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The Greek and Persian Wars

Survey this globe-spanning conflict, as well as its enduring impact on the world at large.
Greek and Persian Wars is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 83.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Course! Prof. Hale offers through this course a thorough and entertaining exploration of the Greek and Persian Wars. He is an excellent lecturer, creating word pictures that make the audio version of this course an excellent option, and his steady, even delivery is easy on the ears. A terrific course for the novice and expert alike; highly recommended!
Date published: 2023-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great storytelling! Professor Hale is great at telling these stories. He brings the past to life in a way that it doesn't seem so foreign or so very long ago. It is enjoyable to watch and listen to these lectures.
Date published: 2022-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course. I am about a third of the way through the course. As always the course is top notch.
Date published: 2022-04-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Enthusiasm! I found this series of lectures so enjoyable because of the enthusiasm of Professor John Hale. He clearly enjoys this topic of his specialty so much, it just makes it so much fun. Coupled with a basically fascinating topic and the series were absolutely worth it!
Date published: 2022-03-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from The Vikings The subject has little documentation and lecturer did not seem particularly interested in his subject. Kept referring back to what he had already said to fill the time. A waste as far as I am concerned.
Date published: 2021-08-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good course Very helpful & unbiased course. Easy to understand & follow while working out in the gym.
Date published: 2021-04-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Much More Than A History Lesson! Thank you, Professor Hale. You gave us much more than a history lesson with events and dates. You articulated a 2500 year old story in manner than that can still be appreciated in modern times. A story about people. A story in the context of the times during which these people lived. A story about the famous and not so famous and their respective contributions to history. I learned much more than the history of the Greeks and the Persians. I learned about our common humanity. Thanks again!
Date published: 2020-09-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Cyrus to Alexander, Empire to Empire This was my 2nd Great Course which I received almost exactly a year ago, but only now during the COVID-19 pandemic have I been able to dedicate the time to watch it. Dr. Hale has organized his program into a well-paced 24 lectures. It probably could have been done in 21 or 22 (not much filler here), but it appears that multiples of 6 is the rule at The Great Courses, so 24 was, in essence perfect. I also appreciated the symmetry that it begins with a Great King and ends with a Great King . Having just come from Dr. Garland's "Other Side of History," I'd had a bit of a primer for the regions and time period that Dr. Hale would be presenting. (And it may have been my imagination, but early in the lecture, he shows a picture of some archaeologists - of whom he was one - who went to the Aegean Sea...and one of them almost looked like a younger Dr. Garland) As other reviewers have noted, I was familiar with names like Xenaphon, Xerxes and so on, but usually only from cinematic and video game experiences ("300," "Assassin's Creed Odyssey") and it was fun to relive some of the ancient land and sea battles - where tactics succeeded and failed (or where lack of tactics succeeded and failed). Dr. Hale has a very informal approach to his lecture, looking alternately at the camera and around the room where other students are supposedly located. While that in itself is actually pleasing (it doesn't feel like there's going to be a test later), there are plenty of stutters and corrections which can take a viewer out of the picture he's trying to paint a little bit. As a student of video, I can see where there had to be additional takes (and overdubs) which also detracts for me. This contrasts to my previous Great Courses experience where Dr. Garland was constantly looking into the camera with the acumen of an experienced news anchor and had a slow, deliberate delivery which gave it a bit more polish. (Personally, I would take some of Dr. Hale and some of Dr. Garland for the perfect mix) I did enjoy how much Dr. Hale got into the recounting the battles (particularly the plight of Xenaphon's 10,000). You can tell this was a subject of passion for him, and that made it easy to go along on the ride with him. If you're not already familiar with this topic and if you like ancient history with all of the academia but none of the pressure, this is worth a watch. I can't speak for those who have a stable background in this subject, though.
Date published: 2020-04-17
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Spanning more than two centuries, the Greek and Persian wars forged a new world order, sparking developments in battle strategy, naval technology, world exploration, and art and culture that impact the world even today. Now is your opportunity to survey this globe-spanning conflict, as well as its enduring impact on the world at large. From the ancient battlefields of Thermopylae, Marathon, and Gaugamela, to the imperial halls of Persepolis, to the bustling marketplace of Athens, The Greek and Persian Wars presents the clash of the Greeks and the Persians over the course of 24 fascinating lectures.


John R. Hale

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


University of Louisville
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.

By This Professor

The Art of Public Speaking
The Great Tours: Greece and Turkey, from Athens to Istanbul
Exploring the Roots of Religion
The First Encounter

01: The First Encounter

The roots of our contemporary conflict between East and West lie in the ancient clash of the Greeks and the Persians. In this first lecture, you witness the birth of this divide in the 540s B.C., with King Croesus of Lydia's preemptive attack against the emerging Persian Empire and its ruler, Cyrus the Great.

32 min
Empire Builders—The Persians

02: Empire Builders—The Persians

Thanks to innovations in translation and archaeology, modern scholars are now able to reveal the glories of the Persian Empire. Here you learn about the achievements of this remarkable people.

30 min
Intrepid Voyagers—The Greeks

03: Intrepid Voyagers—The Greeks

Next, you get to know the other protagonists of this epic tale: the ancient Greeks. You trace the movement of this seafaring people from their Greek homeland to Asia Minor and consider how their worldview is reflected in the great myths, literature, and philosophy they left behind.

31 min
The Ionian Revolt

04: The Ionian Revolt

During the rule of King Darius, son of Cyrus the Great, the Greeks in Ionia (Asia Minor) rebelled against Persian rule. Athenian supported in the burning of the city of Sardis sparked a bitter desire for revenge that not even the Ionian defeat at the monumental Battle of Lade could quell.

31 min
From Mount Athos to Marathon

05: From Mount Athos to Marathon

To avenge the burning of Sardis, Darius sent his troops into Greece to pursue the Athenians. Despite a naval disaster at Athos, the Persians continued their relentless pursuit, only to face a surprising defeat at the famous Battle of Marathon.

31 min
Xerxes Prepares for War

06: Xerxes Prepares for War

After Darius's death, Xerxes renewed his father's plots for revenge against the Greeks. To reach them, he undertook remarkable feats of engineering, including the spanning of the Hellespont with pontoon bridges - evidence of both the Persians' technological expertise and their relentless drive.

30 min
The Athenians Build a Fleet

07: The Athenians Build a Fleet

In this lecture, you meet a remarkable Athenian, Themistocles, who persuaded his people to build a navy for defense against the Persians. He later spurred the pan-Greek forces to seize the offensive by advancing to meet their enemies on the battlefield.

30 min
Heroes at the Pass

08: Heroes at the Pass

While the Greek naval forces blocked the Persian armada at sea, a small band of 300 heroic Spartans led by King Leonidas attempted to hold the pass at Thermopylae, a chief passage to inland Greece. In their tragic defeat, the Greek force found a legendary martyr in Leonidas and an example of courage in the famed 300.

31 min
Battle in the Straits

09: Battle in the Straits

After the Spartans' heroic but disastrous stand at Thermopylae, the Persians marched on the deserted city of Athens and avenged the destruction of Sardis by burning the temples on the Acropolis. What followed is the most crucial battle of the Greek and Persian conflict: the day-long naval clash in the straits of Salamis.

31 min
The Freedom Fighters

10: The Freedom Fighters

You take a closer look at the remarkable victory of the Greeks at the Battle of Salamis and learn why, despite far superior numbers, the Persians failed on that famous day. The Greeks then turned their attention to battle on land, and fought for the liberation of Ionian Greek cities, culminating in the Battle of Plataea.

31 min
Commemorating the Great War

11: Commemorating the Great War

You turn to an account of the strangest naval battle in history, the Battle of Mycale, which marked the final defeat of the Persians.

31 min
Campaigns of the Delian League

12: Campaigns of the Delian League

After the decisive defeat of the Persians, the Greek city-states met in Delos to form the Delian League.

31 min
Launching a Golden Age

13: Launching a Golden Age

With tribute pouring in from allies and conquests, Athens grew rich and launched a Golden Age that sees the birth of some of its greatest cultural innovations.

32 min
Herodotus Invents History

14: Herodotus Invents History

In this lecture, you examine one of the greatest achievements of the Athenian Golden Age, and meet the creator of a modern notion of history, Herodotus.

30 min
Engineering the Fall of Athens

15: Engineering the Fall of Athens

After the close of the Peloponnesian War, the Athenians allowed themselves to be goaded into war by a young hellion named Alcibiades.

30 min
Cyrus, Xenophon, and the Ten Thousand

16: Cyrus, Xenophon, and the Ten Thousand

With the death of Darius, his son Artaxerxes II was named successor. Darius's second son, Cyrus, under the facade of suppressing troublesome hill tribes, assembled the famed army of Ten Thousand to challenge his brother's claim. Among them is Xenophon, who later wrote about the march into the heart of the Persian Empire.

30 min
The March to the Sea

17: The March to the Sea

When Cyrus was killed in battle with Artaxerxes II, the Ten Thousand were left leaderless deep within Persian territory. In this lecture, you trace their perilous march to the sea and witness the battle, as witnessed by Xenophon, who became one of the Greeks' greatest historians.

33 min
Strange Bedfellows

18: Strange Bedfellows

In yet another strange reversal of allegiances, the Persians allied themselves with the Athenians in a battle against the Spartans, a conflict that came to a head in the historic battle of Cnidus.

31 min
The Panhellenic Dream

19: The Panhellenic Dream

Sparta and Persia forged an accord known as the Peace of Antalkidas, the King's Peace, which effectively recognized the Great King of Persia as the overlord of the Greeks. In response, Athenian orators began a call for a Panhellenic League that would fight for Greek independence.

31 min
The Rise of Macedon

20: The Rise of Macedon

Who could the Athenians look to for leadership in the effort to unify Greece against the Persians? In this lecture, you meet Philip of Macedon, a remarkable empire builder.

30 min
Father and Son

21: Father and Son

As great as Philip's achievements were, the feats of his son, Alexander the Great, resound loudest throughout history.

31 min
Liberating the Greeks of Asia

22: Liberating the Greeks of Asia

We continue to follow Alexander's movement eastward, ending in Gordion, where he "unties" the famed Gordion knot.

30 min
Who Is the Great King?

23: Who Is the Great King?

Alexander finally entered the heart of Persia and faced the forces of Darius III twice, at Issus and then at the renowned battlefield of Gaugamela. Both times, Alexander allowed Darius to escape after crushing defeat.

31 min
When East Met West

24: When East Met West

Hear about Alexander's final confrontation with Darius, who was killed by his own companions. In the wake of his victory, Alexander sought to unite Persia and Greece. While the effort at political unification died shortly after Alexander's death, the cultural union became a major force in shaping our modern world.

31 min