generally like his delivery style, though I understand it may not be for everyone. I bought the audio download version of the course.
Date published: 2015-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Harl Masterpiece Kenneth Harl is a first-rate scholar. Among Teaching Company lecturers he is in the same league with Daniel Robinson, in other words, one of the best. I would order any of his courses without hesitation. (I own six.) Harl's greatest course is "The Peloponnesian War." This one on Alexander and the Macedonian Empire continues the story where that one left off and is a worthy successor. The two should be considered as acts in the great drama of Greek history related by a master story-teller. Today it is fashionable to dismiss Alexander as an alcoholic war criminal. He was that and more and Harl does not attempt to white wash the great conqueror. He leans more to my view: Alexander was probably the most consequential human who has ever lived. Try to imagine world history without him. To appreciate what Alexander did and what that means, this course is the place to start.
Date published: 2014-10-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thrilling and deeply informative I've become a huge fan of Prof Harl. I've taken a greatly enjoyed all of his TC courses except for the brand new "Barbarian Empires of the Steppes", which I just bought and will soon enjoy. I have always found him to be a superb lecturer who really knows and loves the material and who delivers it with passion ans with clarity. His course on Alexander is no exception. It's full of detail which I found captivating. I loved it and learned a lot, even though I already have a pretty good knowledge of Greek and Hellenistic history. Well done, Prof Harl.
Date published: 2014-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Alex the Conquerer!! THE LECTURER: This is the fifth TGC title I have taken taken by Professor Harl. As almost all reviewers agree, his presentation of the course is exceptional. He is so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the subject that he often digresses to secondary points (always interesting though, usually chuckling to himself and adding some ironic commentary as he does so. Some readers find this irritating, but I found it absolutely endearing and fascinating, and felt that in fact, it made the history come alive. CONTENT: The course mostly follows the historical narrative of Alex's career, starting with his father Phillip (the great?), going through his reign and conquests, and finally describing the partitioned empire that is to follow his death. One gets a feeling of a man larger than life, with an irrepressible urge to conquer and explore, and endless energies. His ambivalent attitude to his own divinity during his life and afterwards is discussed at length. The Empire and its Hellenistic culture (as an extension to classical Greek culture) that he created will later merge into the Roman empire, serve as its core, and in so doing will indirectly affect Western culture for Millenia to come. This is fascinating course, extremely well presented and put together and centered on one of the most remarkable and unique characters in all of history, It can't get much better than this...
Date published: 2014-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well Organized and Presented Course This is my 46th review and I have a number of courses that overlap with this one. I had wondered how much more this would tell me than the other courses but found it well organized, presented and thoughtful. The maps and graphics are well done and the descriptions of key battles helpful. Starting with the days before Alexander and in particular his father Phillip II Professor Harl does a very good job of describing his sources and explains his reasons for using or not using particular sources. Thoughout the course he points out where there are scholarly differences in interpretation and where he differs explains his reasons. I knew very little of the campaigns in Persia or even less about the campaigns in India and found those lectures of particular interest. Likewise the period after Alexander's death and the splintering of his empire leading eventually to the Greek invitation to Rome to overthrow the Macedonians which, of course, did not work out so well for the Greeks . Anyone interested in this period of history and its influence on the later Roman empire will find this course of value. I certainly understand a great deal more about Alexander and his place in history as a result. It is easy to recommend this course.
Date published: 2014-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire There are not enough words in the English language to describe this lecture by Professor Harl. And yet none-the-less, the detail, confidence, expertise, professionalism and sheer “AUUA” given by Professor Harl sets him apart from all other Professors on this subject…… The fact that he has devoted his life to history, along with his credentials, close contacts (Eugene Borza), allows him to provide accurate facts and not be persuaded by politics, religion and personal agenda. He sets the stage at the beginning of each lecture and follows it with well delivered and detailed content. I recommend this to anyone who wants to learn about Alexander and the Macedonians. I recommend this to anyone who wants to learn how a single individual can change the world for the better. I like to thank Professor Harl on providing such as extraordinary lecture
Date published: 2013-09-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from So-So I was somewhat disappointed in this course. Prof. Harl certainly knows his material, but a lot of the presentation was dull. (The first lecture -- on the ancient sources about Alexander -- was mind-numbing.) The first portion -- about Philip of Macedon and the Greek world at the time -- was fairly interesting. It set the stage very well for the story of Alexander and gave a lot of detail on Alexander's very interesting father. The next big chunk -- about Alexander's conquests went into far more detail on each and every battle than I ever cared to know. In addition, Prof. Harl is an apologist for Alexander and seems to find that he could do no wrong. Even a massacre by his troops (although apparently not with Alexander's permission) is dismissed as occurring because, basically, the troops really had had a bad day. I actually found the last section -- about the post-Alexander period -- the most interesting, with its descriptions of the conflicts after his death and his influence on the wider world. Maybe there should be a caveat that this course is an advanced course and only for those with a firm grounding in the history of the period and a fascination with military tactics and battles. Unlike other courses I was not sorry to see this one come to and end.
Date published: 2012-12-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Course audio course Before I took this course, I had heard of Alexander the Great and that he had conquered lots of territory, including India. After the course, I knew quite a bit more about what kind of man he was. I especially knew about his motivations, military campaigns, and political savvy. Prof. Harl does a nice job discussing Alexander the Great. As mentioned above, he does a particularly good job describing Alexander's military campaigns and battles. He also does a nice job describing how Alexander managed to administer such a large kingdom. My favorite lectures, however, dealt with the stories of how Alexander came to power -- particularly the mythic story of his birth. I did find Prof. Harl somewhat of an Alexander apologist. My favorite example of this was when he indicated that, after Alexander killed his friend in a drunken brawl, Prof. Harl indicated, essentially, that "boys will be boys." Overall, an interesting course. I would recommend it to people who would like to learn more about Alexander the Great or antiquity in general. Thank you to Prof. Harl and TTC for this Great Course.
Date published: 2012-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great, both alexander and the course Well, Dr. Harl did the course on Vikings, which I liked, but it wasn't 5 star, more like 4....and for some reason I figured I'd get this to help flesh out my knowledge of Greek history. It was really terrific. Dr. Harl really had a great presentation, easy to listen to, never failed to keep my attention, and I found it fascinating. Alexander, like most despots/kings/geniuses, was kind of a revolting megalomaniac, but what a megalomaniac. Highly recommended course.
Date published: 2012-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A plunderer of genius who changed us all. DVD reviews. When TTC courses overlap, potential buyers naturally wonder where to start and what to ignore. This is a review of three such courses concerned with the political and military history of classical Greece: Dr Hales’s THE GREEK AND PERSIAN WARS as well as two courses by Dr. Harl, THE PELOPONESIAN WAR and ALEXANDER THE GREAT AND THE MACEDONIAN EMPIRE. All are great and very informative. So the key question is: How much and what kind of information do you want? At what point does “good enough” become “too much” for you? The general overview and best first step, unless you are very familiar with Greek history, is undoubtedly GREEK AND PERSIAN WARS. Listening to Dr Hale is like sitting around a campfire with a good storyteller. The period covered is 560 to 320 B.C., ending shortly after the death of Alexander the Great. And like all great stories, we start with very few characters vividly drawn before things build up. Included too are plenty of maps and pictures from Dr Hale’s many archaeological expeditions. The weakness of personality-driven storytelling is that impersonal factors (economics, geography, culture, sociology, etc.) get forgotten. It’s all “and then…, and then…, and then…”, like a small child’s account of the day. Dr Hale neatly avoids this by inserting plenty of impersonal factors into his narrative, but in a light way so that the flow is not interrupted too much. All in all, an excellent 24-lecture course. And a good place to stop if your interest in ancient Greek political history is only casual. The more alert among you might wonder how the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) fits into Hales’s course, since it was primarily a Greek-on-Greek conflict. He gives a general outline with more details near the final phase of the war because Persian financial support of Sparta played a role in its eventual victory. But if you want more, Dr Harl is your man. He too is an excellent raconteur. He has to be. PELOPONNESIAN offers enormous detail, with 17 lectures out of 36 providing the requisite political, military, sociological and cultural factors affecting the various Greek city states before the war even begins. This is also a course about the perceptions and working methods of the world’s first truly “professional historian”, Thucydides, also a participant in this war. Why so much detail? In good part because 19th Century British historians popularized this war as a contest between democracy and the forces of autocracy. As they portrayed it, this conflict foreshadowed Great Britain’s resistance to Napoleon. Athens was the “good guy”, a beacon of freedom and culture. Sparta was a war-obsessed military machine. Actually, as Dr. Harl explains, both sides had much in common, and Athens, though a democracy, was a despotic master of neighboring Greek city states that fell under its control. Indeed, much of its cultural glow (including the Parthenon) was unwillingly financed by its imperial possessions. This being the case, the “good versus evil” angle collapses, and Athens’ eventual loss had little impact on the evolution of Western civilization. In fact, as Harl points out, the Punic wars between Rome and Carthage (264-146 B.C.) were far more fateful. One may wonder then why devote so much time to this tiny 27-year war unless the whole period already fascinates you. Alexander the Great is a different story. In terms of historical influence, he is probably the most important non-religious figure in Western history, primarily because he “exported” Greece’s ideas and language into Persia and northern India. In return, Persian and Egyptian mystery religions flooded back and had a hand in shaping the evolution of early Christianity. But be warned, here too Dr Harl offers exhaustive political and military details through a span of 36 lectures covering 404-320 B.C. This not only includes Alexander’s career, but also that of his almost-equally talented father, Philip II of Macedon. Philip united Greece. Alexander built on this and conquered the whole “civilized” world then known to the Greeks. The final 8 courses are an excellent (again highly detailed) overview of the institutional and cultural influence of Alexander’s fragmenting empire after his death, until Rome took over the Eastern Mediterranean (320-30 B.C.). An interesting side issue not really explored in these lessons is the ethical ramification of ancient imperialism, be it Athenian, Macedonian or Persian. All three courses are full-throated, enthusiastic portrayals of mass murder and plunder. Of course ethical judgments are not “knowledge” whereas the exploration of past cause-and-effect relationships is. Also, it must be remembered that growth through trade, economic development or science and technology was entirely foreign to ancient thought. The fastest way to gain wealth and glory was to grab it from others, who presumably had achieved wealth through the same process. All in all, GREEK AND PERSIAN WARS is the best choice if you only want one overview. PELOPONNESIAN and ALEXANDER are for the dedicated souls who seek more, especially if they like military history. The guidebooks for the first two courses are excellent, with plenty of maps. The ALEXANDER guidebook is extremely skimpy, not a fit tool for such a detailed course.
Date published: 2012-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding course I admit to being a fan of Kenneth Harl's history courses but forgive me for superlatives--I will explain. I have taken all of the TC's excellent Greek History courses including in particular McInerney's Greek history and history of Alexander the Great. In college, there was much more emphasis on the Age of Pericles and I wanted to brush up on the Macdeonian era. I have just finished listening attentively and consecutively to McInerney's and Harls's courses, each of which cover the Alexander the Great and the Macedonian era. One would assume that there would be duplication but TC has avoided that obvious trap. McInerney's course is more of an introduction, with a couple of lectures on Alexander and many on the culture of the age. Very strong. Harls's course goes into greater depth on the political and military campaigns of Philip and Alexander. Equally strong, and as deep as an ivy league college lecture. One of the reviewers complained that Harl occasionally referred to "Alex" and "Phil." Don't be put off. Harls's gift is to make history live by delving into the motivations for the ruler's actions. One feels one is in the Macedonian equivalent of the West Wing. Thank you Kenneth Harl, thank you Teaching Company
Date published: 2011-10-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from detailed study of Phillip and Alexander Dr. Harl was engaging and interesting as ever, as the subject matter is clearly dear to him. While I appreciated his quips about Phillip and Alexander, I thought calling them Phil and Alex was a little bit over the top. The subject matter is interesting, and Dr. Harl was very successful in helping us understand why the four key battles were so crucial and so amazing in war history. In addition to just wars and conquests, he spent some time talking about the post-Alexander Hellenistic period, in terms of religion, culture and politics. That was very insightful as well.
Date published: 2011-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Harl the Great I have listened to a number of lectures from The Great Courses on CD in my car and I rank this one at the top of my list. If you have to listen to a series of lectures rather than watch them, the oratorical skills of the speaker become very important. In addition to being an expert in the subject matter, Dr. Harl has a lively way of presenting the material and is not afraid to inject a little humor along the way. I particularly enjoyed the very first lecture where he discusses the historical record and how dependent we are on just a few sources for facts about Alexander and his campaigns. This is the kind of course that you can enjoy at your own pace, put up for a year or two, and then listen to again. It is that good.
Date published: 2011-05-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very good intermediate level course on Alexander The numerous TTC courses I took on the Greeks and Romans served to frame this course well. I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it as much or gotten as much out of it had I taken this course first. This is not a 100 level college course. Professor Harl's presentation was solid and kept my attention, but he's not quite on par with some of the great TTC story tellers like Professor Fears or Brier. He does know his history though, and you'll get a level of detail in this course that exceeds most TTC history course. The best parts of this course were those that covered the narrative of Alexander, including the life of his father and his early years. The story line flowed well and moved the course fluidly from one lecture to the next. But Harl ends the life of Alexander about two thirds of the way through the lectures and turns his attention to the "and the Macedonian Empire" portion of the course. Though very informative, this last third didn't flow as well for me. I attribute this to the narrative of the break-up and division of Alexander's empire being full of names, events and a healthy dose of chaos. The narrative dies out a bit and becomes disjointed. I really felt like the story ended with Alexander's death and the rest was just an epilogue containing historical byproduct. This is not to say that the course wasn't good--it was! I enjoyed it, learned a lot and would both recommend it and take it again. That said, I suggest taking a couple related, entry-level history courses prior to this one in order to provide a contextual foundation that will allow you to enjoy this more detailed course to the fullest. Note: I listened to this course on CD.
Date published: 2011-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Great Course!!! I love this course! This was my first course by Prof Kenneth Harl (I bought the DVD version) and I really love it. As a result, I am thinking of watching his other courses. The best feature of this course I think is the visuals. I highly recommend buying the DVD format (I can't imagine really understanding this course fully if it's in audio format). Prof Harl provided the maps, schematics, animations, and most impressive of all, the battle plans & movements as they happened (e.g., Alexander's battle of Gaugamela, battle of Hydaspes, battle of Granicus and Issus). I felt these battles were the hallmark of this course - I literally felt I was in the middle of them as they happened! In addition, Prof Harl provided insights into why Alexander won certain battles, as well as into other interesting events (e.g., what really drove Alexander). i.e., the course didn't just outline events, but it provided background, insights and commentaries. This course is well researched, and Prof Harl provided clear sources of the different anecdotes and arguments. This was excellent. I couldn't find any negatives with this course. This is one of the best courses I have ever seen from The Great Courses. I highly highly recommend this course (DVD format).
Date published: 2011-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course Great Course. Well Balanced. Not excessive in my view. I thought audio was just fine. I loved it. I await with enthusiasm Dr. Harl's next series. Thank you Dr. Harl!!
Date published: 2010-11-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Overly Detailed.Apologetic.Did I Mention Detailed? Prof. Harl is outstanding. His other courses (I have taken five) are among the best of the best and highly recommended. So take them and skip this. My reasons - - - - Most unfortunate is the excessive, excessive detail. Missing the forest for the trees acquires a new meaning here. If there is a person or a place having the slightest connection with Alexander the Great not named by Prof. Harl, it was not for lack of trying. Leaving out material of little or no interest would have made the course half as long and twice as palatable. - - - Prof. Harl's unmitigated and enthusiastic admiration for Alexander was also, for me, quite off-putting. Yes, the man was a remarkably charismatic leader and a military genius. Yes, his vast accomplishments, especially in such a brief time and at such a young age, remain unequalled. And yes, the legacy of his life's work make him, in the opinion of some, the single most influential human being in history. - - - But none of this, in and of itself, makes him worthy of admiration. Prof. Harl simply does not engage, in any meaningful way, the question of the harms perpetuated by this man: untold numbers murdered, assaulted, orphaned, and enslaved, through entirely unjustified wars of aggression, in the service of one man's ambition to conquer. - - - If Alexander had lived closer to our own time, it is inconceivable that any would let these horrors pass, as Prof. Harl does in this course. The mere fact of temporal distance should not mitigate our judgment of what in a modern context would be considered atrocities. Prof. Harl repeatedly argues, in the strongest terms, against those who would characterize Alexander as a megalomaniac. Yet it is hard to see how he is not megalomania's epitome. So - for me, a course of excessive length, detailed to the point of frequent boredom, and inexcusably hagiographic. - - - I repeat, each of Prof. Harl's other courses is wonderful in every way. Steer clear of this one.
Date published: 2010-09-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Religion I have taken most of Prof. Karl's courses.He is a superb raconteur who holds your attention through every minute. In this course we move from history to religion. When we still debate the facts of the Vietnam War or 9/11 it is mystical the way we know with such certainty the life of Alexander. As in some religions, a long dead hero is raised to godhead...on few facts, much hearsay and myth. As a priest in the last lecture Karl asks that we worship at the feet of the God Alexander which he has created. The course is great fun...but Ithink we have enough godsL
Date published: 2010-08-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent with a refreshing perspective This course, as well as Professor Harl's course on the Peloponnesian War, is not only packed with salient information, it also presents a wider and more in depth perspective on the political situation and on the motives of all the people involved on all sides of the conflict. In the Peloponnesian War course, Professor Harl expanded my understanding of the Spartans and their political structure, and helped me appreciate them more. In this course on Alexander, he makes Philip II come through with more human and understandable motivation, as less of a controlling war monger, as more of a wise expansionist who ruled the Greek city states with no more interference than was called for to stabilize the political situation. Basically, in these courses (Peloponnesian War and Alexander the Great) Professor Harl expands the traditional western 'super-pro' Athenian perspective by showing the merits and reasons for the actions of the Spartans and the Macedonians, respectively. He does not idemonize Athens in the process. He just leaves the opposing sides each with their reasons for doing what they did. I must say, however, that he seemed none too fond of Demosthenes :) It's a refreshing course, it's full of information about battles, full of maps (the DVD is a must!!) Professor Harl spices up his lectures with little anecdotes to make the persons come alive. And he constantly refers us back to the sources so we know where he gets his information from. -- I had purposed to watch one lecture per night as my 'tv fix' but I often found myself watching two or three, agonizing in advance over the fact that I would too soon be done with the series. If I ever meet Professor Harl in person on some apppropriate occasion some day, I would love to pick his brain some more about his ardent dislike of Demosthenes and Demosthenes' warnings, which did seem valid to me.
Date published: 2010-08-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course, but get the DVD This is a wonderful course about an extraordinary figure in human history. My only complaint is that the audio-only version is difficult to follow because the course guide lacks maps of the area. This is a course where the DVD would be most helpful.
Date published: 2010-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I am a great fan of Dr. Harl. He never disappoints. He is an authority of the Greek - Byzantine - Roman periods. I am collecting all of his courses. The subject was covered very well and I learned much more than my reading of Arrian. Dr. Harl's enthusiasm for this subject is infectious. Well done Dr! I am so glad that you teach at the Teaching Co.
Date published: 2010-07-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Wealth of Information Professor Harl is one of the premier historians of the Hellenistic Period and he shares his insights with us in this amazing discourse into the life and legacy of Alexander the Great. It is evident by the course content that Dr Harl admires the accomplishments of this great historical figure but does a good job in preventing this admiration from biasing his presentation. The course opens with a discussion of the political landscape that predated Alexander and it isn't until well into the course that Alexander appears as the central figure. As a matter of fact, over half the course (around 19 lectures) covers material that does not concern Alexander directly but covers events leading up to his personal career and subsequently, explains the consequences of his reign. Dr Harl does an excellent job in outlining the credibility of the various source materials he uses to tell the story and this helps in getting a better perspective of the events as they actually occurred. His use of direct quotes from the source material adds flavor to the presentation. One problem detracted a little from my fully appreciating the course. In one lecture the background graphics were garbled and washed out. It appeared that the DVD transcription process was somehow faulty. This situation was limited to one 30 minute lecture and did not affect the lecture itself. This is the first quality control problem I have encountered with any of the numerous courses I have taken from the Teaching Company. All in all the course was excellent and I am looking forward to additional courses by Dr Harl in the future.
Date published: 2010-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Study of Greatness Finally, we are fortunate to have a balanced, erudite and factual account of the life and achievements of one of the most remarkable human beings ever to walk the planet. Professor Harl's presentation is nothing short of masterful. His depth of knowledge, his thoroughness and even-handed reliance on skillfully collected facts from the various sources results in a series of lectures that are immensely enjoyable and satisfying. What's more, this course is eminently useful – you will find yourself being inspired in your daily thoughts and actions by Alexander the Great's unflinching courage, his deep-running confidence, his irrepressible drive to be the very best that he could be, to realize his prodigious potential and achieve excellence in every facet of his life. Thank you Professor Harl and The Teaching Company for this brilliant course. Like Alexander himself, this course is a definite winner, and one that I would recommend to any and all people looking to fulfill their goals in life and truly be a success. After all, we can all learn from greatness.
Date published: 2010-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A study of greatness Finally, we are fortune to have a balanced, erudite and factual account of the life and achievements of one of the most remarkable human beings ever to walk the planet. Professor Harl's presentation is nothing short of masterful. His depth of knowledge, his thoroughness and even-handed reliance on skillfully collected facts from the various sources results in a series of lectures that are immensely enjoyable and satisfying. What's more, this course is eminently useful -- you will find yourself being inspired in your daily thoughts and actions by Alexander the Great's unflinching courage, his boundless energy and desire to succeed, his inner drive to be the very best that he could be, to realize his prodigious potential and achieve excellence in every facet of his life. Thank you Professor Harl and The Teaching Company for this brilliant course. This is definitely another winner. After all, we can all learn from greatness.
Date published: 2010-06-08
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