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A fresh take on ancient civilizations

A new video lecture course has emerged which brings a fresh angle on the ancient and classical worlds, delivered by a lecturer whose enthusiasm for her subject shines through and brings ‘dead’ history to life. If you are looking for a deep dive into the civilizations which preceded the Middle Ages – how they lived, what they believed, how they rose and fell, what they left behind and their influence on successive civilizations right up to the present day – then this video lecture series is for you.

Dr. Maxine Moore is a Humanities lecturer who has dedicated her academic career not only to studying the history of civilisations, but also to visiting the regions where they sprang up (Mesopotamia, Egypt, Rome, Lebanon, Turkey, North Africa) and indeed living there for extended periods. Her wealth of knowledge and depth of detail offers a fascinating lens on the ancient world, and she delivers it with witty panache and infectious enthusiasm. Everyone, from Classics specialists to those with a casual interest in the subject, will find much here that they did not know before, and the overall experience is that of seeing ancient civilizations brought into sharper resolution than ever before.

The series is sweeping and epic, but is definitely not a sword-and-sandal Hollywood blockbuster approach. It shows the ancient world warts and all via a wealth of detail taken from Dr Moore’s own personal travels in the cradles of civilization. Based on her own PowerPoint slides which she used in her live university lectures and narrated throughout by Dr. Moore, it begins with the Sumerians, the first major known civilization to emerge from the Stone Age. These relatively peaceful folks were eventually overrun by the rise of tyrannical rulers of the Bronze and Iron Ages: The Akkadians, Babylonians, Neo-Babylonians and Persians.

Dr Moore then takes us through the origins of the Old Testament via its Hebrew origins, involving the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Essenes and the Levites, taking in the origins of the biblical stories of The Flood and The Promised Land.

There follows a substantial excursion to Egypt and its fantastical gods, unimaginable culture and amazing beliefs about the afterlife, plus a good long look at hieroglyphics and how they developed into the beginnings of modern writing.

She then turns to Rome. This comes in two parts, the first covering (in great detail as is usual in this series) from the Aeneid to Octavian via The Republic, Confederation and Hellenization. Rome Part two enters the Imperial Era when Rome stood at the center of the world (from Romans’ point of view): Nero’s bloody freakshow, the original meaning of fascism and the eventual Christianization of Rome through Emperor Constantine at Constantinople.

The series ends, after many breath-taking hours, with Byzantium – the continuation of Constantine’s legacy in the form of a Christian Roman Empire. We get as far as the rise of Islam before Dr Moore calls it a day, since that’s about as recent as ancient gets.

The Ancient World series is astonishing in its breadth, detail and passion. Dr Moore’s personality is delightful; one former student said of her: “You are a candle in the dark, you light up when you talk with people, you exude this giddy school girl aura. It is really quite amazing to watch, and it is infectious.”

The Ancient World is now available for the first time as an online video course at historyofempires.com