Category Archives: ANCIENT HISTORY

The rise of Athens

The rise of Athens


It was only in the 6th century BC that Athens began the startling development that was to carry it to the centre of the european stage in social reform, industry and art.  There is a suggestion that the enterprising island of Aegina, just offshore in the Saronic Gulf, had actually blocked trade from Athens. But the city had no colonies until, in 620 BC, there were set up in the Dardanelles. These were later to give her control over the important trade timber, grain and metals from the Black Sea.

Nero, The Emperor

Nero, The Emperor

Sumptuously housed on the Palatine Hill—the origin of our word “palace”—is His Highness Claudius Nero, Head of the State, Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, Empowered to act as Tribune of the People, and Head of the State Religion: in modern times commonly called “the Emperor.” Every day and night his palace is surrounded by a regiment of the Imperial Guards, and attached to his person is a special corps for bodyguard, and orderlies.

The ancient city of Petra

The ancient city of Petra

Now a World Heritage Site in the kingdom of Jordan and one of the most compelling archaeological sites in existence, ‘the rose-red city half as old as time’ was by the fourth century bc the capital of the Nabataean people, who controlled the trade routes from oasis to oasis in Arabia and later allied themselves with the Romans. It was found by a 27-year-old Swiss explorer called Johann Ludwig (or Jean Louis) Burckhardt.

Pictish society

Pictish society

The Romans classified some fifteen tribes in the north and loosely identified the territories they occupied. They also observed that tribal chiefs had a religious as well as a royal function. Women could have such a role, as was the case with Boudicca of the Iceni. The succession of leaders was matrilineal: it mattered more who their mother was than who their father was. Since it is possible that women may indeed have more than one husband, the matter of succession could be complex. later Romantics sometimes regarded this Pictish society as democratic, but it was in fact full of social differentiations.

Roman’s “thumbs up” for the death

Roman’s “thumbs up” for the death

Neither Roman spectators calling for the death of the gladiator, nor Roman Emperors authorising one, ever gave a thumbs down. In fact, the Romans did not use a “thumbs down” at all. If death was desired, the thumb was stuck up – like a drawn sword. For a loser’s life to be spared, the thumb was tucked away inside the closed fist – as with a sheathed weapon. This is expressed in latin as pollice compresso favor iudicabatur, “goodwill is decided by the thumb being kept in”.