Long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World

Course No. 3310
Professor Ian Worthington, Ph.D.
University of Missouri, Columbia
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Course No. 3310
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Course Overview

300 Spartans guarding the pass at Thermopylae. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle engaging in a dialogue that will give birth to Western philosophy. Alexander the Great conquering nearly the entire ancient world. The military and political history of ancient Greece is famously endowed with stirring scenes such as these. But Greek history is much more than a series of gripping set pieces.

The four centuries that saw the remarkable rise of Greek civilization tell a complex story about the growth of the institutions that laid the foundations for Western civilization.

Traditions that we take for granted today—including open political debate, trial by jury, and the concept of the social contract—were born and reached a vigorous maturity during this era. Not only do the traditions of democracy, law, and empire connect the ancient world with the modern, they also tell us more about the Greeks than any other aspect of their society, including their celebrated artistic and cultural achievements.

The Long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World immerses you in this exciting crucible of innovation in 48 fascinating lectures that focus on Greek democracy, law, and empire, as well as the people who molded them during the Archaic and Classical periods. Taught by award-winning scholar and educator Ian Worthington of the University of Missouri–Columbia, this comprehensive course takes you from 750 to 323 B.C.—a span of history that contains the emergence of Greece at the end of the Dark Ages and the final disintegration of Greek autonomy through the Macedonian kings Philip II and Alexander the Great.

Hard-Fought Struggles

Concentrating on the city-states of mainland Greece, with a special focus on Athens, The Long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World takes you through some of history's most hard-fought struggles—from armed conflicts (such as the Persian Wars, the Peloponnesian War, and the campaigns of Alexander the Great) to political and social struggles (including the late 6th-century civil war in Athens that pitted nobles against the lower classes and eventually produced the first stirrings of democracy).

This course, which covers more than three centuries of rich Athenian and Greek history, is an incredibly detailed look at the birth and maturation of our modern law and democracy. As you explore innovative Athenian approaches to law and empire, you discover how these approaches served as the bedrock for ideas and practices that you live with every day. You also encounter a wealth of intriguing links to many of our own contemporary institutions and attitudes:

  • Democracy: Ancient democracy, like its modern form, was more than a matter of showing up at an assembly to cast a vote. The practice had a complex structure from the start, along with an ever-changing system of checks and balances.
  • Law: Trial by jury was an invention of Athenian lawgivers, as was arbitration and the right of appeal. According to Professor Worthington, even lawyers originated in Athens in the form of professionals who were hired to write and deliver speeches in the courts.
  • Empire: The age that produced Alexander the Great, whose sprawling empire disintegrated after his death, holds lessons about the danger of imperial overreach. By contrast, Alexander's father Philip II knew how to conquer—and how to negotiate and compromise as well.

Explore a Time of Exciting Developments

The Long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World begins with a strong background on the Bronze and Dark Ages, the turbulent era that led up to the Archaic and Classical periods. In the popular imagination, the Classical period is synonymous with ancient Greek culture, thanks to its memorable achievements in drama, architecture, sculpture, history, philosophy, oratory, and other fields. The Archaic period, however, evokes something backward and unsophisticated—a misunderstanding that Professor Worthington quickly clears up for you.

The Archaic period, as you discover, was instead a time of exciting political, social, and cultural developments; the period's Greek root, arche, means the start of something new. It was during this time that an innovative spirit began to transform the old world through developments such as new pottery styles, the first Olympic games, the composition of the Homeric poems, the Greek alphabet, the establishment of colonies, and especially the codification of laws and the institution of new forms of government, notably democracy.

Throughout these insightful lectures, you explore the contributions of many celebrated figures from this period such as these:

  • Pisistratus, the benevolent Athenian dictator who practiced a peaceful foreign policy and encouraged the cultivation of olives to make and export olive oil—an industry that the area surrounding Athens continues to pursue
  • Lycurgus, Sparta's mysterious lawgiver who (according to legend) instituted the city-state's rigorous and notorious system of military training
  • Cleisthenes, a reformer who eased Athens's class strife through a radical reorganization of its citizen body and who is referred to by some as the father of democracy
  • Ephialtes, who completed the political revolution begun by the lawgiver Solon and inaugurated radical democracy in Athens
  • Pericles, the Athenian statesman and general who made Athens an imperial power and sparked the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War
  • Philip II, the king who transformed Macedonia from a backwater into the era's foremost military power
  • Alexander the Great, Philip's son and one of history's most renowned military figures, who furthered his father's imperial mission and conquered most of ancient Greece (and beyond) before his death

A Scholarly Detective Who Reevaluates Traditional Views

An expert in the Archaic period, Professor Worthington knows this period of history inside and out; his consummate knowledge of ancient Greece enriches every one of these in-depth lectures. What makes The Long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World such a refreshing look at this critical period in human history is that Professor Worthington is never shy about questioning received opinion. Throughout the course, he constantly pauses to reevaluate traditional views and employs the instincts of a detective to explore probing questions and issues:

  • Was Dracon really draconian? A Wild West style of justice prevailed in Athens before the aristocrat Dracon took the first steps toward a rational legal system by making the administration of justice uniform. This progressive measure has been overshadowed, however, by Dracon's prescribed penalty of death for all crimes.
  • When exactly did the Classical period begin? Many historians date the beginning of the Classical period with the start of the Persian Wars. Professor Worthington reveals, however, that Classical Greeks looked back on their victory in the Persian Wars as part of a bygone golden age, not as the prelude to their own strife-filled era.
  • Was Cleon a bad strategist? The reputation of the politician and military leader Cleon has suffered at the hands of the historian Thucydides and the playwright Aristophanes. Professor Worthington argues that instead of being such a disaster for Athens during the Peloponnesian War, Cleon was correct in many of his assessments and acted in the city's best interest.
  • Just what did Alexander the Great achieve? History has long viewed Alexander the Great as an icon of military skill and leadership. But Professor Worthington argues that the legends that glorify Alexander the Great obscure the truly great accomplishments of his father, King Philip II.

In addition, Professor Worthington continually questions and analyzes hallowed ancient historical sources. Comparing the historians Thucydides and Herodotus, he observes that "Thucydides never tells us his sources or his reasons for accepting or rejecting something, merely that he is right. Although Herodotus gets things wrong, he does cite his sources. ... This allows us the chance to make up our own minds."

And in presenting his alternative interpretations of history, Professor Worthington invites you to make up your own mind, as well.

What You Owe to History

An important reason to study the history of Classical and Archaic Greece is that the world the Greeks represent—and which we inherited—so clearly hung by a thread at many points during its long and thrilling evolution. By the end of Professor Worthington's final captivating lecture, you discover that there was nothing inevitable about democracy, the Western concept of justice, or any of the other traditions and institutions that now play such central roles in the politics of the modern Western world.

While our current political institutions continue to grow stronger with time, it is essential to recognize that at one point, they were fragile and haphazard, their fate uncertain. As with many eventful tales, The Long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World's story of how this tentative structure transformed into the firm foundation of our contemporary world is gripping, enlightening, and immensely rewarding.

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48 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Three Mainstays of Ancient Greece
    Begin your exploration of Archaic and Classical Greek history with a survey of the three major themes of this course: democracy, law, and empire. Then briefly examine the Bronze Age, which set the stage for many of the later developments you study. x
  • 2
    The 8th-Century Renaissance
    The Bronze Age was followed by four centuries of turmoil (1150–750 B.C.), termed the Dark Ages of ancient Greece. Investigate the civilization that emerged from this era, which ended with a renaissance in the 8th century, marking the start of the Archaic period. x
  • 3
    Politics and Tyranny in Greece
    This lecture considers the rule of the tyrants of three important states in the Peloponnese: Argos, Sicyon, and Corinth. "Tyrant" was a title assumed by those who illegally seized power. Surprisingly, many tyrants played a positive role in bringing peace and stability to their cities. x
  • 4
    The Exercise of Political Power in Athens
    Athens, like other states, was ruled by aristocratic families who felt threatened by the rise of tyrannies elsewhere. This background helps you understand the nature of political power in Athens before the revolutionary democratic reforms of Solon, Ephialtes, and Cleisthenes. x
  • 5
    Dracon of Athens and the Birth of Greek Law
    With Athens facing a revolt of the lower classes, the ruling families appointed a man called Dracon to codify the laws. His severity gave rise to the epithet "draconian," but his inauguration of a formal system of procedures, courts, trial by jury, and other measures earned him the Greek accolade "the father of law." x
  • 6
    Solon of Athens—Social and Economic Reforms
    In 594 the ruling nobles elected an Athenian named Solon to end civil strife, giving him absolute power for one year. Study the revolution wrought by this political genius, who invented democracy. x
  • 7
    Solon, Democracy, and Law
    Consider Solon's political and judicial legislation. How did he go about creating democracy? What did he do to help develop the legal code? You consider the view of Aristotle's Athenian Constitution on the three most democratic aspects of Solon's constitution. x
  • 8
    From Anarchy to Tyranny in Athens
    The decades after Solon were marked by anarchy, aristocratic faction fighting, and further civil war. Chart the rise to power of the tyrant Pisistratus, a nobleman who championed the cause of the poor. x
  • 9
    Pisistratus, Tyrant of Athens
    Examine how Pisistratus benefited Athens economically, artistically, and culturally by his exploitation of religion and his power as tyrant. This is when the first official texts of the Homeric poems were established, when tragedy was born, and when Athens began to emerge as the cultural center of Greece. x
  • 10
    Tyranny Overthrown—The Sons of Pisistratus
    To what extent did Pisistratus have the people's interests at heart, rather than cynically exploiting them to maintain his regime? After exploring this question, look at the inauspicious reign of his sons and the growing tension with the powerful military state of Sparta. x
  • 11
    Democracy Restored—Cleisthenes of Athens
    In the wake of the Pisistratid tyranny, a politician named Cleisthenes gained the upper hand by promising the people widespread changes. His legislation dramatically increased the fledgling democracy by revising the map of Attica to limit aristocratic influence. x
  • 12
    Cleisthenes, the Real Father of Democracy?
    Learn how Cleisthenes' political restructuring ended factional strife and is the forerunner of today's division of local, state, and federal administration. In taking democracy to the masses in a way that Solon had not, Cleisthenes may be more deserving of the title "the father of democracy." x
  • 13
    Sparta, the Odd-Man-Out State in Greece
    Turn to the polis that was the odd man out: Sparta. Other Greeks viewed the Spartans with a combination of admiration and alarm for their austere military culture. Yet in the early Archaic period, Sparta was developing like other Greek cities until it underwent a radical transformation. x
  • 14
    Death or Glory—Spartan Military Education
    Sparta's traditional lawgiver was a possibly mythical figure named Lycurgus. His reforms included a brutal system of military education called the agoge, with the aim of building the best army in Greece. You look at what this demanding and dangerous schooling involved. x
  • 15
    "Come Back Carrying Your Shield or On It"
    Spartan women played a more overt role in public life than their counterparts in Athens, exhorting their sons to die in battle rather than survive in defeat. Sparta's slaves, or helots, far outnumbered the Spartans—and created an internal security problem that may have triggered Sparta's obsession with military superiority. x
  • 16
    From Sparta to Persia
    Conclude your exploration of Spartan society with a look at its weaknesses, among them high mortality of Spartan males due to their constant military service. Further, Sparta's deteriorating relations with Athens in the 490s did not bode well for the Greeks as Persia prepared to invade the Greek mainland. x
  • 17
    Marathon—End of the First Persian Invasion
    In 490 Athenian troops fighting virtually alone defeated the invading Persian army at Marathon. Learn how this victory was crucial in Athens' coming of age as a military power. x
  • 18
    Thermopylae and the 300 Spartans
    The Persians sought revenge for their defeat at Marathon by invading Greece in 481 with a massive army and fleet led by the great king Xerxes. You focus on the famous battle at Thermopylae, where 300 Spartans led by Leonidas refused to surrender and were wiped out. x
  • 19
    Greece Triumphs—The End of the Persian Wars
    This lecture covers the advance of Persian forces deeper into Greece. At Salamis, Themistocles lured the Persian fleet to battle, virtually annihilating it. Then in spring 479 a pitched battle was fought at Plataea, in which the Persians were defeated. x
  • 20
    From the Archaic to the Classical Period
    Examine the aftermath of the Persian Wars, asking why the Persians lost. Then probe the surprisingly momentous question of whether the wars form the natural end of the Archaic period, or whether they should be considered the opening of the Classical period. x
  • 21
    The Delian League—Origins and First Steps
    Building on its military success in the Persian Wars, Athens formed an alliance of Greek states known as the Delian League, which became a de facto Athenian empire, alarming Sparta. Look at the working methods of Thucydides, the historian who recorded these developments. x
  • 22
    From Delian League to Athenian Empire
    Examine Thucydides' analysis of the early years of the Delian League and the growth of Athenian imperialism. Initially, relations between Athens and its allies were good, but from the 470s on Athenian expansion and the disregard of allied autonomy seriously strained ties. x
  • 23
    Ephialtes, Founder of Radical Democracy
    This lecture reads between the lines of the ancient sources to uncover the political and judicial revolution crafted by Ephialtes, a little-known general and politician who introduced radical or direct democracy to Athens, in which the people became sovereign in the state. He may also be responsible for trial by jury. x
  • 24
    Rhetoric—A New Path to Political Power
    Ephialtes' radical democracy created a demand for orators. These individuals were called rhêtores, or speakers. Out of this grew the term "demagogue," or leader of the people, which took on an odious connotation. You examine how rhetoric came to be exploited for political ends—and for deceiving the people. x
  • 25
    Democracy and Political Speech—Then and Now
    What is the difference between the democracy of Classical Athens and ours today? What were the shortcomings of the Athenian system? How democratic was it? After exploring these questions, you turn to the influence of ancient rhetoric on modern. x
  • 26
    The Causes of the Peloponnesian War
    Thucydides gave two reasons for the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War: Sparta's fear of the growth of Athenian power, and a sequence of actions that provoked the Spartans to declare war. You also hear the theory that Pericles, the leader of Athens, deliberately engineered the war. x
  • 27
    The War's Early Years and the Great Plague
    You cover the first few years of the Peloponnesian War, focusing on Pericles' strategy, the effects of the great plague that wiped out about one-quarter of Athenians, the rise of the demagogue Cleon, and the revolt of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos. x
  • 28
    Athenian Successes and a Temporary Peace
    This lecture takes the war down to the Peace of Nicias in 421, which was a temporary cessation of hostilities. You study the successful Athenian campaign at Pylos and Sphacteria and the pivotal role played by Cleon, whom history has treated dismissively. x
  • 29
    War Resumes—The Athenian Disaster in Sicily
    Thucydides attributed Athens's loss in the war to the Sicilian expedition and the decline in leadership after Pericles. You examine the collapse of the Peace of Nicias and the background to the Sicilian campaign, noting how Athenians committed rashly to the enterprise. x
  • 30
    Democracy Fails—Oligarchy in Athens
    Look at the results of Athens' great defeat, which led to the imposition of oligarchy in Athens in 411, an event foreshadowed in Aristophanes' biting comedy Lysistrata. The oligarchy was soon deposed and replaced by a moderate form of democracy. x
  • 31
    Final Battles—Sparta's Triumph over Athens
    Survey the war's last years and the climactic defeat of Athens at the Battle of Aegospotami in 405. The terms imposed on Athens by Sparta included the end of the Delian League, the abolition of Athenian democracy, and the installation of a cruel, pro-Spartan oligarchy. x
  • 32
    Why Athens Lost—The Impact on Greece
    Why did Athens lose the Peloponnesian War? This lecture examines the failure of the radical democracy, whose actions lay behind every event that was to Athens' detriment. The second half of the lecture takes Greek history to the accession of Philip II of Macedonia. x
  • 33
    The Household in the Polis
    Turn from military campaigns to a study of Greek law and society. Investigate the Athenian family and its integral role in law and society, focusing on the various members of the family, especially women, and what the state expected of them. x
  • 34
    Athenian Law and Society
    Three ancient literary works provide a window into Athens' legal system. You look at Aristophanes' Wasps, Plato's Crito, and Sophocles' Antigone for insight into how the Athenian legal code developed, how seriously citizens viewed it, and how it also afforded a means of entertainment. x
  • 35
    Historical Development of the Legal Code
    The rudimentary justice of the Bronze Age is depicted in a famous passage in Homer. You begin with this scene and follow the development of Greek law through the introduction of trial by jury and the protection of individual rights in the Classical period. x
  • 36
    The Judicial Machinery of the Legal System
    This lecture discusses the major components of Athens' judicial system: the magistrates, courts, and private and public arbitrators. Athenians attached great importance to the law and were enthusiastic participants in legal proceedings, both as litigants and jurors. x
  • 37
    Types of Cases, Sycophants, and Pretrial
    The origin of lawyers may trace to professional consultants in Athens, who composed and sometimes delivered court speeches on behalf of clients, whether for the prosecution or defense. You also learn of the positive role played in law enforcement by sycophants, or blackmailers. x
  • 38
    Going to Trial in Ancient Athens
    When a case got to Athenian court, how long did a trial last? What role did the jury have? How did it vote? What sorts of penalties were prescribed? The conduct of jurors would seem shocking by today's standards, but their frequent cheering and jeering were strictly professional. x
  • 39
    Macedonia, North of Mount Olympus
    Returning to the theme of imperialism, you investigate Macedonia in the age of Philip II and Alexander III, also known as "the Great." Before Philip's reign, Macedonia was a backwater with a weak army and no centralized rule, beset by frequent attacks by neighboring tribes. x
  • 40
    Philip II—"Greatest of the Kings of Europe"
    How did Philip become "the greatest of the kings of Europe in his time," according to one ancient historian? You follow his early steps to consolidate Macedonia's position by a combination of diplomacy, deceit, and a series of canny political marriages. x
  • 41
    Philip II and Macedonian Imperialism
    This lecture surveys Philip's war with Athens over Amphipolis and his involvement in the Third Sacred War, both of which he used as stepping stones into central Greek affairs. At their conclusion he had become a significant force in the politics of the region. x
  • 42
    Greece Conquered—The End of Greek Autonomy
    As Philip tightened the screws on the Greek states, the Athenian orator Demosthenes worked tirelessly to discredit him. The tensions reached a peak at the battle of Chaeronea in 338. Philip's victory put Greece under Macedonian control, and Greek autonomy came to an end. x
  • 43
    Philip's Assassination and Legacy
    Trace Philip's reign down to his assassination in 336, focusing on his incorporation of the Greek states into the Macedonian Empire, his plan to invade the Persian Empire, and his controversial seventh marriage that led to an open clash with his son Alexander. x
  • 44
    Alexander the Great—Youth, Early Kingship
    For all Alexander's brilliance as a general and strategist, was he truly great? Begin your investigation of history's most celebrated conqueror, getting at the man behind the myth. Alexander had ample motives to wish his father dead, and circumstantial evidence suggests that he was involved in Philip's assassination. x
  • 45
    Alexander as General
    Alexander enormously expanded Philip's foreign ventures. This lecture recounts his three major battles that captured the entire Persian Empire: Granicus, Issus, and Gaugamela. All were won against great odds. Alexander spread his conquests as far as present-day Pakistan before his army mutinied. x
  • 46
    Alexander as King
    Exploring Alexander's claim to greatness, you look at his increasingly erratic behavior during his conquests, evident when he used the excuse of two apparent attempts on his life to get rid of vocal opponents. You also consider the accuracy of the view that he was an idealist. x
  • 47
    Alexander as Man—and God?
    One of the most controversial aspects of Alexander's reign is whether he considered himself divine. This lecture explores his self-identification as son of Zeus, his desire to be worshiped as a god, and the attitude of his court and army toward this very un-Greek-like behavior. x
  • 48
    Beyond the Classical—The Greeks and Us
    The final lecture sums up the course by examining several questions: What happened to Greece after the Classical period? What has been the role of Greek civilization in the Western tradition? And what lessons have we learned—or not learned—from the Greek experience with democracy, law, and empire? x

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Your professor

Ian Worthington

About Your Professor

Ian Worthington, Ph.D.
University of Missouri, Columbia
Dr. Ian Worthington is the Curators' Professor and Professor of History at the University of Missouri, where he has been teaching since 1998. The Curators' Professor title, which he received in 2013, is the highest research award in the UM system. Born in England, Professor Worthington earned a B.A. in Classical Studies from the University of Hull and an M.A. in Ancient History from the University of Durham. In 1987 he was...
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Long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 100.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sad to see it end I knew something about Greek history before and was delighted that this was more than just a review. I love the professor's enthusiasm and his desire to get the audience to think for themselves about what is going on. The information about Philip and what happened to Greece after the Peloponnesian war was worth the price of the course alone. Worthington says he would like us to contact him. How would we do that? Also is there any chance you could have him do another course?
Date published: 2018-10-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb course I was enthralled by the course from start to finish. Professor Worthington strikes the perfect balance between scholarly knowledge and effectively being like a friend in the room. In essence this is a tour of the Ancient Greek world, it's main events and legacies. I think the key element the course gives you is 'context'; Much of my previous Humanities/History study was lent so much more context by a Classical underpinning. The analysis of Greek politics in particular held many new insights for me.The course also provides a useful signposting for the various segments of Greek history I had never previously categorized very clearly. Hailing from the UK, I loved Professor Worthington's ironic humour and the amiable and enthusiastic style of his tuition. Overall, this was a first class introduction to Ancient Greece and its influence on us today.
Date published: 2018-08-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from this course is a gem With Prof.Worthingtons Course i know own virtually all the-for the very most part-superb Courses of the teaching Company on ancient history..yet,I could not find any Course that was on the same time as comprehensive without excelling in bizarre details as,sadly,sometimes the also marvellous prof.harl has the Habit of presenting,and at the same time a genuine pleasure to listen to..ist very very sad,that there is only one Course by this Professor on offer, a follow up,perhaps About the times of Demosthenes,as the Professor himself hinted,he would be glad to provide or about the history of macedon/northern,rural greece with emphasis on the time up to phillip, whom he,in this Course,paints a fascinating Picture About,would be highly appreciated.warmly recommended,nobody will be sad having bought this Course,thank you,professor.
Date published: 2018-07-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from by far the best course on greek history This Course is as encyclopedic as the presentation is very pleasurable to listen to;the Erudition of prof.worthington is impressive,he is a very polite and humorous Speaker by the way-highly recommended!
Date published: 2018-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly recommended. This series is one of my favorites from the Great Courses. Before watching these lectures I had only a passing familiarity with the subject but enough curiosity to want to know more. The course provided both the scope and detail that were, for me, appropriate and satisfying. All of the credit for the quality of the presentation goes to the teacher, Ian Worthington, who is both a master of the subject matter and a highly engaging lecturer. He teaches like someone who loves his subject and wants to share it with anyone who will listen. He appropriately acknowledges the limits of what is knowable about the facts of history along with their causes and consequences. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2018-05-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greek Long Shadow: best of the best Having completed 2 Master's degrees and 14 "Great Courses," I can say with certainty that I have never experienced a finer, more engaging lecturer than Dr. Worthington. And hey -- Greek history ain't bad either!
Date published: 2018-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "Long Shadow" indeed as US today is similar empire I'm a National Board Certified Teacher of History in the US, also credentialed in Mathematics, and a veteran of ~70 of these courses. Ian's dedication to a lifetime of understanding his topic is in synergy with a delightful presentation style that speaks volumes of experience to deal with controversies abundant in ancient history. If you'd like to know how ancient Greece is important to today, how ideals of "democracy" and "freedom" can be subverted into Orwellian-opposites, and the connection to the US naked empire today, you will find value and enjoyment from Ian's course.
Date published: 2018-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just what I was hoping for This is a course with a specific focus. For those who are really curious about the origins of democracy and law in Athens, this is a perfect course. A lot of the course also focuses on the historical evolution of Athens, its wars, politics, and leaders, which gives a context for understanding the governmental and legal developments. There are also a handful of lectures on the societal structure of Athens and Sparta. If you're wanting to go more into the philosophies, dramas, and arts, then I would look for another course with that focus. Ian Worthington is passionate about his subject, and his enthusiasm for his subject is contagious. His lectures not only present historical facts, but invites the listener to think about them critically. This often leads to what Professor Worthington calls his "heresies"--alternate interpretation of characters and events in Greek history based on critical analysis. For instance, was Alexander the Great's leadership greater than his fathers? Fascinating throughout, I was only disappointed that they ended so soon. I hope Professor Worthington will do another set of lectures sometime in the future.
Date published: 2017-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greater Understanding of the Ancient Greek World The Long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World is a detailed account of Greek history during the Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods with emphasis on the culture and politics of these eras. Of particular interest is the inception and evolution of democracy in Athens thanks to Solon, Cleisthenes, and other leaders of the times. Athens and Sparta are contrasted in an extensive look at these two dominant city-states, and their motivations and impact on history. Professor Worthington's engaging presentation has given me a far better understanding of the Ancient Greek World.
Date published: 2017-11-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Hard to Stay Engaged I can't say this was a bad course but because it did not capture and retain my attention and I found myself counting the minutes and lectures down to the end it is hard for me to rate this above 2 stars. While the focus of the course is on democracy, law, and imperialism, it would’ve been good if the beginnings of the first Greek civilizations were discussed: Minoan and Mycenaean. Again I understand his focus was on other topics but I found it disappointing that among 48 lectures more time couldn't have been found to spare on other cornerstones of Greek influence on the modern world including Greek philosophy, theater, and the Homeric poems. The professor has a unique style. Alot of time it was like he was presenting the lectures like one big story by a campfire. I actually found that endearing. But there are other times when it feels like he is talking to a classroom of elementary school children like his propensity to ask simple questions such as "Why would he do that?" or "Where was he going?". His humor mostly feel flat with me. However, there's no disputing the professor knows his stuff and is very comfortable presenting. He does a good job of achieving what he set out to do: recount ancient Greek history focusing on democracy, law, and imperialism from aprx. 750 B.C. to 323 B.C (emergence of Greece at the end of the Dark Ages and the final disintegration of Greek autonomy through the Macedonian kings Philip II and Alexander the Great). I just feel like there has to be better ancient Greek courses out there that encompass all aspects of that long shadow including theater, philosophy, etc and can do so in a more engaging manner.
Date published: 2017-10-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Course. Discuses Conflicts, politics, philosophers etc of ancient Greece. Makes one consider parallels with other histories and currant situations.
Date published: 2017-10-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from AN EXCELLENT INTRODUCTION This is a first course in the history of ancient Greece taught very clearly, by an excellent teacher, in a highly organized fashion—it is relatively well illustrated too. The course is comprehensive and, to a first approximation, exhaustive—it is likely that a good proportion of the events referred in the available sources are mentioned by Professor Worthington. In addition, he often presents, in brief, the analyses of events by contemporary students of ancient history as well as his own commentary helping us to make sense of the events. I have studied most of the critical reviews and those positive reviews expressing, none the less, some gentle criticism (e.g. by “highstandards”, “Bruce Belcher”, “Xavier”, “Jaspar,” “BGZ Redux”, “EngineerinVA”, “jpmarat” and “Jurand” (who seems to have written twice!!)). I cannot disagree with them, but I seem to be more forgiving. What I feel I ought to grade with 5 stars is the business decision of the Teaching Company not to offer only the bits which would be “catchy” for the 21st century mind (daily life in ancient Greece with salacious details see James Davidson’s masterful but advanced-level book “Courtesans and Fish-cakes”, etc.) but rather to market a course, such as Worthington’s, including (as per real university education) the drudgery which is inescapable for a genuine learning process building from the bottom, up. Sure, I ,too, would have liked Worthington to be less strongly opinionated. But I can stomach his attitude and his verbal clichés by telling to myself that in earlier times such a course, plus learning how to read (and write) in Greek, would have been part of the standard high-school curriculum in many countries in the Western World. And although, in that earlier age, the pressures to conform would have been much greater than in our days, no doubt some teachers in some schools would have occasionally thrown at their audience their own obnoxious heresies and would have bombarded it with verbal clichés (“speaks volumes”, etc.). This, the teachers would have done in the hope of creating some interest or ideally starting debates among their bored pupils or to aid the memory of their charges or to facilitate comprehension by oversimplifying as might be desirable in the context of a first course. Mind you, Worthington has produced several books, which prestigious publishers have published, presumably to further spread his heresies! Indeed, Philip and Alexander of Macedon (possibly Worthington’s area of specialization) are the highlights of this Great Course. Here Worthington’s aphorisms (another Greek word!) reach new heights. The aphorisms seemed to me entertaining food for thought (though by no stretch of the imagination the definitive and final verdict on these historical personalities who are, as it were, lost in time) albeit somewhat boyish (n.b., could equally be girlish!) and adolescent in style. And now something for boo-boo hunters: in lecture 34 Worthington stresses that no-one knows where the prison was in classical Athens. Instead, he suggests, present-day visitors are sometimes directed to something in the nature of a tourist-trap, a chamber hollowed-out in the rock said to be the place where Socrates was incarcerated.This place exists indeed .Worthington concludes that “Anyone who says he or she knows where the jail was in Athens is about as credible as someone who claims to have seen Elvis!!” Not so, unless his ultimate heresy is to propose that the American School of Classical Studies at Athens are claiming to have spotted Elvis! For about half-a-mile from the said chamber, the excavations of the American School of Classical Studies have, decades ago, led to the provisional identification of some rather flimsy remains in the Agora—which any tourist can visit today-- as the remains of the prison. True, the identification of these remains as those of the ancient jail is still considered to be provisional, i.e., essentially a conjecture, but not an unreasonable one so, strictly speaking, we have a “near-miss” and Worthington in fact might escape censure in the end!
Date published: 2017-10-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The long Shadow of Ancient Greece. I enjoy the course. It was really interesting . I love History.
Date published: 2017-09-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant introduction to Greek history I knew very little about Greek history and this course has been a wonderful foundation which has inspired me to want to learn more about the ancient Greek world. Prof Worthington is a great lecturer. From his delightful "welcome Ladies and Gentlemen" at the very beginning of each lecture to his great knowledge and love of his subject, his teaching is infused with an enthusiasm and excitement which is quite infectious. As you can tell, I really enjoyed the course. Many thanks indeed.
Date published: 2017-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WOW! This is one of the best TC courses on ancient Greece. It does not replace those many other fine courses, but broadens and deepens one’s understanding, and for that reason I am glad I waited till now to take it. At forty-eight lectures, it requires a significant commitment of time, but for me it has been well worth it. Professor Worthington organizes his lectures around the three aspects of the Greek history that he contends are mainstays for their tradition as well as ours: law, democracy, and imperialism. In doing so, he first reaches back into the Bronze Age and the Archaic period, describing the creation and development of law and democracy. The much more prized classical period built upon them, but, ominously, added something new: imperialism. The treatment is exceptionally well-done and draws one in almost immediately. Along the way, Professor Worthington goes into much more detail than is possible in other shorter TC courses on ancient Greece, including much on daily life and customs. There is, for example, a description of how court cases were conducted; how and when ostracisms were held, including the manner in which some were rigged; what it was like to be in an assembly meeting with thousands of others, where only 15 to 20 percent attending could hear what was said; why Spartan women had more authority and independence than those in Athens; and, descriptions of the “seedy” sides of Spartan and Athenian society that are usually glossed over in standard treatments. Perhaps the most interesting for me is how and why Athens developed a radical democracy. Professor Worthington focuses considerable attention on Ephialtes (d. 461 B.C.), someone I did not know about, but whom Professor Worthington thinks “…as important to Athenian democracy as Solon or Cleisthenes” (Course Guidebook. Page 74). He also convincingly shows how radical democracy spelled Athens’ defeat in the Peloponnesian War. His major concern is imperialism, the product of a supposedly enlightened phase of ancient Greek history (which he also links to our present and recent past). This leads Professor Worthington to an extended discussion not only of Periclean Athens, but also Phillip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great. He faults Pericles for the Peloponnesian war, citing his calculating actions to bring it on, and frankly states his dislike of Alexander, going to some length to show that he is over-rated. These are among his many “heresies”, some quite significant. Professor Worthington may not have an ax to grind, but he does have a viewpoint and he wants to shake up the conceptions many of us have about ancient Greece. As he notes, his aim “is not to teach you a lot of new stuff but to make you rethink some of your views on the Greeks” (Page 4). He also asks us to ponder “What has the role of Greek civilization really been in our Western tradition and in our lives? What have we learned—or not learned—from Greek civilization, and should we have learned more?” (Page 3). Because of this approach, I find the course not only exceptionally informative, but also quite stimulating and engaging. This 2009 TC course has a very good 196-page guidebook, replete with glossary, timeline, biographical notes, and annotated bibliography. Unfortunately, it lacks maps. I am sure I will be revisiting this excellent course. Very highly recommended!
Date published: 2017-07-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good energy and humor in a detailed survey Professor Worthington delivers good energy and humor through 48 lectures. The point of view is decidedly modern western democratic, with favorable mention of Obama and Clinton. The course describes Greek political events from about 900 BCE to about 300 BCE, coincident with the ancient rise and fall of mob rule at Athens. The sources are nearly all literary. Where the literature happens to be relatively reliable, as in Thucydides or the Athenian Constitution, the presentation appears to be reliable, and where the surviving literary record is relatively unreliable, as in Demosthenes or Plutarch's Alexander, the presentation appeared to me to be strained. (The good guys lost because the bad guys were better fighters?) Always, however, Professor Worthington asks his audience to regard ancient texts with skepticism. By the end of the course, you may want to argue with him and all of his students. Maybe that is the long shadow. I highly recommend this course to adults of all ages interested in democracy, law, classics, literary criticism, or liberal arts education.
Date published: 2017-06-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding scholarship and lecturer We are planning our first visit to Greece this year and wanted a deep dive into ancient Greek history. Professor Worthington has provided this to us well beyond our expectations. He has a very engaging, clear presentation style and great passion for his subject.
Date published: 2017-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The title strongly suggests the subject matter It is another excellent course in a long string of Great Courses that I have taken. I have been retired for 20 years but I study two courses daily. I can honestly say that having The Great Courses available has made my retirement much more enjoyable. This course is well up to those standards. Most of your professors are truly professional and excellent teachers
Date published: 2017-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Ian Worthington does such an amazing job with these lectures. You can tell that he loves what he does and makes these fun and engaging, as well as informative. This is probably the best TGC series on Ancient Greek history there is.
Date published: 2017-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enlightening and enjoyable This course is 48 lessons long, but I was sorry it wasn't longer! I especially enjoyed the Professor's asides: his "I disagree with this interpretation completely," "here comes another heresy," and casual language such as hissy fit, bad press, and suggesting another Great Course. i have a much better understanding of ancient Greece after listening to this, and a more intelligent idea of hat we owe to the the Greeks. Certainly worth the time and price!
Date published: 2016-12-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Worthington clearly makes the case for why ancient history is relevant in modern times. His lectures were fascinating, in depth and insightful into the creation, development and workings of the Athenian democracy; why it worked and why it did not.
Date published: 2016-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting and Useful Course Covering roughly 400 years of Greek History in one course is a daunting task. There are many things that an instructor might focus upon, including among others the rulers, people, art, literature, wars and economic/political development. This course places primary focus on three important developments in ancient Greek society that are of particular relevance for us today: democracy, law, and imperialism. Greek developments and contributions relating to democratic principles, laws and imperialism are presented in the context of an interesting chronological narrative of Greek history. The course introduces us to many of the interesting people, wars, social conflicts and so on that constitute this important part of our heritage and history . The instructor is a good lecturer and keeps the listener engaged with his insights, humor and storytelling. He is open and honest about issues where the historical record is missing (a common occurrence in ancient history) and is careful to explain his views and opinions on debatable subjects. While these views on occasion vary from the more common, conventional views, he provides reasoning and evidence that supports them. He leaves open our option to disagree with his analysis (which I generally tended to agree with). His discussion of the relative importance of Phillip 2 of Macedonia and the overly positive view of his son Alexander the "Great" in popular culture are very interesting. In fact, his lectures have motivated me to want to read his original research on both men. The course should be of interest to anyone who wants to learn more about the fascinating history of the ancient/classical Greeks and their contributions to modern society. It should be of particular interest to those of us who are interested in how this ancient society contributed to our important political and judicial institutions in modern Western Civilization. There are also important lessons that should be learned from Greek history about what should and should not be repeated in the future. The overall bottom line is that I am grateful to the instructor for providing a useful course and would recommend it to others with an interest in the subject.
Date published: 2015-11-02
Rated 2 out of 5 by from deceptive and lacking any insight Better tile would be "The Greek history according to Ian Worthington". There is very little consideration of the Greek impact on the Western civilization in the lectures and when it appears, it is not particularly insightful.
Date published: 2015-10-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Truly, a great course Much has been opined already, so I'll add just a few thoughts of my own. I really appreciated Prof. Worthington's style. You can hear his enthusiasm in his voice. I also felt like he provided the opportunity for those of us without advanced studies in the field to develop our own opinions, or even "heresies". Sure, they might be wrong.. but the point is using the knowledge he does give us to think in that direction, rather than just listening to 24 hours of facts. That alone makes this course worthwhile.
Date published: 2015-09-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderfully Complex As of this posting, the Long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World is the only course presented by Ian Worthington for the Teaching Company. His effort was a fine one, and in his lectures one can see a bit behind the complex veil of Ancient Greece that is often barely touched upon. If there is a course I would compared this to, it would be to Professor Garret Fagan's Ancient Rome course. That is among the highest praise I can provide for a course about the ancient world. However I should offer a small word of caution. While Ian Worthington's lecture series is easily understood by someone without much background in Ancient Greece, you can be led astray by it. Professor Worthington, perhaps unconsciously, assumes that the listener has some basic knowledge about what he is covering. When he mentions his numerous heresies, he assumes that the student either knows the orthodox viewpoint, or will learn about it on their own independently. As such he can often appear as though he is not providing all of the relevant facts, since he is not explaining every angle. A new student may be understandably frustrated by this tendency. A number of reviews have noted that this course is not so much about connecting Greece to the Modern World as showing us what made the Archaic Period and the Classical Period of Greek History special. Some people bought this course with the idea that they would see clear connections to the modern time being made consistently, but if you read the lecture titles this is clearly not the case. Instead, Professor Ian Worthington tries to explain what made the Greeks who they were. Mention is made to the Long Shadow, but this course isn't about that Shadow. Instead, it is about what casts that shadow. Apart from a few references and the last lecture, expect very little when it comes to connecting the past to the present. Professor Worthington does not do it himself, and instead we are left to make the connections ourselves. Lastly, someone made reference to Worthington not liking Democracy. This is categorically false. Instead, he blames the way Athenian Democracy developed into a radical system and how it was run for their failure in the Peloponnesian War. However, he often is more lenient to names that are vilified by Thucydides as competent demagogues who did the best they could. This links back to what I said earlier in that the Professor Assumes some basic literacy about major events in Greek History, and that if you do not have it you can be misled. Another reference is made to Thebes and how its victory as a democracy was not mentioned, but the Professor's whole point was between Athens and Sparta and ultimately how they nearly ruined each other. This, ultimately, gives me some mixed feelings. This course is in some ways a second step to understanding ancient greek civilization, one that is geared to enhance and vastly expand upon some preexisting knowledge. So it cannot justifiably be said to be a true beginner's course. However, it is far too broad to be a master's level course. It sits uncomfortably in between. Would I have loved this course as much as I had if I had not already been exposed to the Ancient Greek World by way of other courses like Empires before Alexander, Foundations of Western Civilization, Classical Mythology, and a number of Roman Courses in addition to my own independent study? I cannot say for certain. Professor Worthington's Course is wonderfully complex, leaving me with a deep passion to learn more about the world of Antiquity in general, and Ancient Greece in particular. In the same way that Fagan's course inspired me to go on to listen to the Late Antiquity Crisis and Transformation, Rome and the Barbarians, and Roman Emperors, this course has made me take a look into Professor Harl's Macedonian Empire and Peloponnesian War lecture series. 5 out of 5.
Date published: 2015-08-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Entertaining, But Poor Scholarship Ian Worthington presents a history of ancient Greece with an emphasis on political, military, and legal development. He is a good speaker, and he is entertaining, but his approach is a good example of how history should not be studied. When multiple sources are available, he typically uses one source only. If data are available which contradict his thesis, then he ignores those data. I will provide a few examples. One example is the Battle of Marathon. Garret Fagan, in his analysis, use several (I believe it was 5) sources. Worthington relies only on Herodotus. Another example is Democracy. Worthington dislikes Democracy, and he states several times that Democracies cannot win wars. He focuses on Democracies' weaknesses, and does not present any of their strengths. Donald Kagan has shown that Athens became strong and vital after it became a Democracy. Kagan has also shown that Thebes became much stronger after it became a Democracy. Worthington does mention that Thebes became stronger and defeated Sparta, but he conceals the fact that Thebes became a Democracy from the listeners. A final example is the Trial of Socrates. It was clear from his presentation that Jeremy McInerny used information from all available primary sources and fragments. Worthington chose to base his conclusions only on the writings of Socrates' close friend Plato. Good history involves looking at the available evidence, and reaching conclusions. Reasonable people can certainly arrive at different conclusions, However, good history does not mean that the historian should only look at the information that supports his or her conclusion and discard the rest.
Date published: 2015-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Heresies Can Be Fun I have watched a number of courses on Greek history. Professor Worthington filled in a lot of gaps for me. My kind of curiosity always wants to know the whys and wherefores and I got them. Some reviewers seems to object to his "heresies", but really getting opposing views gives you more to think about. Or maybe they didn't want to think. I hope we will be seeing more of Prof. Worthington.
Date published: 2015-07-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent course well presented I studied Fifth Century Athens together with Homer at the Open University and, as a result, developed a fascination with Greek History and Culture that inspired me to perform in Greek Tragedies and even co-produce one. I can well understand the importance of Greece in the minds the 18th Century English leaders, not just as an inspiration for our laws, architecture and civic display but as a guide to political thinking. That means what not to do as well as what to do! This course is an exhaustive and comprehensive review of the entirety of Greek History from the 'Dark Ages' to the death of Alexander, so called 'The Great'.. It filled in many gaps in my understanding and rounded those that I had imperfectly understood. I was gratified to learn that Professor Worthington shared my view of Alexander. The lecturer himself is personable, articulate and his interjections, his 'heresies' as he calls them, means his presentation is directed to the student personally and not simply to the thin air. I would recommend the transcript book with this course in order to keep track of the sequence of events. In fine, an excellent purchase and one that I will definitely revisit frequently. To round off one's proper understanding of this formative period in European History, I would recommend 'The History of Ancient Rome'. Thus, the Greek Empire informed the Rome Empires, which in turn informed the British Empire and now, perhaps, the American Empire!
Date published: 2015-07-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the Best-A Superlative Course With this course, Professor Worthington joins William Kloss, Robert Greenberg, and Elizabeth Vandiver on my personal "Mt. Rushmore" of Great Courses instructors. While these professors are different in style and approach, they share a passion for what they teach and for teaching, plus the knowledge and insight to make repeat viewings a pleasure. Professor Worthington is clearly an expert in his field and guides us through the lectures-always fascinating but sometimes complex (as he admits)-with humor and aplomb. He covers a great deal of material in each lecture, yet it does not feel overwhelming. I would buy any course taught by Professor Worthington-as I have for Professor Kloss-and I look forward to his next one.
Date published: 2015-07-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent But Not Streamed This course is one of the best on ancient history and rivals Prof. Harl's course on the Peloponnesian war in detailed presentation, as well as Prof. Fagan's on ancient Roman history. The professor is interesting and funny at times. He speaks slowly and clearly, and has no annoying habits. The video is best because there are multiple references to ancient cities and some objects, which are best visualized, and the maps are essential. The course actually is about ancient Greek history from the archaic period to Alexander, and less about any "shadows." A better title would be "The History of Ancient Greece, Including Macedon." The emphasis is mostly on history, with several lectures on the Athenian legal system. Who knew Athens had private and public arbitration, complex pleadings, and specialized courts? The author is clear that literature and the arts are not emphasized. The lone drawback is that this course does not stream; TGC indicated to me it did not have the necessary rights. However, with a little help from a conversion program, it is easy enough to convert the DVDs to MP4s and then stream them through Dropbox or load them onto a smartphone via itunes. Overall, a fantastic course worth having to complete one's knowledge of the classics.
Date published: 2015-03-21
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