Emperors of Rome

Course No. 3410
Professor Garrett G. Fagan, Ph.D.
The Pennsylvania State University
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Course No. 3410
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Course Overview

They are said to be the most powerful rulers who ever lived—a checkered mix of the wise, the brutal, and the unhinged. For more than five centuries they presided over a multi-ethnic empire that was nearly always at war, if not with neighbors then with rebellious factions within the empire itself. The full scope of their powers was not systematized in constitutional law, a fact that tempted many of them to overreach disastrously; and the lack of clear rules of succession meant that most of them died violently.

Yet, on balance, the emperors of Rome served as a stabilizing influence in a realm that straddled three continents and covered more than 32 modern nation-states, with a population numbering about 60 million souls at the height of Roman prosperity.

Rulers Treated as Gods

How did this system of rule come about? What did it replace? And who were the colorful, cruel, and crafty men who filled this almost omnipotent post? Television series such as I, Claudiushave explored the complex personalities of several of the better-known emperors, whom you will meet in depth in this course:

  • Augustus: Known as Octavian during the long civil wars that extinguished the Roman Republic, he titled himself "Augustus," the first emperor of Rome, after vanquishing all rivals and becoming the undisputed strong man of the sprawling empire.
  • Caligula: Supposedly the most deranged Roman emperor of all, Caligula executed people indiscriminately, sent his troops on nonsensical maneuvers, and famously invited his favorite horse to dinner and planned to make him consul. But were his crimes exaggerated by ancient sources?
  • Claudius: Reputedly a halfwit who was named Caligula's successor by the imperial guards on a whim, Claudius may actually have connived in Caligula's murder and arranged his own elevation. Whatever his route to power, his reign was surprisingly successful.
  • Nero: As emperor, Nero performed in chariot races, dramas, and poetry recitals. The "fiddle" he reportedly played while Rome burned was actually a lyre, but the mystery remains: Did he set the fire himself, was it an accident, or were the Christians really responsible, as he claimed?

Presented by noted Roman historian Garrett G. Fagan, whose other Teaching Company courses, The History of Rome and Great Battles of the Ancient World, have brought antiquity vividly to life for spellbound listeners, these 36 lectures show that there is no end of gripping stories. More than 50 legitimate emperors ruled Rome from the time of Augustus at the turn of the 1st century to the reign of Constantine in the 4th century, which marked the transition to the Middle Ages.

What sort of men were the emperors (and they were all men)? What background and training, if any, prepared them for their awesome responsibilities? What depravities did they display? And what achievements can they claim: laws passed, monuments built, lands and peoples conquered? Some of the most noteworthy emperors include:

  • Trajan: Moderate at home and warlike abroad, Trajan was the perfect mix of Roman virtues. His reign inaugurated the period of the empire's greatest strength and stability, when emperors adopted their successors from among able army commanders. But that sensible policy did not last.
  • Commodus: The son of the esteemed philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius, Commodus believed himself to be Hercules reincarnated—a role he enacted in the Colosseum in combats with wild beasts and gladiators. He renamed Rome and all the months of the year after himself.
  • Diocletian: The Roman Empire seemed doomed to disintegration until this general rose to the top job. He subdivided imperial authority, established a new system of succession, and institutionalized the despotic powers of his office, giving the empire a new lease on life.
  • Constantine: The first Christian emperor was apparently reluctant to forsake the old pagan gods; they continued to appear in official iconography. But Constantine's endorsement of Christianity and his founding of a new capital called Constantinople opened a new era of Western history.

You will cover scores of other Roman rulers, some of whom lasted only a few weeks before they were done in by rivals for a position that conferred virtual divinity in this life—although the chances that the life would be a long one were not good.

Sleuthing the Past

Throughout the course, Professor Fagan emphasizes the detective work needed to read the ancient sources critically. Roman history is an amalgam of eyewitness reports, later compilations, archaeological remains, and inscriptions on monuments and coins. Contemporary accounts, when available, are not necessarily to be trusted, since the emperors' greatest political rivals were usually members of the Senate, and they were the ones most likely to be writing history. Therefore scathing reports on imperial conduct have to be read with caution.

One result is that some of our most indelible impressions about Roman imperial history may be wrong. Was Nero really a frivolous fool for devoting himself to performing on stage? So the ancient sources would have it. However, in Lecture 14 you learn how a modern historian makes an intriguing case that Nero was a shrewd master of spin, choosing his stage roles to convey exculpatory messages to the Roman people.

Similarly, did Livia Drusilla really poison or otherwise dispose of all the princes that stood in the way of her son Tiberius's succession to the emperorship after Augustus? The ancient historian Tacitus certainly gives this impression, which is chillingly conveyed by the actress Siân Phillips in the PBS adaptation of Robert Graves's novel I, Claudius. But Professor Fagan suggests that the case against Livia is weak and can be traced to her particular circumstances as well as to broader cultural prejudices against women in her position.

From Princeps to Dominus

Livia's prominence illustrates another characteristic of the Roman Empire: Aristocratic women often played a powerful role in dynastic politics. This is one of the fascinating background topics that Professor Fagan investigates to show what life was like not just for the emperor but also for those in his immediate circle and for his subjects.

In Lectures 27–31 you take a break from the chronological narrative to examine the emperors' relationships to different parts of Roman society: the city of Rome itself, the provinces of the empire, the elite, the people, and the army. For example, you learn that games and spectacles were one of the few places where ordinary citizens saw the emperor in person, and they would take advantage of this audience to organize demonstrations of their political views. Despite occasional signs of unrest, unpopularity was something emperors could live with. Not a single emperor in recorded Roman history was ousted by popular revolution.

One of the most intriguing questions about the emperorship is why it endured for so long. As you witness the reigns of the successive rulers unfold, you will see how the office evolved with the political forces that sustained it, becoming more and more tightly bound to the military. Each step toward despotism was taken with a view toward expedience. But when that step became the new normal, it paved the way for the next step, and so on, until Rome had moved from Augustus, who styled himself the princeps, or "first citizen," to Diocletian and Constantine, who ruled as the domini—lords over slaves.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 29 minutes each
  • 1
    The Shape of Roman Imperial History
    After outlining the plan of the course and defining Roman imperial history, Professor Fagan will survey the types of ancient sources that shed light on Rome's emperors. These include literary works, official inscriptions, physical remains of structures erected by emperors, and coins stamped with imperial messages. x
  • 2
    The Roman Republic
    Before there were emperors, there was the Roman Republic, founded in 509 B.C. after a period of autocratic rule by kings. This lecture investigates the political character of the republic. As the 2nd century B.C. drew to a close, its institutions were under increasing stress from Rome's expanding empire. x
  • 3
    Caesar and the Suicide of the Republic
    Starting in 133 B.C. the Roman Re­pub­lic began to disintegrate, sowing the seeds of imperial rule. Although the great general and politician Julius Caesar was not an emperor, he did more than anyone in this period to create the conditions that led to the reintroduction of monarchy to Rome. x
  • 4
    The First Emperor—Augustus
    The importance of Augustus to Roman and European history cannot be overstated. This lecture explores Augustus's career, from avenging revolutionary to senior statesman, and briefly surveys the main thrust of his domestic policies and the broad shape of culture in the Augustan Age. x
  • 5
    The Powers of Augustus
    This lecture surveys the series of constitutional settlements that saw Augustus established as a super-magistrate, simultaneously part of and above the organs of state—a system termed the Principate. You will also look beyond the legal frontage of the Principate and uncover the harsh realities of imperial rule. x
  • 6
    Succession Woes
    The nature of the Principate was a mix of authoritarian and republican practices; so it was difficult for Augustus to secure the succession legally. The succession problem proved a destabilizing influence during his reign and was to remain so for his successors for centuries to come. x
  • 7
    Livia Drusilla, Empress of Rome
    Augustus's wife, Livia Drusilla, was easily the most powerful woman in Roman history to date. You will examine the roles of aristocratic women in the republic and under the empire. The rumor that Livia arranged the deaths of a long string of rivals to ensure her son Tiberius's succession is probably exaggerated. x
  • 8
    The Early Years of Tiberius
    On the death of Augustus in A.D. 14, Tiberius succeeded to the emperorship with the understanding that his popular nephew, Germanicus, would be his heir. Five years later Germanicus died under mysterious circumstances. A newly discovered inscription in Spain sheds intriguing light on these events. x
  • 9
    The Would-Be Emperor—Sejanus
    In this lecture, you meet one of the most odious figures in Roman history: Sejanus, the prefect of the Praetorian Guard. Sejanus used his influence with Tiberius, a few well-planned murders, and a canny marriage alliance to try to become emperor. His demise offers lessons in the perils of court politics. x
  • 10
    The Mad Emperor? Caligula
    The ancient sources tend to portray Caligula as deranged. But was he really insane? You will examine different modern approaches to this issue, focusing on two famous incidents when Caligula apparently acted erratically. An ancient eyewitness gives a sense of what it was like to be in the emperor's presence. x
  • 11
    Killing Caligula, Finding Claudius
    This lecture covers a little over 24 hours of the year A.D. 41, when a ruinous pattern was established in the imperial succession. With the murder of Caligula, the Senate dithered while the Praetorian Guard, eager to preserve its power, pushed forward a successor—in this case Caligula's reviled uncle, Claudius. x
  • 12
    The Odd Couple—Claudius and Messalina
    Claudius's reign was surprisingly successful. He embarked on the first major war of expansion since Augustus by adding Britain to the empire and was a conscientious ruler. Even so, he was manipulated by powerful subordinates, notably his third wife, Messalina, who concocted a bizarre plot against him. x
  • 13
    Power and Poison—Agrippina and Claudius
    You will study a woman who could be the most prominent female dynastic figure in Roman history: Agrippina the Younger, sister of Caligula, wife of Claudius, and mother of Nero—a pedigree that speaks for itself. Agrippina's political conduct was brazen to a degree heretofore unthinkable. x
  • 14
    Artist and Assassin—Nero
    Agrippina reportedly poisoned Claudius and then orchestrated Nero's accession. As emperor, Nero showed little interest in rule and far more in writing poetry and other diversions. This lecture surveys these impulses and discusses modern theories about the meaning of his "antics," which included matricide. x
  • 15
    The Trouble with Christians
    In the summer of 64, Rome burned. As suspicion fell on Nero, he blamed the Christians, starting the long history of Rome's persecution of this sect. You will consider the possible causes of the fire and discuss the rebuilding of the city, notably Nero's pet urban renewal project: his opulent Golden House. x
  • 16
    Dynasty's End—The Fall of Nero
    Nero's final years were increasingly disengaged from reality. Finally, the legions in Gaul and Spain turned against him. Abandoned by his armies and the Senate, he committed suicide in 68. His earlier murders of all plausible heirs in his family ensured that the Julio-Claudian dynasty perished with him. x
  • 17
    The Long Year, A.D. 69
    Nero's death ushered in the Year of Four Emperors—a bloody struggle among four commanders who successively held the top job. Left standing at the end was Vespasian, fresh from suppressing the Jewish Revolt. These events confirmed the principle that emperors depended on the army for their position. x
  • 18
    The First Flavian—Vespasian
    Vespasian started the first dynasty of emperors who had no family connection to Julius Caesar or Augustus. This lecture examines his rise and the "Law Concerning Vespasian's Power," apparently the first attempt to define an emperor's authority. Vespasian also built Rome's most famous landmark: the Colosseum. x
  • 19
    The Last Flavians—Titus and Domitian
    Shortly after Vespasian's son Titus be­came emperor in 79, Mt. Vesuvius erupt­ed, killing tens of thousands in a grim omen for the new ruler. He led an effective relief effort but died prematurely two years later. He was succeeded by his autocratic brother, Domitian, who descended into paranoia. x
  • 20
    Pax Augusta—Nerva and Trajan
    The murder of Domitian terminated the Flavian dynasty. His successor, Nerva, began a new practice: Emperors adopted able army commanders as their heirs. With Nerva's adoption of Trajan came the period of the Roman Empire's greatest stability under the Antonine (or Adoptive) dynasty. x
  • 21
    Trajan in Rome and in the East
    Trajan had a successful reign that added new territory to the empire as well as magnificent new public works to the capital. You will also examine the remarkable correspondence between Trajan and his provincial envoy, Pliny the Younger, who wrote for advice on handling recalcitrant Christians, among other problems. x
  • 22
    The Eccentric Emperor—Hadrian
    Trajan's successor, Hadrian, set about a massive push at consolidation: Trajan's new eastern provinces were abandoned and the frontiers were fortified, most notably with Hadrian's Wall in England. Hadrian was wide-ranging in his talents and unconventional in his personal life. x
  • 23
    Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus
    The reigns of Antoninus Pius and his successor, Marcus Aurelius, represent the high point of Roman power, peace, and prosperity. In the course of Marcus's reign, however, signs of trouble became evident that would intensify. Marcus is especially known for his philosophic work, Meditations. x
  • 24
    Marcus in the North and Commodus
    In his last years, Marcus was constantly on the threatened northern frontier with his legions. He succumbed to the rigors of camp life in 180 and was succeeded by his son Commodus, who proved a disaster in the mold of Caligula and Nero. Commodus was assassinated on the last day of 192. x
  • 25
    Civil War and Septimius Severus
    Commodus's death left a vacuum temporarily filled by the aging senator Pertinax. He was soon assassinated by his own guard, who then auctioned off the empire to the highest bidder. The winner only lasted 10 weeks before Septimius Severus took control, initiating a naked military autocracy. x
  • 26
    Caracalla and the Severan Dynasty
    Severus set the tone for the rest of imperial history. From now on, the emperor would be a military man, occupied with keeping external enemies at bay and staving off internal threats. The Severan dynasty included, among others, the brutal Caracalla and the outlandish Elagabalus—along with some remarkable female relatives. x
  • 27
    Emperor and City
    The first of five lectures on themes relating to the emperors examines their lavish building projects in Rome, such as the complex of public squares and huge bathhouses. You will also examine the political aspects of such projects, as well as their social and economic implications. x
  • 28
    Emperor and Empire
    Next Professor Fagan considers the emperor's position relative to the wider empire. How could an empire as vast and diverse as Rome's survive the mismanagement of a Caligula or a Nero? The secret lay in the unique, decentralized administrative structures the Romans employed in running their realm. x
  • 29
    Emperor and Elite
    The Roman elite was obsessed with the struggle for rank, and the emperor determined the winners by the offices he dispensed. You will focus on the senators and the equestrians, learning how the former had to adapt to diminished roles under the Principate, while the latter enjoyed a greatly enhanced public profile. x
  • 30
    Emperor and People
    The emperor served as the benefactor and patron of the common people. This lecture examines that obligation, from the provision of grain, games, and other "comforts" to the means used by the people to communicate with the emperor. x
  • 31
    Emperor and Soldier
    No relationship was more important to Roman rulers than the one with their troops. Emperors used strategies to ensure loyalty, from oaths of allegiance to bribes. These measures are surveyed in detail, as are the dispositions of the troops in the empire and the different classes of soldiers. x
  • 32
    With the collapse of the Severan dynasty in 235, civil war raged almost continuously for nearly 50 years as generals fought for dominance. External enemies took advantage of the chaos to raid and plunder the empire. In this lecture, you will look at several of the emperors of this turbulent era. x
  • 33
    Aurelian, Diocletian, and the Tetrarchy
    In 268 the Roman Empire, battered from without and divided within, was on its last legs. But from the mountains of Illyria in the northern Balkans stormed a series of militarily aggressive and highly competent general-emperors who, in a few years, had turned the situation around. x
  • 34
    Constantine—Rise to Power
    This lecture surveys the rise to sole rulership of an emperor who would transform the empire and change the course of history: Constantine. Despite being passed over by Diocletian's tetrarchic system, the young Constantine accepted his army's imperial acclamation and began battling his rivals. x
  • 35
    The Christian Emperor—Constantine
    Under Constantine, Christianity changed from an outsider's religion to a state-aligned cult, a transition that had seismic repercussions. Here, you will examine his conversion, his impact on the church, his reforms, and founding Constantinople in 324. x
  • 36
    Reflections on the Emperors of Rome
    The ancients were inconsistent in labeling emperors as good or bad; for them, an element of spin was often involved. You and Professor Fagan will embark on your own diagnosis and uncover fundamental truths about power, legitimacy, and empire. This course concludes by considering the theme of emperors and tyranny. x

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Your professor

Garrett G. Fagan

About Your Professor

Garrett G. Fagan, Ph.D.
The Pennsylvania State University
Garrett G. Fagan (1963–2017) was a Professor of Ancient History at Pennsylvania State University. He was born in Dublin, Ireland, and was educated at Trinity College. He earned his PhD from McMaster University and held teaching positions at McMaster University, York University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also gave many public lectures to audiences of all ages. Professor Fagan had an extensive...
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Emperors of Rome is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 93.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great enthusiasm and knowledge his has been a fantastic great course. Prof. Fagan brings the whole subject alive with his description and explanations of the politics opf the Emperors of Rome. He takes you on a journey from Augustus through to Constantine and puts the whole process in context arriving at a point where the foundation for the future ruling infrastructure into the middle ages is established. I have now just bought his course "The History of Ancient Rome" and can't wait to get started. Many thanks indeed.
Date published: 2019-11-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Excellent content, poor presentation The material covered was very interesting, but the presenter stumbled and stammered frequently. I finally discontinued viewing as his apparent losing his place (teleprompter?) became way too distracting. I'm sending my DVD back.
Date published: 2019-10-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Informative and a wealth of information Professor Fagan's passion for the subject is very apparent and contagious. His delivery is rather fast, but, as in all my Great Courses, I watch each lecture multiple times to absorb the torrents of material before progressing to the next. The visual aids in the video regarding the family connections help comprehend the journey through time in a meaningful way. I ordered this course to expand my knowledge after watching the BBC 1970's series "I,Claudius" and this course fulfilled my expectations, especially regarding my fresh introduction to the Roman rulers after Nero, where "I, Claudius" left off.
Date published: 2019-10-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Course that Lasted Forever I bought the audio version of this course, and it took me longer to complete than any other TGC course I can remember. It’s not just that it contains 36 lectures; it is a tiresome slog through a long period of history full of hundreds of names and events that eventually all run together. I found it hard to listen to more than one per week. Maybe I needed some visual cues to help keep all the names and places straight. Maybe I should have read the student guidebook (which I downloaded but did not use). But after a while my eyes started glazing over when another new emperor was introduced, along with his sisters and his cousins and his aunts. There were memorable stories peppered throughout, but most of it was “politics as usual.” I finally did a massive push to get through the final six lectures so I could put it all behind me. Others have complained about the Prof’s accent . I watch a lot of UK television, so an Irish accent doesn’t put me off. But he has a little habit that Maureen O’Hara also occasionally succumbed to: turning the “th” sound into a plain “t.” So “three” becomes TREE, “through” becomes TROO, and “third” becomes…well, you can figure it out. Some of his pronunciations of place names are also strange, such as YOU-fruh-teez for “Euphrates.” I think this topic would have been better served in smaller or more in-depth doses, rather than this 18-hour barrage of factoids. The Prof just seemed to be boiling down a larger printed history, hurrying from one emperor to the next. This is near the bottom of my list of the many TGC courses I have taken.
Date published: 2019-08-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Boring I am fascinated by Roman history and was eager to build on my knowledge with this course. Alas, after a couple of good faith tries, finding the professor's presentation style so boring I have put it aside. Instead, I am rejoicing over Prof. Fears' course on Famous Romans. Sure, Prof. Fears embellishes his material, but one always looks forward to the next lecture and his next course!
Date published: 2019-08-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Intriguing I am less than halfway through the course and find it very interesting about Roman Emperors. They were crazy and bad people. Don't know how the Empire lasted as long as it did! The Professor has a bit of a speech impediment, but you get used to it after a while. He knows his stuff. I think he planned the course very well. I bought the DVD version thinking there would be a lot of illustrations. but was disappointed as I thought there could be more.
Date published: 2019-07-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This series of lectures is clear, articulate, incisive and historically informative and accurate.
Date published: 2019-04-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An engaging look at the emperors of Rome. The emperors are presented as people but the lecturer also discusses the difficulty in really knowing what they were like due to the potential unreliability of the sources. In fact the discussions of the sources & how this event were interpreted depending on what the source thought of the individual emperor is interesting in its own right. Now I have a stack of ancient historians’ writings on my “to be read” pile. I am looking forward the extra detail (there is only so much you can cover in 18 hours) but I’m pretty sure it will not be as entertaining at the lectures were.
Date published: 2018-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Glad to Have Seen Some of These Lectures I only needed to see Lectures 1-24. Lectures 25-36 were optional for me. Some of my take-aways follow. Lecture 1: The Shape of Roman Imperial History You are a little soul carrying about a corpse, as Epictetus used to say. Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations 4 "Always observe how ephemeral and worthless human things are, and what was yesterday a little mucus tomorrow will be a mummy or ashes." Marcus Aurelius, The Meditation 5 (And this is what President Bill Clinton was reading?) Lecture 24: Marcus in the North and Commodus In the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, his death was imminent. The Arch of Septimius Severus … victor over Arabian Parthia and Adiebenic Parthia … Note: Queen Helena was from Adiabene. Lecture 5: The Powers of Augustus in perpetuum was avoided by Augustus Caesar because he knew how lethal that was for Julius Caesar He had vast autoritas. Lecture 6: Successions Woes Tragic succession drama for Caesar Augustus. What about the succession plans of Jesus, Son of Man over the Kingdom of God? When both of the third generation of successors perished, Augustus had to turn to the surviving second generation of successors, Tiberius who went AWOL in Rhodes but by the help of his mother snuck back into Rome; and, Augustus Caesar adopted him as a son, no longer a step-son or son-in-law. Lecture 10: The Mad Emperor? Caligula We don't have good sources for Caligula because we don't have Tacitus weighing in. OMG, Caligula lived with Tiberius in the last 7 years of Tiberius life which were more than brooding and crazy. Lecture 11: Killing Caligula, Finding Claudius The state was entrusted to a youth, Caligula. Situations ran amok. He was killed in his 20s in the year AD 41. Lecture 13: Power and Poison - Agrippina and Claudius Great lecture. 37 CE on 15 Dec, Agrippina gave birth to Nero Astrologer declared, your baby will be Emperor but he will kill his mother. Agrippina: Let him kill me, so long he rules. Lecture 14: Artist and Assassin - Nero Claudius was deified and Nero was a son of a god. "The [first] five years of Nero (quinquennium Neronis) left other emperors far behind." AD 54-59 - Trajan / Aurelius Victor, Caesar 5.2 Seneca and Burros were the influences on Nero during these great 5 years. Professor Fagan does not tell us why Trajan said the first five years of Nero-Seneca-Burrus was so accomplished. Nero's Mother: What has been done (you becoming emperor) can be undone and I'll make Britannicus emperor. So at a banquet with his mother present, Nero had Britannicus poisoned. As soon as his mother was murdered, HE CAME OUT: reading poetry, riding chariots, and in a long robe, playing the lyre and singing. Finally in Naples, not Rome, he performed publicly. He didn't want first place in advance. In 66, he set out for Greece to compete in charioteering, dramatic actor, and lyre player. Edward (Ted) Champlin of Princeton University, author of the book, Nero, argues Nero's famous roles were Orestes and Oedipus who were infamous for maltreating their mothers but were blameless in that maltreatment. "Yes, I killed my mother but I'm the victim here." Lecture 15: The Trouble with Christians Great Lecture July 18 & 19, AD 64 - Fire Gerhard Baudy says Nero was correct: the Christians DID burn down Rome. Early Christianity was Apocalyptic ...but the chaff he will burn with unquencahable fire. Matthew 13: 12 I have come to ignite a fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! Jesus - Luke 12:49 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which is from God. The authorities that exist have been appointed by God. Consequently, the one who resists authority is opposing what God has set in place, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. ROMANS 13: 1-2; so, Paul knew about the attack and tried to talk the Zealots down. The first Christians captured actually confessed their guilt. The Christians were guilty. In praise and rapture, some of the Christians did plead guilty likely because, 1) “You crucified Jesus and Jesus’ eschatology begins here;” and 2) “This is the fire of destruction God promised Noah in Genesis and in the gospel (Mt 13: 12 and Luke 12: 49.” The behavior of the Christians was so unreasonable that their inability to sympathetically see the crime, the loss of life and property on a grand scale, so much so, that some of them pled guilty, was remorseless, exhibited depraved indifference, and had a mindset of aiding and abetting criminal activity. Lecture 21: Trajan in Rome and in the East Trajan did not execute any senators. The elite no longer had to worry about freemen holding offices above them. Pliny - Trajan Correspondence. See #96 regarding Christians. Lecture 22: The Eccentric Hadrian Hadrian's accession was a sham. Lecture 23: Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus Antonius Pius died at 74 and was interred in Hadrian's temple (today’s Roman Stock Exchange). 161 Marcus Aurelius became Caesar but insisted he do so with his brother Verus. So, we have two emperors: Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. Marcus Aurelius wanted a helping hand to manage a vast empire.
Date published: 2018-10-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Interesting I took this course after taking the professor's course on the History of Ancient Rome. I like this course better than the other, in part because of the organization and pacing. This course takes the listener through the history of the Roman Imperial system ending with Emperor Constantine. I can quibble with his choice of an ending point, but this is still an excellent course with much to recommend it.
Date published: 2018-10-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I learned so much about Rome’s emperors! I took Latin in high school and learned a little and then watched I, Claudius (several times) but always knew I wanted to know more! This course was perfect in that it gave extensive information and the professor was very enjoyable.
Date published: 2018-08-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Will not play, no place to click for this purpose My library says ready to play and it will not. There is no there, there. Others I have purchased have played fine. I have two others that I can not click anywhere for playing these courses: 3410 (Emperors of Rome), 6633 (Luther: Gospel, Law, Reformation) and 8820 (War, Peace, and Power: etc). Thank you for your eventual solution.
Date published: 2018-04-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Problems with lecturer Sorry - but I can hardly understand a word of this. Not the content - that is good - it is the hesitant 'reader' and his accent does not help. These people must have given this lecture lots of times to 'live' audiences. If they just read their notes out, these would not last long. Have notes for guidance - but give a lecture 'off the cuff, with their own personality and experiences and anecdotes.
Date published: 2018-03-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I recommend I thought the material in the course was excellent. I had some issues with the language barrier being American and my take on the Irish accent is that they never pronounce a vowel the same way twice. By about halfway through the course my ears had somewhat compensated and it became more understandable.
Date published: 2018-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exceeds Expectations! I have a high opinion of Professor Fagan, having really enjoyed his TC courses on the History of Ancient Rome and Great Battles of the Ancient World. I was not sure if this 2007 course would be as engaging as those others, given the tight focus on the Emperors, from Augustus to Constantine. As it turned out, I was wrong. To be sure, there are seemingly endless descriptions of violence, family dysfunction, and so on, but Professor Fagan navigates this aspect well and serves up a fine complement to other TC courses on the era, notably those by Kenneth Harl. Though it would be good to take Professor Fagan’s TC History of Ancient Rome first, it is not necessary to do so, as he provides a good background on that period in this course. Also, though most of the lectures deal with political and military matters, there is a fair amount of context woven in and five lectures, twenty-seven to thirty-one, particularly discuss social aspects. Some of the interesting aspects of the course are how the issue of succession became more fraught with uncertainty and danger; how and why women rose in influence, unheard of in the Republic; and how tyranny, cloaked in Augustus’ reign, became more apparent after the third century crisis. Professor Fagan’s concludes that the “…history of the emperors can be read, from start to finish, as a tale of army loyalties either managed or mismanaged” (Course Guidebook, Page 196). My impressions of the Emperors were formed primarily by reading Robert Graves (‘I, Claudius’ and ‘Claudius the God’) and Suetonius (‘The Twelve Caesars’). Professor Fagan takes issue with such treatments. For instance, he doubts Lavina’s wickedness as portrayed by Graves. He even takes issue with the usual classification of “good” and “bad” emperors, preferring instead “relative effectiveness” (Page 194), in rendering an assessment, with interesting departures from prevailing assumptions. Throughout, Professor Fagan is scrupulous in pointing out his differences with standard sources and scholarship. My one piece of advice about this course is that you start with the final lecture to get a sense of what Professor is up to in the way of sources, and how he views the subject. The course is accompanied by a fine 266-page course guidebook. The only thing it lacks, however, is maps. Nevertheless, this is a fine course and well worth the time necessary for its forty-eight lectures.
Date published: 2017-06-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thorough historical review Prof. Fagan does an excellent job reviewing the trends and thoughts on the Roman Emperors. He spent some time reviewing the more complex events for Emperor Augustus. I quibble with his review of events for Julius Caesar and Emperor Augustus. Fagan dismisses Julius for lack of any government plan - but neglects his conniving for at least 20 years to reach the position of dictator. Fagan reviews Augustus' plans for government in detail, while neglecting his careful plots against Marc Antony before he becomes Princeps. However, these are quibbles, not serious problems.
Date published: 2017-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enthralled!! While I am only half-way through the entire course, I can't seem to stop watching, as it is well into the wee hours of the night. Despite an occasion of stammering, Professor Fagan has done a wonderful job with this material. I am amazed how corrupt the Romans were. Much like our present situation in politics, I might add! Just my opinion, eh?!
Date published: 2017-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The course was informative and Professor Fagan was extremely entertaining!. Will listen to this course multiple times.
Date published: 2017-03-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Read the book The material is interesting but the professor is very hard to listen to. I like to listen to these courses so I can learn how to pronounce the names of people and places, but listening to this professor talk is painful. Save your money and buy a book on this subject.
Date published: 2017-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Like watching breaking news. You can't stop. This is one of his best courses. He really tells a wonderful story and keeps you on your edge of your seat. Much better than his Roman History course probably because it is more focused. 4 stars for content because the DVD course could have more photos, pictures, etc. This course is thorough.
Date published: 2016-05-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Summary of the Roman Emperors This is a comprehensive personal and political history of the emperors from Augustus to Constantine. Professor Fagan's delivery is crisp, clear and enjoyable. He speaks with a lively pace and each lecture is covers just there right amount of detail. I would rate him as one of the better lecturers in the TTC's catalog. As a note to other reviewers comments, to get the most out of this course you should know more than the basics of Roman history.
Date published: 2016-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course! Professor Fagan is informative and entertaining. His storytelling style helps you see the Emperors as more than stone monuments.
Date published: 2015-12-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Roman Emperors: Are They Really Gone? Audio review (recommended, especially if you carefully follow the notes and have internet access). This review is for the chaps and chapettes out there considering a purchase of these lectures...the reviews you've read have you rightly confused. I'll add my two cents...hopefully, it will help. The content of these lectures is excellent. It is well-organized, well-documented (even in the cases of poor historical sources), and clearly presented. It helps to pay attention and follow along in the outline. I believe that this course is intended as a sequel to 'The History of Ancient Rome', an earlier series presented by Dr Fagan, which lays the groundwork for this more detailed look into some of the personalities and histories from Romes' Imperial Age. Detailed, it is...complicated, for sure...possibly more names to remember than "The Game of Thrones" (with fewer dwarfs)...but with the profound realization that this is HISTORY. These men and women were real people who held real power over the entire Roman world. The presentation was that of a college seminar...some days the material and the Professor were 'on', some days not so 'on'. (I've been there on both sides of the lectern, and, yes you can squirm standing up). Dr Fagan's voice is pleasant, clear and perfectly human. I enjoyed his brogue and his wit, and considered it a plus, never distracting from the material presented. I don't necessarily agree with some of his conclusions and have been trying to clarify my views by blending lectures from Drs Harl and Dialeader (and others from the Teaching Company) as well as my own slugging through Suetonius and Petrarch. While Fagan sees Constantine as the last (real) Roman Emperor, I have two possible (fantasy) alternatives: first, the Roman Empire indeed lasted through the Byzantine period...perhaps even 'morphing' into Tsarist Russia. The second, more easily believed idea is the the Roman Empire changed from a military to a spiritual, aka religious, empire, existing today as the Roman Catholic Church, with the Pope serving as the Emperor. The loyalty shown to the ancient Roman Emperor can be seen to be similar to the universal admiration (and love for some) of the Pope...a man currently ruling over billions of followers. All in all, this history of the Roman Emperors makes you think...and gives you the information to help it along. It might not be easy...you might have to work at it, but it's worth it. Context is important to understanding the heroes and villains of history. In Dr Fagan's words: "Perhaps I (Dr Fagan) provided food for thought. For the critical assessment of data is the essential task of the educated mind". I recommend it...coupon and sale in hand...with a Guinness in the wings.
Date published: 2015-10-04
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Seriously lacking I had looked forward to experiencing this course, but I have to say that it is a complete disappointment. In fact, I have given up on it after five lectures, each of which became increasingly difficult to sit through. Here are my major issues with this course: (1) It doesn’t start at ground zero. For some of the reviewers, that’s’ all right. It seems that those who awarded high marks to these lectures came to the enterprise with at least some general knowledge of the subject, at least according to their reviews. But lacking even a nodding acquaintance with the subject renders the lectures almost incomprehensible. In fact, one of the reviewers indicated that this might be a good course IF one has the background already. I agree. Let me illustrate: if one is teaching a course on World War II, he/she can be 99.9% certain that it is not necessary to define a “tank;” but certain terms need defining at the outset. Examples might be “strategy” and “tactics” as those terms are used by military planners. (2) The issue noted above is exacerbated by the fact that Dr. Fagan fails to give any clues as to where he is headed in the lecture or why. He just begins talking. The listener must have these clues, in the form of rhetorical questions, or clear statements like “here is what we will cover next.” It is also helpful if the lecturer indicates why he is relaying certain information. Something like, “At this point we need to interrupt the main story in order to look at another situation that bears on the main action.” (3) I found Dr. Fagan’s delivery totally lacking. His Irish brogue, as much as I like it generally, obliterates some of what he has to say. He also moves at a blistering pace; it is a steady stream with almost no pauses, no ebb and flow of tempo, and all at the same volume level. And though it may be ungracious to comment on it, his speech impediment, though certainly not his fault, is distracting in the extreme. I very much regret that I have found this offering to be unacceptable, and I will return it.
Date published: 2015-09-15
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Interesting Title The information of this course was informative, however the delivery was poor. The professor spoke too fast, choppy & stuttered. His English dialect, for example, pronounced words like "third as terd". His voice seemed cold & factual instead of warm & interesting. It seemed as though he was notified at the last minute and had to give a hurried presentation just to get through it & be done with his obligation. Brilliant people are not always the best teachers.
Date published: 2015-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History Taught the Way That it Should be Taught Garrett Fagan is one of my favorite instructors. He explains that information is often limited for various time periods in Roman history, and he discusses the various sources of information. These can include (1) ancient writings, (2) archeological findings, (3) inscriptions, and (4) information on Roman coins, which Roman emperors used to project messages to people who would use the coins. Before he begins each section, Fagan indicates what the main sources of information are for that time period, and how reliable they are. He is also cognizant of the biases that various ancient sources have. Fagan often discusses the important competing explanations, and he does not try to force his opinions on the audience. He mentions the strengths and weaknesses of the different interpretations. Fagan shows how the Roman bureaucracy continued to run the empire whether the current emperor was an effective one. He also shows that the concept of "good and bad emperors" is simplistic. Many emperors were effective at some things and ineffective at other things. He also discusses various reasons why the western empire collapsed in the 5th century while the eastern empire lasted until the 15th century. This course is what one should expect from a good college class.
Date published: 2015-06-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Disappointing presentation I recently finished Professor Fagan's "History of Ancient Rome" and found the lectures (DVDs) to be fascinating. I really felt like I was sitting in a classroom, listening to a teacher who was excited by and engaged with the material. Through to the last lecture, the entire experience was a real pleasure. By contrast, "Emperors of Rome" was very disappointing. The content is all there, at the same solid level as "History of Ancient Rome". But Prof. Fagan's delivery had markedly changed in the time between when he did the first course, and when he recorded this one. In "History", he worked from paper notes on a lectern that, like any good classroom professor, he used to prompt his memory and delivered a spontaneous lecture. In that first course, he was enthusiastic, engaged by the material, and his enthusiasm was very infectious, even over the impersonal medium of a DVD. Not so unfortunately with "Emperors of Rome". My guess is that during the interim time, he had been "trained" in electronic delivery. He stood immobile with hands clasped in front of him, it was obvious he was reading from a teleprompter and not spontaneously talking from notes, and he seemed preoccupied with issues like meeting time markers, where to put his eyes, and so on. I felt like what had been a real strength of his delivery in the first course had been turned into a weakness in this newer course. As I said, the course content was very solid, but the delivery distracting, especially knowing what an engaging style of delivery he was capable of.
Date published: 2015-05-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointing This is my second course I have bought from TTC. After finishing the first course, which I loved, I couldn't wait to learn about Roman history (my favorite history subject) I was soon disappointed. Professor Fagan's lectures were boring and difficult to understand at times. I feel like he said a lot of redundant things. Also there was no flow to his lectures and his sentences were spoken brokenly with great pauses. Some reviewers who bought the dvd course commented that the cd version might be better to listen to. Let me assure you that it is not. I shudder to think of watching the dvd version. I hope this course as well as Roman Emperors are redone with a different professor.
Date published: 2015-03-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Zard reviews Emperors of Rome This is the third course I have viewed of Professor Fagan's and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This course is not just about the emperors of Rome but very much about the evolution of government from the Republic through the beginnings of the Principate (Empire) through till Constantine the Great. it is about the birth and evolution of the empire. it ends a far cry from the glory of the Republic and years of Augustus but it is life. it ends with the beginnings of the Medieval Ages. Not much on that but you can see where the glory of Rome ends. if you want to get a good sense on how the Roman Republic/Empire evolved through four centuries this is a great course.
Date published: 2015-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Roman Emperors: Authority and Demonic Madness Professor Garrett’s EMPERORS of ROME is witness to Rome’s imperial history starting with Augustus (31 B.C.) and ending with Constantine the Great presented as the last Roman Emperor of the classical world “AND” the first medieval monarch of 4TH century Europe. But before the emperors enter history, survey the soil of the Late Roman Republic (133 B.C. – 31 B.C.) and its dominant ideology / tradition, social institutions / leading families, and political characters. It was during the REPUBLIC that most of Rome’s territories were acquired; but by 133 B.C. onward, its republican city-state institutions were undergoing major transformations due to the Roman Revolution / civil wars and the growing pressures of a Mediterranean-wide Empire. Observe the PRINCIPATE, whose seeds were planted mainly by the general and politician Julius Caesar / (Marius, Sulla, Pompey) which reintroduced monarchy to Rome. After Caesar’s assassination / (traditional fear of kingship), the suicides of Anthony and Cleopatra / (internal / external threats to succession eliminated), Octavian is renamed Augustus and becomes the first Emperor of Roman imperial history. The countenance of this Principate -- a republican foreground with a militaristic background coupled with the problem of imperial succession -- will slowly further divide, generate chaos, and evolve into the DOMINATE where the militaristic underpinnings and the autocratic tendencies of the Roman Emperors come into clearer focus. To quote the professor: “the broad shape of Roman imperial history alternates between relatively stable dynasties and periods of civil war or, in the mid-3RD century, sustained chaos.” A chronological history of the dynasties and its major players are offered portraying the highest reaches of the Roman social character to the lowest aspects of the human condition imaginable with intellectual honesty and classical clarity. View both the republican and the authoritarian mechanisms surrounding dynastic politics and frontier control of emperors, empresses, sons, daughters, praetorian guards, adoptive members, extended family members, generals, army loyalties, and beyond. Beginning with the PRINCIPATE (31 B.C. – 284 A.D.): Julio-Claudian Dynasty (Augustus, Drusilla, Tiberius, Agrippina, Caligula, Nero); Year of Four Emperors 69AD; Flavian Dynasty (Vespasian, Titus, Domitian); Antonine Dynasty (Nerva, Trajan, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Commodus); Severan Dynasty (Septimius Severus, Caracalla, Elagabalus). Now, 50 years of sustained CHAOS ( 3RD century crisis 235 A.D. – 284 A.D.) follows the collapse of the Severan Dynasty in 235 A.D. and culminated in the DOMINATE (284 A.D. – 476 A.D.) where competent general-emperors turn the crisis around and forge these chaotic trends into a naked military autocracy where the emperor will now be a military man: Aurelian, Diocletian, and the TETRARCHY; and Constantine the Great, the 1ST CHRISTIAN EMPEROR “AND” 1ST MEDIEVAL MONARCH, who accepts his army’s imperial acclamation and battles rivals at the Milvian Bridge. All throughout these periods experience the imperial rumble of court politics and frontier pressures: the succession problem, vicious rumors, political spin, arranged and mysterious murders, strange marriages for the emperorship, real or apparent madness, family poisonings and matricide, the burning of Rome, Christian persecutions, changing army and Senate loyalties, bloody struggles among commanders, the Jewish revolt, new practices of adoption for succession of able army commanders, auctioning off of official positions, etc. Adding to the biographic approach to history, the professor critiques cultural and institutional data in his thematic treatment of the EMPERORS of ROME. Witness their relations with ROME itself (building projects / Colosseum / Pantheon / Meditations), the EMPIRE (frontier administration / Hadrian’s Wall / Constantinople), ELITES (senators / equestrians / rank-obsessions), PEOPLE (patron / client / provisions), SOLDIERS (loyalty / oaths / bribes). Professor Garrett’s ROMAN EMPERORS is an integrated piece of scholarship, art, and wisdom revealing the impact of the Emperors on Roman and European history. I surveyed the reviews which seem to focus on three main areas of contention: scholarly debates / problem of understanding, literary eloquence / lifeless and tedious stammering, Emperor Constantine / Fall of the Western Roman Empire. The professor is very conscious of the problem of availability and reliability of sources and interpretation thereof; so any problem of the understanding must mainly be in the incessant effort required to interrogate the sources until they reveal their historical meaning and validity. The professor’s storytelling ability coupled with the literary, epigraphic, numismatic, and archeological data is pure eloquence; the problem of being tedious and stammering (DVD?) is confusing mere words with major ideas in my view – his European accent when present adds an echoing effect from the Roman past enlivening mere words with conceptual dimensions. Finally, ending with Constantine and not the traditional Fall of the Roman Empire in 476 A.D. is an historical insight in my view; Constantine the Great / classical world “AND” Constantine the first medieval monarch / European middle-ages is an intellectual construction that fuses the reach of the Roman frontiers, the empire-wide growth of Christianity, with the rise of the middle-ages together. *** ** Very Highly Recommended ** ***
Date published: 2015-01-23
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