Origins of Great Ancient Civilizations

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learned, Unlooked For, More About My own Faith! This was wonderful. I took this up to learn specifically about the Babylonian empire, research for a book I am writing, and unlooked for learned surprisingly wonderful and new details about the origins of my own faith. Dr. Harl is an energetic, compassionate, and intelligent lecturer with a wry humor and a complete grasp of his topics, all set within a perfect sense of humility. He lacks a shred of the arrogance so typical in academia and never talks down to you. The illustrations and maps were especially helpful in solidifying my understanding of what he discussed. Now, I feel even more confident speaking and writing on this subject. Thank you Dr. Harl, and Great Courses!
Date published: 2021-02-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Bof.... Following this course I remembered why I wasn't good at history in Junior High. In my old age I am interested in ancient history and archeology but this was too much of a bombardment of dates and names rather than an overview of the origins and the impact of each great civilization. I cannot believe some say the professor is entertaining and popular. He is knowledgeable for sure but I was glad to reach lesson 12 and that there was no exam.
Date published: 2020-11-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Scientific historical approach. First, let me tell you that I would recommend this course, but not to everybody. The course has a lot of information compressed in just 12 classes. The professor is very knowledgeable, but it goes fast (I think that he didn't have any other choice) which require a person really interested in the subject to take the whole course. My main motivation was to study the civilizations preceding the Greeks so I can learn more about them with the right background; I think my goal was fulfilled 100% by this class. As a comment aside from the excellent quality of the course; it doesn't cease to amaze me the violence always present in human history. Most of human history is told around invasions, war, creation of empires, death and destruction (with subsequence reconstruction, to be fair). I think that our history could had been a lot better if it were about prosperity, peace, understanding, culture and assimilation.
Date published: 2020-10-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Impeccable information If you are interested in archaeology and the human and condition of our ancestral past, then you have to purchase this series. To see how humans have developed and progressed in many fields.
Date published: 2020-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Packed with information! I am really enjoying this class. The teacher is marvelous.
Date published: 2020-05-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof Harl is fantastic. Have enjoyed all his courses. BTW, prior review was meant to be of AncientGreek Civilization. This Course is a 5+
Date published: 2020-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Introductory Course To start with I must say the pace of the course was excellent; just right to absorb the material before moving on. The breakdown by dates and locations was ideal for fully understanding the linear history of the areas covered. Finally, the depth and detail of the materials covered sets the stage for a next, more in-depth course.
Date published: 2020-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good visuals. Being pedantic: the professor used a lot of um's and ah's and stumbled occasionally on words but he managed to be fluent nevertheless. He was never boring, always engaging and one felt like he was discoursing straight to the listener without using any humorous little gimmicks, etc.
Date published: 2020-03-01
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Cradles of Civilization
1: Cradles of Civilization

The opening lecture introduces the earliest civilizations of the Tigris-Euphrates, Nile, and Indus River valleys, which emerge c. 3500-3000 B.C. from Neolithic villages.

33 min
First Cities of Sumer
2: First Cities of Sumer

We explore the economic, social, and religious life of the Sumerians, whose mastery of writing and long-distance trade make them the progenitors of the urban civilization of the ancient Near East.

31 min
Mesopotamian Kings and Scribes
3: Mesopotamian Kings and Scribes

A look at three classes of people-kings, scribes, and soldiers-illuminates the creation of wider political institutions in ancient Mesopotamia, from the regional kingdoms to the territorial empires of the early and middle Bronze Age.

30 min
Hammurabi's Babylon
4: Hammurabi's Babylon

We end our survey of Mesopotamian civilization in the Bronze Age with an examination of the career and kingdom of Hammurabi, King of Babylon, who establishes the cultural underpinnings of Mesopotamian civilization thereafter.

31 min
Egypt in the Pyramid Age
5: Egypt in the Pyramid Age

We begin three lectures on Egypt with a focus on the so-called early dynastic period and the Old Kingdom, beginning with a look at some of the basic features of early Egyptian civilization and the unique characteristics of the Nile.

31 min
The Middle Kingdom
6: The Middle Kingdom

This lecture examines a key period of Egyptian history, which is roughly contemporaneous with the Babylon of Hammurabi, during which Egypt for the first time expands its horizons beyond its own frontiers.

31 min
Imperial Egypt
7: Imperial Egypt

Egypt's monarchy comes to play the dominant role in the Near East until the empire comes to an end with attacks associated with the so-called "Sea Peoples"-invaders coming out of both Libya and the Aegean world.

30 min
New Peoples of the Bronze Age
8: New Peoples of the Bronze Age

We complete our discussion of the Bronze Age with a look at three areas influenced by the early river valley civilizations: the region known as the Levant, the area that is today Asiatic Turkey, and the world of the Aegean.

31 min
The Collapse of the Bronze Age
9: The Collapse of the Bronze Age

The great empires of the late Bronze Age fall in the wake of migrations and barbarian invasions usually associated with the advent of iron technology. Though this has been explained as the result of natural disasters, the imperial order did not collapse so much as fragment.

30 min
From Hebrews to Jews
10: From Hebrews to Jews

This lecture deals with the evolution of a group of Canaanite speakers to a people with a monotheistic faith attached not to a particular place, but to one's perceptions, ethical beliefs, and worship of a transcendent God.

30 min
Imperial Assyria
11: Imperial Assyria

Despite their remarkable reputation for ferocity, the Assyrians do more than forge the first imperial order since the late Bronze Age; they set down many of the foundations upon which the Persians will build their far more successful and larger empire.

31 min
The Persian Empire
12: The Persian Empire

We conclude the course with a look at an empire that may have had, at its peak, as many as 40 million subjects, and which, in its imperial organization, is perhaps the best-ordered until the age of Rome.

31 min
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.


Yale University


Tulane University

About Kenneth W. Harl

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.

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