The Umayyad Dynasty of the Middle East, 661-749 CE

The glory of the Umayyads was not to last. Introduction The Dome of the Rock. The Great Mosque in Damascus. The Great Mosque in Córdoba. These remarkable architectural and artistic achievements are associated with the Umayyads, “first” dynasty of the Islamic World. After the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 C.E., there was a[…]

The Ancient Mediterranean Bronze Age Collapse

When the collapse had run its course, the Mediterranean region entered a “dark age”. Introduction The Bronze Age Collapse (also known as Late Bronze Age Collapse) is a modern-day term referring to the decline and fall of major Mediterranean civilizations during the 13th-12th centuries BCE. The precise cause of the Bronze Age Collapse has been[…]

A Short History of the Buddhist Schools

Today, the four major Buddhist branches are Mahayana, Theravada, Vajrayana and Zen Buddhism. Introduction Like any other religious tradition, Buddhism has undergone a number of different transformations that have led to the emergence of many different Buddhist schools. Analyzing the major Buddhist traditions, we find a great number of topics ranging from moral concerns (which[…]

The Heroic Cult of Agamemnon in Ancient Greece

Agamemnon received heroic worship from the establishment of the sanctuary at Amyklai along with his consort Kassandra, known locally as Alexandra. The Atrid Agamemnon received cult in two Peloponnesian towns, Mycenae and Amyklai, both of which claimed to have his grave. The conflicting reports about the location of his grave correspond to early variations in the literary[…]

Inca Mummies

Incan mummies (mallki) which escaped looters have, in most cases, been excellently preserved. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Inca civilization of Peru, as with many other ancient Andean cultures, mummified many of their dead and buried them with valuable materials such as precious metal jewellery, fine pottery, and sumptuous textiles. Important mummies could also be[…]

Ten Hidden Ancient Treasures in Caria, Turkey

Caria was ruled by satraps who were subject to Cyrus the Great. Introduction Located at the crossroads of many ancient civilizations, Turkey is a haven for archaeology lovers. Over the centuries, a succession of empires and kingdoms – Hittite, Lydian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and, finally, Ottoman – ruled over Anatolia. The country’s unique cultural[…]

Pirates in the Ancient Mediterranean

Piracy was engaged in by governments and was often considered a legitimate act of war. Introduction Piracy, defined as the act of attacking and robbing a ship or port by sea, had a long history in the ancient Mediterranean stretching from the time of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten (r. 1353-1336 BCE) and throughout the Middle Ages (c. 476-1500 CE). Piracy in[…]

Plato’s Euthyphro: Piety, Pretension, and a Playwright’s Skill

In reading Plato as Plato-the-Philosopher, one misses the nuances of Plato-the-Artist. Introduction The Dialogues of the Greek philosopher Plato (l. 428/427-348-347 BCE) have exerted such an extraordinary influence over western thought and culture for the past 2,000 years that readers in the modern day frequently approach his works as philosophical icons. The Republic is routinely taught in college classes as the blueprint for[…]

Euripides’ ‘Bacchae’ in Its Historical Context

The Peloponnesian war had been dragging on for 25 years, and the military situation was getting progressively worse for the Athenians. Euripides in Macedonia The Bacchae,[1] as we know it, was first produced in Athens under the direction of Euripides’ son, also called Euripides, in perhaps 405 BC,[2] a year or two after his father’s[…]

Ancient Israelite Technology

Looking at ancient Israeli construction and architecture, writing, industrial tools, and weapons of war. Introduction Technology enabled ancient Israel, the Northern Kingdom excluding Judah, to be economically prosperous and establish itself as a major political power as early as the 10th century BCE, steadily growing until its destruction in 720 BCE. Some of the most important[…]

Sparta and the Collapse of Ancient Greece

Neither the course nor the conclusion of the Peloponnesian War was foreseeable at its outset. Of the two most powerful states in classical Greece, Athens was a forward-looking democracy with a far-flung naval empire, Sparta a land-locked mixed government heading a league of nearby states.  In 431 BC, the long-simmering rivalry between them erupted into open[…]

Curses and Fines on Ancient Epitaphs

Examples of curse-fine epitaphs range all over the ancient world. Introduction The concept of a curse laid on a tomb or gravesite is best known from ancient Egypt but the practice was quite common in other civilizations of antiquity. The tomb or grave was the eternal home of the physical remains of the deceased to which his or her soul could[…]

The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Heavenly Cow

The tale begins after Ra had created the world and was king of the gods and humanity. Introduction The Book of the Heavenly Cow is an ancient Egyptian text dealing with the rebellion of humanity against the sun god Ra, his destruction of the rebels through the goddess Hathor, the reversal of this decision and Ra’s mercy, and his[…]

A’Aru: The Ancient Egyptian ‘Field of Reeds’ Afterlife Paradise

One lived on in the presence of the gods, doing as one had done on earth, with everyone the soul had ever loved. Introduction A’Aru (The Field of Reeds) was the Egyptian afterlife, an idealized vision of one’s life on earth (also known as Sekhet-A’Aru and translated as The Field of Rushes). Everything thought to have been lost at death was returned[…]

The Graces in Ancient Greek Mythology

They were considered the youthful bestowers of beauty in all its forms. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Graces (alsoCharites, sing. Charis) were goddesses from Greek mythology who personified charm, grace, and beauty.  Hesiod  describes  three Graces, and this is their most common grouping in literature and art, but their number varies depending on the source. Associated with  Aphrodite and spring flowers especially, they were[…]

How to Worship Artemis and Get Something in Return in Ancient Greece

What the epigraphic and archaeological evidence have shown. For centuries, worshippers of Artemis flocked to the ancient city of Ephesos in present-day Turkey for an annual nativity rite. Young men known as Kouretes hiked to the summit of Mount Solmissos, beating their spears on their shields, diverting the attention of the Greek goddess Hera from[…]

Ancient Parthian Warfare

Parthia controlled territories that stretched from the Mediterranean in the west to India and China in the east and were even a match for the Romans. Introduction Parthian warfare was characterized by the extensive use of cavalry and archers. Coming at enemy troops from all directions Parthian riders created confusion and wreaked havoc. They even[…]

The Lost City of Heracleion

Once a bustling metropolis, this long-lost Egyptian city flooded, sank, and was forgotten — until archeologists rediscovered it. When people think of archeology, they typically think of people laboring in the hot sun, or maybe underground. But those excavating the ancient Egyptian city of Heracleion have exchanged their sunblock for scuba gear. According to science[…]

The Roman Baths in Bath: A Deep Dive into Britain’s Ancient History

There is little evidence remaining from the pre-Roman worship, as they left little footprints of their spiritual practice for us to study. By Wanda MarcussenHistorian Introduction Bath, the famous spa town in Somerset England, has attracted people from near and far for centuries to its healing springs and baths. Today the city is known for its beautiful Georgian architecture and[…]

The Culture of Ancient Rome

One of history’s most influential civilizations took shape, leaving behind a cultural legacy that survives in part today. Introduction The culture of ancient Rome existed throughout the almost 1200-year history of the civilization of Ancient Rome. The term refers to the culture of the Roman Republic, later the Roman Empire, which at its peak covered an area from Lowland Scotland and Morocco to the Euphrates. Life in[…]

The Ancient Megalithic Funerary Art of San Agustín, Colombia

These burial places formed the centers of small-scale chiefdoms and shared a set of sculptural motifs and styles. By Benjamin OswaldHistorian Introduction Beginning approximately 2000 years ago, in a rugged stretch of southwestern Colombia where the Andes split into multiple ranges and the mighty Magdalena River is born, a people created a collection of magnificent[…]

Immortality of Writers in Ancient Egypt

A scribe would be remembered, not only by family and friends, but by a much larger audience through the works they left behind. Introduction For the ancient Egyptians, life on earth was only one part of an eternal journey which continued after death. One’s purpose in life was to live in balance with one’s self, family,[…]

Harper’s Songs of Ancient Egypt

Harper’s songs were lyrics composed in ancient Egypt to be sung at funeral feasts and inscribed on monuments. Introduction Harper’s songs were lyrics composed in ancient Egypt to be sung at funeral feasts and inscribed on monuments. They derive their name from the image which accompanies the text on tomb or chapel walls, stelae, and papyri in which a[…]

The Temple-Building Gurjara-Pratihara Empire of Medieval India

The Pratiharas were known chiefly for their patronage of art, sculpture, and temple-building. By Dr. Avantika LalHistorian, Independent Researcher Introduction The Gurjara-Pratiharas, or simply, the Pratiharas (8th century CE – 11th century CE) held their sway over western and northern India. This dynasty saw its fortunes rising under Nagabhata I (730–760 CE) who successfully defeated Arab[…]

Lessons from Atheism in Ancient India

We’re still playing the same game, 2500 years later. There were apparently many anti-superstitious atheists in ancient India. (I wrote of Ajita Kesakambali earlier.) Mostly, we know of them through their religious critics in Indian scripture. One such passage is known as Payasi Suttanta, from perhaps the 6th century B.C. In it, a holy man, Master Kassapa, confronts[…]

‘Res Gestae Divi Augusti’: The Narcissism and Propaganda of Augustus, Rome’s First Emperor

The Res Gestae was a unique public relations move for the first emperor of the Roman Empire, whose political career was in many ways experimental. Introduction Res Gestae Divi Augusti (Eng. The Deeds of the Divine Augustus) is the funerary inscription of the first Roman emperor, Augustus, giving a first-person record of his life and accomplishments.[1] The Res Gestae is especially significant because it[…]

Tacitus’ ‘Annals’ and Its Enduring Portrait of Monarchical Power

Though his work was little read in the Roman world, it has influenced great thinkers such as Hobbes and Montesquieu. Introduction Sometime in the 9th century AD, a monk in the Benedictine monastery of Fulda in modern Germany copied out an extensive Latin history into Carolingian minuscule, a script promoted by the emperor Charlemagne to aid in the[…]