(Today, I will be starting a new set of lectures from The Great Courses catalog. The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World is taught by professor Robert Garland over the duration of 48 lectures. As per the concurrent set of quick notes on the black death, these quick notes aim to provide the broad overview of each lecture, giving the most important information. Enjoy!)

  • Professor Garland recounts that an aim of this course is to provide three things: (1) to detail a history most textbooks wholly overlook (daily life as seen by daily people, not the greats); (2) to provide an account of people who suffered neglect not only by historians in their quest to chronicle tyrants and conquerors, but also neglect simply by living (refugees, women, the sick, poor, and disabled, etc.); (3) what is radically different or “other” throughout the ancient period.
  • The time period which this course covers is the beginning of “human origin” to the middle ages; so, about 5000 years after the first few million years of evolution does its job.
  • Throughout the course, we will discover several things, namely, that environment heavily influences the quality and potential of human life (and human society); that life expectancy was only 30-45 years in many cases and infant mortality rates sky high. We will see in this course that the subjugation and degradation of one group by another group was common in all periods of human history.
  • An important fact to keep in mind while listening/reading these lectures is that with invasion rarely comes obliteration. More often than not, the dialectic between conquerors and conquered was that of assimilation and acculturation on both sides; societies transformed as both the victorious and the victoriously defeated took on aspects of the other culture. Why is partly due to the indomitability of how daily life is done from preparing food to worshiping.
  • Another aspect that the course will explore is the mindset of the average person in the ancient and medieval world. It is their mindset, after all, that affects how they react as much as their environment or culture.
  • In almost all of the histories that have come down to us today, nearly all of them were written by upper-class males. In Greek, we have almost no private documents detailing daily life; we have official documents but not personal documents until at least the Hellenistic period. Until the middle ages, we do not have biographies of any “normal” people. We keep this in mind since it effects our interpretation of the past. For this reason, the course will provide recourse to archeology for help filling in what the literature does not provide.

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