The Great Tours: Greece and Turkey, from Athens to Istanbul

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Armchair traveler I really like that not only are the normal tourist sites and explainations are on this but also little out of the way sites are included. It's the next best thing to actually being there
Date published: 2020-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What a great story-teller ! I watched this on the my subscription to The Great Courses Plus. I watch while on my treadmill and this was so interesting that sometimes I forgot how far I was walking. It was exciting to see places I've already visited and interesting to hear about new ones, but the speaker is what makes the lectures so extraordinary. That, and great photos.
Date published: 2020-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Hale is a marvelous educator. I wish we had viewed this before my wife and I traveled to Greece and Turkey. The persona of Professor Hale is one of kind, almost avuncular affability. May God speed his research. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2020-07-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Armchair Trip Loved this course! Had traveled to Greece and Turkey many years ago and wish we could have taken this course before we went - so much wonderful information and great travel trips. Seeing this made us want to return. It is so helpful to have the information from an expert about these archeological sites - it is difficult otherwise to know what the remains meant. The presenter is great - interesting and so well informed. He brought history to life.....
Date published: 2020-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course I thoroughly enjoyed this course. Excellent lecture and great multimedia brought you right to the location and scenery.
Date published: 2020-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding My wife and I watch one or two lectures per evening. The professor is clearly very knowledgeable, organized and a charm to listen to.
Date published: 2020-05-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent historical tour of Greece and Turkey Wish we had this before our trip a couple of years ago. Great lecturer .
Date published: 2020-05-15
Rated 2 out of 5 by from TAfter taking seven other courses, I was quite disappointed in this course. It’s presentation was confusing throughout the course and Dr. Hale seemed to just jump around without finishing his train of thought that he started to say. If this was my first course I doubt if I would have purchased another. I’ve thought about asking for refund of the course, but just had not gotten to it. Started Dr. Ressler’s course last night and looking forward to getting into it again today. Dr. N. J. Lederman
Date published: 2020-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great sessions. Very well done. The instructor does a great job of blending history and current sites. The "tips" look especially beneficial.
Date published: 2020-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Seeing Dr. Hale shirtless Dr Hale strips down to his shorts making this reason enough to buy and watch
Date published: 2020-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic course Prof. Hale is a great guide, historian and scholar. I felt like I was in the places with the perfect your guude.
Date published: 2020-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Excellent, If Too Brief, Overview This is a wonderful course to take either before or after (or instead of, but do try to go!) your trip(s) to Greece and Turkey. It could easily have been twice as long and thus twice as worthwhile, but given the twelve hours, Professor Hale does an excellent job. The stress is on archaeological sites and on history, which is natural and expected for these countries. Yes, stone pillars and walls and jumbled fallen ruins can start to look alike after a while (actually, after a very short while), but they are accompanied by many well-done artist's visualizations of what they (probably) looked like, along with our professors enthusiastic and vivid descriptions of their place in history and in the culture of their time. Note that this is not a history course - there are superb Great Courses that cover the history in depth. This one is meant to educate us about the prime tourist sites we are likely to see, and many expert hints about how to make the most of our time are included. I do wish more emphasis had been given to contemporary Greece and Turkey. This aspect is very hit-or-miss (with much of this limited time given to comments on food!). But the brevity of the course makes this lack inevitable. In my reviews of two of our professor's other courses, I commented negatively about his stream-of-consciousness presentation style. Here, however, as a tour guide describing this and that along our journey, stream-of-consciousness works perfectly. So - I highly recommend the course for what it is, a brief overview for tourists of two countries most fascinating (at least to tourists) for their history and archaeology. And, having been to many of the sites discussed myself, I can add my enthusiastic urging to that of Professor Hall - go!
Date published: 2019-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from excellent The lecturer definitely knows (and loves) his topic. The production values are high, with tasteful use of photos and graphics. Recommended!
Date published: 2019-11-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from EXCELLENT COURSE! Perfect preparation for travel or just to be used for exanding one's knowledge.
Date published: 2019-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful travel and learning experience This is a great course provided by a charismatic and learned lecturer who truly brings this arm-chair journey to life. Although I have travelled to several of the places included, I didn't learn a tiny fraction of what I gained from the course. I really wish I had taken this course first.
Date published: 2019-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent presentation with great visuals! I could listen to John Hale for hours! This is the next best thing to a personal guided tour by a wonderfully erudite archaeologist and great storyteller.
Date published: 2019-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Spot on Bought this prior to a trip to Greece & Greek Islands. Really helped to understand what we were seeing. Instructor has a relaxed yet informative style of presentation.
Date published: 2019-09-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful, almost better than being there If Prof. Hale wants to retire from academia and research he would be a simply incredible tour guide. I thought this course would a bit of fluff. Wow was I wrong. The course has a wonderful supply of factoids that come together to form a more complete picture of ancient Greece than many history courses. The facts are woven into a very artful tapestry of beautiful photography and tourist tips with a fine sense of humor. Appreciate ancient Greece and need an emotional boost?? This course is simply perfect. I had not considered a trip to the area, until now.
Date published: 2019-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating! I've visited most of the sites shown, so truly enjoyed the tour. It's fun to hear Dr. Hale present places I enjoyed so much. Good stuff!
Date published: 2019-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful! This was a terrific and enjoyable course. Professor Hale's enthusiasm and knowledge are contagious. I was worried the music would bother me when I read the other reviews before buying the course, but instead it was both unobtrusive and enjoyable. Fantastic and highly recommended.
Date published: 2019-08-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great tours: Greece and Turkey Just loved it and the way he took us on a tour. We just returned from that part of the world and wished we had seen this ahead of time.
Date published: 2019-07-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved this course! I can't afford a trip to the Aegean but this is the next best thing! Travel tips combine with historical and geographic info and splendid footage of the best sites. It's like visiting with a really good guide. Nice balance of intellectual and everyday info. If you like travel films, you'll really enjoy this upgraded version.
Date published: 2019-05-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great visual material Professor Hale shares his joy and in-depth knowledge of Greece and Turkey in an accessible 24 lectures. He includes many photos, videos and schematics in each lecture showing the many archaic and historical sites we visit throughout the course. Slightly more than half of the lectures are on Greece, including some of the islands, and one of the aspects of his lectures that I enjoyed the most was the interweaving of the Greek mythical heroes with sites related to them. We’re planning a trip to Greece next summer with my 10 year old grandson and I especially want to relate what we see to Greek mythology. Professor Hale is careful to distinguish between what we know for fact about certain sites and what may still be speculation. He offers helpful travel tips about how to get to some of the sites and also how you might construct your visit to avoid crowds and the midday heat. In Turkey, along the Sapphire coast, he suggests transportation by boat, but also offers some caveats about these types of boats. This course is both historically and visually appealing and rich in detail and Professor Hale wonderfully brings this across.
Date published: 2019-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Preview Prof Hale with his usual enthusiasm makes you want to visit everywhere he speaks about. This was a good overview to help you decide which places best suit your desires on a Greek Mediterranean adventure. Know thyself!
Date published: 2019-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Our best course yet This was our 7th Great Courses purchase and the best yet. Our expectations were not high because we didn't see how a mixture of travel guide and history would work for us. One or the other. And the periods covered jump around quite a bit from location to location, and most locations entail multiple occupation periods. But Dr. Hale makes it all easy to follow and absolutely delightful and insightful. Great use of maps and 3D graphics as well. Now, do Italy, Sicily and Sardinia please!
Date published: 2019-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very appropriate I bought this in preparation for a Mediterranean cruise next year - very happy with comprehensive coverage
Date published: 2018-11-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hale is great as usual Hale is the best overall presenter in all of Great Courses. His enthusiasm appears heartfelt.
Date published: 2018-11-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Both a great tour guide and historical review Professor Hale does his usual outstanding presentation of the topic. As an Archaeologist and historial, he provides unique and thoughtful insights into the great Greek culture. He concetrates on the historical sites in The Greek world. Super background for anyone touring the historical Greece. As an Archaeologist who has actively conducted digs and studies, including under water, he provides super insights. He is thorough presenting various view points of the explorations that have been conducted.
Date published: 2018-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from If you go to Greece, watch this I went to Greece and watched these videos first and while we had guides and docents at every key place, this brought it to life,
Date published: 2018-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A very good tour-guide I used this course to plan our tour to Greece. When in Greece we played the course every evening to re-familiarise us with what we are about to see. It was a very good companion! Worth every penny! Take the tips that Dr. Hale gives seriously. —They lead to great discoveries. I am not as enamoured with Frappe. —It tastes like an icecap, just not as good! The only real critique that I have is that Dr. Hale says nothing about the monasteries at Kalambraka, (worth visiting!!!) yet a photo of these monasteries is in the catalogue every time when this course is promoted! The tomb of Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great in Vergina is absolutely worth visiting, and it too is not mentioned. Overall a very good course. I intend to go back, taking a cruise to the islands, with this course to direct me.
Date published: 2018-05-12
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The Great Tours: Greece and Turkey, from Athens to Istanbul
Course Trailer
Touring the Cradle of Western Civilization
1: Touring the Cradle of Western Civilization

In setting sail for the ancient world, contemplate the dynamic civilizations that emerged in the Aegean and the scope of the human drama that was played out there. Preview some of the towering figures and remarkable sites you'll encounter, and hear Professor Hale's recommendations for traveling this world as the ancients did.

34 min
Athens-Around the Acropolis and Parthenon
2: Athens-Around the Acropolis and Parthenon

Enter the Acropolis, symbol of Athens, following the path of the ancient annual procession honoring Athena. Investigate the history and meanings of the site's iconic buildings, including the grand Propylaea (gatehouse) and the Erechtheum (Temple of Athena). Learn about the superlative architectural features of the Parthenon and its surprising original uses.

33 min
In the Footsteps of Socrates-Historic Athens
3: In the Footsteps of Socrates-Historic Athens

Among treasures surrounding the Acropolis, discover the Theater of Dionysos, where you ponder the rituals of early dramatic festivals, and the grand Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a venue of music and recitations. Enjoy dramatic viewing places, including the Pnyx, an ancient hilltop assembly point, and finally the vibrant agora market, where Socrates walked.

33 min
Around Attica-Temples and Mysteries
4: Around Attica-Temples and Mysteries

This lecture takes you to sacred monuments of Greece's beautiful Attica region. At the picturesque Amphiareion, shrine of a prophet deity, learn about ancient oracle and healing practices. Visit imposing shrines to Artemis and Poseidon, finishing at Eleusis, sanctuary to the goddess Demeter and the site of mystical religious rituals.

33 min
Seeking the Good Life-Corinth to Epidauros
5: Seeking the Good Life-Corinth to Epidauros

Your journey continues to the Peloponnese, Greece's southern half. From the impressive Corinth Canal, travel to Greece's most important sanctuary to Poseidon, where ancient athletes competed to honor the god. Visit Corinth's massive acropolis and agora (civic center) and the great healing center of Epidauros, highlighting the best-preserved theater of the ancient world.

30 min
Mycenae-Where Kings Planned the Trojan War
6: Mycenae-Where Kings Planned the Trojan War

Next, visit the great citadel of Mycenae, made famous in Homer's Iliad. Entering through the imposing Lion Gate, learn about the rulers of Mycenae and ancient life in the citadel as you explore key monuments: the extraordinary "shaft" graves of an early dynasty, the Megaron palace, and the tomb of King Atreus.

31 min
Around Nafplio-Greek History at a Glance
7: Around Nafplio-Greek History at a Glance

In Greece's Argolid region, walk the mighty fortress of Tiryns, and learn about Mycenaean and classical-age warrior culture. Visit the Heraion, picturesque sanctuary to the goddess Hera, the imposing Roman villa of Herodes Atticus, and the port of Nafplio, with its remnants of Venetian, Byzantine, and Ottoman culture.

32 min
Ancient Olympia-Gods, Games, and Temples
8: Ancient Olympia-Gods, Games, and Temples

Investigate the practices and culture of the original Olympic games at sites including the palaestra, where important athletes trained; the stadium; and the unusual Temple of Hera. Sense the heat and drama of the contests, as you contemplate the mind-set of the competitors and the significance of athletic competition as worship.

32 min
Quest for Wisdom at Apollo's Oracle-Delphi
9: Quest for Wisdom at Apollo's Oracle-Delphi

At this legendary site, reconstruct the sequence and rituals of a visit to the oracle in ancient times. Enter the lower sanctuary, making offerings en route to the temple, with its dual warnings to the pilgrim, where the Pythia (priestess) speaks for the god in answer to each seeker's question.

30 min
Byzantine Outposts-Monemvasia and Mistra
10: Byzantine Outposts-Monemvasia and Mistra

The port town of Monemvasia, once a coveted trading center, offers a rich slice of Byzantine history. Discover its mazelike streets, Byzantine buildings, and its mystical, cliffside Hagia Sophia church. Then explore Mistra's majestic Frankish castle and Byzantine palace, and contemplate the soul of Byzantium in religious architecture here and at Meteora and Mount Athos.

32 min
Cruising the Islands-Mykonos and Delos
11: Cruising the Islands-Mykonos and Delos

This lecture introduces Greece's glorious Aegean Islands in an overview of their scenic and cultural riches. Taste the pleasures of the popular Mykonos before crossing to Delos, birthplace of Apollo and a later trading mecca. Enjoy remnants of important sacred sites and spectacular island views from Mount Kynthos.

32 min
Aegean Ring of Fire-Milos and Santorini
12: Aegean Ring of Fire-Milos and Santorini

On the lesser-known Milos, learn about the striking volcanic and geological features of the island before visiting its richly endowed archaeological museum, ancient classical theater, and extraordinary early Christian catacombs. Contemplate the breathtaking scenery of Santorini, as well as the intriguing remains of its principal historical site, the buried Minoan town of Akrotiri.

29 min
Exploring Crete-Realm of Ancient Minoans
13: Exploring Crete-Realm of Ancient Minoans

On this greatest of Aegean islands, you encounter the very origins of European civilization. Here, take three memorable excursions: first, to the elaborate Minoan palace of Malia, then to Gortyn, Roman capital of Crete-which boasts Europe's first written law code-and finally, to Crete's Venetian capital and the massive Samaria Gorge.

31 min
Lure of the Labyrinth-Palace at Knossos
14: Lure of the Labyrinth-Palace at Knossos

The great palace at Knossos offers dramatic glimpses of the Minoan civilization. Investigate the palace's structure of labyrinthine rooms and its grand courtyards, site of the death-defying bull dance. Ponder the flamboyant ceremonies, court rituals, and sumptuous luxury of the Minoan rulers, recorded in masterful frescoes and tablets memorializing the palace accounts.

30 min
The Dodecanese-Kos, Patmos, and Rhodes
15: The Dodecanese-Kos, Patmos, and Rhodes

On the beautiful island of Kos, reflect on the life and contribution of the physician Hippocrates at the ancient medical sanctuary honoring him. Discover Patmos, where Saint John famously wrote the book of Revelation, and finally Rhodes, renowned for the legendary Colossus and the majestic fortifications of the Knights of Saint John.

29 min
Welcome to Turkey-The Turquoise Coast
16: Welcome to Turkey-The Turquoise Coast

Turkey's Turquoise Coast reveals a fabulous array of destinations, highlighting treasures of history, nature, and the pleasures of travel. Begin at Bodrum, site of the vibrant civilization of Helicarnassus. Learn about Lykian culture and representative government; visit submerged cities, cliff tombs, wildlife habitats, and the fire-spouting mountain at Olympos.

31 min
Central Turkey-Ankara, Konya, Cappadocia
17: Central Turkey-Ankara, Konya, Cappadocia

In Ankara, learn about ancient capitals of the great Anatolian civilizations, including the complex culture of Çatalhöyük. Continue to Konya, home of the Sufi poet Rumi and of the mystic whirling dervishes. Linger in the magical geologic landscapes of Cappadocia, with its "fairy chimneys," ancient cave dwellings, and astounding underground cities.

31 min
Up the Meander River-Priene to Pamukkale
18: Up the Meander River-Priene to Pamukkale

Travel to three extraordinary ancient cities: In Priene, explore one of the ancient world's most spectacular classical ruins, with its remarkable council hall, sacred sites, and superb theater. Then study the sumptuous sarcophagi, bathhouses, and amazingly preserved stadium at Aphrodisias. Finish at Pamukkale, site of imposing mausoleums, healing waters, and cliffside "hanging pools."

32 min
A Wonder of the World-Ephesus
19: A Wonder of the World-Ephesus

The metropolis of Ephesus stands as one of the greatest cities of the classical world. Here, focus on highly unusual features that distinguish the site: the magnificent "terrace houses" of the wealthy, the Library of Celsus with its stunning facade, the enormous theater, and the Cemetery of the Gladiators.

32 min
Royal Cities of Asia-Pergamon and Sardis
20: Royal Cities of Asia-Pergamon and Sardis

At the citadel of Sardis, learn about the luxurious culture of the Lydian people, credited with inventing monetary currency. Investigate the site's standout monuments, including the extensive gymnasium and monumental synagogue. At Pergamon, bequeathed by its last ruler to Rome, contemplate its great healing sanctuary, astonishing hydraulic system, and legendary library.

32 min
Troy-Beyond Homer and the Trojan Horse
21: Troy-Beyond Homer and the Trojan Horse

The archaeological site of ancient Troy reveals numerous distinct historical phases. Explore the majestic remains of the different epochs of the citadel, from its beginnings in 2900 B.C. to the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Trace interconnections between the site's monuments and the lives of the historical King Priam and Alexander the Great.

31 min
Istanbul-Capital of the Byzantine Emperors
22: Istanbul-Capital of the Byzantine Emperors

In this first lecture on the wonders of Istanbul, study the history of the Byzantine Empire and the establishment of Byzantium as a new Rome. Encounter imposing elements of this culture in the cathedral-like Basilica Cistern, the Theodosian Walls, and the impassioned rituals of the Hippodrome, nerve center of Byzantine life.

31 min
The Pearl of Constantinople-Hagia Sophia
23: The Pearl of Constantinople-Hagia Sophia

Imagine the sights and sounds of a visit to this magical edifice in Byzantine times, and learn the history of the emperor Justinian's plans for a church that would surpass all others. Contemplate the stunning columns, stonework, mosaics, and the architecture of the massive dome in this "place where God dwells."

28 min
Ottoman Istanbul-Mosques, Palaces, Bazaars
24: Ottoman Istanbul-Mosques, Palaces, Bazaars

Finally, ponder the origins and planning of the Topkapi Palace, jeweled seat of the Ottoman sultans. Penetrate the layers of the palace, from the grand courts to the royal kitchens and harem. Conclude with visits to the Blue Mosque, hammams (baths), Grand Bazaar, and vistas of the mystic city from the Bosphorus.

31 min
John R. Hale

The most important record of religious history resides not in books and sacred texts but buried in the earth.


University of Cambridge


University of Louisville

About John R. Hale

Dr. John R. Hale is the Director of Liberal Studies at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. He earned his B.A. at Yale University and his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge in England. Professor Hale teaches introductory courses on archaeology, as well as more specialized courses on the Bronze Age, the ancient Greeks, the Roman world, Celtic cultures, the Vikings, and nautical and underwater archaeology. An accomplished instructor, Professor Hale is also an archaeologist with more than 30 years of fieldwork experience. He has excavated at a Romano-British town in Lincolnshire, England, and at the Roman Villa of Torre de Palma in Portugal. Among other places, he has carried out interdisciplinary studies of ancient oracle sites in Greece and Turkey, including the famous Delphic oracle, and participated in an undersea search in Greek waters for lost fleets from the time of the Persian Wars. Professor Hale has received many awards for distinguished teaching, including the Panhellenic Teacher of the Year Award and the Delphi Center Award. His writing has been published in the journals Antiquity, The Classical Bulletin, the Journal of Roman Archaeology, and Scientific American.

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