Questions tagged [ancient-history]

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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How well can cavalry fight infantry?

In the Battle of Pharsalus, Caesar's infantry won by throwing their spears at the horsemen's faces. So how come in Battle of Zama and many other battles, including the battle where Khalid ibn al-...
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Why did Xerxes need a canal across Mount Athos peninsula?

As a preparation to his invasion of Greece, Xerxes ordered to dig a canal across Mount Athos peninsula. Digging this canal took 3 years. When I look at the map I see that this peninsula is a part of ...
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Where was human history first purposely recorded?

I recently read about ancient cave paintings in France. Would this be an example of the first purposely recorded human events? If not, what was? When did it happen and where? I am not much of an ...
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Are there non-Biblical references to collecting foreskins?

The Old Testament is awfully big on foreskins (e.g. Genesis 34 and 1 Samuel 18:27). In particular, the Israelites are fond of collecting the foreskins of their enemies, usually after they have been ...
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How did ancient armies keep the route of supplies to their battlefield?

How did ancient armies like the Romans, Greeks, Persians, Chinese, or even in later times, the Arabs and Mongols keep the route of supplies going to support their armies marching through the vast ...
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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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What would be accurate illustrations of vikings and viking culture?

Vikings didn't have horned helmets as is often depicted. Where can I find accurate representations how vikings and viking society looked?
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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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Are there examples of pre-industrial cruise ship?

A writing site I frequent is running a month-long contest in which the prompt involves a maiden voyage of any sort. The idea I've generated in response to this is one about an ancient-era (e.g. ...
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How did societies adapt to using alcohol to make water safer?

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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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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Did the Minoans practise human sacrifice?

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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Does the forearm grip/handshake have a historical basis?

I was wondering where the forearm handshake came from. I found absolutely nothing in Wikipedia, so I have no idea if this is really historically based or just a recent popular greeting. I was led to ...
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What was the early understanding of static electricity shocks?

What was the common understanding of electric shocks caused by static electricity in the ancient world and middle ages? I'm talking about the shock when you touch something on a dry day for example. ...
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What were the thoughts of the Celts, Romans and other ancient European people about the standing stones which survive from prehistoric times?

All over Europe, there are monuments of stone such as stonehenge, although many are not so grand as stonehenge is. Contra Asterix, the Celts didn't carve out menhirs and things like that. The stones ...
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Is it true that Proto-Ukrainians conquered Europe and India?

I am a Ukrainian high school student. Recently we were told by a teacher that Proto-Ukrainians, the people who lived in the modern territory of Ukraine and ancestors of modern Ukrainians, once ...
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Is chain mail expensive?

I've read many textbooks and talked to plenty of people who explained to me that making thousands of rings, then interlocking them is terribly expensive. This confuses me because history had Vikings ...
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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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Are there any existing foreign language teaching texts from the Ancient Near East?

The various cultures of the Ancient Near East spoke a wide array of languages and we know that there was plenty of communication between cultures. We even have a language like Akkadian that served as ...
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Is Josephus 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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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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Can history shed any light on the "secret arts" of the Egyptian magicians who turned their staffs into serpents as claimed by Exodus 7:11-12?

The biblical story of Exodus 7:11-12 talks about the alleged existence of some "secret arts" that the magicians of Egypt made use of to accomplish the feat of turning staffs into serpents: ...
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What were the origins of Etruscan Civilisation?

Given the differences between Etruscan civilisation and other Italian peoples of the same period, is the conclusion that Etruscan civilisation was autochthonous sensible?
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What words were obliterated from the Great Colonnade at Palmyra?

One of the columns at the Great Colonnade at Palmyra features a dedicatory inscription to Zenobia and Odaenathus. It is bilingual, recording the same text in Greek and Palmyrenean: (Image credit: ...
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Were there any Roman villas in Britain which were used rather than destroyed after the Romans left?

As noted in the post Are there any ideas as to what the English landscape was like before the arrival of the Angles? , the infrastructure and buildings which the Romans left behind gradually fell ...
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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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What ships did pirates use in ancient Greece and Rome?

I imagine they did not have the funds to buy or build heavy military ships, so I wonder what did they use. Did they re-purpose civilian ships?
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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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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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When did Greek historians stop believing Greek mythology to be historical fact?

In Greek mythology, there are all kinds of historical stories. Fire from Mount Olympus, founding of Thebes, not to mention actions of the gods. First, is it safe to assume that there was a time in ...
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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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Was hitchhiking common in ancient Rome?

I am writing a story about a soldier who survived an ambush and he hid several days. Then he walked to a village. While he was on the way (walking on a road) he saw a caravan ... So my question is: ...
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Why didn't the Roman Princeps restructure or dismantle the Praetorian Guard?

Why did the princeps/emperors of various dynasties prior to Constantine the Great (d.337 AD) allow the Praetorian Guard to continue to amass such power and repeatedly cause trouble, including palace ...
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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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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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Instances of Jauhar around the world

Is there any evidence that the practice similar to Jauhar existed in places other than India? It seems like a pretty effective way, however brutal it may be, to escape slavery, rapes and imprisonment ...
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Early history of prime numbers

Prime numbers are those whole numbers greater than 1 which cannot be written as a product of numbers greater than 1. I'm curious about their very early history, say 200 BC and earlier. What I know: ...
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Comparison of Ancient Greecian and Egyptian schools and methods of studying to modern day

I've been watching some documentary that stated that our modern schools are used to make people submit to authority and think in a linear way. Just to make us good workers. And I wonder - What was ...
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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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Did the biblical apostle James visit Ireland?

I remember reading in a magazine that the biblical apostle James the Greater visited Ireland 400 years before Saint Patrick. Is it true that he went on a mission to Northern Ireland? Forgive me if I ...
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What was the northernmost region/city in the Roman Empire that spoke Greek as the native language?

My understanding is that prior to the migrations/invasions of the Goths, Huns and Sklavenoi into the Balkan peninsula, Greek and Latin where the most common native languages, alongside other steadily ...
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Is there a relationship between the Pelasgians and Sea Peoples?

Wikipedia describes the Pelasgians as follows: all the indigenous inhabitants of the Aegean Sea region and their cultures before the advent of the Greek language. And that these people where seen ...
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Does modern scholarship accept an Ethiopian or Nubian origin for Egyptian hieroglyphs?

Diodorus Siculus made the claim that the Hieroglyphs were actually an Ethiopian script, which was held sacred by the Egyptians and was learned and transmitted only within the priestly families of ...
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Were women allowed to study at the Library of Alexandria?

The closest thing I've been able to find on the topic was in relation to Hypatia, the mathematician, who was born centuries after the library was burned. Is there a list of known people who studied at ...
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What was the ancient Jewish pantheon?

I have read that before the invention of monotheism, the Jews worshipped multiple gods of which traces remain in various texts. So I wonder whether it is possible to reconstruct it and what the gods ...
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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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Is David Graeber correct to assert that patriarchy did not exist in Sumeria?

In Debt: The First 5000 Years, David Graeber incisively claims that As we’ll see, there is reason to believe that it is in such moral crises that we can find the origin not only of our current ...
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How big were the biggest elections during the ancient era?

According to this question - Why did non-monarchic rule meet with so little success in ancient China?, elections in the ancient era were mostly conducted in city-states, due to feasibility, logistical ...
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Did Nabataean traders use linen, or cotton, for their sails?

While studying the Arab and African sea trade along the Red Sea and points south, I read an article on Nabataea.net that reads It is thought that originally sails were woven from coconut of palm ...
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What were the political and military constraints on Vercingetorix at Alesia?

I don't fully understand why Vercingetorix accepted a siege at Alesia (a fortified area), where he would be short of food instead of pursuing one or more of the alternatives below. The reason I'm ...

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