I’ve listened to a couple of courses from The Teaching Company in the past, and have been impressed by both the content and delivery. In other words, the material was interesting and the lecturers were able to teach in such a way as to hold my interest throughout each and every class session. And since the courses are available at a library near my house, the decision to keep going with more TTC lectures was an easy one.
As a former Latin student, I definitely have a soft spot for all things Roman. That’s why I jumped at the chance to listen to a Teaching Company course called History of Ancient Rome taught by Garret G. Fagan. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed with the result — though I wouldn’t go so far as to say the course was faulty. I went in with a certain set of expectations, but was told from the outset that I wouldn’t be getting what I wanted.
Course Format: History of Ancient Rome consists of a total of 48 lectures presented on 24 audio CDs. Each lecture is approximately 45 minutes long, and gives a brief chronological overview of the history of ancient Rome. Doctor Fagan decided to focus this survey on the period covering 200 B.C.E. to 200 A.D., and includes the rise and fall of the powerful Roman Empire.
Some of the lecture titles include: Pre-Roman Italy and the Etruscans; The Foundation of Rome; The Beginnings of the Republic; Explaining the Rise of the Roman Empire; The Domination of Caesar; The New Order of Augustus; The Shape of Roman Society; and Constantine and the Late Empire.
The lecturer is obviously a learned scholar, and did a terrific job of not only explaining what was happening in the ancient Roman world, but also of providing a bit of analysis to highlight the important implications of the events and actions taking place.
My Reaction: So why was I disappointed in this course? Well, because it was almost entirely about the geopolitical history of Ancient Rome. Almost every single lecture focused on important wars that the Romans were involved in or the numerous power struggles in the Senate as various personalities tried to claw their way up the cursus honorum. To me, this kind of thing became pretty boring — especially when there were around 35 lectures covering the stuff.
To be fair, Dr. Fagan stated at the outset that the lectures would not deal with Roman literature (what I was really interested in), culture, or the like. There simply wouldn’t be enough time to touch on every aspect of Ancient Rome, so Dr. Fagan had to make a choice. I wish he had gone the other way, but that’s just me!
There were a few lectures about gladiatorial games, slavery, and daily life, but not nearly enough for my tastes. As a result, it took me quite a long time to go through all 48 lectures, since I wasn’t bursting with curiosity about the next war or emperor.
Overall, I think this History of Ancient Rome course by Garret G. Fagan will only appeal to you if you’re interested in the geopolitical side of the rise of the Roman Empire. If you’re looking for insight on the cultural, literary, or artistic traditions of Rome, you won’t find it here!