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Classical Archaeology of Ancient Greece and Rome

Marvel at the exotic adventures, unexpected insights, and abiding mysteries of archaeology’s fabled history in this fast-paced narrative that unfolds like a series of detective stories.
Classical Archaeology of Ancient Greece and Rome is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 115.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Archeological Survey of Ancient Life The initial lectures concerning archaeological research methods provide great insight into exactly how an archaeologist works. The middle group of lectures covers the famous (Troy, Pompeii) 19th Century excavations as well as the lesser known (e.g., the search for amphorae on the Mediterranean seabed to establish ancient shipping lanes). It's the final grouping that held my interest the most in using archaeological methods to explain how the average classical Greek and Roman man and woman lived their daily lives, from providing themselves with bread and wine to attending public entertainments. Dr. Hale's delivery held my attention and arouses my curiosity to learn more about the everyday ancient person and get beyond the usual lives of Alexander and Caesar, for example. Altogether a truly great course!
Date published: 2024-06-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Best Professors This is the second TGC course by John Hale that I have purchased and watched in entirety. Besides the course material being a lifelong favorite of mine and the fact that I so much enjoyed this professor with The Greek and Persian Wars, this was a no-brainer must-see! And the course did not disappoint. John Hale reminds me of the best, most influential professors I had while earning two college degrees. The infectious enthusiasm for his subject matter is so evident and inspiring. His would be the in-person class I would look forward to, arrive early for, and just soak up the presentation. The animations of the arms, hands, and expressions, which can be a distraction with some lecturers, is instead part of the enthralling imagination generated with John Hale. An audio version only would miss out on this essential part of the enthusiasm. Peace, Love, Archaeology!
Date published: 2023-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This was one of the best presented course I have bought . Dr John Hale has a style of teaching like a passionate story teller. His descriptions and pictures of ancient site brings the listeners there. Bing watched .. loved every moment.
Date published: 2022-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from New Interests. This course was one of my earliest experiences of Great Courses. I am not a historian and have no experience of archeology. I bought the course because I had developed an interest in Latin and The Romans-and the syllabus mentioned some cities I had visited some time before on a holiday sailing down the coast of Turkey. I found the course intriguing and after one lecture I couldn’t wait to hear the next. The lecturer was excellent. He is thorough, clear and logical and gives glances of a great sense of humour. As soon as I was aware that he had also a course on Persian Wars I ordered it. I am only half way but have not been disappointed. It shows the same elements of scholarship, communication and humour as the first course. Learning really can be enjoyable.
Date published: 2022-01-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from super course purchased this course several years ago - it is a must before visiting greece or rome - you'll get so much more out of your trip - there's beaucoup info in these lectures - you'll feel like you've already been there by the end of the course - the instructor is excellent - a master at his field with nice amiable delivery
Date published: 2021-12-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really excellent lectures. I found this course very interesting. Professor Hale demonstrates a comprehensive knowledge of all aspects of his subject in an engaging and easy to follow way. I thoroughly enjoyed this whole course and learned a lot.
Date published: 2021-10-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Says what it's about. Bought this for myself after listening to the first 6 lectures. Had to have it to review and rereview. Thrilled beyond words for finally hearing about things that always peaked my curiosity without papers and exams looming over my head.
Date published: 2021-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great course! I used Dr. Hale's "Great Tours" to tour through Greece. A great resource that took me to many unexpected places! This time he did not disappoint either. This was not only a great course on archeology, but on human nature as well. -- It is sad to see that the archeologists who were self-promoting are the ones we remember, while others did better work! I was also impressed when he said that the arch was not, as often alleged, a Roman invention. In January 2020 we stood at the Ramesseum or temple of Karnak. (I forgot which one.) Seeing the arched grain silos I said, "Must be Roman." With a smile the Egyptologist, who went with said, "No from the time of Ramesses. The Egyptians built arches millennia before Rome."
Date published: 2021-02-21
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With the skill of a born storyteller Professor John R. Hale mixes the exotic adventures, unexpected insights, and abiding mysteries of archaeology's fabled history with anecdotes of his own extensive field experience to create an extremely fast-paced narrative that unfolds like a series of detective stories.


John R. Hale

The most important record of religious history resides not in books and sacred texts but buried in the earth.


University of Louisville
Dr. John R. Hale is the Director of Liberal Studies at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. He earned his B.A. at Yale University and his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge in England. Professor Hale teaches introductory courses on archaeology, as well as more specialized courses on the Bronze Age, the ancient Greeks, the Roman world, Celtic cultures, the Vikings, and nautical and underwater archaeology. An accomplished instructor, Professor Hale is also an archaeologist with more than 30 years of fieldwork experience. He has excavated at a Romano-British town in Lincolnshire, England, and at the Roman Villa of Torre de Palma in Portugal. Among other places, he has carried out interdisciplinary studies of ancient oracle sites in Greece and Turkey, including the famous Delphic oracle, and participated in an undersea search in Greek waters for lost fleets from the time of the Persian Wars. Professor Hale has received many awards for distinguished teaching, including the Panhellenic Teacher of the Year Award and the Delphi Center Award. His writing has been published in the journals Antiquity, The Classical Bulletin, the Journal of Roman Archaeology, and Scientific American.

By This Professor

The Art of Public Speaking
The Great Tours: Greece and Turkey, from Athens to Istanbul
Exploring the Roots of Religion
Archaeology’s Big Bang

01: Archaeology’s Big Bang

In 1738, Roque Joaquin Alcubierre began the first systematic excavations of Herculaneum, a Roman city buried during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79. This spectacular dig marked the beginning of archaeology as a scientific discipline.

33 min
“Ode on a Grecian Urn”

02: “Ode on a Grecian Urn”

The excavations at Herculaneum and nearby Pompeii fueled an already enthusiastic cult for collecting Greek and Roman antiquities, and sparked new insights into ancient art and history by scholars such as Johann Joachim Winckelmann.

30 min
A Quest for the Trojan War

03: A Quest for the Trojan War

The superstar of archaeology in the 19th century was Heinrich Schliemann, who was inspired by the Homeric epics to search for Troy, Mycenae, and other fabled Bronze Age sites, making remarkable and controversial discoveries in the process.

31 min
How to Dig

04: How to Dig

Archaeology was a trial-by-error affair of largely haphazard digging until General Lane Fox (later Lord Pitt-Rivers) developed scientific methods of fieldwork, later improved by Mortimer Wheeler in his excavations of Roman sites in Britain.

31 min
First Find Your Site

05: First Find Your Site

This lecture looks at techniques for finding archaeological sites, including the use of technology that sees below the surface. One famous archaeologist achieved success by simply asking, "If I were a Bronze Age king, where would I put my palace?"

31 min
Taking the Search Underwater

06: Taking the Search Underwater

The bottom of the Mediterranean Sea is a museum of ancient shipwrecks and artifacts. Jacques Cousteau, coinventor of SCUBA gear, helped pioneer underwater archaeology, followed by George Bass, who brought rigorous surface techniques to the sea floor.

30 min
Cracking the Codes

07: Cracking the Codes

Epigraphy is the study of ancient inscriptions, which are often found in sites around the Mediterranean. This lecture covers the deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone, and the decoding of Linear B, a late Bronze Age script.

31 min
Techniques for Successful Dating

08: Techniques for Successful Dating

To establish accurate dates, archaeologists employ high-tech methods such as radiocarbon and thermoluminescence. The most useful and precise technique is the simplest, tree-ring dating, which can determine the exact year and also the climate associated.

31 min
Reconstructing Vanished Environments

09: Reconstructing Vanished Environments

Archaeologists turn to geologists, soil scientists, botanists, palynologists, and zoologists to answer a range of questions about the history and setting of an artifact or site. This expertise is also useful for identifying fakes and forgeries.

31 min
“Not Artifacts but People”

10: “Not Artifacts but People”

The study of human remains opens a window on life in the ancient world, concerning diet, disease, longevity, and other demographic data. This lecture looks at several case histories, including an athlete, a gladiator, and King Philip of Macedon.

33 min
Archaeology by Experiment

11: Archaeology by Experiment

Experimental archaeology tests the technology of the ancient world by recreating it as accurately as possible, shedding light on such arts as shipbuilding, chariot racing, pottery making, and acoustical engineering in amphitheaters.

32 min
Return to Vesuvius

12: Return to Vesuvius

This lecture examines the digs at Pompeii and Herculaneum in light of the many innovations in archaeological technique over the last century, including the 1980 discovery of 300 bodies trapped at dockside during the eruption.

30 min
Gournia—Harriet Boyd and the Mother Goddess

13: Gournia—Harriet Boyd and the Mother Goddess

Starting the section of the course focusing on specific sites, this lecture looks at the remarkable career of Harriet Boyd, discoverer of a Bronze Age Minoan town at Gournia, Crete, complete with a shrine to a snake goddess.

31 min
Thera—A Bronze Age Atlantis?

14: Thera—A Bronze Age Atlantis?

Popularly identified with Atlantis because of the richness of its vanished civilization, Akrotiri on the Greek island of Santorini was destroyed by earthquake and volcanic eruption, possibly as early as 1670 B.C.

31 min
Olympia—Games and Gods

15: Olympia—Games and Gods

Excavations at Olympia have recovered thousands of artifacts relating to the ancient Olympic games and the religious cults practiced at the site, including the workshop of Phidias, the sculptor of the temple's lost statue of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders.

31 min
Athens’s Agora—Where Socrates Walked

16: Athens’s Agora—Where Socrates Walked

The Agora was Athens's civic and commercial center. This lecture tours the American-led excavation of the Agora, ongoing since 1931, giving a glimpse of a typical day for an archaeologist - and for an Athenian in the Classical Age.

31 min
Delphi—Questioning the Oracle

17: Delphi—Questioning the Oracle

The ancient legends of the oracle of Delphi have been confirmed by contributions from a number of modern scientific disciplines. Research by Dr. Hale and a colleague overthrew a century-long view that had rejected the role of intoxicating gases in the

30 min
Kyrenia—Lost Ship of the Hellenistic Age

18: Kyrenia—Lost Ship of the Hellenistic Age

Ancient writings give almost no details about Greek or Roman merchant ships and freighters, but a 4th-century B.C. wreck off Kyrenia, Cyprus, miraculously preserved 60 percent of the hull, allowing exact replicas to be built and tested.

30 min
Riace—Warriors from the Sea

19: Riace—Warriors from the Sea

Discovered by a diver in 1972, two ancient statues known as the Riace Bronzes are the site of the world's smallest archaeological dig: a microscopic study of their clay cores in an attempt to ascertain their date and place of manufacture.

31 min
Rome—Foundation Myths and Archaeology

20: Rome—Foundation Myths and Archaeology

How do the myths of Rome's founding match archaeological evidence? This lecture looks at such traditions as Rome's connection to Troy, its foundation date, its relation to neighboring towns, and the site of the hut of Romulus.

31 min
Caesarea Maritima—A Roman City in Judea

21: Caesarea Maritima—A Roman City in Judea

Caesarea Maritima on the coast of Israel was an important harbor and administrative center that tied King Herod of Judea to the Roman world. The now-submerged harbor works are an extraordinary example of Roman engineering.

30 min
Teutoburg—Battlefield Archaeology

22: Teutoburg—Battlefield Archaeology

In A.D. 9, German tribesmen ambushed and massacred three Roman legions in the Teutoburg Forest. The battle site was long lost until archeologists recently pinpointed the location and uncovered details that clarify German tactics.

31 min
Bath—Healing Waters at Aquae Sulis

23: Bath—Healing Waters at Aquae Sulis

The spa at Aquae Sulis in modern Bath, England, was a natural wonder of the Roman Empire. Excavations have uncovered a range of objects, including curse tablets and more than 10,000 coins, an early example of the custom of tossing coins in water.

31 min
Torre de Palma—A Farm in the Far West

24: Torre de Palma—A Farm in the Far West

In 1947, a chance discovery on a Portuguese farm initiated the excavation of an entire Roman country estate from the later empire, when wealthy Romans had abandoned the cities. Dr. Hale himself has participated in the dig since 1983.

31 min
Roots of Classical Culture

25: Roots of Classical Culture

Where did Classical civilization originate, and what does it owe to the older civilizations of Egypt and the Near East? Archaeological evidence suggests there was no clear-cut time or place of birth, rather the culture developed slowly and unevenly over millennia.

31 min
The Texture of Everyday Life

26: The Texture of Everyday Life

Using the wealth of evidence from the excavations at Pompeii, this lecture explores aspects of everyday life in Classical antiquity, including childhood, games and pastimes, public latrines, reading, timekeeping, baths, and sex.

30 min
Their Daily Bread

27: Their Daily Bread

Vast sectors of the ancient economy were devoted to securing grain imports for bread. Obsession with grain was the basis for the mystery cult of the goddess Demeter at Eleusis. Grit in bread provides a method for gauging the age of human remains through patters of teeth wear.

31 min
Voyaging on a Dark Sea of Wine

28: Voyaging on a Dark Sea of Wine

Wine was an essential element of Greco-Roman culture. Wrecks from all over the Mediterranean attest to the long-distance trade in wine, and the culture surrounding the grape penetrated into many aspects of daily life including religion.

30 min
Shows and Circuses—Rome’s “Virtual Reality”

29: Shows and Circuses—Rome’s “Virtual Reality”

To Romans the circus meant the racetrack, particularly the chariot races. Their love of spectacle also took in gladiatorial shows and combat with wild beasts at the Colosseum, where excavations reveal that the animals were in terrible health.

33 min
Engineering and Technology

30: Engineering and Technology

The Greeks and especially the Romans are renowned for their waterworks. Less well-known technological feats include an early pipe organ and a rudimentary astronomical computer, discovered as a mass of gears aboard a shipwreck.

31 min
Slaves—A Silent Majority?

31: Slaves—A Silent Majority?

The ancient economy relied heavily on slavery. Archaeology reveals the nature of the institution, which differed in significant ways from American antebellum slavery. One difference: potentially everyone was a slave, if captured in war.

32 min
Women of Greece and Rome

32: Women of Greece and Rome

Archaeology has made surprising findings about the roles of women in antiquity, including graves of probable female soldiers and gladiators. Julia Felix of Pompeii is one woman about whom archaeology tells a full and personal story.

31 min
Hadrian—Mark of the Individual

33: Hadrian—Mark of the Individual

Emperor Hadrian is the most archaeologically visible of all Roman emperors. From designs on his coins to such gigantic projects as the Pantheon and Hadrian's Wall, he tried to remake the empire and set it on a new course.

33 min
Crucible of New Faiths

34: Crucible of New Faiths

One of the striking features of the Classical world is the presence of temples in every city, with a limited range of deities presiding from one end of the Mediterranean to the other. Archaeologists find signs of alternative cults, of which Christianity was one.

30 min
The End of the World—A Coroner’s Report

35: The End of the World—A Coroner’s Report

Ancient writers do not seem aware of a "fall of the Roman Empire." Nonetheless the remains of villas such as Torre de Palma show a gradual cannibalizing of infrastructure to make do in what were clearly increasingly difficult times.

30 min
A Bridge across the Torrent

36: A Bridge across the Torrent

A Roman bridge in Spain bears the inscription: "This bridge will last forever." The secret of the Classical world was the desire of many of its leaders and creators to build for eternity. If nothing else, archaeology has brought to light more and more evidence of their enduring achievements.

33 min