Year: 2013

The Merovingians: The Kings and Queens of the Franks

Mythologized and circumscribed for over 1500 years, the Merovingians were a powerful Frankish dynasty, which exercised control much of modern-day France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the Low Countries. During the Early Middle Ages, the Merovingian kingdoms were arguably the most powerful and most important polities to emerge after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, blending Gallo-Roman institutions with Germanic Frankish customs. Recent discoveries and new research in the field of mortuary archaeology — the study of how cultures treat the dead and what they believe about the afterlife — has renewed considerable interest in the Merovingians. In this feature interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Bonnie Effros, a Professor of History at the University of Florida, about the ways in which the “archaeology of the dead” can help rewrite an important chapter in European history.

The Enigmatic Poison King: Mithradates VI of Pontus (120-63 BCE)

While relatively unknown today, Mithradates VI of Pontus inspired fear, romance, courage, and intrigue across the Near East during the first century BCE. Claiming descent from Alexander the Great and Darius of Persia, Mithradates challenged the might of late Republican Rome, creating an empire that stretched from the northern reaches of the Black Sea to Syria and Armenia. While loathed by Rome for his massacre of 80,000 Roman civilians in 88 BCE, Mithradates was hailed by Greeks and Persians as a “savior” from oppressive Roman misrule. Mithradates’ ambition, coupled with his advanced knowledge of poisons, make him one of the most intriguing personalities in antiquity. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Adrienne Mayor, a Research Scholar at Stanford University, who examines the tumultuous life of this most tantalizing of ancient kings in The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates. Contextualizing his political importance, intellectual brilliance, and complex character, Mayor also shares insights as to why Mithradates has been largely ignored in recent scholarship.

AHE is listed on Open Education Resources

The Ancient History Encyclopedia is pleased to announce that we are officially listed and registered on Open Education Resources (OER). The creation and use of OER represents a shift in education that facilitates shared teacher expertise and peer-based learning. Free and open content is not only a new economic model for schools and students, but also a primary vehicle for disseminating flexible, adaptable curricula. OER is a virtual network that brings together over 44,000 tools for sharing educational material. Additionally, OER provides news and training on how to approach and access open education tools. In essence, OER are teaching and learning materials freely available for everyone to use, whether one is an educator or student. This includes full courses, modules, syllabi, lectures, homework assignments, quizzes, lab activities, pedagogical materials, games, simulations, and many more resources contained in digital media collections from around the world. Since its inception in 2009, AHE has been a non-profit educational company with a global vision: to provide the best ancient history information on the internet for free. Combining different media, subjects …

UserVoice is sponsoring us!

We’re happy to announce that the kind people at UserVoice are sponsoring us. We’ve been using their services for quite some time now; it’s the little red feedback tab on the bottom right. They describe themselves in these terms: “UserVoice is the San Francisco-based startup that empowers you to help and understand your users so you can keep them happy with great support and be even smarter about building better products.” Well, we can honestly say that UserVoice has helped us better understand what our readers want. As they’ve now given us free access to all their services, we can not only improve our feedback forums, but we can now also add contact forms and a knowledge base to the site. Thank you very much for this support, UserVoice! 🙂

Petra: Wonder in the Desert

Few places on earth have captivated humanity as much as the ethereal city of Petra, which is located in present-day Jordan. Constructed by the Nabataeans–ancient traders who dominated the export of frankincense, myrrh, balsam, and spices from Arabia to the Greco-Roman world–Petra was a beautiful desert metropolis of theaters, temples, palaces, and immense markets. ‘Rediscovered’ in 1812 by an eccentric Swiss adventurer, Johan Ludwig Burckhardt, Petra is the focus of a new show at the Antikenmuseum Basel in Basel, Switzerland. Opened last fall by HRH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan of Jordan, Petra: Wonder in the Desert. In the Footsteps of J. L. Burckhardt alias “Sheikh Ibrahim,” showcases nearly 150 artifacts, demonstrating the power, prestige, and sophistication of one of Antiquity’s most alluring cities. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia converses with Mr. Laurent Gorgerat, a Co-Curator of the exhibition, and learns how a mysterious kingdom of former nomads created a luxurious, urban oasis in an inhospitable climate.

The Legacy of Antiquity at the Dawn of the Renaissance

“Of all the art forms, sculpture was the first to give a comprehensive and coherent voice to the new formal Renaissance idiom, the roots of which went back to the classical world. But it was the coherence of the Renaissance visual language that made the difference… These were major works of art, yet when they were cited, it was as fragments, without a comprehensive and coherent vision.” Renaissance Florence was the center of a pulsating creativity, which would redefine the spectrum of Western aesthetics over the course of two centuries. At the dawn of the Quattrocento, Florentine artists found inspiration in the sculptures of their Greco-Roman predecessors. The Springtime of the Renaissance: Sculpture and the Arts in Florence, 1400-1460, now on show at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, highlights how ancient sculptures–in stone or bronze–provided the catalyst for far-reaching and revolutionary innovations in art and design. Through the presentation of 140 sculptures and paintings from major international collections, the exhibition carefully traces the classical inspiration behind the Renaissance. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener …

Roman Riches in Iron Age Denmark

Danish archaeologists made an unprecedented discovery in the municipality of Ishøj, located just 18 km (11 mi) outside of Copenhagen, in October 2007: an intact grave of a high-ranking man or “prince” from the Roman Iron Age (c. 1-400 CE). Hailed as one of the most important discoveries in recent memory, the grave provided a unique glimpse into the material wealth and aesthetic tastes of the ancient Danish elite. Sensational objects like gaming pieces cast in glass, gold jewelry, and an exquisite Roman wine set in bronze were among the items uncovered. All of these and more are now presented in a new exhibition, The Ishøj Prince (Danish: “Ishøjfyrstens”), at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, Denmark. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Jan Kindberg Jacobsen, Curator of Ancient Art at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, about the importance of this discovery, and of how a Danish prince amassed the trappings of a Mediterranean magnate. “Although richly furnished burials from the late Roman Iron Age are not an …

AHE Collaborates with Kunstpedia

The Ancient History Encyclopedia is pleased to announce that it has joined forces with the Kunstpedia Foundation to bring increased public attention to the fine and applied arts. Kunstpedia is a Dutch non-profit organization established by enthusiasts of art history and the visual arts in 2008. Today, it is recognized by the Dutch Tax Office as an Institution for General Benefit (Algemeen Nut Beogende Instelling or “ANBI”). From its inception, Kunstpedia has offered a broad exposure to the fine and decorative arts prior to c. 1960. The foundation manages a homepage, which provides rich and accessible content in the form of articles, e-books, and blogs, supplied by a variety of contributors including art historians, collectors, dealers, gallery owners, and museum professionals. Among its varied activities, Kunstpedia publishes news reports, reviews of exhibitions, an e-newsletter, and sources with link directories. Kunstpedia facilitates the creation of a community of enthusiasts who hope to increase awareness, knowledge, and passion for a pillar of civilization and human history: the fine and applied arts. AHE and Kunstpedia share a similar, fundamental …

AHE Joins PELAGIOS Project

It gives us great pleasure to announce that the Ancient History Encyclopedia is joining the PELAGIOS Project. PELAGIOS stands for “Pelagios: Enable Linked Ancient Geodata In Open Systems,” and its aim is to help introduce Linked Open Data into online resources that refer to places in the ancient world. This approach permits new modes of discovery and visualization for scholars and the general public. Pelagios also means “of the sea,” referring to the superhighway of the ancient world. It’s a metaphor most appropriate for a digital resource that connects references to ancient places. The Pelagios are a collective of projects connected by a shared vision of a world–most eloquently described in Tom Elliott’s article, “Digital Geography and Classics“– in which the geography of the past is every bit as interconnected, interactive, and interesting as the present. Each project represents a different perspective on Antiquity through maps, texts, and archaeological records. Like AHE, PELAGIOS is committed to open access and a pragmatic lightweight approach that encourages and enables institutions to digitalize quality, virtual materials related to ancient history. History is …

Deciphering Ancient Cham Art

The Cham people of central and south Vietnam have impressive artistic and architectural traditions, dating back more than 1700 years. Migrating from the island of Borneo to present-day Vietnam in second century CE, the Cham maintained a series of coastal kingdoms from c. 192-1832 CE. Champa–located at the crossroads of India, Java, and China–was the grand emporium of Southeast Asia and the chief rival of the powerful Khmer Empire. While primarily remembered in history as merchants, sailors, and warriors, the Cham were also skilled artisans and talented architects. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks with Dr. Ky Phuong Tran–a specialist on Cham cultural history–with regard to the unique characteristics of Cham art and architecture. The arts of Champa adapted various artistic tendencies from Southeast Asia, India, and even China as well.