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The Ancient World

The modern world has inherited many cultural elements from ancient civilizations, from communications systems to ways of improving technology. Their stories, battles, and views on life are still relevant today for a full understanding of our world and our cultural legacy.

The Ancient World Encyclopedia Articles

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Han dynasty
Han dynasty, the second great imperial dynasty of China (206 bce–220 ce), after the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 bce). It succeeded the Qin dynasty (221–207 bce). So thoroughly did the Han dynasty establish what was thereafter considered Chinese culture that “Han” became the Chinese word denoting someone...
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World
China: Han dynasty
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt, civilization in northeastern Africa that dates from the 4th millennium bce. Its many achievements, preserved in its art and monuments, hold a fascination that continues to grow as archaeological finds expose its secrets. This article focuses on Egypt from its prehistory through its...
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World
Sphinx and the Great Pyramid of Khufu
Sphinx
Sphinx, mythological creature with a lion’s body and a human head, an important image in Egyptian and Greek art and legend. The word sphinx was derived by Greek grammarians from the verb sphingein (“to bind” or “to squeeze”), but the etymology is not related to the legend and is dubious. Hesiod,...
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World
The Great Sphinx at Giza, 4th dynasty.
Ancient Middle East
Ancient Middle East, history of the region from prehistoric times to the rise of civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and other areas. The high antiquity of civilization in the Middle East is largely due to the existence of convenient land bridges and easy sea lanes passable in summer or winter, in...
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World
The ancient Middle East.
Gilgamesh
Gilgamesh, the best known of all ancient Mesopotamian heroes. Numerous tales in the Akkadian language have been told about Gilgamesh, and the whole collection has been described as an odyssey—the odyssey of a king who did not want to die. The fullest extant text of the Gilgamesh epic is on 12...
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World
Epic of Gilgamesh
Attila
Attila, king of the Huns from 434 to 453 (ruling jointly with his elder brother Bleda until 445). He was one of the greatest of the barbarian rulers who assailed the Roman Empire, invading the southern Balkan provinces and Greece and then Gaul and Italy. In legend he appears under the name Etzel in...
Biography
Attila
History of Mesopotamia
History of Mesopotamia, history of the region in southwestern Asia where the world’s earliest civilization developed. The name comes from a Greek word meaning “between rivers,” referring to the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, but the region can be broadly defined to include the area...
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World
Sites associated with ancient Mesopotamian history.
Greco-Persian Wars
Greco-Persian Wars, (492–449 bce), a series of wars fought by Greek states and Persia over a period of almost half a century. The fighting was most intense during two invasions that Persia launched against mainland Greece between 490 and 479. Although the Persian empire was at the peak of its...
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World
Battle of Salamis
Ancient Greek civilization
Ancient Greek civilization, the period following Mycenaean civilization, which ended about 1200 bce, to the death of Alexander the Great, in 323 bce. It was a period of political, philosophical, artistic, and scientific achievements that formed a legacy with unparalleled influence on Western...
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World
Athens: Acropolis
Chichén Itzá
Chichén Itzá, ruined ancient Maya city occupying an area of 4 square miles (10 square km) in south-central Yucatán state, Mexico. It is thought to have been a religious, military, political, and commercial centre that at its peak would have been home to 35,000 people. The site first saw settlers in...
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World
Chichén Itzá: Casa de las Monjas
Roman Empire
Roman Empire, the ancient empire, centred on the city of Rome, that was established in 27 bce following the demise of the Roman Republic and continuing to the final eclipse of the Empire of the West in the 5th century ce. A brief treatment of the Roman Empire follows. For full treatment, see...
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World
Roman Empire
Seleucid empire
Seleucid empire, (312–64 bce), an ancient empire that at its greatest extent stretched from Thrace in Europe to the border of India. It was carved out of the remains of Alexander the Great’s Macedonian empire by its founder, Seleucus I Nicator. (See also Hellenistic Age.) Seleucus, one of...
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World
Babylon
Babylon, one of the most famous cities of antiquity. It was the capital of southern Mesopotamia (Babylonia) from the early 2nd millennium to the early 1st millennium bce and capital of the Neo-Babylonian (Chaldean) empire in the 7th and 6th centuries bce, when it was at the height of its splendour....
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World
A reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate at the ruins of Babylon, near modern Al-?illah, Iraq.
Zhou dynasty
Zhou dynasty, dynasty that ruled ancient China for some eight centuries, establishing the distinctive political and cultural characteristics that were to be identified with China for the next two millennia. The beginning date of the Zhou has long been debated. Traditionally, it has been given as...
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World
Zhou dynasty: ceremonial bronze gui
Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor (161–180 ce), best known for his Meditations on Stoic philosophy. Marcus Aurelius has symbolized for many generations in the West the Golden Age of the Roman Empire. When he was born, his paternal grandfather was already consul for the second time and prefect of Rome,...
Biography
Marcus Aurelius
Trojan War
Trojan War, legendary conflict between the early Greeks and the people of Troy in western Anatolia, dated by later Greek authors to the 12th or 13th century bce. The war stirred the imagination of the ancient Greeks more than any other event in their history and was celebrated in the Iliad and the...
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World
Tiepolo, Giovanni Domenico: The Procession of the Trojan Horse into Troy
Cleopatra
Cleopatra, (Greek: “Famous in Her Father”) Egyptian queen, famous in history and drama as the lover of Julius Caesar and later as the wife of Mark Antony. She became queen on the death of her father, Ptolemy XII, in 51 bce and ruled successively with her two brothers Ptolemy XIII (51–47) and...
Biography
Cleopatra
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome, the state centred on the city of Rome. This article discusses the period from the founding of the city and the regal period, which began in 753 bc, through the events leading to the founding of the republic in 509 bc, the establishment of the empire in 27 bc, and the final eclipse of...
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World
ancient Rome
Stone Age
Stone Age, prehistoric cultural stage, or level of human development, characterized by the creation and use of stone tools. The Stone Age, whose origin coincides with the discovery of the oldest known stone tools, which have been dated to some 3.3 million years ago, is usually divided into three...
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World
Uniface blade and three end scrapers.
Aegean civilizations
Aegean civilizations, the Stone and Bronze Age civilizations that arose and flourished in the area of the Aegean Sea in the periods, respectively, about 7000–3000 bc and about 3000–1000 bc. The area consists of Crete, the Cyclades and some other islands, and the Greek mainland, including the...
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World
Principal sites associated with Aegean civilizations.
Pre-Columbian civilizations
Pre-Columbian civilizations, the aboriginal American Indian cultures that evolved in Mesoamerica (part of Mexico and Central America) and the Andean region (western South America) prior to Spanish exploration and conquest in the 16th century. The pre-Columbian civilizations were extraordinary...
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World
Mesoamerican civilization
Peloponnesian War
Peloponnesian War, (431–404 bce), war fought between the two leading city-states in ancient Greece, Athens and Sparta. Each stood at the head of alliances that, between them, included nearly every Greek city-state. The fighting engulfed virtually the entire Greek world, and it was properly regarded...
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World
Peloponnesian War
Cuneiform
Cuneiform, system of writing used in the ancient Middle East. The name, a coinage from Latin and Middle French roots meaning “wedge-shaped,” has been the modern designation from the early 18th century onward. Cuneiform was the most widespread and historically significant writing system in the...
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World
Sumerian cuneiform tablet
Bronze Age
Bronze Age, third phase in the development of material culture among the ancient peoples of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, following the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods (Old Stone Age and New Stone Age, respectively). The term also denotes the first period in which metal was used. The date at...
Encyclopedia / The Ancient World

The Ancient World Encyclopedia Articles

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