Category: Ancient History Encyclopedia

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PEOPLE OF THE ANCIENT WORLD: Queen of Sheba TH…

PEOPLE OF THE ANCIENT WORLD: Queen of Sheba 

THE Queen of Sheba is the monarch mentioned in the Bible and then in later works who travels to Jerusalem to experience the wisdom of King Solomon (c. 970-931 BCE) of Israel first-hand. The queen is first mentioned in I Kings 10:1-13 and in II Chronicles 9:1-12 in the Bible, then in the later Aramaic Targum Sheni, then the Quran, and finally the Ethiopian work known as the Kebra Negast; later writings featuring the queen, all religious in nature, come basically from the story as first told in the Bible. There is no archaeological evidence, inscription, or statuary supporting her existence outside of these texts.

The region of Sheba in the Bible has been identified as the Kingdom of Saba (also sometimes referred to as Sheba) in southern Arabia but also with Ethiopia in East Africa. In the biblical tale, the queen brings Solomon lavish gifts and praises his wisdom and kingdom before returning to her country. Precisely where she returned to, however, is still debated as the historian Flavius Josephus (37-100 CE) famously identified her as a queen of Ethiopia and Egypt but the probable (and most commonly accepted) dates for Solomon argue in favor of a monarch from southern Arabia; even though no such monarch is listed as reigning at that time.

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PLACES IN THE ANCIENT WORLD: Vagharshapat (Anc…

PLACES IN THE ANCIENT WORLD: Vagharshapat (Ancient City in Armenia) 

VAGHARSHAPAT (Valarsapat), located some 20 km west of modern Yerevan, was an ancient city in Armenia founded in the 2nd century CE. Serving as the capital, the city prospered and, under the new name of Echmiadzin, became the spiritual capital of Christian Armenia from the 4th century CE. Still an important pilgrimage site today, the building of the cathedral at Vagharshapat is attributed to Saint Gregory the Illuminator who was, in a vision, instructed by Christ to build it there after he descended and struck the ground at the very spot. The site is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.  

Vagharshapat was founded during the reign of the Arsacid king Vagharsh I (r. 117-140 CE), who gave his name to the new city, a common practice of the period. Artashat (Artaxata) remained the capital but Vagharshapat became the royal residence. The city was not entirely built from scratch but expanded upon the existing settlement of Vardgesavan. The city was protected by a new and encircling fortification wall.

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PEOPLE OF THE ANCIENT WORLD: Marcus Aurelius (…

PEOPLE OF THE ANCIENT WORLD: Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor) 

MARCUS Aurelius reigned as Roman emperor from 161 to 180 CE and is best known as the last of the Five Good Emperors of Rome (following Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and Antoninus Pius) and as the author of the philosophical work Meditations. He has long been respected as embodying the Platonic concept of the Philosopher King as articulated in Plato’s Republic: a ruler who does not seek power for his own sake but to help his people. He was introduced to philosophy at a young age and his Meditations, composed while on campaign in his fifties, make clear that he held a deeply philosophical, specifically Stoic, view throughout his life.  

His reign, in fact, is defined by the Stoic view and he is referred to as “the philosopher” by the later historian Cassius Dio (c. 155-235 CE) and the author (or authors) of the Historia Augusta (4th century CE), a history of Roman emperors. His Stoic outlook is expressed throughout his Meditations and his view of one’s responsibility to others is made clear in a line from Book VIII.59: “People exist for the sake of one another; teach them, then, or bear with them.”

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BOOK REVIEW: Uncovering the Culture of Ancient…

BOOK REVIEW: Uncovering the Culture of Ancient Egypt by Alix Wood

UNCOVERING the Culture of Ancient Egypt by Alix Wood is a part of the Archaeology and Ancient Cultures series. It is designed for younger children aiming to pique their interest in and educate them about ancient cultures. The book is laid out with a 2-page spread that details a city, people, or topic in ancient Egyptian history including the Pyramids of Giza, pharaohs, temples, etc. It provides a short description of the topic with pictures of artifacts, ruins, art, and people of the times.

This book concentrates on ancient Egypt’s people and wonders. Almost everyone is aware of the famous Pyramids of Giza, but fewer are familiar with Herakleopolis and the Karnak Temple and the incredible constructions within those sites. This book takes you on a tour of all three! It also takes you on a brief tour of the worker’s lives in their attempt to build monuments that would last through the ages, through Queen Hatshepsut’s reign, and through nearly-lost cities. In addition, it provides the story of the Rosetta Stone and how we came to understand many of the hieroglyphs in ancient Egypt.

Within each section, it provides images of the monuments, people, and artifacts that it mentions. These images help take the reader to ancient Egypt and help visualize what is being shown in the text. Additionally, each page contains a map of Egypt showing where the current topics being mentioned are located. At the beginning of the book is a map showing Egypt’s place in the world. Within the text are words in bold that link to a glossary at the back of the book in order to help young readers learn new words they may be unfamiliar with. It also contains a short section that lists a few books and a website that one can go to if they are interested in learning more about the topic.

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PLACES IN THE ANCIENT WORLD: Dvin (Capital of …

PLACES IN THE ANCIENT WORLD: Dvin (Capital of Medieval Armenia)

DVIN (aka Duin), located 40 km south of modern Yerevan, was the capital of early medieval Armenia for four centuries. Founded in the 4th century CE, the city prospered and became the administrative head of the Armenian church. Remaining the capital under the rule of the Arab Umayyad Caliphate from the mid-7th century CE, Dvin would ultimately be replaced, first by Partav in 789 CE and then Ani in 961 CE as Armenia’s first city.

Dvin was founded by the Armenian king Khosrov III Kotak (r. c. 330 – 338 CE) who converted what was already a small settlement and royal hunting park into a new city. Situated by the Azat (aka Garni) River on a natural promontory, the site was also easily defended with fortification walls built as an additional deterrent. The son of Khosrov, King Tiran, moved the royal residence to Dvin, and by the 5th century CE, it was a thriving city. Its growth was greatly helped by the decision of Armenia’s overlords at the time, the Sasanian Empire, to make Dvin the new administrative capital of their part of the country (the other being controlled by the Roman Empire). Dvin was not without its competitors, though, especially in terms of trade; a notable rival being the former capital and more ancient city of Artashat (Artaxata), located just a few kilometres to the west.

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RELIGION IN THE ANCIENT WORLD:RELIGION (from t…

RELIGION IN THE ANCIENT WORLD:

RELIGION (from the Latin Religio, meaning ‘restraint,’ or Relegere, according to Cicero, meaning ‘to repeat, to read again,’ or, most likely, Religionem, ‘to show respect for what is sacred’) is an organized system of beliefs and practices revolving around, or leading to, a transcendent spiritual experience. There is no culture recorded in human history which has not practiced some form of religion.

In ancient times, religion was indistinguishable from what is known as ’mythology’ in the present day and consisted of regular rituals based on a belief in higher supernatural entities who created and continued to maintain the world and surrounding cosmos. These entities were anthropomorphic and behaved in ways which mirrored the values of the culture closely (as in Egypt) or sometimes engaged in acts antithetical to those values (as one sees with the gods of Greece). Religion, then and now, concerns itself with the spiritual aspect of the human condition, gods and goddesses (or a single personal god or goddess), the creation of the world, a human being’s place in the world, life after death, eternity, and how to escape from suffering in this world or in the next; and every nation has created its own god in its own image and resemblance.

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