The Rise of Rome

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative course I just finished watching this and learned much about the history of the Roman Empire I did not know. Professor Aldrete presents the course very well. I am looking forward to the next course in his series that is about the fall of the Roman Empire.
Date published: 2021-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent lecturer and orator! You can tell that Prof. Aldrete studied ancienty oratory very closely. It is honestly impressive how well he is able to communicate through his gestures and posture. He is really a very good and well organized speaker.
Date published: 2021-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An interesting introduction to Ancient Rome Before watching the course I had limited knowledge of the subject matter. I'm based in the UK and the way history is taught here (unless you specifically study Classical Civilizations or take Latin) focuses very much on the Roman invasion of Britain and its consequences for our history, not the wider context. Having finished the lectures, I've got a much better understanding of how the Roman Republic was founded and developed. I've got aspects of Roman history that you hear about regularly, such as the Punic Wars, the role of Hannibal, Pompey the Great, Cicero and Caesar in their proper historical context. For me the level of detail and the length of the course was about right. I feel I have acquired a working high level overview of the first 800 years (approximately) of Roman history, which is exactly what I wanted. I will study the period in more detail in due course but that wasn't what I was aiming for from this course. I enjoyed Professor Aldrete's lecturing style very much. It was a bit more flamboyant than the presentation of some of the other courses I've watched but this really grew on me as the series went on. I was pleased to see that the next course on the Roman Empire is also presented by him and I will definitely be watching it.
Date published: 2021-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A misunderstanding turns into an enjoyable course I bought this course so I would have some background to understanding another course on one of the world's greatest books, Edward Gibbon's 'The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.' Shortly after starting the course, I discovered that the history of Rome leading up to the Republic of Caesar, Mark Antony, and Octavian, and it's subsequent failure, had nothing to do with the Roman Empire covering the period of the first four centuries AD. But Professor Gregory Aldrete managed to grab my interest right from the start and drew me into a fascinating trip through the last five centuries BC leading up to the Roman Republic and its collapse around the time of Christ. Since I am a farmer, it was particularly enlightening to gain an understanding that the majority, perhaps as many as 90%, eked out a living on primitive family farms. Getting an insight into their daily lives in one memorable lecture was the highlight of this course for me. Apart from the farming aspect, the course also gives one a real understanding of both the lives of the common man in those early days as well as the movers and shakers in the Republic. Dare I even say that the attitude of those elbowing their way to prominence through manipulation of public thought, treachery, and even civil war, seems to have an unnerving parallel in current American politics. After all, the Constitution of the United States is modelled to a large extent on the ancient Constitution of the Roman Republic. Needless to say, this weekend I'll be ordering Professor Aldrete's newest course on the Roman Empire to continue with this fascinating history. He is one of the best lecturers in the Great Courses.
Date published: 2021-02-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great Love the courses, but still no icon or method to download so I can view them offline.
Date published: 2021-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Top Course From A Top Lecturer When I first saw this course upon its release I shook my head thinking, "Yet another course on ancient Rome?" I thoroughly enjoyed Professor Fagan's earlier course entitled "The History of Ancient Rome" and figured there was no way to improve upon what to me felt like a complete and definitive history on the topic. Why did we need another course on the subject? I glanced at it suspecting I wouldn't be giving it more than a fleeting thought but when I saw who was teaching it I was stopped in my tracks. Professor Aldrete had long ago won me over with his masterful course "History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective". This changed the equation: I just had to sample some of the lectures and, while doing so, it became evident I had to add this course to my collection. It is no surprise to me that I'd walk away from this course declaring it yet another winner from Prof. Aldrete (in addition to the aforementioned course he also wowed me with "The Decisive Battles of World History"). He is a clear speaker, a good presenter, wraps the facts in great storytelling, and raises interesting questions and debates for further reflection such as his opening question "What led to Rome's rise?" and closing one "Why did the Roman republic fall?" He provides excellent historical narration relating to the origin of ancient Rome and its growth and expansion into the world’s dominant empire and its transitions from monarchy to republic to empire. What were the areas that stood out the most? 1- Prof. Aldrete covers the practices, values, and traditions of the Roman people in more detail than any other course on ancient Rome I've taken, leading to a deeper understanding of how they were conducted and what they meant to the State. Examples include the animal sacrifices, the Augury, the evocation (prior to a battle) of asking an enemy’s gods to abandon them and take residence in Rome, and the practice of sending someone to an enemy’s land to invoke a declaration/spell to the first person they saw before a war. 2- Riveting narration of the Punic Wars including Rome’s struggles with the great general Hannibal as well as the battles against the Greeks of the Eastern Mediterranean (lectures 8-10) 3- Great job of detailing, in the last third of the course, how great powerful military leaders working outside of the normal social and legal constructs of the Roman Republic undermined it and how it led to its fall (Marius, Sulla, Pompey the Great, Julius Caesar, and Octavian Caesar) Was there any downside to these lectures? Very hard to find. The non-historical narrative lectures (for example those concentrating on the societal aspects of Roman life such as education, housing, food, and marriage) were mildly interesting but I suppose it may just be because my interests naturally gravitate towards the political and military histories. The lecture on the unification of the Italian peninsula didn’t cover how the Romans subdued the Umbrians under their control (he did call them out a few times on the map and covered all other Italian peoples/wars). But these are minor grievances. The overwhelming bulk of the lectures were expertly executed. Even if you are well-versed in ancient Roman history I don't think its a stretch to say you will either learn something new here or at the very least hear the story again from a master storyteller who not only relates things in an easy to consume manner but who will also leave you with enough questions to further your contemplation and exploration. I would recommend this course to all without hesitation even if you think you've already heard the definitive history of ancient Rome. I would also recommend that TGC bring back Professor Aldrete for another course. Any course by him would be "must listen" but when are we going to get a course dedicated exclusively to ancient France?
Date published: 2021-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Super excellent course! I´m so happy I took this course and I got to know this professor! Only assisting to his lectures make the course totally worth it: he is an OUTSTANDING orator, he speaks clearly and concisely. Although many of the facts described may be at continuous discussion and change, that doesn't take away any of the course's excellence. THANK YOU!!!
Date published: 2021-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Presentation This was a very interesting topic and one that was presented in a very engaging manner. I think this professor is one of the best of all the great ones the Great Courses has, and that says a lot.
Date published: 2021-01-15
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The Rise of Rome
Course Trailer
The City on the Tiber
1: The City on the Tiber

Begin with a simple question: “How did Rome become so powerful?” This core theme will run through much of this course. Here, Professor Aldrete considers the role of the city’s geography and the republic’s unique political structure, both of which allowed Rome to flourish.

32 min
The Monarchy and the Etruscans
2: The Monarchy and the Etruscans

The rise of Rome begins with a monarchy, though much of the city’s early years are shrouded in mystery. Unpack some of the key myths, including the epic of Aeneas and the story of Romulus and Remus, to gain insight into the city’s founding. Then reflect on neighboring civilizations such as the Etruscans.

31 min
Roman Values and Heroes
3: Roman Values and Heroes

Tales and literature from early Rome give us only partial insight into factual history, but they give us great insight into Roman values—what the Romans themselves identified as qualities of ideal citizens. Examine how a few Roman heroes, like Mucius, Horatius, Lucretia, and others embody values of courage, resourcefulness, determination, and more.

30 min
The Early Republic and Rural Life
4: The Early Republic and Rural Life

Witness the transition from the monarchy to the republic—a new era of government that would carry the city through half a millennium. Wade through the mythology and propaganda, as well as Roman historical sources such as the author Livy, to reconstruct how the transition happened, and what the new republic looked like.

29 min
The Constitution of the Roman Republic
5: The Constitution of the Roman Republic

One of the most lasting facets of the Roman Republic is its constitution, which inspired America’s founding fathers, among others. Continue your exploration of the early republic with a look at its system of government and its different classes of people—citizens and noncitizens, patricians and plebeians, senators, soldiers, and more.

31 min
The Unification of the Italian Peninsula
6: The Unification of the Italian Peninsula

What distinguished Rome from neighboring city-states was the republic’s dogged persistence in matters of war. Watch as the Romans conquered neighboring territories to gain control of the entire Italian peninsula—and witness defeats against the Gauls to the north and the Greeks to the east. See how the Romans treated those it conquered.

30 min
Roman Religion: Sacrifice, Augury, and Magic
7: Roman Religion: Sacrifice, Augury, and Magic

Most of us are familiar with some of the gods in the Roman pantheon, which included the likes of Jupiter and Mars, but one of the most fascinating aspects of Roman religion was the way it integrated elements from other cultures. Survey Roman religion as well as its institutions and personages such as the Pontifex Maximus and the vestal virgins.

30 min
The First Punic War: A War at Sea
8: The First Punic War: A War at Sea

The First Punic War is the longest continuous war in Greek and Roman history. Here, delve into the third century B.C.E., when Carthage commanded sea travel throughout the Mediterranean and the Roman Republic was looking to advance beyond the Italian Peninsula. Trace the first war against Carthage.

31 min
The Second Punic War: Rome versus Hannibal
9: The Second Punic War: Rome versus Hannibal

Although the First Punic War was a major victory, the Second Punic War was, in Professor Aldrete’s words, “the crucible in which the Roman Empire was forged.” Encounter the brilliance of Hannibal, learn the strategy and impact of the infamous Battle of Cannae, and see how Roman leaders combatted and eventually defeated him.

30 min
Rome Conquers Greece
10: Rome Conquers Greece

Although the Romans had seen great military and political victory, they were still provincial in many ways until they conquered the Greeks. At that point, Greek civilization entered and began to influence the Romans in unexpected ways. But, as you’ll learn in this lecture, the Roman expansion beyond Italy may have been something of an accident.

32 min
The Consequences of Roman Imperialism
11: The Consequences of Roman Imperialism

Roman imperialism gave the republic great and far-flung territory, but it left many of its people wanting. Soldiers entered the military expecting riches and glory, only to come home penniless. Meanwhile, conquered people were far from happy. Review how the Romans administered their growing territory—and its effect on those in the home city.

32 min
Roman Slavery: Cruelty and Opportunity
12: Roman Slavery: Cruelty and Opportunity

Rome is one of only a few civilizations throughout history to be a true slave state. Here, learn where Roman slaves came from and find out about the nature of their servitude—including what daily life was like for many slaves. Then look at ways slaves could buy or earn freedom, and what life was like for freed slaves.

31 min
Roman Women and Marriage
13: Roman Women and Marriage

Because Rome was such a patriarchal society, we have few historical records from women’s points of view. Nevertheless, historians have been able to deduce much about what life was like for Roman women. Life varied greatly between rich and poor, but women throughout the society were expected to marry and live sheltered lives.

30 min
Roman Children, Education, and Timekeeping
14: Roman Children, Education, and Timekeeping

Continue your study of ordinary Romans—this time with a look at the life of children, which could be quite brutal by today’s standards. Learn about their toys and games, and then turn to the system of education. Finally, take a look at the Roman system of timekeeping, which organized the days, months, and years.

29 min
Food, Housing, and Employment in Rome
15: Food, Housing, and Employment in Rome

Food, shelter, and a livelihood are three of the most basic needs for people everywhere. In this lecture, Professor Aldrete surveys what Romans ate, where they lived, what their homes were like, and what they did for a living. While the upper classes did not work, farming and skilled trades were important jobs throughout the republic.

31 min
The Gracchi Attempt Reform
16: The Gracchi Attempt Reform

By 133 B.C.E., Roman society was beginning to unravel. Veterans who had lost their fortunes in war, farmers who had lost their land, and neighboring citizens who had been conquered were all disgruntled. Meanwhile, factionalism was starting to emerge within the Roman government. See how these tensions began to wear away at the republic and how an attempted reform came not from the disenfranchised, but from one of the most privileged Roman families.

31 min
Gaius Marius the Novus Homo
17: Gaius Marius the Novus Homo

The late Roman republic was characterized by feuding aristocrats vying for power within the government. Meet Gaius Marius, an Italian warlord who went against the conventional mores and was elected 7 times as a consul. Follow his military exploits in Northern Africa and his rise to power within the republic.

31 min
Sulla the Dictator and the Social War
18: Sulla the Dictator and the Social War

Cracks continued to appear in Roman civilization, as the Social War broke out over citizenship and leaders continued to vie for power. Among these leaders was Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who used his military laurels to march into Rome and set himself up as a temporary dictator.

29 min
The Era of Pompey the Great
19: The Era of Pompey the Great

Continue your survey of late republic military leaders. In this lecture, you’ll find out about the life of Pompey the Great, who achieved fame and glory as a young man with ambitions as large as Alexander the Great’s. Trace the events of the first century B.C.E., including the slave revolt of Spartacus.

30 min
The Rise of Julius Caesar
20: The Rise of Julius Caesar

The beginning of the end of the Roman Republic starts with the rise of Julius Caesar. After setting the stage with Caesar’s early career, Professor Aldrete explores the dramatic events that led to Caesar’s election to the senate as well as his legislative and military victories. Tensions within Roman leadership were high.

30 min
Civil War and the Assassination of Caesar
21: Civil War and the Assassination of Caesar

The late republic tensions reached a conflagration the moment Caesar crossed the Rubicon River and led his army toward Rome. Follow the end of his astonishing career, from his exploits in Spain to his war with Egypt to his eventual assassination. Meet Mark Antony and the other conspirators.

30 min
Cicero and the Art of Roman Oratory
22: Cicero and the Art of Roman Oratory

Before witnessing the denouement of the Roman Republic, pause for a moment to reflect on Roman oratory—an art best practiced by the senator and writer Cicero. Cicero’s insights into rhetorical strategy and human nature continue to influence us today—and in his day allowed him to play the role of peacekeeper after Caesar’s murder.

30 min
Octavian, Antony, and Cleopatra
23: Octavian, Antony, and Cleopatra

Following Caesar’s assassination, there was a power vacuum in Rome. Caesar’s heir Octavian eventually took power, while Caesar’s general Mark Antony fled to his lover, Cleopatra. Trace the events from Octavian’s rise to Rome’s war with Egypt and the suicides of Mark Antony and Cleopatra.

31 min
Why the Roman Republic Collapsed
24: Why the Roman Republic Collapsed

The course opened with a simple question: “How did Rome become so powerful?” It closes with an equally simple—if equally unanswerable—question: “Why did the Roman Republic collapse?” In this final lecture, Professor Aldrete offers several leading theories, including the possibility that the republic was a victim of its own success.

32 min
Gregory S. Aldrete

As an ancient historian, my goals are to share the enthusiasm for and fascination with antiquity that I feel, and to show some of the connections between that world and our own.


University of Michigan


University of Wisconsin, Green Bay

About Gregory S. Aldrete

Dr. Gregory S. Aldrete is Professor of Humanistic Studies and History at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, where he has taught since 1995. He earned his B.A. from Princeton University and his master's degree and Ph.D. in Ancient History from the University of Michigan. Honored many times over for his research and his teaching, Professor Aldrete was named by his university as the winner of its highest awards in each category, receiving both its Founders Association Award for Excellence in Scholarship and its Founders Association Award for Excellence in Teaching. That recognition of his teaching skills was echoed on a national level in 2009, when he received the American Philological Association Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Classics at the College Level-the national teaching award given annually by the professional association of classics professors. The recipient of many prestigious research fellowships including five from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Professor Aldrete has published several important books in his field, including Gestures and Acclamations in Ancient Rome; Floods of the Tiber in Ancient Rome; Daily Life in the Roman City: Rome, Pompeii, and Ostia; The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Daily Life I: The Ancient World (as editor); Unraveling the Linothorax Mystery: Reconstructing and Testing Ancient Linen Body Armor (with S. Bartell and A. Aldrete) and The Long Shadow of Antiquity: What Have the Greeks and Romans Done for Us (with A. Aldrete).

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