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Video lectures on Greek history

February 2nd, 2009 by Chris Strauber

A very happy discovery today: twenty four lectures, with course materials and syllabi, from Donald Kagan’s Introduction to Greek History course at Yale are available in several places online. I found it through Academic Earth, a new website which pulls together open course materials from several universities, including MIT and Yale. As it happens I like the additional features Yale offers on its site (copies of reading assignments, syllabi, and audio and video versions of the lecture material), but I think Academic Earth may have a business in reaching into the silos of this kind of information kept by universities and making it more approachable and findable. It certainly worked for me. (Note: I’d mention iTunes University, which is aiming in a similar direction, but since I don’t have iTunes on my work computer at the moment it was easier to look at the competition. iPods are ubiquitous, but not as easy as web video for this kind of thing.)

Kagan is most famous for his work on the Peloponnesian War. He does not exhibit the tendency of many scholars to gloss over the darker details of the Athenian Empire, which by itself is an argument for reading his works. A good place to start is his 2003 The Peloponnesian War, in which he revisits the topic of his earlier works: The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, The Archidamian War, The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition, and The Fall of the Athenian Empire. The series looks at the history very, very closely, and ends up being a more approachable companion to Thucydides, the major source for the time period–at least for the general reader. Hornblower and Gomme are still the places to go for the heavy stuff on Thucydides.

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