Cities of the Ancient World

From Uruk and Jericho to Athens and Rome, explore ancient urban landscapes and draw connections between the cities of centuries past and those of our modern world.
Cities of the Ancient World is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 50.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating take on origin of urban planning I was watching this on the Hoopla streaming service, but I liked it so much, I decided to buy it. I've watched some of Dr. Tuck's other courses (e.g., Experiencing Rome), which were fine, but this one was awesome. I loved his exploration of ancient cities and how they reflected the development of human culture and of urban design and planning, and the relationship between the two. I've studied ancient Egypt quite a bit, and would have thought there wasn't a whole lot new I could learn about ancient Egyptian life in a Great Course, but his take on Deir El Medina, Amarna, and Kahun gave me a whole new perspective.
Date published: 2021-10-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Concept That Fell Short Dr. Tuck discusses the city planning philosophies of 22 cities of the ancient world in chronological order and he traces development of important themes. This is an interesting concept with potential application to our modern cities. However, I believe that the course falls short in several areas. First, the course is very heavily weighted toward Mediterranean cities. Of the 22 cities addressed, 6 represented Anatolian/Middle Eastern/Egyptian culture, 8 represented Greek/Hellenistic culture, and 5 represented Roman culture (including Constantinople). Only 1 represented the Indus River Valley culture. There were no representatives from China, Japan, Sub-Saharan Africa, or the Americas. Did other cultures have nothing to contribute to urban planning? Does this reflect a bias in archeology (i.e., excavated sites available for analysis)? Second, Dr. Tuck does not really delve into why urban development proceeded the way that it did. Why is later city planning different from earlier city planning? Was it influenced primarily by geography? By technology? By culture or religion? Knowing these answers would affect applicability to our own times. Dr. Tuck is clearly knowledgeable and he conveys enthusiasm for his subject. He presents his material in a clear and easy-to-follow order. I used the audio version. While I believe that the visual version would have been helpful occasionally, the course was still suitable for audio-only situations such as jogging or driving in a car.
Date published: 2021-06-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Indus Civilization Viewed from Western Perspective As a long time listener of the Great Courses, and with knowledge of Indian civilization, listening to the Indus Civilization was not as cringeworthy as some other lectures of other courses presented on the Great Courses of India. Indian history is still presented in the context of some sort of divide that was created by British theories, while these theories are showing to be false and racist and a marker of the colonialist time period that does not take into account actual Indian history from the perspective of the epics, but breaks it from a perspective of Western Imperialist imagination while discounting the native perspective. While this lecture did not do that specifically, it seemed to compare the Indus civilizations to other Western civilizations and tried to draw parallels to other the Western Civilization and come up with conjectures, while not taking into account the current Indian civilizations. For instance, the lecture speaks about Baths used in the Indus cities and tries to find how it was used by trying to find similarities to Rome, but at the same time time, there is a present culture in India that still the system of Baths near temples and can be found all over India, especially in South India- maybe start utilizing the people of India as well to speak about what may be the roles of those Baths, and they may get clues to the past civilizations as well. It is getting tiresome to see that most "experts" of South Asian really do not know that much of South Asia at all, and unfortunately, that is the information that still gets presented and taught throughout the world. With regards to Great Courses context of India in general, I do suggest that the information becomes updated to more modern ideas and to start taking away the old racist theories that are becoming debunked- Please stop using 1900 theories as your basis of the civilizations.
Date published: 2020-11-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just give me more Professor Tuck delivers another informative and fun tour of the ancient world. All I can ask for is more visual material from the cities we visit. I might also add that the stuff that's already on the Wikipedia pages for these sites doesn't need to be repeated.
Date published: 2020-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the finest excursions into Ancient cities! Absolutely superior presentation! A superb armchair adventure of these incredible ancient sites!!! Well worth the watch!!! Dr. Tuck is an amazing personal guide and archaeologist. He brings the past to life on an unparalleled manner!
Date published: 2020-08-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Compelling lectures Dr. Tuck is an engaging professor, and I enjoyed his lectures on ancient cities a great deal. The pace is good, and the material is presented in a fashion that suits both serious students of the subject and those whose interest is less academic. If I could change one thing about the course, it would be to add more photographs or images of the cities being discussed, and to leave them on screen for more than a few seconds. Otherwise, I enjoyed the course and learned about some areas and cities that I hadn't encountered before, so that was fun.
Date published: 2020-07-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The helped fill in a lot of information of a recently read book of the ancient cities.
Date published: 2019-11-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from FANTASTIC!! I love history, archeology, travel, etc. These courses are perfect in satisfying all my expectations. Great for everyone. The places I've been to and the places I want to go are all wonderfully covered.
Date published: 2019-07-28
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We live in a world of cities-for the first time ever, the majority of the population lives in an urban environment-and reflecting on 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. 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."


Steven L. Tuck
Steven L. Tuck

We're going to introduce the visual markers that serve to tell Romans about class interaction and the importance of urban spaces that create and impose Roman imperial identity and serve in ways that we would use literate works.


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, Miami University’s highest honor for innovative and effective undergraduate teaching. In addition, the Archaeological Institute of America, North America’s oldest and largest organization devoted to archaeology, presented him with its Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2014. He also has been named a Distinguished Scholar and an Altman Faculty Scholar at Miami University.

Professor Tuck has conducted archaeological fieldwork and research in Italy, Greece, England, and Egypt. He has directed more than a dozen study tours in Italy, concentrated on the city of Rome and the area around the Bay of Naples, including Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Island of Capri. He has given more than 50 public lectures, including as a national lecturer for the Archaeological Institute of America.

Professor Tuck is the author of numerous articles featured in international journals on such topics as the lives of sailors in the Roman navy, the schedule of gladiatorial games at Pompeii, the decorative program of the amphitheater at Capua, the professional organizations of spectacle performers, Roman sculpture, and triumphal imagery across the ancient Roman world. He is the author of the forthcoming A History of Roman Art, a lavishly illustrated introduction to the topic.

Professor Tuck has taught two previous Great Courses: Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City and Experiencing Rome: A Visual Exploration of Antiquity’s Greatest Empire.

By This Professor

Cities of the Ancient World
Pompeii: Daily Life in an Ancient Roman City
The Architecture of Power: Great Palaces of the Ancient World
The Mysterious Etruscans
Cities of the Ancient World


The Lure of the City

01: 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.

30 min
Catalhoyuk-First Experiment in Urban Living

02: Catalhoyuk-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.

29 min
Jericho and Its Walls

03: 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.

29 min
Uruk-City of Gilgamesh

04: 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.

29 min
Mysterious Mohenjo-daro

05: 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.

31 min
Kahun-Company Town in the Desert

06: 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.

32 min
Work and Life at Deir el-Medina

07: 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.

30 min
Amarna-Revolutionary Capital

08: 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.

28 min
Knossos-Palace, City, or Temple?

09: 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.

28 min
Akrotiri-Bronze Age Pompeii

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.

27 min
Mycenae, Tiryns, and the Mask of Agamemnon

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.

32 min
Athens-Civic Buildings and Civic Identity

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.

30 min
Athenian Domestic Architecture

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.

33 min
Hippodamian Planning-Miletus and Ephesus

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.

29 min
Olynthus-A Classical Greek City Preserved

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.

28 min
Wonder and Diversity at Alexandria

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.

30 min
Pergamon-The New Theatricality

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.

30 min
The Good Life in Rome

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.

29 min
The Lives of the Poor in Rome

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.

29 min
Ostia-Middle-Class Harbor Town

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.

28 min
Timgad-More Roman Than Rome

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.

29 min
Karanis-On the Fringes of the Empire

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.

28 min
Constantinople-The Last Ancient City

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.

29 min
Lessons and Legacies of Ancient Urban Life

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.

33 min