The Roman Empire: From Augustus to The Fall of Rome

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding presentation The best course I’ve ever taken on the history of Rome. The professor was outstanding. He was very enthusiastic and animated which made him so interesting. He was very motivating.
Date published: 2020-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent series!!! This is one of the most thorough and dynamic series on the topic I have read or seen.
Date published: 2020-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Informative and Very Well Done I highly recommend this course, which contains a wealth of information about the Roman Empire and its relevance to the modern world.
Date published: 2020-05-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good overview Enjoyed the lectures, learned more than I expected. Unfortunately, the moving scenes on the screen in the background were meaningless and distracting.
Date published: 2020-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Approach It would be easy to just read a history book but he spends a lot of time on the much more interesting aspects of Rome and Roman day-to-day life. But he also covers the history in a meaningful way. He has an expressive presentation style - rhythmic and with emphasis, which took me a while to get used to. But he does speak very clearly.
Date published: 2020-05-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous lecturer! As a retired professor, I can honestly say that I have seen few lectures as compelling as those given by Professor Andrete. He is truly a master craftsman of the English language and each lecture is superb in its organization and delivery. Thank you for all that you have taught me in this series!
Date published: 2020-05-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not dry not just facts I've started to make choices of which courses I'm willing to buy based on the style of the course narrator. It sounds biased and it is, but after long experience I've discovered that, unless it's a topic which absolutely requires a dispassionate explanation, like the superb "Origins of Life" by Robert Hazen, the willingness I have to digest someone's dry description of course material through multiple lectures fades after the first two or three listenings. Professor Aldrete does not invoke this reaction in me and for that I am grateful. From telling details like beggars of Rome spending their dying moments waving off circling vultures to the fact that no other city matched its population for over two thousand years, Aldrete paints a picture which allows the narrative to live in the mind as not just a dusty set of facts. This, no doubt, is a result of careful choice and practiced delivery.
Date published: 2020-05-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyed The presenter has an odd cadence in which he over accentuates words. It can be distracting from an otherwise interesting course
Date published: 2020-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Compact and Efficient Professor Aldrete covers a lot of history in 24 short lectures. The lecture series complements very well the other lectures on Roman history in the Great Courses pantheon. He's a great presenter.
Date published: 2020-05-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Who really needs 'J', 'U', and 'W'? Professor Aldrete adroitly presents a very good survey set of lectures covering the period in classical Rome, from Augustus to the fall of the Byzantine Empire in the 15th century CE. His command of the subject matter is suburb...if he's reading from a teleprompter, he's doing it well! This course is a continuation of his 'The Rise of Rome' that extends from the mid 8th century BCE to the fall of the republic later in the 1st century BCE. While neither is a thorough, standalone history of this time period within the Roman republic and empire, they (the lectures) present a series of snapshots into, not only the conquests, but the more mundane, everyday lifestyles (including art, architecture and religion) of Rome and its peoples. This type of anecdotal history I find both entertaining and informative. The lectures blend well with other Great Courses (particularly those by Harl, Fears and Fagan) that may have the same format, but differ by professor biases and approach. By listening to several of these presentations, I'm able to reach my own interpretations of the time period by accumulating multiple points of view. I found the guidebook particularly good, perhaps making up for any visuals that might be lost on the audio only crowd. Very good set of lectures and can be obtained via Audible, as I did. Recommended!
Date published: 2020-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A genuine look at Rome... it successes & failures One never knows if a topic meets one expectations. This course exceeded my expectations. The professor is interesting, dynamic, and a top-notch scholar in his field. Photos, and other visuals help with understanding. Watch 2-3 more times for everything to sink in. The course is loaded with information and insights. Well done Professor! Thanks
Date published: 2020-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific Lecturer Very interesting and thorough review of the history of the Roman Empire. Every lecture was interesting and informative. I very highly recommend this course!
Date published: 2020-02-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Great course! Professor did a great job of contrasting Roman times with the Greeks and others. Also liked comparisons, although brief, to modern times. I don't really have any brickbats. I did like the lecture when he appeared in a Roman costume of dress. It might have been fun if he appeared in any of the dress of the armed forces when he discussed aspects of the Roman army. Liked it, one of the best
Date published: 2020-02-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Roman Empire - From One Who Lived It Professor Aldrete presented the Roman Empire as if he lived through it all! Many of his descriptions presented so much new information. His narrative of what it was like to be a Roman at that time made me feel that I was actually living there. At the conclusion he brings the Roman culture and all its contributions into our modern day life
Date published: 2020-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A very good teacher I could not stop watching the course this last week until I had gone through all the lectures. I think he is correct in saying we are all Romans - just the 21 century version. I also enjoyed his course covering Rome in the movies. Take this course via video to see the graphics and photos.
Date published: 2020-01-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Course Albeit a Bit Superficial Professor Aldrete is quite engaging, with a dramatic style of lecturing which may not suit everone's tastes. I found his presentation extremely clear and articulate, impossible to doze off. Some of the visuals are very helpful, for example, those of the various emperors who vied for control of the Roman Empire during the time of Constantine: prior to seeing the visuals, the identities of these men had always been quite confusing.The lectures on Roman social history are well placed, and break up what might otherwise be considered a long roster of emperors. The course heavily "popularizes" the history of the period, making it easily digestable by large segments of non-specialists. The course is not particularly strong in pure academics, and indeed is geared more to junior college and even high school students than to upper division undergraduates. To compensate for this shortcoming, the course should have been considerably longer, which however might have detracted from its marketability.
Date published: 2020-01-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Worth getting but distracting presentation Comprehensive overview of the Roman Empire. Review is 4 instead of 5 stars as the professor has an overly dramatic presentation that is distracting. Staccato break up of sentences, heavy emphasis on every third word, fluttering hands, and frequently rising to his tiptoes to make a point creates a more Hollywood than classroom feel. The content and clarity of the course, however, is great. Recommended (although I may not purchase any more courses by this lecturer).
Date published: 2020-01-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exceeded My Expectations This course covers the Roman world from the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC (the end of the Roman Republic) until the end of the Roman Empire (which date varies according to the historian). Far more than a mere retelling of historic events, this course covers Roman art, culture, architecture, daily life, and war in an interesting way that kept me coming back for more. The struggle for control of the Empire unfolds like a soap opera and the professor even spends a little time teaching about Roman military tactics and divisions, with a demonstration of the armor and weaponry. An excellent course!
Date published: 2020-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learning at its best Each course I view fills in many holes in my knowledge. I truly enjoy.
Date published: 2020-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This one's a keeper! My wife and I just finished watching all 24 lectures and Professor Aldrete won us over. Excellent presentation skills, highly engaging, and informative from start to finish. We learned things we never knew, and have a better understanding of Roman history that we would have ever thought possible. Our favorite courses are those with presenters who don't read, but face the camera and really talk naturally--this one was great and we loved it.
Date published: 2020-01-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Anything but Dry History This was an excellent sequel to the professor's Rise of Rome course. His presentation totally destroys the stereotype of "dry history" with an intriquing ability to lead the viewer/listener along as he paints the story of Roman life and history. Other reviewers have lamented the lack of more details on battles, politics, etc., but I find that any lack in that regard is more that made up for in the details not included in other sources.
Date published: 2019-12-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Stuff!! All in all, this series of lectures was outstanding because of presentation, organization, and content. Professor Aldrete is an exceptional presenter who uses story telling to great effect. I have two other courses of his - "The Rise of Rome” and “Great Battles.” While these two courses are first-rate, this one surpasses them in quality. His organization focuses on the succession of emperors, good and bad, and their influences. This includes typical Roman life, including the hazards of daily life, and excellent discussions of art, architecture, civil construction, literature, sports, and the Roman army. The rise in power and the fall of the empire is covered, and this makes for a great story that contains a wealth of knowledge. Some examples of content include the challenges of living in Rome such as floods, fires, famine, disease, and especially filth. I was somewhat shocked to hear how human and animal wastes flowed through the streets in open drainage gutters. Also, the public restrooms sounded disgusting, especially the use of shared cleaning brushes instead of toilet tissues. The description of civil engineering structures was fascinating – this included viaducts for water supply and high rise apartment buildings that stood ten stories tall. Other examples of content are discussions of the Roman army, weapons, and fighting methods. The presentations on Christianity and the Byzantine Empire were very informative. My only criticism was the handling of the gladiators. I thought this was bland and could have included some anecdotes. However, this was a minor consideration. I strongly recommend the course.
Date published: 2019-12-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lively presenter Having visited Rome, I am enjoying the engaging and lively presentation about its various emperors.
Date published: 2019-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great addition! Taken together with his "Rise of Rome", and having heard the other courses on the subject since Kenneth Harl, I found both courses really good. Aldrete is an engaging lecturer, clearly enjoying and excited about the subject matching this with well thought out course. You get the regular and still interesting facts, people, and battles, remembering some, getting to know others, plus he adds specific lectures on general aspects of the culture, society such as some emphasis on origin legends that helped shape the Roman character and which will influence the course of its history, on entertainment, Roman Army. I specially liked that he dedicated more time explaining contemporary debates among historians about more thorny issues like the fall of the roman empire or the end of the Republic, as well as giving a good perspective on the role of women and the availability (or not) of good sources and why this is so.
Date published: 2019-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Trying to Recover! By the end of this course I was exhausted! I felt like I had been alongside each emperor and in every battle! The professor was articulate, great with his gestures and enthusiasm, and made Rome come alive with his knowledge! Rome is usually glorified and you see the whitewashing but here we learned about the unseemly side as well - filth, famine, murder, treachery, etc. A fascinating journey back in the day!
Date published: 2019-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic! Better than I hoped! I am studying the Latin Language with a view to becoming proficient in reading and writing (Speaking???) Latin, mainly for Ecclesiastical use. As I reflected on my language studies, it became clear to me that I needed to know the history, culture, and tradition within which the Latin Language arose. This course from The Great Courses, and others that I have purchased or will purchase, are doing that and more. I cannot recommend “The Roman Empire,” and related courses, too highly. You will not regret your decision.
Date published: 2019-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Greatest Empire Ever I am a Roman History fan. Years ago I bought The Great Courses "The History of Ancient Rome". That course was best in describing the last 150 years of the republic. This course takes off from where the best of the former course leaves off. It gives you an accurate and sharp picture of the most important and well known Roman Emperors. I found the best parts when we read source material from regular Roman citizens, from graffiti, barial stones, and letters were very enlightening.
Date published: 2019-08-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course, great professor I believe the professor made this course even more interesting when learning I would like add subtitles when displaying, as some Rome words not knowing. More chart and pictures would make it better to understand.
Date published: 2019-07-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fascinating subject by a great educator This course is a good continuation of what Professor Aldrete had done earlier with his course “The Rise of Rome”. Overall, I found this to be a decent course. I was really hoping for some more information about Roman emperors like Claudius and Nero but I was a little disappointed in that respect. I really wanted to know a bit more about some of the ways in which emperors like them ruled or did not rule in the case of Nero and other despotic emperors. While “The Rise of Rome” looked at daily life during the Republic, this course takes that a step further by looking at the culture of the empire. One of the highlights I want to mention is on the gladiator fights and chariot races. Since we have preconceived notions about them because of Hollywood, it was very refreshing to know more about how gladiators fought and died in the area. I think this course will help someone have a greater understanding of life during the Roman Empire and its importance to the history of the Western World.
Date published: 2019-06-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome, as usual. My 95 year old father is thrilled with the course on gravity. I'm loving Tai Chi and my husband and I are enjoying the Roman Empire.
Date published: 2019-06-14
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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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