Lesson 1: The Setting of the Stage

Week: 1

Humanity has asked similar questions across space and time. Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? When it comes to life on earth, humans have been around for a very short time. The Earth started as a fiery ball that cooled, forming a crust of rock. Rain fell, carving mountains and valleys and pooling to form the great oceans. Cells of life formed, eventually organizing into creeping, crawling, swimming invertebrate creatures and undersea plants. Plants moved to the lands and fish developed lungs and legs and walked upon the land as amphibians. Reptiles scurried and dinosaurs stomped about the earth. Birds evolved and flew through the skies. Then, something catastrophic happened and many animals, including the dinosaurs, went extinct. With the dinosaurs gone, the hairy mammals, who birthed their young alive instead of in eggs, flourished. From these hairy mammals developed the human.

Lesson 2: Our Earliest Ancestors

Week: 2

We have never seen the earliest humans other than finding their bones. The ancestor of humans was small, brown, and hairy and lived in vast forests. These primitives spent their days hunting raw foods such as eggs and plants. Life was hard for the primitives, and many died from injuries, the cold, or wild animals. The primitives communicated through shrieks and grunts and did not use language.

Lesson 3: Prehistoric Man

Week: 3

When an ice age arrived, life became even harder for prehistoric humans. Different groups of people migrated to avoid the cold, causing fighting over scarce food. Glaciers encroached upon the lands, and snow fell. The colder climate spurred innovation. People clothed themselves with animal skins, began sheltering in caves, and began to use fire for heat and cooking. People created tools and containers for storing food.

Lesson 4: Hieroglyphics

Week: 4

While northern people lived in caves, further south, on the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean, the Egyptians developed a sophisticated culture. Thriving within the valley of the Nile, they learned to farm using irrigation, built great temples, and invented a calendar. Even more importantly, Egyptians invented hieroglyphics ("sacred writing"), a system of phonetic writing using pictures to represent sounds, and the record of humanity began. By the time the Romans came to Egypt in the first century before our era, the Egyptians had lost the ability to read hieroglyphics. In 1798, a young French officer visited Africa and found the Rosetta stone. The Rosetta stone had had three inscriptions. One inscription was in Greek and another was in Hieroglyphics. It took over twenty years, but a French professor named Champollion eventually deciphered the hieroglyphics.

Lesson 5: The Nile Valley

Week: 5

People flocked to the rich farmlands of the Nile River Valley, as each year the Nile flooded the land with fertile clay. The bounteous harvests enabled the population of the valley to grow. The people grew even more food by building dikes and digging irrigation trenches to expand the arable land. As farming took far fewer hours than the previously required sixteen-hours-a-day for hunting and gathering, people used their extra time for learning, architecture, and art. Certain people called priests provided a source of advice and wisdom for others and worked to safeguard written records. People regarded life as a short interlude on the way to a long afterlife and believed the dead took their body and belongings with them. Relatives embalmed and mummified the corpses of their loved ones and made homey graves complete with furniture. Graves grew in size and complexity, until the very richest built pyramids as graves.

Lesson 6: The Rise and Fall of Egypt

Week: 6

An Arab tribe called the Hyksos conquered the Nile Valley and ruled its people. The Egyptian people hated the Hyksos as well as the Hebrews who served as the Hyksos' tax collectors and civil servants. After 500 years of rule, the Egyptian people overthrew the Hyksos. One thousand years later, the Assyrians conquered Egypt. Egypt varied between conquered and free as the Persians and Macedonians also took Egypt. The last Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra, was defeated by the Romans in 30 B.C., and Egypt became a Roman province.

Lesson 7: Mesopotamia

Week: 7

Meaning "country between two rivers," the oasis known as Mesopotamia once nestled between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers corresponding mostly to today's Iraq. The Tigris and Euphrates start in the mountains of Turkey and flow to the Persian Gulf. Like the Nile River Valley, Mesopotamia's fertile land provided bounteous crops and became the target of foreign people invading from mountains to the north and the deserts to the south.

Lesson 8: The Sumerians

Week: 8

The Sumerians were notable for their cuneiform inscriptions consisting of the wedge-shaped letters of their alphabet. The Sumerians came to Mesopotamia from the mountains to the north. Traditionally worshiping their gods from the tops of hills, they constructed their altars on artificial hills reached by inclined galleries. These hills were called the towers of Babel by the Jewish people. The Fertile Valley was occupied by many groups of people over the years, including the Hittites, the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, the Persians, the Romans, and the Turks.

Lesson 9: Moses

Week: 9

A small tribe of shepherds, called the Hebrews or Jewish people, left the lands at the mouth of the Euphrates in search of new pastures. They dwelled among the Egyptians for five centuries until the Hyksos overthrew the Egyptian people. The Jewish people worked with the Hyksos to maintain their grazing lands, causing the Egyptians to resent them. When the Egyptians regained their independence from the Hyksos, the Egyptians made the Jewish people their slaves and forced them to construct roads and pyramids. After years of suffering, the Jewish people were saved by Moses and led out of Egypt. The Jewish people wandered for many years in the desert until they settled in Palestine and built the town of Jerusalem. [Note 1: There is disagreement as to whether Moses is a historical or mythological figure. Those who hold the Bible as an accurate historical record view Moses as a historical figure. Modern scholarly consensus among historians and archaeologists holds Moses is a legendary figure.]

Lesson 10: The Phoenicians

Week: 10

The Phoenicians settled the shores of the Mediterranean and traded using their ships. They built small trading stations in far-off lands to facilitate their trading ventures. Some of these trading stations became modern cities including Cadiz and Marseilles. Another lasting contribution of the Phoenicians is our alphabet. The Phoenicians knew of the cuneiform wedges of the Sumerians, but writing in cuneiform took too long. The Phoenicians reduced thousands of images to twenty-two letters. The Greeks and Romans adapted, added to, and modified these letters which eventually became the alphabet used in America and other places across the world today.

Lesson 11: The Indo-Europeans

Week: 11

The Indo-Europeans migrated from the shores of the Caspian Sea to conquer lands in Europe and Asia. Later, these dispersed tribes of Indo-Europeans waged war on each other, notably the war between Greece and Persia. King Darius and King Xerxes of Persia attempted to invade Greece and establish a foothold in Europe but failed due to the superior navy of Athens. This struggle between the east and the west has continued to this day.

Lesson 12: The Aegean Sea

Week: 12

The sailors and traders of the Aegean empire developed the Aegean Sea and its islands, including Crete, as a center of trade and commerce. The Aegeans were advanced in many ways, building tall, strong walls for protection, using stoves in houses, and making daily use of bathtubs. The palace of the king featured winding staircases and expansive cellars for wine, grain, and olive oil. The Aegean empire was destroyed by a primitive collection of wild tribes called the Greeks.

Lesson 13: The Greeks

Week: 13

One thousand years after the pyramids were built, the Hellenes (Greek) people left the River Danube in search of fresh pastures. The Hellenes were ill-mannered and fed the corpses of their enemies to their wild dogs. The Hellenes killed many people as they wandered, stealing farms and livestock and making captured women and girls slaves. Eventually, the Hellenes discarded their stone axes and took up iron weapons to defeat the people of the Aegean empire and overrun Greece.

Lesson 14: The Greek Cities

Week: 14

The Greeks believed in moderation, from their temples and their clothing to their politicians. They also cared about striving for perfection, good taste, and good sense. They believed perfection was impossible without moderation. The Greeks were free citizens of a hundred small and independent cities. These tiny, self-contained communities, spanning four or five modern city blocks, differed greatly from the vast kingdoms of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Mesopotamians. In the Greek environment, new forms of government, philosophy, literature, and art thrived. However, when Alexander of Macedonia departed from the Greek ideal of moderation and strove to conquer the world, the Greek quest for perfection also died.

Lesson 15: Greek Self-Government

Week: 15

In the beginning, the Greeks were relatively equal in wealth and stature. As villages grew into cities, Greeks divided into a small class of rich people called nobles and a very large class of poor people. The nobles had many advantages over the poor, including better weapons, more free time to hone their fighting skills, stronger houses, and money to hire soldiers. Despite these advantages, the nobles squabbled amongst themselves for power. Victorious nobles became Tyrant kings until thrown over by other nobles. This system became unbearable, and the Greeks decided to reform it. A man named Draco wrote some new rules, but these Draconian laws were so harsh, even stealing an apple became a capital offense. Next, a man named Solon wrote laws to improve the lives of peasants without destroying the fortunes of the nobles. With these laws, every citizen could bring their grievances before a jury of his fellow Athenians. Solon also forced all people to participate in the governance of the city.

Lesson 16: Greek Life

Week: 16

Only a small number of people in Greek cities, called freemen, were considered citizens. Freemen were typically born, not made. Greek citizens lived simply to maximize their free time, whether it came to plain housing or food. Greek citizens made governance a full-time occupation, forcing a large contingent of slaves to take care of household duties, education tasks, business tasks, and other professional tasks. Several slaves were required to support a single freeman.

Lesson 17: The Greek Theater

Week: 17

Surprisingly, the Greek theater did not arise from its poetry. Instead, the Greek theater found its roots in a rollicking parade honoring Dionysus, the god of wine and consort of satyrs. Members of the parade acted like goats, stamping and frolicking and singing. One year, the Greeks improved the parade by having one parade member serve as an actor, telling a story of Dionysus or another god to the crowd. Aeschylus increased the number of actors to two, Sophocles to three, and Euripides used an unlimited number. The parade became a chorus and mere backdrop for the main actors. The festivities were moved to a building. Thus, the theater was born.

Lesson 18: The Persian Wars

Week: 18

When the Greeks in Europe refused to pay a tribute to the Persians of Asia, the Persians planned an attack. However, their attack required ships for traversing the Aegean Sea. The Persians enlisted the Phoenicians, trading rivals of the Greeks, to carry their troops and supplies. Luckily for the Greeks, a storm destroyed the Phoenician fleet and the Persian troops perished. Undaunted, the Persians tried again, attacking the village of Marathon two years later. The Greek city of Athens sent 10,000 troops to guard the hills surrounding Marathon, but the jealous city of Sparta refused to help. Most of the other Greek cities followed Sparta's lead. Despite the lack of support, the Athenians triumphed over the Persians. Over the next eight years, the Greeks built up their navy instead of their army. When Persians sent their army, much of Greece fell and Athens burned. This time, the Spartans and soldiers from other Greek cities marched against the Persians and defeated them. Greek city competitors Sparta and Athens united to defeat a common foe for the last time.

Lesson 19: Athens vs. Sparta

Week: 19

Although Athens and Sparta were both cities of ancient Greece, they had little in common. Athens was busy and outward looking, while Sparta was insular. Athenians loved literature and poetry, while Spartans loved fighting and their military. A quarrel between the two cities led to thirty years of war. Partly due to the plague and failures in leadership, Athens lost the war to Sparta. The war diminished Athens as the center of the colonial Greek empire, and Sparta took over as the ruling body of Greece. However, the intellectual spirit of Athens did not die, its university continued, and it continued to influence the minds and spirits of the Greeks. Today, Athens is the largest city and the capital of Greece.

Lesson 20: Alexander the Great

Week: 20

Alexander the Great succeeded his father to rule the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia. After taking over rule of Greece, he oversaw the conquering of Phoenicia, Egypt, and the Persian Empire. Not content with mere control, he taught his new subjects the Greek language, introduced Greek manners and customs, and built military camps into cities. When Alexander died of a fever, his generals divided the land among themselves, deconstructing the empire. Later, the Romans conquered these lands for their own empire. Even though the Romans militarily conquered the Greeks, the Greek cultural influence permeated the Roman world.

Lesson 21: Review

Week: 21

In the first twenty chapters, we've read about primitive man fleeing glaciers, the early civilizations of the Nile and Mesopotamia, and the great cities and culture of the Greeks. Our gaze turns from the east to the west, where a new clash brews. This conflict results in the formation of the Roman Empire, upon which our modern society is based.

Lesson 22: Rome and Carthage Part I

Week: 22

The city of Carthage became very rich and very successful. It was a plutocracy, whereby a dozen big ship-owners and mine-owners and merchants hoarded the riches and power for themselves and cared mostly for profit. The Carthaginian influence expanded until it collected taxes and tributes from Africa, Spain, and France. The plutocracy worked as long as people remained employed and wages were high. However, whenever people lost their work and livelihoods, they would demand rule by popular assembly. The rich and powerful therefore strove to keep business brisk and people employed. This worked for 500 years, until Rome arose as a business competitor. The Romans had learned many practical things from the Greek traders and even took the Greek gods as their own. The Romans preferred action to words, an advantage over the Greeks given the Greek fondness for speeches. The Romans gave their partners in neighboring districts the chance to become citizens in exchange for fighting Rome's enemies, building loyalty. When the Gauls conquered Rome, the people outside of Rome drove them back out, saving the city.

Lesson 23: Rome and Carthage Part II

Week: 23

Conflict arose between Rome and Carthage over Sicily, and the first Punic War erupted. Carthage sued for peace when Rome developed a boarding bridge that eliminated the Carthage naval advantage. A second war broke out over the Greek colony of Saguntum which the Carthaginians destroyed against Rome's wishes. Rome raised an army to attack Carthage in Spain but was defeated by the Carthaginian general Hannibal, who was aided by the Gauls. The Romans sent two more armies, but Hannibal surprised and defeated them. A third Roman army, led by Fabius, engaged in guerilla warfare rather than direct battle. The Romans became impatient with the slow progress and replaced Fabius with Varro. Varro promptly directly engaged the Carthaginians and suffered the worst defeat in Roman history. Hannibal gained control over Italy, but most of the cities remained loyal to Rome. Eventually, the Romans wore Hannibal down and he retreated. Many years later, Carthage surrendered.

Lesson 24: The Rise of Rome

Week: 24

The Roman Empire didn't form via some grand plan to build an empire. Rome haphazardly acquired new territory as it defended itself and helped its neighbors. When the Macedonians and Syrians plotted against Egypt and Egypt asked the Romans for help, the Romans defeated the Macedonian and Syrian armies. Although the Romans freed the Greeks from the Macedonians, the unwise Greeks squandered this opportunity by once again squabbling among their city-states. The Romans tired of this quarreling and sent a Roman governor to rule Athens.

Lesson 25: The Roman Empire Part I

Week: 25

As the Roman Empire expanded to encompass the lands encircling the Mediterranean, power concentrated in the hands of a small number of unprincipled rich generals, politicians, and war profiteers. The other people of the Roman Empire became unhappy. The people of the lands conquered by the Romans, including women and children, were sold into slavery. The rich invested heavily into buying land and slaves, working the slaves until they died. The freeborn farmers, back from the war to farm their small plots of land, could not compete with the rich landowners. Some politicians advocated for better lives for the farmers, but the rich fought back, hiring thugs to intimidate and kill. Intent on reform, Sulla and Marius, two Roman military leaders marched upon Rome.

Lesson 26: The Roman Empire Part II

Week: 26

Instability and chaos continued for average Romans while control over Rome jumped from dictator Sulla, to Roman General Pomey, to Gaius Julius Caesar (who conquered many lands and sent to Rome the famous words, "Veni, Vidi, Vici"), and finally to Caesar's grand-nephew and heir Octavian, who the Senate elevated to Emperor. The Roman people were unhappy with the disorder, just wishing to live a quiet life in safety. Octavian turned his attention from conquering distant lands to reforming Rome. However, Rome remained weak due to two centuries of warfare, slavery, and a corrupt bureaucracy. People lived in poverty, struggled to feed themselves, and became accustomed to violence and bloodshed.

Lesson 27: Joshua of Nazareth (Jesus)

Week: 27

This chapter features two imaginary letters between a Roman physician named Aesculapius Cultellus and his Roman soldier nephew. In the letters, Aesculapius writes about his sick patient named Paul, who tells Aesculapius about a Jewish prophet named Joshua of Nazareth (Jesus). Jesus was preaching in Jerusalem about a new god or Messiah. The nephew replies that he sent a brigade to investigate in Jerusalem and relays an imagined third-person account of the circumstances surrounding the crucifixion of the prophet.

Lesson 28: The Fall of Rome

Week: 28

The Roman Empire slowly fell apart due to internal decay and eternal warfare - so slowly people did not notice at first. Roman leadership continued to churn, leaders being murdered and replaced again and again. A succession of invasions weakened Rome, and Rome was divided into two pieces - the east and the west. Finally, a regiment of German mercenaries pushed the final Western Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustulus, off the throne. More invasions followed, and the palaces, schools, bridges, and roads of Rome fell into decay. Commerce came to a standstill. Eventually, Roman ways were discarded for Greek, including the Greek language and alphabet. The one force that saved Europe from complete cultural annihilation was the church.

Lesson 29: Rise of the Church

Week: 29

In the Roman Empire, people could worship any gods as they chose, whether it be Jupiter and Neptune, African or Asian divinities, or the gods of wandering preachers. The Roman Empire allowed people to 'live and let live' and seek salvation however they chose. So no one objected when the followers of Jesus began preaching the beauties of poverty, humility, and meekness and the threat of damnation. Many Romans abandoned their old religions for Christianity. Unlike the Roman Empire, the Christian communities did not wish to tolerate other religions or to pay homage to the emperor. When persecuted, Christians did not fight back, believing this world a miserable precursor to a glorious life in Heaven. Christians missionaries strove to spread their doctrine, including to the wild Teutons and Franks. Emperor Constantine became a Christian when he won a particular battle, and from that moment on, the Christian church was officially recognized.

Lesson 30: Mohammed

Week: 30

Ahmed (Mohammed) started life as a camel-driver in Mecca. Mohammed stated he dreamed of the angel Gabriel and wrote Gabriel's words in a book called the Koran. Mohammed married a rich widow and announced he was a prophet of Allah, sent to save the world. Mohammed's neighbors believed him insane and plotted to kill him, but Mohammed escaped to Medina with a trusted pupil. Mohammed continued to preach, amassing followers called Muslims, who accepted submission to the will of God as Mohammed preached. Mohammed and his followers marched back to Mecca, killing those who opposed him. The religion of Islam flourished, partly because of its few simple rules and partly because there was no need to financially support a church bureaucracy and its priests. Mohammed's successors conquered Egypt, Persia, Phoenicia, Syria, and Palestine. Frankish chieftain Charles with the Hammer drove the invading Muslims out of France, but the Muslims remained in Spain. Today, Islam is the second largest religion in the world after Christianity.

Lesson 31: Charlemagne

Week: 31

The Popes of Rome allied themselves with Pepin, who became Chieftain of the Franks, to ensure protection from invading hordes of barbarians. Pepin's successor, Charlemagne, helped Pope Leo III after the Pope was attacked by a group of ruffians. In return, the Pope crowned Charlemagne during a Christmas church service and proclaimed him Emperor of the Romans, further cementing the bond between ruler and church. When Charlemagne died, his sons and grandsons squabbled among themselves for power and divided their lands twice. Charlemagne's heirs eventually lost the crown and many fought over it. Pope Leo VIII looked outside for protection and allied with Otto, the greatest chieftain of the different Germanic tribes. In return, Pope Leo VIII proclaimed Otto emperor. It wasn't until 1801 that the tradition of Popes crowning Kings ended, when General Napoleon of France crowned himself while the Pope watched nearby.

Lesson 32: The Norsemen

Week: 32

The Norsemen of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway turned pirate, descending on Germanic villages, killing the men, stealing the women, and sailing away. By the time soldiers arrived to help the raided villages, the Norsemen would be long gone. After the death of Charlemagne, the Northmen began establishing settlements on the coasts of Holland, France, England, and Germany and adapting the ways of their conquered foes. One Northman, Rollo, made a deal with the king of France and became Duke of Normandy. The grandson of this Norse pirate crossed the English Channel and became King of England.

Lesson 33: Feudalism

Week: 33

Life was so miserable for the European people in 1000 A.D., that they welcomed prophecies foretelling the end of the world. The people were attacked on all sides by invading Norsemen, Muslims, Huns, Hungarians, Slavs, and Tartars. For protection, the people of central Europe organized into small principalities, ruled by dukes, counts, barons, or bishops, each with a fighting unit. Kings gave the ruling dukes, counts, barons, or bishops their feudum in exchange for loyal service and taxes. The feudal rulers built large castles on steep rocks or between deep moats. The people supported this form of government, Feudalism, in exchange for protection and safety. During this time, knights served as protectors of the people, and troubadours wandered the lands and preserved history by singing of the ancient heroes of the past great wars. Along with the monks, knights supported learning and art, preventing a cultural reversal toward the time of the cavemen.

Lesson 34: Chivalry

Week: 34

The professional fighting men of the Middle Ages organized to support one another, creating Knighthood or Chivalry. Chivalry gave the world rules of conduct and made life better for the people. Chief among promoted virtues were service, loyalty, and duty. Young knights took oaths swearing fealty to God and King, promising to help the needy and suffering, and striving to be humble. Knights tried to be gracious, well-mannered, and well-spoken. Ideas of good manners developed, including what to wear, how to eat, and how to ask a lady for a dance. Knights eventually became obsolete as townspeople became rich and educated, gunpowder was developed, and their mannerly customs became dated.

Lesson 35: Pope vs. Emperor

Week: 35

The common people of the Middle Ages accepted the Pope as their spiritual leader and Charlemagne and later Otto the Great as their Emperors. Unfortunately, the Popes and Emperors squabbled among themselves for power. When this happened, the people were put in the awkward position of choosing between their Pope or their Emperor. Pope Gregory VII considered himself the highest authority and could veto any law passed by king or emperor. Emperor Henry IV refused to submit to Papal will, accused Pope Gregory of crimes, and had Pope Gregory deposed by the council of Worms. In retaliation, Pope Gregory excommunicated Henry IV and conspired with some German princes to elect a new Emperor. His power threatened, Henry IV disguised himself, traversed the Alps, and traveled to Canossa to beg the Pope's forgiveness. The Pope forgave Gregory, but Gregory later banished the Pope to Salerno, where he died. The struggle between Pope and Emperor continued for some time, but eventually died out.

Lesson 36: The Crusades

Week: 36

When the Muslim Turks conquered Asia Minor, relations soured between the Christians and the Muslims. European Christians heard tales of Turkish atrocities and became consumed with fear and religious hysteria. A wild mob of Christians convened to undertake a crusade against the infidels, traveling toward Palestine and murdering any Jews they encountered along the way. The mob failed miserably, only reaching Hungary before being killed off. The Church spent a year equipping an army of 200,000 men, and in 1096, the official First Crusade began. The First Crusade took Jerusalem but lost it again to the Turkish troops. During the next two centuries, seven more crusades took place. Eventually, the Christian people had a change of heart and ended the crusades. However, the people of Europe were changed by these crusades. For instance, when the Crusaders returned home from battle, they brought with them new foods such as peaches and spinach and discarded their heavy armor for the flowing Turkish robes of silk or cotton. In addition, the people of Europe saw the light and sunshine of the east and wanted a broader life beyond dreary castles. They found this in the cities.