The Greek World: A Study of History and Culture

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Listen to these!! I've never been a review writer, but this class makes me want to change that! Professors like this deserve recognition; this was a fantastic exploration of the grandeur of Greek culture. Ancient Greece is for everyone, and this class delivers. The professor is intriguing, entertaining, and very educated. Well done. Good introduction for beginners and great review and exploration for people more acquainted with Greece.
Date published: 2020-10-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course - great instructor I truly enjoyed both the scope and tenor of this course - the instructor is engaging, incredibly well-versed in his subject, and quite thorough in his approach. The depth and breadth of the aspects of Ancient Greece (as well as contemporary Greece) covered in this course gave me a much more fully realized understanding of Greece's place in world history and culture. I would happily take more courses from Robert Garland - he exemplifies the best attributes of the teaching profession and does Great Courses proud.
Date published: 2020-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Introduction to the Ancient Greeks This is a wonderful introduction for anyone interested in the ancient Greeks. No previous background is needed to appreciate the course. Though I have taken many other TC courses on ancient Greek history, literature, and philosophy, this is the one I wish I could have taken first. It covers just about anything you might want or need to know before going deeper with the other TC courses. Included are treatments of not only the usual subjects one would expect, but also such matters as food and drink, science, and painting and sculpture. Professor Garland is an exciting, energetic presenter who strives to draw us in, making an effective case for why the ancient Greeks are worth studying and why they are unique. The 2020 course is filled with comparisons to current or recent events to explain the ancient Greeks. For instance, in discussing the mythical hero Heracles, Professor Garland references Harvey Weinstein and the Me-Too Movement. Though good for the classroom now, this comparison may, however, be too current to be understood in five or more years. The course is also studded with politically correct observations. This may disturb some, but I found many observations to be spot-on and useful in my rethinking the subject under discussion. Anyone with a soft spot for the Spartans will find Professor Garland a harsh critic, conceding only near the end that Spartan women enjoyed much more freedom than elsewhere in Greece, even in freedom-loving Athens. It should also be noted here that Professor Garland’s course focus is Athens. Not only do I like the content and delivery of the course, but must mention the exceptional photos and other illustrative matter in the video. The only criticism I have is a minor one. Professor Garland wore the same buttoned-up suit and open neck shirt for the first seventeen lectures. It seemed to be more and more rumpled as the course proceeded, but I may have just imagined that. In any event, this added another element of anticipation, wondering when/if he would change his outfit! The 241-page course guidebook is excellent, with many images from the video course, good lecture summaries, a fun T/F quiz, and fine annotated bibliography. Though I greatly enjoyed the video format, this will work well in audio.
Date published: 2020-09-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from GREAT COURSE ON CLASSICAL GREECE I have study Ancient Greece back in college and have read a lot of this field I thought the class was excellent. While Rome often is the focus on classical history and modern understanding it is important to know Ancient Greek history. This allows you to understand the culture and many key points of western civilizations.
Date published: 2020-09-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful! I had never had the opportunity to study Greek history before and found this course a fantastic doorway into this ancient world. Also, Professor Garland explained it to me in a format that was easily understood and, in fact, inspires me to learn more about that time. And I love his sense of humor!
Date published: 2020-09-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and thought-provoking Professor Garland presented information in a way that informed me and also caused me to do follow-up on my own. Each individual lecture was a solid overview of its topic. The progression of the lectures built greater and greater concepts. Professor Garland teaches in a way that is never condescending and is always entertaining, which makes it easy to absorb information.
Date published: 2020-09-09
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I have had these three sets for a few days - it will be months before I am able to complete them. Not possible to give a review - please stop asking me to do so!
Date published: 2020-09-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from No New News While this course is interesting on its own, it adds little beyond the many courses that The Great Courses (TGC) already offers. The course is essentially divided into two parts contained between an introduction and a summary. Lectures 2-8 recount the history of Greece from pre-history up to the 21st century. This is a necessary foundation for Lectures 9-23, each of which focuses on one aspect of Greek culture. While there are some topics not addressed in other TGC courses, topics such as modern Greek history and Greek food, most of the information is repeated elsewhere. Dr. Garland is obviously both enamored of his subject and also an expert in it. His presentations are easy to follow. He does not gloss over critiques of Greek culture, devoting considerable attention to them in Lecture 24. For some lectures, notably the lectures on sculpture, architecture, and painting, the video presentation is of the essence. For most lectures, audio is sufficient.
Date published: 2020-08-07
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The Greek World: A Study of History and Culture
Course Trailer
Why Study the Greek World?
1: Why Study the Greek World?

Examine the many compelling reasons to study the ancient Greeks, from their phenomenal art and architecture to their philosophy, religion, and inventions of drama and democracy. Consider how we identify the Greeks, in cultural, historical and linguistic terms. Finally, note the influence of Greece’s landscape and physical environment on the development and character of Greek civilization.

33 min
Bronze Age Greece: Minoans and Myceneans
2: Bronze Age Greece: Minoans and Myceneans

Trace the origins of human habitation on the mainland and islands of Greece. Study the Bronze Age cultures of the Cycladic islands; the famed Minoan civilization centered on Crete, with its palaces and religious ritual; and the Mycenaean civilization, with its monumental architecture and cultural artifacts. Learn about Mycenae’s connection with the Trojan War, and what may have led to its collapse.

34 min
Dark Age and Archaic Greece
3: Dark Age and Archaic Greece

Grasp the contours of Greece’s Dark Age (1100-750 B.C.E.), an era of restricted trade and a breakdown of centralized power. Take note of the achievements of this epoch, such as iron technology, the Greek alphabet, and the advent of the Olympic Games. In the following Archaic Period, chart Greece’s geographical expansion, creation of city-states, invention of coinage, and movement toward democracy.

32 min
Classical Greece: The Age of Pericles
4: Classical Greece: The Age of Pericles

Take an overview of Greece’s Classical Age, an astonishing period of human accomplishment, which the course will treat in detail. Explore defining events of the period, from the 479 B.C.E. defeat of the Persians, through the period of the Peloponnesian War, to the emergence of Macedonia as a great power and the exploits of Alexander. Learn about major innovations of the era, and discover the unique nature of Spartan society.

33 min
Alexander the Great: Greek Culture Spreads
5: Alexander the Great: Greek Culture Spreads

The conquests of Alexander the Great gave birth to the world we call Hellenistic. Observe how Alexander’s military expansionism brought a vast geographical area under the influence of Greek civilization. Note how the conquered peoples embraced Hellenistic culture, how Alexander’s empire fragmented after his death, and how the majestic city of Alexandria became a major center of learning.

33 min
Greece, Rome, Byzantium, and Baghdad
6: Greece, Rome, Byzantium, and Baghdad

Explore the fascinating and conflicted relationship between the Greeks and their Roman conquerors. Take account of the profound impact of Greek culture on Rome, and how the Romans both despised and admired the Greeks. Witness the founding of the Byzantine Empire, its flourishing of scholarship and theology, and the major role of Islamic scholars in preserving and disseminating Greek learning.

36 min
Modern Ideas of Ancient Greece
7: Modern Ideas of Ancient Greece

With the fall of Constantinople in 1453, learn how the Greeks fared under Ottoman rule. Then trace the processes through which Europe rediscovered classical antiquity. Grasp the philosophical spirit of the Renaissance, which brought a sudden interest in the ancient Greeks. Chart the huge influence of Greek mythology on Western art, and how Greek literature was widely disseminated in the West.

31 min
The Birth of the Greek Nation-State
8: The Birth of the Greek Nation-State

Here, follow the struggle of the Greeks under the Ottomans, which became a bloody political movement for Greek independence. See how European intellectuals, artists, and Europe’s major powers supported the movement, leading to the founding of the nation-state of Greece in 1830. Track Greece’s territorial expansion through the ensuing century, and its tumultuous modern history up to the present.

36 min
Greek Mythology: Monsters and Misfits
9: Greek Mythology: Monsters and Misfits

Delve into the nature and roles of mythology in Greek civilization. Explore the subject matter of Greek myths, as they figure in literature and art. Contemplate the function of mythology, as it helped the Greeks interpret the world and come to terms with the dark side of human experience. In particular, study the figure of the hero, and the features and meaning of the hero’s journey.

27 min
Greek Religion: Dangerous Gods, Tricky Heroes
10: Greek Religion: Dangerous Gods, Tricky Heroes

For the ancient Greeks, every human activity contained a religious dimension. Examine the underlying worldview of the Greeks’ polytheistic religious beliefs, and where we find it represented in literature. Look at each of the major Greek gods, and their characteristic roles and qualities. Grasp the very human moral and psychological attributes of the gods, and what constituted piety and impiety.

30 min
The Sensuality of Greek Sculpture
11: The Sensuality of Greek Sculpture

The sublime sculpture of the ancient Greeks is among their most enduring cultural artifacts. Study the six periods of Greek sculpture, from the Archaic through the Classical and Hellenistic. In each, look at masterful examples, noting how the practice of sculpture constantly evolved. Take account of sculptural techniques, and how the sculptors achieved such sensual appeal and expressive power.

31 min
The Perfection of Greek Architecture
12: The Perfection of Greek Architecture

Study the primary forms of Greek architecture, which emblemize Greek civilization and have profoundly impacted architecture in the West. Visit the Acropolis of Athens as the ancient Greeks would have seen it; take in the magnificent features of the Parthenon, as well as those of other temples and civic structures. Learn also about Greek domestic architecture, house plans, and town planning.

32 min
The Monumentality of Greek Painting
13: The Monumentality of Greek Painting

Encounter the major styles of Greek vase painting, in examples by master painters such as the Dipylon Master and Exekias, noting their remarkable iconography portraying social ritual, war, and mythological scenes. Learn about black and red figure technique, the use of incised decoration and brushwork, and the superlative qualities of Greek painting in both conception and realization.

33 min
Homer’s Humanity: The Epic Experience
14: Homer’s Humanity: The Epic Experience

In exploring the genius of Homer, learn first about the features and tradition of epic poetry. In key excerpts from the Iliad, grasp Homer’s great humanity and insight into the human condition. See how the Iliad functions as a meditation on mortality, war, idealism, and loss, and how the Odyssey comprises a journey of self-realization. Witness Homer’s enduring influence in the modern world.

32 min
Greek Theater: Producing and Staging Plays
15: Greek Theater: Producing and Staging Plays

Uncover the origins of Greek drama, and how it evolved into the form of a chorus and masked actors. Learn about early theater festivals; the elements of a Greek theater; and how plays were selected, financed, and performed. Finally, study the rituals of theater going, the use of key theatrical devices and stage machinery, and the story of how the Greeks’ iconic plays survived into the modern era.

30 min
Greek Drama: Laughter and Tears
16: Greek Drama: Laughter and Tears

In this second look at Greek drama, examine individual plays that epitomize the genre of tragedy, such as Aeschylus’s Oresteia and Prometheus Bound, Sophocles’s Antigone and Oedipus the King, and Euripides’s Trojan Women and Medea. Explore the nature of tragedy, its meaning for audiences and existential function in the Greek world. Then investigate the sublime comic plays of Aristophanes.

32 min
Greek Politics, Law, and Public Speaking
17: Greek Politics, Law, and Public Speaking

Radical, participatory democracy was established in Athens in the 5th century B.C.E. Study the mindset and features of Athenian democracy, as it empowered every citizen to speak and vote, and required citizens to participate in civic affairs. Assess ancient and modern critiques of Greek democracy. Then study ancient Athenian legal practice, highlighting the system of trial by jury.

30 min
Greek Historians: The Birth of History
18: Greek Historians: The Birth of History

Take the measure of two of ancient Greece’s greatest historians. Begin with the work of Herodotus, often called the “father of history”; grasp the qualities of his history writing, and how he established the first principle of historiography: impartiality. Continue with Thucydides, credited with establishing the discipline of scientific history and the political theory of Realpolitik.

31 min
Greek Philosophy: Man and Nature
19: Greek Philosophy: Man and Nature

Look into the origins of the great philosophical tradition within ancient Greece, and the contributions of the early, pre-Socratic philosophers. Then examine the work of the philosophical giants Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, taking account of the core ideas, the teaching methods, and the influence of each. Conclude by exploring two major Greek philosophical traditions: Stoicism and Epicureanism.

32 min
Greek Science: Discovery and Controversy
20: Greek Science: Discovery and Controversy

Investigate the many contributions to science of the ancient Greeks, as well as the great obstacles to free inquiry that early scientists faced. Study Greek achievements in astronomy, followed by medicine, highlighting the methods and doctrines of the Hippocratic school. Also learn about the cult of the healing god Asclepius, in which rational inquiry and faith healing existed side by side.

33 min
The Greek Way of Waging War
21: The Greek Way of Waging War

The art of war was integral to ancient Greek culture. Delve into warfare as portrayed in the Iliad, observing the highly ritualistic nature of Homeric combat. Continue with the classical warfare of the hoplites; phalanxes of heavily armed soldiers; and learn about hoplite tactics, strategy, and weaponry. Study Athens’s mighty naval forces, and assess the changing rules of battlefield conduct.

32 min
Greek Language, Literacy, and Writing
22: Greek Language, Literacy, and Writing

Examine the structure of the ancient Greek language, how it embodies and expresses thought, and how common linguistic devices express the Greek mindset. Learn about the evolution of writing in Greece, and the wealth of information available to us from ancient papyri. Finally, take account of literacy in ancient Greece, and our indebtedness to literate slaves who were copyists and transcribers.

31 min
Eating and Drinking among the Greeks
23: Eating and Drinking among the Greeks

As a final perspective on Greek culture, take a spirited look at Greek food and drink across the ages. Observe how the ancient Greeks ate, considering their diet, meal rituals, staple foods, and a signature Spartan dish. Learn about Greek food today, sampling a spectrum of standout dishes and traditional foods and wines. Then, visualize an ancient “symposium,” or traditional drinking party.

30 min
What Does Greece Mean to Us Today?
24: What Does Greece Mean to Us Today?

Begin this final lecture by reviewing criticisms leveled against the ancient Greeks, and aspects of Greek society which are “hot button” issues for the modern world, such as the repression of women and the elitist nature of their society. Conclude with five compelling reasons for studying the Greeks, from their areas of unsurpassed excellence to the beauty and wonder of their civilization.

32 min
Robert Garland

Working for the Great Courses enables me to reach people who prize learning for learning's sake. It's they who inspire me to close the gap between past and present, by demonstrating what it meant then, and what it means now, to be human.


University College London


Colgate University

About Robert Garland

Dr. Robert S.J. Garland is the Roy D. and Margaret B. Wooster Professor of the Classics at Colgate University. He earned his B.A. in Classics from Manchester University, his M.A. in Classics from McMaster University, and his Ph.D. in Ancient History from University College London. A former Fulbright Scholar and recipient of the George Grote Ancient History Prize, Professor Garland has educated students and audiences at a variety of levels. In addition to teaching classics at Colgate University, he has taught English and Drama to secondary school students and lectured at universities throughout Britain as well as the British School of Archaeology in Athens. Professor Garland is the author of numerous articles in both academic and popular journals and books capturing details of all aspects of ancient Greek and Roman life, including The Greek Way of Life: From Conception to Old Age; Introducing New Gods: The Politics of Athenian Religion; and Daily Life of the Ancient Greeks. His expertise has been featured in The History Channel's Last Stand of the 300, and he has repeatedly served as a consultant for educational film companies.

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