Famous Romans [TTC Video]
10 February 2017, 15:46
Course No 349 | AVI, XviD, 640x480 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 4.35GB
Like the authors who serve as sources for this course—Livy, Polybius, Suetonius, Tacitus, and above all, Plutarch—Professor J. Rufus Fears believes that individuals, not organizations or social movements, are the primary forces that make history. In this companion course to Famous Greeks, Professor Fears retells the lives of the remarkable individuals—the statesmen, thinkers, warriors, and writers—who shaped the history of the Roman Empire and, by extension, our own history and culture.
Hannibal, he points out, caused the Second Punic War personally, much as Adolf Hitler caused World War II.
All of history would be different if Pompey had been as aggressive as Julius Caesar at the Battle of Pharsalus.
Augustus—beginning at the age of just 19—resolved upon and brilliantly followed a doctrine of ruthless expediency in order to rescue Rome from a century of civil war.
Marcus Aurelius, that most noble and philosophic of rulers, may have hastened the Empire's decline by tolerating the wicked cruelty of his heir.
Professor Fears divides his presentation into three "turning point" epochs in Roman history: Rome's great war with Hannibal (the Second Punic War); Caesar and the end of the Roman Republic; and the imperial era between Augustus and Marcus Aurelius. As he presents the great figures of each period, he makes them seem personal and immediate.
For example, he introduces you to the heroes of the early Republic through an imaginary tour of the Forum as it appeared in 218 B.C. In his discussions on Hannibal, the great Carthaginian general who taught Rome more about warfare than any other enemy, Professor Fears puts you right in the heart of the action. You feel as if you are there, struggling with Hannibal and his war elephants as they force a path through the snowbound Alps in the autumn of 218 B.C.
Roman Versions of the Kennedys and Winston Churchill
In these lectures you will meet or gain greater insight into a succession of individuals who can be considered great and famous not only in Roman history, but in all of history. They include:
- The Roman "Duke of Wellington." Like the Duke of Wellington and U.S. Grant, Publius Cornelius Scipio the Elder (236-183 B.C.) is among the great generals in history. His victory over Hannibal at the North African town of Zama in August, 202 B.C.one of the most decisive battles in history—earned him the title "Africanus," or Conqueror of Africa.
- The Roman "John and Robert Kennedy." Tiberius (163-133 B.C.) and Gaius Gracchus (153-121 B.C.) were both strongly influenced by Stoic philosophy and its teaching that all men are created equal. Each tried to initiate bold reforms designed to counter corruption that resulted from the Roman Republic's growing wealth and power. Like the Kennedys of the 1960s, both were murdered, and their efforts initiated forces that would ultimately end the Republic.
- The Roman "Winston Churchill." First regarded as a "shady" politician, and known as a drinker and womanizer, Gaius Julius Caesar (100-44 B.C.) is perhaps the greatest evidence that individuals make and change history. He proved himself both a military genius—along with Alexander the Great one of the two greatest generals in history—and a man of political vision in his understanding that Rome needed to expand its reach beyond the Mediterranean world. Like Churchill, he was a brilliant writer: his Commentaries on the Gallic Wars is one of antiquity's greatest works of history.
- The greatest statesman in history. The adopted heir of Julius Caesar, Gaius Octavius (63 B.C.-14 A.D.), known to history as Augustus ("The Messiah") rose from a little-known youth of no discernable ability to an unequaled political leader who would best the likes of Cicero, Brutus, and Marc Antony. He saved and regenerated Rome, received the title "Father of His Country" ("Pater Patriae") in 2 B.C., and died at 77, having outlived almost all his contemporaries and detractors.
- A teacher to equal Socrates and Jesus. Stoicism was a philosophy based on the Greek thinkers Zeno and Socrates. It was one of the great intellectual currents of the 2nd century A.D., and Epictetus (c. 50-120 A.D.), the son of a slave, was one of its greatest teachers. He taught that "all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."Thomas Jefferson ranked Epictetus with the New Testament as a source of moral inspiration.
Enduring Lessons About Life and Liberty, Character and Virtue
As you study these and many other significant Romans, Professors Fears uses their stories to probe fundamental questions about the political and cultural history of Rome. What was the impact of Greek civilization on the Romans? Why did the Roman people, at the height of military, political, and economic power, abandon their republican liberty for the dictatorship of Caesar and his successors?
What made the 2nd century A.D. one the most creative periods in world history, worthy of comparison with the Athens of Pericles, Plato, and Sophocles? And why did the central figures of Roman history hold so much appeal for the Founding Fathers of the United States?
Before concluding the course with Marcus Aurelius, whose private Meditations are a wellspring of honesty and humanity but whose standing as a ruler is another story, Professor Fears pays homage to his masters, the great biographers and analysts of vice and virtue Suetonius, Tacitus, and, above all, Plutarch.
Who were they? What did they write, and to what end? Why are their works so inspiring and worthy of study by any people or individuals who wish to preserve liberty and virtue for themselves, their society, and ages yet to come?
This course will teach you specific lessons about life, character, and politics, drawn from the examples of the famous Romans. Professor Fears has his favorite, and will tell you who it is in the last lecture.
Famous Greeks [TTC Video]
10 February 2017, 15:40
Course No 337 | AVI, XviD, 640x432 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 4.2GB
One of the most instructive and intriguing ways to learn history is through biography. By pondering the lives of great individuals—people who leave deep marks on both their own times and distant posterity—you can chart broad currents of events while also studying virtue and vice, folly and wisdom, success and failure. Moreover, you can appreciate them in the real circumstances of their times.
In a companion course to Famous Romans, classics scholar and master storyteller J. Rufus Fears examines a gallery of fascinating characters who shaped the story of Greece from the Trojan War through the rise of Rome.
Inspired by Monumental Works, Taught by a Great Teacher
These lectures—inspired and informed by the monumental works of Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, and Plutarch—allow you to do exactly that, guided by a truly great teacher.
Professor Fears is Professor of Classics at the University of Oklahoma—a 15-time award winner for outstanding teaching and three-time University "Professor of the Year."
From the heroes of the Trojan War to Alexander the Great and Cleopatra, he ushers you into the lives, achievements, and influence of many of the figures who made Greek history:
- Great warriors: Achilles, Agamemnon, Hector, Odysseus, and Alexander the Great
- Masterful statesmen: Lycurgus, Solon, and Philip of Macedonia
- Profound thinkers: Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle
- Enduring artists and writers: Homer, Herodotus, Sophocles, Thucydides, and Plutarch.
His eye for character and his shrewd judgments are informed by a fine moral awareness and a deep familiarity with the times these famous lives were lived.
Gain a New Perspective on Familiar Classics
By attending to that context, Professor Fears offers you new ways of reading familiar classics by Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Xenophon, and Plato.
Plutarch, a Greek writing during the heyday of the Roman Empire, composed his Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans out of a conviction that the study of such lives can make us better as individuals and as citizens.
For 19 centuries, readers—and great writers—have agreed:
- Plutarch fed the imagination of William Shakespeare, who based Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra on the Lives.
- The American Founders, including both the Harvard graduate John Adams and the self-taught Benjamin Franklin, regarded Plutarch as a treasure trove of wisdom and wanted to see a copy in every schoolhouse.
- Harry Truman was an avid reader of Plutarch, and spoke of the practical insights he gained from time spent with the Lives.
In keeping with that spirit, Professor Fears draws lessons from each life studied in this course, charting with you the intellectual and artistic currents of one of the most creative civilizations in world history.
The Center of Human Existence
For the Greeks, politics was the center of human existence. "Man," Aristotle said, "is a political animal."
This truth determines the selection of the lives covered and the course’s approach to them. The leading thinkers, artists, and writers of classical Greece can be understood only in the context of the political events of their day.
The most important single lesson we learn from Greece is that a free nation can survive only if its citizens care, at the deepest level, about politics.
The lectures focus on the five major periods of Greek history:
- The Trojan War
- Archaic Greece of the 8th through the 6th centuries B.C.
- The Persian Wars
- The golden age of Athens in the 5th and 4th centuries B.C.
- The age of Alexander the Great.
To the Walls of Troy: Homer’s Age of Heroes
For the ancient Greeks, the Trojan War was as real as yesterday’s headlines are to us, with Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey holding near-scriptural status.
- Alexander the Great slept with his copies.
- Achilles, Agamemnon, Hector, and Odysseus were role models and cultural heroes.
- The influence of Homer resonated throughout Greek history.
Professor Fears argues that no modern work on leadership can rival the depth and power of Homer as the great poet dramatically explores what it takes to guide people and nations through the crises and hardships of life.
A Stand for Freedom and against the Odds: Greeks versus Persians
The decade of the Persian Wars (490–479 B.C.) was one of the most decisive in world history. It determined that Greece would remain free and bequeath to later ages the legacy of political liberty.
Professor Fears leads you in an examination of the lives of five of the most important actors in this momentous conflict.
Your path to understanding wends through the pages of Herodotus, as King Croesus of Lydia and the Persian emperor Xerxes serve as examples of all those who would abuse their power, and whom free peoples must resist.
And you look, as well, at three of the crucial Greek leaders—Leonidas, Themistocles, Pausanias—as you follow the stirring events of this epoch-making war for liberty.
Glory and Misery: Periclean Athens and the Peloponnesian War
The 5th-century golden age of Athenian democracy is the centerpiece of the course.
Although remembered as an age of glory, the 5th century was also a time of widespread misery. For it closed with the three-decade-long cataclysm of the Peloponnesian War.
That war—its causes, its course, and its consequences—forms the prism through which Professor Fears reads the lives who populate this part of the course.
- Why did Pericles lead Athens into war with Sparta and her allies?
- What lessons about morality, power, and leadership can we draw from Thucydides’s great account of it?
- Can the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides be read as comments on the war and the attitudes that lay behind it?
In addressing these and other questions, Professor Fears introduces you to new ways to read such familiar classics as the Oedipus plays of Sophocles.
From Socrates to Alexander the Great and Beyond
The trial of Socrates was the test case of the ideals of the Athenian democracy. Professor Fears discusses that trial in the context of its impact on the Peloponnesian War and its aftermath of recrimination among the Athenians.
The death of Socrates at the hands of that Athenian democracy convinced his influential followers, Xenophon and Plato, that the best form of government would be the rule of one outstanding individual.
Thus you will be introduced to the figures of Philip of Macedonia and his son Alexander the Great.
These monarchs, conquerors, and statesmen would expand and transform the Greek world and outline a vision of transnational brotherhood that remains an ideal today.
But Alexander died young, and the Romans and their empire would be his true heirs.
Thus your study of the lives of famous Greeks concludes with two remarkable figures who challenge Rome for world domination: Pyrrhus, the Greek-speaking king of Epirus, and Cleopatra, the last ruler of Egypt in the line of Alexander’s general, Ptolemy.
Both failed, but in instructive ways that make them worthy of inclusion in a course on Famous Greeks.
Medieval Heroines in History and Legend [TTC Video]
09 February 2017, 10:04
Course No 2937 | AVI, XviD, 640x432 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 4.26GB
This course presents the lives, based on the latest scholarly interpretations, of four medieval women who still shimmer in the modern imagination: Heloise, the abbess and mistress of Abelard; the prophet Hildegard of Bingen; the legendary Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine; and the woman-warrior and saint, Joan of Arc.
In Medieval Heroines in History and Legend, Professor Bonnie Wheeler discusses these four remarkable women in the light of the present "golden age" of medieval scholarship. Almost daily, researchers are recovering lost information that corrects our picture of what had been a misunderstood era. As a result, we know more than ever about the roles women played in medieval life.
What did it mean to be a heroine in the medieval world? As the four subjects of this course make clear, it meant shaping and changing that world. In the monasteries and churches where people prayed, the universities where they wrote and thought, and even on the political map of Europe itself, these women made differences perceived not only in our time, but in theirs.
Women of Intellect, Words, and Passion
These lectures are an extraordinary opportunity to study great women of the past in their "own words." Professor Wheeler bases her discussions on recently discovered or recovered written records they left behind, from Hildegard's prodigious scholarship to the personal letters of Heloise and detailed transcripts of Joan of Arc's trial.
With these documents as a basis, you will see Heloise (1101—1163) as a forerunner of Europe's new day. Her letters passionately overflow with the new knowledge of her day. With her star-crossed love, Abelard, she invented a new mode of philosophic thought.
Only now are scholars recovering the long, important second half of the story of Heloise as a woman of power after Abelard's death. Her letters show her to be well versed on such topics as Cicero, classical philosophy, Latin poetry, and rhetoric.
She saw the institution of marriage in her day as little more than a commercial transaction, and its duties burdensome, noisy, costly, and dirty. Her letters reveal her desire to be Abelard's "meretrix" (prostitute) rather than his "imperatrix" (empress). In her discussions on Heloise, Professor Wheeler also covers the long debate as to whether Abelard and Heloise's letters to one another—the first, first-person record of a love affair in human history—are genuine or not.
Hildegard of Bingen (1098—1179), like Heloise a 12th-century abbess, is revealed as the last flowering of antique learning. She lived a dramatic life as a mystic, voluminous writer, and preacher. She was a personal advisor to Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, and her political involvement and passion as an advocate for clerical and imperial reform give her special interest in our day.
Only in the last generation have scholars rediscovered this amazing medieval intellect. Based on her letters, at least four popes and 10 archbishops corresponded with her, not to mention some 100 other individuals notable to history.
Among her many writings, her Book of Simple Medicine was an impressive mini-encyclopedia on what we today would call the natural sciences.
But Hildegard is also known as the "holy hypochondriac," subject to disabling migraines. Were her visions delusions, a result of brainstorms caused by chemical imbalances?
Women of Action and Legend
Eleanor of Aquitaine (1124—1204), Queen of France and then England, mother of at least 10 children, scandalized her contemporaries and has fascinated us ever since. She accompanied her husband, Louis VII, on the second Crusade, and her exploits are a reminder that women were crusaders—not merely camp followers—in numbers that rivaled those of men.
You will learn—based on as-yet-unpublished research by Professor Andrew Lewis—that Eleanor was probably born in 1124, not 1122 as normally thought. As a physically hearty woman of courage, she provides a way for historians to explore the diverse roles that women played in enabling or resisting the Crusades. This is exciting work that will allow us to understand medieval women outside the context of home and family as agents of sometimes-radical change.
Eleanor's life is so amazing that it is easy to see why she has become the staple of legends. Among those you will consider are whether she passionately adored, then fought endlessly with, her second husband, Henry II of England (all too true); whether she poisoned Henry's mistress, Rosamund (no proof); and whether she held "courts of love" to encourage and engage in amatory liaisons (again, unproven).
Joan of Arc (1412—1431) was the illiterate French peasant girl whom Mark Twain described as the "youngest person of either sex to lead her nation's army before the age of 19." Known as "La Pucelle" (the "maid" or "virgin"), she lacked any kind of military training, yet her military instincts seemed impeccable. Although she carried a sword in battle, she never used it to kill a man, and seems never to have become used to the sight of dead or dying men.
Was this young woman who heard heavenly "voices" an incomprehensible quirk, or did she change the course of European and world history? Ironically, this debate is complicated by the detailed transcripts of her trials, which make her one of the best-documented figures of pre-modern times.
Trial records and her letters reveal her as someone who spoke with compelling simplicity, quick wit, and piercing honesty." This girl spoke terribly well," said Albert d'Ourches. "I would really like to have had so fine a daughter."
Professor Wheeler dismisses as myth the notions that Joan was actually of noble birth, or that she never fully developed physically as a woman. These lectures reveal Joan as perhaps most memorable for what she was not: a queen, a mother, a beauty, or an intellectual. Instead, she was a woman of action, and the kind of person who is often an enigma to modern intellectuals: someone of profound religious faith.
Appreciating how these four heroines have been understood and misunderstood will help you understand how history passes judgment on both women and the Middle Ages. The contemporary research upon which this course is based can move us beyond how women "ought" to have been to better knowledge, however precarious, about how women were.