Cities of the Ancient World

Course No. 3723
Professor Steven L. Tuck, Ph.D.
Miami University
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Course No. 3723
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Explore housing, murals, and shrines in Catalhoyuk: the world's first city.
  • numbers Explore the architectural remains of the famous walled urban community known as Jericho.
  • numbers Learn how the monuments and public buildings of Pergamon used scale and drama to try and surpass Periclean Athens.
  • numbers Examine Constantinople to learn how the development of this famous city was accompanied by political riots.

Course Overview

Jericho: The famous walled city from the story of Joshua, whose conquerors left only rubble for future archaeologists.

Deir el-Medina: Home to the workers who built the tombs of King Tut and other pharaohs in the desert.

Alexandria: The awe-inspiring metropolis that housed wonders of ancient architecture along the North African coast.

Rome: Arguably the most famous and most impressive city of the ancient world, and the seat of one of the world’s most powerful empires.

These and other cities tell us much about the development of civilization: why people settled in cities, how they lived, how they overcame the challenges of urban life, and more. Because we now live in a world of cities—and for the first time ever, the majority of the population lives in an urban environment—reflecting on these ancient models of the “city” as a human phenomenon offers important lessons for our culture today.

Cities of the Ancient World is your opportunity to survey the breadth of the ancient world through the context of its urban development. Taught by esteemed Professor Steven L. Tuck of Miami University, these 24 eye-opening lectures not only provide an invaluable look at the design and architecture of ancient cities, they also offer a flesh-and-blood glimpse into the daily lives of ordinary people and the worlds they created. For instance, you will:

  • consider the benefits of living in cities, from mutual defense to trading opportunities;
  • compare domestic and public spaces and see what implications these spaces have on politics and society;
  • investigate critical infrastructure, including water supply and drainage systems;
  • learn about how such common ideas as city blocks and crosswalks were invented; and
  • marvel at the elaborate monuments and works of art created in antiquity.

From the world’s first city of Çatalhöyük to the mysteries of the Indus Valley to Constantinople, which served as the hinge between the ancient and medieval worlds, Cities of the Ancient World gives you insight into cities both large and small, famous and obscure. Ultimately, however, this is a course about people, not just buildings. Studying these cities will give you a new appreciation for the remarkable cultures of the ancient world, from the ruins of Uruk to the Golden Age of Athens, and spur you to reflect on what makes a city survive.

Discover a Wide Range of Urban Development

From orderly cities to sprawling suburbs, the ancient world offers the same variety of urban living you find around the world today. By looking at such a wide range of cities, you get a sense of the changing ideas about what it takes to make a city—and it allows you to make connections across time and geography. For example, you’ll trace the development of orthogonal planning, in which cities are constructed in a grid with rectilinear blocks, and find out how it gradually spread around the ancient world.

Using a case-study approach, Professor Tuck shows you the incredible breadth and richness of urban design across the ages:

  • Tour the mysterious citadel of Mohenjo-daro, part of the lost civilization of the Indus Valley.
  • Consider the Egyptian “company town” of Kahun, which housed paid laborers who built the tombs of pharaohs.
  • Explore the Minoan city of Knossos, a labyrinthine metropolis seamlessly integrated into the rocky island landscape.
  • Meet Hippodamus of Miletus and find out about his principles of urban design. He is credited with formalizing orthogonal planning.
  • View the splendor of Alexandria, the first major city built directly on the seacoast, whose great lighthouse was among the seven wonders of the ancient world.
  • Examine Roman infrastructure and find out how building codes helped mitigate fires and other dangers.

Examining the structures of these ancient cities teaches us much about the lives and priorities of their inhabitants. For example, are the city blocks short and walkable? Do zoning laws isolate various ethnic groups and social classes? Do city walls protect from outside invasions? Professor Tuck also demonstrates how ancient peoples dealt with the challenges of infrastructure, waste removal, neighbors, and the environment—issues that will resonate with today’s city dwellers.

Weigh the Evidence to Reconstruct Daily Life

More than anything else, Cities of the Ancient World is a course about human beings—what life was like in these cities and how people lived. Professor Tuck assumes the role of a historical detective and examines the archaeological and written evidence for each city we visit. Some cities such as Mohenjo-daro are incredibly mysterious, so we can only deduce who may have lived there and what their lives might have been like. In other cities, including Athens, Rome, and Constantinople, we have a wealth of official records and written accounts that give us a complete picture of everyday life.

One of the many treats of this course is being able to walk through these cities as if in the shoes of an ordinary citizen. From the gender-segregated symposia in Athens to the array of social classes in the Roman baths to the patriotic citizenry on the frontier edges of the Roman Empire, Professor Tuck gives you a three-dimensional feel for everyday life in the ancient world:

  • See how the temples of Çatalhöyük and the ziggurats of Uruk suggest cities first emerged to accommodate religious structures, and that agriculture soon followed.
  • Study the layout of Amarna, the revolutionary capital of Egypt, and connect city planning with the ideology of social control.
  • Trace the average day of a shoemaker as he travels through the streets of Athens.
  • Experience two perspectives of daily life in Rome, first as a well-to-do citizen and then as a poor immigrant.
  • Visit the unique Roman satellite community of Ostia, which appears to have been an entirely middle class city, with no extremes of wealth or poverty.

The urban layouts and archaeological records give you a remarkable window into each city, as well as the relationships among the cities—and in some cases, clues about why certain cities failed. As you travel from the Indus Valley in the east to Algeria in the west, and from far-flung outposts to imperial capitals, you’ll learn about trade, economies of scale, and the development of communal identity, which plays an especially important role in an increasingly globalized world.

Case Studies Build on Themselves

Professor Tuck’s approach in this course—presenting each city as a case study—allows you to experience the course in many ways. Each lecture is a self-contained episode, but they build on each other to create a vivid and complete picture of life from the earliest civilizations to the beginning of the Middle Ages. This comprehensive portrait will change the way you look at our modern world.

As you’ll discover, cities are here to stay. Considering the lessons from ancient cities—how they succeeded and why they failed—will make a difference in how we live in communities today or plan new ones for the future. The designs, challenges, and solutions to urban life you’ll encounter in Cities of the Ancient World have been with us for thousands of years, and studying communities in antiquity provides valuable insight into what it means to be human—and makes for good citizenship as we build the cities of the future.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 29 minutes each
  • 1
    The Lure of the City
    Cities are integral to our modern lives. Begin your tour by considering why wandering ancient humans left the forests and plains to create settlements. The fundamental question of “why” is just the first step toward understanding the inhabitants and lessons from ancient cities. x
  • 2
    Çatalhöyük—First Experiment in Urban Living
    Imagine a city with no streets, no public buildings, and no common spaces. Built in layers on a small mound, the world’s first city offers an intriguing window into life in the Neolithic era. Explore the remains of Çatalhöyük’s family housing, murals, and religious shrines. x
  • 3
    Jericho and Its Walls
    Nearly everyone has heard the story of the walls of Jericho, which famously came tumbling down in the book of Joshua. Look past the biblical story and find out what architectural remains suggest about this city, whose ritual spaces helped create a community and whose walls helped define this urban environment. x
  • 4
    Uruk—City of Gilgamesh
    Shift your attention to one of the most marvelous cities in the ancient world. Located in the heart of Mesopotamia, Uruk exhibits many of the hallmarks of ancient civilization, including division of labor among its craftsmen, a class hierarchy that included professional priests, and records of art and literature. x
  • 5
    Mysterious Mohenjo-daro
    Venture east to the Indus Valley, home of one of the great unknowns among ancient civilizations. The lack of written evidence from the region means we are reliant on the archaeological record to understand the culture of cities such as Mohenjo-daro. Tour its so-called citadel in the city center, examine its remarkable water systems, and more. x
  • 6
    Kahun—Company Town in the Desert
    Enter the world of ancient Egypt during the peaceful era of the Middle Kingdom. Here in the desert, paid laborers built tombs and temples for the pharaohs. To house the laborers, the Egyptians built Kahun, a planned city whose walls and layout reinforced the system of social class and served as a means of control over the population. x
  • 7
    Work and Life at Deir el-Medina
    At the height of Egyptian power during the New Kingdom, skilled workers enjoyed more prosperity than ever before, and opportunities for promotion allowed for great social mobility. Meet several ordinary workers from this society and review some of the literature that teaches us about Egyptian social structure. x
  • 8
    Amarna—Revolutionary Capital
    Deliberately created as a capital city near the center of the kingdom, Amarna served as an administrative and religious center designed to redirect political authority to the pharaoh, Amenhotep IV. Study some of the most iconic images from ancient Egypt and unpack the relationship between city planning and the social structure. x
  • 9
    Knossos—Palace, City, or Temple?
    Delve into the remarkable Minoan city of Knossos, a labyrinthine complex integrated into the natural landscape. This sophisticated example of urban design was home to figures of myth, religious spectacles, sizable food storage and distribution areas, and a unique system of architecture. Tour this visionary civilization. x
  • 10
    Akrotiri—Bronze Age Pompeii
    Visit another Minoan city, which was obliterated by one of the largest volcanic eruptions in human history. The eruption destroyed much of the city but also preserved a great deal. Look at some of the surviving houses and wall paintings and find out what archaeologists can deduce about daily life in the city from its remains x
  • 11
    Mycenae, Tiryns, and the Mask of Agamemnon
    Investigate the culture of Bronze Age Greece. After learning about the intriguing masonry at Tiryns and the impressive walls of Mycenae, you’ll take a look at how vernacular architecture reveals differences in political systems among regional powers. Then find out about the Mycenaean collapse and the end of the era. x
  • 12
    Athens—Civic Buildings and Civic Identity
    Leap forward to classical Athens in the Golden Age of the 5th century B.C. Tour some of the city’s most well-known landmarks, including the Agora, the Acropolis, and the Parthenon. Learn about the Periclean building program in the years following the Persian Wars, and examine some of the city’s great statues and friezes. x
  • 13
    Athenian Domestic Architecture
    Turn from the Athenian public sphere to the domestic spaces and find out what life was like for everyday citizens. See how a shoemaker or a sculptor might fill his day—including a stop by the Agora—and consider gender separation and the role of women in ancient Greece. x
  • 14
    Hippodamian Planning—Miletus and Ephesus
    Meet Hippodamus of Miletus, the father of urban planning. He used the system of orthogonal planning—including broad avenues and streets at right angles—to reflect the ideal social order. From city blocks to the creation of districts, see this system in action and discover its impact on the history of urban design. x
  • 15
    Olynthus—A Classical Greek City Preserved
    Founded for defense at the start of the Peloponnesian War, the planned city of Olynthus contains the best-preserved classical houses yet excavated from anywhere in the Greek world. Walk among the row houses and suburban villas to gain a rare glimpse into the patterns of domestic life in the ancient world. x
  • 16
    Wonder and Diversity at Alexandria
    Built directly on the seacoast and a major transportation hub, Alexandria is the first massive, cosmopolitan city we know of in antiquity. Its lighthouse was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the variety of artists’ workshops and its ethnic diversity made Alexandria the Greek cultural center. x
  • 17
    Pergamon—The New Theatricality
    While Hippodamian planning emphasized practicality, the organic layout of Pergamon emphasized theatricality, great scale, and drama—all intended to evoke wonder in viewers. See how this great city’s monuments and public buildings imitated and tried to surpass Periclean Athens. x
  • 18
    The Good Life in Rome
    Travel through Rome in the footsteps of a well-to-do citizen, from his freestanding apartment complex to the political happenings at the Forum Romanum to the Markets of Trajan. Then witness how all social classes interacted at the public baths, where lower classes wrangled dinner invitations from wealthy Romans. x
  • 19
    The Lives of the Poor in Rome
    Trace a day in the life of an immigrant glass blower in Rome, whose life would be considerably less fortunate thanks to xenophobia, dark and dank tenement housing, and the strong possibility of death by fire, flood, or famine. Then look at what alternatives poor Romans had, including life as a gladiator or soldier. x
  • 20
    Ostia—Middle-Class Harbor Town
    One of the most intriguing cities in the ancient world is Ostia, a “producer city” that appears to have been comprised solely of middle- and working-class people. Go inside the warehouses and storage buildings to learn about the city’s economy, and then reflect on what it means to have no evidence of the desperately poor or extravagantly wealthy. x
  • 21
    Timgad—More Roman Than Rome
    Take an excursion to the frontiers of the Roman Empire, where a group of military veterans lived in a planned city that represented the ideal Roman vision. Because many of these veterans had recently earned full citizenship, they were notably patriotic, transmitting much of Roman culture into new territory through this community. x
  • 22
    Karanis—On the Fringes of the Empire
    Consider another city at the edge of the empire—an agricultural community comprised of a diverse population. Here you’ll learn about the farm-based economy and its relationship to the consumer city of Rome, and you’ll examine the integration of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian ethnic groups. x
  • 23
    Constantinople—The Last Ancient City
    Your tour of ancient cities closes with an examination of Constantinople, which bridges the gap between the era of antiquity and the Middle Ages. Witness the development of this city and the political demonstrations and riots that accompanied its growth. You’ll also study the Hagia Sophia, whose dome is considered the greatest work of Byzantine architecture. x
  • 24
    Lessons and Legacies of Ancient Urban Life
    What does this survey of ancient cities add up to? What lessons can we draw from antiquity? Conclude the course with a look at Venice and London to see what elements of ancient cities have endured in modern architecture and urban design. Then reflect on the future of the city. x

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  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 184-page printed course guidebook
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What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 184-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

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Your professor

Steven L. Tuck

About Your Professor

Steven L. Tuck, Ph.D.
Miami University
Professor Steven L. Tuck is Professor of Classics at Miami University. After earning his B.A. in History and Classics at Indiana University, he received his Ph.D. in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. He held the postdoctoral Arthur and Joyce Gordon Fellowship in Latin epigraphy at The Ohio State University. An esteemed teacher, Professor Tuck received the 2013 E. Phillips Knox Teaching Award,...
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Cities of the Ancient World is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 45.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from NOVEL THINKING & FOCUSED CONTENT THAT BUILDS While Great Courses' superb Ken Harl or Thomas Childers bring history to life by navigating momentous battle or kingdom changes, Tuck takes you to places as if you were a neighbor or householder. Similarly, the Egyptian cities described here can be found in Bob Brier’s marvelous Egyptian courses but Brier is much more didactic. Tuck's approach can be most closely comparable (among Great Courses professors) to Edwin Barnhart's - though their topics widely diverge. Topically, Dr. Tuck starts with the Neolithic Catalhoyuk and its primarily religious/family purpose. He then shows how city organization gradually progresses depending upon the resources available, a growing administrative class, and finally work type specialization. Dr. Tuck convincingly reverses the common thinking that agriculture led to city formation. This thesis becomes a firm foundation for building his course about the evolution of cities. Many of these cities are covered in other courses, BUT this course provided much better insight into what was going on from a human POV rather than just an enumeration of historical "facts". Because Tuck is laser-focused on his message, he doesn’t short-shrift topics. An example would be his use of extensive evidence in his reflections on Jericho (Lecture 3) vs. Jodi Magness' rather emphatic pronouncements given (without evidence), in "Holy Land Revealed". Later in the course when there is enough archaeological data to do so, Tuck adapts some clever devices that really help one understand what it was like to live in these cities. In L18 & 19, he takes two historically known Romans, one well off and one poor, and “walks through” Rome with them. It is much like being there. Additionally, he provides many insights about urban life Rome from the poet Juvenal that adds to the realism of his portrayals. L20 on Ostia (the city that provided the connection between Rome and shipping) provides amazing contrasts in lifestyles to that of our two new Roman friends. Again, it's almost as if you "are there". He then provides other contrasts: a gung-ho Roman city on the margins of Roman territory (Timgad, L21) and its cultural antithesis in the farming community Karanis, L22. In L23, Tuck provides the most logical arguments I have heard for the eventual abandonment of Rome and expansion of Constantinople. The final lecture was an unexpected delight concentrating on Tuck’s well-composed plea for more “human" city planning. I went over it twice because it not only summed up the various improvements in city design over time but provided a solid basis for thinking about how our city design could be made so much more pleasant if more balance and consideration were given to our predecessor’s knowledge of urban planning. His final question, on the tallest building in Philadelphia, is one that merits considerable reflection. AUDIO OR VIDEO: Bought the audio to listen while working, but after the first 8 lectures, bought the video and restarted the course. Some lectures had plenty of illustrations while others could have used more. Despite the paucity of illustrations at times, the video is much superior in helping one grasp key concepts.
Date published: 2018-12-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A well developed course! Because I teach on location in many of these cities, I was curious how Professor Tuck would handle them. I am already a fan (and I wrote to tell him so) because of the Rome and Pompeii courses. This course looks at a basic set of details of each site and speaks to how the represent the archaeological detail of the period for which they are most known, etc. Professor Tuck offered sufficient detail to make his points clear, and said a few things I hadn't considered about several of the sites, though I visit them frequently and teach them as part of educational study tours. He is the kind of teacher I can gain so much from, and as much as I hate to admit it, we have a bit of the same sense of humor. An excellent course for studying the development of the "city" landscape of anthropology and history, with suficient but not overwhelming detail of archaeology. I highly recommend the course!
Date published: 2018-12-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Title was accurate and well featured. I really liked this course. It was well done and made excellent use of photos and maps. Professor Tuck was very knowledgeable and a very good speaker. I noticed he lost the blue and yellow tie.
Date published: 2018-12-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting and enjoyable I bought this course because I'm interested in ancient history and this looked like a great way to approach the topic. I enjoyed the course very much, in fact, I watched the first 4 episodes in one day - they were so interesting! Professor Tuck did a great job - he is enthusiastic about the material and explained things very clearly. After watching each episode, I read the guidebook to help me remember what I had just learned - that was very helpful. And after finishing, I bought 3 more Great Courses about the ancient world, so I'm on a roll with this topic! This is a super course - I definitely recommend it.
Date published: 2018-12-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WOW! Cities add so much context to history I've listened to a lot of history courses from the TCC. I took a lot of history in college. I've read a lot of books on history. I bought this course thinking that it would rehash parts of what I already knew from all this history. The first four lectures confirmed my expectations. Prof. Tuck's lectures on the earliest cities (Chatelhoyuk, Jericho, and Uruk) basically covered ground that I had already heard or knew. But the lecture on Mohenjo-Daro introduced the earliest form of the Indus Valley civilization, known to most of us only because of Alexander's adventures in the far East. But Mohenjo-Daro predates Alexander by thousands of years and represents something entirely new to me. Then Professor Tuck moves on to the Egyptian cities, and starts to introduce urban design as a historical point of reference, and a whole new world opened up. The ideas that Professor Tuck draws from city design as reflecting the daily lives of ordinary Egyptians (or Greeks, Romans, or others) are fascinating. What we learn (or speculate about) regarding the working classes in ancient Egypt is really interesting, and the contrast between their lives and our own really bears thinking about. Overall, I did not expect to enjoy this course nearly as much as I did. I thought it would be old ground, but it turned out to be entirely new. Although some have complained about the presentation of the course, I found that he lectures flew by. The ideas are so fascinating, that I had no thought about presentation one way or the other. Ultimately, that is the ultimate compliment to Prof. Tuck. (I listened to the audio, so I can't comment on the visuals, or lack thereof.)
Date published: 2018-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Enjoyable This is a very enjoyable course. The professor, who is very knowledgeable, walks the viewer through the development of cities in the ancient world starting with very ancient cities and working forward in time to cities that are still around today. The course is well-organized, and there is much to learn. I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in ancient civilizations.
Date published: 2018-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another winner from Professor Tuck An enlightening review of ancient urban centers. Prof Tuck is one of the best Great Courses lecturers.
Date published: 2018-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating and thought-provoking! I thoroughly enjoyed this course and recommend it highly to anyone interested in archaeology and in the origins of cities. Those of us living in Europe and the New World are heir to many of these urban traditions, whether we realize it or not. I found each lecture interesting; I found the lecturer articulate and knowledgeable, with a sense of humor. I particularly enjoyed the course because I had visited the archaeological sites of several of the cities discussed in the series -- the lecturer's comments made me wish I could re-visit them. He offers us a challenge, too, to look carefully at what succeeded and what failed in early urban efforts and to consider our own environments in that light.
Date published: 2018-03-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Excellent Companion Course Dr. Tuck's course complemented very well what I learned in other courses on archeology and history, courses from both The Teaching Company and at universities I have attended. I had not realized how many gaps there were in my knowledge that this course was able to fill. As was certainly expected, the professor had insights to share about features of the most famous ancient cities (e.g., Athens, Rome, Constantinople), but he also did not neglect unique and fascinating cities that seemed more "off the beaten track," at least as per my previous awareness. Each city he discussed was shown to represent one or more important points about city planning, economy, construction, or societal function. Dr. Tuck may not have been the smoothest speaker among the presenters of the Great Courses I own, but he was definitely one of the most informative and interesting. He was also witty, charming, and passionate about his subject matter. His half-hour lectures simply sped by. At the end of each, and at the end of the entire course, I was left feeling eager for more. Visuals included in the DVD format of the course were generally good, though somewhat sparse and occasionally too repetitive. Another very minor weakness, in my opinion, is that the camerawork didn't always follow or frame the speaker to best advantage.
Date published: 2018-01-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A stroll down memory lane Audio download. As I read through the reviews of these lectures prior to purchasing them, I noted that a common complaint was the lack of visuals on the DVD/video downloads. A course such as this, built around the examination of ruins from ancient cities with cultural implications to our own times, needs to have plenty of visuals, including maps with circles and arrows...even if it's photos of the good doctor riding a camel in Algeria. I did find a solution. For those considering buying this set, I found Professor Tuck an extremely clear speaker, in a conversational manner, and very good command of the history of the great variety of times and places he discussed. Having visited some of these locations, I found his descriptions spot-on and his dialogue enlightening. I would have loved to have been along with him during his visits. I enjoyed these lectures, not on a treadmill as I usually do, but on my laptop, dialed into some online tools (that will not get by the editors if I name them) that allowed close examination of each city's layout, with abundant photos sprinkled in taken by amateurs like you and me. It really made this course a 4 to 4.5 and well worth spending a lot more time with the individual lecture. If you are thinking about a purchase...wait for a sale and get a coupon, and experience them my won't regret it. If you've already purchased the audio version and missed the visuals, retry it with the online aides. It will make a difference. Very much recommended for a classic stroll through history.
Date published: 2017-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating for history buffs I'm a travel writer and have been to 8 of these 22 cities, so I wasn't sure the course would be worth it, but learn a tremendous amount about even those I had visited. For history buffs, this is the sort of detail you rarely get on daily life in ancient times that rounds out our superficial knowledge of basic facts. Those with an interest in urban planning will be especially enthralled.
Date published: 2016-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Review of important cities . An excellent review of many of the important cities of the ancient and current modern day cities of the world.
Date published: 2016-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Introduction to Ancient Urban Living As a long time customer, this is one of the most interesting and engaging courses to which I have ever listened. Though the course skips from location to location, Prof. Tuck does an outstanding job of highlighting themes and trends in urban settlements as well as introducing us to a wide range of sites. I found the episodic nature of the course to be particularly accessible. Each lecture was largely self-contained and thus each was accessible even if it had been a while since I listened to the last one. Prof. Tuck is well-organized, clear and engaging in his lectures. Thought and planning in the structure of his presentations enables him to convey complex ideas clearly and succinctly while still maintaining an engaging and often humorous style. Though some prior knowledge of the civilizations involved is helpful, Prof. Tuck does a good job of providing an introduction to each city that can largely stand alone. I would highly recommend this course to those interested either in the ancient history of the Mediterranean, or in urban planning and modern urban development. I would highly recommend this course!
Date published: 2016-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Why Ancient Cities Developed & What It Means Today A great course in which Prof. Tuck — in his engaging and often humorous way — conducts a tour of ancient cities going all the way back 10,000 years. Some of the cities we visit are well known (e.g., Rome, Athens and Alexandria), but many were fascinating places that had been unknown to me. Why do humans form cities in the first place? Why live together in such density? What are the cultural and historical implications of ancient cities to us today? These and other issues are explored as we tour these captivating places. Both edifying and entertaining. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2016-03-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Amazing Archeology As a history major in college, I loved the study of ancient civilizations, and the Great Courses have given me a much broader education so many years later with regard to the lives and accomplishments of those early peoples. Archeology has made great strides in the intervening years, and we know so much more about them. This course is well-designed and accompanied by enlightening maps and text. I would prefer that it had subtitles, since I am hard of hearing. I would recommend other courses of similar interest such as "Lost Civilizations of South America," "From Mao to Tao,"
Date published: 2016-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from FAVORITE course to date In order to satisfy my post-collegiate cravings for learning about ancient history I have turned to The Great Courses. This latest offering from Prof. Steve Tuck is the best I have seen to date. Not only does Prof. Tuck demonstrate his mastery of the information he also makes it easy and enjoyable to absorb. Too many lecturers don't mind reminding their 'audiences' how intelligent they are about a topic and tend to talk over the 'audiences' head, but not with Prof. Tuck. Though he obviously knows the material forward and backward he relates it in a way that is easy to digest and understand. I can't recommend this particular course enough!!!
Date published: 2014-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Cities from a different perspective I enjoyed this course even more than the author's other courses (and that's saying something). I particularly liked the fact that the course concentrated on the lives of ordinary people rather than just palaces and royal tombs as in other ancient history courses. For instance, I was fascinated by the Egyptian workers' village with the right side and left side crew. Many of the cities were ones I'd never heard of. My favorite was Catalhoyuk--imagine a city with no streets and houses with no doors, and all entrances on the roof. I also like the integrated perspective on why people built cities in the first place, and the connection with our cities today. The professor was engaging and knowledgable as always. Great fun!
Date published: 2014-11-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Must be re-worked to enjoy Prof Tuck knows the subject, but does not know how to communicate without being pedantic. His monotonic style is more suited to a bedtime story or a hypnotic induction, than a meaningful lecture. Lacking pictures and graphics, the lectures were not engaging. Visual aids would have greatly enhanced learning. Without these, the course was drab. I thought the learning company would be more hands on to make this a great course rather than run of the mill.
Date published: 2014-11-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from More Visuals Needed This course is good but it needs more visuals (pictures, map overlays, illustrations and some Computer Generated Imagery (CGI )). On the second lecture on Athens he mentioned the finding of a shop that belonged to Simon the Shoemaker. A picture of the shop would have been nice to go along with the verbal description. He also talked about two other shops and a house of someone who may have been in the upper station of society. Again, no pictures only verbal descriptions. He talked about shops that lined a street and showed a picture of the old street along with just columns and foundations. CGI could have been used to recreate the street and its shops as it may have looked during the city's hey-day. Alexandria was one of the lectures and Professor Tuck talked about the different neighborhoods. It would have been nice to have a map of ancient Alexandria overlaid on a map of current Alexandria showing where these old neighborhoods were. Even if the neighborhoods were now underwater. A some of the pictures shown are only on the screen for a couple of seconds and one of them was of a theater. After the picture went off the screen he talked about how the first three rows were set up for chairs for the well-to-do. This was followed by the next couple of rows for those next up the social ladder and the back rows were for the general public. It would have been nice if the picture had remained on screen while he talked about the seating arrangements. In one of the later lectures he talked about his favorite bath. The Bath of the Mule Drivers. He talked about it but a picture of it would have been nice too. CGI could have been used to show what some of the ancient cities would have looked like rather than just show a lot of old foundations. It's a good course but more pictures, rather than just verbal descriptions, would have enhanced the course. Professor Tuck forgot one thing: "A picture is worth a thousand words."
Date published: 2014-11-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good But Not Outstanding The course was too short and showed the professor's Classical bias. Early in the course there was a lack of illustrations that was rather annoying, especially when he talked of objects that I am sure had pictures available.
Date published: 2014-11-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A very specialized product Video download. There are many avenues we can follow to better understand pre-modern cultures. Literature, histories, sacred texts and the visual arts are the most obvious choices. But there are other, less explicit paths such as clothing, technology or the use of space. Dr Tuck's CITIES OF THE ANCIENT WORLD is an example of that second option: urban planning. Except for a lecture on Mohenjo-daro, a city in what is now Pakistan , his focus is near-eastern and western antiquity. Asia is left out. _______________ STRONG POINTS • Dr Tuck is a good lecturer with a clear, confident voice. He knows his subject well and occasionally lightens things up with self-deprecating humor. • The selected cities are varied. This course complements TTC's "daily life" courses such as GREECE AND ROME: AN INTEGRATED HISTORY or THE OTHER SIDE OF HISTORY: DAILY LIFE IN THE ANCIENT WORLD very well. • The photos were well-selected to match the text. ____________________ WEAKNESSES • As mentioned by other commentators, far more photos should have been used. Tuck is an archaeologist with access to thousands of good shots of related art objects. Is there a costly copyright issues that escapes me here? Why not use Tuck more often in voice-over while we watch other things? • Tuck's lecture style is needlessly weighed down with passive-voice sentences and anthropological jargon. Page 7 of his booklet gives you a taste: "Agriculture developed as a means of supporting the decision to transition to a sedentary society and allowed for greater population density than had previously been possible." This kind of talk washes over listeners for hours on end. Of course, he is striving for a morally, aesthetically and culturally non-judgmental presentation. But the resulting effect is dry and colorless. • Given Tuck's fondness for sociologese, a glossary of relevant urban planning and cultural anthropology terms would have been very useful in the course guidebook. Once again, TTC declined to include one. Hello Wikipedia! ____________________ CONCLUSION This course is a very poor choice if you know little about the ancient world already. It is particularly difficult if you hope to share it with younger viewers whose interest in history is only casual. Should you fit either of these descriptions, the "daily life" courses mentioned above or any of TTC's courses by Dr Harl will satisfy you more. But if you are passionate about ancient history or urban planning, this course might be an excellent choice, along with Tuck's other lecture series on Pompeii. Finally, I can't imagine enjoying this course in audio format. Pictures are a must, even though too few are supplied in this case. Check the course description carefully!
Date published: 2014-10-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Cities of the ancient world This course is very well presented; teaching such a course can be very difficult when so many of the cities are now ruins. Covering any city in one lecture, regardless of size, is a quite a challenge. The professor did an excellent job of combining a city's history, significance, etc. with existing views and tours (if possible) of the city. We also have the professor's course on Pompeii where so much of its history and so many of the buildings and streets are still preserved. Obviously, this provides a different challenge for the professor; he made both of the courses interesting and informative.
Date published: 2014-10-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Worthwhile! In this 24-lecture series, Professor Steven Tuck discusses a total of 20 ancient cities, some very well-known such as Athens, Rome and Constantinople, others much less famous such as Olynthus, Timgad and Karanis. The format varies somewhat from one city to the next, but usually Professor Tuck describes each physically from what can be derived from archeological work and then continues with a surmise of living conditions for the local population in ancient times. Very interestingly, he describes for instance the typical day of a Roman sculptor, linking his perambulations with ruins that can currently be found in Rome. Thus, the approach is very much anchored in reality and not theoretical or even analytical. Indeed, Professor Tuck mentions that Rufus Fears was his advisor when he was an undergraduate. Though he is not as colourful (who could be?), there certainly is a similarity between the two in terms of simplicity and straightforwardness. Professor Tuck displays a (very) basic knowledge of urban planning notions. His description of Robert Moses as a modernist urban planner will certainly amuse many actual members of the profession! Other shortcomings in his lectures include quite abundant repetitions and the exclusion of any cities in the Far East or pre-Columbian Americas. Still, this series is very successful in arousing curiosity for a topic that is rarely discussed as such. For that reason, it is warmly recommended to all interested in urban phenomena or in the history of Antiquity.
Date published: 2014-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Gem! Many years ago, following the untimely death of my mother, a priest-friend told me that I would now have an "intimate link with the living past." That has proved to be true, and I was reminded of that advice often while viewing this course by the always enlivening presentations of Dr. Tuck. (It was because of my enjoyment of his earlier course on Pompeii that I purchased this one.) Covering some 20 ancient cities in an enlightening manner -- that always left me wanting more, reluctant to leave each city -- he reveals how much like us these ancient people were. Their struggles with familiar challenges of environment, geography, and hostile "others" were met with admirably ingenious solutions, many of which continue to influence the design and social interactions of our own cities today. I felt spiritually linked to them in many ways, also. In addition to artifacts with religious implications, the human love of beauty manifested itself in decorative objects, often fanciful art, and lovely mosaics and paintings. In a world which can often seem consumed with antagonism and misunderstanding, it was uplifting to view these monuments to human imagination and endurance. This course is a reminder that, in our cities, we yearn to be with others in all sorts of interrelated ways: family and workplace, of course, but also to relax, enjoy music and other arts, and to share ideas, learning from, and being motivated by, each other. I cannot imagine anyone leaving this course without having gained in both knowledge and enjoyment. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2014-10-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too few visuals While Professor Tuck obviously knows his material, his presentation could have been more arresting if he had included graphic presentations of the art works (paintings and sculpture) that he talked about. Therefore I found his presentation preachy and nowhere near as exciting and arresting as it could have been. Another problem is that lectures 12 and 18 (I haven't gotten to 24 yet) are not set up for the viewing properly. The words on the left down't show and the lists are therefore truncated. In short, this isn't one of your best courses. The subject matter is fascinating but the presentation leaves much to be desired.
Date published: 2014-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful! This is a wonderful, fascinating course, highly recommended for any with an interest in ancient civilizations. It covers an area neglected in traditional ancient history and archeology courses - urban planning (or lack thereof) and development, with its implications for those living there. The cities covered are diverse in time and place, as well as in characteristics, but all are located in the Mediterranean area or in the Middle East, as far as the Indus Valley. Professor Tuck is an excellent teacher - he cares about his material and his enthusiasm for teaching it is clear. He is knowledgeable, organized and focused, and speaks in a pleasant conversational tone which is easy to listen to. The many visuals - photos, architectural plans, and artists' conceptions - are both fascinating and instructive. There is a disappointment here, however: Without exaggeration, there could have, and should have, been three or four times as many. I repeatedly found myself wanting to yell at the screen, "Where is the picture??" So - with this minor exception, an outstanding course, with my highest recommendation. Enjoy.
Date published: 2014-09-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb journey to ancient times Ever since experiencing Professor Tuck’s previous two (DVD) courses, I hoped for and eagerly waited for news of any new courses by this excellent scholar. Seeing that a new course on this exciting subject was available, I ordered it immediately and could hardly wait to begin it. While others will no doubt explore in detail scholarly points on this course, my range of knowledge is that of a reader, an armchair explorer and a grateful admirer of Professor Tuck’s first-rate knowledge and well-planned courses. I will address not the summary of the course but the course as an experience, and it is a fine one. Professor Tuck’s obvious meticulous attention to details never borders into tedium and academic jargon, thus ensuing boredom. Far from it. He has a scholarly handle on the range of knowledge to present as well as a superb delivery of exquisite, very interesting information in conjunction with excellent well-placed graphics and photos (DVD version naturally). He appears to strive for perfection for the benefit of his students. No rambling from this professor. He knows how to tie a multitude of aspects on his subject into a complete picture and do it without confusion. Take any lecture and what is found is an engrossing, comprehensive and finely-linked journey to ancient civilizations, encompassing not only urban planning, societal controls and forms, unique architecture, spiritual and cultural formative matters, but also aspects of daily life for royalty and commoners alike and their relationships. Added to that is his tying a civilization in a clear and appropriate comparative manner to not only other ancient times and civilizations already presented but to modern times, thus allowing us to understand it as fully and enjoyably as possible. To give one example – his lecture on Amarna and Akhenaten, which could stray off to King Tut and all the popular speculation, stays right on point and is packed with fascinating information and graphics, relevant points and an excellent wrap-up. Professor Tuck is no dry scholar; his wit, knowledge and enjoyable anecdotes add to the pleasurable experience of this course. I have, with a small “coalition” of others who appreciate teachers at this level - and in particular, Professor Tuck, have partaken of these lectures through The Great Courses for well over a decade and have a wide-ranging library, both audio and visual. This course, and especially his on Pompeii where the lectures built to a heightened intensity to the tragic outcome at Pompeii, rank right at the top of the courses we have enjoyed. It doesn’t get better than this, and for me he is right up there in the Super Teacher category. Excellent. Take the journey. Thank you for this course, Professor Tuck. We hope for more courses. Nancy S in AZ (I’ve tried to change my nickname taken years and years ago, but can’t - so I’ve listed my name.)
Date published: 2014-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific course I really enjoyed this course from Prof. Tuck. He's a very engaging lecturer who really understands the material and who has assembled a very interesting and coherent discussion of 22 cities founded over a period of 10,000 years. Prof. Tuck nicely explains the physical and cultural context, what we know from archaeology and, if available, written sources, and gives fascinating glimpses of life in each covered city. He clearly loves the material and is fun to hear. I hope he does another TC course.
Date published: 2014-08-25
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