The world at the beginning of the 2nd century CE was one of great empires. In the east, the Han Empire had consolidated its control at home and was expanding into central Asia. In part seeking the famous horses of the Bactrian Kingdom resulting in the first and only direct clash between the Chinese and Hellenic worlds.

In India, the Kushan Empire was spreading further into the subcontinent, taking its unique blend of Greek, Bactrian, Persian, and Indian culture with it.

Meanwhile, in the west, the Roman Empire stood strong. With the appointment of the Emperor Nerva to the Principate…


Strabo

By the 1st century BCE, the world of antiquity under the rule of Rome, was perhaps more united than ever and was on a path to experiencing a golden age of knowledge and technology with social development hitting heights it would not see again for a thousand years or more. In this world of increasing interconnectedness, a Greek from Amaseia in Anatolia, named Strabo, would create one of the most influential works on geography of all time. …


The UK at night, showing how concentrated our population is

Like many people over the last 6 months or so, I have found my work situation drastically changed. The experiences of this experiment in a different way of working that has been forced upon us has affected us all in different ways, but for my part I have discovered a new found appreciation for many things in life that the rush of the commute and office working all too often overshadows. …


Statue of Pytheas outside the Palais de la Bourse, Marseille

When we turn our minds to the western Mediterranean of antiquity images of the titanic struggle between Carthage and Rome, known as the Punic wars, are what is most readily invoked, however this does not tell the whole story. Indeed, for a time Greek colonists who headed west were in the ascendancy and chief amongst them was the city of Massalia, modern Marseille, France. …


Mithridates VI of Pontus

He gathered all the springs to birth

From the many-venomed earth;

First a little, thence to more,

He sampled all her killing store;

And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,

Sate the king when healths went round.

They put arsenic in his meat

And stared aghast to watch him eat;

They poured strychnine in his cup

And shook to see him drink it up:

They shook, they stared as white’s their shirt:

Them it was their poison hurt.

I tell the tale that I heard told.

Mithridates, he died old.

A.E Houseman (1896)

Mithridates VI Eupator Dionysus, 135 BCE — 63 BCE…


Hanno the Libyan started out from Carthage and passed the Pillars of Heracles and sailed into the outer Ocean, with Libya on his port side, and he sailed on towards the east, five-and-thirty days all told. But when at last he turned southward, he fell in with every sort of difficulty, want of water, blazing heat, and fiery streams running into the sea. — The Campaigns of Alexander, Book VIII, Arrian of Nicomedia

The city of Carthage, later famous for its apocalyptic struggle with the Roman Republic, was founded in about 814 BC as a stop off point for Phoenician


Towards the end of the 4th century BCE the all-conquering and monolithic Empire of Persia would come crashing down. Despite its defeat at the hands of the Greek cities in the previous century, Persia stood strong at the head of the world, until a King of a once obscure kingdom came storming out of the west, sweeping all before him. This article is the fifth in a series, parts one, two, three and four set some context, but you do not need to have read them first to follow this one.

The conquests of Alexander the great would usher in…


Here are presented the results of the enquiry carried out by Herodotus of Halicarnassus. The purpose is to prevent the traces of human events from being erased by time, and to preserve the fame of the important and remarkable achievements produced by both Greeks and non-Greeks; among the matters covered is, in particular, the cause of the hostilities between Greeks and non-Greeks.

— Herodotus, The Histories

Herodotus of Halicarnassus

Our next stop as we follow the development of knowledge of the world through antiquity is with the man who Cicero called the ‘father of history’Herodotus of Halicarnassus. …


This article is the third in a series, parts 1 and 2 set some context, but you do not need to have read them first to follow this one.

Hecataeus the Milesian speaks thus: I write these things as they seem true to me; for the stories told by the Greeks are various and, in my opinion, absurd[1]

The above quote is one of the few fragments we have of the work of Hecataeus[2] of Miletus, a Greek historian and geographer of the 6th and 5th centuries BCE, known as “The Father of Geography”. …


The Babylonian World Map

In 1881 the Iraqi born archaeologist Hormuzd Rassam discovered a clay tablet whilst digging at the site of Sippar about 60km from Babylon. Rassam was searching for evidence of the Biblical flood and being unable to read the Cuneiform script dismissed the find as of little importance.

It was not until years later, in the late 20th century, that the scholars at the British museum deciphered the text and realised its significance. The tablet was in fact perhaps the oldest known world map, offering one of the few opportunities to glimpse the world view of Babylonian Civilisation[1].

To start the…

Lewis D'Ambra

I write about history and its echoes and lessons for the present.

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