The Architecture of Power: Great Palaces of the Ancient World

Explore the nature of political power and cultural tradition around the world through history's most opulent, breathtaking palaces, accompanied by an expert guide.
The Architecture of Power: Great Palaces of the Ancient World is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 29.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from VERY GOOD BUT NEED MORE PICTURES While the course and professor are very interesting I thought this could have used more visual affects and pictures. That would have really shown a lot more and with most of these sites being well photoed it would have made this another 5 star course.
Date published: 2020-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exciting journey! Informative and a pleasure to watch. Architecture & history told by a delightful instructor.
Date published: 2020-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Triumph I have every other course by ST, and I cheerfully admit that this course is his best. The intention to discuss buildings is rife with unintentional boredom. However, ST imbues his narratives with many whimsical humorous asides, and comparisons with modern buildings that the descriptions of his choices are made to come alive. Historical and cultural context provide a backdrop to why the particular palace was built. As the course progresses, he often alludes to some of his previous examples, which further binds the presentation into a coherent whole. Naturally, one may criticise his choices and exclusions, even his presentation style, but all in all, this is a very cleverly constructed set of lectures that open up like petals on a rose. The final lecture neatly brings together all the elements of his previous descriptions into a modern-day perspective, and makes for a satisfying totality.
Date published: 2020-04-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Extensive information, could use more 3D I enjoyed this course and it certainly contains a lot of interesting information. I also like the fact that Dr. Tuck has his own opinions and freely expresses them . However, there are IMO shortcomings in the use of visual drawings and models. This is well illustrated in two palaces I was particularly interested in, Persepolis and Phaistos. I’ve been to Persepolis and it is an amazing place. There are excellent 3D computer reconstructions of all the buildings and when you go there you can rent VR headsets to view the buildings in reconstructions as you move around the site. The lack of these kind of visual images really make it difficult to appreciate the place, you don’t really get a sense of it unless you either see reconstructions or go there in person. I felt the same lack of reconstructed images really hurt the lecture on Phaistos as well. I never got any sense of the palace, of how it looked. So it would be good to upgrade the use of 3D images and computer reconstructions. That said, you can really learn a lot in this course and the information is really well organized.
Date published: 2020-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Material and Presentation. I plan to review this whenever we travel to any of these sites. Recommend Video either stream(I did) or DVD.
Date published: 2019-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof Thinks Instead of Regurgitates Professor Tuck has always been a favorite because of his ability to create and justify new viewpoints. Some reviewers call him an archeologist, others an art historian. Above all else, Tuck is a deep OBSERVER who put all sorts of things together, rather than regurgitating "an accepted view". Tuck well explains why he makes his choices of characters/places and these create a very lively, human-centered view of the past. He is one of the few professors I'd really enjoy having lunch with. Here are just a few joys of this grand course: 1. Tuck creates a deeply personal understanding of ancient leaders (especially Roman). Example: Caligula's ships weren't his own spectacular novelty as they were modeled on the preceding luxury ships of Hieron II, Ptolemy IV, and Cleopatra. The reason for the ship placement in a burned out volcano cone lake becomes logical. Our "modernity" takes a pause with discussion of ancient ball bearings to change statue directions and piston pumps for ship hot and cold running water. Caligula's Ship B suggested not only his formal state obligations but also his personal WORSHIP of the (Egyptian) goddess Isis. I began to understand troubled boyish-faced Caligula as a sort of ancient Millennial always "deserving" the spectacular. Unfortunately, he "provided no tangible benefits to his people". Our own arrogance takes a hit when Tuck side comments on the similarity to today's cruise ships. Tuck's comments on numerous others are just as up close and personal. 2. I've listened to "academics" pontificate about the evil of world treasures ending up in major countries. Yet Tuck dares to call out the historical outcome of mid-Eastern treasures in the British Museum vs those left to ISIS (L6). 3. He often disagrees with "accepted" interpretations of building usages but clearly states his case. He is respectful, weighs his reasons carefully, and is cheerful, not defensive. Here is a professor with whom you could raise an on-topic question and he would trouble himself to consider it. PROS: 1. DOWNLOAD THE PDF even if you have a physical guidebook. The color reproductions are astounding. Great job TGC! 2. Yes, Dr. Tuck has a sense of humor. His side comments are made to "break the pace" of his material and mostly show the humanity of his characters. My favorite was his only completely off topic comment when he slapped at college debt noting: "...their Mercedes, BMWs, & Audi's...not a Ford among them!" I went from concentration to laughter...a trick that helped cement material. CONS: 1. It IS difficult to stay awake initially to room-by-room descriptions. But with the practice of repeated and further lectures, I suddenly realized that I could predict what a room probably would be used for and why. His method requires practice but became a game. I mastered more this way than in courses where 3D showmanship was cuter but required nothing. 2. Does he read his script? I don't know but so what if he does? SUMMARY: Tuck has delivered an extraordinarily unique course that will have you looking at the ancient peoples as if you lived among them.
Date published: 2019-08-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great in showing the architecture of the palaces, information on construction and function of palaces
Date published: 2019-06-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my favs Professor is so erudite, intelligent, interesting. On my second time through, mainly due to his excitement with his course. Great visuals, maps etc. you will love
Date published: 2019-06-10
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In The Architecture of Power: Great Palaces of the Ancient World, tour awe-inspiring structures of the ancient world with Professor Steven L. Tuck. As you make your way through these storied sites-some of which no longer exist-you'll also delve into an exploration of the meaning of power and the ways it operated in societies across the globe.


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

The Architecture of Power: Great Palaces of the Ancient World


Palaces Past and Present

01: Palaces Past and Present

Begin your tour of the ancient world by a look at our modern one as you explore the palaces of Saddam Hussein. Discover how he called upon the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians for inspiration and also how the architecture changed over time in response to threats from Iran and the United States.

34 min
Malkata Palace: Pharaoh, Foreigners, and Gods

02: Malkata Palace: Pharaoh, Foreigners, and Gods

Now, travel back to the 14th century BC, a time of peace, prosperity, and plentitude for Egyptians. Learn how the Malkata Palace represents a microcosm of Egypt. Architectural details reveal little-known facts about religious rituals and telling insights into how pharaohs attempted to assert their domination over others.

32 min
Amarna: Palace of the First Sun King

03: Amarna: Palace of the First Sun King

Pharaoh Amenhotep IV takes on a new name—Akhenaten—and shifts Egypt's capital to the fascinating city of Amarna. See how his worship of the sun disk defined an era built on temple crops, sacrifices, and complete subservience to the pharaoh. Also learn how relocating his seat of power helped Akhenaten wrestle authority away from religious leaders.

31 min
Phaistos: Palaces between Asia and Europe

04: Phaistos: Palaces between Asia and Europe

Archaeology often involves a great deal of detective work, as is the case with the mysterious Bronze Age Crete. The myth of Daedalus and his labyrinth symbolizes Crete's location at the intersection of multiple cultures. Discover the Phaistos Palace, where extravagant religious rituals and entertainment spectacles were held.

32 min
Palace of Nestor at Pylos and Bronze Age Greece

05: Palace of Nestor at Pylos and Bronze Age Greece

Explore the Palace of Nestor, an extraordinary complex centered around the throne room. We travel in time from the immense treasures discovered in 2015 back to the ancient styles the Mycenaeans developed to bring these elaborate structures to life. Consider what the arrangement of rooms reveals about how royals lived and maintained control.

32 min
The Assyrian Palace at Nimrud: Empire in Stone

06: The Assyrian Palace at Nimrud: Empire in Stone

The Assyrian palace at Nimrud, with its imposing 20-foot gates, was designed by Ashurnasirpal II. An epic braggart, he loved to write of his conquests of nature and his knowledge of tree species. Clearly an intellectual, he describes in detail the glory of feasts he threw—and the math behind them.

33 min
Nineveh: The Architecture of Assyrian Power

07: Nineveh: The Architecture of Assyrian Power

Discover the last great Assyrian palace and the largest city the world had ever seen before the Babylonian conquest. See how its designers accomplished incredible civil engineering feats, diverting entire rivers into canals that offered protection and transportation. Also meet the magnificent lamassu guardians that flanked the palace entrances, each of which stood over 12 feet tall.

34 min
Persepolis: Palace of the Persians

08: Persepolis: Palace of the Persians

The lore of Persepolis includes the exploits of many great kings. Explore the great citadel at Persepolis with its famed flight of 111 steps leading to the Gate of All Nations, which held a set of wood and bronze doors standing 20 feet high. Learn of the spectacular stone masonry and powerful art filled with lions and mythological creatures.

33 min
Greek Palaces in Conquered Lands I

09: Greek Palaces in Conquered Lands I

While scholars debate the details, it's undeniable that Alexander the Great's conquest of the Persian Empire profoundly changed the world. View his astonishing palaces, boasting gymnasiums and enormous swimming pools and home to elite drinking parties. Examine the unmistakable Greek style blended with Persian and Assyrian influences characteristic of the period.

31 min
Greek Palaces in Conquered Lands II

10: Greek Palaces in Conquered Lands II

This is the tale of two palaces—one in Jordan, the other in Libya—in the wake of Alexander the Great’s death. Both were products of military expansion and occupation, but they displayed distinct identities. Learn how the palace origins influenced the design and layout of each.

31 min
Greek Palaces Come to Roman Italy

11: Greek Palaces Come to Roman Italy

Two men, Marcus Claudius Marcellus and Lucius Licinius Lucullus, were largely responsible for the transformation of Roman architecture; their story is one of political strategy, Persian influence, and sheer determination. Consider why Lucullus may be the most important yet underrated figure in the history of palace creation.

32 min
Masada: Herod the Great between East and West

12: Masada: Herod the Great between East and West

Herod the Great is a well-studied, yet controversial, figure. Examine in depth his brilliant methods and materials, including the construction of Masada, which involved many logistical challenges as giant marble tesserae slabs were shipped across the desert and hoisted up as walls. Discover Herod’s most startling and mesmerizing architectural invention.

32 min
Herod the Great’s Summer and Winter Palaces

13: Herod the Great’s Summer and Winter Palaces

Herod was a complex king whose royal image was defined by insecurity, innovation, and a need to reflect his Jewish identity. Starting with his heated Roman baths in each palace, understand how the king was a master of the land and was able to give his people a marvelous oasis in the desert.

31 min
Caligula’s Floating Palaces

14: Caligula’s Floating Palaces

Taking inspiration from Cleopatra as well as the ancient Hellenistic rulers, Caligula's Floating Palaces included all the amenities you would expect to find onboard modern cruise ships: spacious baths, banquet halls, and live music. Caligula, himself, is also quite fascinating, as is the story of the ships' rediscovery.

33 min
Nero’s Domus Transitoria at Rome

15: Nero’s Domus Transitoria at Rome

A huge fan of spectacle, Nero sponsored grand chariot races and began an architectural revolution. We find Nero’s palaces made of a new Roman concrete where bespoke designs could finally replace the utilitarian boxes of stone, thus making way for domed ceilings, custom columns, and any form he desired.

32 min
Nero’s Golden House: A Roman Palace Theater

16: Nero’s Golden House: A Roman Palace Theater

Nero built the infamous Domus Aurea (Golden House), a 124-acre Xanadu that enraged the rich whose land he occupied. It featured a lavish watered garden with incredible rotating sculptures that could spray perfume. Walking distance from the Colosseum, this palace was literally covered in gold.

32 min
Rome’s Great Imperial Palace of Domitian

17: Rome’s Great Imperial Palace of Domitian

The word "palace" comes from the Palatine Hill in Rome, which housed Domitian’s 200-year-old palace. This structure—impeccably built and placed—was essentially the White House for Roman emperors. Learn why the enormous residence and its innovative design was mythologized by poets, who compared Domitian to Jupiter.

32 min
Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli

18: Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli

Hadrian was an artistic genius who personally designed the palace of his dreams to reflect his many passions, including his love of Greek philosophy. His luxurious villa, now a UNESCO world heritage site, set the standard for Roman architecture. Understand more about Hadrian, a figure so influential that he redefined the concept of Virtus, or manliness.

32 min
Diocletian’s Retirement Palace, Split

19: Diocletian’s Retirement Palace, Split

Diocletian came to power in the 3rd century AD, a turbulent time for the Roman Empire, which had seen 25 emperors over the course of 50 years. Learn how Diocletian, a visionary and problem-solver, brought stability to the empire and how his palace represented a radical departure from traditional styles.

32 min
Constantine’s Palace, Constantinople

20: Constantine’s Palace, Constantinople

Constantinople was a fresh start for the then-600-year-old Roman Empire, becoming the greatest European city of the Middle Ages. Its founder, Constantine, was (supposedly) a devout Christian. Explore his palace, which featured colossal sculptures and the famed hippodrome, where chariot races, animal hunts, and prisoner executions were held.

33 min
China’s Endless Palace: Weiyang Palace

21: China’s Endless Palace: Weiyang Palace

Weiyang, China’s Endless Palace, represented not only an emperor but the very concept of ever-expanding empire itself. Covering an area of 1,200 acres, it was the largest imperial palace ever built. You'll learn how the construction of the palace reflected imperialism as well as Confucianism, the cornerstone of Chinese philosophy.

32 min
The Palace of Montezuma II at Tenochtitlán

22: The Palace of Montezuma II at Tenochtitlán

The Aztec capital, founded in a swamp, developed into the largest city in the Pre-Columbian Americas. Meet Montezuma II, creator of Tenochtitlán, a staunch believer in omens, and father to hundreds. Learn how a Spanish army of a few hundred men led by Hernan Cortes conquered an empire of millions.

32 min
Renaissance Palaces and the Classical Revival

23: Renaissance Palaces and the Classical Revival

Here we visit such highlights of Renaissance architecture as Kensington Palace and the Tuileries Palace and discover how they were influenced by classical forms. Perhaps most impressive is the Palace of Versailles, which boasted Europe's largest orange tree collection and now attracts tourists from all over the world.

33 min
Palaces in a World of Democracies

24: Palaces in a World of Democracies

In this final lecture, reflect on the timeless themes explored in this course. First, investigate the White House, where each decorative decision reflects political agenda (and defiance to the previous administration). Then, discover the surprising connection between the Amazon headquarters and ancient imperial palaces as ancient ideas come full circle in our modern era.

38 min