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Famous Greeks

Written by: J. Rufus Fears,The Great Courses
Narrated by: J. Rufus Fears
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Publisher's Summary

Join Professor Fears for this riveting 24-lecture examination of fascinating figures who shaped the story of Greece from the Trojan War through the rise of Rome. What do their lives, studied in the context of their times, tell us about virtue and vice, folly and wisdom, success and failure? 

Inspired and informed by the monumental works of Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, and Plutarch, these lectures allow you to do exactly that, guided by a truly great teacher. From the heroes of the Trojan War to Alexander the Great and Cleopatra, Professor Fears ushers you into the lives, achievements, and influence of many of the figures who made Greek history. 

Among these are great warriors such as Achilles, Agamemnon, Hector, Odysseus, and Alexander the Great; masterful statesmen including Lycurgus, Solon, and Philip of Macedonia; profound thinkers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; and artists and writers such as Homer, Herodotus, Sophocles, Thucydides, and Plutarch. These lectures are informed by a fine moral awareness and a deep familiarity with the times these famous lives were lived. By exploring these famous Greek lives in this context, you'll also discover new ways to read familiar classics by Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Xenophon, and Plato. And in keeping with that historical spirit, Professor Fears draws lessons from each life studied in this course, charting with you the intellectual and artistic currents of one of the most creative civilizations in world history.

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

©2001 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2001 The Great Courses

What listeners say about Famous Greeks

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An interesting way to cover history

I liked the way these lectures tackled history. Too often linear history gets boring, or one is so busy trying to think of how other tales intersect. By focusing on one Greek at a time, the tales are rich. It’s good to already have some Greek history and mythology first though.

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  • Ji M.
  • 2016-10-18

He put all the pieces together

I'm an engineer and have been interested in history since an earlier age. From childhood, I heard about fascinating things of Ancient Greece: its myths, architecture and stories of its wars. However, because there are plenty of things to talk for each of those topics, many books or lectures introduce them separately and I never got the whole picture. I was eager to find a lecture with a comprehensive introduction.

I gave this lecture a try because I loved Prof Fears' "Famous Romans". It turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. Prof Fears' story telling is fantastic. But most importantly, he put together all the puzzle pieces of the whole picture while those Famous Greeks serve as the brightest parts.

To list a few of my previous missing links: what happened to Sparta and Athens between Greco-Percian War and Peloponitian war? why did Greeks hate Socrates after Peloponetian war? why did Aristotle teach a barbarian prince? what happened to Greece when Rome rose?

If you have the similar missing links, give it a try and Prof Fears will give you the answers.

21 people found this helpful

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  • Abdur Abdul-Malik
  • 2013-08-18

Fine Introduction

Professor Fears does a fine job bringing to life the world of ancient Greece and illuminating the ideas, philosophies, and motives of some of the towering figures of ancient Greek history. Pericles, Socrates, Plutarch, Thucydides, Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great, Pyrrhus, and Cleopatra are discussed among others. I was a bit bummed that Alexander the Great was only given one full lecture. The final lecture on Cleopatra was very interesting. I have been studying Roman history for years and found new material about Mark Anthony.

This course is overshadowed a bit by his "Famous Romans" course, but I don't think that is the professor's fault. Rome was vast, integrated (more or less) and operated on a time scale of centuries. It's stories are bound to be a bit more gripping and fascinating.

Highly recommended.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Cathy
  • 2017-02-09

J Rufus Fears hits another home run.

Dr.Fears is one of a kind in telling these famous stories and tying the timeless lessons to today's world. His presentations are fascinating and appropriate for teaching the young the importance of the classics and possibly lighting a fire under them for future study. For older listeners, it is a great review for many a forgotten tale and gives ,for myself anyway, a more mature understanding of the lessons of these histories which are not understood as being relevant when studying in your teens, if they even teach these things anymore.

5 people found this helpful

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  • truebalance2010
  • 2016-07-04

Breathtaking

...in scope and importance, from Professor Fears teaching that our Founding Fathers considered history to be the most important subject, to putting flesh on the bones of Herodotus, to the unjust death sentence of Socrates, to the tragic end of Antony and Cleopatra, my life will never be the same. I am wiser, because I know that I do not know, and that hubris destroys.
Thank you.

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  • Scott E.
  • 2021-05-04

Terrible.

The presenter has great delivery and sounds passionate. That's the totality of praise I could give this rubbish. This isn't a university level history lesson. It's an old man babbling on about stories of historical figures interspersed with eye rolling US nationalism ham fisted in for no apparent reason (he compares Ancient Greece and the Roman Republic to the US and brings up the founding fathers multiple times in the first chapter alone).

Also, Winston Churchill is the greatest figure in all of democracy apparently. Not sure how the 3 million Bengalese he let starve to death would feel about that but okay.

If you're after history look elsewhere. If you want some stories about some Greek dudes with little care taken to distinguish reality from myth mixed with a strong dab of American exceptionalism look no further. Why you'd want to hear about John Adams in your Ancient Greek history lecture I don't know but perhaps you have time to fill between saluting the flag and saying the pledge of allegiance....

3 people found this helpful

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  • Edith Abramovici
  • 2021-04-16

very disappointed

I was mislead by the good reviews but if you're serious about the classics this course is not for you, it's full of simplifications and inaccuracies .

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  • Matt Berkowitz
  • 2021-01-22

Famous creeks


Anything by Rufus Frears is gold. I listen to everything he is John and he is a master storyteller and historian

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-01-09

OK, not great

The professor clearly has an attitude of worshiping the Greeks. Anyone who knows enough about history knows the reality is much darker. Do the "English people" really think the battle of Thermopylae is more important than the battle of Hastings? I'm fairly sure when the Angles and Saxons were ravaging the lands of Roman Britain, they couldn't care less about the "Greeks".
Personally I prefer the courses from professor Robert Garland, the "Athenian Democracy" being my favorite. I felt his point of view is much more objective.

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  • Ross Bennett
  • 2016-09-06

Poor. Not up to Great Courses standard.

Would you ever listen to anything by The Great Courses again?

Absolutely. Generally speaking, The Great Courses are top-rate. But not this time.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Anyone who is marginally familiar with the sources for this material will see very quickly it's been poorly rendered here. It's almost as though the lecturer has only read summaries of the stories. Directly contradicts Thucydides, Herodotus, and Plutarch right after citing them as the sources of what he's saying.

Any additional comments?

Doesn't help that it's delivered like a mediocre preacher doing Bible stories.

2 people found this helpful

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  • MT
  • 2016-05-12

Absolute Delight!

This was course was nothing short of outstanding! I enjoyed every second of it. You don't even have to be interested in Ancient Greece. This course will appeal to anyone interested in humanity, wisdom, morality, and leadership. It has some of the most insightful reflections on greatness that I have ever seen. Bravo!

2 people found this helpful