Category: Ancient History Encyclopedia



SAMUEL Bouchet of Terre di Suoni demonstrate…

SAMUEL Bouchet of Terre di Suoni demonstrates the different sounds of ocarinas. Ocarinas are musical instruments made of clay that people all over the world have made throughout the ages.



IN ’Ancient Cultures and Civilizations: The Culture of Athens’, Vic Kovacs provides a clear and helpful overview of the political structure in Athens, religion in Athens, and the major political and military conflicts between Athens and other polities and cities. Though a long period of history is unaddressed in the volume, I nonetheless recommend the volume for public and private libraries.

Previously, I reviewed Vic Kovacs’ Ancient Cultures and Civilizations, The Culture of Sparta. In this volume, Kovacs shifts from Sparta to Athens: Ancient Cultures and Civilizations: The Culture of Athens. Divided into five chapters, the volume details various aspects of Athenian culture and history: a broad overview of ancient Athens, Athens as it is concerned with democracy, the military in Athens, daily life in Athens, and the downfall of Athens.

Overall, the book provides a clear and helpful overview of the political structure in Athens, religion in Athens, and the major political and military conflicts between Athens and other polities and cities. With its simple language and clear communication, the book is oriented towards elementary school students and middle school students. As such, teachers would benefit from having this book in their private or classroom libraries, just as it would be an excellent addition to a school library.

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BEWARE the Ides of March! On this day in 44 BC…

BEWARE the Ides of March! On this day in 44 BCE: Julius Caesar is stabbed to death by Marcus Junius Brutus, Gaius Cassius Longinus, Decimus Junius Brutus, and several other Roman senators on the Ides of March. (44 BCE)

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THANK you to the women who made (ancient) hi…

THANK you to the women who made (ancient) history; to those whose achievements went unsung; to the female archaeologists and historians who worked tirelessly to reveal the fascinating lives of these women; and to all our amazing female followers. Happy International Women’s Day!



MEDIEVAL folklore is a body of work, originally transmitted orally, which was composed between the 5th and 15th centuries CE in Europe. Although folktales are a common attribute of every civilization, and such stories were being told by cultures around the world during the medieval period, the phrase “medieval folklore” in the west almost always refers to European tales.

The word “folklore” was coined in 1846 CE by the British writer William John Thoms to replace the more awkward phrase “popular antiquities” which designated the stories, fables, proverbs, ballads, and legends of the common people. In time, folktales were written down and became static but originally they were dynamic and ever-changing stories passed from one generation to the next and moving between cultures as merchants carried the tales to other countries through trade.

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GHANA EMPIRE:  THE Ghana Empire flourished in…


THE Ghana Empire flourished in West Africa from at least the 6th to 13th century CE. Not connected geographically to the modern state of Ghana, the Ghana Empire was located in the western Sudan savannah region (modern southern Mauritania and Mali) sandwiched between the Sahara desert to the north and the rainforests to the south.

Trade was facilitated by the abundance of iron, copper, gold, and ivory and easy access to the Niger and Senegal Rivers and their tributaries. The Ghana kings, residing in the capital at Koumbi Saleh, grew immensely rich, building up stockpiles of the gold nuggets only they were permitted to possess. Consequently, the reputation of Ghana spread to North Africa and Europe, where it was described as a fabulous land of gold. The Ghana Empire crumbled from the 12th century CE following drought, civil wars, the opening up of trade routes elsewhere, and the rise of the Sosso Kingdom (c. 1180-1235 CE) and then the Mali Empire (1240-1645 CE).

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WRITTEN for a general audience, Ten Caesars is filled with vivid descriptions of historical moments and nuanced presentations of ten different emperors. Barry Strauss’ engaging narrative style and focus on framing each Caesar with his historical context results in a book with a panoply of unique characters, including the Caesars, military generals, and many women.

In Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine, Barry Strauss tells the story of ten notable Roman leaders. Strauss is a Professor of History and Classics at Cornell University, holding an MA and PhD from Yale University. Moreover, he published many other well-received articles and books on the subject of Roman history. As such, he is highly qualified to narrate the history of ten Roman emperors.  Scholars are trained to be analytical, critical, and meticulous, and so when they write books for general audiences, they are often erudite and informative but also dry, unengaging, and monotonous. Strauss, though, is different.

From beginning to end, Strauss’ storytelling captured my attention with vivid descriptions of historical moments and nuanced presentations of the Caesars. He accomplishes these feats by carefully showing how each individual Caesar interacted with his social, political, cultural, and religious environment in unique ways. In doing so, he unveils a new character through each chapter. This is notable because historical figures too often become flattened, one-dimensional characters, one the same as another. Strauss avoids this type of characterization, writing a refreshing narrative instead.

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TRADE has been going on for as long as humans have needed or wanted something that others had and they did not. Bartering for goods and trade in kind developed into more sophisticated forms of exchanges using commonly agreed commodity currencies such as bronze or copper ingots or even cowry shells. These were often only good for large scale trade deals though and for smaller transactions, something else was needed: coinage. Coins were often introduced in ancient cultures as a convenient way to pay soldiers but the idea quickly spread to civilian life.

Early trade largely focused on luxury goods like precious metals, spices and fine textiles but eventually, as transportation by ship became faster, more reliable and cheaper, even mundane items like olives and fish paste were exported across great distances. With the increased contact between cultures caused by trade, so too ideas and cultural practices spread, particularly in the areas of language, religion and art. International trade lead to the establishment of trade emporiums which in turn often developed into colonies. As the competition for resources and access to lucrative trade routes intensified, wars often then resulted when rulers looked to seize the riches of rival states and empires.

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