Understanding Greek and Roman Technology

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Stephen Ressler is my absolute favorite GC instructor. I own all 4 of his courses and this probably my favorite. He is extremely personable and his enthusiasm is contagious. His wonderful models make the concepts understandable and memorable. He answers a lot of "how'd they do that" questions. Highly recommended!!!
Date published: 2020-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great teacher Great at helping people to understand basic engineering.
Date published: 2020-09-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course I am a software engineer, so I have some background in engineering, focused on computer hardware. Nevertheless, I learned quite a bit through this course, since I did not take Statics and Dynamics in school. I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Ressler's teaching style and delivery, which is punctuated with humor and many physical demonstrations. Highly recommend this course to others, and have added a few of his other courses to my watchlist.
Date published: 2020-09-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lots Of Fancy Demonstrations Dr. Ressler is a first-class pedagogue. He does his best to come up w/ practical experiments and gadgets to demonstrate the principles that he is explaining. This course is a must for anyone interested in ancient history + science/technology.
Date published: 2020-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course Thoroughly enjoyed this course. It was amazing to see how old some of the modern technology we take for granted really is. The instructor is very knowledgeable and easy to follow. He shares his enthusiasm and his models provide visual anchors for his lessons. I highly recommend to anyone interested in technology.
Date published: 2020-07-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A history course rather than an engineering course but taught by an Engineer officer. One of the best GC lecturers and excellent use of visual aids. Recommended if you're interested in the topic.
Date published: 2020-07-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Understanding Greek and Roman Technology. I purchased this course (DVD form) a couple of weeks ago. It arrived in top condition. I enjoyed watching and and learning from it. The lectures were illustrated with props and easily explained for any novice to understand. I loved its content as a mix of history and engineering. I highly recommend it to anybody interested in the subject of ancient technology and its legacy into today's world.
Date published: 2020-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic course I really enjoyed this fantastic course by Prof Ressler. He infectious enthusiasm and genuine excitement for the subject is a joy to behold! His explanations about the science behind the engineering are very clear and understandable. I would highly recommend this course to anyone, and I'll certainly be watching it again. Many thanks indeed.
Date published: 2020-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful! What an amazing teacher Mr. Stephen Ressler is! Kind and articulate, I learned a ton of things from this very informative course. 10/10 would recommend and I definitely will watch Ressler's other courses.
Date published: 2020-05-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Super! Wonderfully engaging professor! Lots of well-designed accessible models and computer graphics illustrating how these technologies worked and factors affecting design, choice of materials and construction methods. Fun, informative, thought-provoking!
Date published: 2020-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engineering can be FUN FUN FUN This was great! Well worth watching. I greatly appreciated the photos used but teh models and computer generated images were great!!!!!
Date published: 2020-04-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from One of the best courses from this Company This is one of the best courses I've seen from the Teaching Company and, in fact, one of the best I've seen anywhere. I've always been interested in the history of engineering, and the scope of Greek and Roman achievements in this area was an eye-opener for me. What impressed me most of all were the teacher's working models, both physical and computer-based. His evident enthusiasm for the subject was completely engaging. If I have one small complaint, it's this -- as a person with an engineering/math background, I would have appreciated more technical depth. That is, I wouldn't have been put off it there had been more equations and analysis. I'm all too aware of the need to reach a wide audience, so I understand why the course is pitched at the level it is; but if you ever decided to release a 'director's cut' of this course, with all the hard bits left in, please sign me up. I would recommend this course to anybody who has an interest in engineering, or even in Classical culture -- you don't need to be an engineer to follow it.
Date published: 2020-03-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Insight I have nearly completed this course and find it wonderful. It brings insight into the creation of technology and then adapting the technology to enhance the benefits. The greatest insight was that the Romans adapted water technology to create a modern sanitary system. We only returned to using a water flow when pumps and stopcocks made it possible to expand the system without the volume of water needed in the Roman world. Lots of other great insights. It's obvious that the Professor loves this topic and his enthusiasm enhances the presentation dramatically. I bought this course because of the other course I have that he taught.
Date published: 2020-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from one of the best courses As a result of a lending swap with a friend, my wife and I were able to do this course together. Professor Ressler is one of the best lecturers we have heard, from either college, graduate school, or The Teaching Company experiences. His genuine enthusiasm for his subject matter is infectious, his knowledge both wide and deep, and his ability to explain matters in concise ways make this course something I heartily recommend. This course covers both Greek and Roman engineering, as in the title, but the professor expands what he presents though history to the present. Although not trained in engineering (other than 2 years of practical service as an engineering officer on a Navy ship), I have graduate degrees in science and medicine. The illustrations and practical models very much improve the learning from this course. I have no reservations in recommending this course.
Date published: 2020-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great presenter, and very best program! After very extensive travel in Europe over many years, this program was like traveling again to every point, only this time through new (educated) eyes. Thank you so much for this treasure, and keys to the treasures.
Date published: 2020-01-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Props This course is exactly what you hope these courses are like. It is almost perfect. The best thing about it is that he has all of these elaborate models that he must have used for teaching at West Point. They are all really cool and bring what could be a dry topic very much to life. Fantastic job.
Date published: 2019-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Professor As usual, Prof. Ressler teaches us with humor and expertise. So interesting to learn the innovations that the Greeks and Romans made to the techniques they inherited. Ages ago I taught the history of these emerging architectural principles in high school, and the students loved it. It's always a fascinating subject, especially since these principles can be seen today as they continue to evolve. For example, every time I visit Southern California or Southern Florida, I remark, "Rome lives."
Date published: 2019-07-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engineering in Greece & Rome An excellent course on engineering and construction in classical Greece & Rome. It contains many demonstrations to illustrate the principles used to build the ancient monuments we see today.
Date published: 2019-06-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating program I watched this program on GC Plus to prepare for a trip to Italy and Greece and found it fascinating. Afterwards I bought the DVDs so I could share it with my grandkids who take STEM courses. Now I’m following Dr Steven Ressler on FB to see what else he’s up to. I highly recommend the program.
Date published: 2019-05-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just order it! I've purchased quite a few courses from TGC, and this one is, in my opinion, the top of the heap. Prof. Ressler is the most enthusiastic, most engaging, and most enjoyable of the presenters in TGC's catalog. I'm an engineering geek, and I found this course simply riveting; my wife is not, but she did as well. I've purchased all of Ressler's courses, but this is the best. It really illustrates how sophisticated engineering was even 2000+ years ago. If you have even the slightest interest in history and engineering, you won't go wrong with this jewel.
Date published: 2019-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Ressler Launches One Out of the Colosseum After the almost 300, five-star reviews of General Ressler’s “World’s Greatest Structures” and over another 170 five-star reviews of this course, there is little new that I can add. Perhaps I should begin by mentioning the one issue I have with “Greek and Roman Technology”: for me it is not quite as good a course as the one on Greatest Structures. True enough the graphics have been slightly improved since his first course, but they were of the highest order in the first place. As always Professor Ressler’s delivery is perfect. He neither goes too fast, nor too slow. His diction is precise and clear and his choice of words always clarifies the points he wishes to make without elaboration. I do think that he lightens up a bit, using just a bit more humor in this course than in his prior one. The models that he constructs in this course are elaborate (in particular I’m thinking of his catapult). And as always they illustrate and helped me understand the points he was making. His demonstration of how the Roman roads were built is a perfect example. But for me, my favorite lectures 12, 13, 14 and 19 where his models clearly demonstrated the complexity and difficulties of water usage, distribution and dispersal. Everything from making a man-made spring to sewage disposal and what happens in between. Absolute perfection in combining concepts in lectures, demonstrations using his hand-built models—a combination of the theoretical and practical. And all this topped off with a photograph of an urban Roman street with the stepping stones going from one side of the street to the other, so that citizens would not have to walk in above-ground waste disposal system (before it enters the underground sewer system. A final word about lectures 22 and 23, where both physical and computer models are used to demonstrate ships (especially triremes) of the day and their sailing and fighting characteristics are heightened by the photos and movies of the reconstruction of a trireme in the late 80s. Again theory, practicality, models and demonstration combine perfectly. Forget which course is better. Get them both.
Date published: 2019-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating! I have over 20 Great Courses and this is one of the best. Excellent presentation and demonstrations told by one of the best professors I have heard. It was eye opening discovering how the Romans built their buildings. They weren’t just columns on slabs but they were well thought out systems that required all of the modern engineering disciplines to complete their buildings. If you just care about learning, this course is well worth your time.
Date published: 2019-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A deeper look at Greek and Roman Technology It happens that the remains of a Byzantine era monastery lies about 60 meters from my house, complete with an olive press and wine-making facility, which piqued my interest in this course. Prof. Ressler is a fantastic teacher, and he presents many models and clear explanations of the technologies, their limitations and surprising advantages. I really loved his in-depth look at the planning of roads, the structure of the Colisseum, and especially the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. Wow!! Now, I'm hoping to figure out how the community that was once where I live got its main water supply 1800 years ago... I highly recommend this course for anyone interested in technology, civil engineering, or ancient history.
Date published: 2019-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Ressler is outstanding Dr. Ressler has amazing teaching ability. He's not a stuffy, boring lecturer who talks down to you; he's an engineer who has a friendly, easygoing but extremely effective style. I've taken all of his courses and he uses visual aids and physical models to demonstrate principles; he doesn't just talk about them. This helps tremendously in your understanding of the topics. (And he builds the physical models and demo setups he uses himself–very impressive.)
Date published: 2019-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Favorite course to date First, the content is fascinating. The instructor teaches the engineering and technology concepts and principles very clearly without digging into the nitty-gritty of the math or science. The professor teaches in a way that keeps the subject interesting. He almost always includes sufficient detail without letting things get stale. The course is filled with hands-on demonstrations and scaled models. Seeing the various constructs and devices in live action is worth a thousand words. The teacher always sets up the demonstrations well so that when you see the action you understand the principle he's been teaching even better. Finally, the graphics and maps added to the lectures are very well done and always add value and interest. This is the best yet.
Date published: 2019-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from greel and roman technology Great information, superbly presented with great models
Date published: 2019-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This great course lives up to all expectations When I first looked at the reviews for this course and saw all 5 stars, I was a little skeptical, but I have to say, that this course lived up to all my high expectations. The Professor speaks very clearly and adds a lot of background info and photos to support the models that he creates. I have traveled extensively to the sites he discussed so was obviously very interested in hearing how such great works as the Parthenon, Pantheon, Coliseum, Pont du Gard, etc. came to be built. I came out with a much better understanding and want to go back to these places to see them with new eyes.
Date published: 2018-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Practical Course Professor Stephen Ressler has produced an excellent Course, another Great Course, indeed. The 24 lectures are very interesting, specially because you can see real models to understand its working and functions. Professor Ressler (and the Great Courses´ team, of course) had the preoccupation to bring alive the History, the techonology and the use of the great invents of the Ancient Age. We really make a trip to the distant past to see how our ancestors in the Classic Greece and Rome were industrious and able to produce solutions to current problems of their own days. Many of the ancient techonology we still use today. Professor Ressler is an enthusiastic person that loves what he does and has the charisma to transmit his knowledge to everyone. Congratulations.
Date published: 2018-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exceeded My Expectations Given the great reviews, I was very excited about this class. It's a topic I have been quite interested in for some time. Professor Ressler covers a breadth of topics, and in the level of detail I was hoping for. His use of models to demonstrate some of the technologies was particularly effective. After this course, I feel like the next logical step for me in this area would be to read Vitruvius for myself. Loved it!
Date published: 2018-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb and Fascinating I have taken all of Dr. Ressler's classes on The Great Courses. The subject material in all is fascinating from a technical and historical perspective. His knowledge, articulation, and enthusiasm are wonderful and highly engaging. Please do more courses Professor Ressler!
Date published: 2018-09-25
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Understanding Greek and Roman Technology
Course Trailer
Technology in the Classical World
1: Technology in the Classical World

Begin your exploration of ancient Greek and Roman engineering by probing the technological edge that allowed the Greeks to beat the Persians at the Battle of Salamis. Then survey the aims of the course and preview an impressive piece of technology that you will encounter in a later lecture.

32 min
The Substance of Technology-Materials
2: The Substance of Technology-Materials

Study the engineering materials available in classical antiquity. First look at the simple physics of compression and tension. Then consider six specific materials: stone, wood, clay, copper, bronze, and iron. Examine how they came into use and how their properties influenced the design of technological systems.

29 min
From Quarry to Temple-Building in Stone
3: From Quarry to Temple-Building in Stone

Gain a deeper appreciation for the ancient world's most important construction material by following a block of stone from a quarry to its final resting place in the wall of a Greek temple. Learn how stone blocks were extracted from solid bedrock, moved many miles, and then fitted together without mortar.

30 min
Stone Masonry Perfected-The Greek Temple
4: Stone Masonry Perfected-The Greek Temple

Focus on the classical-era temple, one of the crowning achievements of Hellenic civilization. Where did it originate? Why are the many examples so architecturally consistent? What were the principles of Greek temple design? And what were its structural limitations?

29 min
From Temple to Basilica-Timber Roof Systems
5: From Temple to Basilica-Timber Roof Systems

No wooden roof of a Greek temple has survived from antiquity, yet we can surmise a great deal about how these impressive structures were engineered. Trace how Greek and later Roman architects covered large interior spaces with increasingly sophisticated timber roof systems.

31 min
Construction Revolution-Arches and Concrete
6: Construction Revolution-Arches and Concrete

Learn how the physics of the arch solves the problem of the tensile weakness of stone. Then see how standard bricks and concrete greatly simplify and reduce the cost of monumental building. These technologies were the key to Rome's construction revolution.

35 min
Construction in Transition-The Colosseum
7: Construction in Transition-The Colosseum

Built in the A.D. 70s, the Colosseum reflects a transitional period of Roman building technology. Follow the construction of this mammoth arena from the ground up. Begin with the geometry of the building. Then focus on its blend of traditional and state-of-the-art construction techniques.

30 min
The Genesis of a New Imperial Architecture
8: The Genesis of a New Imperial Architecture

Focus on two structures-Nero's Golden House and Trajan's Market-which are emblematic of Rome's bold new imperial architecture during the 1st and early 2nd centuries. These buildings feature complex vaulted and domed structures, asymmetrical floor plans, and striking interior spaces.

35 min
The Most Celebrated Edifice-The Pantheon
9: The Most Celebrated Edifice-The Pantheon

Conclude your study of great classical-era structures by examining the greatest of them all: the Pantheon in Rome. Imitated but never equaled, this temple to all the gods incorporates Greek as well as quintessentially Roman architectural features. The stupendous dome is a work of engineering genius.

27 min
Cities by Design-The Rise of Urban Planning
10: Cities by Design-The Rise of Urban Planning

Start a series of lectures on infrastructure in the classical world with a look at city planning. The Piraeus in Greece was an influential early example. Analyze the Roman approach to creating a rational order for their cities. Also learn the Roman technique for surveying a city plan.

27 min
Connecting the Empire-Roads and Bridges
11: Connecting the Empire-Roads and Bridges

At its height, the Roman Empire had 75,000 miles of public roads, organized into a system that incorporated way-stations, milestones, triumphal arches, and upward of 1,000 bridges. Investigate how the Romans created this impressive transportation network, parts of which have survived for 2,000 years.

35 min
From Source to City-Water Supply Systems
12: From Source to City-Water Supply Systems

Delve into the history of water supply technologies. The Greeks solved the problem of transporting water across deep valleys by building inverted siphons. By contrast, the Romans preferred to use arcaded aqueduct bridges whenever possible. Why was this apparently extravagant technique often more practical?

28 min
Engineering a Roman Aqueduct
13: Engineering a Roman Aqueduct

Design an aqueduct for a hypothetical Roman town. First identify a water source. Then consider its elevation and distance to the town, the possible terrain profiles for a channel, and the appropriate type of aqueduct. Conclude by examining the complex system that supplied plentiful water to Rome.

29 min
Go with the Flow-Urban Water Distribution
14: Go with the Flow-Urban Water Distribution

Trace the flow of water through a major city such as Rome-from the aqueduct to water towers, public fountains, buildings and private residences, and ultimately to sewers. Among the questions you consider: Did the widespread use of lead pipes create a lead poisoning hazard?

27 min
Paradigm and Paragon-Imperial Roman Baths
15: Paradigm and Paragon-Imperial Roman Baths

Complete your exploration of classical-era infrastructure by exploring one of the ancient world's finest examples of an engineered system: the imperial Roman baths. Focus on the magnificent Baths of Caracalla, finished in A.D. 235, by spotlighting the major steps in its five-year construction.

29 min
Harnessing Animal Power-Land Transportation
16: Harnessing Animal Power-Land Transportation

Begin a sequence of eight lectures on machines in the ancient world. After an introduction to the simple machines described by the Greeks, focus on land transport employing the wheel and axle. Discover that wagon technology reached a high level of sophistication in the Roman Empire.

31 min
Leveraging Human Power-Construction Cranes
17: Leveraging Human Power-Construction Cranes

How were giant stone blocks lifted using only muscle power? Examine the technology of classical-era cranes, breaking down their components to understand how they provided significant mechanical advantage. Close with a theory on the construction technique used to stack the massive marble drums of Trajan's Column in Rome.

31 min
Lifting Water with Human Power
18: Lifting Water with Human Power

In antiquity, water pumps were extensively used in ships, mines, and agriculture. Investigate how these devices worked. From Archimedes' screw, to the waterwheel, to the piston pump, each had tradeoffs between flow rate, height of lift, and muscle power required.

31 min
Milling Grain with Water Power
19: Milling Grain with Water Power

By the 1st century A.D., waterwheels were widely used for grinding grain throughout the ancient world. Explore three different types of waterwheels that were perfected by the Romans: the undershot wheel, the overshot wheel, and the vertical-shaft wheel, each with its advantages and disadvantages.

29 min
Machines at War-Siege Towers and Rams
20: Machines at War-Siege Towers and Rams

Focus on the ancient world's most technologically intensive form of warfare-the siege-which provided a powerful stimulus for the development of large-scale machines such as siege towers and rams. Analyze several famous sieges, including the Roman attack on Jotapata during the Jewish War.

31 min
Machines at War-Evolution of the Catapult
21: Machines at War-Evolution of the Catapult

Trace the evolution of the catapult, which overcomes the inherent human physiological limitations associated with the bow and arrow. From hand-operated crossbows, catapults progressed to giant artillery pieces able to shoot enormous arrows and hurl heavy projectiles. Revisit a type of catapult called the palintone from Lecture 1, and watch it in action.

34 min
Machines at Sea-Ancient Ships
22: Machines at Sea-Ancient Ships

Spurred by their dependence on maritime trade, the ancient Greeks became masters of nautical engineering. Follow the development of their ship design and sailing techniques, which were adopted by the Romans and paved the way for the great age of exploration in the 15th century.

34 min
Reconstructing the Greek Trireme
23: Reconstructing the Greek Trireme

The trireme, a swift warship with three banks of oars, ruled the Mediterranean Sea in the 5th century B.C., when the Athenian empire was at its height. Yet only sparse evidence remains for what these vessels were like. Follow a detailed reconstruction based on tantalizing clues.

33 min
The Modern Legacy of Ancient Technology
24: The Modern Legacy of Ancient Technology

Finish the course by exploring the legacy of classical-era technology, discovering that its influence is everywhere. From roads, aqueducts, and planned cities, to structural trusses, concrete, and the classical architectural style, the fruits of Greek and Roman engineering play a vital role in the modern world.

33 min
Stephen Ressler

In over two decades as a teacher, I've never experienced anything quite like commitment of The Great Courses to rigor in the course development process and uncompromising production quality in the studio.


Lehigh University


United States Military Academy, West Point

About Stephen Ressler

Dr. Stephen Ressler is Professor Emeritus from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). A registered Professional Engineer in Virginia, he earned a B.S. from West Point and an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Lehigh University, as well as a Master of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. Professor Ressler's papers on engineering education have won seven Best Paper awards from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). Professor Ressler has also won numerous awards from the ASCE, including the President's Medal and the 2011 Outstanding Projects and Leaders Award-the organization's highest award. His other accolades include the Bliss Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Engineering Education from the Society of American Military Engineers and the Norm Augustine Award for Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Communications from the American Association of Engineering Societies. Professor Ressler served for 34 years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and retired at the rank of Brigadier General in 2013. While on active duty, he served in a variety of military engineering assignments around the world. He is also a developer and principal instructor for the Excellence in Civil Engineering Education Teaching Workshop, which has trained more than 500 civil engineering faculty members from more than 200 colleges and universities.

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