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Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor

The peninsula of Asian Turkey, known to the Greeks as Anatolia and to the Romans as Asia Minor, is about the size of Texas. This small subcontinent has arguably seen more history than any other comparably sized patch of Earth anywhere. Professor Kenneth W. Harl discusses Asia Minor's pivotal role in history in this engaging, original presentation.
Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 100.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb historian, superb teacher. One of the finest history programs in the Great Courses.
Date published: 2023-09-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course! This is one of Prof. Harl's early courses for The Great Courses, and in it, he provides an excellent overview of the Hittite, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods in what is now modern-day Turkey. Sure, Prof. Harl "ums" and "ahs" occasionally, as some reviewers have complained, but his lectures reflect a conversational tone as he refers to his notes as starting points for his observations rather than read from them like an audiobook. Obviously some have found his lecture style distracting, but I think Prof. Harl is a very effective presenter. And yes, he covers a lot of material, but I view that as a plus rather than a minus. The biggest negatives for this course are the outdated maps and graphics; they may have worked twenty years ago, but they are poor substitutes for the outstanding maps and graphics featured in recent courses in the Great Courses' inventory. Still, I found the course very interesting and enlightening and give it high marks.
Date published: 2023-06-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Great Civilizations of Asia Minor Very disappointed. There is too much content for so few lectures. Centuries are covered in minutes. The lecturer leaves much to be desired. He gabbles on at high speed sometimes getting tongue tied and many ums, errs and coughs. Speed too fast to think about the content. His arm waving and peripatetic are very off putting
Date published: 2023-03-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I'm a real Harl-head when i see he's the professor, its an instant 5 every time
Date published: 2023-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great content, well presented. I’ve enjoyed several courses presented by Professor Harl, all have been excellent and this course was no exception. Lectures were stimulating and detailed with a touch of humor. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2022-11-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Poor Presentation Interesting topic that needs another professor to present it
Date published: 2021-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Recurrent fascinating! We've watched this series twice through, and it's boggling - humbling how much we didn't know about the history of our country. If school children could see it, respect and support for our indigenous heritage would skyrocket.
Date published: 2021-11-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from GREAT ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS OF ASIA MINOR Overall, a pleasant and professional fast-track through centuries in search of the Hittites, etc.. Speaker seems a bit rushed to keep on track with half-hour segments and offers many points to expand the mindset of users. A worthy series.
Date published: 2021-08-16
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The peninsula of Asian Turkey, known to the Greeks as Anatolia and to the Romans as Asia Minor, is a small subcontinent that has arguably seen more history than any other comparably sized patch of Earth anywhere. Professor Kenneth W. Harl discusses Asia Minor's pivotal role in history in this engaging, original presentation.


Kenneth W. Harl

We will be looking largely at archeological evidence and analysis done by anthropologists because we are operating largely in a world without writing.


Tulane University
Dr. Kenneth W. Harl is Professor of Classical and Byzantine History at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he teaches courses in Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader history. He earned his B.A. from Trinity College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University. Recognized as an outstanding lecturer, Professor Harl has received numerous teaching awards at Tulane, including the coveted Sheldon H. Hackney Award. He has earned Tulane's annual Student Body Award for Excellence in Teaching nine times and is the recipient of Baylor University's nationwide Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teachers. In 2007, he was the Lewis P. Jones Visiting Professor in History at Wofford College. An expert on classical Anatolia, he has taken students with him into the field on excursions and to assist in excavations of Hellenistic and Roman sites in Turkey. Professor Harl has also published a wide variety of articles and books, including his current work on coins unearthed in an excavation of Gordion, Turkey, and a new book on Rome and her Iranian foes. A fellow and trustee of the American Numismatic Society, Professor Harl is well known for his studies of ancient coinage. He is the author of Civic Coins and Civic Politics in the Roman East, A.D. 180-275 and Coinage in the Roman Economy, 300 B.C. to A.D. 700.

By This Professor

The Ottoman Empire
The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes
The Vikings
The Fall of the Pagans and the Origins of Medieval Christianity
Introduction to Anatolia

01: Introduction to Anatolia

The lands around the central Turkish plateau have historically "faced" two ways. The western and southern shores have been drawn to Greece and Europe. The mountain-ringed interior has been linked to Iran and Asia proper.

30 min
First Civilizations in Anatolia

02: First Civilizations in Anatolia

Neolithic Anatolians were among the first farmers and herders, dwelling in villages with sophisticated technology and organization. From the Sumerians to the south, they learned to write and build palaces and cities.

30 min
The Hittite Empire

03: The Hittite Empire

Beginning as invaders from the Balkans, the daring Indo-European people called the Hittites overran Anatolia's core with their war chariots and founded a dynasty that rivaled the Egypt of Ramses II.

30 min
Hattušaš and Imperial Hittite Culture

04: Hattušaš and Imperial Hittite Culture

Hittite kings became the first of many conquerors who would leave their mark on the land. Near their ritual capital of Hattušaš, they carved from the living rock a mighty open-air shrine to their thousands of gods. But shortly thereafter, Hattušaš was sacked and abandoned.

26 min
Origins of Greek Civilization

05: Origins of Greek Civilization

As the Hittites were uniting Anatolia, early Greeks (called Achaeans) were visiting its western reaches. From fortress-palaces at places like Mycenae and Pylos, Achaean warlords traded and raided along the shores of Asia Minor and, in time, would become the first Greeks to clash with the armies of a great king to the east.

30 min
The Legend of Troy

06: The Legend of Troy

The most enduring legacies from early Anatolia are The Iliad and The Odyssey (c. 750 B.C.). How do the siege of Troy and the exploits of Homer's warrior chieftains fit into the wider tale of imperial struggle and decline during the Greek Dark Age (1100–750 B.C.)?

30 min
Iron Age Kingdoms of Asia Minor

07: Iron Age Kingdoms of Asia Minor

From 1200 to 1000 B.C., migrations reshaped Anatolia. Phrygians came from the Balkans, only to be overcome by Cimmerian nomads (c. 700 B.C.). In the West, Hittite provincials founded trade-rich Lydia, whose last king was Croesus.

30 min
Emergence of the Polis

08: Emergence of the Polis

From 750 B.C. the Greeks distinguished themselves with the polis, a city-state based on citizen rule and destined to influence the world. By 500 B.C., Athens had devised the first democratic constitution, with all adult male citizens forming the sovereign assembly.

31 min
Ionia and Early Greek Civilization

09: Ionia and Early Greek Civilization

The Archaic Age (750–480 B.C.), known in glimpses, remains one of history's most creative periods. Its poets, philosophers, sculptors, and architects gave birth to the mind of the West. At its forefront were the Greek trading cities of Ionia on the coast of Asia Minor and the nearby islands.

30 min
The Persian Conquest

10: The Persian Conquest

In 546 B.C., Cyrus the Great of Persia made Anatolia part of his world empire. Anatolian grandees took to Persian ways, and life across Asia Minor soon bore a Persian stamp. Only the Ionian Greeks stood apart. When they rebelled against their Persian-sponsored local tyrants in 499 B.C., war flamed forth between the Greek city-states and the Great King.

30 min
Athenian Empire and Spartan Hegemony

11: Athenian Empire and Spartan Hegemony

As the 5th century B.C. closed, war among the Greeks left the Great King once again ruler of Ionia, but with a weakened empire. It seemed that Persian and native elites would carve out kingdoms, and that Ionia would again become the meeting place of East and West. But Alexander the Great had other ideas.

30 min
Alexander the Great and the Diadochoi

12: Alexander the Great and the Diadochoi

In eight years beginning in 334 B.C., Alexander and his Macedonians overran the Persian Empire, unexpectedly altering the course of Anatolian civilization by making Hellenism the leading cultural force in Asia Minor for the next 15 centuries.

30 min
The Hellenization of Asia Minor

13: The Hellenization of Asia Minor

Alexander's successor dynasts promoted Greek culture. The Attalid kings turned their fortress city of Pergamum into a showcase of Hellenic arts and learning that the Romans admired. Elites poured their wealth into public display and buildings, and cities knew themselves to be part of a wider Hellenic world.

30 min
Rome versus the Kings of the East

14: Rome versus the Kings of the East

Pompey charged the Hellenistic cities with administering the Roman provincial system in the parts of Asia Minor the legions conquered. Thanks to his reforms, these rich cities paid for the civil wars (48–31 B.C.) that destroyed the Republic and made the brilliant politician Octavian Rome's first emperor.

30 min
Prosperity and Roman Patronage

15: Prosperity and Roman Patronage

Under the pax Romana, Hellenic cities of Anatolia attained their greatest prosperity and cultural accomplishment. Polished Hellenic aristocrats sought Roman citizenship and, more than any other provincials, imposed the notion that an emperor should act not as a ruler of subjects but as a leader of free men.

30 min
Gods and Sanctuaries of Roman Asia Minor

16: Gods and Sanctuaries of Roman Asia Minor

In the Hellenistic and Roman ages, the native gods of Anatolia assumed Hellenic guises. The record of religious life at this time is at odds with the common opinion that the public worship of civic gods (including emperors) declined before enthusiastic, irrational mystery cults.

30 min
Jews and Early Christians

17: Jews and Early Christians

Paul preached in the cities of Anatolia, converting Hellenized Jews and Judaized pagans. In A.D. 250, Christians were still a tiny minority, but with impressive institutions developed in Anatolia. When the convert Emperor Constantine (r. 306–337) summoned the First Ecumenical Council to Nicaea in 325, a momentous new chapter in religious history opened.

30 min
From Rome to Byzantium

18: From Rome to Byzantium

After a century of crisis in the Roman world, Constantine unified it and created an imperial church. By 500, Anatolia had undergone yet another cultural and religious transformation into a Christian land. Anatolia had passed over into the Byzantine age.

30 min
Constantinople, Queen of Cities

19: Constantinople, Queen of Cities

When Constantine dedicated his New Rome on the site of an old Greek colony on the European side of the Bosporus, he was founding a capital that would stand as the bastion of Roman government and classical learning under great emperors such as Justinian.

30 min
The Byzantine Dark Age

20: The Byzantine Dark Age

The restored Roman Empire of Justinian and after faced many foes, including the new armies of Islam. Urbane classical life yielded to a martial society. Fortress cities rose in the interior. Tenacious Byzantine defense broke the Arabic advance, and Anatolia prospered for a time.

30 min
Byzantine Cultural Revival

21: Byzantine Cultural Revival

Macedonian emperors revived patronage of the arts and letters at Constantinople, and this cultural rebirth was echoed across Anatolia in the 10th and 11th centuries. By 950, nobles were hiring first-class artists who painted in naturalistic styles that looked back to classical models and would influence the Italian Renaissance.

30 min
Crusaders and Seljuk Turks

22: Crusaders and Seljuk Turks

For a century, the fate of Anatolia lay poised between Byzantines and Seljuk Turks. Though damaged by Crusader depredations, the Byzantines struggled to stem the Turkish tide. As the 13th century opened, the outlines of a new Muslim Turkish civilization began to appear in Anatolia.

30 min
Muslim Transformation

23: Muslim Transformation

The sultans sponsored a new, vital Muslim society that once again reshaped the religious landscape of Anatolia, this time with mosques and minarets. The Mongol attacks of the 1240s, ironically, would help make possible the rise of a new Turkish Muslim dynasty, the Ottomans.

30 min
The Ottoman Empire

24: The Ottoman Empire

The Ottomans forged the last great Mediterranean empire, ruled from a rebuilt Constantinople. Suleiman the Magnificent's failure to capture Vienna (1529) checked Ottoman expansion, but Ottoman military power remained formidable for centuries.

30 min