Greek Legacy: Classical Origins of the Modern World

Course No. 464
Professor Daniel N. Robinson, Ph.D.
Philosophy Faculty, Oxford University; Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, Georgetown University
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Course No. 464
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Course Overview

Matthew Arnold, English poet and literary critic, observed a century ago when considering our Darwinian ancestor—that "hairy quadruped with pointed ears and a tail..."—there seems to have been something in him "that inclined him to Greek." Arnold was suggesting that our basic assumptions about virtually all of the major building blocks of our culture (law, government, religion, science, medicine, drama, architecture, and more) derived ultimately from the ancient Greeks.

In this course of 12 lectures you explore the continuing influence of the classical Greek achievement on contemporary life. The point of the lectures is not the often tedious claim that there is nothing new under the sun. Rather, it is to underscore the remarkable continuity of the Greek perspective and ethos preserved over several millennia.

Your guide to the Greek achievement is Professor Daniel N. Robinson, a member of the Philosophy faculty at Oxford University, where he has lectured annually since 1991. He is also Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, at Georgetown University, on whose faculty he served for 30 years. He was formerly Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Columbia University.

In his introduction, Professor Robinson traces the rise, fall, and return of Greek influence on Western culture. He then explores the "Greek Legacy" in specific aspects of our lives.

Literature and the Arts

Literature. Professor Robinson explains the profound Greek contribution:

"The great literary themes that have dominated creative writing over the past two millennia were developed and bequeathed to us by a handful of ancient Greek poets and dramatists. There is scarcely a corner of the 'human dilemma' not first uncovered and then illuminated in the works of Greek antiquity.

"To achieve this abiding influence, the literary minds of that culture must have understood what is virtually universal in the human experience—that is, what transcends time and place and lends itself to ready translation across cultures. In longing to know themselves and the world, Homer and his successors marked out the contours and dimensions of the human condition, and they created a literature that was at once diagnostic and therapeutic, individuated and trans-cultural."

In art and architecture, the Greeks remain an ideal. At the end of his illustrious life, Leonardo da Vinci complained that in all of his efforts he had failed to achieve "that one thing necessary": the symmetria prisca ("pure symmetry") of the ancient Greek world of art and architecture. You'll study this pure symmetry, its source, its influence on art, architecture, and even politics.

Learning, Science, and Medicine

Learning. You examine with Professor Robinson the Greek ideals in scholarship and the relationship they saw between what you study and who you become.

Science and Medicine. You study the origins of the modern scientific method in the mathematical deductions of Pythagoras and the explosively productive inductive inquiries of Aristotle.

You explore the origins of modern clinical medicine in the work of Hippocrates of Cos and the Greek writings of Galen.

The State and the Self

Government.You see what drove the Greeks to create trial by jury—and how this system created a new emphasis on individual responsibility.

And you study statecraft. Professor Robinson offers an overview of Greek achievement as follows:

"Contemporary notions of freedom, self-government, virtuous leadership, and a decent and flourishing civic life have their origins in the Athens of Pericles, Plato, and Aristotle. These men shaped the problems and possibilities of governance into nothing less than a political science, the terms of which have been remarkably preserved from their original understandings in ancient Athens.

"Nonetheless, our rather romantic conception of ancient Athenian 'democracy' conceals the bitter resentments that obtained among political factions in Athens, as well as the principled reservations about democracy recorded by Plato and Aristotle."

The Individual. In these lectures, you study:

  • the central importance of "character" in the Greek view of the individual—character which was evident early in life, which followed "types," and which greatly determined the course of one's behavior and life
  • "invention" of an ethical system that was not derived from received religious authority
  • the polis, the city, as the fundamental unit of human being.

The Perfectionist Ideal

The course examines the Greek ideal of perfection, a theme that runs through Greek art and architecture, drama and philosophy, and even to the Greek view of body and mind.

Though the perfectionist ideal remains summoning and central to us today, Professor Robinson examines its limitations. In striving for the ideal, the Greeks:

  • were often hostile to what was merely practical; while their abstract undertakings in science were remarkably inventive, experimentation and technology were undeveloped
  • showed a tendency to require life to justify its own existence—the elitism of the ideal can foster an instrumental view of life and the devaluation of lives that do not meet the standard
  • often depreciated the common sense of ordinary citizens
  • often depreciated the little pleasures of daily life that provide joy, if not transcendental meaning.

As Aristotle said in his Nichomachean Ethics: "The pleasure arising from thinking and learning will make us think and learn all the more." This course brings those joys in every lecture.

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12 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    "Depth Psychology" From the Dance to the Drama
    Perhaps the most important legacy of the Greeks is their foundational injunction to "know thyself." The Greeks conceived a deeply introspective and humanistic perspective on human life and the human dilemma. Greek literature generated a philosophy of perfectionism. Its constant theme is the impulse to set things right, to restore balance and proportion, to return to one's natural and proper state. x
  • 2
    The Aesthetics of Harmony
    At the end of his illustrious life, Leonard da Vinci complained that in all of his efforts he had failed to achieve "that one thing necessary": the symmetria prisca of the ancient Greek world of art and architecture. What was this "pure symmetry," and what was its source? x
  • 3
    The Invention of Scholarship
    Plato's Academy was the school that first established the essential character of scholarly inquiry. Socrates and his students, Plato among them, were not content with perfecting clever argumentative devices, nor did they rely on any "sacred text" whose deeper meaning summoned the assembly. Rather, it was the examined life that provided the subject matter for those who committed themselves to following the light of reason. x
  • 4
    Science and the Nature of Things
    Although earlier civilizations had made considerable advances in technology, it was chiefly Greek scientists and thinkers from the late 6th century B.C. who established the foundation of scientific inquiry. Aristotle, in particular, moved toward an objectification of the natural world, rendering it fit for a disinterested inquiry into the nature of things. x
  • 5
    The Hippocratics
    Ancient Greek medicine featured two dominant and competing schools of thought: the Empiricists (including leading members of the Hippocratic school) who tied treatment to findings, and the Theorists, who based remedies on a "hypothetical-deductive" mode of reasoning. Ultimately, it was the Hippocratics who prefigured modern medical science in giving medicine a more naturalistic and practical orientation. x
  • 6
    The Rule of Law
    The Shield of Achilles offers Homer's rendition of the means by which disputes were settled in the pre-Classical (Mycenaean) world of the Greek people. Two centuries later, the Athenian magistrate Solon was sought as the ideal lawgiver because his judgment was regarded as "straight" by a people already exercising the power and duties of self-government. The jury system, the end of phratric (clan) justice, and the discovery of human rights are but three of the great contributions of the ancient Greek world to the rule of law. x
  • 7
    Statecraft
    The ancient Greeks invented both the state—the polis—and statecraft. Indeed, contemporary notions of freedom, self-government, virtuous leadership, and a decent and flourishing civic life have their origins in the Athens of Pericles, Plato, and Aristotle. These men shaped the problems and possibilities of governance into a political science—the terms of which have been remarkably well preserved from their original understanding in ancient Athens. x
  • 8
    Ancient Greek Religion
    Although the ancient Greek world had no official religion, the polis was never entirely secular. A diffuse but unmistakably religious cast of mind is evident in ancient Greek life and literary works. x
  • 9
    Character and Personality
    From the time of Homer, Greek thought focused on character (the vanity of Helen and the anger of Achilles, for example) and the fact that character is destiny. Later, Plato and Aristotle both examined human personality in depth, and their ideas laid the foundations for later psychological theories and the broad framework that continues to influence research and theory. x
  • 10
    The Moral Point of View
    What are the grounds on which actions are classified as good or evil, right or wrong? In addressing such questions the ancient Greek philosophers not only founded the subject of moral philosophy, but provided the conceptual resources that today remain central to moral discourse. x
  • 11
    The City and the Civic Life
    The strong sense of individual identity assumed by the ancient Greeks was grounded in civic life. One's loyalty was to the polis. The most tragic figure in Homer is the "stateless" man—one without a civic grounding, a civic identity. x
  • 12
    Perfectionism and the Greek Ideal
    A persistent theme is found in Greek art and architecture, in Greek drama and moral philosophy, in Greek games and festivals, and in Greek religion: perfection. The perfectionist ideal was applied to body and mind, to art and science, to life in both its personal and civic dimensions. Perfection was at the foundation of the classical achievement and, to some extent, was also the cause of the collapse of that extraordinary civilization. x

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  • 56-page digital course guidebook
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider
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Your professor

Daniel N. Robinson

About Your Professor

Daniel N. Robinson, Ph.D.
Philosophy Faculty, Oxford University; Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, Georgetown University
Dr. Daniel N. Robinson is a member of the philosophy faculty at Oxford University, where he has lectured annually since 1991. He is also Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, at Georgetown University, on whose faculty he served for 30 years. He was formerly Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Columbia University, and he also held positions at Amherst College and at Princeton University. Professor Robinson earned his Ph.D. in...
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Reviews

Greek Legacy: Classical Origins of the Modern World is rated 4.2 out of 5 by 48.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brush Up Your Plato audio download version and your Homer and your Aristophanes and your Aristotle and more. As other reviewers have mentioned, following Dr. Robinson, his style and these lectures takes a reasonable amount (even if surface) of background knowledge not only about the classical Greek era, but also of what used to be considered a liberal education. For example at one point Professor Robinson makes a passing reference to John Stuart Mill, just as though his students were familiar with his writings. This sent me back to check "On Liberty" just to make sure my memory was correct, or perhaps to refresh my memory. So even if this might seem to be a survey course, I think that its riches are aimed at those who have already taken a survey course on classical and Homeric Greece. For me, I was initially put off on the first lecture, wondering, "what's up with this" and "where is he going and why?" But having invested a modest amount I kept it up for a couple of more lectures and was rewarded. To the point that I went back and listened again to the first two lectures. I can understand those who do not care for Dr. Robinson's lecture style. His use of language may seem pedantic, always choosing a 5 dollar word when a 5 cent one might be available. Still, like many academics, he always chooses the correct (or might I say) exact word. As an example he mentions that his next lecture will be the penultimate one, an accurate word, not in common usage outside, perhaps of bridge. His style is also amusing, wry and very much tongue-in-cheek, something he mentions directly in a middle lecture, just in case we have not yet seen the point. Further his style reminds me of favorite professors who might bring students for discussion around a dinner table on in a pub, rather than presenting hard facts. One reviewer mentioned that his style is discursive. I concur, enjoyably. If this starts slowly for you (and it may not), have patience and give the good professor a chance to draw you into the world of the Athens of Pericles. For me I ordered courses on the Iliad and Odyssey, which I have not read for many, many years. Clearly I need to brush up my Homer. I picked up the Aeneid as well, given my surface knowledge of that work. Highly recommended, but I think that some background is needed.
Date published: 2015-12-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mildly Recommended, with Caveats This course will appeal to those interested in classical Greece, but it comes with some limitations. First, it requires some advance knowledge of famous Greek men, including Socrates, Pericles, Aristotle, and Sophocles. Second, each lecture is loosely organized and wide-ranging, and Professor Robinson does not give a short overview at the beginning. Third, the course is at least as much about our differences from classical Greece as what we have inherited from it. Our science, for example, derives from the work of Euclid, Democritus, Archimedes, Aristotle and Galen among others, but it rules out concern with “final causes” or the purpose of things, that were important to the Greeks. Unlike our monotheistic religion, the Greeks had no priestly class and no sacred texts; what they did have was a tension between the rational Apollonian outlook and the ecstatic Dionysian. Finally, Robinson is an unabashed antiquarian and Hellenophile who emphasizes the strengths of that culture against what he views as the weaknesses of ours. In particular, the Greek polis provided its citizens with an organic unity of citizen rights, politics, religion, architecture, music and drama that we lack today. As he points out in Lecture 12, one cannot have a polis of 280 million (today 300 million) citizens. He views the “multiculturalist” attack on Greek universalism as a denial of our shared humanity. Our vast technical progress as compared to the Greeks has come at the price of rootlessness, insecurity and anomie. I never knew our modern era was so terrible compared to ancient Athens. But hey, for all the 1-star reviews others have given this course, I’m satisfied with my purchase. How much can you really expect for $16?
Date published: 2015-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Donald Trump explained? As I write this Mr Trump is all the rage in the media...I'll return to him in a minute. This is the second time through this lecture set. Like many reviewers, I just didn't really get it the first time. Was this a history course or just an obscure philosophical discourse on the classical Greek world? Then I (I think) began to take on a different meaning to Dr Robinson's discussion...his lectures provide a very clear insight to the way we, in the western tradition, think, right down to our most basic value system of what is good (and evil), desirable and pleasurable...what makes us us. The lectures deal with how the Greeks (mostly just the Arcadians) thought about science, religion, the arts, other peoples, the rule of law...just refer to the lecture titles. These were a patriarchal people, with rigid laws, high standards of morality, secular, for the most part, yet highly pious in their outlook. Yet they were highly xenophobic and fickle...perfectly happy to keep to themselves and sue each other at the drop of a hat. Had it not been for Alexander the Great (and his interpretation of Aristotle and Homer), the Greeks might never had been known or remembered after the Peloponnesian War...Homer's memory might well have faded. Alexander spread the word of the Hellenes and established an ideal that many, if not all, subsequent western civilizations have to some extent copied...at least in the 'ideal' format. The US was established as a secular state, based on the ideals of the democratic society of Athens in which everyone participated in the governing of their state (polis), incorporating values that were both good and bad. We were both patriarchal and pious, with a high sense of morality and piety. We promoted equality, yet encouraged slavery of the worst kind. We were democatic, but restricted voting rights via material criteria (land ownership) and, of course, women. We seem to have those Greek characteristics inbred to us (mostly since we were a product derived from western Europe). We still have many of those characteristics, even though we more often don't 'walk the walk'. This brings me back to 'The Donald' (I hope to the gods that he hasn't been elected...to anything). In the ancient Greek world he would have rocketed to the top of the heap based purely on his xenophobic diatribe, faux-piety, as well as his misogynistic rhetoric...particularly in his views on immigration and women, in general. In our sub-sub conscious he appeals to all that's 'Greek' in us...he is our Alcibiades. We know he's in it for his own gain (POWER) and not for any benefit of society, but many support him anyway just because he is audacious. Enough of the rant...The lectures are well prepared and delivered. I may have misinterpreted them entirely, but I had a great time doing it. Highly recommended, do you see, because they made me think! Wait for a sale and a coupon, do you see?
Date published: 2015-08-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Dog's Breakfast Judging this course, it may be helpful to keep in mind that anyone who has written 40 books probably doesn't give much thought to anything he says. As entertainment, I suppose the set was good enough to beguile away an idle hour but as learning, I'd rank it online teaching experiences I've ever endured, at Teaching Co or indeed elsewhere. It's as potpourri, a random scattering, dog's breakfast. At the very least, I'd have the devil's own time coming up with any takeaways: what, /exactly/ he thinks the Greek Legacy for the modern world and why he might think so. I'm not even certain exactly what he means by "the Greeks;" does he mean to focus our attention on the so-called Golden Age of the 5C-4C? Or also to reach back to the (rather different) poets and philosophers of the 6C-7C-? Or forward to the (much more different) Hellenistic Age that succeeds Alexander? Concerns like this don't seem to bother our lecturer who seems at liberty to wander freely over the entire landscape, tucking in whatever may pass for an insight as it may happen to cross his mind. In the same vein, I'd have to wonder exactly what audience he had in mind. I'd think a beginner would be bewildered as our lecturer rambles freely back and forth across ages, genres, authors and such like. I should think a more experienced listener would find it so full of gaps, oversimplifications and inconsistencies that he'd have trouble restraining his frustration. I guess I'd give him for a half point for a moderately focused and interesting discussion of Aristotelean "character ethics" in one of his later lectures. But here, perhaps especially, I thought he might want want to explore more carefully the matter of modern reception-- to spend some energy trying to understand the (highly contentious) place of the Aristotelean tradition in the larger context of modern ethical theory. Not quite a total waste of time, then, but way below par. A final note--reading other reviews, I can see that tastes differ; no matter; somebody has to set the record straight.
Date published: 2015-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A masterpiece for those with ears to hear I thoroughly enjoyed this course and have listened to it three times so far. The amount of sophisticated thought in it is amazing, relating to such diverse fields as law, politics, economics, technology, drama and art. They don't make professors like this any more; I was privileged to be in one of the last courses given by John Finley at Harvard in 1972-3, and he was of similar ilk. Having said all of the above and meant it, this course is absolutely not for everyone, as some of the comments by other people indicate. If you have little or no background in ancient Greek culture, you will probably miss a lot of the references Prof. Robinson makes. Although he explains a number of the concepts, he does so only briefly, more to refresh your recollection than to teach you anew. Therefore if you have no recollection of this material, don't get this course until you have studied a fair amount about the ancient Greeks.
Date published: 2015-04-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Huh? I've listened to or watched over 90 great courses and this is the only one I've ever returned. I am very interested in Greek history and literature and have enjoyed many Great Courses on these subjects. However, I found myself lost listening to the audio download version of this course. For example, midway through a lecture I'd find myself with no idea what this particular lecture was supposed to be about. I was also often at a loss to explain exactly what legacy he was trying to convey. Other reviewers seemed to like the various tangents but I prefer a well-organized lecture.
Date published: 2015-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What You've Been Looking For If you're anything like me, then you've long been wanting to understand precisely WHY ancient Greek civilization should be important for us, modern man, to understand today, instead of just the fact that it is important. All my life I've been told that how the ancient Greeks lived is important to me, and that their culture has an influence on my life today, but nobody either could, or cared to, explain why. Indeed, I imbibed other courses offered here with the hopes of gaining that understanding, but I was always taught what the ancient Greeks were (how they lived, or fought, or what they believed or taught), but no one ever explained the connection between the WHAT of the Greeks then and the WHY it matters today. This course explains why ancient Greek civilization matters to modern man, especially modern Western man, and I cannot thank professor Robinson enough for sharing his knowledge.
Date published: 2014-12-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing Dr. Robinson jumps from one topic to another as if he is having a casual conversation with listeners. The teaching is not methodical and by the end you are left with a vague sense of the subject. I would not recommend it to a serious learner.
Date published: 2014-07-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Hard to Ignore Opinions about Today Setting aside speech mannerisms such as frequent interjections of "don't you know," this course is painful to listen to because of the presenters' frequent rants about the horrors of the modern world. TV news anchors, university education, and his colleagues therein all receive lengthy negative comments. In talking about modern architecture, he actually said, "McDonalds and condominiums--where are the terrorists when we need them?" I confess I haven't listened to the entire course which I do believe might contain value information and perspectives. I may keep trying given the number of positive reviews.
Date published: 2014-06-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Dialogue Worth Participating In These lectures are like having a visitor from Classical Greece drop by for a series of conversations about his world and experience. Yes, it is a good introduction to the foundational role ancient Greece played in the development of Western Civilization, but it is more that worthy enterprise. In just 12 textures the listener is also introduced into a world gone for some 2500 years as if it was alive today and Professor Robinson just returned from an extended research trip. I share the opinions of other reviewers who have pointed out the great value these lectures are. Highly recommend.
Date published: 2013-09-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A bargain at twice the price This is a wonderful series that approaches the ancient greeks from a much more "heady" perspective than most courses on classical history offered by The Great Courses. I love the professors conversational yet authoritative tone and how he really gets across the reason the greeks matter, not just the facts of what they did...
Date published: 2013-07-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from $15? Are you kidding me? What this course is: 12 lectures on "concepts" within Ancient Greece -- what they were and how they have found their way into our current culture. This is not a straightforward history, per se. The professor's presentation is enjoyable. I ordered this as a digital audio download for $15, plus there was some other sale going on at the time. So I probably got this course for around $10 -- about the cost of a pizza. Easy to load onto your iPhone and listen. Totally worth the cost. After listening to some history courses on Greece, I'll probably revisit these lectures again.
Date published: 2012-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Overview of Greek Culture I initially got this course from my county library and was enamoured by it. A year later I grabbed it from the library again and was enthralled yet again. I recently found the course on sale, bought the digital download, and finished it within a week. Professor Robinson is a passionate devotee of Ancient Greek culture. He picks 12 topics that have influenced our Western culture and gives an outline of how the ancient Greeks felt about that topic. All in all, he provides an excellent introduction to ancient Greek life and beliefs. I found Professor Robinson's lecture style to be among the best of all professors offered by the teaching company if not the best. They have a lyrical quality to them. I highly recommend this course to anyone looking for an introduction to the ancient Greek world or those interested in a comparison between current Western civilization and the ancient Greeks.
Date published: 2012-12-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is one of my favorite courses I think it helps that I have gone through many philosophy/classics courses from TGC prior, otherwise, I may have been frustrated. What I enjoy the most about this series is that I feel like I'm having a dialogue with Prof. Robinson. He puts into perspective the various facts I already learned from other courses and makes me think and analyze and reflect on how those individual facts come together. I don't need a great professor to regurgitate facts -- I have google for that. Prof. Robinson offers exactly what I expect a great teacher to do, which is to provide insight, to enlighten, to help me see the subject in a brand new way.
Date published: 2012-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Will stand the test of time as a classic This course is from 1998. It sounds as if he’s giving a lecture somewhere, perhaps on a campus. You can hear an audience and sometimes pages shuffling. In short, this course will stand the test of time, as it’s one I would identify as meeting the gold standard of TGC courses. Robinson really made a deep impression on me, really made me think seriously about human universals and historical context. Even if you’ve heard or watched other courses on Greek civilization, Daniel Robinson adds more to the story and approaches Greek legacy from other perspectives—mostly that of context. Sure, it’s only 12 lectures, but every minute presents nugget after nugget of perfectionist ideals in art, architecture, character, history, scholarship, law, the state, etc. You can sit around forever under your nearest willow tree contemplating the Questions to Consider in the Guidebook. After listening to this course, I’m happy to report that there is something new under the sun. In closing, if you’re the type who is preoccupied with the nature of philosophical/intellectual inquiry, you’ll enjoy this ode to classical Greek achievement.
Date published: 2012-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Cheerful Curmudgeon Audio download bought on sale. When I listened to Dr. Robinson's lecture I was made acutely aware that my weekly lectures about Ancient Greece are amateurish dreck. If you are looking for a systematic dissecting of ancient Greek ideas, look elsewhere. This course is a sweeping romance, an elegy to a long lost love, a passionate narrative full of outlandish blanket statements nailed down with leitmotifs and vibrant details. But don't think that just because it is not systematic that it is not good. These are no mere tangents he goes off on. These are oral master works. Epic. Dr. Robinson is the kind of fellow you should invite over for Thanksgiving dinner if you need some erudite entertainment. (Don't try to feed him turkey, though, as I learned he is a vegetarian.) If I lived any where near him, I would invite him over for drinks and dinner all the time. I would simply wind the old boy up (it seems so easy to do) and listen to him go. I loved the Greeks before, and after listening to Dr. Robinson, I love them even more because I understand them more than I did before. From this customer's perspective, walking away with greater understanding and appreciation for the subject matter is the reason I buy these courses. In that sense, this course is a hit.
Date published: 2011-12-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from professional commentary I had previous experience with Dr. Robinson, so I came prepared to bear his lecturing style. Those who know Dr. Robinson may have realized that he frequently tends to wander off (more than a bit), which is not always necessarily annoying and is never boring. Nevertheless it might disappoint people who expect an introduction to the topic, be it general philosophy or Hellenism. Hence, listening to this lecturer is more like having an intermediate-level conversation with one of the most knowledgeable people around. Robinson takes a novel approach (at least among the courses of TTC) in that he zooms out a bit to focus not on famous Greek individuals (i.e. philosophers, statesmen, writers etc.) but on providing a most acute description of a "generic" Greek. That said, the account, as Robinson himself grants, is highly biased (sometimes to the point where you fear a learned philosopher such as him might even have entertained the idea that the Greeks fell smack down from the sky with no precedent whatsoever). In sum, this imho is a professional commentary on the subject of the Greeks and while it merits concentration and careful attention, it is not a disinterested, objective introduction (and might even be dangerous to think of it as such).
Date published: 2011-09-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not One of My Favorites It could be just that Daniel Robinson isn't my cup of tea. I have listened to several of his lectures, and I find that I can't stay focused on him for very long. I find that I finish a disc then realize I don't recall much about what was discussed, so I go back and listen again. Even after two passes, I don't seem to get much out of it. I find him to be in total contrast to lecturers like Timothy Taylor and Elizabeth Vandiver, both of whom I find totally captivating. Since Robinson seems to be popular, I have tried to figure out what I'm doing wrong. The best I can come up with is that his background is in Philosophy and maybe I was expecting, given the subject matter, a lecturer more geared toward History.
Date published: 2011-08-23
Rated 1 out of 5 by from More of a rant than a course I am not really sure what this course is about. Professor Robinson paints the picture of some ideal country that never existed in history and then attributes everything good to it. To be fair he does mention some of the bad points but to claim that the Greeks invented law or statecraft is absolute nonsense. Of course we owe a lot to Athens (Professor Robinson conveniently forgets about the rather despicable Sparta) but Athenians themselves owed a great debt to earlier civilizations. A more balanced analysis of the subject would have been far more interesting.
Date published: 2011-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Professor's Best Course I have several of Prof. Robinson's courses and this is the best. Personally, I think that it is a great overview of Greek thought and very useful before proceeding to other, more specific courses by other professors. Truth to tell, I haven't this course yet because I keep repeating lectures over and over again. One other thing: I returned Prof Robinson's course on Conciousness. If that one didn't appeal to you either, don't be afraid to purchase this one. It is a gem!
Date published: 2010-12-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Tells You Why This course is for those who have had earlier exposure to Greek courses and an understanding of the various major characters in ancient Greece. Then what Prof. Robinson delivers will begin to make sense. He is an easy person to listen to, very articulate with a dry sense of humor, and clearly understands all the Greek history and brings you up to a 30,000 foot level as to why we in the west think as we do. This is one TTC course that I will have to listen to again
Date published: 2010-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from River of knowledge Erudite, eloquent, inspiring. It was my first course from the Teaching Company and surely a great motivation to keep coming back to this river of knowledge (which, as Heraclitus said, it's not the same river)
Date published: 2010-08-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from God Bless Daniel The trait that distinguishes Prof Robinson from other men is this: His spiritual eyes have been opened and they have seen...His dazzling eloquence not only held me spellbound.but actually carried me away.Even to this very moment I think with gentle emotion on this man, who by the fire of his narratives, sometimes made me forget the present, By his use of enchantment out of the millennial veils of mist carried me into past times and molded dry historical memories into living reality. On occasion I often sat there inflamed with enthusiasm, and sometimes moved to tears....His oratory can be compared with nothing so well as with a dazzling flash of lightning in a dark night, bringing the landscape which had been hidden into clear view. "I float this carol with joy, with joy to thee, O death." And that forecast of the future taken from his own heart—that future "when through these states walk a hundred millions of superb persons"—that is, persons possessed of the cosmic sense. And finally: "The ocean filled with joy—the atmosphere all joy! Joy, joy, in freedom, worship, love! Joy in the ecstasy of life: Enough to merely be! Enough to breathe! Joy, Joy! All over joy" When I undertake to tell the best I find I cannot, My tongue is ineffectual on its pivots, My breath will not be obedient to its organs, I become a dumb man
Date published: 2009-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Scholarly, Erudite, Inspiring The TC has many fine lecturers, but Prof. Robinson is in a field of his own when it comes to breadth of knowledge, and use of language to convey that knowledge. When expounding upon a subject, his reference to literature and thought through the ages is wonderful to listen to. I would warn a potential listener, though, that Prof. Robinson may not be the first TC course you reach for if you are a complete novice on a subject; his are introductory lectures, but they are not delivered in a bullet-pointed, 101 style - his approach is more discursive. This might have the drawback of making you feel a little lost if it's your first pass through new territory, but has the advantage that once you have gained a basic knowledge of the subject, his lectures repay many listens without exhausting their content. His survey of the legacy of the Ancient Greeks is an essential addition to other TC classics courses you might have from Profs. McInerney, Vandiver, Hale, Fears, et al. You think you may be getting a grip on this Classics business, and then Prof. Robinson makes you realize there is so much more depth to this field! A privilege to listen to.
Date published: 2009-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It Is All Greek To Me Dr. Robinson has a great ability of taking an important topic and in a series of short lectures demonstrating the vitality of that topic. In Republic of Virtue, he looked at our founders and their beliefs and key documents. In this course, he looks at the legacy of the Greeks and why their influence is still crucial to us today. He looks at various contributions of the greeks and how those contributions transcend time.He casts a" wide net" in this course and he deals with a plethora of topics. He examines Greek literature including Homer.(If you find this interesting you have to take Dr. Vandiver's excellent course on the Iliad and the Odyssey)He mentions an important concept to the Greeks particularly in literature called nostoi, which means to restore balance, to return to one's natural state. His focus is exhaustive from art, to politics, from Pericles to Plato and Aristotle.He looks at the impact of the Greeks on our laws, politics and beliefs about government.He notes that our founders were greatly influenced by the Greek concept of civic duty. Dr. Robinson states that ours is a technological culture, but we have lost the Greek concept that government can help to cultivate civic elements in our lives. The" treasures" of the ancients shine bright in this course.
Date published: 2009-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One fo the Best Professors Prof. Daniel Robinson proves once again why he ranks as one of the best professors at The Teaching Company. His courses on Psychology, Philosophy, Consciousness, and American Ideals are all profound and require repeated listenings. This course on the Greek Legacy is no exception. Prof Robinson is scholarly, engaging, has a wonderful dry wit, and is humble in his approach. What always astounds me about Prof. Robinson is the depth of his specificity and clarity. What I mean is, he is so precise with his language that it works as a kind of light on my mind revealing the shadows of my own lack of precise thought. Every time I think Prof. Robinson is vague or off the mark in any way, I later come to realize that there was in fact a lack in my own comprehension, a need for a strengthening of my own mind and understanding. Prof. Robinson is the kind of person in whose company you cannot help but improve. His courses are like the best of friends.
Date published: 2009-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb introduction to Greek thought Few teachers can tell why classical Greece matters like Daniel Robinson. He has a mastery and passion for Hellenist thought and an elegance of presentation that makes every minute of these 12 lectures a joy. Count me as a member of the Daniel Robinson fan club. If you enjoy this course, I recommend Robinson's "Great Ideas in Philosophy" course.
Date published: 2009-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof. Robinson is the best lecturer I have ever listened to. He is distinct, and thorough in explanation, and makes his subject come alive. It is truly a pleasure to view and listen to his courses.
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Prof. robinson teaches with great passion & love the material, which only makes the material more intersting
Date published: 2008-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thank you so much for helping to educate me. This course was fantastic.
Date published: 2008-10-17
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