AskDefine | Define ancient

Dictionary Definition

ancient adj
1 belonging to times long past especially of the historical period before the fall of the Western Roman Empire; "ancient history"; "ancient civilizations such as those of the Etruscans and Sumerians"; "ancient Greece"
2 very old; "an ancient mariner"

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Etymology

From ancien "old", from ante "before". Cf. antique.

Pronunciation

  • /ˈeɪnʃənt/, /"eInS@nt/

Adjective

  1. very old

Translations

very old

Noun

  1. In the context of "heraldry|archaic": A flag, banner, standard or ensign.
    • 1719: Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
      I got all things ready as he had directed, and waited the next morning with the boat washed clean, her ancient and pendants out, and everything to accommodate his guests..

Extensive Definition

The times before writing belong either to protohistory or to prehistory.
Ancient history is the study of the written past from the beginning of human history until the Early Middle Ages in Europe, the Qin Dynasty in China, the Chola Empire in India, and some less defined point in the rest of the world (for example, in the Americas). (The period following antiquity is the Imperial era in China and the period of the Middle Kingdoms in India; one might consider the end of antiquity in the Americas to be the start of the colonization of the Americas.) The goal of the modern day critical ancient historian is objectivity. The term classical antiquity is often used to refer to ancient history since the beginning of recorded Greek history in about 776 BC (First Olympiad). This coincides, roughly, with the traditional date of the founding of Rome in 753 BC, the beginning of the history of ancient Rome.
Although the ending date of ancient history is disputed, currently most Western scholars use the fall of the Western Roman Empire in AD 476, the death of the emperor Justinian I or the coming of Islam in 632 as the end of ancient European history. The span of recorded history is roughly 5,000 – 5,500 years, with Sumerian cuneiform being the oldest form of writing discovered so far. This is the beginning of history by the definition used by most historians.

The study of ancient history

The fundamental difficulty of studying ancient history is the fact that only a fraction of it has been documented and only a fraction of those recorded histories have survived into the present day. It is also imperative to consider the reliability of the information obtained from these records. Literacy was not widespread in almost any culture until long after the end of ancient history, so there were few people capable of writing histories. Even those written histories which were produced were not widely distributed; the ancients, not having the luxury of a printing press had to make copies of books by hand.
The Roman Empire was one of the ancient world's most literate cultures, but many works by its most widely read historians are lost. For example, Livy, a Roman historian who lived in the 1st century BC, wrote a history of Rome called Ab Urbe Condite ("From the Founding of the City") in 142 volumes; only 35 volumes still exist, although summaries of the rest do exist. Other Roman historians, like Pompeius Trogus, have vanished completely.
Historians have two major avenues which they take to better understand the ancient world: archaeology and the study of primary sources.

Archaeology

Archaeology is the excavation and study of artifacts in an effort to interpret and reconstruct past human behavior. In the study of ancient history, archaeologists excavate the ruins of ancient cities looking for clues as to how the people of the time period lived. Some important discoveries by archaeologists studying ancient history include:

Secondary sources

Perhaps most of what is known of the ancient world comes from the accounts of antiquity's own historians. Although it is important to take into account the bias of each ancient author, their accounts, are the basis for our understanding of the ancient past. Some of the more notable ancient writers include: Manetho, Valmiki, Vatsyayana, Vyasa, Kalidasa, Chanakya, Sun Tzu, Herodotus, Josephus, Livy, Polybius, Suetonius, Tacitus, Thucydides, and Sima Qian.

Chronology

Prehistory

History

Some important events:

Bronze Age and Early Iron Age

Bronze Age through to the Early Iron Age

Classical Antiquity

End of ancient history in Europe

The date used as the end of the ancient era is entirely arbitrary. The transition period from Classical Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages is known as Late Antiquity. Some key dates marking that transition are:

Prominent civilizations of ancient history

Southwest Asia

Ancient Phoenicia

Some scholars believe, for example, that the earliest mention of the Armenians is in the Akkadian inscriptions dating to the 28th-27th centuries BC, in which the Armenians are referred to as the sons of Haya, after the regional god of the Armenian Highlands. l

Ancient Israel/Palestine

Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt was a long-lived civilization geographically located in north-eastern Africa. It was concentrated along the middle to lower reaches of the Nile River reaching its greatest extension during the second millennium BC, which is referred to as the New Kingdom period. It reached broadly from the Nile Delta in the north, as far south as Jebel Barkal at the Fourth Cataract of the Nile. Extensions to the geographical range of ancient Egyptian civilisation included, at different times, areas of the southern Levant, the Eastern Desert and the Red Sea coastline, the Sinai Peninsula and the Western Desert (focused on the several oases).
Ancient Egypt developed over at least three and a half millennia. It began with the incipient unification of Nile Valley polities around 3500 BC and is conventionally thought to have ended in 30 BC when the early Roman Empire conquered and absorbed Ptolemaic Egypt as a province. (Though this last did not represent the first period of foreign domination, the Roman period was to witness a marked, if gradual transformation in the political and religious life of the Nile Valley, effectively marking the termination of independent civilisational development).
The civilization of ancient Egypt was based on a finely balanced control of natural and human resources, characterised primarily by controlled irrigation of the fertile Nile Valley; the mineral exploitation of the valley and surrounding desert regions; the early development of an independent writing system and literature; the organisation of collective projects; trade with surrounding regions in east / central Africa and the eastern Mediterranean; finally, military ventures that exhibited strong characteristics of imperial hegemony and territorial domination of neighbouring cultures at different periods. Motivating and organising these activities were a socio-political and economic elite that achieved social consensus by means of an elaborate system of religious belief under the figure of a (semi)-divine ruler (usually male) from a succession of ruling dynasties and which related to the larger world by means of polytheistic beliefs.
See also: Egyptians

South Asia

Ancient Pakistan

The Indus Valley Civilization (c. 3300–1700 BC, flourished 2600–1900 BCE), abbreviated IVC, was an ancient civilization that flourished in the Indus and Ghaggar-Hakra river valleys primarily in what is now Pakistan and scattered settlements linked to this ancient Pakistani civilization have been found in eastern Afghanistan, Bahrain, eastern Iran, western India and Turkmenistan. Another name for this civilization is the Harappan Civilization, after the first of its cities to be excavated, Harappa in the Pakistani province of Panjab. The IVC might have been known to the Sumerians as the Meluhha, and other trade contacts may have included Egypt, Africa, however the modern world discovered it only in the 1920s as a result of archaeological excavations and rail road building.
In his book, Pakistan before the Aryans, By Sir Mortimer Wheeler stated "Within this immense territory, archaeologists have found no fewer than thirty-seven town or village sites (tells) representing this civilization, and many more un-doubtedly await discovery." Much archeological work still remains in order to fully understand Ancient Pakistan's history which has all too often been neglected and under-funded by the government of Pakistan.
The births of Mahavira and Buddha in the 6th century BC mark the beginning of well-recorded history in the region. Around the 5th century BC, the ancient regions of Pakistan was invaded by the Achaemenid Empire under Darius in 522 B.C. forming the easternmost satraps of the Persian Empire. The provinces of Sindh and Panjab were said to be the richest satraps of the Persian Empire and contributed many soldiers to various Persian expeditions. It is known that a Pakistani contingent fought in Xerxes' army on his expedition to Greece. Herodotus mentions that the Indus satrapy supplied cavalry and chariots to the Persian army. He also mentions that the Indus people were clad in armaments made of cotton, carried bows and arrows of cane covered with iron. Herodotus states that in 517 B.C. Darius sent an expedition under Scylax to explore the Indus. Under Persian rule, much irrigation and commerce flourished within the vast territory of the empire. The Persian empire was followed by the invasion of the Greeks under Alexander's army. Since Alexander was determined to reach the eastern-most limits of the Persian Empire he could not resist the temptation to conquer Pakistan, which at this time was parcelled out into small chieftain- ships, who were feudatories of the Persian Empire. Alexander amalgamated the region into the expanding Hellenic empire.

Ancient India

The Rigveda, in Sanskrit, goes back to about 1500 BC. The Indian literary tradition has an oral history reaching down into the Vedic period of the later 2nd millennium BC. Ancient India is usually taken to refer to the "golden age" of classical Hindu culture, as reflected in Sanskrit literature, beginning around 500 BC with the sixteen monarchies and 'republics' known as the Mahajanapadas, stretched across the Indo-Gangetic plains from modern-day Afghanistan to Bangladesh. The largest of these nations were Magadha, Kosala, Kuru and Gandhara. Notably, the great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata are rooted in this classical period.
Amongst the sixteen Mahajanapadas, the kingdom of Magadha rose to prominence under a number of dynasties that peaked in power under the reign of Ashoka Maurya, one of India's most legendary and famous emperors. During the reign of Asoka, the three Tamil dynasties of Chola, Chera and Pandya were ruling in the south. These kingdoms, while not part of Asoka's empire, were in friendly terms with the Maurya Empire. The Satavahanas started out as feudatories to the Mauryan Empire, and declared independence soon after the death of Ashoka (232 BC). Other notable ancient South Indian dynasties include the Kadambas of Banavasi, western Ganga dynasty, Chalukyas of Badami, Chalukyas, Hoysalas, Kakatiya dynasty, Pallavas, Rashtrakutas of Manyaketha and Satavahanas.
The period between 320 CE–550 is known as the Classical Age, when most of North India was reunited under the Gupta Empire (ca. 320 CE–550). This was a period of relative peace, law and order, and extensive achievements in religion, education, mathematics, arts, Sanskrit literature and drama. Grammar, composition, logic, metaphysics, mathematics, medicine, and astronomy became increasingly specialized and reached an advanced level. The Gupta Empire was weakened and ultimately ruined by the raids of Hunas (a branch of the White Huns emanating from Central Asia). Under Harsha (r. 606–47), North India was reunited briefly.
The educated speech at that time was Sanskrit, while the dialects of the general population of northern India were referred to as Prakrits. The South Indian coast of Malabar and the Tamil people of the Sangam age traded with the Graeco-Roman world. They were in contact with the Phoenicians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Syrians, Jews, and the Chinese.
India is estimated to have had the largest economy of the world between the 1st and 15th centuries CE, controlling between one third and one quarter of the world's wealth up to the time of the Mughals, from whence it rapidly declined during British rule.

Classical Antiquity

Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, which begins roughly with the earliest-recorded Greek poetry of Homer (7th century BC), and continues through the rise of Christianity and the fall of the Western Roman Empire (5th century AD), ending in the dissolution of classical culture with the close of Late Antiquity.
Such a wide sampling of history and territory covers many rather disparate cultures and periods. "Classical antiquity" typically refers to an idealized vision of later people, of what was, in Edgar Allan Poe's words, "the glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome!" In the 18th and 19th centuries reverence for classical antiquity was much greater in Western Europe and the United States than it is today. Respect for the ancients of Greece and Rome affected politics, philosophy, sculpture, literature, theatre, education, and even architecture and sexuality.
In politics, the presence of a Roman Emperor was felt to be desirable long after the empire fell. This tendency reached its peak when Charlemagne was crowned "Roman Emperor" in the year 800, an act which led to the formation of the Holy Roman Empire. The notion that an emperor is a monarch who outranks a mere king dates from this period. In this political ideal, there would always be a Roman Empire, a state whose jurisdiction extended to the entire civilised world.
Epic poetry in Latin continued to be written and circulated well into the nineteenth century. John Milton and even Arthur Rimbaud got their first poetic educations in Latin. Genres like epic poetry, pastoral verse, and the endless use of characters and themes from Greek mythology left a deep mark on Western literature.
In architecture, there have been several Greek Revivals, (though while apparently more inspired in retrospect by Roman architecture than Greek). Still, one needs only to look at Washington, DC to see a city filled with large marble buildings with façades made out to look like Roman temples, with columns constructed in the classical orders of architecture.
In philosophy, the efforts of St Thomas Aquinas were derived largely from the thought of Aristotle, despite the intervening change in religion from paganism to Christianity. Greek and Roman authorities such as Hippocrates and Galen formed the foundation of the practice of medicine even longer than Greek thought prevailed in philosophy. In the French theatre, tragedians such as Molière and Racine wrote plays on mythological or classical historical subjects and subjected them to the strict rules of the classical unities derived from Aristotle's Poetics. The desire to dance like a latter-day vision of how the ancient Greeks did it moved Isadora Duncan to create her brand of ballet.
The Renaissance discovery of Classical Antiquity is a book by Roberto Weiss on how the renaissance was partly caused by the rediscovery of classic antiquity.

Ancient Greece

Main article: Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is the period in Greek history lasting for close to a millennium, until the rise of Christianity. It is considered by most historians to be the foundational culture of Western Civilization. Greek culture was a powerful influence in the Roman Empire, which carried a version of it to many parts of Europe.
The civilization of the ancient Greeks has been immensely influential on the language, politics, educational systems, philosophy, science, art, and architecture of the modern world, fueling the Renaissance in Western Europe and again resurgent during various neo-Classical revivals in 18th and 19th century Europe and The Americas.
"Ancient Greece" is the term used to describe the Greek-speaking world in ancient times. It refers not only to the geographical peninsula of modern Greece, but also to areas of Hellenic culture that were settled in ancient times by Greeks: Cyprus and the Aegean islands, the Aegean coast of Anatolia (then known as Ionia), Sicily and southern Italy (known as Magna Graecia), and the scattered Greek settlements on the coasts of Colchis, Illyria, Thrace, Egypt, Cyrenaica, southern Gaul, east and northeast of the Iberian peninsula, Iberia, Taurica and further to the east in exotic asian cities such Taxila, Sagala and Jhelum in modern day Pakistan.
During its twelve-century existence, the Roman civilization shifted from a monarchy to an oligarchic republic to a vast empire. It came to dominate Western Europe and the entire area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea through conquest and assimilation. However, a number of factors led to the eventual decline of the Roman Empire. The western half of the empire, including Hispania, Gaul, and Italy, eventually broke into independent kingdoms in the 5th century; the eastern empire, governed from Constantinople, is referred to as the Byzantine Empire after AD 476, the traditional date for the "fall of Rome" and subsequent onset of the Middle Ages.

Ancient Rome

Roman civilization is often grouped into "classical antiquity" with ancient Greece, a civilization that inspired much of the culture of ancient Rome. Ancient Rome contributed greatly to the development of law, war, art, literature, architecture, and language in the Western world, and its history continues to have a major influence on the world today.

Notes

References

  • .
  • What is History? Thorndike 1923, Becker 1931, MacMullen 1966, MacMullen 1990, Thomas & Wick 1993, Loftus 1996.
  • The Idea of History
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
  • The Greeks and the Irrational
  • Technology in the Ancient World
  • Directory of Ancient Historians in the USA, 2nd ed. Web edition is constantly updated.
  • The Rise of Bronze Age Society
  • Eyewitness Testimony
  • Enemies of the Roman Order: Treason, Unrest and Alienation in the Empire
  • Changes in the Roman Empire: Essays in the Ordinary
  • Decoding Ancient History: A Toolkit for the Historian as Detective
  • History of Magic and Experimental Science Eight volumes.

External links

ancient in Samogitian: Senuoves istuorėj
ancient in Catalan: Edat Antiga
ancient in Welsh: Yr Henfyd
ancient in Danish: Oldtiden
ancient in German: Altertum
ancient in Modern Greek (1453-): Αρχαία Ιστορία
ancient in Spanish: Historia Antigua
ancient in Estonian: Vanaaeg
ancient in Basque: Antzinaroa
ancient in French: Antiquité
ancient in Western Frisian: Aldheid
ancient in Hebrew: העת העתיקה
ancient in Hungarian: Ókori történelem
ancient in Icelandic: Fornöld
ancient in Italian: Storia antica
ancient in Japanese: 古代
ancient in Korean: 고대
ancient in Dutch: Geschiedenis van de oudheid
ancient in Norwegian: Oldtiden
ancient in Polish: Historia starożytna
ancient in Portuguese: História Antiga
ancient in Romanian: Istoria antică
ancient in Russian: Древний мир
ancient in Simple English: Ancient history
ancient in Slovak: Starovek
ancient in Slovenian: Antika
ancient in Chinese: 古代史

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Bronze Age man, Hominidae, Iron Age man, Stone Age man, abiding, aboriginal, aborigine, advanced, advanced in life, advanced in years, age-long, age-old, aged, ageing, ageless, along in years, antediluvian, anthropoid, antiquated, antique, ape-man, archaic, auld, autochthon, better, brass hat, bushman, bygone, cave dweller, caveman, chronic, constant, continuing, dateless, diuturnal, doddering, doting, durable, earlier, early, elder, elderly, enduring, erstwhile, evergreen, fading, fore, forgotten, former, fossil, fossil man, fossilized, golden-ager, gray, gray with age, gray-haired, gray-headed, grey, grown old, hardy, higher-up, hoar, hoary, hominid, humanoid, immemorial, immutable, intransient, inveterate, lasting, late, long-lasting, long-lived, long-standing, long-term, longeval, longevous, macrobiotic, man of old, missing link, obsolescent, obsolete, of long duration, of long standing, of old, of yore, old, old as Methuselah, old as history, old as time, old-fashioned, old-time, old-timer, olden, once, onetime, past, patriarchal, perdurable, perduring, perennial, permanent, perpetual, persistent, persisting, preadamite, prehistoric, prehistoric man, prehuman, previous, primal, primate, primeval, primitive, primordial, prior, pristine, protohuman, quondam, recent, remaining, remote, sempervirent, senectuous, senior, senior citizen, sinking, sometime, stable, staying, steadfast, superannuated, then, timeless, timeworn, tough, traditional, troglodyte, unfading, venerable, vital, waning, wasting, white, white with age, white-bearded, white-crowned, white-haired, wrinkled, wrinkly, years old
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