Special Collection - The Joy of Ancient History

Course No. 9002
Taught By Multiple Professors
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Course No. 9002
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What Will You Learn?

Course Overview

For years, The Great Courses has taken lifelong learners on stirring explorations of our ancient roots; ones that bring you face to face with what history means, and how we use it to understand both the past and the present. So where's the best place to start? Right here with this eclectic and insightful collection of 36 lectures curated from our most popular ancient history courses.

In this unique collection, you’ll be guided by some of our most highly rated and award-winning professors (including archaeologists, classicists, military historians, and religion scholars), as you hopscotch around the world and across time to experience the fascinating variety of what ancient history has to offer.

Revisit the Titans of the Ancient World

Because the subject itself spans roughly five millennia, this “best of” collection does all the legwork for you, selecting captivating lectures that offer both introductions to and deep dives into some of the most prominent ancient civilizations.

  • Ancient Greeks: These lectures will take you inside the Acropolis (the glorious building program associated with Pericles); uncover the truths about the Trojan War; explain the dramatic battle between 300 Spartans and Persian forces at the Battle of Thermopylae; and more.
  •  Ancient Romans: What did the ancient Romans believe happened to the soul after death? How did Julius Caesar’s expeditions to Gaul transform world history? How was exotic food used as a status symbol at the Roman dining table? Eye-opening lectures on the glory and grandeur of ancient Rome have the answers.
  •  Ancient Egyptians: The Great Pyramid of Giza, hieroglyphs, life on the Nile River, the reign of Cleopatra, royal tomb building—find out what Egyptologists and historians have discovered about these and other aspects of life in ancient Egypt.

Explore a Mosaic of Civilizations and Cultures

The Joy of Ancient History also takes you far afield into the dramatic stories of civilizations and cultures in Europe, the Middle East, South America, India, China, and other parts of the world. You’ll learn

  • how painted pots reveal startling aspects about the Moche of Peru and their practice of bloody human sacrifice;
  • why a great leader—and merciless conqueror—like Attila the Hun has captured the popular imagination for centuries;
  • how China’s first dynasty established a model of government that would become the country’s template for 2,000 years; and much more.

A Roster of Our Most Popular Professors

As befitting a course that collects some of our most popular lectures, The Joy of Ancient History is delivered by a powerful roster of professors, all celebrated for their insights and teaching styles. But most of all, they’re celebrated for their ability to transform the secrets of the past into marvelous learning experiences in which you come away knowing more than you did before.

Listening to these bright academic minds talk about the ancient world, you’ll truly understand why we’re still captivated by people and events from thousands of years ago, and why they still have much to tell us about where we are. And where we’re headed.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Lessons of the Peloponnesian War
    Lessons of the Peloponnesian War
    What is the historical significance of the Peloponnesian War? Why is it still studied by scholars, philosophers, and popular historians? Discover why the lessons from this epic ancient conflict still resonate today. x
  • 2
    Parthenon and Acropolis
    Parthenon and Acropolis
    Explore the glorious building program associated with the Greek statesman and general, Pericles. Learn how he took it upon himself to transform a motley assortment of shrines, treasure houses, and altars on the Acropolis into an artistically integrated sanctuary. x
  • 3
    Heroes at Thermopylae
    Heroes at Thermopylae
    During the Greek and Persian Wars, a small band of 300 Spartans, led by King Leonidas, attempted to hold the Persian army back from a chief passage to inland Greece. Find out how, in their tragic defeat, the Greek forces found a legendary martyr and an extraordinary example of courage. x
  • 4
    On Athenian Tragedy
    On Athenian Tragedy
    In this insightful lecture, investigate the Athenian drama of the Golden Age, focusing on tragedy produced by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. Also, get an introduction to the roots, mechanics, and conventions of this great literary genre. x
  • 5
    The Parable of the Cave
    The Parable of the Cave
    Perhaps because he realized the difficulty of understanding both the idea of the Good and the Divided Line, Socrates told another parable: that of the cave. Learn why, even today, Socrates’ metaphor remains a powerful example of challenging the nature of reality. x
  • 6
    Famous Greeks—Solon
    Famous Greeks—Solon
    Many figures from archaic Greece are hardly more than names to us, but not Solon, who used his mind to serve his country. Here, get unique insights into the values and motives of the statesman whom America’s Founding Fathers so admired. x
  • 7
    Aristotle's View of the Natural World
    Aristotle's View of the Natural World
    Aristotle’s interests were diverse and included ethics, politics, logic, and metaphysics; yet his primary impact was on the development of natural philosophy. This lecture introduces you to his writings and ideas as a response to his predecessors, Plato and the Pre-Socratics. x
  • 8
    The Battles of Megiddo and Kadesh
    The Battles of Megiddo and Kadesh
    Why are the ancient battles of Megiddo and Kadesh still hotly debated? Find out with a glimpse of the first examples of ancient Egyptian battle narratives, which offer historians insight into the empire’s sophisticated military regimes and its use of propaganda. x
  • 9
    Greco-Roman Views on Death—and Beyond
    Greco-Roman Views on Death—and Beyond
    Compare and contrast views of death among the Greeks and Romans. Although both cultures placed great emphasis on continuing ties between the living and the dead, the Romans incorporated the deceased into their lives to a much greater degree than the Greeks. x
  • 10
    Gaius Julius Caesar
    Gaius Julius Caesar
    To Rome’s top politicians, Gaius Julius Caesar at first seemed nothing more than a political hack of little ability and less character. Uncover how Caesar’s expeditions in Gaul transformed world history, laying the foundations for the civilizations of France and western Europe x
  • 11
    Early Germanic Europe
    Early Germanic Europe
    Germanic tribes came to represent the most ferocious barbarians Romans had encountered. Find out how these nomadic tribes foiled Roman attempts to conquer them, and how the Germanic dialects that eventually emerged gave rise to modern languages. x
  • 12
    Gladiatorial Games
    Gladiatorial Games
    The Roman gladiator—fighting to the death before huge and bloodthirsty crowds—still fascinates us today. Who were the gladiators? How were they selected and trained? And how can we understand gladiatorial violence in light of Roman sophistication? x
  • 13
    Dining in Imperial and Republican Rome
    Dining in Imperial and Republican Rome
    Delve into the intriguing dining habits of the ancient Romans, from the simple food customs of the expanding empire to the use of exotic food as a status symbol. Then, examine an ancient cookbook aimed at those Romans eager to flaunt their wealth. x
  • 14
    The (Mad) Emperor Caligula
    The (Mad) Emperor Caligula
    The ancient sources tend to portray Caligula as deranged. But was he really insane? Examine different modern approaches to his behavior and explore an ancient eyewitness account that gives you a sense of what it was like to be in the emperor’s presence. x
  • 15
    Being a Rich Roman
    Being a Rich Roman
    Check out the wealthy lives of the ancient Romans. You’ll tour a grand house in the city and countryside; learn about Roman customs of dress, food, and hygiene; and follow a rich Roman’s daily life (and meet the doting clients who make him seem important). x
  • 16
    The Mystery Cults
    The Mystery Cults
    Mystery cults were believed to worship a particular god or goddess, and they often involved mysterious initiation rites. Learn how some cults have stirred a controversial debate between scholars, and whether these groups can be used to measure the decline of paganism. x
  • 17
    Herodotus’s Account of Egypt
    Herodotus’s Account of Egypt
    Why does Egypt occupy the longest digression in Herodotus’s Histories? How does the ancient historian reconcile his view of Egypt as a source for Greek culture—while viewing it as a topsy-turvy land where Greek ways are oddly reversed? Find out in this intriguing lecture. x
  • 18
    The Great Pyramid of Giza
    The Great Pyramid of Giza
    Get a nuts-and-bolts look at the Egyptians’ most monumental feat: the Great Pyramid of Giza. This lecture also discusses the 144-foot solar boat that was found in 1954, buried near the ancient structure. x
  • 19
    Being an Egyptian Worker
    Being an Egyptian Worker
    As an ancient Egyptian, you might have been a herdsman, a hunter, or (most dangerously) a miner. Learn about professions that would have been available to you in the village of Deir el-Medina—from an educated scribe to a craftsman who built royal tombs. x
  • 20
    Cleopatra—The Last Pharaoh
    Cleopatra—The Last Pharaoh
    Although she was possibly the most famous woman in the ancient world, Cleopatra remains an enigma to us today. This lecture reconstructs the iconic ancient Egyptian’s dramatic story—before and after Julius Caesar, and with Marc Antony. x
  • 21
    What Do the Mayan Glyphs Say?
    What Do the Mayan Glyphs Say?
    How can the strikingly similar structural features of Mayan and ancient Egyptian writing systems be explained? Explore how Mayan writing works through a comparison with Egyptian hieroglyphs. Then, find out what scholars have learned about the Maya from decipherment. x
  • 22
    The Amazon—Civilization Lost in the Jungle
    The Amazon—Civilization Lost in the Jungle
    Recent discoveries indicate the presence of massive ancient civilizations in the Amazon. Survey the evidence for their existence, starting with the Beni region’s elaborate system of mounds and canals. Then, continue exploring wide areas of ancient habitation that date back to 6000 B.C. x
  • 23
    Chalice of Blood in Ancient Peru
    Chalice of Blood in Ancient Peru
    When archaeologists studied painted pots used by the Moche of South America, they found depictions of priests engaged in bloody human sacrifices; remains found at a later excavation matched the figures from these pots. Come to terms with this startling aspect of ancient religions. x
  • 24
    Attila the Hun—Scourge of God
    Attila the Hun—Scourge of God
    Considered both a great leader and merciless conqueror, Attila the Hun has captured the popular imagination for centuries. Here, follow the story from his rise to power to his death, including the royal marriage proposal that ultimately led to the ravaging of western Europe. x
  • 25
    Mesopotamian Creation Stories
    Mesopotamian Creation Stories
    Mesopotamian gods are like overlords in a political hierarchy, but with divine authority and power. This lecture reveals the wondrous gods of the Mesopotamian pantheon, and discusses two stories—the Enuma Elish and the myth of Adapa—that describe the origins of all things. x
  • 26
    The Empire of Hammurabi
    The Empire of Hammurabi
    After Ur III, the subsequent power vacuum in Mesopotamia was filled by the famous King Hammurabi. Learn how he established the First Dynasty of Babylon (which collapsed after his death) and administered his kingdom through a detailed code of law. x
  • 27
    The Epic of Gilgamesh
    The Epic of Gilgamesh
    In this lecture, examine one of the world’s oldest literary works: an ancient poem that combines a heroic story with a spiritual quest. Find out how the legendary King Gilgamesh comes to terms with the inevitability of mortality and becomes a more effective leader. x
  • 28
    The Chariot Revolution
    The Chariot Revolution
    During history’s first major military revolution, the chariot spread east across Asia. See how its evolving design created a lethal weapons system—and also transformed pastoral life on the Asian steppes. Then, learn about the complex personnel and organization needed for chariot warfare. x
  • 29
    The Assyrian War Machine
    The Assyrian War Machine
    The Assyrian military model involved a highly effective and complex war machine that characterized major Near Eastern powers for centuries. Study the nature of the Assyrian army, the unique features of the empire it created, and the place of warfare in Assyrian imperial ideology. x
  • 30
    The Art and Architecture of Power
    The Art and Architecture of Power
    Ancient art and architecture unearthed by archaeologists are more than just evidence of the past or messages to the future; they were often meant as statements to their own time. Discover how ancient societies used art and architecture to promote their rule and illustrate their power. x
  • 31
    Cyrus, Xenophon, and the Ten Thousand
    Cyrus, Xenophon, and the Ten Thousand
    Prince Cyrus, under the facade of suppressing hill tribes, assembled the famed army of Ten Thousand to challenge his brother’s claim to the throne. Among them was Xenophon, who later wrote about the epic march into the heart of the Persian Empire. x
  • 32
    Opening the First Dead Sea Scroll
    Opening the First Dead Sea Scroll
    Immerse yourself in the text of the Dead Sea Scrolls, starting with the first scroll, known as the Community Rule (or Manual of Discipline). This astonishing text gives you your first insight into the community and theology of the scrolls’ ancient creators and guardians. x
  • 33
    Jesus in His Context
    Jesus in His Context
    Get a closer look at the historical background to the life and times of Jesus. Focus on Palestine’s history of war and foreign domination, the emergence of different forms of Judaism, and the Roman takeover of Israel about 60 years before Jesus was born. x
  • 34
    The Legend of Troy
    The Legend of Troy
    The most enduring legacies from early Anatolia are the Iliad and the Odyssey. This lecture describes how the siege of Troy—and the exploits of Homer’s warrior chieftains—fit into the wider tale of imperial struggle and decline during Greece’s dark ages. x
  • 35
    The Qin and the First Emperor of China
    The Qin and the First Emperor of China
    After the Qin ruled China for only 15 years, the dynasty established a model of government that became the country’s template for the next 2,000 years. Meet China’s first emperors and study the impact of Qin rule, from political reform to massive building projects. x
  • 36
    Alexander Invades India
    Alexander Invades India
    Embark with Alexander on his most ambitious campaign: into the Indus Valley. Explore the warrior’s reasons for undertaking this expedition, learn about Indian battle methods and terrain, and examine why the Indian rajahs presented such formidable opposition to the invading Macedonians. x

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Your professors

Elizabeth Vandiver Bob Brier Jeremy McInerney Bart D. Ehrman Garrett G. Fagan J. Rufus Fears Kenneth W. Harl David Roochnik Lawrence M. Principe Glenn S. Holland Gary A. Rendsburg John R. Hale David J. Schenker Grant L. Voth Robert Garland Robert L. Dise Jr. Jonathan P. Roth Gregory S. Aldrete Edwin Barnhart Ken Albala Marc Zender Craig G. Benjamin

Professor 1 of 22

Elizabeth Vandiver, Ph.D.
Whitman College

Professor 2 of 22

Bob Brier, Ph.D.
Long Island University

Professor 3 of 22

Jeremy McInerney, Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania

Professor 4 of 22

Bart D. Ehrman, Ph.D., M.Div.
The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Professor 5 of 22

Garrett G. Fagan, Ph.D.
The Pennsylvania State University

Professor 6 of 22

J. Rufus Fears, Ph.D.
University of Oklahoma

Professor 7 of 22

Kenneth W. Harl, Ph.D.
Tulane University

Professor 8 of 22

David Roochnik, Ph.D.
Boston University

Professor 9 of 22

Lawrence M. Principe, Ph.D.
Johns Hopkins University

Professor 10 of 22

Glenn S. Holland, Ph.D.
Allegheny College

Professor 11 of 22

Gary A. Rendsburg, Ph.D.
Rutgers University

Professor 12 of 22

John R. Hale, Ph.D.
University of Louisville

Professor 13 of 22

David J. Schenker, Ph.D.
University of Missouri, Columbia

Professor 14 of 22

Grant L. Voth, Ph.D.
Monterey Peninsula College

Professor 15 of 22

Robert Garland, Ph.D.
Colgate University

Professor 16 of 22

Robert L. Dise Jr., Ph.D.
University of Northern Iowa

Professor 17 of 22

Jonathan P. Roth, Ph.D.
San José State University

Professor 18 of 22

Gregory S. Aldrete, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin, Green Bay

Professor 19 of 22

Edwin Barnhart, Ph.D.
Maya Exploration Center

Professor 20 of 22

Ken Albala, Ph.D.
University of the Pacific

Professor 21 of 22

Marc Zender
Ph.D., University of Calgary

Professor 22 of 22

Craig G. Benjamin, Ph.D.
Grand Valley State University
Dr. Elizabeth Vandiver is Professor of Classics and Clement Biddle Penrose Professor of Latin at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. She was formerly Director of the Honors Humanities program at the University of Maryland at College Park, where she also taught in the Department of Classics. She completed her undergraduate work at Shimer College and went on to earn her M.A. and Ph.D. from The University of Texas at...
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Dr. Bob Brier is an Egyptologist and Senior Research Fellow at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University. He earned his bachelor's degree from Hunter College and Ph.D. in Philosophy from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Professor Brier has twice been selected as a Fulbright Scholar and has received Long Island University's David Newton Award for Teaching Excellence in recognition of his achievements as a...
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Dr. Jeremy McInerney is Davidson Kennedy Associate Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. McInerney earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He was the Wheeler Fellow at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and has excavated in Israel, at Corinth, and on Crete. He serves on the Managing Committee of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Greece....
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Dr. Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He completed his undergraduate work at Wheaton College and earned his M.Div. and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. Professor Ehrman has written or edited 27 books, including four best sellers on The New York Times list: Misquoting Jesus: The Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why; God’s...
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Dr. Garrett G. Fagan is Professor of Ancient History at The Pennsylvania State University, where he has taught since 1996. He was born in Dublin, Ireland, and educated at Trinity College. He earned his Ph.D. from McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, and has held teaching positions at McMaster University, York University (Canada), and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Davidson College. In all of these...
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Dr. J. Rufus Fears was David Ross Boyd Professor of Classics at the University of Oklahoma, where he held the G. T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty. He also served as David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University. Before joining the faculty at the University of Oklahoma, Professor Fears was Professor of History and...
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Dr. Kenneth W. Harl is Professor of Classical and Byzantine History at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he teaches courses in Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader history. He earned his B.A. from Trinity College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University. Recognized as an outstanding lecturer, Professor Harl has received numerous teaching awards at Tulane, including the coveted Sheldon H. Hackney Award. He has...
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Dr. David Roochnik is Professor of Philosophy at Boston University, where he teaches in both the Department of Philosophy and the Core Curriculum, an undergraduate program in the humanities. He completed his undergraduate work at Trinity College, where he majored in philosophy, and earned his Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Roochnik was awarded Boston University's Gitner Award in 1997 for excellence in teaching...
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Dr. Lawrence M. Principe is Drew Professor of the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University. Professor Principe earned a B.S. in Chemistry and a B.A. in Liberal Studies from the University of Delaware. He also holds two doctorates: a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Indiana University, Bloomington, and a Ph.D. in the History of Science from Johns Hopkins University. In 1999, the Carnegie Foundation chose Professor Principe as the...
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Dr. Glenn S. Holland is the Bishop James Thoburn Professor of Religious Studies at Allegheny College. He earned his B.A. from Stanford University, his M.A. in Theology from the University of Oxford, and his Ph.D. in the Bible and New Testament Studies from the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. Professor Holland is the recipient of several honors and awards, including the Thoburn Chair in Religious Studies in 1992,...
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Dr. Gary A. Rendsburg holds the Blanche and Irving Laurie Chair in Jewish History in the Department of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University, where he also holds an appointment in the History Department. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Hebrew Studies from New York University and taught at Canisius College and Cornell University-the latter for 18 years-before joining the Rutgers faculty in 2004. The author of six books and...
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Dr. John R. Hale is the Director of Liberal Studies at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. He earned his B.A. at Yale University and his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge in England. Professor Hale teaches introductory courses on archaeology, as well as more specialized courses on the Bronze Age, the ancient Greeks, the Roman world, Celtic cultures, the Vikings, and nautical and underwater archaeology. An...
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Dr. David J. Schenker is Associate Professor of Classical Literature at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he has taught since 1991. Dr. Schenker earned his Ph.D. in Classics from the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Schenker was a recipient of the 2006 American Philological Association Awards for Excellence in Teaching. At the University of Missouri-Columbia, he has won several teaching awards, including...
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Dr. Grant L. Voth is Professor Emeritus at Monterey Peninsula College in California. He earned his M.A. in English Education from St. Thomas College in St. Paul, MN, and his Ph.D. in English from Purdue University. Throughout his distinguished career, Professor Voth has earned a host of teaching awards and accolades, including the Allen Griffin Award for Excellence in Teaching, and he was named Teacher of the Year by the...
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Dr. Robert S.J. Garland is the Roy D. and Margaret B. Wooster Professor of the Classics at Colgate University. He earned his B.A. in Classics from Manchester University, his M.A. in Classics from McMaster University, and his Ph.D. in Ancient History from University College London. A former Fulbright Scholar and recipient of the George Grote Ancient History Prize, Professor Garland has educated students and audiences at a...
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Dr. Robert L. Dise Jr. is Associate Professor of History at the University of Northern Iowa, where he teaches highly popular courses on the history of the ancient Near East, Greece, Rome, and classical civilization. He earned his B.A. in History from the University of Virginia and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. Before joining the faculty at the University of Northern Iowa, Professor Dise taught at Clinch...
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Dr. Jonathan P. Roth is Professor of History at San Jose State University. He received his B.A. in Ancient Near Eastern History and Archaeology from the University of California, Berkeley, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University. He has taught at Tulane University in New Orleans, New York University, and the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Roth has researched, written, and lectured extensively on...
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Dr. Gregory S. Aldrete is Professor of Humanistic Studies and History at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, where he has taught since 1995. He earned his B.A. from Princeton University and his master's degree and Ph.D. in Ancient History from the University of Michigan. Honored many times over for his research and his teaching, Professor Aldrete was named by his university as the winner of its highest awards in each...
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Dr. Edwin Barnhart is director of the Maya Exploration Center. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin and has over 20 years of experience in North, Central, and South America as an archaeologist, explorer, and instructor. In 1994, Professor Barnhart discovered the ancient city of Maax Na (Spider-Monkey House), a major center of the Classic Maya period in northwestern Belize. In 1998 he was invited by the...
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Dr. Ken Albala is Professor of History at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, where he teaches food history and the history of early modern Europe. He is also a Visiting Professor at Boston University, where he teaches an advanced food history course in the gastronomy program. He earned an M.A. in History from Yale University and a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University. Professor Albala is the author or...
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Dr. Marc Zender is Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Tulane University and a research associate in Harvard University’s Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions Program. He earned his Honors B.A. in Anthropology from The University of British Columbia and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Archaeology from the University of Calgary. Professor Zender has published extensively on Mesoamerican languages and...
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Dr. Craig G. Benjamin is Associate Professor of History in the Frederik Meijer Honors College at Grand Valley State University (GVSU), where he teaches East Asian civilization, big history, ancient Central Asian history, and historiography. He earned his undergraduate education at The Australian National University in Canberra and Macquarie University in Sydney, and his Ph.D. in Ancient History from Macquarie University....
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Reviews

Special Collection - The Joy of Ancient History is rated 3.7 out of 5 by 7.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Many different topics and Tons of Fun 5 Stars. Here are some of the best lecturers of the Teaching Company. I enjoyed this so much I will listen to it again.
Date published: 2018-07-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Joy of Ancient History We enjoyed listening to the course. We have DVDs for most of the courses that these lectures came from. That made it easier to picture what the lecturer was covering. It would have been a major improvement to list the lecturers and even the courses each lecture came from. After listening to the first three lectures I searched for the information and made a spreadsheet listing Lecture No., Title, Time, Professor, the Course it was from and the Chapter in the course. It was then much easier to select the next lecture and know a few facts about it. A Video would have been much better than audio, but video was not offered. The answers for the last 3 questions are variable by professor. Selecting one choice doesn't give a complete answer.
Date published: 2017-12-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great way to get a taste for different courses Perhaps TGC have changed the way they market this course in the years since some of the other reviews here were left but I felt it was abundantly clear that a) this course comprised multiple lecturers, and b) that each lecture was plucked from its larger series. And so, no, there is no real coherence between the lectures other than a vaguely chronological positioning within the course and within the context of 'ancient history' (which is obviously a broad field). I have found that listening to one lecture in isolation from its context makes me focus much more on the presenter and, as such, it is a useful way to 'trial' presenters and their skills and determine the most engaging and accessible ones from the lesser. (As an aside it's also highlighted the significant gender imbalance in Great Courses offerings. Hopefully something that will be corrected in coming years). Yes, there is a longish introduction to each one (in TGC introductory voice) but it provides a bit of context before you start listening and I have found it more useful than not in preparing me to hear something out of the blue. I listen while driving so can't read the blurb in preparation. Two suggestions for The Great Courses admin... 1) Can you please consider tailing each lecture with the lecturer's name and the course it came from. That way if I've really enjoyed someone/a topic, I know where to find it for purchase. Or if I particularly don't, I can make a mental note. The info is included at the start but it would only take 15 seconds to paste that little bit on the end in a 'You have been listening to...' kind of thing. 2) Alternatively, can you tweak your 'track' metadata so that lecturer/course info appears in the view screen so I can see and remember talented presenters. Currently it is very generic and repetitive. Thanks [Note: I got this one on super-special and so was willing to take a chance despite the reviews as a 'taster' for under $30 bucks. Not sure how enamoured I would be if I'd paid higher or full price...]
Date published: 2017-11-23
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A mixed bag Perhaps I should have realized it, but this is not a normal series of lectures. Instead it is a group of lectures from various courses, some of which were of interest and others not. Since they are pulled out of context, I found many hard to follow without the background of the earlier lectures. In fact, in many cases, the lecturer makes reference to earlier sections or indicates that certain topics will be addressed in later lectures. if I had realized the format, I suspect I would have passed on this one. It was a good way to recycle material and make the company a little extra profit, but it was not up to their usual standard.
Date published: 2016-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eclectic mixture works well This was a sort of cheat course, picking up a lecture here, a lecture here, from many of their history classes, some of which i'd already bought. But this worked really well for me, of the 36 lectures, I was enchanted but at least 18 of them (some of which were repeats, but from a while back, no problem). The rest I'll listen to sometime. I do like not having to listen in sequence, but find myself thinking, "OK, today's a Moche day" or whatever.
Date published: 2014-11-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Caveat Emptor Given the ancient history theme of this course, I chose the Latin phrase “caveat emptor” (buyer beware) as the review title to warn prospective purchasers that this course is not what it seems at first. True, the course description does acknowledge that these lectures are not original, but are drawn from a variety of existing Great Courses on selected aspects of ancient history; however this limitation and the fact that it is available only in audio format may come as a disappointing surprise to the potential customer who relies only on the course title. As an ancient history buff myself, I own and have studied half of the Great Courses represented here, most of them in the DVD version, an important added dimension with the many valuable visuals offered in the original courses. I therefore chose to concentrate on the lectures from courses that I do not have, but identifying them was no easy task, relying just on the lecture titles. There are only two indirect ways to identify the lecturer of each segment: 1) by clicking on each lecture on the lecture list in the course description on the Great Courses website, which provides a two-sentence lecture overview, along with the author’s name and photograph, and 2) at the end of the (longer than normal) introductory audio blurb at the beginning of each lecture. The identification of each lecturer could have easily been simplified upon downloading the course by providing the lecturer’s name in the second column of the lecture list, instead of repeating “Various Professors” 36 times. The unusual format of this course, an amalgam of lectures from existing courses with no new material, may be disappointing and controversial for many potential Great Courses customers. This “smorgasbord” approach to the specific topics selected offers no coherent overall theme and thus provides a somewhat anecdotal impression of ancient history. The objective of this novel course format is most likely a sales promotion initiative, enticing customers with single lectures in the hope that many will respond by ordering the entire course. If the customer reaction is generally positive, I expect that we may see more courses offered in this mode. This is a hard course to rate fairly; while the intellectual content of each lecture ranges from very good to excellent (a 5 rating), the overall value of the course is certainly less in my view (no more than a 3) for reasons described above and in part because it is offered in audio only, even though most of the underlying courses are also available in DVD. There may well be technical reasons for this, but it is a significant limitation. Accordingly, I can only recommend this course to those ancient history buffs who understand and accept its limitations and the absence of new material, as well as to those who have not seen the courses from which these lectures are taken.
Date published: 2014-06-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Idea I think it's a great idea for TTC to put together these courses of greatest hits. Customers get to hear professors that they may not have known about. I really like the variety.
Date published: 2014-06-20
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