Origins of Great Ancient Civilizations
01: Cradles of Civilization
The opening lecture introduces the earliest civilizations of the Tigris-Euphrates, Nile, and Indus River valleys, which emerge c. 3500-3000 B.C. from Neolithic villages.
02: First Cities of Sumer
We explore the economic, social, and religious life of the Sumerians, whose mastery of writing and long-distance trade make them the progenitors of the urban civilization of the ancient Near East.
03: Mesopotamian Kings and Scribes
A look at three classes of people-kings, scribes, and soldiers-illuminates the creation of wider political institutions in ancient Mesopotamia, from the regional kingdoms to the territorial empires of the early and middle Bronze Age.
04: Hammurabi's Babylon
We end our survey of Mesopotamian civilization in the Bronze Age with an examination of the career and kingdom of Hammurabi, King of Babylon, who establishes the cultural underpinnings of Mesopotamian civilization thereafter.
05: Egypt in the Pyramid Age
We begin three lectures on Egypt with a focus on the so-called early dynastic period and the Old Kingdom, beginning with a look at some of the basic features of early Egyptian civilization and the unique characteristics of the Nile.
06: The Middle Kingdom
This lecture examines a key period of Egyptian history, which is roughly contemporaneous with the Babylon of Hammurabi, during which Egypt for the first time expands its horizons beyond its own frontiers.
07: Imperial Egypt
Egypt's monarchy comes to play the dominant role in the Near East until the empire comes to an end with attacks associated with the so-called "Sea Peoples"-invaders coming out of both Libya and the Aegean world.
08: New Peoples of the Bronze Age
We complete our discussion of the Bronze Age with a look at three areas influenced by the early river valley civilizations: the region known as the Levant, the area that is today Asiatic Turkey, and the world of the Aegean.
09: The Collapse of the Bronze Age
The great empires of the late Bronze Age fall in the wake of migrations and barbarian invasions usually associated with the advent of iron technology. Though this has been explained as the result of natural disasters, the imperial order did not collapse so much as fragment.
10: From Hebrews to Jews
This lecture deals with the evolution of a group of Canaanite speakers to a people with a monotheistic faith attached not to a particular place, but to one's perceptions, ethical beliefs, and worship of a transcendent God.
11: Imperial Assyria
Despite their remarkable reputation for ferocity, the Assyrians do more than forge the first imperial order since the late Bronze Age; they set down many of the foundations upon which the Persians will build their far more successful and larger empire.
12: The Persian Empire
We conclude the course with a look at an empire that may have had, at its peak, as many as 40 million subjects, and which, in its imperial organization, is perhaps the best-ordered until the age of Rome.