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Reviewing Yale’s Introduction to Ancient Greek History

A reflective walk through the history of Ancient Greece, taught with passion and accessible to all.

Late Donald Kagan, Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale University

“A reflective walk through the history of Ancient Greece” is a fitting description for the online course Introduction to Ancient Greek History, taught by late Yale Professor Donald Kagan and distilled into a 24-video YouTube playlist. 

The course also covers the historiographical periods from The Dark Ages to the struggles that took place in the 4th century.

The course addressed topics related to the political, intellectual and creative achievements of Ancient Greece, which is one of the most important nations in terms of the knowledge it produced and its impact to this day.

Ancient Greece created democracy and some of the fundamental rights, thought about philosophical contexts that reflect on the most various perspectives of life, and used creativity to discover solutions to the most diverse problems they faced throughout this prehistoric period.

Greek history has had a long-lasting impact, even till today, because if it were not for Greek history, democracy wouldn’t be a tenet of modern nations, nor would it be as protected. It’s worth noting that what happens in the past can reverberate in the present, as the texts from Thales of Miletus, Anaximander, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Democritus, Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates show.

The lecturer brought up several interesting questions, conducive to reflection, such as “why are we here?”.

This seems like a very personal question, but like with many things, the answer is influenced by our lineage, and our lineage, in turn, was likely influenced, whether directly or indirectly and to a lesser or larger extent, by the history of Ancient Greece.

Professor Donald Kagan was a Great Historian

Prof. Kagan explaining the phalanx military formation with the help of students

This course perfectly covers a good part of the history of Ancient Greece, having as lecturer Professor Donald Kagan, an extremely knowledgeable person.

I leave here my condolences to the family of Professor Donald Kagan because he, in addition to being professor emeritus specialist in Greek history, was a great historian. He was a person who liked to like others. He was so affectionate and respected his students and everyone around him.

Professor Kagan inspired me, pushing me to reflect about the drivers for change, be it in history or in our own lives. What happens if we don’t do anything to change what is wrong? Nothing happens!

There’s little benefit to wanting without acting. One can’t fly like Icarus from the comfort of their desk, except by finding refuge in the imaginary — comfortable and safe, but nonetheless imagery. It’s no use trying to evolve if we’re not ready to understand evolution as it happened, be it during quiet times, the meanderings of History, to the inflection points that were revolutions.

Understanding the past is essential to apprehend the present and impact the future. It’s the minimum we can do, and society as a whole can benefit from it.

Free, Beginner Level, no Certificate

I find it very interesting and very satisfying that Yale University makes this course available for free. Introduction to Ancient Greek History is an extremely complete course that aims to spread knowledge about history, and that, to me, is priceless.

Some things worth pointing out:

  • The course has no prerequisites. Anyone can take it.
  • The course is completely free.
  • The course doesn’t offer a certificate.

To successfully take this course and enjoy it to the fullest, there’s something I must recommend: it’s to have patience — whether you’re waiting for the video to load or trying to keep up with with the depth of the course. In fact, patience is something that I think is important in any cognitive task.

And I urge you to take a pencil and a notebook or sheet of paper, because you can’t memorize all the information the first time around. But with time and dedication, you’ll successfully complete this course. Be patient!

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