Online course: "Famous Romans" with Professor J. Rufus Fears, Ph.D., Harvard University, University of Oklahoma.
Course description: Professor J. Rufus Fears retells the lives of the remarkable individuals—the statesmen, thinkers, warriors, and writers—who shaped the history of the Roman Empire and, by extension, our own history and culture.
Like the authors who serve as sources for this course—Livy, Polybius, Suetonius, Tacitus, and above all, Plutarch—Professor Fears believes that individuals, not organizations or social movements, are the primary forces that make history.
Hannibal, he points out, caused the Second Punic War personally, much as Adolf Hitler caused World War II.
All of history would be different if Pompey had been as aggressive as Julius Caesar at the Battle of Pharsalus.
Augustus—beginning at the age of just 19—resolved upon and brilliantly followed a doctrine of ruthless expediency in order to rescue Rome from a century of civil war.
Marcus Aurelius, that most noble and philosophic of rulers, may have hastened the Empire’s decline by tolerating the wicked cruelty of his heir.
Professor Fears divides his presentation into three “turning point” epochs in Roman history: Rome’s great war with Hannibal (the Second Punic War); Caesar and the end of the Roman Republic; and the imperial era between Augustus and Marcus Aurelius. As he presents the great figures of each period, he makes them seem personal and immediate.
For example, he introduces you to the heroes of the early Republic through an imaginary tour of the Forum as it appeared in 218 B.C. In his discussions on Hannibal, the great Carthaginian general who taught Rome more about warfare than any other enemy, Professor Fears puts you right in the heart of the action. You feel as if you are there, struggling with Hannibal and his war elephants as they force a path through the snowbound Alps in the autumn of 218 B.C.