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Publisher's Summary

The history of the Romans as they advanced the frontiers of Classical civilization is often told as a story of warfare and conquest - the mighty legions encountering the "barbarians." But this only tells one side of the story.

Who were the Celts, Goths, Huns, and Persians met by the Romans as they marched north and east? What were the political, military, and social institutions that made Rome so stable, allowing its power to be wielded against these different cultures for nearly three centuries? What role did those institutions themselves play in assimilating barbarian peoples?

These 36 engaging lectures tell the story of the complex relationship between each of these native peoples and their Roman conquerors as they intermarried, exchanged ideas and mores, and, in the ensuing provincial Roman cultures, formed the basis of Western European civilization.

You'll study the institutions that made Rome so extraordinary, as well as the extraordinary figures - both Roman and barbarian - whose names have been familiar to us for so long. You'll learn about Augustus, Constantine I, Diocletian, Gaius Julius Caesar, Nero, Attila the Hun, as well as a myriad of figures whose names are less familiar to us.

But these lectures deliver far more than personal snapshots, as compelling as those may be. Professor Harl brings to life the institutions that shaped both Rome and her relationship with, and assimilation of, the barbarians at her constantly expanding frontiers. You'll come away with a new appreciation of how our Western world came to be and detailed knowledge about the individuals from royalty to "barbarian" who played key roles in that process.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2004 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2004 The Great Courses

What listeners say about Rome and the Barbarians

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    5 out of 5 stars

The Best Course I've heard yet.

The Teaching Company and the Great Courses offer a number of series that cover the classical era and Rome specifically.

This is the best of those courses that I've listened to.

This series concentrates on Rome's relationship to various barbarian people's.

Because Rome's dealings with barbarian people's was so extensive, however, this series of lectures can also be seen as a linear history of Roman political and military influence.

From the Battle of Alia in the 4th Century BC, to the Battle of Chalons in the 5th Century AD, Professor Harl describes the various peoples, civilizations, and cultures that Rome encountered in her long history, as well as how those people's and cultures influenced Rome.

Professor Harl is a wonderful lecturer. He's entertaining, informative, and the lectures are well organized.

My favorite lecturers of history are able to bring historical figures and events to life in a way that written sources and contemporary biographies cannot.

Since purchasing this, Professor Harl has become one of those lecturers.

If you enjoy classical history or you are curious about the time period, I highly recommend this lecture series.

24 people found this helpful

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Deserves to be heard again. And again.

First, some caveats. I listened to these lectures while working out. But I don’t work out every day. Sometimes I skip a full week. Which isn’t just detrimental to my self-image as a young, virile man-about-town; it also handicaps me somewhat in any assessment of how these lectures hang together as a whole.

Even without my dereliction at the treadmill, sizing up these 36 talks would be a tall order. More than twice as long as anything from the Modern Scholar series, it’s easy to forget what was said about the Gauls when you’re up to your neck in Dacians. The best I can do is say that I enjoyed every minute of the 18 hours.

First, because I’ve been looking for a professor who exudes the same infectious enthusiasm as Timothy Shutt. Professor Harl obviously knows his stuff and loves sharing it.

Second, because there’s a merciful lack of political correctness here. Professor Harl isn’t an ideologue; “Civilize” or “Romanize”, he invites you to use whichever term you prefer. War is understood as constructive as well as destructive—for all the slaughter in Gaul, Julius Caesar also “inadvertently” laid the foundation for French culture.

Thirdly, like Professor Shutt, Professor Harl is good at summarizing complex events in handy observations (like his take on Caesar in Gaul) that can serve as guideposts for future reading or listening.

Does he get tangled at times? Yes. Does he go off on tangents? Yes. But those faults, such as they are, are symptoms of his overriding enthusiasm. His mind brims over with the stuff he wants to share, and sometimes things get a little confused. I enjoyed it. I think you will, too.

Now, on to the good professor’s lectures on Byzantium.

21 people found this helpful

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How Barbarians Created Roman HIstory

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

This is a great course if you are interested in Roman history. The course really is a history of the Roman empire from inception to its decline and fall told against the background of barbarian invasions and interactions.

What did you like best about this story?

Professor Harl's discussion of economic and social factors influencing Roman history was wonderful. He is very careful to disclose sensitive issues in historiography and to let the listener know which side of a controversy he is on. Very, very professional.

What about Professor Kenneth W. Harl’s performance did you like?

The unbelievable breadth of his knowledge and detailed observations concerning cause and effect in Rome's interaction (and integration) with barbarians. I came feel that I could see the panorama of Roman history and the factors (and internal inconsistencies) that led to its fall. There is a lot here for politicians to learn from.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Not that type of book. But I really enjoyed Professor Harl's presentation. Even in 40 hours of Roman history there was never a dull moment (in fact, I was constantly going back to listen again to the details in certain passages).

Any additional comments?

Easy to listen to a 1.25x rather than 1.0.

12 people found this helpful

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History of Rome from the Barbarian's Perspective!

Any additional comments?

This is a great book. I can highly recommend anything written by the author/lecturer Professor Kenneth W. Harl. He is thorough and engaging with any topic.

This book is an overview of the History of Rome with a focus on its interactions with the Barbarians outside and inside their empire. He begins with the rise of the concept of the "Barbarian" in Greek culture. He then follows the ever shifting Roman frontier and barbarian groups encountered by the Roman empire, from Italy, to Spain, Africa, Gaul, Britain, Germany, the Balkans, Asia Minor, as well as Persia and the Levant.

He not only describes the political and military history between Rome and these peoples, but also analyzes how they interacted with each other. The barbarians were changed and shaped by their encounters with the Romans as the Romans were also in turn changed and shaped by their encounters with the barbarians. The history is also not just one of war, but also of trade, culture, assimilation and differentiation. It is a fascinating overview and well worth the read of anyone interested. He of course ends in the final portion of his lectures with his analysis of the fall of the western Roman empire and the interesting role the barbarians played in that process.

One highlight for me was learning about the mysterious iron age culture of the Celts, who at one time had spread their influence over most of Western and Central Europe, a far greater scope than the cultures of Ireland and Scotland we think of today.

For those interested in this topic, I can also highly recommend "The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians" by John B. Bury. This book is also available on audible, and it does an excellent job covering the barbarian invasions of the later Roman Empire and their cultures. It adds many details not covered in this overview, and will be an excellent complement to this read.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the topic. You will enjoy the ride, and learn a lot on the way!

8 people found this helpful

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Packed with information!

Any additional comments?

This series of lectures is packed with information. Prof. Harl works with a couple of overall interpretive positions (e.g., Rome's interactions with its neighbors was far more than combative) and provides voluminous information in support. This course can be a bit overwhelming in the amount of information provided, but well worth it. For me it will require at least a second listen.

6 people found this helpful

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Sleep-walked through lecture 27; Rest captivating

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

Usually when I am left with a mixed feeling on a course, the really good lectures are scattered throughout the course leading to times of auto-pilot mode (just listening, hoping for something interesting, but just listening to get to the next lecture) and bursts of engagement that really draw me in.

This mixed course is one of the more unique ones I've listened to because it has an interesting split (at least in my view): the first 27 lectures never really captured my attention (exceptions would be lectures 1, 12, and 17 to an extent) and I found myself on auto-pilot mode throughout. But then when the lectures began to get good, they got really good and they were in a string from 28 to the end. It felt like each lecture was more well done than the previous one.

I really wanted to like the entire course. So much so that I went back and re-listened to lectures 2-27 thinking perhaps I hadn't "worked hard enough" by listening the first time while multitasking (driving, getting ready for work, etc.). Professor Harl is one of those professors that require your full undivided attention. No shortcuts here. He is not one you listen to while multitasking (or without a map from what I've learned---I'd be interested in hearing from customers who have experienced this course via video: did it make as much of a difference as I can imagine?). But I felt the same after the second listening: there were lots of facts but just not enough interesting stuff behind it to pull it together. And I don't want you to get me wrong: Professor Harl is amazingly knowledgeable and really really really knows his stuff. It is harnessing and mastering that vast array of info into a style that brings it all together and ultimately connects with me that is lacking. Getting out of the details and into the big picture.

The best way I can put it is this: Profesor Harl has a hard time coming to a point. A lot of his lectures just sound like an array of facts and data points communicated in rapid fire (fit in as much as you can in 30 minutes) but too many times I am either left wondering what was the meaning of it/what was the main point or I’m left wondering how all of those data points actually added up to the main point that he does mention at the lecture's beginning and end. He seems to struggle with bringing it all together.

But then he approached magnificence in explaining how the western Roman Empire 's political structure fell from the barbarian empires and why. He actually exceeded my expectations in that respect. And he CONTINUED to discuss the fates and fortunes of those kingdoms into the 6th century (something lacking in alot of other courses on this time period) including the Visiogoths, Anglo-Saxons, Vandals, Franks, Ostrogoths, and Lombards. Nicely done.

So all in all it is hard for me to rate higher than 3 stars but parts of the course certainly deserve higher. If you are interested in how the western Roman Empire essentially disintegrated into a series of barbarian empires in the 5th century AD then you may not find a better course. If you are more interested in the full period the course covers (aprx. 300 BC to aprx. 600 AD) then you may find some stretches of "blah". Your experience may be different than mine though: especially if you plan on going with video and sitting down and really listening than having it on while on the go hoping to pick things up (the latter of which will leave you bewildered and frustrated).

And in case you are wondering here is a list of the main "barbarians" discussed in the course:
o Celts
o Celt-iberians of Spain
o Nomads of North Africa
o Teutones & Cimbri of southern Gaul (modern day France)
o Peoples of Asia Minor under Mithridates
o Gauls
o Germanic tribes of Central Europe
o Nomads of Eastern Europe (Scythians & Sarmations)
o Parthians in the near east
o Britons
o Dacians
o Goths
o Sassanid Persians
o Huns

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Excellent

Great! Well researched, engaging performance and excellent overarching themes. Prof Harl has several other lecture series and this may be his strongest.

4 people found this helpful

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Fantastically

Lectures like these not only give me an understanding of my culture and place in the world history but also make every hour I listen to them a genuine pleasure

4 people found this helpful

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I'll listen to all his courses. Top marks.

This guy is extremely entertaining and weaves in all sorts of anecdotes and historical "gossip". A lot of fun and full of details.

3 people found this helpful

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Professor Harl simply fantastic as usual!

If you enjoyed Professor Harl's lectures on the people of the steppes, and his lectures on the Vikings then you will definitely enjoy these lectures.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Farah
  • 08-03-14

Awful delivery.

If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

No one.

What will your next listen be?

Popes and the Papacy.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

He hadn't written his lecturers, and was working from notes. This may work in class--it often does and I lecture that way myself--but on the audio book it was a litany of ums, ahs, and back tracking.

What character would you cut from Rome and the Barbarians?

I didn't get that far.

Any additional comments?

I'd love to have my money back. I tried very hard for a week, and finally had to give up. £23 down the drain.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Tim Dubber
  • 07-05-16

excellent course but....

If you don't know anything about Rome, don't start here. If you do the Roman history and emperors of Rome course first you will get a lot more out of this one.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-14-22

Fantastic lecture series. Kenneth Harl is great.

Professor Harl is by far my favourite classical historian. His lecture series are engaging, enthusiastic, well laid out, and full of a multitude of historical anecdotes which he delivers in the manner of a story teller. Well worth the listen for those interested in Roman barbarian relations and a history of late classical roman successor states. 5 stars and thank you.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-12-22

systematic and sweeping insights into Rome

Fabulously told tale of Rome's multiple relationships with their neighours and the mutual maturation arising from them. Enlightening.

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