Skip to comments.Introduction to Ancient Greek History
Posted on 11/10/2008 12:09:28 AM PST by BCrago66
Donald Kagan is Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale University. A former dean of Yale College, he received his Ph.D. in 1958 from The Ohio State University. His publications include The Archidamian War, The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition, Pericles and the Birth of the Athenian Empire, On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace, and The Peloponnesian War. In 2002 he was the recipient of the National Humanities Medal and in 2005 was named the National Endowment for the Humanities Jefferson Lecturer.
Many of you know the name Donald Kagan; he's of the old school of historians. He likely wouldn't get tenure today, and might not even get hired at Yale (unless he decided to start writing about "heteronormativity" throughout history, or other such fascinating topics.)
For me, this fills in gaps in my own personal education. And, unlike the lectures offered by, e.g., The Teaching Company, it's free.
Click the link "view class sessions" to access the audio or video of the 24 lectures in this series.
I can’t thank you enough for posting this. I didn’t realize there were free courses via Yale U. on-line. This is so exciting for me. I now have a replacement for watching the political talking heads on the cable TV programs spewing forth about Obama and his regime. I am swearing off all but a few TV programs for the next 4 years because I won’t be able to take it without going bonkers. Now I have a wonderful alternative.
Can’t thank you enough for having posted this thread and am so glad I didn’t pass it over. You caught me w/the Ancient Greek history, which I love to study about and have done so in the past, but have lots of gaps to fill in knowledge wise. Now I can do it. So, anytime you find something not directly related to any political or cultural events, please be aware that there are Freepers out here who will be pleased as punch with your finds. A big kudu to you.
I love this era.
If the Persian, Peloponnesian and Punic wars were better understood, I think we would have a better society.
Wow, I’m a bit overwhelmed. Thanks so much for your kind response.
BTW, just by Googling, I’ve found a number - about 20 - colleges and universities offering free courses online. Most of the lecturers are, in my opinion, somewhat undistinguished, but it’s not uncommon to find someone of the quality of Donald Kagan.
POST TO GGG PING LIST
On the one hand, the Athenians' pure democracy created a society where smart people could blossom. Thucydides alludes to this by mentioning repeatedly how the Athenians were able to think more quickly and act more quickly than their Spartans foes. They were able to do this because their upbringing in a city where the people governed themselves trained them to think for themselves and to be bold in what they strived for. In fact, Thucydides notes that the Athenians did not really meet their match until they fought the democratically minded Syracusans who were also city folk and thus thought and acted the same way the Athenians did. This was the good part of Athenian democracy. It created brilliant people who did great things.
The bad part of Athenian democracy, however, was equal in measure to the good. And that bad was that pure democracy had two very distressing tendencies. First, the often mob-like atmosphere of Athenian politics favored quick-thinking men who had loyalty only to themselves. The prime example of this was Alcibiades.
Alcibiades was an utterly brilliant man who had absolutely no trace of loyalty to anyone but himself. As such, he was perfectly willing to go over to the side of Spartans if he thought that suited his self-interest. And when it did, he was the one who made one of the key strategic decisions in the war. He did this when he convinced the Spartans to attack the Athenians indirectly by denying them access to their silver mines.
The second distressing tendency of Athens' democracy was that it led to impulsive decisions. Rule by pure democracy, encouraged people to engage in bold and risky ventures that a more conservatively minded state like Sparta never would have considered, much less undertaken. The prime example of this was the Athenian invasion of Syracuse. Here again, Alibiades was instrumental because he was the one who convinced his fellow Athenians to invade Sicily. He did so by appealing to Athenians as a people of action who could increase their empire by living up to the boldness of those who had come before them.
I do not think it is an accident that Alcibiades dominates the latter part of Thucydides' work. Alcibiades was a living exemplar of Athenian democracy. He was both brilliant and bold, but ultimately he cared only about one thing - himself. Thucydides' warning was that states made up of such men may burn white-hot for a time but they typically don't last very long.
Thank you - mark for later viewing.
I think it is great that you have given the audience at FreeRepublic, both Posters and Lurkers the link to this kind of material.
I was richly blessed in my freshman year of college (way back in 1966) to have a professor of Political Science who taught from the texts of Thucydides and Plato. Even today, I find myself using in political discussions the concepts I learned studying the Ancient Greeks (amplified by the light of Smith, DeTocqueville and Ayn Rand and a few others.)
I can’t help but think that if we apply our collective mind to the problems at hand with the Usurper (with Lady MacBama and a cast of a thousand vicious idiots) that we can find a strategy other than simply Molon Labe. The play we are in has been played out before, and the answer to our future is in our history.
I think Nicias gets a bum rap. He is against the Sicilian expedition, but is drafted to be one of the generals to lead it along with Alcibiades and Lamachus as equal in power. Alcibiades, who may have set up the desecration situation, gets out of leading the war he advocated, and Nicias gets stuck with it.
Nicias continually begged to be released from leading, but was turned down. Once he made a hash out of the situation, he chose to stay and get his army destroyed after he was recalled instead of following the recall order.
Thanks for the post.
I started listening to the intro while painting my garage. When the jackass professor said, “There are going to be quite a few surprises in this lecture series. For one, we won't be discussing Cooper. But we will be discussing Toni Morrison,” I knew it was just another jackass leftist re-indoctrination.
Cooper may not have the stylistic flare we need today. But he broke new ground in America that brought American lit into vogue in Europe. He is definitely an American classic. To drop him from the canon is nothing more than Marxist revisionism.
I don’t suppose you might have a few of the web sites you found with free courses at hand, do you? If so, could you post a few of the best of them? Would love to know of others. Otherwise, I will Google to see what I find also, but of course it would be easier if someone else has already found out the info, LOL! I’m looking for the easy way out, or should I say in to the web sites.
But you’ve opened up another world for me other than Cable TV talking heads, especially now in the reign of Obama, so I again thank you profusely. I just finished the introduction and lectures 1 and 2 of Kagan’s Greek History course. Fascinating. He is a wonderful speaker, and not a Marxist idealogue like our new Prez. How refreshing. Am loving the course and can hardly wait to get to the next lecture, but unfortunately I’ve got to do a silly thing like go to sleep. I’ve already stayed up till the wee hours of the morning visiting Minoa and Mycenae. Tomorrow it’s on to Homer!
I purchased a while back a series of courses on CD’s through the Great Courses catalogs. You can also get them on tape or on DVD. Their catalog is chock full of different subjects to study on your own, but they are a lot more pricey than free on-line. That’s another reason I’m delighted to find out about this as it’s a lot easier on my piggy bank. I found a website that has lots of books to read on-line (I started re-reading Anna Karenina which I last read many many years ago). So, now I have my winter retreat to the great indoors (I live in the soon to be frozen tundra of Chicagoland, the burbs) with on-line books to read and now course lectures at hand. What more could one ask for, I ask?
This might interest you. It would interest me, except that I don’t have time to sit and watch stuff, particularly on the computer. I need to be able to carry CD’s around :-).
Stopped the tape right there, rewound it. Sold it on ebay.
bump for later read
“I bought the American Literature set of cassettes from Teaching Company.
I started listening to the intro while painting my garage. When the jackass professor said, There are going to be quite a few surprises in this lecture series. For one, we won’t be discussing Cooper. But we will be discussing Toni Morrison, I knew it was just another jackass leftist re-indoctrination.”
Yes, that is one of the inherent dangers of listening to the Great Courses thru the Teaching Company. You never know which Prof is going to be a Marxist, or just general leftist, or, like in your case a PC advocate to boot. Well, so many of the Profs have socially polluted minds. I try to choose courses that have the least possibility of a parallel course of social indoctrination going along with them. Not an easy task.
I might add, look at the other courses available at the Yale U. web site. I’m already lining up my next courses of interest, one on the Old Testament, one on the Civil War, and one on post-French Revolution. Plus there are others to pick from. The Astronomy one looks interesting also. Ooh, I feel like a kid in a candy shop.
But he broke new ground in America that brought American lit into vogue in Europe. He is definitely an American classic. To drop him from the canon is nothing more than Marxist revisionism.
Are you refering to JF Cooper?
Have you ever read Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain’s) review of his work?
Mark Twain on Cooper was one of the funniest reviews I ever read. It reminded me of Mark Steyn or P.J. O’Rourke!
I choose my courses from The Teaching Company carefully, after looking at the topics covered in each set. I haven’t picked one yet that I didn’t like. I just avoid subjects on which I have strong opinions, like religion.
Cooper was competing with the writers of England, who provided the bulk of what everyone was reading at the time. American authors were still largely ridiculed (except for Irving).
And Cooper was competing, at the beginning of his career, with the very narrow genre of the “romance novel.”
Have you read any of Scott's Waverley novels? The styles are pretty much the same. It was the formula of the day.
Cooper was a classic and should be taught as a classic because of the content of his writing. He took not only American subject matter, but specifically the use of the primitive culture bordering emerging Western civilization and put the two together. When he did this, Europeans took notice and became very interested in what else America could produce. It began a sort of run on the market of American literature about America (not that other pseudo-Am literature that is really misplaced English writing).
If you don't like him, you don't like him. But to drop him and add Toni Morrison can be done for no literary reasons, only for Marxist revisionism.