Greek and Persian Wars

Course No. 3356
Professor John R. Hale, Ph.D.
University of Louisville
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Course No. 3356
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Course Overview

King Leonidas and a tiny contingent of Spartan soldiers—the famed "300"—hold the pass of Thermopylae against a powerful and enormous Persian force. It's one those historicial events where truth rivals the epic proportions of myth. Did it all really happen like that? Behind this renowned tale of legendary Greek heroism is another, more intricate story, one that you encounter in The Greek and Persian Wars. Spanning more than two centuries, these historic conflicts forged a new world order, sparking developments in battle strategy, naval technology, world exploration, and art and culture that affect the world even today.

Now is your opportunity to survey this globe-spanning conflict, as well as its enduring impact on the world at large. From the ancient battlefields of Thermopylae, Marathon, and Gaugamela, to the imperial halls of Persepolis, to the bustling marketplace of Athens, investigate the clash of the Greeks and the Persians over the course of 24 fascinating lectures.

Your guide on this epic journey is award-winning Professor and Director of Liberal Studies at the University of Louisville John R. Hale. An accomplished archaeologist and teacher, Professor Hale captures the human experience behind some of the most remarkable episodes in ancient history. He traces the gripping trajectory of surprising upsets and changing allegiances, as Spartans, Athenians, and Persians constantly shift sides, make and break alliances, and exchange partners for enemies in a seemingly endless dance of battle and truce.

Be Transported Back in Time

It's a perspective on history you'll find virtually nowhere else. Bringing together both sides of the story—Greek and Persian—and providing remarkable details from ancient history, archaeology, and the stratagems of warfare, Professor Hale creates a complex and informative account of this world-changing era.

It's also a gripping saga. A gifted storyteller, Professor Hale weaves a spellbinding narrative that is both accurate and cinematic. You experience the sweep of history, but you also glimpse the more intimate stories behind the saga. With each anecdote, Professor Hale creates a picture in words, recounting vivid dialogue and delving into the internal psychology of the historic figures that shaped their world and the world we inhabit today.

You hear about famous turncoats, such as the Athenian Alcibiades, who helped the Spartans overthrow his native city, allied himself with the Persians, and finally returned to Athens to lead his hometown fleet. Treacherous allies, broken covenants, unity among strange bedfellows—all are a part of the twisting, turning saga of the Greek and Persian wars.

With Professor Hale's expert guidance, you gain a grand and nuanced perspective on the complicated relationship between these two remarkable cultures and rethink what you know about the Greeks and the ancient world. This course serves as a wonderfully detailed introduction to these two great civilizations and the world they built.

How an Epic Conflict Shaped the World

What you find is a world that was virtually re-created over the course of two centuries through the struggle of the Persians and the Greeks. In the words of Professor Hale, "The roots of our contemporary world lie in this period, in the 6th to the 4th centuries B.C., and above all, in that great split between East and West, which still dominates world affairs today."

As Professor Hale demonstrates, the Greek and Persian wars served as the crucible in which the most important cultural events in the history of the Western world occurred, including the invention of medicine, history, philosophy, and drama, as well as remarkable achievements in sculpture and architecture.

Many of the Greeks' greatest enduring cultural contributions were generated by their ongoing struggles with the Persians:

  • History: To commemorate the greatest battles, Greek chroniclers such as Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon literally invented a new literary form—history.
  • The arts: One of the greatest artistic achievements of ancient Greece, the drama was created when naval veteran Aeschylus crafted the first play.
  • Politics: Perhaps the Greeks' most remarkable cultural invention, democracy was born of the city-state's opposition to the imperial advances of its Persian neighbors.

But the Greeks were not alone in their ingenuity. Known for their relentless pursuit of victory in the face of nearly insurmountable obstacles, the Persians undertook remarkable engineering projects, from the bridging of the Hellespont to the diversion of major waterways.

These wars also drove new innovation in naval technology, as Greeks and Persians alike took to the sea on enormous warships called triremes. These military ventures helped to expand the water-based network of trade relationships, bringing about an unprecedented cross-pollination of cultures that resulted in a vibrant cosmopolitan world community.

Sworn Enemies, Strange Bedfellows

The course begins with an introduction to the major protagonists—Greeks and Persians—and a breathtaking portrait of the extraordinary civilizations they founded.

On the one side, you meet the Persians—hardy nomads and horsemen who left the bleak uplands of the Middle East to build an intricate, exotic culture that dazzled the world with its luxurious cities, its ingenious engineering skills, and the exercise of political control built on the ceremonial display of power.

  • What was the battle like for the invading Persian force?
  • What challenges did they encounter, despite their vast numbers, in facing the Spartan enemy?
  • And why did they initially lose so many men before overwhelming the small Greek force?

On the other, you encounter the Greeks—as diverse as their many city-states, but united by their love of debate, admiration of intellectual cunning, and fierce commitment to freedom. Taking center stage in the Greek arena are the Athenians, who seized power early on by building one of the first strong naval forces, and their rivals, the Spartans, who countered the Athenian love of democracy and philosophy with a rigorous militarism.

Finally, you glimpse the cosmopolitan world imagined by the "last" great Greek, Alexander, the Macedonian conqueror who dared to envisage an empire in which Persia and Greece would at last be truly united.

On the Field of Battle

"Half of winning a battle," explains Professor Hale, "is persuading your enemy to fight a battle that they shouldn't." An expert on methods of ancient warfare, Professor Hale takes you out of the history books and onto the field of battle, with rare insights into how each skirmish was lost and won.

You go beyond the movement of troops and delve deeply into the strengths and foibles of the Greek and Persian leaders, the decisions they made, and the risks they took. You compare the different military technologies pioneered by each side, from the Greeks' deadly phalanx formation to the Persians' masterful marshaling of tributary forces, and learn why some flamboyant and seemingly deadly innovations—such as the use of elephants on the battlefield or scythed chariot wheels to mow down enemy troops—failed to live up to their daunting potential.

But Professor Hale, the recipient of numerous awards for distinguished teaching, including the Panhellenic Teacher of the Year Award and the Delphi Center Award, offers more than just textbook descriptions. An accomplished archaeologist, he provides rare and valuable insights gleaned from years of field work. From the depth of the Aegean Sea to the site of the Delphic oracle, Professor Hale has walked in the tracks of these ancient people.

So when he describes how the Persian fleet of Darius the Great was destroyed during a storm in the Aegean Sea, he can also tell you about his deep-water expedition to the site of the wreck, during which he and his colleagues discovered a priceless artifact.

From an analysis of the landscape of the battlefield of Marathon to modern archaeological surveys of the ground where Xerxes and his engineers dug an 80-foot-wide canal across an Aegean cape, Professor Hale marshals the latest scientific discoveries to test and confirm the legendary accounts of these ancient events.

Join Professor Hale for this journey and gain a new perspective on this monumental chapter in ancient history. To study The Greek and Persian Wars with this master teacher is to gain new insights into one of the most influential clashes of cultures the world has known.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    The First Encounter
    The roots of our contemporary conflict between East and West lie in the ancient clash of the Greeks and the Persians. In this first lecture, you witness the birth of this divide in the 540s B.C., with King Croesus of Lydia's preemptive attack against the emerging Persian Empire and its ruler, Cyrus the Great. x
  • 2
    Empire Builders—The Persians
    Thanks to innovations in translation and archaeology, modern scholars are now able to reveal the glories of the Persian Empire. Here you learn about the achievements of this remarkable people. x
  • 3
    Intrepid Voyagers—The Greeks
    Next, you get to know the other protagonists of this epic tale: the ancient Greeks. You trace the movement of this seafaring people from their Greek homeland to Asia Minor and consider how their worldview is reflected in the great myths, literature, and philosophy they left behind. x
  • 4
    The Ionian Revolt
    During the rule of King Darius, son of Cyrus the Great, the Greeks in Ionia (Asia Minor) rebelled against Persian rule. Athenian supported in the burning of the city of Sardis sparked a bitter desire for revenge that not even the Ionian defeat at the monumental Battle of Lade could quell. x
  • 5
    From Mount Athos to Marathon
    To avenge the burning of Sardis, Darius sent his troops into Greece to pursue the Athenians. Despite a naval disaster at Athos, the Persians continued their relentless pursuit, only to face a surprising defeat at the famous Battle of Marathon. x
  • 6
    Xerxes Prepares for War
    After Darius's death, Xerxes renewed his father's plots for revenge against the Greeks. To reach them, he undertook remarkable feats of engineering, including the spanning of the Hellespont with pontoon bridges—evidence of both the Persians' technological expertise and their relentless drive. x
  • 7
    The Athenians Build a Fleet
    In this lecture, you meet a remarkable Athenian, Themistocles, who persuaded his people to build a navy for defense against the Persians. He later spurred the pan-Greek forces to seize the offensive by advancing to meet their enemies on the battlefield. x
  • 8
    Heroes at the Pass
    While the Greek naval forces blocked the Persian armada at sea, a small band of 300 heroic Spartans led by King Leonidas attempted to hold the pass at Thermopylae, a chief passage to inland Greece. In their tragic defeat, the Greek force found a legendary martyr in Leonidas and an example of courage in the famed 300. x
  • 9
    Battle in the Straits
    After the Spartans' heroic but disastrous stand at Thermopylae, the Persians marched on the deserted city of Athens and avenged the destruction of Sardis by burning the temples on the Acropolis. What followed is the most crucial battle of the Greek and Persian conflict: the day-long naval clash in the straits of Salamis. x
  • 10
    The Freedom Fighters
    You take a closer look at the remarkable victory of the Greeks at the Battle of Salamis and learn why, despite far superior numbers, the Persians failed on that famous day. The Greeks then turned their attention to battle on land, and fought for the liberation of Ionian Greek cities, culminating in the Battle of Plataea. x
  • 11
    Commemorating the Great War
    You turn to an account of the strangest naval battle in history, the Battle of Mycale, which marked the final defeat of the Persians. x
  • 12
    Campaigns of the Delian League
    After the decisive defeat of the Persians, the Greek city-states met in Delos to form the Delian League. x
  • 13
    Launching a Golden Age
    With tribute pouring in from allies and conquests, Athens grew rich and launched a Golden Age that sees the birth of some of its greatest cultural innovations. x
  • 14
    Herodotus Invents History
    In this lecture, you examine one of the greatest achievements of the Athenian Golden Age, and meet the creator of a modern notion of history, Herodotus. x
  • 15
    Engineering the Fall of Athens
    After the close of the Peloponnesian War, the Athenians allowed themselves to be goaded into war by a young hellion named Alcibiades. x
  • 16
    Cyrus, Xenophon, and the Ten Thousand
    With the death of Darius, his son Artaxerxes II was named successor. Darius's second son, Cyrus, under the facade of suppressing troublesome hill tribes, assembled the famed army of Ten Thousand to challenge his brother's claim. Among them is Xenophon, who later wrote about the march into the heart of the Persian Empire. x
  • 17
    The March to the Sea
    When Cyrus was killed in battle with Artaxerxes II, the Ten Thousand were left leaderless deep within Persian territory. In this lecture, you trace their perilous march to the sea and witness the battle, as witnessed by Xenophon, who became one of the Greeks' greatest historians. x
  • 18
    Strange Bedfellows
    In yet another strange reversal of allegiances, the Persians allied themselves with the Athenians in a battle against the Spartans, a conflict that came to a head in the historic battle of Cnidus. x
  • 19
    The Panhellenic Dream
    Sparta and Persia forged an accord known as the Peace of Antalkidas, the King's Peace, which effectively recognized the Great King of Persia as the overlord of the Greeks. In response, Athenian orators began a call for a Panhellenic League that would fight—once again—for Greek independence. x
  • 20
    The Rise of Macedon
    Who could the Athenians look to for leadership in the effort to unify Greece against the Persians? In this lecture, you meet Philip of Macedon, a remarkable empire builder. x
  • 21
    Father and Son
    As great as Philip's achievements were, the feats of his son, Alexander the Great, resound loudest throughout history. x
  • 22
    Liberating the Greeks of Asia
    We continue to follow Alexander's movement eastward, ending in Gordion, where he "unties" the famed Gordion knot. x
  • 23
    Who Is the Great King?
    Alexander finally entered the heart of Persia and faced the forces of Darius III twice, at Issus and then at the renowned battlefield of Gaugamela. Both times, Alexander allowed Darius to escape after crushing defeat. x
  • 24
    When East Met West
    Hear about Alexander's final confrontation with Darius, who was killed by his own companions. In the wake of his victory, Alexander sought to unite Persia and Greece. While the effort at political unification died shortly after Alexander's death, the cultural union became a major force in shaping our modern world. x

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  • 152-page printed course guidebook
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider
  • Timeline

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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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Greek and Persian Wars is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 75.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Ancient characters and events brought to life Unless you attended a school where Latin and Greek were part of the curriculum, chances are that you are not very familiar with the ancient world. I know that's the case in my educational career: outside of Greek and Roman drama and mythology, and reading ‘Julius Caesar,’ I didn’t learn much about events before 1066. I knew the names of historians such as Herodotus, Xenophon, and Thucydides, but didn’t have much of a concept of who they were or what they wrote about. After taking this course with Professor Hale, those historians, along with many other characters from ancient Greek and Persia, are now familiar to me, as are the events that shaped their world. Hale is an excellent lecturer who engages our attention with clear delivery and interesting stories. His background as an archaeologist adds an extra dimension to many chapters of this historical survey. The visual aspects of this course, including dozens of maps, Google Earth views, animated battle plans, and photographs of the sites in question, are definitely a plus. Do yourself a favor and go the video route. (The only less-than-optimum visuals are some cheesy contemporary paintings of historical events, which look like they were pulled from grade school teaching materials.) Prof. Hale also wins the award for the most costume changes in one series, with his mix‘n’match shirts, suits, and ties (some of which feature ancient art motifs). If you’ve ever been curious about who Alexander the Great was…or Leonidas of the Spartans…or King Xerxes…this is the course to take. I have a fairly extensive background in Bible history, so I enjoyed learning more about people and places familiar from Scripture: the kings Cyrus and Darius, for instance, or the towns of Sardis, Miletus, Tyre & Sidon. I look forward to taking other courses from Prof. Hale, as well as other Great Courses about the ancient world.
Date published: 2012-09-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course audio version This course was an excellent discussion of the Greek and Persian Wars from King Croesus to Alexander the Great. Prof. Hale was well-organized. He picked his material well and provided an excellent bibliography. Prof. Hale is an excellent story teller. I find him one of the best that TTC has to offer. He makes the course seem more like a series of stories rather than a series of lectures. I would strongly recommend this course to anyone with an interest in the Greek and Persian wars or in antiquity.
Date published: 2012-06-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb Teaching, Fascinating Subject Of the dozen or so Great Courses I've listed to over the past couple of years, this is the one I enjoyed the most. Even given the bias that I'm a sucker for classical Greek history, this course is striking in the excellence of its content and the clarity of its presentation. The Graeco-Persion conflicts are a dramatic saga whose outcome shaped the course of the modern world. Whether you enjoy the battles or the personalities or the social history, you'll find it all here. And perhaps because most Westerners have been tautht about these conflicts from a Greek slant, the material on the Persians Professor Hale presents is eye-opening. Professor Hale is a superb speaker with none of the academic tics and tells that even many of the best lecturers display, and absolutely no sense of pompousness. It comes as no surprise to me that he also offers a Great Course in public speaking.
Date published: 2012-05-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Overview This was my first purchase and I waited to complete three other courses prior to writing a review for comparison sake. Even with good maps in the guidebook, the DVD is the way to go as the events unfold as he is talking about them. I have read about most of the battles, and individuals involved, and have even studied a couple of the battles. All of the events in my mind were like pieces of a puzzle which this course put into a singular perspective. I kept having ah-ha moments as I realized just how each battle and event played out in the overall scheme of history. Each and every battle was well covered in the way I remembered. My only complaint is that King Leonidas's laconic reply to Xerxes of "molon labe” (come and get them) in response to the demand for the Spartans to lay down their arms and submit to the might of Persia was not included. Perhaps these words recorded by Plutarch are considered apocryphal, I don't know. But the 1968 statue of Leonidas on the front cover of the course has these words in relief and they appear to be part of the modern Greek psyche. This minor complaint should in no way take away from the overall value of this excellent course.
Date published: 2012-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hugely entertaining survey of epic East-West war REVIEW OF AUDIO VERSION Professor Hale begins his story with the battle between Cyrus and King Croesus of Lydia (the opening of Herodotus' Histories) and ends over two centuries later with Alexander's (extremely brief) unification of East and West. In between, we see the rise of the Greek world, told through some of history's most entertaining stories - the 300 at Thermopylae, Themistocles' craft and cunning in defense of Athens, the march of Xenophon and the ten thousand, and much much more. The lectures make compelling listening. I finished the course over three days (a quick pace for me). Professor Hale knows how to grab and maintain his listener's attention. The one advantage I could imagine of video over audio would be maps of the battles described. Other than that, I didn't not miss having a video presentation (and Professor Hale describes the battles clearly). If you have an interest in the subject matter, don't hesitate to buy. If you are on the fence, be assured that these lectures are packed with drama. Though many battles are discussed, the focus is on personalities and cultures - and some of history's most colorful personalities encounter each other in this world-shaking clash. This makes a good companion piece to Professor Vandiver's lectures on Herodotus. Highest recommendation.
Date published: 2012-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Through another log on the fire When I was a boy scout, once in a while someone would tell a story around the campfire. That's what these lectures felt like to me-the greatest campfire stories you'll ever hear. Professor Hale speaks without notes and has a way of making the listener feel very comfortable while he relates the bloody events of 2400 years ago. I am anxious to buy his other lecture series.
Date published: 2012-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly recommend A very enjoyable course that leaves you wanting to learn more (which is a good thing in my opinion). I listened to this course after I had listened to Prof McInerney's course on Greek civilization (not as engaging but a good place to start your studies of ancient Greece if you don't know that much about it) and will follow it up with Prof Hart's course on Alexander the Great. As he discusses the history Prof Hale knows just when to leave the chronology of the wars to present useful background on personalties, culture etc. He obviously loves the subject matter and presents it in a lively and entertaining manner. Five stars all the way around.
Date published: 2012-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Words around the campfire DVD reviews. When TTC courses overlap, potential buyers naturally wonder where to start and what to ignore. This is a review of three such courses concerned with the political and military history of classical Greece: Dr Hales’s THE GREEK AND PERSIAN WARS as well as two courses by Dr. Harl, THE PELOPONESIAN WAR and ALEXANDER THE GREAT AND THE MACEDONIAN EMPIRE. All are great and very informative. So the key question is: How much and what kind of information do you want? At what point does “good enough” become “too much”? The general overview and best first step, unless you are very familiar with Greek history, is undoubtedly GREEK AND PERSIAN WARS. Listening to Dr Hale is like sitting around a campfire with a good storyteller. The period covered is 560 to 320 B.C., ending shortly after the death of Alexander the Great. And like all great stories, we start with very few characters vividly drawn before things build up. Included too are plenty of maps and pictures from Dr Hale’s many archaeological expeditions. The weakness of personality-driven storytelling is that impersonal factors (economics, geography, culture, sociology, etc.) get forgotten. It’s all “and then…, and then…, and then…”, like a small child’s account of the day. Dr Hale neatly avoids this by inserting plenty of impersonal factors into his narrative, but in a light way so that the flow is not interrupted too much. All in all, an excellent 24-lecture course. And a good place to stop if your interest in ancient Greek political history is only casual. The more alert among you might wonder how the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) fits into Hales’s course, since it was primarily a Greek-on-Greek conflict. He gives a general outline with more details near the end because Persian financial support of Sparta played a role in its eventual victory. But if you want more, Dr Harl is your man. He too is an excellent raconteur. He has to be. PELOPONNESIAN offers enormous detail, with 17 lectures out of 36 providing the requisite political, military, sociological and cultural factors affecting the various Greek city states before the war even begins. This is also a course about the perceptions and working methods of the world’s first truly “professional historian”, Thucydides, also a participant in this war. Why so much detail? In good part because 19th Century British historians popularized this war as a contest between democracy and the forces of autocracy. As they portrayed it, this conflict foreshadowed Great Britain’s resistance to Napoleon. Athens was the “good guy”, a beacon of freedom and culture. Sparta was a war-obsessed military machine. Actually, as Dr. Harl explains, both sides had much in common, and Athens, though a democracy, was a despotic master of neighbouring Greek city states that fell under its control. Indeed, much of its cultural glow (including the Parthenon) was unwillingly financed by its imperial possessions. This being the case, the “good versus evil” angle collapses, and Athens’ eventual loss had little impact on the evolution of Western civilization. In fact, as Harl points out, the Punic wars between Rome and Carthage (264-146 B.C.) were far more fateful. One may wonder then why devote so much time to this tiny 27-year war unless the whole period already fascinates you. Alexander the Great is a different story. In terms of historical influence, he is probably the most important non-religious figure in Western history, primarily because he “exported” Greece’s ideas and language into Persia and northern India. But be warned, here too Dr Harl offers exhaustive political and military details through a span of 36 lectures covering 404-300 B.C. This not only includes the career of Alexander and its immediate aftermath, but also that of his almost-equally-talented father, Philip II of Macedon. Philip united Greece. Alexander built on this and conquered the whole “civilized” world then known to the Greeks. An interesting side issue not really explored in these lessons is the ethical ramification of ancient imperialism, be it Athenian, Macedonian or Persian. All three courses are enthusiastic portrayals of mass murder and plunder. Of course ethical judgments are not “knowledge” whereas the exploration of past cause-and-effect relationships is. Also, it must be remembered that growth through trade, economic structures or science and technology is entirely foreign to ancient thought. The fastest way to gain wealth and glory was to grab it from others, who presumably had achieved wealth through the same process. In any case, the whole accumulation process was inherently ephemeral. Alexander’s empire was parcelled away soon after his death. The Greek cultural afterglow persisted until the explosive growth of Islam replaced it after 630 A.D. All in all, GREEK AND PERSIAN WARS is the best choice if you only want one overview. PELOPONNESIAN and ALEXANDER are for the dedicated souls who seek more, especially if they like military history. The guidebooks for the first two courses are excellent, with plenty of maps. The ALEXANDER guidebook is extremely skimpy, not a fit tool for such a detailed course.
Date published: 2012-01-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Effective, a sign of genius Prof. Hale shows effectively again and again the that conflicts between Greeks and Persians not only is meaningful and relevant to us after 2500 years, it is the story of insight and human perception and new ideas. The narrative is fresh and fair to both sides. Greeks are presented with their track records and motives. So are Persians. These are not only intellectually attractive lectures but also are like an exciting and page turning novel. One of the best Teaching courses amongst thirty I have. Don't miss it!
Date published: 2011-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Course! This is for the MP3 download version of the course. It threw me off a bit at first because the professor sounds a lot like sports broadcaster Dan Patrick, so I had to keep reminding myself that I was listening to history and not ESPN! But that's a compliment to Hale as he's very easy to listen to and captures the attention. The content is well-organized and fairly comprehensive, but with great pacing. My personal favorite is the in-depth recounting of Phillip and Alexander the Great on the last few lectures. Hale is very good to at cutting through some of the fallacies and common misunderstandings of this era. If you want to learn more about the background of the movie "300" or are interested as I am in Alexander the Great, this is a must-have course.
Date published: 2011-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from one amazing course Dr. Hale is amazing. He is so engaged, needs no notes and draws you into the course and by the end of the first lecture, I was so mesmerized that I could not wait to go through the whole course (made for some long nights). i wish I had professors like that in school. I would not have gone to science if I had Dr. Hale in my liberal arts classes. This is a must for students of Greek history. I will for sure move on to his next course in Greek archaeology. Happy learning!
Date published: 2011-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb! Professor Hale may be the best lecturer I've ever heard. His easy, conversational style almost made me forget I was being taught. But oh how I was taught! I literally couldn't wait for the next lecture and after completion have listened to it 4 times! While Professor Hale's grasp of the material is staggering, what I admire most is his ability to weave many sources into a cognizant whole to present a completely believable account of that epic time. I often grow weary of know-it-all professors that are critical of sources (such as Herodotus) and question every detail of those accounts and even scoff at them. Professor Hale not only respects the sources but dedicated a complete lecture to Herodotus, the father of history. My only regret is that The Teaching Company does not offer a half dozen or so more lectures by Professor Hale.
Date published: 2010-12-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb and moving This course is an excellent in-depth discussion of the numerous wars between the Greek and Persian worlds. It starts with the origins of the Persians and the Greeks and a bit about their cultures. It then dives into the formation of the Persian Empire and Persian King Cyrus' defeat of King Croesus of Lydia, which gave Persia control of the Greek cities of Asia Minor. The course then works its way chronologically through the numerous subsequent wars, ending with Alexander the Great's defeat of the Persian Empire under Darius III. Many people have some knowledge of the Battles of Marathon (2500 years ago as I write this review in October 2010!) and Thermopylae, and perhaps about Athens Golden Age, and the Peloponnesian Wars between Sparta and Athens. But hearing the entire story from Lydia to Alexander is exciting and, I found, quite moving. The Greek victories are amazing, and that really comes across in this course. The details of the battles are well told, bringing the tactics and the personalities to life. The associated political and social developments are woven in nicely, and there's a terrific lecture devoted to Herodotus, seen as the father of history. I found many moving anecdotes in this course attesting to the power of individuals -- like Themistocles, Miltiades, or Leonidas -- to literally change the course of history. This course is a winner.
Date published: 2010-10-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Phenomenal This review is based on the Audio CD version. I knew little to nothing of the wars between the Greeks and Persians before listening to this course, other than a few tidbits about Thermopylae and general knowledge about Darius, Xerxes and Alexander of Macedonia. After this course, however, I feel like I could talk on point about this material for hours. Incredibly thorough and fact-filled, it should be dull, studious and slow. Quite the contrary. Dr. Hale speaks as though you are sitting across the table, swapping stories. His enthusiasm is unbridled and his command of the information is staggering. I couldn't wait to put in the next disc and spent hours researching topics online to find out more about the people and places he described. If you have any interest in ancient history, this course could not be more highly recommended.
Date published: 2010-10-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Hale is wonderful I took Dr. Hale's course on archeology which, as in the case of all fine teachers, was a revelation - and he's so good, I'd listen to him discussing the telephone directory, so I signed on to this course too. I'm an amateur historian in this period and I wanted to see if Dr. Hale could bring to it anything other fine professors had not. He does. This magnificent and sad political period, running from Cyrus the King to Darius, destroyed by Alexander the Great - is probably one of the most moving and evocative in ancient history, tracking, as it does, the rise and fall of Greek democracy. Dr. Hale doesn't miss an element, a nuance, a fact. Add this to your "I won't part with this course under any circumstances!" list right now.
Date published: 2010-10-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding The only thing that keeps me from calling this series the very best of the many dozens of TTC courses to which I have listened is that I can't decide which of John Hale's three courses deserves that accolade. All three are absolutely top rate. Hale is a magnificent story teller and a captivating lecturer. He speaks without notes or a podium, and -- as far as I can tell -- without a teleprompter either. He is in full and total command of his material. If you have any interest at all in archaeology and the history of the ancient Mediterranean world, you will love this course. Hale breaks from the standard historical approach in examining the recurrent Greek-Persian encounters over almost three centuries -- from Cyrus the Great to Alexander -- not in isolation but as episodes in an ongoing and caleidoscopic process of interaction. This innovative (at least to me) approach left me impressed with the fluidity of international politics in the Greek world during these centuries -- and wary of viewing Greece and Persia in East/West terms as radically distinct and permanently opposed worlds. Mortal enemies in the 580s of a momentarily unified Greek world, the Persians allied just a few decades later with Sparta to crush the Athenians, then switched sides when Sparta's resurgent naval might threatened the balance of power, then imposed the King's Peace to stabilize the whole region. We listened to this course for the first time last fall as we were driving around Attica and the Peloponnese. Hale's insights on the places we were visiting made our trip all the more valuable and memorable.
Date published: 2010-08-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course Professor Hale did an excellent job of presenting the material. The course title is a little misleading. There was no single war between the Greeks and the Persians. This course covers a serious of military battles over a 200 year period. For anyone who is well-read on the material, this is certainly not a problem, but since this was the first time I've encountered the material, it was a bit confusing.
Date published: 2010-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Persians are Coming! The Persians are Coming! Well, the Persians did come - twice - and as Dr Hale thoroughly documents "the rest is history". The epic struggle of the Greeks against the Persians is literally the stuff of legends and Dr H's presenation is legendary. He takes a story told in many ways in many TC courses on Greek History, Greek Literature, Great Battles, and Herodotus and retells it energetically and empathetically. Even though you know how the story ends, Dr. H's enthralling teaching holds and piques your interest. It's a truly great story truly told. When this Professor's tale is finished you'll find yourself rejoicing for the Greeks and sympathizing with the Persians. No matter how many times you have heard or read the Greeks and Persians fight it out, Dr. Hale's course is worth taking. You will learn a lot from an this excellent teacher and you enjoy learning from him - this professor is a great storyteller telling one of the greatest stories of all time. Once upon a time the Persians came to Greece and the rest is this excellent course....
Date published: 2010-03-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another great course from Hale I knew the story/history of the greek/persian wars, so it wouldn't have been on my top buy list, but I bought it because the archeology of greece/rome was such a great course. And this did not disappoint. He is a truly great prof, with an amazing presentation syle. He loves his subject and he makes it come alilve. Also, this has MUCH better battle graphics than previous TC courses I have taken. Battalians move around and break up on screen so that you have an overall sense of what was happening tactically. Also, triremes and armies move across the maps, so you get a very good geographical context, in a way you never could by reading a book on ths subject. Fabulous course. Fabulous. (I think the CD would work, but the DVD really is worth it).
Date published: 2010-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great course CONTENT: This course covers the period of time from the conquest of Asia Minor by Cyrus the Great of Persia at around 550 BC until the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, focusing on the relationships between the Persian empire and the Greek city states. Traditionally, the phrase "Greek and Persian Wars" usually refers to the two attempts to conquer the Greek city states conducted by the Persian kings Darius and Xeres. Professor Hale indeed covers those invasions but then takes us further than that, covering the complicated relationship that developed between the two peoples after those two failed conquest attempts, including the role of Greek mercenaries in the Persian armies and the duplicity of Persian involvement in Greek affairs. Equal respect and admiration is given to both the Persians and the Greeks. This equality is rare given the western world's historic identification with Greek culture. Normally, the Persians are depicted as the stereotypical "bad guys" and the Greeks as the heroes who repel and defeat them. This course, on the other hand, provides a refreshingly sympathetic view of the Persian empire while maintaining admiration for the Greeks. There were a few times when I wished Hale had delved a little more thoroughly into some of the events he mentions in passing, but this course is the most complete treatment of that time period and of the affairs between the Greeks and Persians that I have ever seen. PRESENTATION: Professor Hale is an absolutely wonderful speaker. He has an approachable, colloquial quality in his speech. The lectures are given in a purely conversational, unpretentious style and do not seem to have been scripted. I can't speak more highly of this professor's ability to captivate the listener with the topic he is discussing. Very well done. IMAGES: This section of the review is only applicable to the DVD version of the course. The images provided include animated maps and battle diagrams, artist renderings and pictures of various artifacts. In general, they add significantly to the lecture. Of course, the maps and battle diagrams are always worthwhile and assist the viewer in understanding the narrative provided by the speaker, but I was also impressed with my appreciation for many of the artistic renderings. They help to give the viewer a perspective that may not be obtainable from the narrative alone. CONCLUSION: This is a great course, highly recommended if you want to learn more about the period and peoples in question. The historic events are covered about as thoroughly as you can get in 12 hours, and the lectures are given by a first class speaker and story-teller. You can't ask for more than that (well... maybe a cheaper price :-) ).
Date published: 2009-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A gifted teacher, a wonderful course. Regretably, I just finished the last lecture of Dr Hale's "Greek and Persian Wars." I now understand why this course has one of the highest ratings of any course offered by the Teaching Company. Dr Hale is a fantastic lecturer who is exceedingly knowledgable about his subject matter, and obviously very enthusiastic about it. It is clear from the first lecture that he loves history and enjoys teaching it. He highlights the famous battles of Thermopylae and Salamis, but also delves into other lesser known yet very important battles between the Great King and the Greek city states. He presents his lectures in an even handed manner that avoids the Greek "good guys" and Persian "bad guys" trap that is so prevelant when examining this subject. If you are interested in learning more about ancient Greece, if you are a military history buff, or if you simply love history and enjoy a great story, you will enjoy this series of lectures. When you finish the lectures and want more from Dr Hale, he just published a wonderful book entitled "Lords of the Sea" about the Athenian navy. It is a great read and a fine compliment to this remarkable lecture series.
Date published: 2009-08-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Brings Ancient History to Life If you thought the Greek and Persian conflict ended where Herodotus' narrative breaks off, think again! Prof. Hale's course also takes in the many subsequent wars between these two peoples, right through to the death of Alexander. The stories are well told, anecdotal at times, with nice archaeological bits and pieces thrown in. I'd say not quite as compelling as his Classical Archaeology course, but still very good. Prof. Hale is one of the most charming and engaging TC professors.
Date published: 2009-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from fascinating course, amazingly complete This is probably the best course I have yet purchased (out of over 10, mostly in history); Dr. Hale is the consummate storyteller, extremely engaging and weaving in numerous important facts with references to the original sources as well as the archaeologic evidence for the events described. Further, he avoids the fairly common Greek bias, presenting a very in-depth and fascinating view of the Persian side. I would recommend this course to anyone with even a remote interest in ancient history.
Date published: 2009-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Overview Course of Ancient Greek History I have purchased several courses on Ancient Greek history from the Teaching Company, which I listen to in my car. While I have been generally happy with all of the courses from the Teaching Company, this is defintely one of the best ones. It is well organized and interesting. It is a great overview course covering a fairly lengthy time period. Professor Hale has a good speaking voice and can be very entertaining at times. I would definitely recommend this course.
Date published: 2009-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hale is outstanding-Get his archaeology as well This is one of several excellent courses on Greece that I have enjoyed and benefited from-McInerney, Harl, Fears also do great videos on Greek history. I selected this course because I had enjoyed Hale's archaeology course so much. I never could keep straight the Persian Wars, but Hale made it clear. An excellent experience.
Date published: 2009-04-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really Great Professor I've purchased at least 30 courses from The Teaching Company up to now, and the lectures from professor Hale are certainly the ones I like the most. I'm ready to buy any new course made by professor Hale without even looking at the title -- I know it will be outstanding and I'll enjoy it. Professor Hale, thank you for recording both this course and "Classical Archaeology." I'm looking forward for more.
Date published: 2009-01-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Greeks, Persians and elephants... Prof Hale is one of my favorite Teaching Company lecturers. He is witty and entertaining as well as informative. In this course he attempts something almost impossible; to follow the extremely convoluted and complex story of the wars between Ancient Greece and Persia. I would submit that it is impossible to do so in a mere 24 lectures, but the prof almost brings it off. There are some gaps in the story and some parts are a little rushed, still a great overview and a hugely enjoyable series. If there ever is a revision or update of this I would suggest 36 or even 48 lectures. (Please note that this refers to the audio version)
Date published: 2009-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History in Depth Dr. Hale is a good instructor who really knows his subject. This course is equally useful as an introductory or intermediate level course. This is good course for people who enjoy history, particularly Greek history, and who are not satisfied with 2-4 pages in a Western Civilization course.
Date published: 2008-12-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very good choice Its a very interesting course on an area of history that is undercovered. I really liked the unexpected expanse of the course. It doesn't just cover the canonical Greek and Persian Wars of Thermopylae and Salamis - it extends to the Persian interference in the Peloponnesian Wars and Alexander's conquest of Persia. I'd point out that in a couple non-crucial details, it contradicts other courses. (For instance, Prof. Fagan took the position that the mile-long, headlong sprint in full armor of a particular battle was too strenuous and historically unlikely. Prof. Hale argues the controversy exists only because history professors are out of shape and can't contemplate what others can. They cite what seems to be the same study of phys ed students to prove it.)
Date published: 2008-12-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What a delight it is to have the Teaching Company package arrive! I know I can look forward to excellent material beautifully presented.
Date published: 2008-10-17
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