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Cities of the Ancient World

From Uruk and Jericho to Athens and Rome, explore ancient urban landscapes and draw connections between the cities of centuries past and those of our modern world.
Cities of the Ancient World is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 58.
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Rated 1 out of 5 by from - poor streaming quality, never happened with any other provider - almost no visuals (educational basics teach us that this is a must, especially with online-courses, he literally only stands there and talks the whole time)
Date published: 2023-09-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Alexandria? How is it possible to create a course on ancient cities and NOT have a lecture on Alexandria, THE hub of science of it's time (as far as known)? Instead multiple lectures are dedicated to cities associated with a Eurocentric and Christian worldview - let it be known that Alexandria was the center of Greek learning, headed by Ptolemy and heirs. However, looking at the contents alone and noticing the absence of Alexandria - while appreciating the token of Uruk and one other - this is not a competent course.
Date published: 2022-10-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How Cities Evolved -- Where Cities are Going? I came to these lectures with a general interest in ancient history and cities, expecting an educational experience that would broaden my horizons in both areas. Professor Tuck's presentations did not disappoint. He certainly introduced me to many cities that I would not have encountered without his guidance, and I appreciated that. I've found myself looking at my own city (Dallas, Texas) from a broadened and richer perspective -- and wondering more about its future as the professor suggests in his closing lecture of the series. A good investment of time and attention.
Date published: 2022-09-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting course, with poor download quality Downloading with the 640*360 resolution in 2022 is inadequate. I can watch a lecture in 720p, but it downloads in nearly the lowest resolution possible? I am afraid the company discourages customers this way. I consider this approach being shortsighted. Due to this reason, I cannot recommend this product. Disappointing
Date published: 2022-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clear and informative lectures with many visuals Prof Tuck's lectures integrated ancient cities with prominent people and living conditions. He provided many visual aids including the cities themselves and display of names, places, talking points on screen. He introduced me to cities that I never heard of and explained why the cities were selected and the archaeology behind them. Prof Tuck also sprinkled some of his on-site experiences in his lectures -- along with a bit of humor. A minor complaint was sometimes he would describe an artifact that is in a particular museum -- but there would be no photos for us to experience it. Overall, the course was well worthwhile.
Date published: 2022-03-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Terrific professor I just finished lecture 24. Prior to watch this course I watched: * A New History of Life * Foundations of Western Civilization 1 & 2 * The Greek World: History & Culture * Great Tour of Greece and Turkey * Read a textbook on Greek History * Greece & Rome: An Integrated History of the Mediterranean * History & Archeology of the Bible * Holy Land Revealed * The Triumph of Christianity * Cities of Ancient World Professor Tuck is excellent. He weaves together ancient history loosely around the topic of the emergence of cities and urban planning. The course is a little bit a victim of the Great Course’s evolution in its production standards. For if this course had the same production standard as Prof Barnharts ‘Maya to Aztec: Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed’ I would rate it as spectacular. As the referenced course had many more maps, 3d reconstructions, and photos of artifacts. Similarly the digital terrain reconstructions of Jerusalem in ‘Holy Land Revealed‘ were essential to understanding the water system. Yes I supplemented the course with a book about Ancient Cities, Greece History, varied websites and a tourist reconstruction booklet of Rome. I also reviewed a couple chapters of ‘ Great Tour: Greece and Turkey’. This helped. It is a real credit to the professor how well he delivered the content largely on his own. I still highly recommend it as an integrative course about the emergence of civilization in the Mediterranean basin.
Date published: 2022-01-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My husband and I are currently watching Cities of the Ancient World. It is a wonderful course. The instructor is excellent— during his presentations, it seems as though he is speaking directly to us; he obviously knows his field; he uses humor and refers occasionally refers to some of his personal thooughts/experiences.
Date published: 2021-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating take on origin of urban planning I was watching this on the Hoopla streaming service, but I liked it so much, I decided to buy it. I've watched some of Dr. Tuck's other courses (e.g., Experiencing Rome), which were fine, but this one was awesome. I loved his exploration of ancient cities and how they reflected the development of human culture and of urban design and planning, and the relationship between the two. I've studied ancient Egypt quite a bit, and would have thought there wasn't a whole lot new I could learn about ancient Egyptian life in a Great Course, but his take on Deir El Medina, Amarna, and Kahun gave me a whole new perspective.
Date published: 2021-10-14
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We live in a world of cities-for the first time ever, the majority of the population lives in an urban environment-and reflecting on ancient models of the city" as a human phenomenon offers important lessons for our culture today. Cities of the Ancient World is your opportunity to survey the breadth of the ancient world through the context of its urban development. These 24 eye-opening lectures not only provide an invaluable look at the design and architecture of ancient cities, they also offer a flesh-and-blood glimpse into the daily lives of ordinary people and the worlds they created."


Steven L. Tuck

We're going to introduce the visual markers that serve to tell Romans about class interaction and the importance of urban spaces that create and impose Roman imperial identity and serve in ways that we would use literate works.


Miami University

Professor Steven L. Tuck is Professor of Classics at Miami University. After earning his B.A. in History and Classics at Indiana University, he received his Ph.D. in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. He held the postdoctoral Arthur and Joyce Gordon Fellowship in Latin epigraphy at The Ohio State University.

An esteemed teacher, Professor Tuck received the 2013 E. Phillips Knox Teaching Award, Miami University’s highest honor for innovative and effective undergraduate teaching. In addition, the Archaeological Institute of America, North America’s oldest and largest organization devoted to archaeology, presented him with its Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2014. He also has been named a Distinguished Scholar and an Altman Faculty Scholar at Miami University.

Professor Tuck has conducted archaeological fieldwork and research in Italy, Greece, England, and Egypt. He has directed more than a dozen study tours in Italy, concentrated on the city of Rome and the area around the Bay of Naples, including Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Island of Capri. He has given more than 50 public lectures, including as a national lecturer for the Archaeological Institute of America.

Professor Tuck is the author of numerous articles featured in international journals on such topics as the lives of sailors in the Roman navy, the schedule of gladiatorial games at Pompeii, the decorative program of the amphitheater at Capua, the professional organizations of spectacle performers, Roman sculpture, and triumphal imagery across the ancient Roman world. He is the author of the forthcoming A History of Roman Art, a lavishly illustrated introduction to the topic.

Professor Tuck has taught two previous Great Courses: Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City and Experiencing Rome: A Visual Exploration of Antiquity’s Greatest Empire.

By This Professor

Cities of the Ancient World
The Architecture of Power: Great Palaces of the Ancient World
Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City
The Mysterious Etruscans
Cities of the Ancient World


The Lure of the City

01: The Lure of the City

Cities are integral to our modern lives. Begin your tour by considering why wandering ancient humans left the forests and plains to create settlements. The fundamental question of "why" is just the first step toward understanding the inhabitants and lessons from ancient cities.

30 min
Catalhoyuk-First Experiment in Urban Living

02: Catalhoyuk-First Experiment in Urban Living

Imagine a city with no streets, no public buildings, and no common spaces. Built in layers on a small mound, the world's first city offers an intriguing window into life in the Neolithic era. Explore the remains of Çatalhöyük's family housing, murals, and religious shrines.

29 min
Jericho and Its Walls

03: Jericho and Its Walls

Nearly everyone has heard the story of the walls of Jericho, which famously came tumbling down in the book of Joshua. Look past the biblical story and find out what architectural remains suggest about this city, whose ritual spaces helped create a community and whose walls helped define this urban environment.

29 min
Uruk-City of Gilgamesh

04: Uruk-City of Gilgamesh

Shift your attention to one of the most marvelous cities in the ancient world. Located in the heart of Mesopotamia, Uruk exhibits many of the hallmarks of ancient civilization, including division of labor among its craftsmen, a class hierarchy that included professional priests, and records of art and literature.

29 min
Mysterious Mohenjo-daro

05: Mysterious Mohenjo-daro

Venture east to the Indus Valley, home of one of the great unknowns among ancient civilizations. The lack of written evidence from the region means we are reliant on the archaeological record to understand the culture of cities such as Mohenjo-daro. Tour its so-called citadel in the city center, examine its remarkable water systems, and more.

31 min
Kahun-Company Town in the Desert

06: Kahun-Company Town in the Desert

Enter the world of ancient Egypt during the peaceful era of the Middle Kingdom. Here in the desert, paid laborers built tombs and temples for the pharaohs. To house the laborers, the Egyptians built Kahun, a planned city whose walls and layout reinforced the system of social class and served as a means of control over the population.

32 min
Work and Life at Deir el-Medina

07: Work and Life at Deir el-Medina

At the height of Egyptian power during the New Kingdom, skilled workers enjoyed more prosperity than ever before, and opportunities for promotion allowed for great social mobility. Meet several ordinary workers from this society and review some of the literature that teaches us about Egyptian social structure.

30 min
Amarna-Revolutionary Capital

08: Amarna-Revolutionary Capital

Deliberately created as a capital city near the center of the kingdom, Amarna served as an administrative and religious center designed to redirect political authority to the pharaoh, Amenhotep IV. Study some of the most iconic images from ancient Egypt and unpack the relationship between city planning and the social structure.

28 min
Knossos-Palace, City, or Temple?

09: Knossos-Palace, City, or Temple?

Delve into the remarkable Minoan city of Knossos, a labyrinthine complex integrated into the natural landscape. This sophisticated example of urban design was home to figures of myth, religious spectacles, sizable food storage and distribution areas, and a unique system of architecture. Tour this visionary civilization.

28 min
Akrotiri-Bronze Age Pompeii

10: Akrotiri-Bronze Age Pompeii

Visit another Minoan city, which was obliterated by one of the largest volcanic eruptions in human history. The eruption destroyed much of the city but also preserved a great deal. Look at some of the surviving houses and wall paintings and find out what archaeologists can deduce about daily life in the city from its remains.

27 min
Mycenae, Tiryns, and the Mask of Agamemnon

11: Mycenae, Tiryns, and the Mask of Agamemnon

Investigate the culture of Bronze Age Greece. After learning about the intriguing masonry at Tiryns and the impressive walls of Mycenae, you'll take a look at how vernacular architecture reveals differences in political systems among regional powers. Then find out about the Mycenaean collapse and the end of the era.

32 min
Athens-Civic Buildings and Civic Identity

12: Athens-Civic Buildings and Civic Identity

Leap forward to classical Athens in the Golden Age of the 5th century B.C. Tour some of the city's most well-known landmarks, including the Agora, the Acropolis, and the Parthenon. Learn about the Periclean building program in the years following the Persian Wars, and examine some of the city's great statues and friezes.

30 min
Athenian Domestic Architecture

13: Athenian Domestic Architecture

Turn from the Athenian public sphere to the domestic spaces and find out what life was like for everyday citizens. See how a shoemaker or a sculptor might fill his day-including a stop by the Agora-and consider gender separation and the role of women in ancient Greece.

33 min
Hippodamian Planning-Miletus and Ephesus

14: Hippodamian Planning-Miletus and Ephesus

Meet Hippodamus of Miletus, the father of urban planning. He used the system of orthogonal planning-including broad avenues and streets at right angles-to reflect the ideal social order. From city blocks to the creation of districts, see this system in action and discover its impact on the history of urban design.

29 min
Olynthus-A Classical Greek City Preserved

15: Olynthus-A Classical Greek City Preserved

Founded for defense at the start of the Peloponnesian War, the planned city of Olynthus contains the best-preserved classical houses yet excavated from anywhere in the Greek world. Walk among the row houses and suburban villas to gain a rare glimpse into the patterns of domestic life in the ancient world.

28 min
Wonder and Diversity at Alexandria

16: Wonder and Diversity at Alexandria

Built directly on the seacoast and a major transportation hub, Alexandria is the first massive, cosmopolitan city we know of in antiquity. Its lighthouse was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the variety of artists' workshops and its ethnic diversity made Alexandria the Greek cultural center.

30 min
Pergamon-The New Theatricality

17: Pergamon-The New Theatricality

While Hippodamian planning emphasized practicality, the organic layout of Pergamon emphasized theatricality, great scale, and drama-all intended to evoke wonder in viewers. See how this great city's monuments and public buildings imitated and tried to surpass Periclean Athens.

30 min
The Good Life in Rome

18: The Good Life in Rome

Travel through Rome in the footsteps of a well-to-do citizen, from his freestanding apartment complex to the political happenings at the Forum Romanum to the Markets of Trajan. Then witness how all social classes interacted at the public baths, where lower classes wrangled dinner invitations from wealthy Romans.

29 min
The Lives of the Poor in Rome

19: The Lives of the Poor in Rome

Trace a day in the life of an immigrant glass blower in Rome, whose life would be considerably less fortunate thanks to xenophobia, dark and dank tenement housing, and the strong possibility of death by fire, flood, or famine. Then look at what alternatives poor Romans had, including life as a gladiator or soldier.

29 min
Ostia-Middle-Class Harbor Town

20: Ostia-Middle-Class Harbor Town

One of the most intriguing cities in the ancient world is Ostia, a "producer city" that appears to have been comprised solely of middle- and working-class people. Go inside the warehouses and storage buildings to learn about the city's economy, and then reflect on what it means to have no evidence of the desperately poor or extravagantly wealthy.

28 min
Timgad-More Roman Than Rome

21: Timgad-More Roman Than Rome

Take an excursion to the frontiers of the Roman Empire, where a group of military veterans lived in a planned city that represented the ideal Roman vision. Because many of these veterans had recently earned full citizenship, they were notably patriotic, transmitting much of Roman culture into new territory through this community.

29 min
Karanis-On the Fringes of the Empire

22: Karanis-On the Fringes of the Empire

Consider another city at the edge of the empire-an agricultural community comprised of a diverse population. Here you'll learn about the farm-based economy and its relationship to the consumer city of Rome, and you'll examine the integration of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian ethnic groups.

28 min
Constantinople-The Last Ancient City

23: Constantinople-The Last Ancient City

Your tour of ancient cities closes with an examination of Constantinople, which bridges the gap between the era of antiquity and the Middle Ages. Witness the development of this city and the political demonstrations and riots that accompanied its growth. You'll also study the Hagia Sophia, whose dome is considered the greatest work of Byzantine architecture.

29 min
Lessons and Legacies of Ancient Urban Life

24: Lessons and Legacies of Ancient Urban Life

What does this survey of ancient cities add up to? What lessons can we draw from antiquity? Conclude the course with a look at Venice and London to see what elements of ancient cities have endured in modern architecture and urban design. Then reflect on the future of the city.

33 min