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Information on famous people, characters, and gods and goddesses in the ancient world. You'll find them arranged alphabetically and topically, with the big ones highlighted. You'll also information on ancient locations. Geographic entities here do not correspond well with modern geography.
  1. People
  2. Gods and Goddesses
  3. Rulers
  4. Heroes
  5. Playwrights
  6. Writers
  7. Ancient Historians
  8. Philosophers
  9. Religious Leaders
  1. Rome
  2. Greece
  3. China
  4. Egypt
  5. People of the Bible
  6. India
  7. Places
  8. Mesopotamia
  9. Maps and Geography

People

Cleopatra

What's history without the people? Here you'll find an A-Z that covers more than the basics, a list of people you really should know, and an occupation index, in case you know job but not name. Within the lists, you'll find military/political leaders like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Cleopatra, important cultural icons like Homer, Vergil (Virgil), and Aristotle, and legendary or mythological figures.

Gods and Goddesses

Copy of Praxiteles' Aphrodite of Knidos.

Ancient gods and goddesses weren't ignored six days a week and then prayed to in a church on Sundays. Most ancient cultures credited the gods with the powers of nature. If it rained, blame the rain god. If you couldn't get pregnant, check in with the fertility goddess. In the ancient world, there were hundreds of spirits, gods and goddesses. In general, each god, goddess or spirit had control over specific powers of nature. They also administered to human activities like war and some behaved in a way we would describe as badly.

Rulers

Ramses II at the Battle of Kadesh from Abu Simbel.

Kings, emperors, and other monarchs who ruled ancient city-states or empires. Some of these rulers were members of ruling dynasties; others were elected or otherwise appointed. Mostly, you'll find chronological lists of kings here.

Heroes

Hercules lifts Antaeus

Would the ancient Greeks have counted you a hero for saving a puppy from a burning building? Possibly, but probably not. Heroes were expected to be a certain calibre of person, between an ordinary mortal and a god. Their fathers were kings if not gods -- usually the randier gods, Zeus or Poseidon -- and they were expected to have arete 'virtue'. Adversity humbled them.

Playwrights

Theatrical masks of comedy and tragedy on Roman mosaic.

Imagine the world of Shakespeare and the Globe Theatre. Now go back further to a time when men still played the parts of women, but plays were part of a religious ceremony. The ancient Greeks are credited with inventing theater, as an element in their religious celebrations to which they zealously attached contests and prizes. Here are the most famous of the Greek playwrights in tragedy and comedy, as well as their successors in Roman drama.

Writers

Marble Bust of Homer

Time, fires, and the monks of the Middle Ages have prevented us from reading all the great literature of the ancient world. Having lost so much, we put a premium on the relatively small corpus of ancient literature that we have. The competitive ancient Greeks and Romans kept modifying and improving their literary forms. Greeks developed poetic and theatrical genres. Romans invented a genre that did more than entertain: It insulted. This now popular genre is satire.

Ancient Historians

Herodotus

The ancient Greeks are credited with inventing the genre of history. We tend to lump together with historians proper, like the father of history (or lies) Herodotus, people who wrote biographies, like Plutarch, and geographers. You'll find them here.

Philosophers

Socrates in Marble at the Archaeological Museum in Athens

The Greeks are credited with inventing philosophy. Of the philsophers, the Greek Socrates is probably the best known. Here you'll find information on ancient Pre-Socratic philosophers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, Epicureans, Stoics, and the eastern philosopher we know as Confucius.

Religious Leaders

Augustine, by Sandro Botticelli, c. 1480.

Religious leaders include the Church fathers who were known for their piety and for creating the standards of Christianity, as well as some of the major figures from other ancient world religions and ethical systems.

Rome

The Mediterranean Before the 2nd Punic War

Ancient Rome started as a small community in Italy founded, according to legend, in 753 B.C. By the time it fell, at a date that is often given as A.D. 476, Rome had spread its empire, legal system, roads, and language not only around the Mediterranean Sea, but into continental Europe, parts of Asia, and Britain. It would be hard to overstate the impact Rome had on the world.

Greece

Homer

It is to ancient Greece that we owe much of the culture we take for granted, including democracy, the Olympics, and the theater. Natural observation led to the Hippocratic medicine and the oath medical practitioners still honor, as well as the beginnings of other physical sciences and philosophy. Under Alexander the Great, the Greek world spread all the way to India and Greek was the lingua franca in the time of Jesus. Here you'll also find introductions to the periods of Greek history, a look at the geography, and a selection of the most important basic topics to know in Greek history.

China

Bronze vessels from Zhou Dynasty  at the Baoji Bronze Museum in Baoji of Shaanxi Province, China.

China developed an advanced culture far from the Mediterranean, but there was indirect contact through the Silk Road. China made important contributions to the world even in the ancient period. It developed paper, gunpowder, and a seismograph, among other things.

Egypt

The Sphinx in front of the Pyramid of Chephren

During ancient history, Egypt was an enduring presence on the southern border of the Mediterranean Sea. These resources explore aspects of the culture of ancient Egypt until the time it became part of the Roman Empire.

People of the Bible

Moses in front of Pharaoh by Haydar Hatemi, Persian Artist.

Purposely ambiguous in order to apply to both the New Testament and the Hebrew Bible as well as scholarship about both, here you'll find information on both verifiable and legendary figures in Bible history, as well as important people connected with the Bible -- like the Jewish historian Josephus who is used in arguments about the verifiability of Jesus.

India

An inscription in Pali.

The Indian Subcontinent, like the other areas of the ancient world, was only gradually unified. Early areas where writing was found are in the area of modern Pakistan. Ancient India is the home of the Rig Veda, Buddhism, the Arian Invasion controversy, and more.

Places

Hannibal World Map

Names of ancient places do not always correspond with their modern equivalents. Political borders are different.

Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia From The Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography

Mesopotamia is the land between the rivers, and is basically modern Iraq. It is part of the Fertile Crescent and is sometimes known as the Cradle of Civilization. Surrounding areas, including Syria and Armenia, were incorporated into the competing empires of the region.

Maps and Geography

Peutinger Tablet

Ancient maps of the Roman Empire include much of what we think of as Europe, parts of Asia, and Northern Africa; the geographic borders of Asia fluctuated with the dominant empires; Sudan and Egypt are in both the Near East and Africa.

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