Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor

Course No. 363
Professor Kenneth W. Harl, Ph.D.
Tulane University
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Course No. 363
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Course Overview

Perhaps no other region of the world has played so many different roles in culture, religion, and politics, for so long a period of time, as the peninsula of Asian Turkey, known to the Greeks as Anatolia and to the Romans as Asia Minor. Though today we call it Turkey, that name dates back only to the Middle Ages.

9,000 Years of History

From 7000 B.C., when Neolithic hunters began the transition to a pastoral and agricultural lifestyle, to the founding of modern Turkey in the 20th century, this varied geographical area about the size of Texas has been a crossroads of history.

Homer composed the Iliad and Odyssey on the shores of Asia Minor. All seven of the great ecumenical councils that defined Christian theology in the centuries after the conversion of Constantine took place within the boundaries of modern Turkey. To study the region is to study a land that has nurtured successive civilizations that have defined the Western and Muslim traditions that embrace so many of the modern world's inhabitants.

A Hands-On Professor

Professor Kenneth W. Harl bases these lectures on both a lifetime of academic study and decades of his own firsthand fieldwork at sites throughout Turkey. He is Professor of History at Tulane University, where he has taught since 1978, after receiving his Ph.D. in History from Yale University. At Tulane, he has received the annual Student Award for Excellence in Teaching eight times. In Fall 2001, he was the national winner of the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teachers.

Conquest and Culture

The history of the region includes these milestones:

  • the rise of the Hittites, a chariot-borne warrior people who struck out from their Anatolian heartland to overrun the Babylonian Empire and fight the armies of Egypt's Ramses II to a standstill
  • the Trojan War, a legend created from historical events of the late Bronze Age, when Achaean merchant princes and adventurers clashed swords with Hittite emperors in Asia Minor
  • the birth of Western philosophy in the search for a rational account of all things by thinkers such as Thales, Anaximander, and Heraclitus—all Greek-speaking sages from what is now the Aegean coast of Turkey
  • the fiery revolt of the Ionian Greek cities that led to the Persian Wars (499-479 B.C.) and the rise of Periclean Athens as both the world's first democracy and the leader of a maritime empire wealthy enough to build the Parthenon
  • the great early victories of Alexander the Great that paved the way for the period of brilliant cultural and spiritual creativity we call the Hellenistic Age
  • the spread of early Christianity under the guidance of St. Paul, a native of Tarsus on the southern coast of Asia Minor
  • the golden age of the Byzantine Empire, which preserved the Greek classics and repeatedly saved Europe from nomadic invasion
  • the Muslim transformation of Asia Minor culminating in the Ottoman Empire, which at its height in the 16th century threatened to take over Europe itself.

Change and Continuity

Cultural change and continuity, says Professor Harl, are the main themes of this course. Each successive civilization inherited and modified the political, social, religious, and economic institutions of its predecessor.

The scope of Anatolian history can be best understood as a series of transformations in the religious landscape of the peninsula. Anatolia has experienced a number of major cultural and religious rewrites: first by the Hittite emperors; then by the elites of Hellenic cities; next by their Hellenized descendants in the Roman age; then by Christian emperors and bishops in the Byzantine age; and, finally, by Turkish rulers and Muslim mystics.

The final chapter, the transformation of Muslim Turkey into a modern secular nation-state, is still in progress. In looking at cultural changes, certain archaeological sites and important monuments will be featured as examples of wider changes.

Cultural Components

The course can be divided into five cultural components:

Early Anatolia (6000–500 B.C.)

The first lectures deal with the earliest civilizations of Anatolia, emerging at the dawn of agriculture in Neolithic villages on the Konya plain (in central Turkey); through the Hittite Empire, the apex of civilization in the late Bronze Age (1400–1180 B.C.); to the emergence of Phrygia, Lydia, and Persia, heirs to the Hittite traditions in the early Iron Age (1100–500 B.C.).

The Hellenization of Anatolia (750–31 B.C.)

The shores of western Anatolia came under the influence of the earliest Greeks, the Achaeans or Mycenaeans, during the late Bronze Age. Although this contact inspired the epic poems of Homer, it was only from 750 B.C. that Hellenic influence spread into the peninsula. Alexander the Great (336–323 B.C.) conquered Anatolia, and his successors transformed the region into a center of Greek cities that played a major role in the civilization of the Hellenistic Age (323–31 B.C.).

Roman Asia Minor (200 B.C.–395 A.D.)

The Romans built on the Hellenistic cities and institutions, and Anatolia was transformed into one of the most prosperous regions of the Roman world and homeland of the future Byzantine Empire. The Hellenic cities of Anatolia not only adapted Roman institutions and culture but also influenced the Roman monarchy, known as the Principate.

Byzantine Civilization (395–1453)

Imperial crisis in 235–305, and Christianization after 324, produced a new Byzantine civilization on Anatolian soil by 600, the basis of Orthodox Eastern Europe today. The Byzantine Empire, reduced to its Anatolian core, weathered two and one-half centuries of invasions and emerged as the leading civilization of medieval Christendom in the 10th and 11th centuries.

Islamic Turkey (since 1071)

The Anatolian peninsula was transformed from a Christian to a Muslim land in the wake of Byzantine decline and the arrival of crusaders from Western Europe. Ottoman sultans then built the last great Muslim empire in the Middle East and Mediterranean world, an empire that fragmented in the 20th century into a series of nation-states. In 1922-1939, Anatolia became the core of the Turkish Republic, a Muslim society that has successfully met the challenges of modernization.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Introduction to Anatolia
    The lands around the central Turkish plateau have historically "faced" two ways. The western and southern shores have been drawn to Greece and Europe. The mountain-ringed interior has been linked to Iran and Asia proper. x
  • 2
    First Civilizations in Anatolia
    Neolithic Anatolians were among the first farmers and herders, dwelling in villages with sophisticated technology and organization. From the Sumerians to the south, they learned to write and build palaces and cities. x
  • 3
    The Hittite Empire
    Beginning as invaders from the Balkans, the daring Indo-European people called the Hittites overran Anatolia's core with their war chariots and founded a dynasty that rivaled the Egypt of Ramses II. x
  • 4
    Hattušaš and Imperial Hittite Culture
    Hittite kings became the first of many conquerors who would leave their mark on the land. Near their ritual capital of Hattušaš, they carved from the living rock a mighty open-air shrine to their thousands of gods. But shortly thereafter, Hattušaš was sacked and abandoned. x
  • 5
    Origins of Greek Civilization
    As the Hittites were uniting Anatolia, early Greeks (called Achaeans) were visiting its western reaches. From fortress-palaces at places like Mycenae and Pylos, Achaean warlords traded and raided along the shores of Asia Minor and, in time, would become the first Greeks to clash with the armies of a great king to the east. x
  • 6
    The Legend of Troy
    The most enduring legacies from early Anatolia are The Iliad and The Odyssey (c. 750 B.C.). How do the siege of Troy and the exploits of Homer's warrior chieftains fit into the wider tale of imperial struggle and decline during the Greek Dark Age (1100–750 B.C.)? x
  • 7
    Iron Age Kingdoms of Asia Minor
    From 1200 to 1000 B.C., migrations reshaped Anatolia. Phrygians came from the Balkans, only to be overcome by Cimmerian nomads (c. 700 B.C.). In the West, Hittite provincials founded trade-rich Lydia, whose last king was Croesus. x
  • 8
    Emergence of the Polis
    From 750 B.C. the Greeks distinguished themselves with the polis, a city-state based on citizen rule and destined to influence the world. By 500 B.C., Athens had devised the first democratic constitution, with all adult male citizens forming the sovereign assembly. x
  • 9
    Ionia and Early Greek Civilization
    The Archaic Age (750–480 B.C.), known in glimpses, remains one of history's most creative periods. Its poets, philosophers, sculptors, and architects gave birth to the mind of the West. At its forefront were the Greek trading cities of Ionia on the coast of Asia Minor and the nearby islands. x
  • 10
    The Persian Conquest
    In 546 B.C., Cyrus the Great of Persia made Anatolia part of his world empire. Anatolian grandees took to Persian ways, and life across Asia Minor soon bore a Persian stamp. Only the Ionian Greeks stood apart. When they rebelled against their Persian-sponsored local tyrants in 499 B.C., war flamed forth between the Greek city-states and the Great King. x
  • 11
    Athenian Empire and Spartan Hegemony
    As the 5th century B.C. closed, war among the Greeks left the Great King once again ruler of Ionia, but with a weakened empire. It seemed that Persian and native elites would carve out kingdoms, and that Ionia would again become the meeting place of East and West. But Alexander the Great had other ideas. x
  • 12
    Alexander the Great and the Diadochoi
    In eight years beginning in 334 B.C., Alexander and his Macedonians overran the Persian Empire, unexpectedly altering the course of Anatolian civilization by making Hellenism the leading cultural force in Asia Minor for the next 15 centuries. x
  • 13
    The Hellenization of Asia Minor
    Alexander's successor dynasts promoted Greek culture. The Attalid kings turned their fortress city of Pergamum into a showcase of Hellenic arts and learning that the Romans admired. Elites poured their wealth into public display and buildings, and cities knew themselves to be part of a wider Hellenic world. x
  • 14
    Rome versus the Kings of the East
    Pompey charged the Hellenistic cities with administering the Roman provincial system in the parts of Asia Minor the legions conquered. Thanks to his reforms, these rich cities paid for the civil wars (48–31 B.C.) that destroyed the Republic and made the brilliant politician Octavian Rome's first emperor. x
  • 15
    Prosperity and Roman Patronage
    Under the pax Romana, Hellenic cities of Anatolia attained their greatest prosperity and cultural accomplishment. Polished Hellenic aristocrats sought Roman citizenship and, more than any other provincials, imposed the notion that an emperor should act not as a ruler of subjects but as a leader of free men. x
  • 16
    Gods and Sanctuaries of Roman Asia Minor
    In the Hellenistic and Roman ages, the native gods of Anatolia assumed Hellenic guises. The record of religious life at this time is at odds with the common opinion that the public worship of civic gods (including emperors) declined before enthusiastic, irrational mystery cults. x
  • 17
    Jews and Early Christians
    Paul preached in the cities of Anatolia, converting Hellenized Jews and Judaized pagans. In A.D. 250, Christians were still a tiny minority, but with impressive institutions developed in Anatolia. When the convert Emperor Constantine (r. 306–337) summoned the First Ecumenical Council to Nicaea in 325, a momentous new chapter in religious history opened. x
  • 18
    From Rome to Byzantium
    After a century of crisis in the Roman world, Constantine unified it and created an imperial church. By 500, Anatolia had undergone yet another cultural and religious transformation into a Christian land. Anatolia had passed over into the Byzantine age. x
  • 19
    Constantinople, Queen of Cities
    When Constantine dedicated his New Rome on the site of an old Greek colony on the European side of the Bosporus, he was founding a capital that would stand as the bastion of Roman government and classical learning under great emperors such as Justinian. x
  • 20
    The Byzantine Dark Age
    The restored Roman Empire of Justinian and after faced many foes, including the new armies of Islam. Urbane classical life yielded to a martial society. Fortress cities rose in the interior. Tenacious Byzantine defense broke the Arabic advance, and Anatolia prospered for a time. x
  • 21
    Byzantine Cultural Revival
    Macedonian emperors revived patronage of the arts and letters at Constantinople, and this cultural rebirth was echoed across Anatolia in the 10th and 11th centuries. By 950, nobles were hiring first-class artists who painted in naturalistic styles that looked back to classical models and would influence the Italian Renaissance. x
  • 22
    Crusaders and Seljuk Turks
    For a century, the fate of Anatolia lay poised between Byzantines and Seljuk Turks. Though damaged by Crusader depredations, the Byzantines struggled to stem the Turkish tide. As the 13th century opened, the outlines of a new Muslim Turkish civilization began to appear in Anatolia. x
  • 23
    Muslim Transformation
    The sultans sponsored a new, vital Muslim society that once again reshaped the religious landscape of Anatolia, this time with mosques and minarets. The Mongol attacks of the 1240s, ironically, would help make possible the rise of a new Turkish Muslim dynasty, the Ottomans. x
  • 24
    The Ottoman Empire
    The Ottomans forged the last great Mediterranean empire, ruled from a rebuilt Constantinople. Suleiman the Magnificent's failure to capture Vienna (1529) checked Ottoman expansion, but Ottoman military power remained formidable for centuries. 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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Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 84.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative course I previously listened to the "Barbarian Empires of the Steppes" by the same lecturer. I have same thoughts about Professor Harl as I did on the previous course. He is very enthusiastic and really knows his stuff but one must work hard to keep up with his fast pace. On both audio courses I had to search the internet for maps, etc to follow the lectures. I then took the video version of the present course out of the library. I highly recommend the video version for both of these courses since they have maps that make sense of the audio.
Date published: 2019-03-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great content. This series is an excellent addition to my library of history lectures. It dovetails nicely with 'Origins of Great Ancient Civilizations' and ' Barbarian Empires of the Steppes'.
Date published: 2019-03-12
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not about the Middle East only "Anatolia" December 3, 2018 Great Courses # 363 Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor by Ken Harl Published in 2001 No information on any relation to current (2018) problems in the area. The title is misleading. It should at least be: --- about Anatolia I did not know that he means essentially what is now Turkey. Others may know this, but I did not. I wanted information on what I thot was the “middle East: Israel, Syria, Egypt, etc.” He means “Anatolia” , which I assume many people know as like Turkey. I confess my ignorance. He lists too many kings, rulers, places, etc. with limited explanations of what does it mean. I hoped for him to give explanation & insight of the meanings of the times, he did not do this. Limited graphics, most maps are confusing & not helpful Presentation is very bad, too many: “ums” & ahhs, etc. He does not speak very consistent sentences. He rarely moves away from the podium to read his notes. Great Courses should show him how to put his notes on the teleprompter at the bottom of the camera. This one is going back, with a note to avoid this author.
Date published: 2018-12-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent subject matter primer I’ve found this course an excellent primary in areas of acieant history I have not been into deeply. As a result I’ve found things of great interest to dig more deeply into and have begun. Your course is well worth the expense, and is enjoyable to listen to over and over.
Date published: 2018-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Location, Location, Location Just as Kenneth Harl’s Origins of Great Ancient Civilizations course functions as a gateway to other courses on ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia, Israel, Anatolia, and Achaean Greece, this course leads to several other Harl lecture series, including Alexander and the Macedonian Empire, the Fall of Paganism and the Origins of Medieval Christianity, the World of Byzantium, the Era of the Crusades, and the Ottoman Empire. What ties them all together is the location—the Anatolian peninsula, also known as Asia Minor. Asia Minor has a dual geographic character, as Harl points out. Its core consists of a high and windswept plateau abutting the Pontic and Anti-Taurus mountain ranges. Its climate—dry in the summer and very cold in the winter--and grassy terrain resemble that of Central Asia. Surrounding the core is a fringe of warm low-lying coastlands facing the Black, Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. While the plateau had early trade and cultural connections with Syria and Mesopotamia, the coastlands interacted with and became part of the Greek world, until the Turkish takeover toward the end of the Middle Ages. Asia Minor is also a mosaic of sacred landscapes, which each successive civilization has “rewritten” with its own shrines, temples and tombs, sometimes erecting them atop or near their predecessors at springs or on mountaintops. Harl sees special continuity in the Anatolians’ devotion to the goddess, whether it be the mother goddess of ancient farm villages, the Phrygian and Greek Cybele, or the Virgin Mary. Speaking of civilizations, Asia Minor has hosted a long parade of them: the ancient Neolithic town of Çatal Hüyük from around 7000 BC and similar communities, the Bronze-Age Hittite Empire that ended around 1180 BC, the city of Troy (which Harl identifies with the “Wilusa” of Hittite records) in the northwest, the Iron-Age Luvian/Neo-Hittite kingdoms of the southeast, the Phrygians in the center and north, the Lydians, Lycians and Carians in the west, the classical Greeks—at first independent and then under Persian, Macedonian and Roman rule--the medieval Greeks/Byzantines, and finally the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks. Each invasion (excepting the Macedonians and Romans) brought a new language, new religious ideas, new artistic styles, and new political institutions, yet the invaders sometimes borrowed and perpetuated what they found. Turkish mosques, for example, strongly resemble the Hagia Sophia and other Byzantine domed churches. I highly recommend this course as a standalone or as an introduction to all those others I named above. Its combination of geography with human history is like no other Teaching Company course. There are a lot of good maps, with copies in the guidebook, and great photos of ancient, medieval and early modern cult sites. My only major complaint is the usual one about Harl, an extremely well-informed and organized yet undisciplined lecturer, umming, uhhing, hesitating, and stumbling throughout. There is also a minor mistake in the first lecture, when he attributes the famous quote of Ottoman Turkey being the “sick man of Europe” to Tsar Nicholas II rather than Nicholas I. On the plus side, Harl has an enjoyable sense of humor. In Lecture 15 he mentions that he likes to share his high opinion of Roman Empress Julia Domna with his students, to the point that one wrote in an exam that she was the love of Harl’s life, but history “screwed” them by putting them centuries apart.
Date published: 2018-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Solid Harl Course This is the fifth course I’ve taken from Professor Harl, the others being “Origins of Great Ancient Civilizations”, “The Era of the Crusades”, “The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes”, and “Vikings”. Dr. Harl has his usual delivery: fast with a lot of dates, place names and persons. This course suffers a bit on audio, unless you have a pretty good understanding of ancient Asia Minor, or access to a good atlas of ancient civilizations. There are plenty of maps provided in the course materials, but they are not nearly so good as the ones in the video version of “Barbarian Empires” or “Vikings”. However this should not detract from the overall course material presented. In 24 lectures we move from Neolithic Anatolia and the Hittites to the rise (and eventual decline) of the Ottoman Empire. The course takes an interesting view of the history of Asia Minor by considering the rise and fall of the dominant cultures of the area as kings form empires and then they are supplanted by other empires and lines of kings. An interesting approach and one that fits in with the course title. I’m a fan of Professor Harl’s courses and as such perhaps ignore what other reviewers see as his weaknesses. For example, his “uhs” and other verbal tics. I’d rather have a professor with full command of his subject, who is not reading from a teleprompter or even very many notes, but rather knows where he is going, how to get there, and takes time for a few diversions along the way, than one who can’t deviate from prepared text at all. Of course this is my preference and others may well feel differently. A few high notes: The lecture on Constantinople filled out a lot about the city and times that I sort of knew, but not well; the transition lectures from the Neolithic age to the Hittites were particularly interesting, although as usual much has to be informed speculation, rather than hard facts; and finally I loved the last third of lectures where the flow from the early Christians to Byzantium, its rise, decline and rebirth to the Crusaders and the Muslim hegemony was seamless and consistent.
Date published: 2018-06-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Poor in presentation The presentation was poorly done. His use of "ah' was overwhelming and distracting. His maps were very busy as to make it difficult to discover of where he was speaking. He would introduce a new group without giving background information. I labored through this course, but did find some areas enlightening.
Date published: 2018-05-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting History I'm a lover of History. This video was the most interesting history of Asia Minor. It moved fast but still entertaining.
Date published: 2018-05-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Little Too Broad This course was not exactly what I was expecting. From the title, I was expecting the course to focus on the ancient past more than it did. This course spans from the earliest civilizations of Asia Minor up to the Middle Ages. Since the course only has twenty-four lessons, this meant going through some major topics pretty fast. While I felt the scope was too broad for this course, Professor Harl is one of the best Great Courses professors and his skill as a teacher overcame the deficiencies. I learned a lot from the course, even if I would have preferred a more narrow focus.
Date published: 2018-04-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Learn the History of this critical World area The course was well worth the effort. Professor Harl is very knowledgeable of history throughout this area. His presentation is very systematic, and easily followed. The information is given in a straight forward manner, without apologies for his interpretation of events. The inclusion of pertinent information concerning events, political entities, and their rulers throughout the region is especially helpful to keep all the information in perspective. Although a master of information, his presentation sometimes gets pedantic, and can lull one off into other areas of thought. His straight forward lecture style is professional, but I found myself drifting away from time to time. The graphics, although adequate, are getting dated (it is an older course @2001), and is showing its age. I would recommend the entire lecture be updated to current standards. If you are interested in this important part of the world, and how it got to where it is, by all means get this course.
Date published: 2018-03-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Details abound So far I have watched two lessons, 19 and 20, to reinforce what I am currently teaching my 7th grade students. The visuals help me create drawings for my visual learners and act out the battles for my kinesthetic learners.
Date published: 2018-02-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Complex History for Today's Complex Area I was amazed at the complex history of Asia Minor. And today that same area is the site of much of the world's instability. So interesting to see all the past emerging empires, their decline and end, followed by other risings and fallings. I got insights into Biblical times, the Mongols, Islam, the Crusades, etc. I begin to see how peoples of these lands can have different perspectives from us on the same historical events, e.g. the Crusades. A great course to whet one's appetite.
Date published: 2018-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Ultimate guide to history of ancient turkey You really have to be a history nerd to appreciate this course and this lecturer but if you are , then you will learn a great deal about the ancient history of Turkey and its relationship to other ancient cultures. The value of this course depends on this person taking it.
Date published: 2017-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eye opening look at the rich history of Asia Minor Asia Minor has a rich tradition to which we have all been exposed in our various history courses, but usually as a backdrop to western Europe, the exotic "East" of Constantinople, or part of the journey taken to India. But Prof. Harl brings out the complex history of this part of the world in his usual enlightened and learned manner. The illustrations used in the course show it to be one of the presenter's earlier works, but the information, brought about by his enthusiasm for the subject, backed by his almost encyclopedic knowledge, make the course well worthwhile. He does not just know facts, but has woven together an entrancing and comprehensive look at the "historical life" of Asia Minor from the Hittites to a look at modern Turkey.
Date published: 2017-10-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent Information This is a favorite region of the world and period of history to me, and I have had the opportunity to travel in the area.I was eager to learn more, and this teacher is well-renowned. However, as I was using the "audio" version, listening to the lectures as I drove about my errands, I found his speech patterns and repeated use of "uh" rather off-putting to his presentation. This would probably not bothered me so much if I had been using a DVD presentation. Excellent teacher, kept information interesting, but he has a rather unfortunate manner of speaking.
Date published: 2017-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great topical overview course 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 1 out of 5 by from Great Topic but Disappointing Execution Unfortunately, I just could not get into this course and found my mind wandering way too often. I hope it wasn’t a case of the lecturer’s style not resonating with me because I have already bought a number of his other courses because the topics he covers really interest me. Maybe this was just a specific sub-par effort but the reviews are extremely high so a lot of people don’t feel that way. I purchased this course because it covers the many civilizations that came to occupy this region of the world but I felt the professor didn’t do their stories justice. I wished he’d spent more time introducing the peoples in a chronological/narrative manner but instead he seemed to assume listeners knew specific events and had a foundation of knowledge and the lectures instead felt like a fast recitation/rapid fire of many civilizations and facts in some cases without discussion of a greater meaning/bigger picture. At times I felt lost trying to keep up and maybe that’s why my mind gave up and kept wandering. I feel like the best history Great Courses are those that explain the basics and facts and then provide any additional details or insight. The abrupt endings to lectures without a conclusion, “winding down” comments, or preview of the next lecture were jarring. The sudden round of applause at times to mark the end of a lecture caused me to jump once or twice---no idea he was finished! Additionally, the professor used a lot of “filler” words including “Uhh” and “Um” which became very distracting as the lectures wore on. In one lecture I counted 44 in the first 4 minutes. 300+ for a 30 minute lecture just makes it way too distracting. I am going to try "History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective" next in the hopes of a better understanding of these civilizations.
Date published: 2017-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Splendid Set of Lectures Professor Harl delivers once again a set of lectures that are crammed with information and delivered with passion, style, and humor. Over the years he is one of the real gems used by Great Courses. Not much else to say. If you want to learn about the ancient history of Asia Minor and enjoy every minute of the experience, buy these lectures and dive in.
Date published: 2016-10-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Rollercoaster ride from 'our Kenneth'. I use his name familiarly as he seems to be part of the family, now that I have watched so many of his courses. I have even gotten used to his 'argh, argh' punctuations ! This course is great because it fills in the geographical and historical gaps between Greece/Rome and the Middle East (see also his course on 'The Vikings' for a similar historical gap-filler to the north). The singularly most appalling aspect is the type of maps. They are 'mud maps' of the worst sort ! Like molten chocolate, 'illuminated' from the northwest, giving gross shadows on the eastern side of countries. In some cases, this 3D visualisation often makes the seas stand forward - most uncomfortable. Certainly not up to the usual TGC's standard. But don't let this one gripe prevent you from watching what is a most absorbing topic.
Date published: 2016-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Asia Minor: Eastern & Western Trajectories Professor Kenneth W. Harl’s course Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor and his other CLASSICAL and BYZANTINE presentations have cleared many pre-conceptions and stereotypes in my understanding of history in general. Concepts such as the barbarian, heresy, paganism, Oriental-ism, persecution, religion, etc. simple but deceptive ideas, have come into a much clearer, refined, and critical focus allowing further depth analysis and objectivity to my historical studies. These lectures document the ancient civilizations that inhabited, developed, fragmented, and transformed the political, cultural, social, and religious landscape of ASIA MINOR (Anatolia / Modern Turkey) which covers a wide time frame. It ranges FROM early Neolithic settlements 6000 BC, domestication, writing, merchant trade, urbanization, and rise in city life; TO the Fall of Constantinople and the rise in the Ottoman Empire 1453 AD. The professor’s empirical data and conceptual historical narrative is supplemented with the disciplines of archaeology, anthropology, mythology, and theology helping to clarify the social processes taking place on this strategic landscape which is a geographical-cultural BRIDGE connecting the EASTERN and WESTERN TRADITIONS of yesterday and today. Its interior mountainous plateau regions gravitate toward Iran and the Near East, its northern shores / Black Sea towards Eastern Europe, and its western and southern shores / Aegean and Mediterranean Seas towards Western Europe. These pulls towards the East and West are still making the headlines today. These lectures focus on five major HISTORICAL STAGES portraying the rise, maturity, decline, crisis, fall, transformation, and continuity of the great ancient civilizations that inhabited this Anatolian landscape: EARLY ANATOLIAN period (6000 – 500 BC), HELLENIZATION period (750 – 31BC), ROMANIZATION period (200BC – 395 AD), BYZANTIZATION period (395 – 1453 AD), ISLAMIZATION period (1071…). Whether designed or unintended, the presentation is a microscopic view of macro-Mediterranean world history through the cultural lens of Asia Minor’s changing landscape. According to the professor, the CULTURAL and RELIGIOUS RE-WRITES on this soil by the Hittites, Phrygians, Lydia, Trojans, Greeks, Persians, Romans, Western-Latin Church, Byzantines, Eastern-Greek Orthodox Church, Arabs, Turks, and Muslims have contributed to today’s richness of its culture which is still evolving toward modernization. These earlier periods echo and are sketched with the DARKNESS and ILLUMINATION of kings, generals, emperors, pharaohs, sheiks, grandees, satraps, sultans, ghazi-warriors, theologians, philosophers, renaissance-artists-scholars, mystics, caliphs, popes, bishops, patriarchs, prized cultural artifacts, secular-religious architectures, gods-goddesses, competing theologies, ecumenical councils, iconoclastic controversies, pagan cults, Christians, Shiites-Sunni Muslims, Seljuk-Ottoman Turks, Sufis, crusaders, migrations, famous battles, civil wars, etc., much still vibrating today, are all documented in detail in the excellent course guidebook with accompanying maps, timeline, glossary, biographies, and bibliography. (Should become the standard on how to organize and document a detailed guidebook – just excellent!) Finally, I close with a comment I previously made on Professor Harl’s Byzantium lectures since it also applies here: the only historical point not addressed concerns the Belgian scholar Henri Pirenne whose work MOHAMMED AND CHARLEMAGNE deals with this area and periodization of history. To quote from the book cover: “the cause of the break with the tradition of antiquity was the rapid and unexpected advance of Islam…an event of historical proportions…causing the axis of life to shift northwards from the Mediterranean for the first time in history”. To hear the professor discuss, critique, and interpret Pirenne’s thesis in light of the civilizations of ASIA MINOR and BYZANTIUM would be very enlightening indeed. *** AN HISTORICAL NECESSITY, EXCELLENT, and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED ***
Date published: 2015-09-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Great Course by Professor Harl Professor Harl has done a number of excellent courses for The Great Courses and this course is just as excellent as the others. Professor Harl presents history in a manner which is both informative and entertaining. A lot of the courses on ancient history start with major well-known empires such as the Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. This course starts at the beginning with the first known civilizations and explains the evolutionary path from these earliest civilizations to the major empires. Consequently, this course should be one of your first courses on ancient history so that you will have an appreciation of the “big picture” before delving into the other excellent ancient history courses by Professor Harl and other professors who have created courses for The Great Courses. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2015-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Introduction to an Area Neglected in School From grade school through college, Asia Minor was mentioned occasionally but seldom, if ever, studied in any depth. This course addresses that neglect. I now have a much better appreciation of the area. Harl definitely filled in some gaps which allows other historical information I've learned make more sense. Harl clearly explains the who, what, where, and when. (Yes, he ums and uhs quite a bit. But, I've learned from his other courses to ignore this and to instead listen to what he is saying. It's definitely worth it!) My one criticism of the course is the amount of time he spends on Greece. Many other courses, including some of his, cover Greece in depth. I would have preferred that he spend more time talking about other aspects of Asia Minor. Overall, this course includes the history of Asia Minor and the interactions between its inhabitants and the civilizations surrounding them. I recommend this course.
Date published: 2015-03-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Weaving history Audio download (augmented with online maps and outside sources). This lecture series is the ninth series from the "Harl Collection" of lectures...dealing with not only the eastern Mediterranean, but the Viking, Roman, and Steppe Barbarians lectures...that I have had the pleasure of hearing (all have been audio with augmentation). For those considering purchasing these lectures please understand that, unless you are very well versed in the geography of this part of the world (and few are here in the US), you may be better served by the video versions, unless you have the luxury of pausing and checking things out on Google Earth and other sources. In addition, there is a fair amount of repetition within the Harl repertoire, but that shouldn't surprise you since the history of this part of the world within this historic time frame is intricately interwoven...each lecture series reinforcing the others...each series stressing a particular aspect that allows a bit more depth, and an increase in curiosity. I thoroughly enjoyed these lectures (even though #24 seemed a bit rushed), and could easily have given them a '5'...but I didn't...we want to keep the good Professor humble, don't we? Dr Harl is probably my favorite lecturer and I appreciate his no-nonsense, direct lecture style and wry sense of might, as well. Recommended, but wait for a sale...and coupon.
Date published: 2015-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Always Excellent Professor Harl I have been a customer for twenty some years and have taken countless courses in many disciplines. I had just returned from Turkey and had superficially immersed myself in its history and then noted this course. I had taken courses from Professor Harl before. I saw this one on Asia Minor and jumped on it immediately. I wished I had taken it before I went. I thought he provided the right amount of perspective in terms of larger historical trends and movements and details within them. Always there to point out interesting facts about this or that emperor or this or that character. He made the history of this peninsula which is so interesting come alive and gave a base by which to understand more of the country and the region. He is an excellent lecturer and clearly knowledgable on the subject. I highly recommend this course and the many other ones he does for this company. If I were at Tulane I would take all his courses, seminars, go on this field trips. Seems like the type of guy you'd like to have a beer with....
Date published: 2015-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Moving Besides providing viewers with historical information in an engaging, clear fashion, Harl does something more. I saw it in his course on the Vikings and he does it here. He lets you see his respect and emotional attachment to his subject, which in turns evokes emotions in those watching. His lecture on the ancient Hebrews was especially moving and I went away with a profound sense of their importance and achievements that underlie so much of western civilization. It's good to know things and even better to feel them and Harl does a wonderful job in both regards.
Date published: 2014-11-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from It Nicely Filled in Gaps I have spent considerable time and effort in college and in the many years since studying Ancient Greek and Roman history and their legacies. But I have only barely glimpsed the story of ancient civilizations of Asia Minor. This is why I bought and took this course, and I'm glad I did. In my judgment, the course is strongest in its coverage of the earliest and latest periods. I was fascinated by the teaching on the Hittite Empire, the origins of Greek civilization, and the founding and history of Constantinople. The professor and I share a passion about all the history "in-between." And I was interested to learn more about the relationship of developments in Asia Minor and the powerful influence there of the Greeks, the Romans, and Christianity. But, frankly, these influences were so dominating that many of these lectures were more about them than much intrinsic to Asia Minor. History is history, to be sure, and the history of the region was driven largely by these forces. So, I understand the professor's decisions here. I simply found less value in lectures that involved a lot of repetition of content with which I was already quite familiar. The professor is solid. He's obviously taught - and taught well - on these topics for years. He's clearly a scholar, too, who has studied, traveled, and done excavations in Turkey and throughout the ancient world. We're in good hands here with Professor Harl.
Date published: 2014-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent, albeit too brief, overview Even if you’ve read the second half of Gibbon, there’s much to learn from these lectures about an influential region. Professor Harl’s coverage of the Hittites was fascinating, though I would have liked more detail. The lectures on the classical period were quite an eye-opener; I’d known some of the details, but never quite added them up to realize how much of what we call Greek was Anatolian. I will respectfully disagree with reader123’s scepticism about the audio-only version of the course; I listened to this in the gym, though I do recommend getting the associated PDF. (Even if you didn’t buy the course from The Great Courses, they can sell you a hard copy directly.) For once the company did an excellent job of providing the necessary maps.
Date published: 2014-05-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting, but unbalanced The course describes the history of Asia Minor (a Roman term) - modern day's Turkey. The period covered is from the 19 century B.C. (the Hittite empire) to the 16th century A.D. (the Ottoman Empire). To cover in 24 lectures such a large historical period is, to put it lightly, quite an ambitious undertaking, and indeed - some eras are left with quite sparse coverage. Professor Harl is an expert on the classical era - Greek and Roman history. His enthusiasm and deep knowledge of the subject are very evident, and enable him to teach this material in a fascinating manner. The problem is that the course presumes to cover other subjects such as the Hittite era and the Ottoman era, and here it is well felt that these topics do not raise the same level of enthusiasm from Professor Harl. Another issue, is that he tends to describe in deep and interesting detail on processes and events of the Greek and Roman empire in general without necessarily tying it down well enough to the context of events in Asia Minor. Still, the lectures are very interesting, and the centrality of Asia Minor to events in the near east and Europe cannot be overstated and this makes the course well worth while.
Date published: 2014-01-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Worse Course ever Prof Harl um, uh, umm, uh, was, um, uh saying umm, uh, all through the course. I counted 19 ums and uhs in ONE MINUTE. It was so annoying I sent the course back for a refund. Doesn't anybody at the Teaching Courses LISTEN to the presentations before they go um, uh, um, uh, um, out?!!!!! GARBAGE!!!!
Date published: 2013-06-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from 23 gem lectures; 1 bomb I owe Professor Kenneth W. Harl a debt of gratitude - not only did he bring ancient Asia Minor to life for me, he introduced me to the reality of the role the Byzantine Empire played in preserving and transmitting classical studies to Western Europe, where that knowledge would help, eventually, to spark the Renaissance. Harl brings a penetrating intellect and irrepressible enthusiasm to the material. Not only that but he was tasked with outlining 9,000 years of history in just 24 lectures – no small feat, but he succeeded swimmingly. Yours truly is very sensitive to the scholarly treatment of the topic of religion, as I demand the same objective scholarship from professors on this topic as any other, and many, if not most scholars are incapable of it. Nevertheless Harl succeeded, objectively treating paganism, Christianity and Islam over 9,000 years in Asia Minor. In fact, when I finished lecture 23 I was confident of giving Harl a perfect score for his efforts in this course, but alas, he fell flat on his politically correct face in lecture 24. In lecture 24 Harl addressed the Ottoman Empire, including its decline and fall, and apparently Harl felt the pressure to not say anything that might offend Muslim sensibilities. The facts are that during the 16th and 17th centuries, in particular at the height of its power under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Empire was one of the most powerful states in the world. So what happened? Well, put simply, it was eclipsed by Christian Western Civilization which engendered and embraced myriad reforms (religious, cultural, political), as well as technological/scientific innovations, and engaged in world exploration via the high seas (on technologically advanced ships). Incredibly, Harl proclaims in lecture 24, that (to paraphrase) “the Muslim Ottomans had little to no control over these developments”. In other words, Harl would have us believe there was nothing fundamentally flawed with the Ottoman Empire; it was simply eclipsed by progress. Now, in all the other treatments of history I have ever been exposed to, including The Great Courses, I have never heard the decline and fall of any state or civilization explained in this way. Typically, value judgments are liberally applied, ie – The Western Roman Empire fell in part because the it never developed a stable system of succession for imperial power (value judgment - failure); Napoleon conquered Europe by superior strategy of arms and statecraft (value judgment – superior); Hitler conquered muscle-bound France with a brilliant strategy of highly mobile offensive weapons against Frances’s unimaginative static defenses – the Maginot Line (value judgment – superior); women had a miserable socioeconomic status in ancient Greece and Rome (value judgment – unjust) Yet for Harl, the ascendancy of Western Civilization over Middle Eastern Civilization is a value-judgment-neutral fact of history. If we follow this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion then the superior treatment of women and homosexuals that has emerged in the West versus the Middle East is a neutral fact, for which we have no call to judge the Middle Eastern culture as inferior. Does any thinking person buy this? Is mistreatment of women and homosexuals within Western Civilization not judged by its very own inhabitants? If the consumer interested in this course can imbibe the final, 24th lecture without gagging, then all-in-all this course, remains, nonetheless, a fine course, worth the investment in treasure and time, and I have rated it accordingly.
Date published: 2013-03-31
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