This question is probably tricky to answer accurately. One possibility is probably to look when ancient people and societies started to be seriously interested in history of earlier tribes or started to develop myths and legends like Achilles of Troja. It's not far from making up history to be interested in history. Can you give examples when first a king/tribe started to act clearly (in noted argumentation, unreasonable expensive wars/buildings) in a way to push his historical fame in the future (this means not only for the next living generation, every father wants to impress his family and relatives) but for decades, centuries. When did ancient people start to get interested also not only in their recent history, but history happening centuries ago?

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    I'm not sure that it is possible to give a meaningful answer. Individuals may have been thinking about posterity in prehistoric times. We can only answer "When did figures we depict in history begin thinking about an arbitrary definition of acting historically?" In one sense, every tale/poem/song we have is evidence that someone wanted to be remembered beyond their immediate family.
    – MCW
    Dec 9, 2013 at 14:42

3 Answers 3


Certainly from at least the time of Hammurabi and his Code of Laws, circa 1780 B.C., as the excerpt below readily shows (translated by L. W. King):

When Anu the Sublime, King of the Anunaki, and Bel, the lord of Heaven and earth, who decreed the fate of the land, assigned to Marduk, the over-ruling son of Ea, God of righteousness, dominion over earthly man, and made him great among the Igigi, they called Babylon by his illustrious name, made it great on earth, and founded an everlasting kingdom in it, whose foundations are laid so solidly as those of heaven and earth; then Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak; so that I should rule over the black-headed people like Shamash, and enlighten the land, to further the well-being of mankind.

If that is not a pitch to history for everlasting fame and glory, I can't think of what might be.

  • "they called Babylon by his illustrious name" I don't understand, the name "Babylon" doesn't sound like any other in this same paragraph...
    – o0'.
    Dec 9, 2013 at 10:41
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    @Lohoris: It's a "translation" into English. Dec 9, 2013 at 13:13
  • @o0'. Babylon comes from bab-ili meaning gate of God (Il/El). Il/El being a generic term for a god, but also being used to refer to specific gods. In this case, it would refer to Marduk. In other words, they called the city "Gate of Marduk". Apr 26, 2016 at 19:28
  • @called2voyage: In the specific translation above, referencing Bel, perhaps "bab-Bel" would be a slight improvement on "bab-el". Apr 26, 2016 at 20:09
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    @PieterGeerkens In the original language you can see Enlil in place of Bel: wikisource.org/wiki/Codex_Hammurabi Apr 26, 2016 at 20:17

It is theorized that ancient Proto-Indo-Europeans (4000-3000 BC) considered fame and glory as a form of (at least symbolic) immortality. Thus earning war glory was very important for their warriors.

The memory of their deeds was transmitted in oral form by poets.

In connection with this, one should mention the reconstructed expression in PIE language cleu̯os ndhğhitom (retained in Greek as kleos aphiton, Old Indic sravas aksitam) dated to PIE time, which means "imperishable fame" (literally, "non-burnable").


For me, I'd cite Ashurbanipal II and his famed stones he erected to depict some acts. They were the size of fridge and they were made to instruct people, if I recall correctly.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashurbanipal is quite well documented and, on a more humorous note you can also read http://www.badassoftheweek.com/index.cgi?id=461274131521

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