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 5 out of 5 by from Audio sometimes hard to follow I bought the audio to listen to on walks, but found it hard to follow some of the lectures. I also have Great Courses Plus and watched some lectures as video. The video is much, much, better for the lectures in which the professor makes extensive use of maps and of diagrams of battles. I am about halfway through the course and am watching some lectures, and listening to some, depending on the lecture content. For example, if the lecture is about a battle or Alexander's advance through Asia, I watch the video. But if the lecture is about the gods, I can just listen to it.
Date published: 2019-06-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Boring presentation I bought this course as a corollary to the Greek & Persian wars course. In the Greek and Persian wars course, that professor presented a wealth of information in an energizing manner and did not just read the information to the camera. For the Alexander course, Professor Harl droned about dates and writers and one could tell his presentation did not flow smoothly. Displaying what he was reading was another disappointment. I expected more from an experienced professor. Professor Harl's delivery and presentation on the 1st disc convinced me the rest of the discs would be just as tedious. It reminded be of my high school government class 46 years ago with a teacher who performed in the same manner and lulled more than a few to sleep. While this one was a disappointment, I will look for another for this information.
Date published: 2019-05-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Enlightening course I did not expect to learn so many details about Alexander of Macedon the Great's endeavors that have been to begin with, inadvertently the foundation of the Western Civilization, and later his legacy has been support for future generations, thanks to his father, King Philip II, and not to forget Aristotle's tutoring of course with Plato's, and Socrates' legacies as foundations, or references. Alexander's mother, Sophias' ancestry was Achilles. Though not directly lectured, it became apparent that Alexander shifted back and forth in a contextual need from his Greek ancestry/culture education, and awareness, to the Macedonian right doing as needed at the surprise of his adversaries. Leaving aside that Alexander is my ancestor, in my humble biased view, it has been such a surprise to recall that Alexander's view of the world as conveyed by Professor Harl has not been so much different, than how my grand parents raised me some 2,300 years later. Overall the course is a detailed historical account from a variety of sources about Alexander's crusades. Professor Harl's presentation is without doubt articulated, and at a moderate pace at least from my perspective. Additionally, Professor Harl clarifies some of the "myths" that have been attributed to Alexander's legacy from not the uncommon System 1 thinking fallacy--What You See is All There Is.
Date published: 2019-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from In-depth discussion of a complex subject Professor Harl presents a well researched subject in his usual detailed, entertaining manner. His lectures contain subject matter that I have not seen in other courses. This course kept my attention from beginning to end.
Date published: 2019-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Subject Matter Well Presented I have always held a fascination with Alexander the Great and had some knowledge of the subject going into the course. I learned SO much more and thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Harl. I appreciated the lectures on Philip II as providing important background to Alexander and what he accomplished. I very much appreciated having the lectures in video format. Dr. Harl used them extremely well; much better than most lecturers here. I especially enjoyed his "models" of how Alexander moved his forces in the various battles discussed in the lectures. Dr. Harl was most engaging and held my interest throughout the course. Some of the later ones - after "Alex's" death - were not as compelling to me. But what an incredible human being. None like him.
Date published: 2019-02-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Answered a lot of my questions. I purchased this because I had always want to more about Alexander and his unique battle manner and how he manged to conquer most of the known world. It was easy to understand and I appreciated also the remarks about the cultures at the time.
Date published: 2019-01-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Get the Video Ok, so I did not get the video, although I certainly should have. The course material for the audio version is notable for its absence of maps, although there is a very lengthy timeline, an extensive bibliography, and page after page of biographical material (helpful given the plethora of names dropped by Professor Harl). But if you can’t place the Hindu Kush, Gordium (of the knot fame), Issus, Gugamela, Bucepala and more in the Mideast of the 4th Century BC, then you will likely be lost. Although I thought that I had a reasonably good familiarity with the geography of the place and era, I often had to fall back on my (Times) Atlas of World History. For sure Alexander moved rapidly and extensively over a few short years, and Dr. Harl goes at a good pace, so keeping everything (names, places, dates and more) in order is difficult. Still this is a good course that rewards those with the patience for detail. It is my sixth course by Professor Harl and while I don’t find it quite as satisfactory as some of the others, it is well worth taking. The course is laid out on largely chronological lines, with the first eight lectures covering the Macedon and Greece of Philip (and before) and the last nine devoted to what came after the death of Alexander. As always Dr. Harl demonstrates profound knowledge of his subject, and as always he brings to the front his expertise in coins (I found his description of the excellence of some of the portraits on the coins fascinating). For me (and some other reviewers) there was a bit too much fanboyism in a few of the descriptions of Alexander, his exploits and quirks (failings) (many of these almost brushed aside). But aside from that this is a very sound course. But seriously, get the video.
Date published: 2018-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun to listen to. Dr Harl is very informative and also fun to listen to as he makes personal observations in a memorable way. In comparison to other lecture series I’ve heard on Alexander, this is by far the most outstanding as Dr Harl explains the state of Greece in general and Macedonia in particular in the years prior to Alexander’s birth so that the listener can see Phillip and Alexander in a historical context. Furthermore, he extends the Alexander story in the social, political and economic areas down to the time of the Roman conquest. This is a very comprehensive course well done!
Date published: 2018-11-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The consumate historian As usual Professor Harl comes thru with a good and detailed history. Lots of maps and visuals.
Date published: 2018-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An enthusiastic and detailed presentation An enthusiastic and detailed presentation on a complex historical figure. Excellent course.
Date published: 2018-08-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engrossing and Informative I have listened to several of Kenneth Harl's lectures so I'm very familiar with his style and delivery. His analysis is logical and practical and he really gets into the very human motivations of people, both powerful and common folk alike. He makes the past and its people relatable. He's the perfect guy for a lecture series on Alexander the Great. For a subject so widely covered - I mean what else is there to say about Alexander the Great, right? - Harl really fills in the context, background, lead up and most importantly, the consequences both short and long term around the famous battles and names everyone has heard of. Harl has expertise in ancient coins and adds some great insights on that topic here. My only complaint is that in the discussion of the partition of Alexander's empire and what happened to the successor states, there wasn't much discussion of Parthia. Thats nitpicking - the series is great, as usual from Mr Harl.
Date published: 2018-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very comprehensive coverge This is the fourth course by Professor Harl that I have taken, and he is an excellent lecturer. He brings his own perspective, backed up with numerous references to events. He make things interesting, and I enjoy his courses.
Date published: 2018-01-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course This was a very enjoyable course. Professor Harl is by far my favorite. I plan to listen to all of his courses
Date published: 2017-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A truly excellent video course I enjoyed the course very much. I learned a lot from it.
Date published: 2017-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Harl is awesome Harl is one of the stars of The Great Courses I really admire his command of the material. Many presenters read from a script or from their book. Which I hate- it feels very inauthentic. Harl doesn't need to read from a script - he know this material backwards and forwards This course on Alexander is his best, imo. Maybe because I like the topic so much
Date published: 2017-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My personal favorite great course I bought this course on DVD before TGC started making courses for streaming. I love the course and is one I.go back and watch every year. If this course doesn't hook you on the history of the ancient world, then nothing will!
Date published: 2017-07-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Historical Narrative;Concluding Lectures :-( I was worried there wouldn't be much chance of me enjoying this course. I say this because after listening to "Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor" and "The Era of the Crusades" also by Professor Harl, I was afraid his style just wasn't a hit with me and his tendencies to "get lost in the details" vs. sticking with the big picture, his overuse of "filler words" (uh, umm), and rushing through his sentences would prevent me from getting into this course. The problem is I had already purchased "Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire" and 4 other courses of his well before I listened to the other two courses and thus thought I was doomed to endure the same experience as the first two courses of his I listened to. However, I was wrong. This is a well done course and a testament to the belief that people can improve and surprise you. While there was still some of the "getting lost in the details" phenomena (or getting a little off track vs. sticking with the main point he was discussing), and while I felt like he lost alot of his momentum with the last 5 lectures or so being mostly humdrum, there really aren't any only negative things I can say about this course. Actually, maybe one other minor thing: sometimes the professor got so much into the discussion that his voice would fluctuate between loud outbursts and a lower volume making it difficult for me to find the right volume on my phone. Yet this tendency to get all animated was actually a good thing most of the times: you could sense the passion and his laugh was endearing! Love it! Check out his discussion on the whales in Lecture 24. The historical narrative was very well done. He covers the Greek city-states, Persian Empire, and Macedonian Empire from about the 5th century BC to about the 2nd century BC (including Philip II’s reforms and successes, Alexander’s battles, the wars of his successors, and the final fates of the Hellenistic empires). Although at times he would stray from the political/war narrative to cover other topics (like all history courses), the professor did a good job with the pace of discussing Alexander’s journey east and keeping the drama up vs. breaking things up too much and causing a loss of interest. While the wars of Alexander’s successors is complicated and difficult to follow at times due to its complexity, I thought the professor did a good job of covering all of the twists and turns in lectures 28-30. I would've liked a more engaging series of concluding lectures (32-36), overall I am glad I gave Professor Harl a third chance. I hope his other courses are as well done as this one.
Date published: 2017-07-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Informative, but disappointing. Disappointing. The lecturer, Prof. Kenneth Harl, speaks very fast - breezing through names and dates without giving the listener much time to digest the information. Do not use this course as an introductory lesson into Alexander or Ancient Greece and Persia. The lecture is informative, of course, but I'm disappointed in it. The first course I bought on "The Great Courses" was "The Greek and Persian Wars" with Prof. John Hale - who is a fantastic lecturer and story teller! That lecture was phenomenal! So this one was quite the let down in comparison.
Date published: 2017-06-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Harl continues to amaze This course was the fifth one by Harl that I have taken, and for me it was his best. Maybe I am just getting used to his crusty accent, wry asides, and his tic of referring to important historical figures as "a fella by the name of...", but I find him a highly engaging, even compelling, lecturer. He knows his stuff and he does not waste time by hemming and hawing. It is true that details sometimes come spewing out, hydrant like, but all that density means the the course is full of value for the time spent. One can always rewind. Bravo, Kenneth Harl!
Date published: 2017-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! All the good stuff is in there: - The major battles, with some simple to understand battle tactics that Alexander used. The professor gives a good look into the genius of Alexander. - The greatest anecdotes about his life and his generals, that give a more personal note to the course. - You get to learn the main generals of Alexander as well. They were with him since childhood. They went through a lot together. The professor knows an incredible amount of detail. At the beginning this felt a bit overwhelming, but the main points are summarized clearly in the guidebook and after a couple of lectures you know the main characters and everything falls into place effortlessly. BUY IT!
Date published: 2017-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Harl Doesn't Dissapoint! The Great Courses prompted me to review this course; to date, I've listened through lecture 9, and Harl is excellent! I already knew he was fantastic from his course on the Peloponnesian War, of course! So far, this has been an excellent look at Greece AFTER that war, and what became of all the warring Greek city states. The warring never ceases, and what results is a rough balance of power ready to be exploited by a particularly strong hegemon, like Phillip of Macedon or his legendary son, Alexander. I'm eager to learn how the story "ends," to be sure! My motivations for purchasing this course was to learn more about Alexander as a strategic thinker, prompted in part by General James "Mad Dog" Maddox's reference to Alexander as a blueprint for interacting with cultures very different from one's own. In sum, if Maddox is learning from Alexander, then I, too, want to learn from Alexander! It does appear, by the way, that this course streams just like all the others now, so no need to download the audio files as had apparently been the case in the past. Enjoy the course!
Date published: 2016-12-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Alexander the Great and the Macedonians Professor Harl is such an ehtusiastic and interesting lecturer that I enjoy listening to these lectures multiple times. He does such an excellent job of laying the background that one has a good understanding of the place of Philip and Alexander and the Macedonians in history before being immersed in the details of their conquests.
Date published: 2016-10-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent course about Alexander Harl is as always great in this course. The content is very well structured where the narrative around Alexander´s life is complemented by helpful information about the political, religious and cultural context of the time and various places. Harl skillfully weaves together so many aspects of both the personalities and events that are involved. I also like that Harl so obviously admires Alexander as the personal touch is stronger in this course than it usually is. At the same time Harl bring in the more critical views and do not try to create an unbalanced account. Some people might dislike the small detours with anecdotes or jokes but I think they bring something extra to the course. The big minus with the course, which have been mentioned by others, is that the course guide is very underwhelming and lacking in content . Especially for those of us that have the audio version at least some maps would be helpful. Another (small) minus is that it is not possible to stream the course for some reason. Overall, though, it is a great course that do not only help you understand one of the great figures of history but also the world in which he lived as well as the world he helped to shape.
Date published: 2016-09-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent choice My husband and I have been enjoying hearing all about Phillip II of Macedonia and his son, Alexander the Great. Professor Harl gives a clear background of information about the areas of discussion and the previous rulers for all the countries. He then goes into very clear detail about the conquests of Phillip II. This gives us a good background on who, what, when, and where the countries and rulers were at the beginning of Alexander's reign. The bulk of the course material is about Alexander, and I feel that it was covered in an interesting and thorough way--that is without taking notes. Lots of maps visual aids, and timelines, kept me paying close attention to this very interesting lecture.
Date published: 2016-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent description of a significant person Alexander had a profound effect on history, and this course depicts it well. There are nine lectures covering events after his death, a period that had a significant effect on the world of today. I enjoyed the professor's reference to King Philip and Alexander as "Phil and Alex" and his description of one of the basic books about Jason as "remarkably boring." My only objection is the skimpiness of the guidebook and its poor proofreading. It's not a book I will print out to keep.
Date published: 2016-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Alexander and Macedonian and Hellenistic ages I listened to "Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire" by Professor Harl and "Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Age" by Professor McInerney back to back. I bought them at very separate times and when I noticed I had both of them, after having just finished "Ancient Empires Before Alexander" by Professor Dise, I decided it was time to get to know Alexander a little better -- like 60 lectures better. Since I would be constantly comparing the two courses I decided to write one review for both of them. There is a hint as to the coverage in these courses by the slight difference in the titles. The Macedonian Empire is mostly before and during Alexander's reign; the Hellenistic period is during and after Alexander. In my review of "Ancient Empires before ..." I noted that a lot of time was spent on wars. I was nervous that this would be the case with the two courses I am reviewing now. I was very pleased that this was not the case with either of these courses although I 'felt' the presence of battles more in "Hellenistic" than in "Macedonian." I truly appreciated Professor Harl's getting more into the person of Alexander, rather than just his conquests. He also spent a lot of time on his relationships with his generals which explains how the Empire was split up after Alexander's death. We get to Alexander's death in lecture 27 -- 27 of 36. in "Hellenistic" we hear very little of Alexander himself after lecture 4 -- 4 of 24. I was quite surprised at what topics were discussed in "Hellenistic." Although interesting I feel it was a stretch to include two lectures on the Jewish Maccabean Revolt and four lectures on sculpture, poetry, novels and philosophers in a course titled "Alexander and ..." Don't get me wrong -- I thoroughly enjoyed these lectures but saw little relationship to Alexander. I got the impression that Professor Harl knew so much more than he could squeeze into each half hour lecture, and his presentation was flawless, while I felt that Professor McInerney was reading as he frequently apologized and corrected himself. So, if you were to ask me which course to buy, I would have to say both.;"Macedonian" to get to know what led up to Alexander and about the man and his era, and "Hellenistic" to see the effect he had on history. This is highlighted by the Timeline in each course book -- "Macedonian" is from 1250 to 272 BCE, while "Hellenistic" is from 359 to 31 BCE.
Date published: 2016-04-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Harl Does It Again! Professor Harl has again created an awesome course for those with inquiring minds!
Date published: 2016-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great, In-Depth Course I was familiar with Alexander, as we all are, and wanted something more in depth. This course was ideal for that purpose. Some commenters have said that it may have too much detail, and that may be true if you want a brief overview, but the intensive nature of the course was just what I wanted. The professor discusses the reliability of the various sources for our knowledge of Alexander, then the fragmentation of the Greek world, the rise of Macedon under Alexander's father, Philip, Alexander's campaigns and the nature of his rule, and finally the Hellenistic world that followed in his wake. He reviews the latest thinking of scholars on various aspects of Alexander. I found it all very interesting at a high level..
Date published: 2016-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Alexander in Context Highlights of the life and achievements of Alexander the Great should be common knowledge to any student of antiquity, particularly the classical and Hellenistic age. In this course, Alexander the Great is the hero of his own story. There are the introduction and foundation building in the first part, and the few lectures about the immediate aftermath of Alexander's death and the division of the empire, but the main body of the course is a showcase of that near peerless man. Professor Harl has a positive opinion of him, and tends to downplay many of the more nefarious things he is occasionally suspected of. Harl does provide such dark details, but he provides a rather compelling argument for why they are either false, or grossly exaggerated whenever they are brought up. This does not mean that this is not a critical piece of scholarship, Professor Harl is in no way becoming an unthinking cheerleader for the Macedonian. Almost every major theory that has bee proscribed to Alexander is examined, at times in great length, and a fully fleshed out character emerges: a human being, who often seemed more than that. I greatly enjoyed it, particularly coming right off of the heels of the Peloponnesian Wars, which was Harl's tour de force, and recommend it to anyone looking to explore not only Alexander, but also the context that helped forge him and that he himself forged. Now I had hoped to learn more about Greco-Bactria and other states forged from the hellenistic legacy beyond Ptolomy, Selucid, and Antigonid kingdoms. We do get some, but not much. It is a small issue, and one that is beyond the scope that Professor Harl intended for this course. There is not much more I can say that has not already been said, so to avoid becoming redundant I will end this review here.
Date published: 2015-09-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Alexander the Conquerer Audio Review: Dr. Harl presents the chronological story of how Alexander the Great followed on the footsteps of his father Phillip of Macedon, to extend beyond the Adriatic Sea and to conquer much of the known world of 4th century B.C. during the Long March. The course largely presents a blow by blow sequence of the various battles and conquests of Alexander (and the successor kingdoms of his general).. As such it will appeal to the military tactician. Interspersed are some examples of the culture, governing style, trade, etc during the time frame. Dr. Harl presents very much in the style of "this happened then that happened" which is OK but sometimes lacks context. References to how Alexander adapted himself to the customs, costumes, and religion of his newly acquired subjects are interesting and useful in imagining the period. This is the second course I have taken from Dr. Harl. Being familiar with his clear voice I thought an audio only version of this course would suffice. However, due to the lack of any maps in the course guidebook, unless one is familiar with the geography of the ancient Mideast World it was difficult to follow the movements of the Long March without the visuals. This is one course where the video version may be a better choice. The most interesting part of the course is how Alexander laid the foundation for future Western Civilization (whether or not he intended to). Certainly one can see the influence Alexander's conquest and claim to divinity had on the Romans, but his claim (and its acceptance) to be the son of Zeus likely also ultimately influenced Christianity. The accompanying course guidebook quality is mixed. As stated above, there are no maps. The lecture summaries are terse and not particularly helpful. OTOH: The timeline is excellent and the bibliography is extensive. Given the number of different characters and places mentioned in the course, the extensive glossary and biographical notes are very helpful. I recommend this course, particularly to anyone interested in the military campaign of Alexander and his successors. Had I taken the video course, I may have given this 5 stars, but given some of the weaknesses mentioned above, it is more of a solid 4.
Date published: 2015-08-18
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