242 votes

Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

History is fact littered with civilisations engaged in unsustainable practices. Some of the worst offenders have long since collapsed, but the ecological damage they caused or contributed to often ...
  • 96.3k
112 votes

Why, in ancient battles, did being encircled mean defeat?

While the total encirclement might be the most impressive thing about Cannae, remember that it's just a special case of a pincer movement where the pincer goes all the way around the enemy. A pincer ...
  • 3,055
104 votes
Accepted

Why, in ancient battles, did being encircled mean defeat?

While the tactical factor (not being able to move units around) is important, the main issue is one of soldiers panicking. Remember that it does not matter what the numbers are actually; your soldiers ...
  • 12.3k
99 votes

Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

It is difficult to be completely sure because of the lack of written records, but some claim that the collapse at Easter Island was rather brutal. But it seems clear that: By that time [of the ...
  • 12.3k
94 votes
Accepted

What were paper airplanes called before there were real airplanes? (i.e. untethered winged flyers, not kites or balloons)

They were called paper darts in the 19th century, as evidenced in this article, which contains many detailed references going back as far as 1864, and many illustrations In fact, it appears that they ...
  • 4,088
90 votes
Accepted

How did archers judge distance before range finders?

I'm a horse archer; we use instinctive archery – there are no range finders, just a bow, a string an arrow and an archer. After a few thousand shots at various ranges, your body just knows how to aim ...
  • 31.1k
82 votes
Accepted

Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

Most ancient agricultural practices deplete soil to some degree, but are just fine when population does not exceed certain limits. There are some examples of ancient cultures exhausting natural ...
78 votes
Accepted

Cultural understanding of Penelope's suitors

Xenia is a concept that represented the relationship between guests and hosts in Ancient Greece, and is a recurring theme in the Odyssey, Iliad, and other Greek works. Essentially, Penelope was ...
  • 3,863
78 votes

What were paper airplanes called before there were real airplanes? (i.e. untethered winged flyers, not kites or balloons)

Short Answer (Paper) Dart and (Paper) Arrow These terms were used from at least the 1860s. However, not all of these designs were what we would today recognize and call 'paper planes'. Some clearly ...
76 votes
Accepted

How did the ancient Greeks synchronize time?

In the particular case of Eratosthenes measuring the radius of the earth, it was done by observing the length of shadows at midday on the summer solstice, in cities that were north-south aligned (to ...
  • 3,155
72 votes
Accepted

Were ancient ships named?

Xenophon in his Hellenica (an account of the last yearsof the Peloponessian War and its aftermath) mentions several named ships, for example, "Paralus" and "Salaminia". Thus, we can infer that at ...
71 votes
Accepted

Has an heir ever made the country believe the current ruler died in order to take over the throne?

Yes. King John of England attempted to take the throne from Richard I while he was on crusade. Richard's delayed return was due to the fact that he had been taken prisoner by Leopold V, Duke of ...
65 votes

Did slaves have slaves?

This happened in Roman Times judging by two notes in Slaves doing business: the role of Roman law in the economy of a Roman household by Richard Gamauf (2009): A Roman slave could hold property which,...
64 votes
Accepted

How did they cook on ancient ships?

That's a good question. As far as we know, most ancient voyages didn't venture that far from land. Ships like the Bronze Age Uluburun and Cape Gelidonya shipwrcks are thought to have been coastal ...
  • 76.5k
63 votes
Accepted

Did slaves have slaves?

Short Answer Yes. There are examples of slaves owning slaves from different historical periods and in different regions of the world, including: Ancient Near East Early Medieval Sunni Islam Late ...
59 votes

Were ancient ships named?

The autobiography of Ahmose, son of Abana, a Egyptian soldier in the early Eighteenth Dynasty (1550-1600 BC), mentions the names of a few the ships he was on. "Wild Bull", "Northern" and "Rising in ...
  • 648
56 votes

Is it true that Proto-Ukrainians conquered Europe and India?

Based on what you've told us, your teacher is most likely thinking of the Proto-Indo-European people (Note: I am NOT saying it is accurate to call the PIE people "Proto-Ukrainians"). According to the ...
  • 96.3k
54 votes

Did the ancients or other pre-industrial civilisations engage in unsustainable practices?

For the list, read Collapse by Jared Diamond. The short answer is that yes, premodern cultures definitely experienced man-made environmental disasters. Perhaps the number one cause of these was ...
  • 13k
51 votes
Accepted

How did people distinguish slaves from free people in Ancient Rome?

Well, I suppose it's a matter of means plus motivation. If you're educated - read/speak Greek and Latin etc - then you'd be valuable, and only the psychopathic master would mistreat a valuable ...
  • 7,774
51 votes

Are there historical texts in England querying where Roman structures came from?

For the Anglo-Saxons, the knowledge that it was the Romans whose city it was is less relevant than why those cities were there no more, or, well, why they were in such a poor state. However, for a ...
  • 10.6k
49 votes

How accurate or supported is Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel"?

The book is well written and well explained; Jared Diamond actually takes real pain to explain that his theories are not implacable and must not be taken as a 100% reliable blueprint for predicting ...
47 votes
Accepted

How prevalent were recreational drugs in the ancient world?

Drugs are certainly not a new phenomenon. Two well-known examples are opiates and cannabis. A great deal has been written about the use of hashish by medieval Nizari Ismailis (which gave us the word "...
  • 76.5k
47 votes

Fermat's statement about the ancients: How serious was he?

There is a difference between abstract knowledge and "inventions". In the 17th century it was still widely believed that the ancient Greeks had discovered and formulated pretty much the sum total of ...
  • 9,483
47 votes
Accepted

What is the earliest mention of space travel?

You should define more precisely what do you mean by "space travel" when you are talking about pre-Galileo times. For example, Elijah, the prophet, was taken to heavens in a chariot of fire, ...
  • 37.5k
46 votes
Accepted

Which religion was the first monotheistic one?

Judaism is very old, but it was not originally monotheistic (see below). An earlier instance of monotheistic or monotheistic-esque worship occurred in the form of Atenism, the worship of the deified ...
  • 96.3k
46 votes
Accepted

Who was the first female ruler to be given the suffix, "the great"?

The only candidate apart from Catherine the Great would appear to be Tamar the Great of Georgia. Born in 1166, she ruled as sole monarch from 1184 to 1213 (or possibly 1210), having been made co-ruler ...
46 votes

Did ancient peoples ever hide their treasure behind puzzles?

One man's lock is another man's puzzle. Combination locks have been used since at least ancient Rome. Whether the lock uses numbers or letters (or other symbols), the combination to be entered may be ...
45 votes

Why did Sun Tzu believe you shouldn't wait beside a river when eager to fight?

Verse 3. After crossing a river, you should get far away from it. If the river is a barrier, you can be hemmed in against it. If your enemy is the one hemmed in, they also have a defense on at ...
  • 3,587
45 votes

What is the difference between the Ancient Greek religion and the Ancient Roman religion?

The biggest difference that I'm aware of is that the Classical Greek religion was much more the religion of myths that we all know, while the Classical Roman religion had fewer personifications and ...
  • 5,982
44 votes

Aside from the Pyramids, what is the tallest man-made structure still standing in Europe & the Near East from ancient times?

I suppose that the Neolithic Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, built about 2470 - 2350 BC, is probably a contender for any list of the tallest European structures from ancient times. At 39.3 metres (129 ft) ...
  • 76.5k

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