The Roman Empire: From Augustus to The Fall of Rome

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Listen nearly every day while on my walk This is one of the best courses I have taken thus far. The instructor speaks clearly and slowly and is a joy to listen to. The course material and flow is excellent.
Date published: 2020-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent High Level Overview of Roman History From the beginning to the end this lecture series is about as good as it gets for a top level overview. Rare academic look at all dimensions of the Roman society and how those interactions formed the ever changing dynamic nature of the history of Rome and how it fits into the evolution of human civilization. Excellent resource of Roman history to use as a starting point to jump off into more in-depth research on topics of interest.
Date published: 2020-11-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from All Hail Dr. Aldrete I've been looking for some time for an understanding of the rise and fall of Rome from republic to monarch and I'm feel so lucky that I found this series. (Also the first part the Rise of Rome.) Dr. Aldrete does it all. His lectures are so well thought out and presented. By the way I like his use gestures and found his lecture on Roman orator gestures particularly enlightening. There aren't a lot of visual aids nor are they needed. I clearly got dozens of visual images in my mind from the doctor's great descriptions. I should mention that all my interest in Rome came from originally watching "I, Claudius" and I watch the series every ten years or so. My first time was in 1977 and it still, yes in my opinion, the best mini-series of all time. However, it was good after all these years to have some of the facts and fiction separated. Spoiler alert: I guess Livia wasn't the poisoner she was made out to be.
Date published: 2020-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Aldrete Is The Professor We All Wish We'd Had Like many of you, I'm sure, my college years were more an expression of my hormones at the time, not my mind. Now, especially during the pandemic, it's my brain that's starved given the state of the mainstream documentary. Dr. Aldrete is an outstanding presenter, with an infectious passion that draws you into the subject rather than him, personally.
Date published: 2020-10-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from GOOD BASIC HISTORY OF THE Roman Empire As someone who has been in a Classical Grad School setting this was a very basic but good course. Dr Aldrete is a great professor with not only knowledge but you can see how much he cares for the subject. He brings a lot to the table but I would say this needed to be 48 lectures. There is just two much history and culture that could not be covered in this class.
Date published: 2020-09-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Roman Empire: From Augustus to the Fall of Rom Very good lecturer who provides interesting information about notable Romans' physical and personality traits.
Date published: 2020-08-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very applicable to material in the course I've almost completed the course and am very pleased with Prof. Aldrete. He is a dynamic teacher who clearly puts his whole "soul" into bringing the material to life. Normally, I tend to phase out a bit toward the end of any similar-type course, but with Prof. Aldrete my attention is as focused as in the first lecture. The course content is superb and highlights those who most affected the Roman Empire. I love European history from this period through the Renaissance and Prof. Aldrete has clearly delivered his part. Thank you
Date published: 2020-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from brought ancient Rome to life The professor was a great speaker The graphics helped solidify concepts The organization was superb Would recommend the course to anyone
Date published: 2020-07-19
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The Roman Empire: From Augustus to The Fall of Rome
Course Trailer
Dawn of the Roman Empire
1: Dawn of the Roman Empire

Your course opens by setting the stage for Rome’s transition from a Republic to an Empire. Octavian, overlooking the Ionian Sea after the ferocious Battle of Actium, has just secured victory in a civil war against Mark Antony. He will soon achieve what Julius Caesar could not: one-man rule over Rome. Delve into this major turning point in world history.

35 min
Augustus, the First Emperor
2: Augustus, the First Emperor

Meet the man who became Rome’s first emperor: Octavian, who took the title of Augustus, was relatively short and sickly, but clever and astute. His great political innovation—taking the title Augustus, gaining control of the military, and ruling Rome without inspiring his own assassination—is one of history’s most astonishing feats.

32 min
Tiberius and Caligula
3: Tiberius and Caligula

Augustus may have been a tremendous emperor, but he failed in one key area: choosing a successor. After an almost comical series of events, he secured a male heir (a son of his wife’s by a previous marriage) to take the throne. Witness the debacle of Roman leadership under Tiberius and then Caligula.

32 min
Claudius and Nero
4: Claudius and Nero

The succession after Caligula continued to be a problem for the Roman Empire. Claudius, though physically challenged, was a good administrator. Nero, however, was depraved and self-aggrandizing, and nearly bankrupted the empire. Trace the strange, sad, and bloody story of their rule.

31 min
The Flavian Emperors and Roman Bath Culture
5: The Flavian Emperors and Roman Bath Culture

Following Nero, a quick series of emperors took power, ultimately ending with Vespasian, the first in the line of Flavian family emperors. After reviewing the story of these emperors, their accomplishments, and their shortcomings, Professor Aldrete offers insight into Roman bath culture and what it meant for the city.

31 min
The Five Good Emperors
6: The Five Good Emperors

Round out your survey of the early Roman emperors with a look at the rulers of the 2nd century, including Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius. Get to know their stories; their approach to ruling; and their achievements, such as Trajan’s military conquests and Marcus Aurelius’s philosophical meditations.

33 min
Hazards of Life in Ancient Rome: The Five Fs
7: Hazards of Life in Ancient Rome: The Five Fs

You might think of Rome as a grand city filled with shining marble and peopled with decadent-toga-clad citizens. In reality, the city was a swampy, stinking, disease-ridden mess with filth in the streets and a fire nearly every night in one of its buildings. See what life would have been like for Rome’s ordinary citizens.

31 min
Roman Art and Architecture
8: Roman Art and Architecture

Two of the great legacies of the Roman Empire are its art and architecture. You will reflect on the Etruscan and Greek influences on Roman portraits and sculptures, see how Augustus used art as propaganda, and learn about some of the many architectural and engineering innovations—including the Pantheon and the aqueducts.

32 min
Roman Literature
9: Roman Literature

Roman literature had its roots in Greek influences, but by the time of the Empire, Roman writers had come into their own. The works you will study include the fiery rhetoric of Cicero; the poetry of Horace and Ovid; and Virgil’s epic about Rome’s founding, the Aeneid. You’ll also review histories, technical works, and writings on Christianity.

32 min
The Ordinary Roman Speaks: Graffiti
10: The Ordinary Roman Speaks: Graffiti

The traditional understanding of Rome was based on accounts by upper-class males, who wrote the primary sources historians relied on for generations. More recent historians have looked at new sources to gain a fuller sense of the city’s history. You will examine graffiti preserved at Pompeii in order to hear directly from everyday Romans.

31 min
Final Words: Burial and Tombstone Epitaphs
11: Final Words: Burial and Tombstone Epitaphs

Continue your study of everyday Romans with a look at the epitaphs on their tombstones. While elaborate tombs were reserved for the very rich, people of all social classes had their thoughts and stories inscribed on tombstones. You will also explore how the Romans buried their dead.

30 min
From Commodus to Caracalla
12: From Commodus to Caracalla

Marcus Aurelius may have been a wise philosopher, but he didn’t act wisely when appointing his son Commodus as heir; who turned out to be a throwback to the megalomania of Caligula and Nero. Emperor Septimius Severus provided a short period of stability, but his son, Caracalla, was yet another unbalanced ruler.

32 min
The Crisis of the 3rd Century
13: The Crisis of the 3rd Century

The empire hit a low point with Elagabalus, who was arguably the worst Roman emperor of all—which is saying quite a lot. Then Rome teetered on the brink of total collapse due to a deadly combination of civil war, barbarian invasions, economic collapse, and natural disasters.

31 min
Diocletian and Late 3rd-Century Reforms
14: Diocletian and Late 3rd-Century Reforms

Just when the Roman Empire seemed on the verge of collapse, a series of hard-headed, practical emperors managed to rescue it. Follow the astonishing story of how these men, led by the reformer Diocletian, drove back the barbarians and stabilized the faltering Empire.

32 min
Early Christianity and the Rise of Constantine
15: Early Christianity and the Rise of Constantine

Stability never lasted long in the Roman Empire. At the dawn of the 4th century, Christianity emerged as a major world force—made manifest by Constantine’s dramatic and unexpected conversion. Find out how and why Christianity developed and spread, and the role it played in subsequent political events.

32 min
Constantine and His Successors
16: Constantine and His Successors

Take a closer look at Constantine and explore his motivations for converting to Christianity. Learn about the Arian Controversy and the Council of Nicaea, which codified key aspects of Christian theology. Then see why Constantine founded a new capital city at Byzantium, and the state of the empire at the end of his life.

32 min
Gladiators and Beast Hunts
17: Gladiators and Beast Hunts

Gladiators dominate today’s popular imagination when it comes to ancient Rome—and indeed, the Romans loved their spectacles and sports. As you will find out here, gladiator combat was only one of many popular entertainments in the empire. Find out who the gladiators were and what their lives were like. Then turn to another popular contest: the beast hunt.

32 min
Chariot Racing, Spectacles, and Theater
18: Chariot Racing, Spectacles, and Theater

Although gladiators dominate Hollywood films, chariot racing was actually the most popular sport in the Roman Empire. Go inside the Circus Maximus and learn about the factions and teams of chariot racers. Then shift your attention to the world of the theater, where plays, mimes, and music entertained the masses.

32 min
The Roman Army
19: The Roman Army

No survey of the Roman Empire would be complete without a detailed look at one of its most central institutions: the military. Take a look at the organization of Rome’s fighting forces. See what kind of equipment soldiers were outfitted with, how they trained, and what joining the military meant for farm boys in the provinces.

32 min
Barbarians Overwhelm the Western Empire
20: Barbarians Overwhelm the Western Empire

Administration is only half the battle in maintaining a tremendous empire. You also have to defend the borders, and from the 3rd to the 5th centuries, Rome experienced an increasing wave of invasions by outsiders. Here, Professor Aldrete introduces you to the Huns, the Visigoths, the Vandals, and other invaders who penetrated Rome’s borders and plundered the empire.

31 min
The Byzantine Empire
21: The Byzantine Empire

While the western half of the Roman Empire had clearly collapsed by the end of the 5th century, the eastern Romans in the Byzantine Empire flourished for another thousand years. Visit the world of Constantinople, meet fascinating figures such as Justinian and Theodora, and see what made the Byzantine Empire so successful.

32 min
When and Why Did the Roman Empire Fall?
22: When and Why Did the Roman Empire Fall?

Generations of historians have struggled over—and disagreed about--the fundamental questions of when and why the Roman Empire fell. This lecture critically evaluates a wide range of possible answers to these complex and enduring questions.

32 min
Late Antiquity: A New Historical Era
23: Late Antiquity: A New Historical Era

Traditionally, historians have viewed the years 200 to 600 as a time of collapse and stagnation, the end of Rome and the arrival of the “Dark Ages.” Recent historians have taken another look at this era and seen a time of invigorating change, a vibrant mingling of cultures, and an exciting transition between antiquity and the Middle Ages.

34 min
Echoes of Rome
24: Echoes of Rome

In this final lecture, consider the legacy of the Roman Empire, which influences us in innumerable ways, from our language to our legal codes. Because history is ultimately about people, Professor Aldrete closes with a few final voices to keep everyday Romans alive, and a reflection on what they might tell us today.

38 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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