Category Archives: ANCIENT HISTORY

The Obelisks of Ancient Egypt

The Obelisks of Ancient Egypt


One of the oldest and most iconic structures of ancient Egypt is the obelisk. A rising tower of stone, it was designed to astound mortals with its height and impress the immortals with praise. A colossal investment in labor, resources, and engineering was required to build them. Their forms projected potent religious and political symbolism, and their surfaces were covered with writings. So impressive were these stone structures that other civilizations took them back to their lands to show their people the splendor that was ancient Egypt.

The end of the gladiators

The end of the gladiators

In AD 350 the gladiatorial games were as popular, magnificent and widespread as they had ever been. An unbroken history of development and adaptation stretching back some 600 years lay behind the combats. A century later not a single gladiator, lanista or munus was to be found anywhere. For an institution that had survived for so long and been so popular to disappear so completely was dramatic indeed.

Hawara mummies

Hawara mummies

Hawara mummies created a sensation when they were discovered, and in 1997 visitors to the British Museum found the first major exhibition of the mummy portraits from the Fayum very disquieting. Some burst into tears, some had to leave, unable to bear the clear bright gaze of the living dead.

Delphi: The end of the gods

Delphi: The end of the gods

The Apollo of Delphi was the god of black jokes. Herodotus says that Croesus, legendarily wealthy king of Lydia, feared an attack from the envious Persians. He couldn’t decide whether to hold fast or launch a pre-emptive strike, so he sent emmissaries to consult the oracle at Delphi. She said that if he crossed the River halys and attacked with vigour he would  destroy a great nation. He did, in 532 BC, and he did destroy a great nation, his own. His army was annihilated.

The cultural legacy of Alexander the Great

The cultural legacy of Alexander the Great

On his death, Alexander left as heirs only a mad brother and a posthumous son, neither of whom were able to rule. Power in the provinces was seized by Alexander’s generals and the empire broke up in a complex series of conflicts known as the Wars of the Diadochi (‘the successors’). The big winners were Ptolemy (r. 323 – 283 B.C.), who seized Egypt, and Seleucos (r. 312 – 281 B.C.), who took Syria, Mesopotamia and Persia.