Ancient history was from the beginning of recorded history (c. 4000 B.C.) until the fall of the Roman Empire (c. A.D. 500).

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What is the story of war that started with “if”?

I was told about a story, of how one army sent terms to another army threatening 'if' they did not obey them, they would be punished. The receiving army replied to the threat with one word "if". I ...
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Is there a civilization that never believed in God in the ancient times?

I'm not obviously talking about small groups or individuals but about an actual civilization that never believed about the existence of a supreme essence. Is atheism just a modern concept?
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Did the biblical apostle James visit Ireland?

I remember reading in a magazine that the biblical apostle James visited Ireland 400 years before Saint Patrick. Is it true that he went on a mission to Northern Ireland? Forgive me if I overlooked ...
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What do we know about the organizational structure of the Library of Alexandria?

The Royal Library of Alexandria is estimated to have had over half a million documents and house about 100 scholars, according to this article. This would suggest a fairly decentralized archiving ...
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When did Hinduism forbid overseas travel?

Reading a comment made on this site, I saw something very curious: Why not blame it on the ancient Hindu belief that traveling overseas pollutes a person irredeemably, thereby stunting the growth ...
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How many hours per day did a Sumerian farmer sleep?

I wonder about the life-styles of the inhabitants of ancient civilizations. As a particular case, if we consider the era of Sumer, what are the significant diversities compared to rural life today?
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Why were the Huns so successful at siege warfare but the Goths were not?

I am listening to Mike Duncan's podcast titled "The History of Rome" and in it he mentioned that it is kind of a mystery that the Huns were so successful at siege warfare but the Goths were not. Both ...
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When did the Hebrews stop speaking Hebrew and start speaking Aramaic?

The Torah was written Hebrew, and most of the old testament was written in Hebrew, although parts of Daniel were written in Aramaic. By the time of the 1st century, Aramaic was the common language for ...
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How Was Roman Military Equipment Created and Distributed

When discussing the logistics of Roman armies, I usually see consumables and seigework discussed the most. However, I've been wondering about how the arms, armor, and tools were created and ...
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How were fortification doors protected against fire?

Ancient and medieval fortifications are often shown to have wooden gate doors in the midst of their stone walls. Now granted, these doors are often massive and incredibly thick, but it still seems ...
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Real-life examples of finding long-lost treasure?

Whether it's Indiana Jones, National Treasure, or the latest Dan Brown novel, popular culture has fallen in love with the idea of finding long-lost treasure, preferably in some elaborate underground ...
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Was Alexander the Great Greek or Macedonian?

This question has been confusing me for a while. Was Alexander the Great Greek or Macedonian? He was born in Pella, Macedonia, but is he considered Greek? Did nationality and ethnicity mean different ...
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Was Theodoric the Great killed by Justinian?

In a recent Medieval History class my professor made a statement that Theodoric the Great after he signed up with Byzantines was killed on the orders of Justinian I so the Byzantines could take over ...
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Josephus as a Legitimate Historical Text

Are Josephus and other Ancient writings considered Historically sound or does the fact that his numbers are sometimes overly Inflated to aggrandize his fellow countrymen make it a source of ...
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Instances of Jauhar around the world

Are there any evidence that the practice similar to Jauhar existed in places other than India too? It seems like a pretty effective way, however brutal it may be, to escape slavery, rapes and ...
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Was there human sacrifice in ancient Crete?

Excavations on the hill of Kydonia, near Chania in Crete, where the third largest palace of the Minoan civilization was, revealed a small area fenced by rocks in the yard, with many animal bones and ...
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What was the first known war in history?

Not the first instance of warfare, which surely predates recorded history, but of an organized war between civilizations. For the purposes of this question I'll define a war as: Defined scope: the ...
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In what language did Caractacus deliver his speech to the emperor Claudius?

In The Annals, the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus wrote about the British chieftain Caractacus and how he was captured by the Romans. According to him, Caractacus was taken to Rome along with his ...
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Has history mistreated Nero?

Nero is (wrongly) "known" as the Emperor who "fiddled while Rome burned." But he did kill a number of prominent people, including his own mother. He is treated by much of history as a psychopath, and ...
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Which undeciphered writing system has the largest corpus of text?

Dozens of ancient writing systems are still undeciphered. My question is: Which of them has the largest number of known inscriptions (and might thus be most accessible to future decipherment, though ...
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Did the Celts really go into battle naked?

Yes, this of-repeated tale was reported by the Romans all the time, but it sounds a lot like rumor. Stuff the victors write about their former enemies, "they were so stupid, they went into battle ...
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Why did monarchy become common practice after the fall of Rome?

Why did the government of most nations after the fall of Rome and the beginning of medieval age turn to monarchy? Before the fall of Rome most nations seem to be organized after different model and ...
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Was early Sumerian civilization wiped out by a flood?

Sumerian texts speak of a worldwide flood that wiped out most of mankind's achievements on earth. I had always suspected such a flood -- even if only covering all of Sumer -- was mythical, but then I ...
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Army formation: veterans at the first line

I am trying to understand the early roman legion deployment. I can see some advantages to putting the inexperienced warriors at the first line and the veterans at the last. But have there been ...
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Did the Delphic oracle speak gibberish?

Wikipedia's article on the Delphic oracle says: The usual theory has been that the Pythia delivered oracles in a frenzied state induced by vapors rising from a chasm in the rock, and that she ...
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How to validate a historical source

You can learn and understand history various ways such as learning in a university, reading books, being taught by someone with a background in history, watching TV, browsing the internet, or, in my ...
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When did key locks first appear?

When and where did the first metal key locks appear (not the door bolts)? When did they became widespread?
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Why do Strabo, Pliny and Diodorus cite Pytheas in disbelief?

According to the wikipedia page on Germanic tribes, (direct quotation) The first news about the Germanic world are contained in the lost Pytheas work. It is believed that Pytheas travelled to ...
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Animal “blood lust”

I remember reading in some older books about ancient combat that animals would sometimes get "into the fight" so to speak. For lack of a better term, this was evidenced by horses actually attacking ...
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Who came up with the name “Peloponnesian War”?

If I understand correctly, Thucydides actually called his book just History. If that is correct, then at what point did it become known as History of the Peloponnesian War? EDIT: Here is how he ...
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How widespread was the practice of chaining slave rowers to the ships?

In many historical paintings one can see slave rowers chained to the ships. I wonder whether this practice was indeed widespread? Were the chains permanent or allowed quick disconnection? Were the ...
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At the Battle of Zama, was the Roman army more “native” than the Carthaginian?

At the battle of Zama, which army had a higher proportion of native troops? Within the context of this question consider troops to be either "native" or "mercenary". Native troops serve out of ...
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What went on during multi-year sieges?

You hear all the time in ancient history about cities or fortresses being besieged for a year, or two years, or even many years such as the sieges of Tripoli or Carthage or Drepana. I'm wondering, ...
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How often did city-destroying floods happen in Mesopotamia?

I keep seeing Mesopotamia described as a floodplain, and I'm finding inklings of evidence that some cities in ancient Mesopotamia were actually destroyed by floods. But how common of an occurrence ...
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How widespread was practice of fusion of Graeco-Roman and barbarian names?

There are some instances when barbarian names were romanized in order to be similar to already existing Roman or Greek names. Just some examples that come to mind: Hebrew Martha -> Marta ("of Mars") ...
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What kind of crew members did ancient artillery teams consist of?

According to what I understand from Pieter's answer to the question "Why didn't the Persians make and use ballistas and other kinds of artillery?", he said that since 2,000 years ago until now, ...
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How would a large kingdom be ruled?

Genghis Khan, Alexander etc. are rulers who had kingdoms which were larger than most of the countries now. How would they have ruled their countries efficiently when it would take weeks for ...
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Was hitchhiking common in Ancient Rome?

I am writing a story about a soldier who survived from an ambush and he hide several days.then he walked to a village, While he is on the way(walking on a road) he saw a caravan ... so my question is ...
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Historical use of alcohol as a source of clean water

I've heard that there were two common methods to disinfecting water in the past: boiling water or turning it into alcohol. Presumably, those in the East relied on boiling water, while those in the ...
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Is there any documentation regarding the use of war elephants in battles?

Does anyone know of any battles where war elephants played either a major or decisive part in the victory of whoever had them? As far as I know, they were mostly used for the fear factor and were ...
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What happened to all the notable Roman families?

What happened to the numerous (patrician) families of Rome? Like the Gens Julia for example. There are no ancestors today leading back to them like for example the famous Medici family from ...
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How did the ancient Chinese coordinate armies of tens and hundreds of thousands?

According to what I've read, during the Warring States period and also later during the Three Kingdoms period there were armies of the magnitude of (a few) hundred thousands. How could they ...
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Was Jesus depicted as dark skinned during the beginning of christianity

I have seen depictions of Jesus classified under "early christian art" and in the earliest depictions of Jesus he was of a much darker skin tone and I also seen the early "black madonnas" (the dark ...
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Who was the first woman ruler?

I've found that speaking of the first woman ruler in history, most common materials (like Wikipedia or Britannica) point at the Egyptian pharaon Hatshepsut, living in the 16th century BCE. As a source ...
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Are the Ramayana and Mahabharatha exaggerated stories or pure fiction?

I would like to know the opinion of historians on the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha. I can accept that they are excessively exaggerated and glorify people as Gods, but are they totally fiction? Do we ...
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Why haven't Etruscan texts survived?

In Wikipedia it's claimed that Etruscan Civilization had a rich literature, but only one Etruscan text has survived. And AFAIK at the same moment we have many Ancient Greeks texts roughly from the ...
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Did the Romans “copy” their political system from the Greeks?

This is an outgrowth of the discussion here. My sense is that the Romans developed their system autochthonously, probably with some influence from their Etruscan neigbours and one-time-overlords. ...
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What are the problems archaeologists face in deciphering Indus Valley writing?

From this link on Indus Valley writing, I came to know that: The first Indian script, developed in the Indus Valley around 2600 B.C. is still undeciphered. Thus, it is still not possible to fully ...
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Who invented the first flag?

An answer on this site claims that the first flags were heraldic flags used in battles. But when was this, and for which nations?
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Did a forged seal ever seriously compromise a political or military operation?

Wax and clay seals have always struck me as a rather imperfect security mechanism. Better than nothing, of course, but imperfect. So I was interested to learn that Los Alamos National Laboratory's ...