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Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Age

In the annals of ancient times, few stories are more gripping than that of the Hellenistic Age.
Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Age is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 65.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from It is more the Hellenistic Age. Do you want an in-depth study of tactical innovation? This is not the course for you. If you want to understand the vast Hellenic world Alexander left unguided behind him? This is the course for you. I believe it is also very beneficial for students interested in Biblical Studies. It more fully sets the stage for the Romans—brutal overlords. But most of the world Saint Paul traveled was Hellenic. Israel included. Harold was far more Hellenic than Jewish. Right down to displacing the small farmers to grow large estate export crops. A well-structured and crafted lecture series. I highly recommend it. It is true. The older lecture series tend to be of superior quality.
Date published: 2024-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course Excellent study of this crucial period in world history. McInerney addresses not simply the political, but also the artistic, literary, scientific and religious aspects of the Hellenistic world. Strongly recommended.
Date published: 2022-11-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nonstop wonderful lectures As a friend said about another fine lecturer (in art history) years ago, I would take this lecturer's course on the history of the cardboard box. He's superb. His lectures are accessible, interesting, well organized each one, well sequenced chronologically of course, easy to follow but packed with information and interesting perspectives. His style is engaging, upbeat, he describes things well enough that I can imagine them (i listened to audio only, in the car and walking), defines terms as needed, refers back to past lectures as context as needed, and I've ordered another of his (ancient Greece -- I guess I'm working backwards)...I'll repeat from a previous review that I can do without the fanfare and applause with each lecture, but maybe that works for some people and at least it's brief.
Date published: 2022-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Super detailed! This lecture series is very detailed and I needed some maps to follow the locations. No problem. I'm a college professor and a life long learner. I don't have the time to attend classes, and frankly there aren't any instructors at my college with the knowledge and organization of the presenters on The Great Courses. I've purchased about 20 of the courses and never been disappointed. This one really delivered. It's great to be able to listen to top notch professors at my convenience. I learn a lot!
Date published: 2022-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific Course This course far exceeded my expectations. Professor McInerney's lectures made the period come alive for me. He has a very dynamic, vivid presentation style and it's clear he is enthusiastic about his topic. To my surprise, what I learned most about was the impact of the Hellenistic age on early Christianity. Highly recommended and fun to listen to!
Date published: 2020-08-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from McInerney Delivers One of my favorite Great Courses Lecturers does not disappoint. The lecture series was developed 20 years ago and is thus of an era of the Great Courses short on imagery and characterized by simplistic graphics . But Prof McInerney's delivery renders that irrelevant.
Date published: 2020-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting This course serves as a bridge between The Great Courses (TGC) offerings on classical Greece and the TGC courses on Rome. It spans the period starting with the fall of classical Greece, proceeding through Philip and Alexander the Great of Macedon, and concluding with the fall of the Hellenistic world to Rome. The lectures fall into three main sections. Lectures 1-10 address the political and military history from Philip of Macedon, through Alexander the Great, and on to the subsequent Hellenistic kingdoms including Ptolemaic Egypt and the Seleucid empire of the East. Lectures 11-21 address cultural topics such as arts, philosophy, and the economy. Finally, Lectures 22-24 describe how Rome subsumed most of the Hellenistic world but also how Hellenistic culture subsumed Roman culture. An interesting theme was fusion of cultures including expansion of Greek culture into Hellenistic culture, the clash of Hellenistic and Persian cultures, the clash of Hellenistic and Egyptian cultures, and ultimately the adoption of Hellenistic culture by Rome. In some cases, the fusion succeeded and in other cases, it failed. Lectures 17 and 18 on the Maccabean Revolt will be of particular interest to Jewish and to many Christian students. Dr. McInerney is an articulate speaker, holding the student’s attention. He clearly knows his subject and he presents it clearly. I used the audio version. I don’t think the video would have added much.
Date published: 2020-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from On the Road from Greece to Rome This is the third course I have taken from Professor McInerney. I gave high marks to both of the other two and this one is no exception. I was less familiar with the subject matter of this course than the other two (“Ancient Greek Civilization” and “Age of Pericles”) and therefore learned quite a bit more. As to be expected from the title, the course does not so much focus on Alexander as it does on the period after his death. After all, the era formally begins upon his death, so in this course, Alexander the person and Alexander the conqueror take up just the first few lectures. The last lecture is devoted to the end of the Hellenistic age and the beginning of what has become known as the “Pax Romana”. The bulk of the course is devoted to what comes in-between: Egypt and the Ptolemines, the Seleucids, Pergamun and more. While I found the course organization to be reasonable, some reviewers take exception, perhaps rightly as the lectures do not necessarily follow a chronological (or sometimes even a logical) sequence. For example, the beginning and end of the course are chronological, while the middle has some lectures devoted to a particular part of the Hellenistic world (e.g. Pergamum or Alexandria), while others focus on subjects as diverse as “The Greek Novel” (who knew?) or the library at Alexandria. While this may seem disjointed, for me it worked well. My favorite lectures were on what might seem to be a topic out of context, were the two devoted to the Maccabean Revolt. Dr. McInerney uses them as an example of a rebellion against the imposition of Hellenism and also of the difficulties of the Seleucids in managing their empire. I thought that Professor McInerney was a sound lecturer, usually displaying his love and knowledge of the topic, although sometimes coming across as a bit dry. He often included readings from texts of the time, using these as examples of the points he was making. Some reviewers did not care for this approach, but for me it worked well. This is a fine course for those with a reasonable background on classical Greece and/or the campaigns of Alexander. It is handicapped (at least in the audio version) by a lack of maps, something that is not a problem for those who know the geography. Professor McInerney’s course on ancient Greece will provide a fine background for those who don’t know much about the period prior to the beginnings of this course. Professor Harl’s excellent 36-lecture course on Alexander and his campaigns, “Alexander and the Macedonian Empire" will satisfy those who wish to learn more about the man and his generalship.
Date published: 2019-07-31
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These centuries between the conquests of Alexander the Great and the rise of Rome were a time of extraordinary expansion as Greek culture stepped out onto an enormous stage and became the heart of a world-historical civilization whose intellectual, spiritual, and artistic influence endures to this day.


Jeremy McInerney

All cultures are unique, I would argue. Japanese culture, Chinese culture, Indian culture-we even know now that cultures that were once dismissed as 'primitive' in fact have extremely rich cultural lives.


University of Pennsylvania

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. Professor McInerney's research interests include topography, epigraphy and historiography. He is the author of The Folds of Parnassos: Land and Ethnicity in Ancient Pholis, and has published articles in a variety of academic journals including Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies, the American Journal of Archaeology, Hesperia, and California Studies in Classical Antiquity. In 1997, he was an invited participant at a colloquium on ethnicity in the ancient world, hosted by the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington.

By This Professor

Greeks and Macedonians

01: Greeks and Macedonians

By conquering Greece in 338 BCE, Philip II of Macedon set the stage for the rise of his son, Alexander the Great. When Alexander invaded the Persian territory of Asia Minor in 334 BCE and drove his spear into its soil, he was embarking on the greatest career of conquest the world had ever seen.

31 min
Alexander the Divine?

02: Alexander the Divine?

Alexander's path was prepared by Philip, but few could predict how the son would eclipse the father. After only two battles, Alexander would command more land than any Greek before him and would order the Persian emperor to address him as an equal. At the height of his power he would visit Egypt, there to assume the title of pharaoh and be hailed as a deity.

30 min
The Blazing Star

03: The Blazing Star

Did his Egyptian sojourn convince Alexander that he was a god or just teach him the political value of blurring the lines between human and divine? As he left Egypt and resumed his drive eastward, how would he bring the Persian emperor to battle?

30 min
Alexander—Myth and Reality

04: Alexander—Myth and Reality

Alexander had an astonishing effect on the political development of the eastern Mediterranean, yet opinions remain deeply divided about him. This was so in antiquity and remains so now. Can we discern the historical Alexander, or has the myth swallowed the man?

30 min
The Formation of the Kingdoms

05: The Formation of the Kingdoms

A generation of warfare among Alexander's successors split his empire. After these "wars of the Diadochi," three major Hellenistic kingdoms would emerge under the control of Alexander's former officers.

30 min
Egypt Under the Early Ptolemies

06: Egypt Under the Early Ptolemies

Ptolemaic Egypt is probably the most familiar and best-documented Hellenistic kingdom. In Egypt, Ptolemy, one of Alexander's companions and bodyguards, transformed himself into a new pharaoh even as he remained separate from the conquered Egyptians. How did Ptolemy and his successors blend pharaonic and Macedonian practices to create a new kingdom?

30 min
Alexandria and the Library

07: Alexandria and the Library

Alexandria was the seat of Ptolemy's court. The city's library and museum were the premier cultural institutions of the Hellenistic world. Was Alexandria, with its library and museum, a blend of Greek and Egyptian elements, or did it represent the imposition of one culture over the other?

30 min
The Seleucid Realm

08: The Seleucid Realm

The second great Hellenistic kingdom was ruled by the Seleucid dynasty, which built cities from Syria to Iran. How did the Seleucids rule a kingdom that stretched across all of Central Asia?

30 min

09: Pergamum

The Attalids, the third of the great Hellenistic dynasties, ruled from Pergamum in Asia Minor. The city had begun as a simple garrison, but at the Attalid kings' peak, its library and cultural influence rivaled Alexandria's.

31 min
Bactria, the Edge of the Hellenistic World

10: Bactria, the Edge of the Hellenistic World

Hellenism, the transplanted culture of the Greeks, flourished primarily along the shores of the eastern Mediterranean. Yet Greeks did penetrate the hinterlands and left their imprint on areas far from the coast. One such region was Ai Khanum, far to the east, in what is now Afghanistan.

30 min

11: Sculpture

Differing sharply from the Classical art that precedes it, Hellenistic art is gargantuan, often "excessive," and nakedly emotional. It explores aspects of human experience previously outside the concerns of the Greeks.

30 min

12: Poetry

Hellenistic poetry reflects a complex world in which the Greek language is part of an international culture. Great poets such as Callimachus, Theocritus, and Apollonius powerfully combine anxiety, nostalgia, and refinement in works that highlight the concerns of the day and make Hellenistic verse something new in the story of literature.

30 min
The Greek Novel

13: The Greek Novel

The novel, which is still going strong as one of our most cherished and familiar literary forms, was a creation of late Hellenism. Full of adventures set in the contemporary world, prose narratives such as "Daphnis and Chloe" remain invaluable guides to the spirit of the Hellenistic Age and lasting contributions to the interpretation of the human condition.

30 min
Stoics, Epicureans, and Skeptics

14: Stoics, Epicureans, and Skeptics

Hellenistic philosophy embodies a very different response to the anxieties of the new age. We examine the major schools of thought and relate them to the social setting in which the work of philosophy went forward.

29 min
Kingship and Legitimacy

15: Kingship and Legitimacy

The far-flung Hellenistic monarchs were Greeks or Macedonians descended from Alexander's lieutenants. As such, they could not rest their rule on the usual grounds of tradition or inheritance. How did they meet the challenge of sustaining their authority in theory and asserting it in practice?

30 min

16: Benefaction

The Hellenistic Age would witness an increasing reliance on individual citizens, often of extraordinary wealth, to keep cities from starving or going bankrupt. Earlier city-state institutions provided a model for this, but in the Hellenistic Age euergetism (voluntary gift-giving) became critical to the survival of cities.

30 min
The Maccabean Revolt, Part I

17: The Maccabean Revolt, Part I

The best-documented example of a rebellion against Hellenistic overlords by their non-Greek subjects is the Maccabean revolt, beginning in 166 B.C.E. The revolt came in response to the desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem by the soldiers of Antiochus IV. In two lectures we will examine these events, asking how and why this persecution of the Jews arose and what the revolt tells us about the relationship between Greeks and their non-Greek subjects.

30 min
The Maccabean Revolt, Part II

18: The Maccabean Revolt, Part II

In December of 167 BCE, agents of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV systematically defiled the Temple in Jerusalem. We have seen that this persecution must be set against the collapse of Seleucid fortunes in the eastern Mediterranean between 190 and 167 BCE. Now we examine these events from the viewpoints of the outraged Jewish subjects.

30 min
Rulers and Saviors

19: Rulers and Saviors

The Hellenistic Age saw traditional Greek religion develop in new ways. An emphasis on personal faith and experience led to the flourishing of mystery cults. At the same time, religion became one of the principal means of recognizing the immense power of Hellenistic kings. The public face of religion changed as more and more rulers were hailed as saviors.

31 min
Economic Growth and Social Unrest

20: Economic Growth and Social Unrest

The Hellenistic world witnessed a rapid expansion of economic activity but also an increase in social distress and even resistance to the status quo. This lecture explores evidence for these developments and shows how similar the Hellenistic Age is to our own.

30 min
The Mood of the Hellenistic Age

21: The Mood of the Hellenistic Age

The Hellenistic Age witnessed cultural contact on an unprecedented scale, as the Greeks took over areas once ruled by Egyptian pharaohs and Persian kings. The result was something radically different from the Classical Age of mainland Greece, and in this lecture we identify some of the most characteristic features of the Hellenistic world: internationalism, individualism, and a fascination with fate.

30 min
Hellenism and the Western Mediterranean

22: Hellenism and the Western Mediterranean

Following Alexander, the Macedonians marched all the way to the Hindu Kush. Yet the western Mediterranean, much nearer to Greece and Macedon, was never politically under the control of Alexander's successors. What prevented Hellenism from moving west? And what was the relationship between the Greeks and their western neighbors?

30 min
The Freedom of the Greeks

23: The Freedom of the Greeks

The political end of the Hellenistic world came at the hands of the expanding Roman Empire. How was Rome able to exert the kind of control that no single Hellenistic king had wielded since Alexander? Did Rome plan its march of conquest, or was the process more fortuitous?

31 min
<em>Pax Romana</em>

24: Pax Romana

After the defeats of Macedon and the Seleucid dynasty, the Hellenistic east became the backdrop for the final conflict between Antony and Caesar's heir Octavian. Antony's alliance with Cleopatra raised the prospect of a joint Roman-Hellenistic hegemony of the eastern Mediterranean, but Octavian had other ideas.

31 min