Tap Into Timeless Wisdom: Download 36 Free Courses in Ancient History, Literature & Philosophy


I know, it’s a dat­ed ref­er­ence now, but since I still watch the remade Bat­tlestar Galac­ti­ca series on Net­flix, the mys­ti­cal refrain—“All of this has hap­pened before and will hap­pen again”–still seems fresh to me. At any rate, it’s fresh­er than the clichéd “his­to­ry repeats itself.” How­ev­er you phrase it, the tru­ism looks more and more like a gen­uine truth the more one stud­ies ancient his­to­ry, lit­er­a­ture, and phi­los­o­phy. The con­flicts and con­cerns that feel so of the moment also occu­pied the minds and lives of peo­ple liv­ing hun­dreds, and thou­sands, of years ago, and what­ev­er you make of that, it cer­tain­ly helps put the present into per­spec­tive. Can we ben­e­fit from study­ing the wis­dom, and the fol­ly, of the ancients? To this ques­tion, I like to turn to an intro­duc­to­ry essay C.S. Lewis penned to the work of a cer­tain church father:

Every age has its own out­look. It is spe­cial­ly good at see­ing cer­tain truths and spe­cial­ly liable to make cer­tain mis­takes. We all, there­fore, need the books that will cor­rect the char­ac­ter­is­tic mis­takes of our own peri­od. And that means the old books. […] If we read only mod­ern books […] where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggra­vate the error with which we are already dan­ger­ous­ly ill. The only pal­lia­tive is to keep the clean sea breeze of the cen­turies blow­ing through our minds, and this can be done only by read­ing old books.

I may dis­agree with Lewis about many things, includ­ing that “clean sea breeze” of his­to­ry, but I take to heart his point about read­ing the ancients to mit­i­gate our mod­ern bias­es and shine light on our blind spots. To that end, we present links to sev­er­al excel­lent online cours­es on the ancients from insti­tu­tions like Yale, NYU, and Stan­ford, free to peruse or take in full. See our mas­ter list—Free Cours­es in Ancient His­to­ry, Lit­er­a­ture & Phi­los­o­phy—for 36 qual­i­ty offer­ings. As always, cer­tain cours­es pro­vide more resources than oth­ers, and a few only offer their lec­tures through iTunes. These are deci­sions course admin­is­tra­tors have made, not us! Even so, these free resources are invalu­able to those wish­ing to acquaint, or reac­quaint, them­selves with the study of ancient human­i­ties.

You can, for exam­ple, take a course on Ancient Israel from NYU’s Daniel Flem­ing (Free Online Video & Course Info — Free Online Video), study Plato’s Laws with the renowned Leo Strauss from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go (Free Online Audio) or Socrates ( Free Online Audio) with that university’s equal­ly renowned Alan Bloom. Take a course called “Ancient Wis­dom and Mod­ern Love” (Syl­labus - Free iTunes Video — Free Online Video) with Notre Dame’s David O’Connor or study Virgil’s AeneidFree iTunes Audio) with Susan­na Braund, whose lec­tures were record­ed at Stan­ford Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies. You’ll find many more ancient his­to­ry, lit, and phi­los­o­phy classes—36 in all, includ­ing five more Leo Strauss Pla­to seminars—on our meta list: Free Cours­es in Ancient His­to­ry, Lit­er­a­ture & Phi­los­o­phy. Read, study, repeat.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load 55 Free Online Lit­er­a­ture Cours­es: From Dante and Mil­ton to Ker­ouac and Tolkien

Learn 47 Lan­guages Online for Free: Span­ish, Chi­nese, Eng­lish & More

Ita­lo Calvi­no Offers 14 Rea­sons We Should Read the Clas­sics

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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