Living History: Experiencing Great Events of the Ancient and Medieval Worlds

Rated 5 out of 5 by from a delight Prof Garland tells a story - actually, many stories - & does it wonderfully. I always enjoyed history in school - i'd have enjoyed it even more had i the good fortune to have Garland as my teacher. He helps us better understand the necessary backdrops on his way to entertaining & educating at the same time.
Date published: 2021-03-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I love the course! I really love how passionate the instructor is! He explains moments in history that make it feel like you are actually there. I especially loved learning about Greek and Roman history! I really love how this course lets you use your imagination, and even though I am not very familiar with these events I still could picture and understand them! Thank you Professor Garland!
Date published: 2021-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Original approach, enthusiastically presented The course is necessarily selective, since defining Great Events of history is very subjective. However, I would certainly not object to Dr Garland's selection. His scholarship and erudition which guarantee the contents of his lectures, along with his contagious enthusiasm makes the course not only of high educational value, but also easy to follow even for a novice. I have only one point on which I beg to disagree with prof. Garland: He bases his account of Jesus' trial solely on the Gospels. Although his account is compelling, the purpose of Gospels, in the opinion of many if not most scholars and historians, was not of recording history as we understand it now, but to promote and spread Faith. And in that the Gospels certainly remarkably succeeded.
Date published: 2021-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging and fun way to learn history I am a huge fan of history, and this course not only teaches you about the historic moment but also the experience of it, the small details that don't always make the history books. Professor Garland is engaging, brilliant and has a sense of humor that makes learning fun.
Date published: 2020-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect Great course. So glad I bought it. The professor knows his material and loves it. Great delivery.
Date published: 2020-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from ACCURATE description of the lectures deleivered Great approach to add humans side to each chapter and project politics and emotions of people involved. Much more real than dry facts of battles and dates.
Date published: 2020-08-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The other side of history Prof. R. Garland is the best. Hope he is working on another. He makes our language sound beautiful. Am ordering another for a friend. Thank you for your work.
Date published: 2020-08-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Turning points in american history I enjoyed how the professor added anecdotes to tell the story
Date published: 2020-07-27
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Living History: Experiencing Great Events of the Ancient and Medieval Worlds
Course Trailer
Ramesses II: Heartbeat of History
1: Ramesses II: Heartbeat of History

What do we mean by "living history"? Take an imaginative leap into the ancient world and discover the moment-by-moment heartbeat of history. Your first stop is the Battle of Kadesh, the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II's all-but-disastrous campaign against the Hittites. See how the king spins a tactical retreat into a glorious victory....

33 min
Marathon: The Persians Have Landed!
2: Marathon: The Persians Have Landed!

Professor Garland takes you into the Battle of Marathon to show how the outnumbered Athenians scramble for help before heading to the coast for an impressive fight against the invading Persians. The Athenian debates, their surprise running charge into battle, and the strenuous marches come to life in visceral detail....

33 min
Oresteia: Judgment at the Dionysia
3: Oresteia: Judgment at the Dionysia

Take a break from battle and head to the Theater of Dionysis on a warm March day to view one of the most astounding theatrical performances in history. Not only is Aeschylus's Oresteia an innovative dramatic trilogy, the trial of Orestes is a deeply relevant consideration of Athenian democracy at a time of great unease....

32 min
Attack on Attica: Pericles's Gamble
4: Attack on Attica: Pericles's Gamble

Delve into the time of Pericles and the Peloponnesian War, where political action has required rural citizens to head into the city. There, the cramped urban conditions and pestilence breeds disaffection among the citizenry. Hear what Pericles had to say to inspire Athenians for the continued glory of the city....

32 min
Socrates on Trial: For the Defense
5: Socrates on Trial: For the Defense

You might think you know Socrates, but in this lecture you'll encounter a whole new context for understanding one of the Greeks' most famous citizens. In the wake of the Peloponnesian War, tension lingers following the overthrow of an oligarchy in Athens, and the democratic population is in search of a fall guy. See how Socrates fits the bill....

33 min
Conspiracy! Murder of Philip II
6: Conspiracy! Murder of Philip II

Murder has always intrigued us, especially when the fate of a state hangs in the balance. Explore the mystery of Philip II of Macedonia, who is murdered amid a wedding celebration in 336 B.C.E. Is he killed by a jilted lover? A jealous wife? An ambitious son? This lecture takes you into Macedonian court life and considers the possible motives and social intrigue....

31 min
Alexander the Great: Punjab Revolt
7: Alexander the Great: Punjab Revolt

Alexander is one of history's most interesting characters-a brilliant, flawed, complex leader. A restless megalomaniac tutored by Aristotle, he drives his army across the ancient world to conquer one land after another until they reach northeast India. There, his army revolts and forces him to retreat. Get inside the head of this fascinating leader....

32 min
Pyrrhus: Deadly Dreams of Empire
8: Pyrrhus: Deadly Dreams of Empire

The Greeks had a tremendous run on the world stage, but their dominion arguably comes to an end the moment Pyrrhus sets sail for Italy. Although he is "victorious" in his conquest against the Romans, his withdrawals pave the way for Rome to come to the fore as the next great world power. See what drives Pyrrhus forward, and what holds him back....

32 min
India's Ashoka the Great Repents
9: India's Ashoka the Great Repents

Meet Ashoka the Great, whose story was all but forgotten until his carved edicts were unearthed in the 19th century. As leader of India, he leads a bloody charge into the neighboring province of Kalinga-but guilt from the battle drives him toward a transformative conversion. For the rest of his reign, he serves as a paragon of Buddhist morality....

33 min
Hannibal: Rome Holds Its Breath
10: Hannibal: Rome Holds Its Breath

Hannibal, the great Carthaginian general, is one of the most remarkable military leaders of all time. During the Punic Wars he led his army to an astounding tactical victory against the Romans, and then held the defeated soldiers captive for ransom. Destiny hung in the balance as Rome awaited Hannibal's expected advance against the city....

30 min
The Final Days of Julius Caesar
11: The Final Days of Julius Caesar

Continue your study of some of history's most enigmatic characters with a look at Julius Caesar, whose infamous murder on the Ides of March ranks as one of the most consequential assassinations. Professor Garland introduces you to Caesar's character before walking you through the conspiracy of that fateful day....

30 min
Antony and Cleopatra's Death Pact
12: Antony and Cleopatra's Death Pact

In the wake of Caesar's assassination, power hangs in the balance as Mark Antony squares off against Octavian for sole control of Rome's empire. When the tide of the Battle of Actium turns against Mark Antony, his lover Cleopatra flees-and he decides to follow her, leaving the future of Rome to Octavian. Examine this decision and the tragedy that ensues for both Antony and Cleopatra....

32 min
Jesus under Surveillance and Arrest
13: Jesus under Surveillance and Arrest

Travel to the Roman province of Judea, where a humble carpenter has entered Jerusalem during the Passover. The city is seething with political and religious discontent, and Jesus is seen as a troublemaker. Witness his arrest and interrogation by the priests and Pontius Pilate, and consider Pilate's decision to put Jesus to death....

30 min
Jerusalem Tinderbox: Temple in Flames
14: Jerusalem Tinderbox: Temple in Flames

Continue your exploration of Jerusalem, this time around 66 C.E., when the city's political turmoil reaches it peak. An insurgency rises up over taxes, and the ensuing Roman siege sparks a civil war. At the end of the Great Jewish Revolt, the city is in ruins, the Temple has been burned, and the Romans crucify thousands of Jewish prisoners....

32 min
Roman Colosseum: Blood in the Arena
15: Roman Colosseum: Blood in the Arena

Visit the newly finished Roman amphitheater circa 80 C.E., where the emperor Titus will celebrate the consolidation of his family's dynasty by hosting 100 days of gladiatorial games. Bloodthirsty and vicious, the spectacle is nonetheless captivating. After learning about the Colosseum's engineering, you'll experience what it was like to be there for the games....

32 min
Visigoth King Alaric Descends on Rome
16: Visigoth King Alaric Descends on Rome

On occasion, individual personalities shape large contours of history. Such is the case with King Alaric, the charismatic leader of the Visigoths, who conquers many Roman outposts before laying siege to the city itself. His victories don't conclude with the end of Rome, but it's clear the city's power is in decline....

32 min
Nika Riots at the Racetrack: Theodora
17: Nika Riots at the Racetrack: Theodora

Head east to Constantinople, seat of the Byzantine Empire and the eastern counterpart to Rome. During a day of chariot races at the hippodrome, riots break out and threaten the Emperor Justinian and his politically savvy wife, Theodora. Learn about this unorthodox marriage and how Theodora's counsel ultimately saves the empire....

31 min
The Concubine Empress: Wu Zetian
18: The Concubine Empress: Wu Zetian

Wu Zetian's story is one of the most remarkable in all of history. She entered adulthood as a classically educated concubine during China's Tang Dynasty, and then worked her way up the social ladder to marry an emperor. Professor Garland charts her rise and shows how her success hinges on the mystery surrounding a child's death....

32 min
Muhammad's Awakening and Escape
19: Muhammad's Awakening and Escape

Witness the founding of Islam by entering the world of Mecca in 622, where a prosperous businessman named Muhammad has a revelation that changes the course of history. Learn about his conversion and his journey to Medina. There he builds a community that will soon spread around the globe....

32 min
Charles Martel Defeats the Muslims
20: Charles Martel Defeats the Muslims

Take the battlefield in one of the most decisive battles ever fought between Muslims and Europeans. In the century after Muhammad, Islam's spread seemed unstoppable until the disastrous Battle of Toulouse followed by the Battle of Tours, in which Charles Martel, leader of the Franks, defeats the Muslim invaders....

32 min
Culture Shock! Travels of Ibn Fadlan
21: Culture Shock! Travels of Ibn Fadlan

Follow the Abbasid Caliphate's administrator, Ibn Fadlan, as he travels from cosmopolitan Baghdad to the rustic wilds of central Asia. He brings money and instructions to King Almis of the Volga Bulgars, who has recently converted to Islam. Then he visits the Slavic Rus tribe for a bizarre and fascinating encounter....

31 min
Vladimir Smashes the Idols of the Rus
22: Vladimir Smashes the Idols of the Rus

Observe the marriage of Vladimir, the Grand Duke of Kiev, to Princess Anna, the sister to Byzantine Emperor Basil II, a deal brokered so Vladimir will send mercenary troops to Constantinople. Following the wedding, Vladimir makes it his mission to convert his land to Christianity by fiat and suppress paganism, thus founding the Russian Orthodox Church....

33 min
Charlemagne Saves Leo III, Rogue Pope
23: Charlemagne Saves Leo III, Rogue Pope

Pope Leo III is something of a rascal, possibly a philanderer, and involved in shady business deals. See how his relationship with Charlemagne, king of the Franks, keeps him out of trouble with the Vatican Council and how he alters the course of history when he crowns Charlemagne during a nativity mass, thus giving birth to the notion of "Europe."...

31 min
Urban II Unleashes the First Crusade
24: Urban II Unleashes the First Crusade

Again and again, we see how history turns on a dime. Your journey ends in Avignon in 1095, when Pope Urban II gives a speech that shapes the next thousand years of European history. After calling the people to action, thousands take up arms and begin the long trek to fight the Muslims and retake Jerusalem....

33 min
Robert Garland

Working for the Great Courses enables me to reach people who prize learning for learning's sake. It's they who inspire me to close the gap between past and present, by demonstrating what it meant then, and what it means now, to be human.


University College London


Colgate University

About Robert Garland

Dr. Robert S.J. Garland is the Roy D. and Margaret B. Wooster Professor of the Classics at Colgate University. He earned his B.A. in Classics from Manchester University, his M.A. in Classics from McMaster University, and his Ph.D. in Ancient History from University College London. A former Fulbright Scholar and recipient of the George Grote Ancient History Prize, Professor Garland has educated students and audiences at a variety of levels. In addition to teaching classics at Colgate University, he has taught English and Drama to secondary school students and lectured at universities throughout Britain as well as the British School of Archaeology in Athens. Professor Garland is the author of numerous articles in both academic and popular journals and books capturing details of all aspects of ancient Greek and Roman life, including The Greek Way of Life: From Conception to Old Age; Introducing New Gods: The Politics of Athenian Religion; and Daily Life of the Ancient Greeks. His expertise has been featured in The History Channel's Last Stand of the 300, and he has repeatedly served as a consultant for educational film companies.

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