Classical Archaeology of Ancient Greece and Rome

Course No. 3340
Professor John R. Hale, Ph.D.
University of Louisville
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Course No. 3340
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Course Overview

Classical archaeology—the excavation and analysis of ancient Greek and Roman sites—was born on Wednesday, October 22, 1738. On that day, Roque Joaquín Alcubierre, an engineer in the army of the Bourbon royal family in Naples, was lowered by ropes down a square well shaft cut through volcanic material that had formed on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. When Alcubierre reached the bottom of the well, 65 feet below the surface, he began to wind his way through tunnels carved into the volcanic material, noting pieces of architectural elements as he went.

This discovery became the first systematic study of the astonishingly intact ruins of the Roman city of Herculaneum, buried for 1,700 years in the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Alcubierre's recording of the artworks, colored marbles, inscriptions, lamps, and items of everyday life he discovered deep inside the earth marked the "Big Bang" of Classical archaeology—a quest to understand Greek and Roman culture through its material remains that continues to this day.

In the 36 lectures of Classical Archaeology of Ancient Greece and Rome, archaeologist and award-winning Professor John R. Hale guides you through this fascinating field of study and through dozens of ancient sites with the skill of a born storyteller. Mixing the exotic adventures, unexpected insights, and abiding mysteries of archaeology's fabled history with anecdotes of his own extensive field experience, Dr. Hale creates a fascinating narrative that unfolds like a series of detective stories and provides a new perspective from which to view the world of the Greeks and Romans.

A Discipline unto Itself

Many disciplines have tried to claim Classical archaeology as their own, yet it is a discipline wholly unto itself. Classical archaeology is less a branch of archaeology and more the root of the entire field.

"It was in the archaeology of Greece and Rome that the entire discipline of trying to understand the past through its material remains began," notes Dr. Hale. "It's through archaeology that some of the most important advances—such as proper field technique, experimental archaeology, and underwater archaeology—were all brought into this great world of study."

As you discover in Classical Archaeology of Greece and Rome, the field has evolved over the years from a pastime for collectors and antiquarians to a mature science. Today, Classical archaeology is a multidisciplinary effort that involves not only traditional diggers but geologists, geographers, chemists, anthropologists, historians, and linguists.

Through Classical archaeology, the civilizations of Greece and Rome come into sharper focus through a reconstruction of the past in all its color: its ideals, aspirations, achievements, and virtues; its vices, superstitions, disasters, and crimes. From the various physical remains of these long-gone places, Classical archaeologists create a window in which to see the richness of the worlds of Greece and Rome, resurrecting them in all their glory and affording us a better grasp of cultures which have greatly influenced our own.

Explore Ancient Sites and Meet Early Pioneers

The course introduces you to a series of exciting archaeologist sites that provide you with a detailed idea of what Classical archaeology entails, as well as insights into the details of ancient Greek and Roman life. These case studies—involving both famous sites and discoveries unknown outside the field—include:

  • Troy: In 1871, the German entrepreneur Heinrich Schliemann confirmed the long-forgotten site of ancient Troy in northwest Turkey, based on astute detective work by a resident English diplomat. Schliemann's sensational discoveries at this and other Bronze-Age sites made him the most famous archaeologist of his day.
  • The Athenian Agora: Since 1931, the American School of Classical Studies in Athens has been excavating this civic heart of ancient Athens, which witnessed momentous events including the trial of Socrates. Buildings and artifacts discovered here give you an unsurpassed picture of life in a major city of Classical Greece.
  • Torre de Palma: In 1947, plowmen working a field in southern Portugal chanced upon the base of a Roman column, which turned out to be sitting on a mosaic floor. Archaeologists eventually uncovered an entire Roman country estate, equipped for complete self-sufficiency in the uncertain times of the later Roman Empire.
  • The Cape Gelidonya Shipwreck: In 1960, American archaeologist George Bass forged the techniques for systematic underwater archaeology by excavating a rich Bronze-Age cargo ship off of southern Turkey. He discovered a hoard of artifacts and the largest stockpile of ingots ever recovered from the Trojan War period.

Through an analysis of these and other riveting sites, you get a superb sampling of Classical archaeology and learn how it combines ancient history, anthropology, ethnography, comparative religion, art history, experimental engineering, historical linguistics, paleobotany, and other pursuits with a dash of Indiana Jones–style adventure.

You also encounter some of the pioneering figures in Classical archaeology whose work had a lasting impact on the field, including:

  • Guiseppe Fiorelli: who conceived the strategy of pouring plaster into cavities in the volcanic rock at Pompeii in the 1860s to reveal the precise forms of long-dead Pompeiians.
  • Sir Mortimer Wheeler: who with his wife developed the grid system of excavation still in use today, in which the site is laid out like a checkerboard with a wall of the original ground left around each excavated square to give an exposed sequence of the dig's different layers.
  • Michael Ventris: who discovered that Linear B, a mystifying script discovered in the early 1900s at a Bronze-Age complex on Crete, was a form of Greek.

Three Views from Complimentary Perspectives

Dr. Hale divides Classical Archaeology of Greece and Rome into three parts, each of which approaches the field from a different, complimentary perspective.

  • Creating a Science of the Past (Lectures 1–12): You trace the origin of archaeology—from the enthusiasm surrounding early excavations at Herculaneum and Pompeii to the latest technological advances of today—and focus on methods, tools, technologies, and how archaeologists evaluate evidence and solve problems.
  • An Archaeologist's Casebook (Lectures 13–24): You tour a dozen important archaeological sites or discoveries ranging from the Bronze Age to late antiquity: sites in Greece or Greek waters, sites in Rome or its provinces, and a pair of bronze statues found off the coast of southern Italy.
  • A View from the Trenches (Lectures 25–36): You approach Classical archaeology thematically, exploring what the field has contributed to our knowledge of ancient life including topics like diets, entertainment, engineering, slavery, religion, and the role of women. Two lectures investigate what archaeology has to say about a pair of big-picture controversies: What are the roots of Classical culture, and why did the Roman Empire fall?

Details that Bring the Ancient World Alive

One of the joys of Classical archaeology is that it brings history alive in very specific, personal ways by offering you glimpses into the lives of real people—sometimes very famous ones:

  • The most renowned of all Greek sculptors was Phidias, and while little of his sculptural work survives, his personal drinking cup was found at the excavation of his workshop in Olympia, inscribed: "I belong to Phidias."
  • A papyrus discovered in 1904 was recently studied in detail and appears to have an instruction written in the handwriting of Cleopatra: to grant tax exemptions to one of her generals and the friend of her lover, Mark Antony.
  • In 1980, excavations at Herculaneum found the remains of 300 men, women, and children who were awaiting evacuation when the eruption of Vesuvius engulfed them. Some of the personal effects uncovered included a carpenter's tool chest, a nursemaid's bracelet, and a child's treasure box—with a pair of coins still inside.
  • Graffiti on a Roman outpost dated to A.D. 238 bears the chilling message, "The Parthians have fallen upon us." Archaeologists found evidence of a great assault that overwhelmed the imperial garrison.
  • Among the many "curse tablets" found at the Roman spa in present-day Bath, England, is one from the victim of an ancient purse snatching. He asks the gods for various favors: the return of the money, bad luck for the thief, and, if nothing else, the perpetrator's name.

Classical Archaeology of Greece and Rome enables you to view the world of the Greeks and Romans not as a sequence of historical events but as an immense living organism; a system in which society, culture, and the natural environment interact in dynamic, creative, and sometimes destructive ways.

See History through the Eyes of an Expert

Dr. Hale is an experienced archaeologist who has lectured widely beyond the university and brought the wonders of archaeological discoveries to the general public. His background includes a long-running position as field director for the University of Louisville's excavations at Torre de Palma and his participation in the search for sunken ships from the armada that attached Greece during the Greek and Persian Wars.

From Spain and the Black Sea to Romania and the shores of North Africa, Dr. Hale takes you on a captivating 2,000-year journey that will strengthen what he calls your "archaeological literacy." At the end of Classical Archaeology of Greece and Rome, you will have a clearer understanding of Classical archaeology: its scope, its methods, its accomplishments, its terms, its controversies, and—above all—what it can tell us about life in antiquity and how it relates to our own time.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Archaeology’s Big Bang
    In 1738, Roque Joaquin Alcubierre began the first systematic excavations of Herculaneum, a Roman city buried during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79. This spectacular dig marked the beginning of archaeology as a scientific discipline. x
  • 2
    “Ode on a Grecian Urn”
    The excavations at Herculaneum and nearby Pompeii fueled an already enthusiastic cult for collecting Greek and Roman antiquities, and sparked new insights into ancient art and history by scholars such as Johann Joachim Winckelmann. x
  • 3
    A Quest for the Trojan War
    The superstar of archaeology in the 19th century was Heinrich Schliemann, who was inspired by the Homeric epics to search for Troy, Mycenae, and other fabled Bronze Age sites, making remarkable and controversial discoveries in the process. x
  • 4
    How to Dig
    Archaeology was a trial-by-error affair of largely haphazard digging until General Lane Fox (later Lord Pitt-Rivers) developed scientific methods of fieldwork, later improved by Mortimer Wheeler in his excavations of Roman sites in Britain. x
  • 5
    First Find Your Site
    This lecture looks at techniques for finding archaeological sites, including the use of technology that "sees" below the surface. One famous archaeologist achieved success by simply asking, "If I were a Bronze Age king, where would I put my palace?" x
  • 6
    Taking the Search Underwater
    The bottom of the Mediterranean Sea is a museum of ancient shipwrecks and artifacts. Jacques Cousteau, coinventor of SCUBA gear, helped pioneer underwater archaeology, followed by George Bass, who brought rigorous surface techniques to the sea floor. x
  • 7
    Cracking the Codes
    Epigraphy is the study of ancient inscriptions, which are often found in sites around the Mediterranean. This lecture covers the deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone, and the decoding of Linear B, a late Bronze Age script. x
  • 8
    Techniques for Successful Dating
    To establish accurate dates, archaeologists employ high-tech methods such as radiocarbon and thermoluminescence. The most useful and precise technique is the simplest, tree-ring dating, which can determine the exact year and also the climate associated x
  • 9
    Reconstructing Vanished Environments
    Archaeologists turn to geologists, soil scientists, botanists, palynologists, and zoologists to answer a range of questions about the history and setting of an artifact or site. This expertise is also useful for identifying fakes and forgeries. x
  • 10
    “Not Artifacts but People”
    The study of human remains opens a window on life in the ancient world, concerning diet, disease, longevity, and other demographic data. This lecture looks at several case histories, including an athlete, a gladiator, and King Philip of Macedon. x
  • 11
    Archaeology by Experiment
    Experimental archaeology tests the technology of the ancient world by recreating it as accurately as possible, shedding light on such arts as shipbuilding, chariot racing, pottery making, and acoustical engineering in amphitheaters. x
  • 12
    Return to Vesuvius
    This lecture examines the digs at Pompeii and Herculaneum in light of the many innovations in archaeological technique over the last century, including the 1980 discovery of 300 bodies trapped at dockside during the eruption. x
  • 13
    Gournia—Harriet Boyd and the Mother Goddess
    Starting the section of the course focusing on specific sites, this lecture looks at the remarkable career of Harriet Boyd, discoverer of a Bronze Age Minoan town at Gournia, Crete, complete with a shrine to a snake goddess. x
  • 14
    Thera—A Bronze Age Atlantis?
    Popularly identified with Atlantis because of the richness of its vanished civilization, Akrotiri on the Greek island of Santorini was destroyed by earthquake and volcanic eruption, possibly as early as 1670 B.C. x
  • 15
    Olympia—Games and Gods
    Excavations at Olympia have recovered thousands of artifacts relating to the ancient Olympic games and the religious cults practiced at the site, including the workshop of Phidias, the sculptor of the temple's lost statue of Zeus, one of the Seven Wond x
  • 16
    Athens’s Agora—Where Socrates Walked
    The Agora was Athens's civic and commercial center. This lecture tours the American-led excavation of the Agora, ongoing since 1931, giving a glimpse of a typical day for an archaeologist—and for an Athenian in the Classical Age. x
  • 17
    Delphi—Questioning the Oracle
    The ancient legends of the oracle of Delphi have been confirmed by contributions from a number of modern scientific disciplines. Research by Dr. Hale and a colleague overthrew a century-long view that had rejected the role of intoxicating gases in the x
  • 18
    Kyrenia—Lost Ship of the Hellenistic Age
    Ancient writings give almost no details about Greek or Roman merchant ships and freighters, but a 4th-century B.C. wreck off Kyrenia, Cyprus, miraculously preserved 60 percent of the hull, allowing exact replicas to be built and tested. x
  • 19
    Riace—Warriors from the Sea
    Discovered by a diver in 1972, two ancient statues known as the Riace Bronzes are the site of the world's smallest archaeological dig: a microscopic study of their clay cores in an attempt to ascertain their date and place of manufacture. x
  • 20
    Rome—Foundation Myths and Archaeology
    How do the myths of Rome's founding match archaeological evidence? This lecture looks at such traditions as Rome's connection to Troy, its foundation date, its relation to neighboring towns, and the site of the hut of Romulus. x
  • 21
    Caesarea Maritima—A Roman City in Judea
    Caesarea Maritima on the coast of Israel was an important harbor and administrative center that tied King Herod of Judea to the Roman world. The now-submerged harbor works are an extraordinary example of Roman engineering. x
  • 22
    Teutoburg—Battlefield Archaeology
    In A.D. 9, German tribesmen ambushed and massacred three Roman legions in the Teutoburg Forest. The battle site was long lost until archeologists recently pinpointed the location and uncovered details that clarify German tactics. x
  • 23
    Bath—Healing Waters at Aquae Sulis
    The spa at Aquae Sulis in modern Bath, England, was a natural wonder of the Roman Empire. Excavations have uncovered a range of objects, including curse tablets and more than 10,000 coins, an early example of the custom of tossing coins in water. x
  • 24
    Torre de Palma—A Farm in the Far West
    In 1947, a chance discovery on a Portuguese farm initiated the excavation of an entire Roman country estate from the later empire, when wealthy Romans had abandoned the cities. Dr. Hale himself has participated in the dig since 1983. x
  • 25
    Roots of Classical Culture
    Where did Classical civilization originate, and what does it owe to the older civilizations of Egypt and the Near East? Archaeological evidence suggests there was no clear-cut time or place of birth, rather the culture developed slowly and unevenly over millennia. x
  • 26
    The Texture of Everyday Life
    Using the wealth of evidence from the excavations at Pompeii, this lecture explores aspects of everyday life in Classical antiquity, including childhood, games and pastimes, public latrines, reading, timekeeping, baths, and sex. x
  • 27
    Their Daily Bread
    Vast sectors of the ancient economy were devoted to securing grain imports for bread. Obsession with grain was the basis for the mystery cult of the goddess Demeter at Eleusis. Grit in bread provides a method for gauging the age of human remains through patters of teeth wear. x
  • 28
    Voyaging on a Dark Sea of Wine
    Wine was an essential element of Greco-Roman culture. Wrecks from all over the Mediterranean attest to the long-distance trade in wine, and the culture surrounding the grape penetrated into many aspects of daily life including religion. x
  • 29
    Shows and Circuses—Rome’s “Virtual Reality”
    To Romans the circus meant the racetrack, particularly the chariot races. Their love of spectacle also took in gladiatorial shows and combat with wild beasts at the Colosseum, where excavations reveal that the animals were in terrible health. x
  • 30
    Engineering and Technology
    The Greeks and especially the Romans are renowned for their waterworks. Less well-known technological feats include an early pipe organ and a rudimentary astronomical computer, discovered as a mass of gears aboard a shipwreck. x
  • 31
    Slaves—A Silent Majority?
    The ancient economy relied heavily on slavery. Archaeology reveals the nature of the institution, which differed in significant ways from American antebellum slavery. One difference: potentially everyone was a slave, if captured in war. x
  • 32
    Women of Greece and Rome
    Archaeology has made surprising findings about the roles of women in antiquity, including graves of probable female soldiers and gladiators. Julia Felix of Pompeii is one woman about whom archaeology tells a full and personal story. x
  • 33
    Hadrian—Mark of the Individual
    Emperor Hadrian is the most archaeologically visible of all Roman emperors. From designs on his coins to such gigantic projects as the Pantheon and Hadrian's Wall, he tried to remake the empire and set it on a new course. x
  • 34
    Crucible of New Faiths
    One of the striking features of the Classical world is the presence of temples in every city, with a limited range of deities presiding from one end of the Mediterranean to the other. Archaeologists find signs of alternative cults, of which Christianity was one. x
  • 35
    The End of the World—A Coroner’s Report
    Ancient writers do not seem aware of a "fall of the Roman Empire." Nonetheless the remains of villas such as Torre de Palma show a gradual cannibalizing of infrastructure to make do in what were clearly increasingly difficult times. x
  • 36
    A Bridge across the Torrent
    A Roman bridge in Spain bears the inscription: "This bridge will last forever." The secret of the Classical world was the desire of many of its leaders and creators to build for eternity. If nothing else, archaeology has brought to light more and more evidence of their enduring achievements. x

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Your professor

John R. Hale

About Your Professor

John R. Hale, Ph.D.
University of Louisville
Dr. John R. Hale is the Director of Liberal Studies at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. He earned his B.A. at Yale University and his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge in England. Professor Hale teaches introductory courses on archaeology, as well as more specialized courses on the Bronze Age, the ancient Greeks, the Roman world, Celtic cultures, the Vikings, and nautical and underwater archaeology. An...
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Classical Archaeology of Ancient Greece and Rome is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 107.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I find different presentation of the same material I viewed this video through my local Library and found it gave me a different viewpoint from which to view the subject of the archaeological history of the classical world. I had previously viewed the video course " Origins of Civilization." Each of these different lecturers had their own style of of delivering the information . It was only from absorbing, comparing and then synthesizing these two very different approaches to an archaeologically-based "History" of the Ancient World, that I feel I gained a more balanced view. I hope that the Great Courses will continue to seek out such different viewpoints on a period of time that is not our own. My mother once advised me - You can always learn from any teacher - even the ones you think are "bad at presenting their knowledge". Great Courses allows me to sample college level courses that I could never attend or listen-to by any other means.
Date published: 2019-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Two For One: The Artifacts Plus the People! I appreciated Professor Hale’s conversational style and the fact that he did not appear to be reciting a fixed script from a teleprompter. His presentation of archaeologists’ biographies, anecdotal stories, and his own philosophical musings made lectures especially engaging and complemented the core material of the course. I also felt that these lectures filled in many gaps in my prior understanding about not only classical archaeology, but also classical civilizations. Highlights of the course included: *a contrasting of how historians, anthropologists, and archaeologists tend to go about “unraveling the past” rather differently; *the remarkable story of the excavations (ongoing to this day!) at Pompeii and Herculaneum; *a tracing of the ideological evolution of what constitutes “proper scientific digging;” *reviews of how advances in diving, remote sensing, pollen identification, and isotopic analysis technologies have all impacted archeological research; *Dr. Hale’s consistent focus on people more than artifacts—an attempt to look for “meaning” at ancient sites, rather than primarily for “treasures;” *the hard-to-stomach but well-presented description of slavery in ancient Greece and Rome; *Dr. Hale’s summation in his concluding lecture of “the legacy of classical civilizations”—emphasizing how one ought to recognize BOTH the humanity and the faults of ancient societies. Minor weaknesses in the course were: *a lack of labels on some intriguing but ambiguous visuals accompanying the lectures; and *Dr. Hale’s occasional references to events or terminology, seemingly assuming his audience would know about these, shortly before he had actually explained or introduced them. I heartily recommend this course. If I were now in my second or third decade, rather than my eighth, Dr. Hale’s enthusiasm for archaeology might entice me to go into the field.
Date published: 2018-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Archaeology, History and History of Archeology Most of what I know (knew) about archaeology are the results. That is looking at relics and reconstructed remains in museums: the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum, the Ishtar Gate in the Pergamon, the Aztec Sunstone in the National Museum of Anthropology or at sites like Uxmal , Tulum or Calakmul in the Yucatan. Impressive to be sure, as well as often enlightening, but nothing that really tells me the underlying archeology itself. In this course I learned so much more. The origin and reason for the grid system for example, or how underwater archeology came into existence. Professor Hale does an outstanding job of giving us a history of archeology, while at the same time detailing the techniques used by archeologists and tying archeological finds with history and culture. And for me a very big plus it that this course focuses on Classical Greece and Rome, areas where I've never traveled. Dr. Hale takes rather a rambling approach to his lectures, often digressing to talk for a while about an interesting side issue or to comment of a particular archeologist. Some very fine reviewers have disliked this approach, but for me it reveals things I would not have otherwise known, as well as keeping the material interesting and not at all dry. I put his digressions and asides in much the same category as Dr. Greenburg’s exuberance and humor: I like both men’s approaches, but understand those who do not. Not only do we get the history of archeology, and many historical notes on the life and times of Greece and Rome, but we also are treated to quite a bit of biographical information of prominent archeologists. I was particularly interested in Professor Hale’s treatment of Heinrich Schliemann who is often vilified as a quasi-grave robber. Here we are given the whole man and his entire career, both the bad and the good. And as the classical world of Greece and Rome spanned the continent, the course covers a wide range of sites, some well known such as Bath and some unknown (at least to me) like the exact site of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. The big bonus is the concluding lecture is the description of the bridge at Alcántara, along with the declaration of the architect/engineer’s inscription, “I have built this bridge to last forever”.
Date published: 2018-03-10
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Misleading title Should be called Biographies of Successful Achaeologists. Not what I wanted. I appreciate their scientific contributions but I don't want 2/3 of a 30 minute lecture devoted to their personal history. Boring! Will be returned.
Date published: 2018-02-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Classical Archaeology of Greece and Rome From the reviews I was hoping for a good course. Almost no video and I find the instructor to be very boring. I will return it, the first from about 20 courses.
Date published: 2018-02-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Informative but a Little Disjointed This is an interesting class with good information. The professor is enthusiastic and knowledgeable. I enjoyed each lesson standing on its own. The course as a whole, however, feels a little disjointed from a structural perspective. I was never quite sure if I was listening to a course on the history of archaeological discoveries or a history of ancient Greece and Rome. This is not a good course for a beginner. It is structured as a more advanced course for someone with a decent understanding of the history of ancient Greece and Rome. Overall, I enjoyed the course even if the structure was a little awkward.
Date published: 2017-12-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hale is one of the stars of The Great Courses I have loved every single course presented by Dr. Hale This lecture is my favorite. Hale is one of the greatest storytellers that I have ever seen
Date published: 2017-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great overview of this topic This is a marvelous course. The professor, not surprisingly, knows his stuff. The course is a great topical overview and will help you identify quickly other sources of information if you want to explore the topic further.
Date published: 2017-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Exemplary Course This is a thoroughly enjoyable course. Professor Hale is an excellent, personable presenter who has crafted a fine course which kept my attention and interest from beginning to end. That is a real achievement for a 36-lecture course! I approached this 2006 course with some hazy ideas about archaeology, but I now know a good deal about it, especially with regard to ancient Greece and Rome. Not only does Professor Hale detail the development of archaeological techniques at a wide array of sites, but he also introduces us to those who work in the field, with the well-known and a lot of others. The final third of the course is a fine capstone showing how archaeology informs our knowledge of classical Greece and Rome in such areas as daily life, engineering and technology, slavery, women in society, religious practices, and much more. These final lectures are a complement to other TC courses on ancient Greece and Rome, making the case for a more realistic, rather than idealized, view of Greco-Roman antiquity. Professor Hale ends by hoping that we realize that ancient Greeks and Romans “…resemble us in uncanny ways” (Course Guidebook, Page 232). This video course has a great number of excellent photos and other illustrative material that truly enliven the lectures. I am sure to return to this course. The 276-page guidebook is excellent. My only complaint is that this course is not available for streaming. I had to limit my frankly compulsive viewing to DVDs via my television at home rather than just getting to the lectures with a few clicks on my tablet. Very highly recommended!
Date published: 2017-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unexpected sites discussed I really enjoyed this course. It went into depth on sites specific to Greece and Rome including some that I was totally unaware of and several that are mainstays in archaeological surveys. The lecturer was very thorough and his lecture style was very easy to listen to.
Date published: 2017-05-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Classical Archaeology of Ancient Greece and Rome I have purchased several courses featuring Professor Hale and all have been outstanding.
Date published: 2017-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Both my wife and I were completely sucked into this course, watching one lecture after another. The focus on specific sites and items gives a satisfying amount of information and the topics are varied and interesting. John R. Hale is one of our favorite lecturers. We are more likely to purchase a course with his name on it. His style is relaxed and conversational, which makes the course seem like a story told by a friend.
Date published: 2017-04-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspiring! These lectures are jam packed with stories from archaeological sites all over the classical ancient world. It's a fabulously entertaining introductory course. I have to agree this is not what I would consider a normal college course on Classical Archaeology. I can't imagine being given an exam on this course. But then again, archaeology is about fieldwork and these lectures are not bogged down in explaining complicated methods or techniques. It should be appreciated on it's own merits. Very inspiring.
Date published: 2017-03-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Truly a Great Course I bought this for my high school senior to supplement our home school. It is very interesting and engaging. We are learning a lot. It almost makes us want to become archaeologists! I highly recommend the course.
Date published: 2016-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from He takes you there This is a must buy course. Professor Hale's approach is not only a survey of the major archaeological sites of the ancient world, it is a fascinating discourse on the science of archaeology. A truly informative course, well worth the time, presented by an entertaining, knowledgeable scholar.
Date published: 2016-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course Professor Hale has an excellent presentation style as well as an enthusiasm for his subject that makes watching these DVDs an enjoyable experience. I am a professor as well and have changed how I lecture based on some of the techniques that Professor Hale exhibited in his presentation. The course's content was fairly comprehensive. I will need to watch the entire course twice (at least) to pick up all the information. Some may find that a downside to this course (the amount of material). Professor Hale does a great job in his organization and order of presentation to minimize the impact.
Date published: 2016-07-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly engaging I know Dr. Hale (I feel it necessary to give this caveat before my review) and therefore expected this course to be great. Dr. Hale certainly surpassed any prior expectations I had and put together a truly awesome presentation. I listened to the audio version and Dr. Hale's descriptions of the sites and history painted vivid mental pictures of places I've seen and have read about. I have a BA in Classical Humanities and really enjoyed listening to this course. Excellent job Dr. Hale! I look forward to more courses by this professor.
Date published: 2016-01-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Story Telling Professor Hale is indeed a master storyteller! Not only are his "stories" entertaining but also very enlightening as well; steeped in the drama of human history and supported by facts dug up from the field of Archaeology. While viewing this course, one enters a world long gone yet still very influential to, and perhaps not so different, from our modern world. One learns about how these people lived and how their world changed through the centuries, culminating in the "fall" (downward slide) of the Roman Empire. Through the tools of archaeologists and the interpretations of the findings springs a tapestry of people and events that come alive again in the masterful storytelling of Professor Hale. A delightful course!
Date published: 2015-11-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Journey of Time and Discovery During the very first lecture of this superb course it was evident why so many people felt that Professor John Hale was such a skilled "storyteller." In each of his 36 lectures -- none of which seems to last long enough, so rich is the information he imparts -- Dr. Hale seamlessly interweaves stories about key architects with significant historical figures or events even as he clearly explains evolving archaeological techniques. The result is a fascinating journey around the ancient Mediterranean world, helpfully visualized in photos of sites, artifacts, and reconstructions. Simply marvelous. In addition, his closing lecture was itself worth the price of the course -- not only expertly summarizing ideas and themes from earlier lectures, but also issuing both challenges and warnings to us who live in our own vanishing present. As other reviewers have done an admirable job describing the course's content, I would just like to add two things that particularly struck me. First, that the ancients -- like ourselves -- through their activities contributed to significant ecological damage that was beginning to impact them negatively toward the close of the classical period. Two aspects of this in particular: 1) the deforestation of much of Greece and Italy -- and nearby islands and coasts -- in order to provide wood for their ships and masts. Plato commented on how the deforested hills and mountains of Greece were losing their rich topsoil in his own time. 2) the decimation of many animal species from, and the accompanying deforestation of vast areas of, northern Africa, in order to accommodate the Romans' desire for animals for the blood-games in their theaters. Together, these contributed to the desertification of the Sahara, the decline of many of those animals from their native habitat, and marked changes in temperature and rainfall from the vast reduction in forestland. The second thing that struck me was how the very sites we have laboriously uncovered and explored in recent centuries are deteriorating, wholly apart from the incredibly vicious and irresponsible activities of ISIS in deliberately destroying remnants of the past. While human traffic at those sites is part of the reason, other factors include rainfall, the chemicals we keep pouring into the atmosphere, and even the damage inevitably caused by animals and intrusive plants. Wondrous worlds preserved almost as they were in the past -- such as Pompeii and Herculaneum, preserved for almost 2,000 years by being buried beneath volcanic debris -- are slowly crumbling, fading, and losing even the graffiti left on their walls before 79 A.D. All of us need to do more to support our cultural guardians in their vastly underfunded efforts to preserve as much of our past as they can. Throughout, Dr. Hale strives -- successively, I think -- to show us the many ways in which we share vital links with these long-gone civilizations, not just in the institutional structures and the many arts that continue their work, but also in the human aspirations and weaknesses which we have in common with them. Most highly recommended!
Date published: 2015-07-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent presentation in storytelling format Behind every story is a great backstory. This professor understands the power of story, and most importantly, the power of telling the backstory behind each segment in this course. His delivery is interesting and compelling. This ability to present sets him apart from some of the other professors presenting courses for this business. And, unlike some other professors in the Great Courses series, he presents his material absent a posture of self-possessed arrogance. Backstory is critical to understanding this panoramic view of the history of classical archaeology. Combine this approach with Professor Hale's encyclopaedic knowledge of the field, and you have this excellent course.. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2015-07-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible adventure! We were astounded at Professor Hale's fluid and fascinating presentation. His knowledge is obviously very extensive in all areas. He uses no notes or prompter that we can see, but engages one's full attention with his amazing story telling ability while divulging in-depth information. Thank you Professor Hale!
Date published: 2015-05-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Course from a Master Storyteller Professor Hale skillfully leads us through the history and high points of the field of Classical Archaeology, This course is a perfect companion to Hale's "Great Tours: Greece and Turkey."
Date published: 2015-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I'm Ready to Go! This is the best course I have taken so far on a geographical area. Professor Hale brings the area and time to life for me. How lucky are those people who have can see the places he talks about, especially with him as the guide!
Date published: 2015-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Classical Archaeology of Ancient Greece and Rome FABULOUS! I thought I knew quite a bit about a loved subject but Professor Hale connected lots of dots and gave me so much more. He knocks it out of the park.
Date published: 2014-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great deal I have really enjoyed this course. The Prof did a great job!
Date published: 2014-10-27
Rated 2 out of 5 by from With Respect,(Another) Major Dissent for Prof Hale Wow. Based on the wonderful reviews for this course, as well as for “Exploring the Roots of Religion,” I am one of the few human beings on earth who doesn’t love Prof. Hale’s teaching. So, I don’t expect anyone to pay attention to the following, but here goes anyway. I cannot recommend this course, for many reasons. Most importantly, I expected the course to be about the archeological discoveries which illuminate ancient Greek and Roman civilization. It mostly is not. At least half of the time is given to discussing the field of archaeology in general, including its historical development, with peripheral references to the actual findings as examples of how archaeology works. Next, a significant amount of time is given to naming, picturing, and telling trivial and irrelevant stories about individual archaeologists and their lives, many of whom are friends of, or admired by, our professor. I found this of zero interest. And Prof. Hale’s lecture style is the opposite of what I appreciate. He is disorganized and unfocussed, and speaks in disjointed run-on sentences which expand to include whatever extraneous facts and stories, including many entirely irrelevant personal anecdotes, that happen to cross his mind while he is talking. As just one of many, many examples, in Lecture 11 we learn the names of quite a number of the actors in the movie “Ben Hur.” Countless times during each lecture I found myself fervently wishing “please, professor, get to the point.” As a result of all of this, the information density of the lectures is extraordinarily low. The actual presentation of the classical archaeology of ancient Greece and Rome could, without exaggeration, have been accomplished in less than half of the time. A few comments on specific lectures: In Lecture 32, on women, Prof. Hall attempts to make a case that women were more highly respected, and had significantly greater power and influence, than is generally recognized. In this he fails entirely. One of the more absurd bits of evidence which he adduces is the worship of powerful goddesses, such as Athena, as if this indicates that such an attitude must also apply to humans. He also notes “This prominence in religion climaxed at Delphi, where women spoke for the god Apollo as the most influential voice in the Greek world” (quote from Course Guidebook). Well, no. The priestess, or Pythia, probably inhaled hallucinogenic gasses, and her prophecies were likely interpreted by male priests. (This need for interpretation has recently been challenged, but either way the prominence of the Pythia is as relevant to the role of women in ancient Greece as the notion that “any child can grow up to be president” is a realistic reflection of opportunities in our society.) Finally, the ultimate lecture could be used as a church sermon. For example, “For those of us who have come after, every day is a time for action. We must always struggle to perceive the dangers in our society, to choose the right path to correct the errors we have made, and to ensure that the world we live in will continue – and will improve” (quote from Course Guidebook.) This is very nice, but I would rather the time had been given to a more detailed discussion of pottery, temples, weapons, armor, living spaces, household implements, farming tools, and burials. Again – I am very aware that no other reviewer agrees with my negative assessment of this course. Perhaps my stars were just misaligned when I viewed it. So please ignore everything I have said. If you take the course, I’d be very interested in your thoughts.
Date published: 2014-08-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best so far… LECTURER: This is the second course I have taken given by Professor Hale, the first being “Greek and Persian Wars”. Both courses were absolutely wonderful. Professor Hale is a phenomenal lecturer. The material is well-organized, structured and extremely interesting. It is really hard to put a finger on what it is that makes his presentation style SO effective: the presentation is simply pleasant and seemingly effortless for both parties involved, often seasoned with a bit of wit. It is simply elegant… CONTENT: the course deals with Archaeological studies of the Greek and Roman Era. The first third of the course is given over to describing different aspects of archaeological study. This is a very multi-disciplinary science, leveraging the expertise of people from extremely diverse fields which you would usually not associate with archaeology such as chemistry, physiology, zoology, botany, and physics. Using all these different views in much the same manner as analyzing a crime scene, Professor Hale explains in fascinating detail how the different techniques are used, and demonstrates their use on particular classical sites. He also tells us some of the extremely colorful stories of famous archaeologists that have made big contributions to the young science, such as Heinrich Schliemann, Joachim Winckelmann, and Harriet Boyd to name only a few. The second part of the course is given over to analyzing specific archaeological discoveries of the classical era. Professor Hale tells us the ways in which the discoveries were made, sometimes by fluke chance, what methods were used to analyze the sites, and what was learned from the excavations. Many different sites are covered, some of them considered to be among the most important archaeological sites to date, such as Pompei, Knosos, Rome, Delphi and Athens. The third part is given over to trying to understand what big questions can be learned from many Archaeological sites together. For example, how is it that Greek culture developed in such a unique way? What can we make of the silent majority of the classical era - the slaves - from Archaeological sites? This was my 34th title from the TGC, and it has to rank as one of my favorites.
Date published: 2014-07-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Among the Very Best Hale is simply a master of this kind of teaching. His subject matter is captivating and his delivery superb. You can't go wrong with his lecture series.
Date published: 2014-06-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A perfect course I learned SO much more from this course than others about ancient history. Perhaps it is the comfortably-paced narrative style focusing on a fine selection of tidbits. Dunno, but I will retain a lot. I listened to this course at double speed with great success.
Date published: 2014-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Fascinating Survey of Classical Archaeology As a long-time archaeology buff, I purchased and initially viewed this course in 2007, soon after it was released. I recall that I enjoyed it very much, but that was before I began to write reviews. I was drawn back to it last month after viewing Dr. Ressler’s excellent engineering course on the technology of the ancient world that covered some of the same ground. My intent was to review just a few of Dr. Hale’s earlier lectures, but I quickly became hooked and wound up fully absorbed in revisiting the entire course. It was well worth my time. Dr. Hale is often described as a master story teller, certainly true, but given the scope and depth of his knowledge of the classical world, he is clearly much more. Remarkably, his relaxed but fluid and fully coherent presentation is delivered without notes or teleprompter. This 36-lecture course is divided into three equal sections: the first deals with the earliest period of archaeology as it emerged from mere treasure-hunting in the period from mid-18th century to the early 20th, featuring the work and techniques employed by the pioneers of initially crude, but later more scientific excavation, like Winckelmann at Pompeii, Schliemann at Troy, and Evans at Knossos, to name only the most celebrated. Entire lectures are devoted to the development of underwater archaeology by George Bass and the discovery of scientific dating techniques. Dr. Hale’s explanation of the basic physics and chemistry behind radiocarbon dating is the clearest description for the lay audience of this crucial dating technology that I have seen or read. The second section of the course encompasses 12 specific case studies detailing the methodology and results of significant excavations involving selected temples, battlefields, shipwrecks, etc. of the Greek and Roman world. While each has its own distinct features and challenges, the most fascinating for me are: 1) the excavation in the 1960s of the highly advanced Minoan settlement on the island of Thera (present day Santorini), destroyed by an enormous volcanic eruption in the 16th century B.C. and perhaps the leading candidate for the legendary lost city of Atlantis; and 2) the recent discovery and excavation of the site of the infamous battle loss of three Roman legions of Emperor Augustus in the year 9 AD in the Teutoburg Forest in Germany. The third section seeks to recreate the daily lives of the people who lived in the ancient Greco-Roman world, from emperor to soldier to slave to the role of women. Lifestyles, conventions and relationships are examined in the setting of a civilization that existed 2000 or more years ago. While much of what we know is derived from written records of the time, our understanding of the classical era is greatly enhanced and personalized by the discoveries and artifacts uncovered through archaeological excavations typical of those presented in this highly informative and enjoyable course.
Date published: 2014-01-23
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