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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Organising an Empire: The Assyrian Way by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU)

756 ratings

About the Course

Discover the mighty kingdom of Assyria, which came to be the world’s first great empire three thousand years ago. From the 9th to the 7th centuries BC, during the imperial phase of Assyria’s long history, modern day northern Iraq was the central region of a state reaching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf, and incorporating what is now Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, as well as half of Israel, and wide parts of south-eastern Turkey, and Western Iran. In its geographical extent, this state was unprecedentedly large, and the distinct geography of the Middle East, with deserts and high mountain ranges, posed challenges to communication and cohesion. What were the mechanisms that kept the Empire running? This course explores the methods the Assyrian government employed to ensure unity and maintain loyalty across vast distances, using traditional as well as innovative strategies. Some of these imperial techniques have marked parallels in the ways modern multi-national corporations are operating, others will strike you as profoundly alien. This course focusses on how the Assyrians organised their empire by analysing key aspects, namely: · The CEO – the king, a religious, political and military leader, who is charged to govern by his master, the god Assur; · Home Office – the royal palace in the central region and the royal court that form the administrative centre of the state; · The Regional Managers – the governors and client-rulers to whom local power is delegated; · Human Resources – the Empire’s people are its most precious assets, its consumers and its key product, as the goal of the imperial project was to create “Assyrians”; an approach with lasting repercussions that still reverberate in the Middle East today; and finally · The Fruits of Empire – it takes a lot of effort, so what are the rewards? When we explore these topics we will contextualise them with information about the lives led by ordinary Assyrian families. Taking this course will provide you with an overview of the political, social, religious, and military history of the world’s first superpower. It will give you insight into the geography and climatic conditions of the Middle East and contribute to your understanding of the opportunities and challenges of that region. It will present you with a vision of the Middle East at a time when its political and religious structures were very different from today....

Top reviews


Jan 27, 2021

The variety of presentations of a vast amount of knowledge made it engaging. Dr. Radner herself was engaging! The course provided a deep look into a civilization that is a bedrock to the modern world.


Jan 15, 2021

This was my first MOOC and I fully enjoyed every aspect. The knowledge level of the instructors was evident as was their commitment to their students and the varied formats were consistently engaging.

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1 - 25 of 302 Reviews for Organising an Empire: The Assyrian Way

By M. S

Jun 27, 2020

I loved the course, it is interesting and very well explained. Karen does an excellent job and her enthusiasm for the subject is visible. The idea of using playmobil to illustrate historical events is very good and make it so much easier to remember.

My only suggestion for improving the course is to incorporate more images, maps of the progress of the empire and talk more about the worship of other gods apart from Assur.


By Iris X

May 15, 2018

This is such an amazing course! Prof.Radner has done an excellent job at presenting topics and organizing materials. Highly recommend this course to anyone who's interested in ancient civilizations.

By Naomi W

Nov 26, 2018

So Far I am Loving this Course, So much Info,

I have always wanted to do a course on the Assyrian Empire.

Fab way of learning too, with tests at each stage rather than a mighty one at the end.

By David H F

May 14, 2024

I enjoyed this course very much. Professor Radner is engaging and clearly knows her subject spectacularly well. I consider this very much a whetting of appetite: a good deal of additional independent external work would be required to firmly solidify the chronology and the relationship of the neo-assyrian empire to the rest of its time and place. The material culture and the "personalty" of Assyria in the 9th-7th c. period were very clearly conveyed (including the point that we know about the upper classes, not the majority of the populace.) I was delighted with little details like the rafts of wineskins floating down the Tigris, or the differences between Assyrian and Babylonian orthography partly due to the different ways the styli were held. I was disappointed with the "ask the experts" videos. Several of the scholars and archaeologists gave hints of being much more interesting people than they gave the superficial impressions of being, and I would have liked to have heard much more from them about the technical nature of their work, and of their opinions. Two specific examples, Mark Altaweel hinting at the political, linguistic and cultural effects of the Assyrian "population management" policies; and Poppy Tushingham mentioning that our lack of veneration for the heritage of the Assyrian Empire, less familiar and to us than the Roman and British Empires, gives us scope to concentrate on the real nature of Empire, which is the enrichment of an oligarchic class. In the context of Ashurbanipal's library a nice point was made comparing the Assyrian to the Roman Empire: two states oriented to warfare and excelling at organization, logistics, building and siege warfare, both drawing on older neighboring cultures for their literature and cultural roots. I also think more could have been done with the "Playmobil" segments: that was a charming idea for presenting the "annals" aspect. I'd have liked more, but I'd also rather wished that the figures might have been dressed in national costume, to make it easier to keep track of multiple nations, rather than in a mix of historical European dress. Those suggestions aside, the course was beautifully done, entertaining, informative, and leaving me wanting more!

By S

Aug 7, 2021

This was my first MOOC, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I am generally very interested in ancient history and culture, particularly in that of the ancient near east, and this is a very informative and engaging introduction, professional yet easy to understand, even if one does not have much background knowledge. Especially the different styles of the videos as well as the use of other material make the course very interesting. Moreover, the quizzes motivate one to reflect on the content; it is often surprising to find out how much one has actually learned. It is a delight to listen to Prof. Dr. Radner, as she not only obviously has a profound knowledge about this topic, but also clearly enjoys talking about it. Thank you for providing this knwoledge for free!

By Kayla M

May 12, 2020

Thank you, Professor Radner. I thoroughly enjoyed this course!

I recently had the pleasure of spending the first year of my MA program at the University of Toronto with Professor Heather Baker. She introduced the Mesopotamian and Assyrian history in such a remarkable way; I was truly captivated. Your course was a fantastic review of the Assyrian Empire. I appreciated the Q and A videos as well as "Ask the Experts". Thank you for an amazing course and I have benefitted greatly from the content you presented.

By anais r

Aug 15, 2019

So grateful that I came across this course ! I first discovered the Assyrian empire when I visited the British Museum and the Louvre. I was fascinated by the details in the frescoes, the huge sculptures and " Lamassu " but never took the time to learn more about their History. Now, thanks to this course, I have learnt so many things that I want to go back straight away to the museums and take my time to look closer at all the beautiful and well preserved works they left us. Thank you!

By Antonio A d P

Sep 1, 2022

Loved the organisation. Karen if you're reading this, I loved the course, I think it was incredible the way all content was structured and presented, all the sources, books and articles you mention, and the way all the elements are showed. I didn't even know the Assyrians had been a civilization before taking this course, although I like history I hadn't heard of them, and now I love them. Thank you so much, I enjoyed every moment.

By Zakaria N

Jul 8, 2020

Brilliant course, easily my favourite MOOC I've ever completed (even though I've only ever finished two). Professor Radner's energy and enthusiasm for the subject is truly infectious, and I couldn't help but be fascinated by the subject matter and the excellent presentation. I hope to see more in the future!

By Yomukoto

Jun 1, 2020

Thank you sooo so much for this course! I enjoyed it a lot! I had no idea about the Assyrian empire, and now I am even considering taking some course in uni about it. I hope someday you'll make a MOOC teaching acadian haha

By Tasneem H A

Sep 21, 2020

I love learning about the empires and the people of the past. It gives an idea of how much progression and achievement have been acquired by these ancient ancestors to make our lives what they are.

By James H

Jul 7, 2020

Very good learning material to start learning about the history of Mesopotamia, although they didn't include a learning module of how to read the Cunieform Tablet

By Fernanda A B

May 20, 2020

I loved this trip around the Assyrian Empire, I recommend this course so much!!! Thank you, Karen!!

By ammar a

Jun 1, 2020

Der Kurs gefällt mir sehr. Ich danke mich Ihnen für die Informationen der alten Zivilisation.

By Ewa P

Jun 3, 2020

Very informative, interesting way of portraying the information. I enjoyed it a lot :)

By Mark D

Jun 30, 2020

Excellent course and so approachable for first time learners of this subject.

By Ofri M

Jul 3, 2020

Interesting use of many media to teach. Easy to stay motivated.

By Daniel H

May 28, 2020

Really fun, enjoyable and informative. Well done guys!

By Rodney H

Jun 26, 2020

Very well designed course and fascinating material.

By James B

Jul 8, 2020

Great course! So fascinating and informative.

By Yelyzaveta T

May 25, 2020

It was awesome. Than you very much.


May 30, 2020

Loved learning it!

By David B

May 31, 2020

Excelente curso

By Hamdanil R

Apr 22, 2018

Very enjoyable course and I learned a lot. When people talk about an ancient empire that runs efficiently many would think about Rome, but it's cool to know that there's an earlier empire in a different part of the world that's no less awesome. Professor Radner is very knowledgeable and the scope of the materials are very intersting.

By Nathan S

Jan 29, 2021

a brief introduction to the Assyrian empire

The good

The videos are well done and there is nice variety of different lecture styles: Standard lectures about history, one-on-one interview formats about daily life, question-answer sessions with a wide variety of researchers and the very helpful Playmobil props acting out the complicated succession, rebellion, move the capitol, etc., dramas that come up in Assyrian history.

What could be better

There are no essays or writing assignments, just those multiple choice "video comprehension" quizzes.

There is relatively little reading material assigned, only a few web articles. No translations of primary documents were assigned.

We get to see some Assyrian art and artifacts, but not nearly as many as I had hoped.

It's too brief and doesn't cover connections with the larger world in much depth. For example, a learner new to the area might need some background differentiating nearby or preceding civilizations, such as the Hittites, Sumer, Akkadia, etc., and explaining that the Assyrian culture and language was not uniquely "Assyrian". Also, some further discussion of Assyria's relations with Egypt and the ancient Hebrews would be a nice connection to elaborate, since that's probably where most people in the West first hear about Assyria.