Greece and Rome: An Integrated History of the Ancient Mediterranean

Course No. 3300
Professor Robert Garland, Ph.D.
Colgate University
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Course No. 3300
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Course Overview

In the 1st century B.C., Rome's matchless armies consolidated control over the entire Mediterranean world, and Greece lay vanquished along with scores of other formerly independent lands—yet the Roman poet Horace saw something special in Greece when he wrote "Greece, the captive, made her savage victor captive."

  • What did Horace mean by this paradoxical quote?
  • What did Greek culture symbolize to the militarily successful Romans?
  • How did the Greeks, in turn, view their Latin-speaking rulers?
  • How did these two independent branches of ancient civilization develop and then become inextricably entwined, with implications for all of subsequent Western culture?

The answers to these and other intriguing questions require an understanding not just of Rome but of Greece as well. Integrated approaches to teaching Greek and Roman history, however, are a rarity in academia. Most scholars are historians of either Greek or Roman history and perform research solely in that specific field, an approach that author and award-winning Professor Robert Garland considers questionable.

"It's only by studying the two cultures in connection with each other that we can come to an understanding of that unique cultural entity that is 'Greco-Roman,'" he notes.

Greece and Rome: An Integrated History of the Ancient Mediterranean is an impressive and rare opportunity to understand the two dominant cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world in relation to one another. Over the course of 36 lectures, Professor Garland explores the many ways in which these two very different cultures intersected, coincided, and at times collided.

Explore Greco-Roman Culture

The relationship between the Greeks and the Romans has virtually no parallel in world history. Greece and Rome's relationship resembled a marriage: two distinct personalities competing in some areas, sharing in others, and sometimes creating an entirely new synthesis of the two civilizations.

This synthesis created the extraordinary culture that we call Greco-Roman: a unique fusion of civilizations that encompasses statecraft, mythology, language, philosophy, fine arts, architecture, science, and much else. "The term suggests there was an unbreakable tie between the two cultures," says Professor Garland. "And indeed there was. What would Rome have been without the imprint of the Greeks, and what would we know about the Greeks were it not for the Romans?"

Professor Garland cites three critical reasons why an understanding of the Greco-Roman world is so important to us here in the 21st century:

  • The connections between the two civilizations remind us that culture is not created and owned by a single people, but is enriched through the contributions of others.
  • The relationship between the Greeks and Romans is somewhat analogous to the relationship between the British and the Americans.
  • An integrated study of the Greeks and Romans helps us understand how each profoundly influenced the other.

Follow Twin Historical Paths

Greece and Rome begins by asking who the Greeks and Romans were, what their images of themselves were, and how they organized their societies. From there, you explore their first historical interactions through trade and, inevitably, war, as Roman influence began to spread into the eastern Mediterranean.

The world of the Greeks that the Romans encountered during the 3rd to 1st centuries B.C. was the spectacular Hellenistic civilization created by the conquests of Alexander the Great. It was a unified Greek culture with stunning artistic and intellectual achievements that thoroughly captivated the Romans.

Roman political interactions with the Greeks, however, were another matter.

You follow the long series of wars in which the Romans at first preserved Greek independence and then, having grown impatient with Greek ingratitude, duplicity, and infighting, eventually resorted to the efficient brutality for which Rome's legions were renowned. In 30 B.C., with the death of Cleopatra, the last of the Ptolemaic Greek rulers, Rome had conquered not only every Greek land but the entire Mediterranean world.

A Rich Cultural Partnership

For the next half millennium, Greece and Rome were inseparable. "There's never been anything quite like it," Professor Garland says. "Greece and Rome are two cultures joined at the hip, arguably the most special and the most important cultural relationship in all of history."

Greece and Rome goes beyond the political and military stories and immerses you in the details of life in Classical antiquity. You investigate Greek and Roman approaches to human universals such as death, leisure, and sex. You also witness the emergence and development of an integrated Greco-Roman culture as reflected in religion, art, architecture, medicine, science, technology, literature, education, and philosophy.

For example:

  • Much of what we think of today as Classical Greek art is, in fact, copies commissioned by wealthy Roman connoisseurs.
  • Romans displayed a love-hate relationship with Greece, epitomized by the Roman politician Cato the Elder, who was deeply immersed in Greek culture but who publicly denounced its corrupting influence.
  • Educated Romans were predominantly bilingual, speaking also Greek.
  • The prolific writer Plutarch recognized the value of examining the Greeks and Romans alongside one another without prejudice and wrote a celebrated set of parallel biographies of famous Greeks and Romans.

Despite all their similarities, Greeks and Romans were different enough that each engaged in cultural stereotyping of the other, which amounted to latent nationalism. Throughout the lectures, you explore some of their more substantive cultural differences, including:

  • Religion: Greek religion was anthropomorphic, with deities displaying human form and manner. Early Romans did not believe in deities but rather in numina—divine powers that had precise functions but no physical identity.
  • Views of foreigners: Romans were far more diverse in origin than the Greeks, which made them more open to foreigners. This had profound effects, as the Romans used grants of citizenship as a political tool to cement and expand the Roman Empire.
  • Construction: The largest structures in the Greek world were theaters, some of which could hold 20,000 to 40,000 people. The Romans had a more grandiose concept of public space, as seen in the Circus Maximus, in which 250,000 spectators could assemble to watch a chariot race.
  • Thinking: The Greeks delighted in analyzing the world and asking questions about the nature of existence, the constitution of the ideal state, and the definition of virtue. For their part, the Romans, though they also studied philosophy, were content to run the world.

An Expert in the Classical World

Professor Garland has spent his entire career immersed in classical studies and in the worlds of ancient Greece and Rome.

His academic research focuses on the cultural, religious, social, and political histories of these two civilizations. He has written numerous books on subjects ranging from the politics of Athenian religion and disability in the Greco-Roman world to daily life in ancient Greece and the idea of celebrity in antiquity.

Delight in the wide variety of sources—literature, archaeology, the visual arts, coinage, inscriptions—that he draws upon in order to assemble a fascinating and complex picture of these two great civilizations. Value his mastery of detail on his subject, as he helps you to reach important conclusions from an analysis of the shared cultural features of Greece and Rome. And appreciate how Dr. Garland always keeps Greece and Rome focused on how this material affects us in the present day.

"I profoundly believe that Greece and Rome are inside us, both as destructive and as creative forces," he says. "They've taught us our ways of being a human being and of seeing the world. We are their heirs and their guardians, a heavy but invigorating challenge."

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36 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Who Were the Greeks? Who Were the Romans?
    We examine the historical origins of the Greeks and Romans, which is still an open question among scholars. For their part, the Greeks and Romans had their own ideas about where they came from, which tells us who they thought they were. x
  • 2
    Trade and Travel in the Mediterranean
    Trade and travel were widespread throughout the Mediterranean basin from early times onward. It was largely through sea travel that Romans and Greeks came into contact—directly through personal exchanges and indirectly through artifacts. x
  • 3
    Democratic or Republican
    Both Greeks and Romans had democratic tendencies and a predisposition to favor the aristocracy. Community, however, was more broadly defined among Romans, who came to accept the principle of universalism that was alien to the Greeks. This would have profound consequences. x
  • 4
    Law and Order
    It was the Greeks of Athens who first established trial by jury and sought to differentiate crime in terms of motive. It was the Romans who established the principle that the law is an organic entity that has to adapt to changing social, economic, and political conditions. x
  • 5
    Less than Fully Human
    Both the Greeks and Romans denied full human status to those at the bottom of the social ladder—slaves, foreigners, women, and the disabled. Roman society, however, offered far more opportunities for advancement for hard-working slaves than Greek society did. x
  • 6
    Close Encounters, 750–272 B.C.
    From very early in their history, the Romans were subject to Greek influence, both directly from Greek colonists who had settled in southern Italy and indirectly from the Etruscans, Rome's neighbors to the northwest, who were in contact with Greek traders. x
  • 7
    The Velvet Glove, 272–190 B.C.
    After defeating Carthage in the Second Punic War, Rome turned its attention to the Hellenistic world of the eastern Mediterranean. x
  • 8
    How the Two Polytheisms (Almost) Merged
    Greek religion made a deep impact on the Romans, whose animistic beliefs differed from the anthropomorphic pantheon of the Greeks. The Romans assimilated not only Greek gods, but also deities from many of the other cultures with which they came in contact. x
  • 9
    The Iron Fist, 190–146 B.C.
    In 190 B.C. the Romans abandoned their "velvet glove" policy toward the Greeks and adopted a more hard-line attitude, in which self-interest came increasingly to the fore. Over the next 45 years, almost the whole Greek-speaking world came under Roman domination. x
  • 10
    The Last Hellenistic Dynasts, 146–31 B.C.
    We trace the dying embers of Greek independence down to Octavian's defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra in 31 B.C., which marked the end of the Hellenistic period. Rome was now the undisputed ruler of the entire Mediterranean world. x
  • 11
    Why the Greeks Lost, Why the Romans Won
    The Greeks lost to the Romans for several reasons: They failed to grasp Rome's determination to bring stability to the region, Rome had a more efficient military machine, and the Greeks' endemic factiousness left them hopelessly divided. x
  • 12
    Philhellenism and Hellenophobia
    Relations between the Greeks and Romans were highly ambivalent, with elements of both philhellenism and hellenophobia on the part of the Romans. But in general, elite Romans deeply appreciated the achievements of Greek civilization. x
  • 13
    The Two Languages
    Greek was already a highly sophisticated vehicle of literary expression at a time when Latin was still in its infancy. By the 2nd century B.C., literary Latin was developing rapidly. Because the Greeks were reluctant to learn Latin, it was primarily the Romans who became bilingual. x
  • 14
    Leisure and Entertainment
    We explore leisure activities among the wealthy, including the gymnasium and symposium for Greeks and the public baths and convivium for Romans. x
  • 15
    Sex and Sexuality
    Sex and sexuality did not have the same significance in antiquity as they do in modern Western society. One of the most profound differences is that there was an inherent asymmetry to most sexual relations in terms of age and social status. Note: This lecture deals frankly with sexuality and contains graphic material that may not be suitable for all audiences. Parental discretion is advised. x
  • 16
    Death and the Afterlife
    Death was a ubiquitous presence among the Greeks and Romans. Though both cultures placed great emphasis on continuing ties between the living and the deceased, the Romans incorporated the dead into their lives to a much greater degree than did the Greeks. x
  • 17
    From Mystery Religion to Ruler Cult
    In the 2nd century B.C., the Romans became less hospitable to foreign gods. For the first time, they banned Greek cult practices, particularly those associated with the god Dionysus. On assuming power, Augustus introduced ruler cult. x
  • 18
    Greek Cities under Roman Rule
    With the exception of Rome, almost all the greatest cities in the Roman Empire were predominantly populated by Greeks. These adapted well to the loss of political freedom. We look at Alexandria, Antioch, Pergamum, and Ephesus, among others. x
  • 19
    Greeks in Rome, Romans in Greece
    We examine how Greeks in their capacity as slaves and subjects, and Romans in their capacity as masters and rulers, coexisted somewhat uneasily. x
  • 20
    The Hellenism of Augustus
    The Augustan Principate marks the advent of a unified Mediterranean culture under Roman rule. At the same time, it was a world that had become deeply influenced by Greek culture. x
  • 21
    Art, Looting, and Reproductions
    Romans developed a taste for Greek art from the plunder of conquered Greek cities. Thereafter, they began acquiring it by commissioning Greek workshops to produce copies of famous originals. The Roman style of collecting effectively created the notion of a work of art. x
  • 22
    Architecture, Sacred and Secular
    Although possessing deep stylistic similarities, Greek and Roman architecture employed markedly different building methods and materials, was constructed on different scales, and fulfilled different functions. The Romans were the first to use architecture to serve the masses. x
  • 23
    Science and Technology
    Greek scientific wizardry is impressive even by the high technological standards of today. While the Romans were less interested in scientific discovery, they were attuned to its practical benefits. x
  • 24
    Disease, Medical Care, and Physicians
    The invention of rational medicine is one of the most important discoveries of the Greeks—remarkable for its absence of any appeal to magic, religion, or superstition. Although the Romans were initially suspicious of Greek doctors, they came to rely increasingly on them. x
  • 25
    The Greek Epic and Its Roman Echo
    The epic is an ancient genre that achieved near perfection in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. The Roman poet Virgil drew on Homer and other sources to create the Aeneid, the most sustained and successful fusion of Greek and Roman literary form and style. x
  • 26
    Tragedy and Comedy
    The Greeks invented Western drama. Early on, two genres evolved—tragedy and comedy—both of which were appropriated and adapted by the Romans. x
  • 27
    Love Poetry, Satire, History, the Novel
    The Romans did not slavishly imitate their Greek literary precursors; they either adapted a genre to their taste or else they completely transformed it. We look at how the Romans appropriated and developed love poetry, satire, history, and the novel. x
  • 28
    Greek Influences on Roman Education
    Among Greek approaches to education, Sparta's harsh schooling of boys and Athens's tutoring in rhetoric by sophists are the best known. x
  • 29
    Greek Philosophy and Its Roman Advocates
    We investigate how Greek philosophy shaped the consciousness of the Roman elite, including generals, politicians, and even emperors. In so doing, it influenced not only how the Romans saw their world, but also how they sought to understand their place within it. x
  • 30
    Hellenomania from Nero to Hadrian
    The obsession with Greek culture was so great on the part of the emperors Nero and Hadrian that it can be described as "hellenomania"—an infatuation shared by many that was based on an idealized view of the Greek world and its values. x
  • 31
    Jews, Greeks, and Romans
    The inherent conflict between monotheism and polytheism made the position of the Jews particularly uncertain in the Roman Empire. As relations deteriorated, the Jewish Revolt broke out in A.D. 66, leading to the destruction of Jerusalem. x
  • 32
    Christianity's Debt to Greece and Rome
    Greco-Roman resources and its mentality greatly aided the development and spread of early Christianity. Even by making martyrs out of the early Christians, the Romans gave the Jesus movement a visibility that it would not otherwise have achieved. x
  • 33
    The Apotheosis of Athens
    From the 2nd century B.C., ambitious Romans indulged in lavish building programs in Athens. Shorn of independence, the Athenians continued to involve themselves in politics, although they showed a fatal knack for backing the wrong side. x
  • 34
    The Decline of the West
    There are competing theories to explain Rome's decline and fall, which might be better termed its upheaval and transformation. We investigate the instability that took hold in the half century from A.D. 235 onward, which ultimately saw the empire divided between East and West. x
  • 35
    The Survival of the East
    The eastern half of the empire survived the dissolution of the West by more than 1,000 years. Greeks and Romans went their separate ways, although, ironically, it was the Byzantine Greeks who saw themselves as the true Romans. x
  • 36
    The Enduring Duo
    What did the Greeks and Romans get out of their relationship? How has the modern West claimed their legacies, and how has each of us been shaped by their influence? Greece and Rome remain two aspects of our collective cultural personality. x

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Your professor

Robert Garland

About Your Professor

Robert Garland, Ph.D.
Colgate University
Dr. Robert S.J. Garland is the Roy D. and Margaret B. Wooster Professor of the Classics at Colgate University. He earned his B.A. in Classics from Manchester University, his M.A. in Classics from McMaster University, and his Ph.D. in Ancient History from University College London. A former Fulbright Scholar and recipient of the George Grote Ancient History Prize, Professor Garland has educated students and audiences at a...
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Greece and Rome: An Integrated History of the Ancient Mediterranean is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 61.
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Audio is good I expected to have a video with the course of at least the instructor speaking and possibly showing things. I’m only getting the audio course so I’m not satisfied
Date published: 2020-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very challenging, intellectually Dr. Garland is impassioned about his subject and presents a fascinating scholarly analysis of the cultural and political interactions between Greece and Rome over a period of nearly one thousand years. I found his delivery impressive because 1) every word was carefully chosen to convey his intended meaning, 2) his diction and English grammar are perfect, and 3) he is obviously conversant in both Latin and Greek and pronounces words in those languages correctly. I found myself watching some lectures twice just to be sure I got the most out of them. The bibliography Dr. Garland provides in the guidebook is ample and excellent. I intend to order all his courses from The Teaching Company. As for the reviewer who criticizes his wearing a gold earring, I suggest that you get used to the fact that diversity exists in our world--if we were all like you, life would be very boring.
Date published: 2020-08-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tales of the Greco Roma world I purchased this course recently and I found it extremely interesting. Professor Garland does a great presentation of the material covered. It was as if he was there at the time when all this history was occurring. I really enjoyed this experience and recommend this course.
Date published: 2019-06-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unusual topic I've read many books about Roman history and Greek history and always wondered what it was like with one great civilization taking over another. This course shows all the nuances of this topic beautifully
Date published: 2019-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best. Great content - very informative. Presented with passion, clarity and humor. Really enjoyable.
Date published: 2018-04-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting supplement to other core courses Many of the critical reviews are correct that the narrative is too disjointed to usefully learn the details of either Greek or Roman history. But taken as a supplement to a course on either subject, such as Garret Fagan's History of Rome, there is quite a lot of interesting information here. For example, Prof. Garland spends an entire lecture discussing the two languages comparatively in ways I've never heard, but find useful to know, such as that the Greek language had a vocabulary at least twice as large as Latin and was judged by many as being capable of use to express more sophisticated thoughts. Or that Greek was just as likely to have been heard on the streets of Rome as Latin around the time of the end of the republic. The lectures really flesh out the relationship between the two cultures in a way that breathes a little more life into the more narrative driven lecture sets.
Date published: 2018-01-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting Comparative History This is fundamentally a comparative history of Ancient Greece and Rome. I think the title is a little misleading because the course does not tell a comprehensive history of either civilization. Instead, the course compares the differences between the two groups and discusses how they interacted. The course assumes a basic understanding of Greek and Roman history, though you do not have to be an expert to enjoy this course. Overall, this course was enjoyable and educational. The professor raised numerous thought-provoking ideas.
Date published: 2017-10-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and well-paced The course is highly informative but not overwhelming as Professor Garland speaks at a pace that is easy to keep up with. He uses pertinent examples to solidify and expand on his statements, and any questions the listener might have are astutely answered in anticipation. The length of each lecture is about 30 minutes, which is neither too short nor too long for a single sitting. The topics are presented in thoughtful detail and Professor Garland is not afraid to draw connections between different ideas before returning to the main topic. Overall, a very good introduction to any student of Ancient Greece and Rome.
Date published: 2017-09-23
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