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Publisher's Summary

Complete your knowledge of the ancient world with this comprehensive look at the dozen empires that flourished in the 2,000 years before the conquests of Alexander the Great. Over the course of 36 insightful lectures, you'll follow the Egyptians, the Mycenaean Greeks, the Persians, the Carthaginians, and others as they rise to glory, create administrative and military structures, clash with one another, and eventually collapse.

Professor Dise immerses you in the political, administrative, and military details of these thrilling civilizations, analyzing three basic questions: How did this particular empire emerge? How was it governed and defended? How and why did it ultimately fall? These questions raise a host of profound issues on the growth, development, and failures of vast imperial systems.

Grounded in a chronological approach, you'll find no better guide through the palatial halls, administrative offices, and war-torn battlefields of these empires than Professor Dise. Each lecture is packed with a range of rich sources on which our current understanding of the ancient Near East rests, including cuneiform tablets, colorful narratives, and archaeological remains.

As you comb through these intriguing records, you quickly become more informed about how the past is recorded and passed down to subsequent generations. Spanning thousands of years of human history and encompassing regions both familiar and forgotten, this course is a remarkable tour through the farthest reaches of the ancient world - in all its marvelous diversity.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2009 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2009 The Great Courses

What listeners say about Ancient Empires before Alexander

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    4 out of 5 stars

hard to follow. bit all over the place

why 15 words? seems a bit silly to me.
why 15 words? seems a bit silly to me.

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  • Emily
  • 18-08-2015

University Level Lecture Series

Where does Ancient Empires before Alexander rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far? I listen to a lot of ancient history lectures. Some are broad, some are basic, some are thematic, some are popular, some are casual. This series is serious. This isn't an "aren't-the-Greeks-amazing," "how-the-Romans-are/aren't-like-us," "Egypt-is-cool" lecture. Don't get me wrong, I love those lectures, but this is University level serious. This is a deep dive into the ancient bronze age superpowers of the Mediterranean and Near East. Every lecture has so much critical information packed in. I needed to stop more than once and consult maps or just pause to take it all in. The lectures are organized chronologically by civilizations. Some time periods overlap as he follows each empire's timeline from rise to fall. It was helpful for me to listen to a set of lectures for one empire and stop rather than binge on them right after another. I've listed the lecture outline below. Standouts for me were the Kingdom of David and Solomon, The Mitanni, Every Lecture on Hatti (the Hittites), The Collapse of the Mycenaean World (interesting Sea Peoples ideas), Every lecture on the Assyrians, and the Carthage and early Rome lectures (interesting from the Carthaginian point of view). All lectures are rich with essential details and not much fluff. If you are new student of the ancient world, I'd recommend another Audible introductory course/book first as a framework context so you don't become lost or overwhelmed and end up hating hate this. If you are into the ancient world, I recommend Ancient Empires before Alexander as *THE* advanced course. I absolutely love this series and it's the one I refer back to for comparison to any new ancient world media I come across. Any additional comments? Lecture Table of Contents 1 A Meditation on Empire 2 Lands, Seas, and Sources 3 Sargon and the Dawn of Empire 4 The Third Dynasty of Ur 5 The Empire of Hammurabi 6 Mitanni and the Kassites 7 The Rise of Hatti 8 The Government of Hatti 9 Hatti at War 10 The Climax and Collapse of Hatti 11 The Rise of the Egyptian Empire 12 The Imperial Army and Administration 13 The End of the Egyptian Empire 14 The Minoan Thalassocracy 15 Mycenae and the Dawn of Greece 16 The Collapse of the Mycenaean World 17 The Birth of Israel 18 The Empire of David and Solomon 19 The Dawn of Assyria 20 The Rise of the Neo-Assyrian Empire 21 The Government of Assyria 22 Assyria at War 23 The Climax and Collapse of Assyria 24 The Neo-Babylonian Empire 25 The Rise of the Persian Empire 26 The Outbreak of the Greek Wars 27 Xerxes and the Invasion of Greece 28 From Plataea to the Peace of Callias 29 The Persian Empire from 450 to 334 30 The Government and Army of Persia 31 Alexander and the Fall of Persia 32 The Origins of Carthage and Its Empire 33 Ruling and Defending Carthage's Empire 34 The First War with Rome 35 Hannibal and the Fall of Carthage 36 Ancient Empires before Alexander, and After

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  • Tommy D'Angelo
  • 30-09-2017

No Big Picture; Not Very Engaging

I purchased this course primarily because I was interested in learning more about ancient Mesopotamia. I thought the "History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective" course provided an excellent overview of the region but due to the breadth of the course, it could only dedicate a few lectures to it. I was disappointed with "Between the Rivers: The History of Ancient Mesopotamia" so I decided to try Professor Dise's course. Unfortunately, I had the same general reaction: I just couldn't get into this course. It didn't draw me in.

The professor states up front the course is focused almost exclusively on the political and military narrative history of the empires. Which is usually right up my alley because that is what interests me the most. However, the delivery of the content caused me to zone out way too often. While it was somewhat dry and monotone, the real issue in my estimation is that the professor didn't seem to take the time to pause the narrative every now and then and explain big picture where some of the developments have led us. He went from one battle to another to one kingdom rising to another to the point where it sounded like nothing more than a recitation of straight facts of kings that conquer other kings with no real "story". While I understand teaching is not about entertainment, alot of the other Great Courses out there combine both which is what keeps one coming back for more and has made me a life-time fan. In that respect, this course is lacking.

Lecture 17 on the beginnings of Israel was about the only lecture that stroke my interest. Comparing the historical account of events in the Bible with other archaeological evidence was thought provoking.

If you are one who is satisfied with listening to just the facts about these ancient empires, their kings, their battles, and their falls in a steady manner with no pause for reflection on bigger pictures then this could be the course for you. If you like a little entertainment with your lectures or more overarching analysis or something to draw you in then I'd say stay away and instead go with the superb "History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective". Meanwhile, my search for a quality Great Course on ancient Mesopotamia continues...

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  • Jeffrey L. Smith, PE
  • 20-01-2018

Just the right amount of detail!

Covering a dozen or so empires over thousands of years is HARD, but Dise pulls it off. He covers all these cultures in sufficient detail to allow for comparison, but not so much as to get bogged down in minutiae. Because the discussion is about empires; politics, economics and militaries take center stage over religious, cultural or technological matters, but the pay off is understanding the sweep of thousands of years of history. I knew about many of these cultures from previous studies, but to study them together puts a lot of puzzle pieces together. Excellent lecture series that makes me want to study some of these cultures in greater depth. Which is probably the greatest compliment you can give to a teacher.

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  • Stef
  • 04-12-2017

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Professor Dire explains interesting facts in great detail. A few corny one-liners thrown in too.

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  • steven fulford
  • 23-03-2017

Great story interesting delivery

Any additional comments?

The author took a long and complex story and made it interesting. Unlike most history lessons filled with facts but very dry this series was filled with useful information and even a bit of humor, It keep my interest throughout.

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  • horoscopy
  • 17-11-2016

very interesting story very well told

What made the experience of listening to Ancient Empires before Alexander the most enjoyable?

despite what a couple of other reviewers said about the professor sounding monotone...I found his way of speaking quite interesting and think he actually is a great speaker. I will admit some times I wondered if he was reading his thesis papers but if you pay attention to what he is saying ...it is very interestingly told and actually his "monotone voice" begins to refreshingly stand out from other speakers of Great Courses..some of whom sound like they are imitating Bill Gates or like to use "uh uh, uh" a lot! (not this one!)

Any additional comments?

recommend it highly If interested in ancient civilizations....great stuff here!

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  • Travis
  • 25-01-2016

the Dream of Empire.

great courses isn't just a title this is truly a great course. I enjoyed every minute of these lectures listening for hours at a time

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  • CHS
  • 27-02-2020

fabulously good

wow. this prof has both a superb mastery of the subject and extremely effective communication skills. I could hardly stop listening. I wish I had gotten his grounding in the subjects he addresses a long time ago. thank you thank you chs

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  • Taylor Britton
  • 10-09-2019

ignorance is childish

"To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?" - Cicero

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  • rnin85
  • 28-08-2016

Boring--

I just couldn't finish this course. I made it through the first 4 chapters but I could go no further. Let me be up front that it was not the material but the presenter. He seemed bored by his own material. His presentation was monotone and just had no life to it. If I was in his classroom course, I would have to sit in the back. I would sit in the back so I hopefully wouldn't be noticed when I dropped off to sleep.

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  • AV Maniac
  • 18-09-2018

Is this the teacher from Ferris Bueller's Day Off?

I have listened to over 150 of The Great Courses and this is the first where I have found cause to complain about the selection of teacher. I mean no personal offence against Prof. Dise – he certainly knows his stuff – however, the format here is audio, and with audio comes the opportunity to bring subject matter to life in a way written material cannot imitate. Prof. Dise fails to capitalise on the advantages of the format. What this sounds like is Prof. Dise reading verbatim from a pre-written text. He sounds bored, monotone and delivers fact after fact with no landmark points of sparkling delivery or memorable syntax that might help the listener conjure an image lasting more than a few seconds. In fact, I struggled to conjure any images whatsoever beyond the parts of the course that covered matter with which I already had a degree of familiarity and so also had imagery pre-formed. On the spectrum of Great Courses lecturers where I put Robert Greenberg's music courses as THE most lively and engaging, Prof. Dise now occupies the new nadir. This course was so dull I believe it would actually put off anyone for whom this is their first experience of The Great Courses from ever listening to another one.

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  • Jonathan
  • 29-10-2014

Interesting Material but Mediocre Delivery

This lecture course covers a large number of ancient empires, leading up to (but not including) Greece and Rome. For more details about content, I strongly recommend looking at the Great Courses web site which includes titles of each lecture (and lots of reviews). I knew very little about Ancient History and this course provided a really good introduction -- relatively brief on each empire, but a good overview. However the course had two main problems from my perspective. One is that the material is very much slanted towards military history -- lots of detail about armour, chariot types etc, while the cultures are treated rather sparsely. This would suit some people but wasn't ideal for me. The biggest problem though is that the lecturer is rather boring. He does not put any personality into the material -- he sounds as if he is just reading written notes and sometimes he sounds rather bored by the whole thing. Overall I'm glad to have listened to this but I had to force myself to keep going at several points.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 27-06-2020

Excellent

A rare objective scholarly and comprehensive review of ancient empires history. Excellent in depth analysis from Sumer to Rome!

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  • Joel G
  • 09-07-2019

Very informative and enjoyable.

Clear narration that keeps you interested and entertained whilst rich in knowledge and detail. These lectures have clarified areas I had thought about previously and challenged areas I thought I was certain on before. Time well spent.

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  • Nik Jewell
  • 10-02-2017

Like Listening to Kevin Costner on Tranquillisers

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

Yes, it was worthwhile, though I got more from reading the notes alongside my Penguin Atlas of Ancient Civilisations.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I have a soft spot for the Persian rulers, given such a hard time by Herodotus.

Would you be willing to try another one of Professor Robert L. Dise Jr.’s performances?

If the course contained information that I wanted to know about then yes; however, this is by far the worst oral performance I have yet encountered on Audible. 18 hours of droning monotone. Really pretty painful.

Do you think Ancient Empires before Alexander needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

If it does I would rather it was read/presented by somebody else!

Any additional comments?

Good and interesting material but only just about bearable to listen to.

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  • Stephen
  • 19-09-2015

Must Try Harder

Has Ancient Empires before Alexander put you off other books in this genre?

It could have if it had been the first "Great Courses" book I listened to

What aspect of Professor Robert L. Dise Jr.’s performance might you have changed?

There are parts of this course where he just sounds bored

Was Ancient Empires before Alexander worth the listening time?

Just about

Any additional comments?

"Professor" Robert L. Dise doesn't sound like a professor. He lacks impartiality on the various peoples. He uses racial epithets when describing some cultures:
For example he compares the ancient Greeks to a bunch of "Drunken Rednecks" and condemns them for daring to resist the Persian invasion.

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  • Clare
  • 22-02-2016

Lecturer isn't as clever as he thinks he is

Any additional comments?

I thought I would give the Great Courses another go. Once again the lecturer chosen seems an odd choice, This is a series of lectures on Empires before Alexander so they choose someone whose specialty is the Roman Empire! Why? Surely it should be someone who specialised in the earlier Empires.There are some superficially irritating things, why does each lecture end with some canned applause & some music thousands of years too late? Also the title should have been Empires of Europe, Near & Middle East before Alexander as no mention is made of any empires in China, India or Africa outside of Egypt etc. I don't mind the focus but I mind that it's pretending it's not there.Sadly the lecturer also feels the need to make factious comments every now & then which I imagine is supposed to make the lecture more engaging but actually is just irritating.However, despite this I have managed to persevere & have found it interesting enough to continue. However, niggles of doubt do creep in. The lecturer doesn't appear to know much about archery as he confuses compound & composite & fails to mention recurve when it was relevant. How much else, that I know less about, is similar?All in all Modern Scholar remains superior

2 people found this helpful

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  • Ibrahim955
  • 05-02-2016

Very good book

What did you like best about this story?

The best thing about this history is the linking between the events and the explanation of why such events happened

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

There were few events that made me feel as if I am living with the historical characters especially with the Persian empire

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