ASSYRIA was the region located in the ancient Near East which, under the Neo-Assyrian Empire, reached from Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) through Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and down through Egypt. The empire began modestly at the city of Ashur (known as Subartu to the Sumerians), located in Mesopotamia north-east of Babylon, where merchants who traded in Anatolia became increasingly wealthy and that affluence allowed for the growth and prosperity of the city.
According to one interpretation of passages in the biblical Book of Genesis, Ashur was founded by a man named Ashur son of Shem, son of Noah, after the Great Flood, who then went on to found the other important Assyrian cities. A more likely account is that the city was named Ashur after the deity of that name sometime in the 3rd millennium BCE; the same god’s name is the origin for `Assyria’. The biblical version of the origin of Ashur appears later in the historical record after the Assyrians had accepted Christianity and so it is thought to be a re-interpretation of their early history which was more in keeping with their newly-adopted belief system.
GODS AND HEROES ARCHAEOLOGY KIT REVIEW:
IF you are reading this, you probably love history and archaeology. And if you have children, then you have probably struggled at times to excite them about ancient ruins and archaeology. Here is an idea: let them be an archaeologist and see how interesting (and yes, even exciting) it is!
The friendly people at Greecs.com sent us an archaeology kit for children to try out. We received the “Gods and Heroes” kit (€37.00), in which you “excavate” a broken black-figure pottery image and piece it back together like an archaeologist would. Exciting!
THE ETERNAL LIFE OF GILGAMESH:
THE Epic of Gilgamesh is among the most popular works of literature in the present day and has influenced countless numbers of readers but, for the greater part of its history, it was lost. The Assyrian Empire fell to a coalition of Babylonians and Medes in 612 BCE who sacked and burned the Assyrian cities and, among them, Nineveh.
Nineveh was the great capital where the king Ashurbanipal (668-627 BCE) had established his library which housed copies of every literary work he could find throughout Mesopotamia. As these works were written in cuneiform on clay tablets, however, the fires which consumed the library did nothing to the tablets but to bake them. Even so, the buildings which housed these works were destroyed, burying the literature of Mesopotamia beneath them for over 2,000 years until they were re-discovered in the mid-19th century CE.
KINGDOM OF MAGADHA: WARS AND WARFARE
IN ancient India from the 6th century BCE onwards, the kingdom of Magadha (6th century BCE to 4th century BCE) made a mark for itself. Located in the eastern part of India in what is today the state of Bihar, it outshone other kingdoms and republics when it came to territorial expansion and control, which was the main reason and context for its incessant wars. The period of expansion and wars started from the reign of Bimbisara (543 BCE) and lasted until the fall of Dhanananda (322/321 BCE), when the Mauryans took over.
Along with Bimbisara, the main Magadha actors who screamed war were his son Ajatashatru (492 BCE – 460 BCE) and the kings Shishunaga (c. late 5th century BCE) and Mahapadma Nanda (about mid-4th century BCE). The Magadhan armies under these aggressive rulers fought pretty much like any other kingdom’s army in ancient India, using the prevalent four-fold army system (chariots, infantry, cavalry and elephants), personally led by kings or princes. Forts were present and thus, siege warfare was resorted to. In many cases, intrigue was used as a means of war. The able royal leadership and the drive to expand territorially was the main reason for Magadhan success as it impacted heavily on its military system and modes of warfare. The kingdom fell when the king was weak and unpopular and his supporters lost to intrigue—it was not exactly a military defeat. Interestingly, the story of Magadhan expansion reads just like a story—complete with intrigues, scandals, murders, undercover operations and whatnot. Interestingly, it is all history.
SOCIETY IN THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE:
THE society in the Byzantine Empire (4th-15th century CE) was dominated by the imperial family and the male aristocracy but there were opportunities for social advancement thanks to wars, population movements, imperial gifts of lands and titles, and intermarriage. The majority of the lower classes would have followed the profession of their parents, but inheritance, the accumulation of wealth, and a lack of any formal prohibition for one class to move to another did at least offer a small possibility for a person to better their social position.
In Constantinople and other cities, foreign merchants, mercenaries, refugees, travellers, and pilgrims were constantly passing through or establishing themselves permanently within the empire so that Byzantium became famously cosmopolitan; a fact noted by contemporary visitors who recorded their astonishment at the diversity of the society they visited.
THE Pantheon (Latin: pantheum) is the best-preserved building from ancient Rome and was completed in c. 125 CE in the reign of Hadrian. Its magnificent dome is a lasting testimony to the genius of Roman architects and as the building stands virtually intact it offers a unique opportunity for the modern visitor to step back 2,000 years and experience the glory that was Rome.
The purpose of the building is not known for certain but the name, porch and pediment decoration suggest a temple of some sort. However, no cult is known to all of the gods and so the Pantheon may have been designed as a place where the emperor could make public appearances in a setting which reminded onlookers of his divine status, equal with the other gods of the Roman pantheon and his deified emperor predecessors. We are told, for example, by Pliny, the 1st century CE Roman author, that there were once statues of Venus (wearing a pearl once owned by Cleopatra), Mars, and Julius Caesar inside the Pantheon.
BATTLE OF THE METAURUS:
THE Battle of the Metaurus (207 BCE) was a military engagement fought between the forces of Rome under Gaius Claudius Nero (c. 237 – c. 199 BCE), Marcus Livius Salinator (254-204 BCE), and L. Porcius Licinius and the Carthaginians under Hasdrubal Barca (c. 244-207 BCE). Nero’s forces defeated Barca who was killed in the battle. The two armies met after Hasdrubal had crossed the Alps into Italy to join his forces with those of his brother Hannibal (247-183 BCE) for a united attack on the city of Rome in hopes of ending the Second Punic War (218-202 BCE) between Rome and Carthage. Had he succeeded, Rome might have fallen to the Carthaginians and the war would have ended quite differently but this, of course, is speculation.
Roman writers and historians since the time have suggested that Hasdrubal probably would have successfully reached Hannibal – avoiding the conflict at the Metaurus River – if he had not delayed in his march to try to reduce the Roman colony of Placentia. Hasdrubal’s whole purpose in coming to Italy was to reinforce his brother for a united push against Rome, not to conquer Roman positions on his own, but he may have felt he could not leave a fortified Roman colony to the rear of his army and tried to take it through siege.