The Roots of Western Civilization: The Ancient World from Gilgamesh to Augustine


In this course, Prof. Anthony Esolen will examine ancient Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome and Israel, seeing the disappointment and Messianic longing in the pagan Roman poet Virgil, and the fulfilled Messianic longing among the prophets and the inspired authors of the Old Testament.  You will discover the ways in which the fulfillment of the person of Jesus Christ never ceases to surprise mankind, because it never ceases to contradict what fallen man accepts as great.  As Esolen unfolds: fallen man worships power, and Jesus enters Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey.  Fallen man listens to sophisticated and sly rhetoric, but Jesus praises God for revealing mysteries to fools and children, and concealing them from those who are wise in the world’s ways.  Fallen man clings to his creature comforts, but Jesus gives his life away.  And at that, he gives it away to his enemies – namely to us.  Fallen man wants to rule, but Jesus emptied himself, becoming obedient until death, even death upon a cross.
Now, this changes the world entirely. We could fill a library with books on this change and still not plunged its depths.  In this course, we will examine the ways in which even a pagan world anticipates this change, and we will end by considering the life of one man who discovered the radicality of this change upon the movements of his heart.  
In what way does the pagan world cry out for a savior?  How do the confessions of one man speak to the universal within all of mankind?  To examine the roots of a Civilization is to return to its life-source––its philosophies, myths, laws, and religions, in short its culture.  Join Prof. Anthony Esolen as he journeys through the great literature of the ancient world discovering not only the timeless wisdom of such texts as the Theogony, the Aeneid, and the Confessions, but also their rich and broad impact on Western Civilization. 
  1. "Civilization as Presented in The Epic of Gilgamesh”
    • Mesopotamia was centered between the Tigress and the Euphrates, and contained both benefits and challenges for the inhabitants.  The fruitfulness of the land largely depended on their ability to collaborate with one another for the common good.
  2. “Hesiod’s Theogony and the Greek Polis”
    • In this second lecture we will be discussing Hesiod’s Theogony, and the Greek culture that gave Western Civilization the phenomenon of a self-governing city-state––a polis.
  3. “Rome: The Imperial Ruler of the Western World”
    • In this third lecture, we turn our attention to a little village on Seven Hills which will come to be the imperial ruler of the western world: Rome.
  4. “Israel and Divine Revelation”
    • The Israelites influence on Western Civilization is not due to their genius, but rather because they were a people chosen by God to receive and proclaim His Divine Revelation. 
  5. Messianic Prophesies and God’s Overarching Plan of Salvation
    • As we continue to delve into the heart of Israel, we will take a closer look at some of the Hebrew texts that foretell the coming of the Messiah.
  6. “Virgil’s Aeneid and Roman Piety”
    • In this lecture we return to the Romans, to the insufficiency of their piety, and to their great epic, the Aeneid.
  7. The Wisdom of Jesus’ Teaching
    • After having studied various messianic texts and the Greek and Roman epics, we turn now to what everything thus far has been pointing too: the Messiah Himself, Jesus.  
  8. The Confessions of St. Augustine
    • For this last lecture, we will look at how Jesus changed the life of one man, St. Augustine of Hippo, by examining his Confessions.  
Lecture Sample

Anthony Esolen, PhD
TAN Courses
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