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Ancient Greek History - Audio

Ancient Greek History - Audio

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04 - The Rise of the Polis

In this lecture, Professor Donald Kagan offers a sketch of the Greek heroic code of ethics. He shows that in this community, arête (manly virtue) and honor are extremely important and even worth dying for, as the case of Achilles makes clear. In addition, Professor Kagan shows how this society eventually produced a new phenomenon, the rise of the polis. The discussion ends with a strong emphasis on the importance of the polis in Greek history.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #1

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03 - The Dark Ages (cont.)

In this lecture, Professor Kagan addresses what scholars call the Homeric question. He asks: what society do Homer's poems describe? He argues that in view of the long oral transmission of the poems, the poems of Homer probably reflect various ages from the Mycenaean world to the Dark Ages. More importantly, close scrutiny of the poems will yield historical information for the historian. In this way, one is able to reconstruct through the poems, to a certain extent, the post-Mycenaean world. Finally, Professor Kagan says a few words on the heroic ethic of the Greek world.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #2

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08 - Sparta

In this lecture, Professor Donald Kagan explores the rise, fall, and significance of tyrannies in the Greek polis. He argues that the various tyrannies in the Greek world had both negative and positive aspects, which need to be appreciated. For instance, on the one hand, tyrannies promoted economic, commercial and artistic advances. On the other hand, tyrannies ruled absolutely and curbed the freedom of the polis. Finally, Professor Kagan intimates that tyrannies in many ways were a necessary step in the development of the classical polis. In short, through tyrannies, the power and influence of the aristocracy was broken and the hoplite farmer grew greater in significance.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #3

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10 - The Rise of Athens

In this lecture, Professor Kagan finishes up his description of the Spartan constitution. He argues that Sparta had a mixed constitution and gained great power due to alliances that the Spartans made with their neighbors. After the discussion of Sparta, Professor Kagan examines Athens and the development of the Athenian constitution. In addition, he shows how different these two poleis were. Finally, Professor Kagan discusses the emergence of the hoplite class in Athens and the failure of Cylon to make himself tyrant of Athens.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #4

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17 - The Peloponnesian War, Part I

In this lecture, Professor Kagan describes the events that lead up the Peloponnesian War. He argues that the rise of Athenian power and the concomitant challenge to Spartan dominance pointed to potential conflict. However, Professor Kagan also points out that there were many people who did not want war and that therefore war was not inevitable. The Thirty Years Peace was negotiated, and Professor Kagan finally argues that its clause for arbitration was the key clause that could have prevented war.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #5

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12 - The Persian Wars

In this lecture, Professor Kagan examines in detail the development, growing pains, and emergence of Athenian democracy. He argues that the tyranny under the Peisistratids led to the development of the idea of self-government among the Athenians, which Cleisthenes used to develop Athens in a more democratic direction. One of the ways Cleisthenes was able to accomplish this was to diminish the power of the aristocracy by reordering and restructuring the tribes and giving greater power to the assembly. Finally, Professor Kagan says a word on the Athenian practice of ostracism as a political tool to protect a fledgling democracy.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #6

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13 - The Athenian Empire

In this lecture, Professor Kagan traces the development and the power of the Persian empire. He also shows how the Persian empire and the Greek world eventually came into conflict through a few incidents concerning Ionian Greeks in Asia Minor, which eventually turned into the Persian Wars. Professor Kagan ends this lecture with a description of the events of the battle of Marathon in which the Athenians defeated the Persians.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #7

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06 - The Greek "Renaissance" - Colonization and Tyranny

In this lecture, Professor Donald Kagan discusses the emergence of a new style of warfare among the Greeks, the hoplite phalanx. After discussing the panoply of the hoplite solider and the method of fighting, he argues that this style of fighting came about early in the life of the polis. In addition, he shows that the phalanx was almost invincible on the field. At the lecture's conclusion, he answers several questions from students about hoplite warfare in the Greek world.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #8

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05 - The Rise of the Polis (cont.)

In this lecture, Professor Donald Kagan tells the story of the emergence of the polis from the Dark Ages. He shows that by the time of the poet Hesiod, there is already a polis in place. He describes the importance of the polis in the Greek world and explains that it was much more than a mere place of habitation; it was a place where there was justice, law, community, and a set of cultural values that held Greeks together. Finally, Professor Kagan argues, following the lead of Victor David Hanson, that the polis came to be chiefly through the emergence of a new man: the hoplite farmer.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #9

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14 - The Athenian Empire (cont.)

In this lecture, Professor Donald Kagan examines the developments that took place after the Greek victory over the Persians in 479 BC. He argues that even after the Greek victories, there was great fear amongst the Greeks that the Persians would return to seek revenge. For this reason, many of the Greek poleis, especially the islands, looked to Athens to lead this league, which later became the Delian League. Athens, according to Professor Kagan, accepted this responsibility, since it too feared a Persian invasion, but Sparta was content to retreat into the Peloponesus. Finally, Professor Kagan intimates that this league would eventually turn into the Athenian empire.

6 Oct 2009

Rank #10