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Rome and the Barbarians

Discover a richer and more nuanced history of Rome when you study the interaction of this great world empire with the Barbarians who would eventually topple it.
Rome and the Barbarians is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 99.
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Rated 1 out of 5 by from Course did not arrive You emailed me on May 28 to let me know that order SO11070075 was on its way.. I emailed you on 4 June because it had not arrived. You used a courier called Apc UK- I have never heard of them before! When will you send my purchase? Suggest you use Royal Mail
Date published: 2024-06-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting Take Studies of Roman history generally look at how the Romans interacted with the surrounding barbarians. In this extensive (36 lectures) course, the interaction is considered from the perspective of the “barbarian” peoples (generally meaning that they were not a city-centric society). This includes the Celtic people, the Germanic peoples, the Goths, Eastern peoples including the Parthians and Persians, and some North African peoples. It does not include Greek, Macedonia, Egyptian, or Carthaginian peoples. Dr. Harl does a good job of focusing on the surrounding peoples and he delves into Roman history only insofar as is necessary to keep the “barbarian” narrative moving forward. Dr. Harl follows a generally chronological approach. He traces the first encounters from Gauls south of the Alps and the barbarian peoples in Spain (a consequence of Rome’s rivalry with Carthage) to the expanding barbarian front over many centuries. He discusses various approaches taken to deal with the barbarians from conquest to treaty to incorporation into the Empire. He explains why, after many centuries of effective interaction, eventually it all collapsed. Dr. Harl speaks in what might be considered a rambling style. For example, he does not slow and emphasize the important points. Rather, he uses the same pace and volume throughout. For another example, if a place has been called by different names by multiple peoples, he will usually run through the list of multiple names each time it comes up in the narrative (even in the same lecture) rather than listing the alternatives the first time it appears and then selecting one for the rest of the narrative. Sometimes he hops from topic to irrelevant aside such as when he conflates the death of an emperor and the defeat of his army with the birthday of Dr. Harl’s sister. This rambling style disrupts the narrative. The course guide is below average by The Great Courses (TGC) standards. It is in outline format as opposed to narrative format or bullet format. It averages about 5 pages per lecture, which is below average by TGC standards. Its appendix does have useful maps, a timeline, a glossary, biographical notes, and a bibliography. The bibliography includes a short description of how the student might find the reference work useful. I used the audio version. There were many times when maps would have been helpful. Obviously, that is not possible in an audio presentation. Unfortunately, the only alternative is DVD format. The course was published in 2004.
Date published: 2023-10-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging lecturer An enjoyable set of lecturers, with a lecturer who spoke well rather than ‘read’ notes.
Date published: 2023-10-04
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Can not access files after purchase Well for the first time I have a lecture series that I can not access!!!!!! I have called and was told they would fix that but they did not what is the problem I spent the money for it I would like to use it so I would rate this one as less than 0!
Date published: 2023-07-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb course Among the best history course on this site. Harl’s lectures are always engaging. He demonstrates an important point on how the frontier radically transformed Roman society – ultimately exerting more influence on the capital than Rome did on it. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2023-02-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The titles I bought are for cold winter nights material. Have not touched them yet.
Date published: 2022-10-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course Covering a Confusing Period I have watched many of The Great Courses and while he is a traditional lecturer, I still find Professor Harl to be among the very best. He strikes just the perfect balance of speaking intellectually to educate and stimulate interest while not being so obtuse as to lose the student. His experience, knowledge and pure enthusiasm comes across in every lecture. This course covers the end of the Roman empire, a confusing time of religious, political and warfare transition. While I have read much about Rome this was a period I knew little of, and I came away from this course learning a great deal.
Date published: 2022-05-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Something annoys me…. It bothers me that a subject matter expect consistently mispronounces / mis-labels a major geographical location: Meditarean is used rather than Mediterranean. Someone should correct this prof. It is very distracting.
Date published: 2022-04-17
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Who were the barbarians


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
Greek and Roman Views of Barbarians

01: Greek and Roman Views of Barbarians

Professor Kenneth W. Harl introduces the course and its main themes, beginning with an explanation of exactly what the ancient Romans meant by the term "barbarian."

32 min
The Roman Republic

02: The Roman Republic

This lecture introduces the constitutional and political institutions of Rome during the "Middle Republic" years, when Rome emerges with her political, military, and constitutional institutions in place.

30 min
Roman Society

03: Roman Society

This lecture looks at the societal bonds in the early Roman Republic that cemented the various social classes, or ordinates, as well as the Italian allied communities, into a wider Roman Republic, or "Res Publica."

30 min
The Roman Way of War

04: The Roman Way of War

This central lecture introduces the third of the key institutions of the middle and late Roman Republic (the army) and discusses the extraordinarily successful and brutal Roman way of war.

30 min
Celtic Europe and the Mediterranean World

05: Celtic Europe and the Mediterranean World

You meet the Celtic-speaking peoples of western and central Europe, in many ways the epitome of "barbarians" to both the Greeks and Romans.

30 min
The Conquest of Cisalpine Gaul

06: The Conquest of Cisalpine Gaul

Professor Harl explains the role played by the Celts (known to the Romans as Gauls) in northern Italy and the profound influence they had on early Rome.

30 min
Romans and Carthaginians in Spain

07: Romans and Carthaginians in Spain

This episode deals with the initial Roman intervention in, and eventual conquest of, the Iberian Peninsula.

30 min
The Roman Conquest of Spain

08: The Roman Conquest of Spain

Professor Harl takes a closer look at the period from 197 B.C. to 133 B.C., when the Romans were forced to come to terms with the commitments they took on by defeating the Carthaginians in Spain.

30 min
The Genesis of Roman Spain

09: The Genesis of Roman Spain

This lecture discusses the development of Roman Spain, moving us into the area of social and economic changes brought on by the Roman conquest.

30 min
Jugurtha and the Nomadic Threat

10: Jugurtha and the Nomadic Threat

This lecture discusses the relationship between Rome and the barbarians of Roman North Africa, especially the Numidians and their king, Jugurtha - with whom Rome blundered into an ugly frontier war.

30 min
Marius and the Northern Barbarians

11: Marius and the Northern Barbarians

Gaius Marius, the victor over Jugurtha, fights a series of battles against the dreaded Germanic-speaking northern barbarians that shape not only the direction of Roman foreign policy but, ultimately, Roman attitudes toward those barbarians.

31 min
Rome's Rivals in the East

12: Rome's Rivals in the East

Professor Harl shifts the focus away from the western Mediterranean to the peoples who lay to the east, at the frontier Rome inherited by taking over the hegemony of the Hellenistic world.

30 min
The Price of Empire—The Roman Revolution

13: The Price of Empire—The Roman Revolution

This lecture examines the impact on Rome's institutions of her wars, conquests, and territorial acquisitions.

31 min
Julius Caesar and the Conquest of Gaul

14: Julius Caesar and the Conquest of Gaul

The entire axis and dimension of the Roman world is transformed during this key period in the career of perhaps the most memorable of all Romans.

30 min
Early Germanic Europe

15: Early Germanic Europe

In this first of a series of lectures introducing new barbarians, Professor Harl discusses the Germanic tribes who came to epitomize the most ferocious barbarians the Romans had encountered.

30 min
The Nomads of Eastern Europe

16: The Nomads of Eastern Europe

This lecture introduces still more barbarians to the mix: the various Iranian-speaking nomads of eastern Europe.

25 min
Arsacid Parthia

17: Arsacid Parthia

This lecture examines how the Parthians came to become the dominant barbarian power in the Near East and the great rival of Imperial Rome for almost 300 years.

30 min
The Augustan Principate and Imperialism

18: The Augustan Principate and Imperialism

The focus returns to Rome proper: what the Roman Empire was all about, how it evolved from the institutions of the Republic, and how changing political arrangements altered those institutions and, ultimately, Rome's relationship with the barbarians.

31 min
The Roman Imperial Army

19: The Roman Imperial Army

As Rome moves from Republic to Empire, the Roman Imperial Army becomes a very different institution.

30 min
The Varian Disaster

20: The Varian Disaster

In beginning a set of five lectures that discuss the different relationships between Rome and its various foes on the imperial frontiers, Professor Harl examines one of the most dramatic events in Roman imperial history.

30 min
The Roman Conquest of Britain

21: The Roman Conquest of Britain

This lecture reveals some of the differences in how the Romans reacted to a Celtic-based civilization, as opposed to the German tribes in the imperial age.

30 min
Civil War and Rebellion

22: Civil War and Rebellion

The record left by Tacitus reveals how the Roman Empire was ripped apart by civil wars and rebellions between A.D. 68 and 70, illuminating both the institutional weaknesses in the constitutional and military arrangements made by Augustus and Rome's relationships with its various provincial frontier peoples.

31 min
Flavian Frontiers and the Dacians

23: Flavian Frontiers and the Dacians

With this lecture and the next, Professor Harl concludes Rome's creation of its frontier, setting the stage for an examination of why Rome fell and the role played by the barbarians.

30 min
Trajan, the Dacians, and the Parthians

24: Trajan, the Dacians, and the Parthians

This lecture concludes imperial Rome's wars of conquest against her barbarian foes by concentrating on the career of the emperor Trajan, the first man of provincial origins to become emperor.

31 min
Romanization of the Provinces

25: Romanization of the Provinces

In the first of three lectures dealing with the social and economic transformations of the frontier provinces, Professor Harl looks at the ability of the Romans to adapt existing institutions, bring in their own concepts of citizenship and political organization, and incorporate her foes into the Roman system.

31 min
Commerce Beyond the Imperial Frontiers

26: Commerce Beyond the Imperial Frontiers

The economic and social changes brought on by imperial Rome had a profound impact not only on the traditional societies of the provinces, but on the barbarian peoples living beyond the Roman frontier.

30 min
Frontier Settlement and Assimilation

27: Frontier Settlement and Assimilation

This lecture examines how the movement of barbarians along Rome's frontiers took place and the kind of exchanges (both social and material) that ensued.

30 min
From Germanic Tribes to Confederations

28: From Germanic Tribes to Confederations

The "3rd-century crisis" is seen as the era when Rome would be profoundly altered by the unique changes going on in the frontier provinces and the distinct provincial societies emerging as a result of immigration, trade, and military service by the barbarians.

30 min
Goths and the Crisis of the Third Century

29: Goths and the Crisis of the Third Century

As Goths begin to attack the mid and lower Danube, they are seen by Roman authors as a particularly vicious and new threat at a time when Rome is already feeling mounting pressures from her own civil wars and the Sassanid Shahs of Persia.

31 min
Eastern Rivals—Sassanid Persia

30: Eastern Rivals—Sassanid Persia

This lecture examines why the Persians represented such a formidable threat and why the Romans massed so much of their forces in the East, thus exposing their Danube and Rhine frontiers to the Goths and West Germanic tribes.

31 min
Rome and the Barbarians in the Fourth Century

31: Rome and the Barbarians in the Fourth Century

This lecture explains the changes that occurred in the Roman world as a result of the wars and invasions of the 3rd century A.D. and the ways in which the emperors Diocletian and Constantine were fundamental to those changes.

30 min
From Foes to Federates

32: From Foes to Federates

In this lecture, Professor Harl deals with the relationships between the barbarian foes of Rome and the new imperial order created by the emperor Constantine in the early 4th century A.D.

31 min
Imperial Crisis and Decline

33: Imperial Crisis and Decline

The Battle of Adrianople in A.D. 378, in which Goths defeated the Eastern Roman field army (slaying the emperor Valens) proves decisive in its aftermath as it alters the character of the late Roman Army.

30 min
Attila and the Huns

34: Attila and the Huns

This lecture takes a close look at the Huns along with their most famous king and their role in the breakup of the Empire and the shaping of the political and cultural landscape that followed.

30 min
Justinian and the Barbarians

35: Justinian and the Barbarians

Two related subjects are covered: the aftermath of the Hun attacks, with the breakup of the Western Empire and collapse of the imperial government, and the reign of the emperor Justinian, the dominant figure of the 6th century A.D.

29 min
Birth of the Barbarian Medieval West

36: Birth of the Barbarian Medieval West

This lecture concludes the course by reminding us of how Rome, though its empire was broken up in the West and greatly contracted in the East, has indeed survived in many ways.

30 min