We have recently discovered "The Great Courses," and have found some gems. We are currently enjoying (to put it mildly) the series "Understanding Greek and Roman Technology: From Catapult to the Pantheon."
Don't let the title put you off. This is an absolutely delightful and accessible survey of the engineering marvels of Classical Greece and Rome. We have the DVD version, which consists of 24 30-minute "lectures" on four disks. The presenter is professor emeritus at West Point, and is great. He not only describes and explains the various technologies, he lights up when he says "Let's build a model!" Seeing how the Colosseum was built, what steps went into building Roman roads, or how temples evolved over time, truly aids our understanding. He even makes a barrel vault with homemade concrete, and demonstrates the simple surveying tools used to lay out Greek and Roman towns.
He pays homage to Greece, but most of the focus is on the wonders of Roman technology and engineering. He acknowledges that most of the ideas came from Greece, but were improved upon and expanded by Rome.
More importantly (but less fun), he puts these technological developments in a social and historical context, showing how the discoveries and inventions of 2000 or more years ago have impacted more recent history, and even our daily lives.
Another series we can recommend is "The Guide to Essential Italy." This is a sweeping survey of Italy, with emphases on art and architecture, again showing how the past affects the present. The presenter in this case is a Professor of History at the University of Toronto. This one has 36 30-minutes lectures on 6 disks. Again, don't be put off by the idea of "lectures." You will see an incredible number of images of artworks, maps, architectural designs, and more. We enjoyed this set last year, and are planning to review much of it for our upcoming trip to Italy.
We were especially impressed with the Roman part of the series. We always do a lot of homework before we travel, and I was amazed at the places Professor Bartlett covers that we had never even heard of.
About 1/3 of the lectures focus on Rome, almost another 1/3 on Florence and vicinity, and most of the rest on Venice. There are also brief sections on well-known places in Tuscany and Umbria. Pompeii is covered in the Roman section as is the Vatican.
Both of these are well worth checking out. Their website is www.thegreatcourses.com, but I warn you, if you order anything from them your inbox will never be lonely again. Do shop for bargains, though; they are constantly running sales and promotions. The courses are also available as downloads.