Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Famous Greeks on Audible

Since I enjoyed Famous Romans so much, I decided to see if Audible had anymore courses by the same Professor, Rufus Fears. It turns out that Prof. Fears did several different courses, including Famous Greeks as well as titles like Life Lessons from the Great Myths. I decided to listen to Famous Greeks next.

While I love Greek myths and literature, especially Homer's Iliad and the Odyssey, I was not very familiar with ancient Greek history (I knew way more about Rome from studying Latin and reading historical fiction like I, Claudius). However, this audio book gives a very thorough grounding in the history of ancient Greece, beginning with mythological heroes like Theseus, and going all the way to Alexander the Great and Cleopatra (yes, Cleopatra was actually Greek). Throughout the series, Fears emphasizes how much Greek traditions and beliefs about freedom and equality inspired the American Constitution and our Founding Fathers. Athens, for example, is the world's first known democracy and had a balanced constitution developed by the poet and reformer Solon. Sparta's great lawgiver, Lycurgus, started a highly militaristic and communal culture that prized austerity and equality. Lycurgus developed a balanced constitution with elements of democracy, and he ensured equality among its citizens by guaranteeing them a plot of land at birth (which was farmed by slaves, but that's a story for another day). Spartan women had considerable freedom as well--they were educated much like boys were, with an emphasis on physical fitness and the arts.

In addition to their political innovations, the Greeks had such incredible literature and philosophy that Greece is called the cradle of Western Civilization. Fears covers philosophers such as Pythagoras and Plato, and he gives a fascinating account of the life and death of Socrates, as it might have seemed to a typical Athenian citizen. Few people know that Socrates' most prized student, Alcibiades, was ambitious to the point of being amoral--he was the brilliant youth whom Socrates was accused of corrupting, with some good reason. Fears also examines Athenian drama, in particular how the plays of Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus reflected the political environment of Athens.

In short, I found Famous Greeks completely engaging. I feel like I gained a much more profound insight into ancient Greek culture and history than I had before. Since ancient Greece is the birthplace of democracy, its history feels incredibly relevant to our political situations today (especially Solon the Athenian's careful treading of a middle way, and the Greek belief in avoiding extremes). If you are interested in listening to history on audible, I'd definitely recommend Famous Greeks.

Other Audible Reviews:

The Plantagenets

Famous Romans

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