Great Tours: Greece and Turkey, from Athens to Istanbul

Course No. 3231
Professor John R. Hale, Ph.D.
University of Louisville
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Course No. 3231
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Get comprehensive coverage of major tourist sites such as the Acropolis with the aid of on-location footage.
  • numbers Enjoy animated, 3-D computer renderings that allow you to visualize ancient sites as they appeared during their prime.
  • numbers Walk through ancient cities, temples, fortresses, stadiums, theaters, churches, and more.
  • numbers Better understand the significance of ancient sites from around the world using present-day and historical maps.
  • numbers Get comprehensive details and context on ancient sites from thousands of photographs and illustrations.
  • numbers Better prepare for an upcoming trip to Greece or Turkey, or simply relax and armchair travel.

Course Overview

The shimmering turquoise waters and lost worlds of the Aegean await you. Grab your travel hat and join us for a unique cultural journey to the dramatic landscapes of Greece and Turkey—to dazzling ancient cities, majestic empires, and magical treasures of history.

This is a land of gods and heroes. Here great myths came to life and epic battles were fought, and the wondrous remains of ancient civilizations still call to you from across the centuries.

In these rich lands you discover such legendary sites as these:

  • The Acropolis of Athens, beloved symbol of Greece and the ancient world
  • Mycenae, the mighty mountain kingdom where the Trojan War was planned
  • The Oracle of Apollo at Delphi, fabled site of pilgrimage and prophecy
  • Ephesus, among the greatest classical cities of the ancient world
  • Pergamon and Sardis, royal citadels and home of architectural and engineering marvels
  • Hagia Sophia of Istanbul, one of humanity's most glorious monuments to faith

To know these places is to know your own beginnings. Anyone who wants a full-bodied comprehension of Western culture must know these extraordinary sites and grasp their history.

In The Great Tours: Greece and Turkey, from Athens to Istanbul, award-winning Professor John R. Hale of the University of Louisville is your guide to the fabulous civilizations of the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans, and to the natural wonders and idyllic landscapes that surround them. These 24 richly enjoyable lectures are a journey unlike any other, giving you the chance to experience these important sites and cultures through the eyes of an expert archaeologist and scholar, whose knowledge and depth of insight go far beyond any ordinary travel narrative.

Through Professor Hale's vibrant commentary and extensive field footage, you discover monumental ancient cities, classical ruins, temples, shrines, fortresses, stadiums, theaters, churches, and palaces. In each site, you explore the critical history and culture that defined them and the ways in which they influenced our modern world. In their compelling historical and visual detail, the lectures offer both a rich resource for travelers preparing to visit these distant lands and a multilevel cultural journey that can be enjoyed just as well from the comfort of home.

Classical Glories, Great Empires

In a wide-ranging exploration, you'll visit the pivotal historical sites of this epic region and the civilizations that built them, including these landmarks of human culture:

  • Olympia, home of the ancient Olympic games: At the site's massive stadium and training areas, explore the rituals of the games, the dramatic mind-set of the competitors, and the significance of athletic competition as worship.
  • The Healing Sanctuary of Kos: In this grand complex of terraces, staircases, and ruins, study ancient healing in the work of the pioneer physician Hippocrates, including the clinical principles that gave birth to Western medicine.
  • The Minoan Palace at Knossos: At one of the world's premiere archaeological sites, investigate its labyrinthine rooms, grand courtyards, and culture of royal display and the death-defying bull dance.
  • Sunken Cities of Cappadocia: As you travel through some of the most astounding and mysterious discoveries of the ancient world, track the vast and complex underground cities where a nameless people sought refuge.
  • The Citadel of Troy: In sorting history from legend, penetrate the archaeological layers of the site of the Trojan War, finding striking connections to Homer, the real King Priam, and Alexander the Great.
  • Topkapi, Palace Complex of the Ottoman Sultans: In this jeweled seat of the Ottoman Empire, explore its sumptuous court life and culture and its glittering interiors of royal halls, kitchens, and harem.

A Vivid Encounter with Ancient Life

Professor Hale has walked these superlative sites in depth, in the course of decades of archaeological work and study in the region. As a core element of his teaching, he invites you to touch these vanished worlds and ways of life.

On the Acropolis, you travel the site, following the path of the ancient annual procession honoring Athena. At Delphi, your visit reconstructs a pilgrimage to the oracle in classical times, taking you through the rituals of offerings and religious observances on the way to consult the Pythia (priestess), who answers each pilgrim's question. At Hagia Sophia, you envision the experience of a 6th-century visitor, amid the pomp and embroidered finery of the Byzantine royals.

Scenic Islands, Otherworldly Landscapes

Parallel with your historical journey, you learn about the extraordinary natural wonders of the Aegean, an unforgettable feature of travel in these lands.

On the Greek islands, you discover Crete's dramatic Samaria Gorge and the breathtaking volcanic archipelago of Milos and Santorini, as well as scenic riches, including the transcendent vista of the Cycladic islands from Mount Kynthos.

In the course's second half, you explore Turkey's richly beautiful Turquoise Coast—its crusader castles, submerged cities, and unique wildlife. In the central highlands, you linger in the mysterious topography of Cappadocia, with its geologic "fairy chimneys" and ancient cave dwellings.

A Rich and Diverse Educational Journey

Throughout Professor Hale's multitextured narrative, you enjoy

  • detailed location footage in each lecture;
  • illuminating maps in both the lectures and course guidebook; and
  • vivid 3-D re-creations of ancient monuments and sites.

Professor Hale enriches these lectures with engrossing stories of ancient life, his own extraordinary experiences, and his insightful reflections on how these civilizations unfolded. Among learning about many history makers, you meet Herodotus, Galen, Paul the Apostle, and the emperor Justinian of Byzantium. You contemplate the original Hippocratic oath and the moving words of the Sufi poet Rumi on human seeking and the journey of life. And you track Professor Hale's fascinating work with colleagues at Delphi, vindicating Plutarch's claim that the trance state of the oracle's priestess was linked to intoxicating vapors present at the site.

Professor Hale reveals not only the cultural and archaeological history, but also the local lore, legends, foods, pleasure spots, and out-of-the-way gems that make this part of the world such a seductive draw. You learn about the wines of Monemvasia and Santorini; places to enjoy ancient spas and baths; a sublime Aegean town where you can savor Greek life to the full; and where to drink Turkish tea in Ottoman splendor.

With Professor Hale as your guide, you will touch the ancient world, retracing the steps of great ancient oracles, athletes, playwrights, and warriors and reliving their experiences:

  • Lie on the same benches at Amphiareon where oracles read dreams.
  • Crouch at the starting line for an Olympic race.
  • Stand on the stage at Epidauros, whisper, and be heard in the highest row.
  • March along the walls of Troy like the heroes of Homer's epics.

The glory of past civilizations still lives in these magical sites and monuments, and in the same beautiful Aegean Sea and landscapes that the ancients traveled. In The Great Tours: Greece and Turkey, from Athens to Istanbul, these extraordinary lands are yours to discover and rediscover. Come with us as we touch lost worlds—as we find humanity's majestic past and the great cultures that gave us the world we know.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Touring the Cradle of Western Civilization
    In setting sail for the ancient world, contemplate the dynamic civilizations that emerged in the Aegean and the scope of the human drama that was played out there. Preview some of the towering figures and remarkable sites you'll encounter, and hear Professor Hale's recommendations for traveling this world as the ancients did. x
  • 2
    Athens—Around the Acropolis and Parthenon
    Enter the Acropolis, symbol of Athens, following the path of the ancient annual procession honoring Athena. Investigate the history and meanings of the site's iconic buildings, including the grand Propylaea (gatehouse) and the Erechtheum (Temple of Athena). Learn about the superlative architectural features of the Parthenon and its surprising original uses. x
  • 3
    In the Footsteps of Socrates—Historic Athens
    Among treasures surrounding the Acropolis, discover the Theater of Dionysos, where you ponder the rituals of early dramatic festivals, and the grand Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a venue of music and recitations. Enjoy dramatic viewing places, including the Pnyx, an ancient hilltop assembly point, and finally the vibrant agora market, where Socrates walked. x
  • 4
    Around Attica—Temples and Mysteries
    This lecture takes you to sacred monuments of Greece's beautiful Attica region. At the picturesque Amphiareion, shrine of a prophet deity, learn about ancient oracle and healing practices. Visit imposing shrines to Artemis and Poseidon, finishing at Eleusis, sanctuary to the goddess Demeter and the site of mystical religious rituals. x
  • 5
    Seeking the Good Life—Corinth to Epidauros
    Your journey continues to the Peloponnese, Greece's southern half. From the impressive Corinth Canal, travel to Greece's most important sanctuary to Poseidon, where ancient athletes competed to honor the god. Visit Corinth's massive acropolis and agora (civic center) and the great healing center of Epidauros, highlighting the best-preserved theater of the ancient world. x
  • 6
    Mycenae—Where Kings Planned the Trojan War
    Next, visit the great citadel of Mycenae, made famous in Homer's Iliad. Entering through the imposing Lion Gate, learn about the rulers of Mycenae and ancient life in the citadel as you explore key monuments: the extraordinary "shaft" graves of an early dynasty, the Megaron palace, and the tomb of King Atreus. x
  • 7
    Around Nafplio—Greek History at a Glance
    In Greece's Argolid region, walk the mighty fortress of Tiryns, and learn about Mycenaean and classical-age warrior culture. Visit the Heraion, picturesque sanctuary to the goddess Hera, the imposing Roman villa of Herodes Atticus, and the port of Nafplio, with its remnants of Venetian, Byzantine, and Ottoman culture. x
  • 8
    Ancient Olympia—Gods, Games, and Temples
    Investigate the practices and culture of the original Olympic games at sites including the palaestra, where important athletes trained; the stadium; and the unusual Temple of Hera. Sense the heat and drama of the contests, as you contemplate the mind-set of the competitors and the significance of athletic competition as worship. x
  • 9
    Quest for Wisdom at Apollo's Oracle—Delphi
    At this legendary site, reconstruct the sequence and rituals of a visit to the oracle in ancient times. Enter the lower sanctuary, making offerings en route to the temple, with its dual warnings to the pilgrim, where the Pythia (priestess) speaks for the god in answer to each seeker's question. x
  • 10
    Byzantine Outposts—Monemvasia and Mistra
    The port town of Monemvasia, once a coveted trading center, offers a rich slice of Byzantine history. Discover its mazelike streets, Byzantine buildings, and its mystical, cliffside Hagia Sophia church. Then explore Mistra's majestic Frankish castle and Byzantine palace, and contemplate the soul of Byzantium in religious architecture here and at Meteora and Mount Athos. x
  • 11
    Cruising the Islands—Mykonos and Delos
    This lecture introduces Greece's glorious Aegean Islands in an overview of their scenic and cultural riches. Taste the pleasures of the popular Mykonos before crossing to Delos, birthplace of Apollo and a later trading mecca. Enjoy remnants of important sacred sites and spectacular island views from Mount Kynthos. x
  • 12
    Aegean Ring of Fire—Milos and Santorini
    On the lesser-known Milos, learn about the striking volcanic and geological features of the island before visiting its richly endowed archaeological museum, ancient classical theater, and extraordinary early Christian catacombs. Contemplate the breathtaking scenery of Santorini, as well as the intriguing remains of its principal historical site, the buried Minoan town of Akrotiri. x
  • 13
    Exploring Crete—Realm of Ancient Minoans
    On this greatest of Aegean islands, you encounter the very origins of European civilization. Here, take three memorable excursions: first, to the elaborate Minoan palace of Malia, then to Gortyn, Roman capital of Crete—which boasts Europe's first written law code—and finally, to Crete's Venetian capital and the massive Samaria Gorge. x
  • 14
    Lure of the Labyrinth—Palace at Knossos
    The great palace at Knossos offers dramatic glimpses of the Minoan civilization. Investigate the palace's structure of labyrinthine rooms and its grand courtyards, site of the death-defying bull dance. Ponder the flamboyant ceremonies, court rituals, and sumptuous luxury of the Minoan rulers, recorded in masterful frescoes and tablets memorializing the palace accounts. x
  • 15
    The Dodecanese—Kos, Patmos, and Rhodes
    On the beautiful island of Kos, reflect on the life and contribution of the physician Hippocrates at the ancient medical sanctuary honoring him. Discover Patmos, where Saint John famously wrote the book of Revelation, and finally Rhodes, renowned for the legendary Colossus and the majestic fortifications of the Knights of Saint John. x
  • 16
    Welcome to Turkey—The Turquoise Coast
    Turkey's Turquoise Coast reveals a fabulous array of destinations, highlighting treasures of history, nature, and the pleasures of travel. Begin at Bodrum, site of the vibrant civilization of Helicarnassus. Learn about Lykian culture and representative government; visit submerged cities, cliff tombs, wildlife habitats, and the fire-spouting mountain at Olympos. x
  • 17
    Central Turkey—Ankara, Konya, Cappadocia
    In Ankara, learn about ancient capitals of the great Anatolian civilizations, including the complex culture of Çatalhöyük. Continue to Konya, home of the Sufi poet Rumi and of the mystic whirling dervishes. Linger in the magical geologic landscapes of Cappadocia, with its "fairy chimneys," ancient cave dwellings, and astounding underground cities. x
  • 18
    Up the Meander River—Priene to Pamukkale
    Travel to three extraordinary ancient cities: In Priene, explore one of the ancient world's most spectacular classical ruins, with its remarkable council hall, sacred sites, and superb theater. Then study the sumptuous sarcophagi, bathhouses, and amazingly preserved stadium at Aphrodisias. Finish at Pamukkale, site of imposing mausoleums, healing waters, and cliffside "hanging pools." x
  • 19
    A Wonder of the World—Ephesus
    The metropolis of Ephesus stands as one of the greatest cities of the classical world. Here, focus on highly unusual features that distinguish the site: the magnificent "terrace houses" of the wealthy, the Library of Celsus with its stunning facade, the enormous theater, and the Cemetery of the Gladiators. x
  • 20
    Royal Cities of Asia—Pergamon and Sardis
    At the citadel of Sardis, learn about the luxurious culture of the Lydian people, credited with inventing monetary currency. Investigate the site's standout monuments, including the extensive gymnasium and monumental synagogue. At Pergamon, bequeathed by its last ruler to Rome, contemplate its great healing sanctuary, astonishing hydraulic system, and legendary library. x
  • 21
    Troy—Beyond Homer and the Trojan Horse
    The archaeological site of ancient Troy reveals numerous distinct historical phases. Explore the majestic remains of the different epochs of the citadel, from its beginnings in 2900 B.C. to the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Trace interconnections between the site's monuments and the lives of the historical King Priam and Alexander the Great. x
  • 22
    Istanbul—Capital of the Byzantine Emperors
    In this first lecture on the wonders of Istanbul, study the history of the Byzantine Empire and the establishment of Byzantium as a new Rome. Encounter imposing elements of this culture in the cathedral-like Basilica Cistern, the Theodosian Walls, and the impassioned rituals of the Hippodrome, nerve center of Byzantine life. x
  • 23
    The Pearl of Constantinople—Hagia Sophia
    Imagine the sights and sounds of a visit to this magical edifice in Byzantine times, and learn the history of the emperor Justinian's plans for a church that would surpass all others. Contemplate the stunning columns, stonework, mosaics, and the architecture of the massive dome in this "place where God dwells." x
  • 24
    Ottoman Istanbul—Mosques, Palaces, Bazaars
    Finally, ponder the origins and planning of the Topkapi Palace, jeweled seat of the Ottoman sultans. Penetrate the layers of the palace, from the grand courts to the royal kitchens and harem. Conclude with visits to the Blue Mosque, hammams (baths), Grand Bazaar, and vistas of the mystic city from the Bosphorus. x

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  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 168-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 168-page course synopsis
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Maps
  • Embassy contact information

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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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Great Tours: Greece and Turkey, from Athens to Istanbul is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 165.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The best of the Great Tour Series so far! We have viewed several of the great tour series of lectures, as we plan our vacations for the coming post COVID years. This one was really exceptional however. The lecturer was very engaging and knowledgeable, but what made it special was the way the camera took you through each site just as if you were there. This, combined with the excellent graphic layout images of each site really made these lectures extremely engaging. I don't often write reviews for Great Courses lectures, but this was so good I felt I had to share our experience. If you have any interest in the ancient sites of Greece and Turkey, this lecture series cannot be faulted.
Date published: 2020-11-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great course, distracting presenter I have always wanted to visit Greece and after watching this course a trip to Greece and Turkey has moved to the top of the places I want to see. The video tours of sites, together with great graphics and historical insights, made this a most informative course. There are some negatives with the presenter. I do appreciate the enthusiasm of Dr Hale but his wildly expressive hand movements and tiptoe presentation is distracting. His universal use of superlatives is not objective and the dramatic background music while touring a site is unnecessary. To be fair, Professor Hale did forewarn us that his first love is being a tour guide rather than an objective historian. A recommended course.
Date published: 2020-09-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must see before you go. I found this to be very interesting and well presented. I have several other travel DVDs and found this to be my favorite. Although I have never been to either Greece or Turkey, I have done extensive reading on both, especially Greece. The presentation is very well done, is very accurate with everything I have read and definitely makes me want to shell our the money and go. I especially like the suggested routes of travel and the views of a frequent traveler to the areas. We done!
Date published: 2020-08-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Armchair traveler I really like that not only are the normal tourist sites and explainations are on this but also little out of the way sites are included. It's the next best thing to actually being there
Date published: 2020-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What a great story-teller ! I watched this on the my subscription to The Great Courses Plus. I watch while on my treadmill and this was so interesting that sometimes I forgot how far I was walking. It was exciting to see places I've already visited and interesting to hear about new ones, but the speaker is what makes the lectures so extraordinary. That, and great photos.
Date published: 2020-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Hale is a marvelous educator. I wish we had viewed this before my wife and I traveled to Greece and Turkey. The persona of Professor Hale is one of kind, almost avuncular affability. May God speed his research. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2020-07-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Armchair Trip Loved this course! Had traveled to Greece and Turkey many years ago and wish we could have taken this course before we went - so much wonderful information and great travel trips. Seeing this made us want to return. It is so helpful to have the information from an expert about these archeological sites - it is difficult otherwise to know what the remains meant. The presenter is great - interesting and so well informed. He brought history to life.....
Date published: 2020-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course I thoroughly enjoyed this course. Excellent lecture and great multimedia brought you right to the location and scenery.
Date published: 2020-06-07
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