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Publisher's Summary

The ancient world has cast a long shadow, influencing our customs and religious beliefs, our laws, and the form of our governments. It has taught us when and how we make war or pursue peace. It has shaped the buildings we live and work in and the art we hang on our walls. It has given us the calendar that organizes our year and has left its mark on the games we play.

Grasping the full scope of your bequest from the ancient world can't help but give you a more nuanced base from which to make decisions and choose pathways in your own life. These 48 lectures take you on a multidisciplinary journey that ranges across not only the traditional domains of politics and war that are normally the province of history courses, but also those of religion, philosophy, architecture and the visual arts, literature, and science, and more.

You'll examine the ancient world's greatest civilizations from the Mediterranean, Asia, and the Americas - including those of Rome, Greece, China, Persia, India, and the Maya - not in isolation but in the full context of where they came from, the cultures that flourished around them at the same time, and the civilizations that were to come from them. Taking a comparative approach, Professor Aldrete's course includes in-depth analyses of not only key individuals and historical moments, but also history's most important themes, from the nature of rulership and the evolution of religion and philosophy to the practice of warfare and the expression of power through art and architecture.

With its mix of nuanced interpretation, vivid description, and constant attention to exploring history as a coherent whole, this is sure to be one of the most informative and thought-provoking history courses you have ever taken.

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

©2011 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2011 The Great Courses

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Han
  • 2018-07-31

More of a European perspective.

There are a disproportionate number of lectures spent on Greece and Rome, compared to Persia, China, India and Arabia. It's still a great series for getting an idea of how these different civilizations compared to each other at different time periods but you'll only understand the reasons how Europe came to be the way it is today, you won't get much insight into how ancient China, Arabia and India influenced the modern countries there today.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Matt
  • 2013-11-20

Outstanding - Informative AND Entertaining

For me this was one of those 'Can't put it down' epic audio titles. What's more I feel a better person for having listened to it.

Overall, very informative, thought provoking and truly entertaining. I've learned loads and am now looking for more history titles of comparable quality.

It's massive in scope and is truly global in that it manages to weave in all the major civilisations of antiquity. I'd say he's best on Mediterranean and European cultures. At least the coverage of these cultures seems more detailed. It seems to me a Westerner's perspective. However, there's some good stuff on China, India and the Americas. I found it gave me a good introduction to these other cultures.

It's very easy to turn history into a dry collection of facts and dates. This lecture series strikes a good balance between facts and colourful anecdotes character examinations and other diversions. For example, there is a wonderful section on the mind boggling and downright weird Spartans. I couldn't stop laughing as he talked about them. But at the same time, I learned all about a culture that up until a couple of weeks ago, for me had been little more than the name of an ancient group of war-like people who'd once fought the Persians.

His presentation style is really good - full of enthusiasm, wonder and humour. For me he spoke at just the right pace, too. Unlike many other titles, even history - I found this very easy to listen to whilst on the treadmill, walking or doing household chores.

I'm going to listen to this again in a month or two. Can't recommend it highly enough, it's a really excellent listen.

46 of 46 people found this review helpful

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  • Tommy D'Angelo
  • 2017-05-23

Top 1% of All History Courses You'll Take

Would you consider the audio edition of History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective to be better than the print version?

I bought this course after "striking out" with the courses "The Foundations of Western Civilization" and "Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor" (i.e. I was extremely interested in learning about the time period and civilizations covered but was disappointed by the professors' teaching styles, wasn't engaged, and didn't take much from the courses).

This course was nearly perfect in exceeding all of my expectations going in.

This is a legitimate 5 star course that meets all of my criteria for such a designation:

1- The professor was easy to understand and listen to while at the same time prompting engaging discussions that led to me learning alot more than I knew going in.

2- The 24 hours of 48 lectures flew by. I would look at my phone and find out I had listened for large periods of time without even checking the remaining time or lecture number I was on. This is a rare experience even for the great ones I've listened to.

3- When the course concluded I was yearning for more and I scrambled to see if the professor taught any other courses. I was left wishing there would be a lecture 49 in which he would cover the next great civilization and just go on and on to the present time.

It has excellent historical narrative covering the following civilizations from aprx. 3500 BC-800 AD:
o Mesopotamia (Sumerians, Akkadians, Hittites, Babylon, Assyria, Chaldean/Neo-Babylonians, Persians)
o Ancient Egypt
o Ancient India (Lost civilization of the Indus Valley & the Vedics)
o Pre-Greek: Minoan and Mycenaean
o Ancient Greece
o China (Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han, Sui, and Tong)
o Macedonians
o Ancient Rome
o Early Mesoamerica (Olmecs and Mayans)
o Early South America (Chavin, Moche and Teotihuacán)
o Aborigines of Australia
o Polynesians
o Byzantine
o Early Christianity
o Early Islam (the Umayyad & Abbasid caliphates)
o Franks (under Charlemagne)
o Mentioned but not discussed in great detail: Carthage, Sassanians, and African empires Axum, Ghana, and Mali

The professor is a clear speaker with a good pace (does not rush things nor uses lofty language). This is such a breath of fresh air in contrast with other professors I've listened to. Professor Aldrete is the model by which all history professors should be held to.

This course was great right up to the end. Lecture 48 has an interesting take on why Europe would rise and supplant the Islamic and Chinese empires in the centuries following 800 AD (when at the time it would’ve seemed highly unlikely) and attempts to explain the origin of when Africa, Asia, and Europe split into regions of distinct linguistic, religious, and cultural differences.

I read a negative review that mentioned the course was too simplistic and I can see how some individuals may consider the professor's style as such but I think the mark of a good historian and teacher is one who can teach in a straight-forward, easy to understand manner, and keep you entertained while not stretching the facts of history to fit into a certain "story".

A course covering such a breadth of time, land, and civilizations must leave some things out but I found it somewhat curious these were omitted:

1- How does a lecture on Greek theater not include even a quick mention of Oedipus?

2- Would've liked a little more coverage of the end phase of the Peloponnesian War including Sparta's final victory over Athens

3- While Julius Caesar, Pompey, Marc Antony and Octavius Caesar were discussed, there was no mention of the two Roman triumvirates that I could recall

4- While the professor did reference specific years when discussing a specific civilization or dynasty, it would’ve been good if he mentioned the contemporary dynasties that were ruling in other parts of the world to give some global perspective; For example when discussing a dynasty ruling in China, mention it was the same time as when the X civilization was dominant in the Mediterranean or the X dynasty was ruling the Roman Empire

Yes, these four items border on nitpicking when considering the success of this course. I highly recommend this course to anyone interested in the rise of the world's earliest civilizations across the globe. Please bring back Professor Aldrete for another course preferably on medieval Europe focusing on the formation of current states like France, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, etc. I know there are some courses on 1600 Europe onward but I'd be interested in a course on political history of the major countries prior to that time period.

23 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • Gaston Dorren
  • 2015-11-17

Absorbing grand vision, with flawed details

Of all the Great Courses I've listened to so far, I've liked this one best, and not just for professor Aldrete's pleasant voice. I loved how he manages to discuss thousands of years in 24 hours, always going for the big picture, with some nice stories thrown in. He really shows how urban civilisation got started the world over, in the Middle East and China first, then in the Mediterranean and India. It is true that those interested in the Americas and (especially) Africa and Oceania will be disappointed, but at least Aldrete explains why he chose to pay so much attention to Eurasia: it was Europe that would eventually dominate the world, on the basis of ideologies and technologies many of which came from the Middle East and China.
The course is not without its flaws. Other reviewers have commented that the western alphabets were derived from hieroglyphics, not cuneiform (correct); that Egypt was not such an arid place when civilisation began there (don't know, but I suppose it's true); and I'm sure there's more. However, I also feel strongly that is nit-picking - not when you're a script expert or egyptologist, but for the rest of us. To put it bluntly: it doesn't matter to the main story.
And as for the person who found the course 'too much about manly deeds': that's not quite true. There is quite a bit about art, religion and economy in the course. And after all, the manly deeds (including those by the odd empress or queen) have in many ways shaped history.

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • It's Just Me
  • 2013-08-09

insight into culture, geography and circumstances

What did you love best about History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective?

The insights in how geography, circumstances of the time & place, and other factors have effected the cultures of ancient civilizations. Well presented, with enthusiasm and understanding, as well. I would love to listen to more by Dr. Aldrete.

What other book might you compare History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective to and why?

Perhaps Guns, Germs, and Steel, but this is much more credentialed.

What does Professor Gregory S. Aldrete bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His enthusiasm for the topic might not come out as well. He has a nice speaking voice.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Emily
  • 2017-08-30

Finally! Ancient History Beyond the Mediterranean!

What did you like best about this story?

I’d recommend this series to students new to ancient world civilizations as well as established ancient history lovers in search of a true global perspective.

Unlike so many ancient history courses this course address civilizations outside of the Mediterranean and Near East! This series includes lectures on India, China, and the Americas. The professor even touches briefly on ancient cultures in Polynesia and Australia!

The course is organized chronologically, and that works well for emphasizing that multiple ancient civilizations were simultaneously flourishing in different parts of the world. The general history lectures give us a good basic knowledge overview of each civilization and that foundation supports the lectures where the professor makes cross culture comparisons.

These comparison lectures are where this course really shines. The full lecture list is below. Highlight lectures for me include: Homer and Indian Poetry, Confucius and the Greek Philosophers, Mystics, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians, Han and Roman Empires, Pots and Pyramids—Moche and Teotihuacán, Hunter-Gatherers and Polynesians, and Comparative Armies—Rome, China, Maya.


1 Cities, Civilizations, and Sources
2 From Out of the Mesopotamian Mud
3 Cultures of the Ancient Near East
4 Ancient Egypt—The Gift of the Nile
5 Pharaohs, Tombs, and Gods
6 The Lost Civilization of the Indus Valley
7 The Vedic Age of Ancient India
8 Mystery Cultures of Early Greece
9 Homer and Indian Poetry
10 Athens and Experiments in Democracy
11 Hoplite Warfare and Sparta
12 Civilization Dawns in China—Shang and Zhou
13 Confucius and the Greek Philosophers
14 Mystics, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians
15 Persians and Greeks
16 Greek Art and Architecture
17 Greek Tragedy and the Sophists
18 The Peloponnesian War and the Trial of Socrates
19 Philip of Macedon—Architect of Empire
20 Alexander the Great Goes East
21 Unifiers of India—Chandragupta and Asoka
22 Shi Huangdi—First Emperor of China
23 Earliest Historians of Greece and China
24 The Hellenistic World
25 The Great Empire of the Han Dynasty
26 People of the Toga—Etruscans, Early Rome
27 The Crucible—Punic Wars, Roman Imperialism
28 The Death of the Roman Republic
29 Augustus—Creator of the Roman Empire
30 Roman Emperors—Good, Bad, and Crazy
31 Han and Roman Empires Compared—Geography
32 Han and Roman Empires Compared—Government
33 Han and Roman Empires Compared—Problems
34 Early Americas—Resources and Olmecs
35 Pots and Pyramids—Moche and Teotihuacán
36 Blood and Corn—Mayan Civilization
37 Hunter-Gatherers and Polynesians
38 The Art and Architecture of Power
39 Comparative Armies—Rome, China, Maya
40 Later Roman Empire—Crisis and Christianity
41 The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire?
42 The Byzantine Empire and the Legacy of Rome
43 China from Chaos to Order under the Tang
44 The Golden Age of Tang Culture
45 The Rise and Flourishing of Islam
46 Holy Men and Women—Monasticism and Saints
47 Charlemagne—Father of Europe
48 Endings, Beginnings, What Does It All Mean?

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Rachel
  • 2014-08-23

Engaging but flawed

The first chapter of this lecture series made me anticipate an enjoyable and dynamic course. The lecturer does indeed have an engaging way of speaking. I am VERY disappointed in the quality of the content, however. Aldrete totally ignores the need to qualify his statements and by this means, obscures the fact that he is taking certain positions on the known data. In other words, his interpretations are presented as the only ones.

I would warn the listener that there is FAR more to be learned about these cultures and that much of what the presenter says is debated material, skewed for dramatic value, or simplified past the point of being strictly reliable. He even fails to explain WHY he takes these positions.

As an example: he characterizes Egypt as (apart from the Nile) a largely forbidding and uninhabitable place in spite of the fact that prehistoric Egypt was much more humid and habitable than it is today, so that a large part of the oldest Egyptian archaeology is located in what is now desert; and the fact that agriculture took hold later in this region simply because the hunting and gathering OUTSIDE the Nile valley was so productive that agriculture was not necessary until the eastern and western deserts began drying out more (though not to the extent of today), and when Egypt had become a set of fledgeling states with larger populations and centralized authorities in need of profitable surplusses. Aldrete even makes the remark that he doesn't think anyone would have settled in Egypt were it not for the Nile; ignoring the almost certain fact that Egypt was the funnel through which humans settled, in multiple waves, Europe and Asia: BECAUSE it was a viable and relatively easy place to live and travel. This includes the areas outside of the river valley.

I would highly recommend instead the Great Courses series "Human Prehistory and the First Civilizations" by Professor Brian Fagan, which while it predates some of the most recent genetic information re: Neanderthals and modern humans, is scrupulous to point out the various sides of each debate in which he has a favorite perspective. Dr. Fagan also has the advantage of a great deal more hands on experience in the archaeology of ancient cultures. His presentation is dryer but his content is FAR superior.

52 of 60 people found this review helpful

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  • Jeremy McNeal
  • 2014-08-21

Excellent.

Where does History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Top 5

What other book might you compare History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective to and why?

The other books in the great courses series. 30 minutes is the perfect length of time.

What about Professor Gregory S. Aldrete’s performance did you like?

Engaging, and easy to follow along. Good tempo and rhythm. The performance can really make or break a book, and this one was very good.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

It wasn't really that kind of book.

Any additional comments?

Very well done.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Adam
  • 2013-07-27

You won't be disappointed!!

What does Professor Gregory S. Aldrete bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Passion for the material presented was very apparent.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Loved every moment...sad it had to end.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Neatoizer
  • 2014-11-22

Not exactly a global perspective...

If you could sum up History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective in three words, what would they be?

Roman/Chinese History

What was one of the most memorable moments of History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective?

The lectures on China and the Grand Canal and the one lecture on mesoamerica

Which scene was your favorite?

-

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

no, it was exhausting because it's a history lecutre, although I could peronally lisen to it for 3 to 4 hour at a time.

Any additional comments?

This was not gobal history by any means. It was primary Greco-Roman history with maybe a quarter of it being chinese history (but only when it could be related to greco-roman), and at most a tenth of the lectures covered civilzation other then the aforementioned. I was quite disapointed by how little other cultures and civliztions were covered and I feel the title is very misleading.Dont get me wrong though this history is very good and the lecutres were over all very intresting and informative. If you are looking for Greco-Roman history this is a great set of lecutres, if on the other hand you are looking for a gobal persective on ancient history you may be sorely disaponited with the euro centric view.

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Matt
  • 2013-11-05

I love History

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. This is a great introduction to a history of the ancient world.

What did you like best about this story?

I was surprised at how interesting the politics of Rome were.

Which character – as performed by Professor Gregory S. Aldrete – was your favorite?

The narrator is very enthusastic and you can tell he really loves this subject.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, I found myself finding excuses to listen to these lectures.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Shook-Pui
  • 2016-10-19

Truly enjoyable learning journey with Prof Aldrete

I highly recommend this audio book to anyone who would like to have a wide and global perspective of the many ancient civilizations, while at the same time with sufficient depth in each to get a good appreciation. Prof Aldrete relates the topic with lots of enthusiasm, passion and interest. He makes you feel like sitting in his class! I particularly like his objectivity as well as linking the ancient past with the present. It really matters for us to understand this period of history, which is absolutely fascinating. The book is so good and informative, I think I shall listen the entire recording again ! Thank you Prof Aldrete !