History of the Ancient World
A Global Perspective Course

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48 episodes in this series

Episode 1 Cities, Civilizations, and Sources
Learn about the different kind of approach the course will take in its explorations of the ancient world and hear a story that perfectly illustrates the risks inherent in letting…
Episode 2 From Out of the Mesopotamian Mud
The course's first civilization reveals a theme that will appear again and again. Grasp the critical role of geography and resources in shaping not only Mesopotamia's method of subsistence, but…
Episode 3 Cultures of the Ancient Near East
The lack of geographical barriers made it difficult for even the most powerful cities to retain their power. See how a succession of empires rose and fell, leaving behind legacies…
Episode 4 Ancient Egypt: The Gift of the Nile
Your introduction to Egypt reveals a civilization irrevocably shaped by geography. You learn how the Nile's predictable annual flooding of its banks, though creating a fertile strip amounting to only…
Episode 5 Pharaohs, Tombs, and Gods
Discover how Egyptian views of death and tombs changed with the kingdom's occupation by: and eventual expulsion of: the Hyksos, including an examination of how the stark differences between the…
Episode 6 The Lost Civilization of the Indus Valley
Your exploration of a once-lost civilization introduces a key theme of the course: the enormous problems faced by modern historians and archaeologists in interpreting an ancient civilization through physical evidence…
Episode 7 The Vedic Age of Ancient India
In an ironic reversal of the Indus legacy, the next great era of Indian history is known through an enormous bounty of texts, but relatively little archaeological or material evidence.…
Episode 8 Mystery Cultures of Early Greece
Turn to the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations of the Mediterranean. Learn about the historical underpinnings of the Minotaur myth, Plato's account of what might have been the basis for the…
Episode 9 Homer and Indian Poetry
Discover how a work or body of literature can become the core of an entire culture in this examination of the influence of Homer on the Greeks and of the…
Episode 10 Athens and Experiments in Democracy
Greece's most famous city-state is often praised for its creation of democracy. You examine the origins of that system and discover some surprising revelations, including the seminal role played by…
Episode 11 Hoplite Warfare and Sparta
Experience what it was like to be raised a Spartan man or woman, the changes in military tactics and equipment that made their armies so feared, and the tragic flaw…
Episode 12 Civilization Dawns in China: Shang and Zhou
Witness the early development of a unique culture that viewed itself as constituting the entirety of the world and thus the site of all cultural advancement, with the latter self-image…
Episode 13 Confucius and the Greek Philosophers
From 700 to 500 B.C., thinkers around the world began to turn to fundamental philosophical questions. This episode focuses on those whose concerns addressed this world and its pragmatic issues…
Episode 14 Mystics, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians
Your attention shifts to those thinkers who looked beyond the physical world for answers to their questions about the fundamental issues of existence. Examine the impact of several key texts…
Episode 15 Persians and Greeks
Discover the reasons the Greek city-states were able to emerge intact from their conflict with a vastly superior Persian Empire. Learn, too, how the defensive alignment put in place to…
Episode 16 Greek Art and Architecture
Pause in your study of historical events to appreciate two of classical Greece's most important contributions to art and architecture. Learn the distinguishing characteristics of Greek sculpture and the principles…
Episode 17 Greek Tragedy and the Sophists
Continue your examination of Greece's cultural heritage with this look at Greek theater: especially its greatest playwrights of tragedy, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides: and the second wave of philosophers known…
Episode 18 The Peloponnesian War and the Trial of Socrates
Learn how the end of Greek unity brought down the astonishing political and cultural successes of the early 5th century, culminating in one of the most shameful episodes in Greek…
Episode 19 Philip of Macedon: Architect of Empire
Begin a four-episode exploration of what has come to be known the Great Man Theory of History: that a single person could indeed alter the course of history: by reviewing…
Episode 20 Alexander the Great Goes East
With the successful invasion of the western Persian Empire, Philip's son successfully carried out his father's plan. Alexander the Great would then create his own path, and you follow him…
Episode 21 Unifiers of India: Chandragupta and Asoka
Alexander's death in 323 B.C caused his vast empire to fragment. You meet the father and son who created the largest Indian empire that would be seen until the establishment…
Episode 22 Shi Huangdi: First Emperor of China
Discover how the father of the Chinese nation combined ruthlessness and vision to unify his country, create the largest empire that part of the world had known, and execute a…
Episode 23 Earliest Historians of Greece and China
Consider what it must have been like to be among the very first historians, not only practicing your art, but having to define it and its standards, as well. See…
Episode 24 The Hellenistic World
Although the three centuries following Alexander were years of warfare, absolutism, and political stalemate, the Hellenistic era did leave a legacy of cultural richness and originality. See how achievements in…
Episode 25 The Great Empire of the Han Dynasty
Much of the world in 200 B.C. was entering nearly 600 years of instability: but something different was happening in China and Rome. Focus on the first of these two…
Episode 26 People of the Toga: Etruscans, Early Rome
In this first of five episodes tracing the rise of Roman civilization, you begin with Rome's geography, its traditional origin story, and the formative scars left by the experience of…
Episode 27 The Crucible: Punic Wars, Roman Imperialism
Learn how the series of conflicts with Rome's burgeoning Mediterranean rival: the city-state of Carthage, whose forces were led by the brilliant Hannibal: were both the closest Rome ever came…
Episode 28 The Death of the Roman Republic
The century between 133 and 31 B.C. was a period when long-simmering tensions and resentments finally reached their boiling point. Grasp how the consequences, including political assassinations of Julius Caesar…
Episode 29 Augustus: Creator of the Roman Empire
With Julius Caesar dead, who would seize power? Trace the struggle that involved the Brutus-led liberators, who claimed a goal of restoring the republic; Caesar's lieutenant, Marc Antony; and a…
Episode 30 Roman Emperors: Good, Bad, and Crazy
Follow the fortunes of the empire during the two centuries following Augustus and Tiberius, which included not only some of Rome's wisest and most conscientious emperors, like Trajan and Marcus…
Episode 31 Han and Roman Empires Compared: Geography
The peak four centuries of Rome's power coincided almost exactly with one of China's most enduring dynasties. Begin a multiepisode comparison of these empires on several fronts, including political organization,…
Episode 32 Han and Roman Empires Compared: Government
The comparison continues, focusing initially on the administrative structure that allowed these two vast empires to identify and train the members of their evolving bureaucracies, and then moving on to…
Episode 33 Han and Roman Empires Compared: Problems
Consider the potential problems faced by the two empires: beginning with the emperor and examining the impact of imperial weakness, incompetence, or even insanity: before reflecting on the issues of…
Episode 34 Early Americas: Resources and Olmecs
Shift your attention to North and South America. These were among the last regions humans would settle, and you follow their progress from nomadic hunter-gatherers to the civilizations that would…
Episode 35 Pots and Pyramids: Moche and Teotihuacán
Turn your focus to Peru and Mexico and the many cultures that left behind stunning examples of their now-vanished civilizations, from impressive pyramids and tombs to startling examples of artistic…
Episode 36 Blood and Corn: Mayan Civilization
Delve into the achievements of the Maya, who were among the longest-lasting, most geographically extensive, and most culturally sophisticated of all Mesoamerican cultures. Grasp how we can know these things…
Episode 37 Hunter-Gatherers and Polynesians
Although civilization almost always tends to be an urban phenomenon, there are exceptions. Examine the origins of societies that evolved sophisticated cultures but did not build cities, including hunter-gatherers like…
Episode 38 The Art and Architecture of Power
The structures 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. Explore how…
Episode 39 Comparative Armies: Rome, China, Maya
Gain a sense of how the empires of the Mediterranean, Asia, and the Americas both defended themselves and brought their power to bear on others with this comparison of the…
Episode 40 Later Roman Empire: Crisis and Christianity
Explore the century that followed Rome's Golden Age and the time of the Five Good Emperors as the empire suffered through political, military, and economic crises that brought it to…
Episode 41 The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire?
The questions of when Rome fell: and why: are arguably the most famous ongoing historical debates in the Western tradition. One German scholar has even posited 210 plausible answers to…
Episode 42 The Byzantine Empire and the Legacy of Rome
The eastern Roman: or Byzantine: Empire would outlast its counterpart in the West by a thousand years. Follow the fortunes of this flourishing hub, which included one of the most…
Episode 43 China from Chaos to Order under the Tang
Learn how the chaotic three-and-a-half centuries that followed the dissolution of the Han Empire spawned new philosophical and religious yearnings and paved the way for the founding of the next…
Episode 44 The Golden Age of Tang Culture
Examine some of the most impressive aspects of the Tang dynasty. This highly urbanized culture is commonly regarded as one of the cultural pinnacles of Chinese civilization, producing sophisticated culture,…
Episode 45 The Rise and Flourishing of Islam
Grasp how the tribes of the Arabian peninsula: within only 100 years of their conversion to Islam: were able to conquer half the Mediterranean world, shattering its unity, spinning its…
Episode 46 Holy Men and Women: Monasticism and Saints
Gain new insights into the key church fathers of Christianity's first centuries: whose actions, ideas, and writings irrevocably shaped the faith: as well as the influential religious movements that emerged…
Episode 47 Charlemagne: Father of Europe
Learn why the word great, though applied to any number of famous and infamous rulers, may be fully justified in the case of Charlemagne, whose impact in the areas of…
Episode 48 Endings, Beginnings, What Does It All Mean?
A discussion of the early 20th-century historian Henri Pirenne puts Charlemagne in a new perspective and underlines why it is so important to understand each of the civilizations you have…

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