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The Age of Pericles

Discover how dramatic increase in military power, cultural influence, and prestige was also accompanied by something unique: the growth of full participatory democracy.
Age of Pericles is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 53.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course! Another excellent course by Prof. McInerney. He is a true historian – approaching topics thematically, while integrating textual, artistic and archeological sources to discuss politics, domestic life, economics, drama, religion, art etc. I questioned only some of his commentary on Plato and Aristotle, but fortunately, there are other Great Courses addressing these thinkers. Notably for our age, his critique of ancient society was balanced – directly addressing the slavery and imperialism of ancient Athens, but also exploring their remarkable achievements. Everyone should hear his last lecture. “An Elegy to Athens.” This course, along with his one on Alexander and the Hellenistic Age, are among the best in the Great Courses series.
Date published: 2023-11-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course! Prof. McInerney offers through this series of lectures a very entertaining and interesting exploration of 5th Century Athens. His style is witty and fast-paced, and the breadth of his knowledge and the course's reach is impressive. If you are familiar with the geography, the audio version of the course is just fine; otherwise, you may consider video if it is still available. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2023-06-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Age of Pericles When I ordered this course I didn’t realize it was audio only, I had previously requested 23 courses in a cd format which I could also view on my digital device. When I ordered this course along with 9 others, I didn’t realize I would only get audio. There is so much lost with only audio because in my other courses that have video the lecturer provides photos and maps which help with the learning (a picture tells a thousand words). The lecturer for this course also relays his information with a monotone delivery and with no visual aid I loose interest after a few minutes.
Date published: 2021-04-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from His best lectures are on Athenian drama Dr. McInerney's style in the first twelve lectures in this course is quite reserved, but he starts to warm up when he gets to the lectures on Athenian drama, and by lecture 16 on the comedy of Aristophanes, he drops his reserve and really sails. I enjoyed this course, but on the politics of the period, I think Dr. Garland's course titled "Athenian Democracy: an Experiment for the Ages" is more intellectually challening.
Date published: 2021-01-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Equality of the Privileged, Freedom for the Free In this excellent course, Professor McInerney demonstrates that Athenian democracy was not ours. Sovereignty and civic identity were confined to the city itself and the surrounding region of Attica rather than larger territories like Denmark or France, let alone the United States, so patriotism was local. Rather than elect representatives to a legislature, the entire citizen body turned out to pass laws itself. Some executive officials were chosen by lot, a great way today—if we did the same—to do away with campaigns and campaign spending. These features of the constitution blurred the line between ordinary citizens and the political class that is so prominent today. Unfortunately, Athens did anticipate modern democracy in the sense of ethno-nationalists like Andrew Jackson, Jefferson Davis, and Donald Trump. Freedom and equality were the birthright of citizen males, denied to free women, slaves and resident aliens (metics). Only citizen males could vote or hold office. Resident aliens were welcome to stay, but only so long as they ran businesses. Under Pericles Athens made citizenship impossible to get without being born to two Athenian parents, unless one could get special legislation—exactly what Pericles did for his son by the metic Aspasia. The Athenians purported to champion “eleutheria”—the freedom of Greek states from foreign rule—but they ruthlessly subjugated their allies during and after the common war against Persia, squeezing tribute from them. As McInerney points out in the final lecture, the city’s cultural achievements rested on the labor and money of these disenfranchised and downtrodden populations. On the other hand, those achievements were considerable. We have Athens to thank for the birth of drama. It was Athens that produced the philosophies of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Athenians funneled much of the tribute they received into some of the world’s most beautiful temples on the Acropolis. The city was great and remained great until it lost the Peloponnesian War to Sparta and its allies, largely because of strategic mistakes born of arrogance and poor leadership. The course is well-rounded and excellent. It covers Athenian politics, legal practice, economics, the household, family life, the problems of inheritance, education, and funerals. The first lecture, in which McInerney gives us a tour of the agora, is great. He shares with us personal details about famous Athenians like Pericles, but also about obscure people now remembered only in trial speeches, like Neaera and her husband Stephanus, both accused of falsely passing off their children as citizens. He gives very good summaries of the tragedies Prometheus Bound (Aeschylus), Antigone (Sophocles), and Medea (Euripides) and of the comedies Lysistrata and The Clouds (Aristophanes). It’s too bad the course is now available only as an audio download, so you can’t see any photos of art and architecture. There are only two maps in the guidebook, a very helpful one of the Agora, and a bland one of the Greek Peninsula. The only jarring note is irrelevant to the subject matter; for some reason Professor McInerney mentions the recent “bombings” of September 11, 2001 even though no bombs were involved except the airplanes flown by the suicide hijackers. The Athenians knew all about assassination, and they celebrated Harmodius and Aristogeiton, the murderers of the tyrant Hipparchus, but at least they were innocent of terrorism.
Date published: 2019-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent content and superb lecturer I found the course fascinating and enlightening. It clarified a number of facts about Athens at its zenith -- both good and bad by our standards -- and gave a sense of the era a feeling of currency and relevance. There were times that I felt I was listening to a lecture on current events. There were some amusing moments (such as when the Professor McInerney, in his Aussie accent used the phrase "get out of Dodge", which seemed a bit incongruous, but in a delightful way...).
Date published: 2018-09-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An engaging, terrific course on Classical Athens For anyone with an interest in Classical Greece, or the cultural legacy it has bequeathed the modern West, this course is simply amazing. The lectures include everything from vivid descriptions of the art and architecture, to the structure and function of the important Athenian institutions (the Assembly, the courts), to the contemporary and modern-day relevance of the great Athenian dramatists and philosophers. It's a comprehensive "snapshot" of private and public life at the height of Classical Athens, and the perfect companion to Prof. Harl's equally superb course on the Peloponnesian War. I used this series extensively while writing a historical novel set in Classical Athens. Prof. McInerney is a terrific lecturer with an easy manner that's a pleasure to listen to. Many of the lectures I listened to repeatedly, not only for research, but simply for enjoyment. Can't say enough good things about the series!
Date published: 2018-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The golden Age Made Personal This course almost seems a throwaway. After all, who does not know of the Golden Age of Athens? Of the playwrights: Aeschylus, Sophocles, Eurpides and Aristophanes? Or the Parthenon and the Acropolis? So while I expected to refresh my knowledge and learn a few things, I pretty much thought I knew most of the material that would be covered (even though most of it many years ago). I must admit that Professor McInerney pleasantly surprise me, beginning with lecture one. His description of the Agora was detailed and took me right there. While I had known the term I had not realized how much a part of daily life it was, certainly not in the detail presented. I also was pleased with the detail on the festivals (lecture seven) and on the general descriptions of life as it was lived by the Athenians during this time: everything from marriage, family life, through death and burial. There was not much new (to me) presented on Pericles himself or his career, or his family (although there was a lot of good detail on his mistress, Aspasia). The same with the bios of Socrates and Plato. What I found most interesting were the lectures on Athenian courts and justice system. Here Dr. McInerney gives the most detailed description on the jury selection process that I have encountered. As expected from the title, the scope to this course is quite limited, not a negative thing, as it allows for more detail on the topics chosen than one might otherwise get. For example, four full lectures on the plays, play-going and writers was satisfying, allowing as it did for a lot of detail. If there is a downside, Professor McInerney is not the most dynamic speaker in TTG series. Perhaps a part of this is his speaking style. I know his undergraduate degree was from an Australian university, but his accent sounds like he is from South Africa to me. In any case he speaks in a very precise, clipped fashion that comes across as a bit pedantic (perhaps no bad thing from a professor). Even so a well done course and recommended to those who want to know more about Athens at its peak and who don’t expect a history.
Date published: 2018-03-11
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Overview

During the 5th century BCE, the Greek city-state of Athens experienced a "Golden Age"—cultural flowering of extraordinary power and importance for Western culture. In the generation that followed Pericles’s appearance on the public stage after the Persian wars, Athens transformed the allied Greek states into a true Aegean empire, dominated by the Athenians and their mighty navy.

About

Jeremy McInerney

All cultures are unique, I would argue. Japanese culture, Chinese culture, Indian culture-we even know now that cultures that were once dismissed as 'primitive' in fact have extremely rich cultural lives.

INSTITUTION

University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Jeremy McInerney is Davidson Kennedy Associate Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. McInerney earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He was the Wheeler Fellow at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and has excavated in Israel, at Corinth, and on Crete. He serves on the Managing Committee of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Greece. Professor McInerney's research interests include topography, epigraphy and historiography. He is the author of The Folds of Parnassos: Land and Ethnicity in Ancient Pholis, and has published articles in a variety of academic journals including Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies, the American Journal of Archaeology, Hesperia, and California Studies in Classical Antiquity. In 1997, he was an invited participant at a colloquium on ethnicity in the ancient world, hosted by the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington.

By This Professor

The Agora—An Ancient Marketplace

01: The Agora—An Ancient Marketplace

This lecture introduces Athens's ancient marketplace, and focuses on its role as the center of Athenian commercial, religious, and political life.

33 min
Athens and the Persian Wars

02: Athens and the Persian Wars

We examine the two invasions by the Persians (the beginning of a split between east and west that still overshadows the modern world) that stimulated the fabulous growth of Athens in the 5th century B.C.

30 min
The Athenian Empire

03: The Athenian Empire

Guided by both the writings of Thucydides and key Greek inscriptions, we tackle the difficult questions of how and when Athens was transformed from the victor of the Persian Wars into the imperial power of the Aegean.

30 min
The Career of Pericles

04: The Career of Pericles

This lecture emphasizes the contradictions of a well-born man who flourished in a democratic system; achieved long-term power in a system designed to prevent it; and constantly advised caution even as he prepared Athens for war with Sparta.

31 min
Aspasia

05: Aspasia

In examining the life of the woman who was Pericles's mistress and the mother of his son, this lecture separates myth from fact and reveals the peculiar intersections of gender, marriage and citizenship in Athenian society.

30 min
Parthenon and Acropolis

06: Parthenon and Acropolis

This lecture concentrates on the glorious building program associated with Pericles, who transformed what had been a motley assortment of shrines, temples, treasure houses, statues, and altars into an artistically integrated sanctuary.

30 min
Panathenaea—The Festivals of Athena

07: Panathenaea—The Festivals of Athena

This examination of the great religious procession that dominated Athenian religious life every four years looks at the question of Athena's position as guardian of the city and the importance Athenians placed on celebrating that role.

30 min

08: "Paideia"—Education in Ancient Athens

How did a childhood in antiquity differ from one lived today? How were young Athenians educated in the age of Pericles? This lecture recreates the experience of childhood among the Greeks, and how children were prepared for their lives as citizens.

30 min
Marriage in Pericles’s Athens

09: Marriage in Pericles’s Athens

One of the most dramatic legal cases to survive from the classical age comes down to us in the speech, Against Nearia, which illuminates both the position of women in Pericles's day and the extraordinary anxiety surrounding marriage.

31 min
Family and Property

10: Family and Property

This lecture draws on the large number of surviving legal speeches to investigate the complex web of family ties and property ownership (resulting legal disputes) that dominated Athenian courts.

30 min
Coins, Trade, and Business

11: Coins, Trade, and Business

Coinage enters the Greek world in the 6th century B.C., making possible rapid development in trade and commerce that ultimately both reflects and reinforces Athens's supremacy under Pericles.

30 min
Death and Burial

12: Death and Burial

This lecture examines not only Athenian attitudes towards death but also the practices associated with commemorating the dead - practices that periodically became so elaborate that laws had to be passed regulating them.

30 min
Aeschylus and Early Tragedy

13: Aeschylus and Early Tragedy

We remember the Greeks for the searing dramas first written and performed in the age of Pericles by its three geniuses of tragedy: Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. This lecture begins an examination of their most famous works with a look at Aeschylus's great masterpiece, "Prometheus Bound."

31 min
Sophoclean Tragedy

14: Sophoclean Tragedy

This lecture turns the spotlight on Sophocles's "Antigone," and the agony of a young woman who must choose between obedience to the state or the dictates of family honor.

30 min
Euripides

15: Euripides

Euripides's "Medea" explores the questions of blood, community membership, and the desire for revenge in a play that is powerful precisely because it is not only universal, but very much the product of Athenian power in the 5th century B.C.

31 min
Comedy in the Age of Aristophanes

16: Comedy in the Age of Aristophanes

Athenian drama was far from just tragedy. The Athenians of Pericles's time were remarkable for the pleasures they took in comedies that, by our standards, might seem crude, vulgar, and sexually explicit - yet testified to the vigor and openness of their society.

31 min
Athenian Courts and Justice

17: Athenian Courts and Justice

The Athenians were justifiably proud of their legal system and saw it as the basis of their democracy. This lecture examines the history of their law and how it differed from modern codes and practices.

31 min
Democracy and Government

18: Democracy and Government

Because the Athenians of Pericles's day lived in a democracy, it is easy to assume that their political life was like our own. It was, in fact, very different.

31 min
The Age of Moderation

19: The Age of Moderation

What did the Athenians mean by "moderation," and why was this virtue so highly regarded? We examine a concept whose origins extend back to a Delphic maxim, but which had a broad application to the political life and culture of Pericles's Athens.

31 min
Freedom, Equality, and the Rights of Man

20: Freedom, Equality, and the Rights of Man

Though we associate the Greeks with concepts like freedom and equality, and often assume that our understanding of these ideas derives from them, Athenian understanding of these terms was far different from ours.

31 min
Athens after Pericles

21: Athens after Pericles

As Athens's inevitable war with Sparta erupts, Athens is rocked by both the arrival of plague and the death of Pericles. This lecture examines whether victory would have been possible anyway, and whether Pericles, for all his brilliance, may have doomed Athens to an unwinnable war.

30 min
Socrates and the Sophists

22: Socrates and the Sophists

The defeat of Athens had enormous repercussions beyond the political life of Athens. We observe those repercussions as events at the end of the 5th century B.C. transform Socrates from a harmless professor to a political scapegoat.

31 min
Plato

23: Plato

The same events that brought about the death of Socrates also molded the career of his star student, Plato. Together, the two provided Western thought with a moral compass and metaphysical outlook that still sustain and define us.

29 min
An Elegy to Athens

24: An Elegy to Athens

At a time when cultures appear to be moving towards more open conflict, this lecture examines our connections with the Athenians, and asks whether or not there is a balance sheet that can help us evaluate the Athenians and calculate our debt to them.

30 min

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