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Publisher's Summary

Clearly, the Greeks are a source of much that we esteem in our own culture: democracy, philosophy, tragedy, epic and lyric poetry, history-writing, our aesthetic sensibilities, ideals of athletic competition, and more. But what is it about Hellenic culture that has made generations of influential scholars and writers view it as the essential starting point for understanding the art and reflection that define the West? This series of 24 lectures by an accomplished Greek scholar and teacher traces the complex web of links between the present and its Mediterranean origins, taking you from the Late Bronze Age up to the time of Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great. It's an intellectual journey that lets you see ancient Greek civilization in the light shed by the newest and best research and criticism, expanding your understanding of history, literature, art, philosophy, religion, and more.

With a special focus on the two crucial centuries from 600-400 B.C.-the era of the Persian and Peloponnesian wars and of classical Athens as described in the histories of Herodotus and Thucydides and the philosophic dialogues of Plato-you'll come to understand how the uniquely "Greek" identity was forged, and how it gave root to so much of what we consider vital about our own present day. Just as important, you'll learn how the differences between our own modern values and beliefs and those of the Hellenic world-including slavery and the exclusion of women from public life-do not imply a lack of relevance to our own times but can instead teach us as just much as our affinities.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©1998 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)1998 The Great Courses

What listeners say about Ancient Greek Civilization

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love it

Great lectures, learned so much. These lectures took me away for hours. I am a big fan of Greece so now I will see so much more when I visit again.

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Comprehensive Overview

This was an amazing overview of ancient Greek civilization, from its earliest prehistory, to its supplantation by Alexander the Great's conquests. Exactly as advertised on the cover. I very much enjoyed professor McInerney's approach to the material, focused on discussing how and why things happened, both from the point-of-view of peoples at the time of the events, as well as what we do, can, and should take away from it in modern times. For example, the first few lectures tackle the Minoan and Myceneaen civilizations, going in depth on why we know so little of them, but extracting what we can conclude from the information and relating it to the Greek culture which followed. By the end of the lectures, McInerney has touched on every topic of greek history one could hope for; the politics, battles, cultural evolution, the religion, societal practices and beliefs, the legal developments, philisophical developments, and even the developing conceptions about their neighbour civilizations.
One should not fear the fact that McInerney inserts his opinion on the histories into the lecture. When he does so, he makes clear why a single agreeable answer is not found in the field, what the leading hypotheses are, and why he disagrees or agrees with each one. There are no conscious attempts at obscuring the history or forcing a particular lens upon the audience, which is something I am extremely grateful for.
As others have noted, McInerney chronologically jumps around a fair bit to talk briefly about related subjects from other points in Greek history, but overall follows the civilization's history through chronological order. Although I had just enough requisite knowledge to follow along, others have noted that he sometimes will mention persons, events, and concepts with little-to-no introduction. This is really not a large issue that demands a lot from the reader, but it does distinguish this as not being a "beginner's guide" to the history; rather it is best as an intermediary gateway to further understanding and/or study of the topic. Skimming some wikipedia articles on the broad topics should prime you well enough to follow along. And there's no shame in searching up terms on the side which you don't recognize! For instance, when he mentions characters such as Plato, Socrates, Zeus, or Apollo, these should not be foreign names that cause surprise for you. One should have an idea of where in Greece the major cities of Athens and Sparta exist, as well as the island of Crete. I had never heard of the people Solon or Pisistratus, but due to being less pop-recognizeable, these were given proper introductions.
The accompanying .pdf file is also extremely helpful, giving a short, 2-3 page overview of each lecture, as well as textbook-style questions for the listener to answer to ensure they understood the main points of each lecture. In the endnotes is also a comprehensive timeline so that people can keep track of the chronology as McInerney jumps around, and list of single-sentence bibiolgraphies of all the important persons talked about throughout the audiobook.
Great work, this was exactly what I was expected and needed!

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  • Mike
  • 2014-03-07

Interpretive History, Not a Comprehensive Overview

Any additional comments?

The professor who does this series is brilliant and those who have some familiarity with ancient Greek civilization will enjoy the insights and interpretations he offers. I highlighted the fact that the author does A LOT of interpreting in this series. Because of this, while he does cover all of ancient Greek civilization from its origins in Minoan and Mycenean civilizations to its radical change in Alexander the Great, he is not as comprehensive as I would have liked and leaves some gaps and much material untouched. Those of you who are looking for a good, first, general overview of ancient Greek civilization should look elsewhere. However, if you've already had your overview and would like to hear the perspective of a well established scholar on the ancient Greeks, then this book will be right for you.

26 people found this helpful

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  • Jay
  • 2014-02-18

A little disappointed

Any additional comments?

I recently listened to the History of Ancient Rome by Garett Fagan and was blown away. He did a fantastic job of telling the story from start to finish, level setting for those who are new to the topics and left you filled feeling quite knowledgable. Therefore, I was expecting something similar from Ancient Greek Civilization but that was not the case.

This speaker seemed to assume you had more background to begin with, bounced around a lot more and was more interested in discussing interpretations than walking you through the basic story. I think I would've enjoyed this more if I had first took a course on Ancient Greek history and listened to this afterwards. It felt more like a conversation you would have after taking such a course.

27 people found this helpful

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  • SAMA
  • 2014-01-07

Excellent look at Greek history

We all know a little about Greek mythology, but most of us don't really know the chronology of Greek history. This course helps set that straight in very interesting, easy to digest lectures.

4 people found this helpful

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  • JR Pinto
  • 2015-12-04

Excellent Overview

I'm obsessed with Greek culture and, no matter how much you know about it, this lecture series will interest you.

Some of the negative reviews say that there is too much interpretation going on but I don't think that's exactly fair. For instance, so little is known about Minoan Greece that it is necessary to form interpretations.

Although, my favorite lecturer on Greek culture is Elizabeth Vandiver. Try her lectures after this one - they are even better.

3 people found this helpful

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  • EmilyK
  • 2017-09-11

enjoyable and informative overview of Greek Civ

I liked everything about this course -- the pacing was good, I learned a great deal, the lecturer was enjoyable to listen to. I found myself looking forward to each time I could find time to listen.

To respond to some of the other reviewers, I thought it was pitched at a good level. Although he assumes some knowledge, it seemed reasonable (like knowing the Theseus story or who Schliemann was). For me, it was a similar experience to Fagan's Ancient Rome. Because it is an overview, it didn't go into as much depth as some of the courses I see that are available. He did leave time for interpretation but often it was needed, like discussing the different schools of thought about Crete and Mycenae.

To me, this was one of the history courses that I could see a highschooler using for homeschooling or someone with little history knowledge being able to enjoy a great deal. But I also enjoyed it as someone who listens to a lot of history.

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  • chris
  • 2015-06-04

Lots of information and lots of fluff

I'll make this quick. The course covers Greek civilization from roughly 1100 or so BC until the conquering of Greece and Persian by Alexander the Great. The only downside to this course is the professor adds a great amount of fluff and repetition. I liked certain parts, but wish I would have downloaded the other great courses lectures on Greek Civilization.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Clavius
  • 2014-06-04

Great Survey of Ancient Greece

What did you love best about Ancient Greek Civilization?

This survey of ancient Greek history is a comprehensive but compact review of this key civilization. With the typical back and forth between narrative and topical content, I was brought back to my undergraduate courses in this topic. This course compares most favorably with the lectures I recall from years ago.

What did you like best about this story?

If you want to know the key events of Ancient Greece -- this is the course for you. From Marathon to the Peloponnesian war, from Pericles to Socrates, to the strange case of the Spartans, this has it all.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Carla
  • 2016-12-01

Not what I was hoping for.

I'm a scientist, and thus I have not had an education in ancient history but respect the Greeks for all that they brought to modern civilization. I was hoping for a much more informative review of Greek civilization. This lecture may be if interest to someone with full knowledge of Greek history, but if you don't have that background, this lecture series is not very interesting.

2 people found this helpful

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  • andrew wright
  • 2021-04-11

Truly engaging

Professor McInerney truly captivates his audience with this very structured and delivered lecture series. I learned much more than I thought I would and I am tempted to listen to the entire series again. I also enjoyed his inclusion of many original Greek words used for certain concepts as I am also a student of Koine Greek.

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  • Nick V
  • 2021-03-12

A standard treatment, good introduction with expected bias.

It’s a difficult task presented to McInerney: Introduce listeners to Greek history including prehistoric archeology, the Philosophers, the Peloponnesian War, Alexander the Great’s conquests and the cultural nuances of Ancient Greece. I believe that McInerney does so with mostly scholarly zeal, although this Berkeley-trained professor is undoubtedly plagued by the same affliction as that of most of today’s liberal history professors: revision and re-explanation of ancient proclivities to a modern, unforgiving American liberal audience. The treatment of women, the treatment of outsiders (especially concerning Persia which coincidentally receives its own chapter), and homosexuality, are all given an apologetic gloss. If you can understand and forgive his liberal bias (albeit slight), then you can power through and absorb some solid introductory reading of Ancient Greece and its development. Continue your search for a balanced truth with Victor Davis Hanson’s “Who Killed Homer?” , “A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought The Peloponnesian War” and “The Western Way of War”.