Ancient history

: "Ancient" redirects here. For other uses, see Ancient_(disambiguation). The times before writing belong either to protohistory or to prehistory."

Ancient history is the study of the written past [Crawford, O. G. S. (1927). Antiquity. [Gloucester, Eng.] : Antiquity Publications [etc.] . (cf., History education in the United States is primarily the study of the written past. Defining history in such a narrow way has important consequences ...)] from the beginning of recorded human history until the Early Middle Ages [ [,7~o,3~i,47.html ancient-history ] ] in Europe, the Qin Dynasty [Foster, S. (2007). [ Adventure guide. China] . Hunter travel guides. Edison, NJ: Hunter Publishing. Page 6-7 (cf., "Qin is perceived as 'China's first dynasty' and [... developed] writing.)] in China, the Chola Empire in India, and some less defined point in the rest of the world (for example, the Austronesian regions, [This also includes the early history of Australia. The documentation of Aboriginal history is challenging, due to the fact that Aboriginal people did not have writing prior to 1827. Further information on such challenges can be found in "A New History of Western Australia" (Stannage, 1981, UWA Press). See history of Indigenous Australians and the prehistory of Australia for further details.] and North, Central, and South America). The period following these events include the Imperial era in China [Gernet, J. (1996). A history of Chinese civilization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.] and the period of the Middle Kingdoms in India [Elphinstone, M. (1889). [ The history of India] . London: Murray.] [Smith, V. A. (1904). [ The early history of India from 600 B.C. to the Muhammadan conquest, including the invasion of Alexander the Great] . Oxford: Clarendon Press.] [Hoernle, A. F. R., & Stark, H. A. (1906). [ A history of India] . Cuttack: Orissa mission Press.] ; one might consider the end of antiquity in the Americas to be the start of the colonization of the Americas. [Priest, J. (1834). [ American antiquities, and discoveries in the West] : being an exhibition of the evidence that an ancient population of partiallly civilized nations, differing entirely from those of the present Indians, peopled America many centuries before its discovery by Columbus, and inquiries into their origin, with a copious description of many of their stupendous works, now in ruins ; with conjectures concerning what may have become of them ; compiled from travels, authentic sources, and the researches of antiquarian societies. Albany: Printed by Hoffman & White] The span of recorded history altogether is roughly 5,000 – 5,500 years, with Sumerian cuneiform [The Origin and Development of the Cuneiform System of Writing, Samuel Noah Kramer, "Thirty Nine Firsts In Recorded History", pp 381-383] being the oldest form of writing discovered so far. This is the beginning of "history" by the definition used by most historians. [ WordNet Search - 3.0] , "History"]

The term classical antiquity is often used to refer to ancient history since the beginning of recorded Greek history in about 776 BC (First Olympiad). This coincides, roughly, with the traditional date of the founding of Rome in 753 BC, the beginning of the history of ancient Rome. Although the ending date of ancient history is disputed, Western scholars use the fall of the Western Roman Empire in AD 476, [Clare, I. S. (1906). Library of universal history: containing a record of the human race from the earliest historical period to the present time ; embracing a general survey of the progress of mankind in national and social life, civil government, religion, literature, science and art. New York: Union Book. Page 1519 (cf., Ancient history, as we have already seen, ended with the fall of theWestern Roman Empire; [...] )] [United Center for Research and Training in History. (1973). Bulgarian historical review. Sofia: Pub. House of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences] . Page 43. (cf. ... in the history of Western Europe, which marks both the end of ancient history and the beginning of the Middle Ages, is the fall of the Western Empire.)] or the death of the emperor Justinian I, [Robinson, C. A. (1951). Ancient history from prehistoric times to the death of Justinian. New York: Macmillan.] or the coming of Islam [Breasted, J. H. (1916). [ Ancient times, a history of the early world: an introduction to the study of ancient history and the career of early man] . Boston: Ginn and Company. ] and the rise of Charlemagne [Myers, P. V. N. (1916). [ Ancient history] . New York [etc.] : Ginn and company. ] as the end of ancient European history.

The study of ancient history

The fundamental difficulty of studying ancient history is the fact that only a fraction of it has been documented and only a fraction of those recorded histories have survived into the present day.Gardner, P. (1892). New chapters in Greek history, historical results of recent excavations in Greece and Asia Minor. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. Page 1+.] It is also imperative to consider the reliability of the information obtained from these records. [Smith, M. S. (2002). The early history of God: Yahweh and the other deities in ancient Israel. The Biblical resource series. Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Page xxii - xxiii] Literacy was not widespread in almost any culture until long after the end of ancient history, so there were few people capable of writing histories. [Nadin, M. (1997). The civilization of illiteracy. Dresden: Dresden University Press.] Even those written histories which were produced were not widely distributed; the ancients, not having the luxury of a printing press had to make copies of books by hand.

The Roman Empire was one of the ancient world's most literate cultures, [Harris, W. V. (1989). Ancient literacy. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. (cf. ... extent of literacy in the Roman Empire has been investigated, previous writers have generally concluded that a high degree of literacy ...)] but many works by its most widely read historians are lost. For example, Livy, a Roman historian who lived in the 1st century BC, wrote a history of Rome called "Ab Urbe Condite" ("From the Founding of the City") in 144 volumes; only 35 volumes still exist, although short summaries of most of the rest do exist. Indeed, only a minority of the work of any major Roman historian has survived.

Historians have two major avenues which they take to better understand the ancient world: archaeology and the study of source texts. Primary sources have been described as those sources closest to the origin of the information or idea under study. [ [ "Primary, secondary and tertiary sources"] ] [ [ "Library Guides: Primary, secondary and tertiary sources"] ] Primary sources have been distinguished from secondary sources, which often cite, comment on, or build upon primary sources. [Oscar Handlin et al., Harvard Guide to American History (1954) 118-246] ]


The history of the Etruscans can be traced relatively accurately, based on the examination of burial sites, artifacts, and writing. Etruscans culture that is identifiably and certainly Etruscan developed in Italy in earnest by 800 BC approximately over the range of the preceding Iron Age Villanovan culture. The latter gave way in the seventh century to a culture that was influenced by Greek traders and Greek neighbors in Magna Graecia, the Hellenic civilization of southern Italy.

From the descendants of the Villanovan people in Etruria in central Italy, a separate Etruscan culture emerged in the beginning of the 7th century BC, evidenced by around 7,000 inscriptions in a alphabet similar to that of Euboean Greek, in the non-Indo-European Etruscan language. The burial tombs, some of which had been fabulously decorated, promotes the idea of an aristocratic city-state, with centralized power structures maintaining order and constructing public works, such as irrigation networks, roads, and town defenses.


Phoenicia was an ancient civilization centered in the north of ancient Canaan, with its heartland along the coastal regions of modern day Lebanon, Syria and Israel. Phoenician civilization was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean between the period of 1550 BC to 300 BC.

A written reference, Herodotus's account (written c. 440 BC) refers to a memory from 800 years earlier, which may be subject to question in the fullness of genetic results. ("History," I:1). This is a legendary introduction to Herodotus' brief retelling of some mythical Hellene-Phoenician interactions. Though few modern archaeologists would confuse this myth with history, a grain of truth may yet lie therein.

Classical Antiquity

"Classical antiquity" is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, which begins roughly with the earliest-recorded Greek poetry of Homer (7th century BC), and continues through the rise of Christianity and the fall of the Western Roman Empire (5th century AD), ending in the dissolution of classical culture with the close of Late Antiquity.

Such a wide sampling of history and territory covers many rather disparate cultures and periods. "Classical antiquity" typically refers to an idealized vision of later people, of what was, in Edgar Allan Poe's words, "the glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome!" In the 18th and 19th centuries reverence for classical antiquity was much greater in Western Europe and the United States than it is today. Respect for the ancients of Greece and Rome affected politics, philosophy, sculpture, literature, theatre, education, and even architecture and sexuality.

In politics, the presence of a Roman Emperor was felt to be desirable long after the empire fell. This tendency reached its peak when Charlemagne was crowned "Roman Emperor" in the year 800, an act which led to the formation of the Holy Roman Empire. The notion that an emperor is a monarch who outranks a mere king dates from this period. In this political ideal, there would always be a Roman Empire, a state whose jurisdiction extended to the entire civilised world.

Epic poetry in Latin continued to be written and circulated well into the nineteenth century. John Milton and even Arthur Rimbaud received their first poetic educations in Latin. Genres like epic poetry, pastoral verse, and the endless use of characters and themes from Greek mythology left a deep mark on Western literature.

In architecture, there have been several Greek Revivals, (though while apparently more inspired in retrospect by Roman architecture than Greek). Still, one needs only to look at Washington, DC to see a city filled with large marble buildings with façades made out to look like Roman temples, with columns constructed in the classical orders of architecture.

In philosophy, the efforts of St Thomas Aquinas were derived largely from the thought of Aristotle, despite the intervening change in religion from paganism to Christianity. Greek and Roman authorities such as Hippocrates and Galen formed the foundation of the practice of medicine even longer than Greek thought prevailed in philosophy. In the French theatre, tragedians such as Molière and Racine wrote plays on mythological or classical historical subjects and subjected them to the strict rules of the classical unities derived from Aristotle's "Poetics". The desire to dance like a latter-day vision of how the ancient Greeks did it moved Isadora Duncan to create her brand of ballet. The renaissance was partly caused by the rediscovery of classic antiquity. ["The Renaissance discovery of Classical Antiquity" by Roberto Weiss]


Ancient Greece is the period in Greek history lasting for close to a millennium, until the rise of Christianity. It is considered by most historians to be the foundational culture of Western Civilization. Greek culture was a powerful influence in the Roman Empire, which carried a version of it to many parts of Europe.

The civilization of the ancient Greeks has been immensely influential on the language, politics, educational systems, philosophy, science, art, and architecture of the modern world, fueling the Renaissance in Western Europe and again resurgent during various neo-Classical revivals in 18th and 19th century Europe and The Americas.

"Ancient Greece" is the term used to describe the Greek-speaking world in ancient times. It refers not only to the geographical peninsula of modern Greece, but also to areas of culture that were settled in ancient times by Greeks: Cyprus and the Aegean islands, the Aegean coast of Anatolia (then known as Ionia), Sicily and southern Italy (known as Magna Graecia), and the scattered Greek settlements on the coasts of Colchis, Illyria, Thrace, Egypt, Cyrenaica, southern Gaul, east and northeast of the Iberian peninsula, Iberia, Taurica and further to the east in exotic Asian cities such as Taxila, Sagala and Jhelum in modern day Pakistan.

During its twelve-century existence, the Roman civilization shifted from a monarchy to an oligarchic republic to a vast empire. It came to dominate Western Europe and the entire area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea through conquest and assimilation. However, a number of factors led to the eventual decline of the Roman Empire. The western half of the empire, including Hispania, Gaul, and Italy, eventually broke into independent kingdoms in the 5th century; the eastern empire, governed from Constantinople, is referred to as the Byzantine Empire after AD 476, the traditional date for the "fall of Rome" and subsequent onset of the Middle Ages.

: " For more details, see the articles in the category of


Ancient Rome was a civilization that grew out of the city-state of Rome, originating as a small agricultural community founded on the Italian Peninsula in the 9th century BC. In its twelve centuries of existence, Roman civilization shifted from a monarchy to an oligarchic republic to an increasingly autocratic empire.

Roman civilization is often grouped into "classical antiquity" with ancient Greece, a civilization that inspired much of the culture of ancient Rome. Ancient Rome contributed greatly to the development of law, war, art, literature, architecture, and language in the Western world, and its history continues to have a major influence on the world today. The Roman civilization came to dominate Western Europe and the Mediterranean region through conquest and assimilation.

Throughout the territory under the control of ancient Rome, residential architecture ranged from very modest houses to country villas. A number of Roman founded cities had monumental structures. Many contained fountains with fresh drinking-water supplied by hundreds of miles of aqueducts, theatres, gymnasiums, bath complexes sometime with libraries and shops, marketplaces, and occasionally functional sewers.

Late Antiquity

The Roman Empire underwent considerable social, cultural and organizational change starting with reign of Diocletian, who began the custom of splitting the Empire into Eastern and Western halves ruled by multiple emperors. Beginning with Constantine the Great the Empire was Christianized, and a new capital founded at Constantinople. Migrations of Germanic tribes disrupted Roman rule from the late fourth century onwards, culminating in the eventual collapse of the Empire in the West in 476, replaced by the so-called barbarian kingdoms. The resultant cultural fusion of Greco-Roman, Germanic and Christian traditions formed the cultural foundations of Western Europe.

Germanic tribes

Migration of Germanic peoples to Britain from what is now northern Germany and southern Scandinavia is attested from the 5th century (e.g. Undley bracteate). [ [ Ancient Britain Had Apartheid-Like Society, Study Suggests] ] Based on Bede's "Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum", the intruding population is traditionally divided into Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, but their composition was likely less clear-cut and may also have included Frisians and Franks. [ The Parker Library] holds the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" which contains text that may be the first recorded indications of the movement of these Germanic Tribes to Britain. The Angles and Saxons and Jutes were noted to be a confederation in the Greek Geographia written by Ptolemy in around AD 150.

The Anglo-Saxon is the term usually used to describe the peoples living in the south and east of Great Britain from the early 5th century AD. [ [ BBC - History - Anglo-Saxons] ] Benedictine monk Bede identified them as the descendants of three Germanic tribes: the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes, from the Jutland peninsula and Lower Saxony (German: Niedersachsen, Germany). The Angles may have come from Angeln, and Bede wrote their nation came to Britain, leaving their land empty. [ [ English and Welsh are races apart] ] They spoke closely related Germanic dialects. The Anglo-Saxons knew themselves as the "Englisc," from which the word "English" derives.

The Celts were a diverse group of tribal societies in Iron Age Europe. Proto-Celtic culture formed in the Early Iron Age in Central Europe (Hallstatt period, named for the site in present-day Austria). By the later Iron Age (La Tène period), Celts had expanded over wide range of lands: as far west as Ireland and the Iberian Peninsula, as far east as Galatia (central Anatolia), and as far north as Scotland. [ [ Britannica] (Turkey) People and Culture] By the early centuries AD, following the expansion of the Roman Empire and the Great Migrations of Germanic peoples, Celtic culture had becomerestricted to the British Isles and Ireland (Insular Celtic), with the Continental Celtic languages extinct by the mid-1st millennium AD.

Viking refers to a member of the Norse (Scandinavian) peoples, famous as explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates, who raided and colonized wide areas of Europe beginning in the late 8th. [Roesdahl, p. 9-22.] These Norsemen used their famed longships to travel. The Viking Age forms a major part of Scandinavian history, with a minor, yet significant part in European history.

Ancient science and technology

In the history of technology and ancient science during the growth of the ancient civilizations, ancient technological advances were produced in engineering. These advances stimulated other societies to adopt new ways of living and governance.

The characteristics of Ancient Egyptian technology are indicated by a set of artifacts and customs that lasted for thousands of years. The Egyptians invented and used many basic machines, such as the ramp and the lever, to aid construction processes. The Egyptians also played an important role in developing Mediterranean maritime technology including ships and lighthouses.

The history of science and technology in India dates back to ancient times. The Indus Valley civilization yields evidence of hydrography, metrology and sewage collection and disposal being practiced by its inhabitants. Among the fields of science and technology pursued in India were Ayurveda, metallurgy, astronomy and mathematics. Some ancient inventions include plastic surgery, cataract surgery, Hindu-Arabic numeral system and Wootz steel.

The history of science and technology in China show significant advances in science, technology, mathematics, and astronomy. The first recorded observations of comets and supernovae were made in China. Traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture and herbal medicine were also practiced.

Ancient Greek technology developed at an unprecedented speed during the 5th century BC, continuing up to and including the Roman period, and beyond. Inventions that are credited to the ancient Greeks such as the gear, screw, bronze casting techniques, water clock, water organ, torsion catapult and the use of steam to operate some experimental machines and toys. Many of these inventions occurred late in the Greek period, often inspired by the need to improve weapons and tactics in war. Roman technology is the engineering practice which supported Roman civilization and made the expansion of Roman commerce and Roman military possible over nearly a thousand years. The Roman Empire had the most advanced set of technology of their time, some of which may have been lost during the turbulent eras of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Roman technological feats of many different areas, like civil engineering, construction materials, transport technology, and some inventions such as the mechanical reaper went unmatched until the 19th century.

A significant number of inventions were developed in the Islamic world, a geopolitical region that has at various times extended from al-Andalus and Africa in the west to the Indian subcontinent and Malay Archipelago in the east. Many of these inventions had direct implications for Fiqh related issues.

Ancient maritime activity

In ancient maritime history, the earliest known reference to an organization devoted to ships in ancient India is to the Mauryan Empire from the 4th century BC. It is believed that the navigation as a science originated on the river Indus some 5000 years ago. Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact refers to interactions between the Americans and peoples of other continents – Europe, Africa, Asia, or Oceaniabefore the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. Many such events have been proposed at various times, based on historical reports, archaeological finds, and cultural comparisons.

The Ancient Egyptians had knowledge to some extent of sail construction. [This is governed by the science of aerodynamics. A primary feature of a properly designed sail is an amount of "draft", caused by curvature of the surface of the sail.] [Hatshepsut oversaw the preparations and funding of an expedition of five ships, each measuring seventy feet long, and "with several sails". Various other [ instances of Egyptian sailing vessels] exist, also.] According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Necho II sent out an expedition of Phoenicians, which in three years sailed from the Red Sea around Africa to the mouth of the Nile. Many current historians tend to believe Herodotus on this point, even though Herodotus himself was in disbelief that the Phoenicians had accomplished the act.

Hannu was an ancient Egyptian explorer (around 2750 BC) and the first explorer of whom there is any knowledge. Hannu made the first recorded exploring expedition. He wrote his account of his exploration in stone. Hannu travelled along the Red Sea to Punt. He sailed to what is now part of eastern Ethiopia and Somalia. He returned to Egypt with great treasures, including precious myrrh, metal and wood.

Ancient warfare

Ancient warfare is war as conducted from the beginnings of recorded history to the end of the ancient period. In Europe, the end of antiquity is often equated with the fall of Rome in 476. In China, it can also be seen as ending in the fifth century, with the growing role of mounted warriors needed to counter the ever-growing threat from the north.

The difference between prehistoric and ancient warfare is less one of technology than of organization. The development of first city-states, and then empires, allowed warfare to change dramatically. Beginning in Mesopotamia, states produced sufficient agricultural surplus that full-time ruling elites and military commanders could emerge. While the bulk of military forces were still farmers, the society could support having them campaigning rather than working the land for a portion of each year. Thus, organized armies developed for the first time.

These new armies could help states grow in size and became increasingly centralized, and the first empire, that of the Sumerians, formed in Mesopotamia. Early ancient armies continued to primarily use bows and spears, the same weapons that had been developed in prehistoric times for hunting. Early armies in Egypt and China followed a similar pattern of using massed infantry armed with bows and spears.

Ancient artwork and music

Ancient music is music that developed in literate cultures, replacing prehistoric music. Ancient music refers to the various musical systems that were developed across various geographical regions such as Persia, India, China, Greece, Rome, Egypt and Mesopotamia (see music of Mesopotamia, Greek music, Roman music). Ancient music is designated by the characterization of the basic audible tones and scales. It may have been transmitted through oral or written systems. Arts of the ancient world refers to the many types of art that were in the cultures of ancient societies, such as those of ancient China, India, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome

ee also

;Prehistory: Human evolution, Prehistoric man;Culture: Classical Antiquity;Other: Classics, Digital Classicist, Historiography


Citations and notes

General Information

* Citation
first =
last =
author-link =
first2 =
last2 =
author2-link =
editor-last =Alcock
editor-first =Susan E.
editor2-first =D'Altroy
editor2-last = Terence N.
editor3-first =Morrison
editor3-last = Terence N.
editor4-first =Sinopoli
editor4-last = Carla M.
title =Empires: Perspectives from Archaeology and History
year =201
pages =546
place =Cambridge
publisher =Cambridge University Press
url =
isbn =978-0521770200
id =

* Thorndike 1923, Becker 1931, MacMullen 1966, MacMullen 1990, Thomas & Wick 1993, Loftus 1996.





* Web edition is constantly updated.


* – [ Scholar search]








* Eight volumes.

ee Also

* Ram Sharan Sharma
* Pandurang Vaman Kane
* Will Durant

External links


* [ Ancient History] - Academic Info : directory of online resources for the study of ancient history.
* [ Ancient History Resources] : Ancient history research links for high school and college students

General information

* [ Ancient Civilizations] —British Museum's website on various topics of ancient civilizations
* [ Ancient history sourcebook]
* [ The Perseus digital library]
* [ Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman world]
* [ The Jewish History Resource Center] Project of the Dinur Center for Research in Jewish History, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


* [ "The Five Great Battles of Antiquity"] by David L. Smith, [ Symposion Lectures] , 30 June 2006.

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