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Interviews

Novelist Nick Brown on ‘The Wooden Walls of Thermopylae’

Nick Brown’s latest novel, The Wooden Walls of Thermopylae

Jan van der Crabben, CEO & Founder of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE), recently sat down with Nick Brown, a teacher of archaeology and now novelist, to discuss his latest title: The Wooden Walls of Thermopylae. Brown’s book is a work historical fiction centred on the battle of Thermopylae, as told from the perspective of a foot soldier.

AHE: Mr. Nick Brown, thank you for granting AHE this interview. In a few sentences, what is the basic plot of The Wooden Walls of Thermopylae ?

NB: Wooden Walls follows on from Luck Bringer and is a research-based novel. I wanted to fill in the gaps with evidence based conjecture to flesh out a great narrative. The Athenians have won their battle at Marathon and Athens is a city seething with fear and treachery as it awaits the revenge of Xerxes, king of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. It tells the story of the desperate alliance between Sparta and Athens, and how it led to Thermopylae and the destruction of the city of Athens. It also gives a flavour of the experience of the men and women who lived through these years, providing an answer as to how the three hundred Spartans came to die in the pass of the Hot Gates.

AHE: What is it that fascinated you so much about this particular period in history?

NB: I cannot understand why this period with its range and excitement is neglected in fiction when compared to Rome. I have been fascinated by this period since studying ancient history at university. Early on, I had to produce a piece of work on the Athenian general, Miltiades, who led the Athenians at Marathon. I found it amazing that a renegade like Miltiades managed to persuade the hostile Athenian politicians to leave their city and face what looked like certain death on the beach at Marathon. Within two years the Athenians tried and convicted Miltiades for acts against the city.

What happened? This period of Greek history is the foundation of Western culture, but in 490 BCE this nascent democracy looked unlikely to survive.  And yet in a period of about fifty years, modern politics, philosophy, architecture and drama were born. The story of those years is one of sacrifice, courage and innovation unrivalled by any other time.

Categories
Education Exhibitions

The Newly Discovered Tablet V of the Epic of Gilgamesh

I was taking photos in the main hall of the Sulaymaniyah Museum and came across a display case containing a small clay tablet. The description beside it said the tablet was part of the Epic of Gilgamesh and a fragment of tablet V. Immediately I thought it was a ‘replica’ as the description was superficial. It did not say the tablet was genuine, that it was newly discovered or even told about the many new pieces of information it had revealed.

A newly discovered tablet V of the epic of Gilgamesh. The left half of the whole tablet has survived and is composed of 3 fragments. The Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraq. Photo © Osama S.M. Amin.
A newly discovered tablet V of the epic of Gilgamesh. The left half of the whole tablet has survived and is composed of 3 fragments. The Sulaymaniyah Museum, Iraq. Photo © Osama S.M. Amin.

After the US-led invasion of Iraq and the dramatic looting of Iraqi and other museums, the Sulaymaniyah Museum (directed by the council of ministers of Iraqi Kurdistan) started an initiative. They paid smugglers to ‘intercept’ archeological artifacts on their journey to other countries. No questions were asked about who was selling the piece or where it came from. The Sulaymaniyah Museum believed this condition kept smugglers from selling their merchandise to other buyers, as they would have otherwise done so ‘with ease and without any legal consequences.’

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Travel

The Tomb of Poulnabrone: A Portal to the Past

Today we have another contribution from Timeless Travels Magazine in which Joshua Mark writes about his visit to Poulnabrone, Ireland.

Puluabrone. Photo © Joshua Mark
Pulnabrone. Photo © Joshua Mark

The Neolithic Age is a quiet time for the history enthusiast. There are no great epics, no legends, not even king’s lists but only the moss covered sites, standing stones, sometimes with enigmatic carvings, and sombre, stone monuments.

These sites do have their stories however, whispered in soft tones, and if one listens carefully one can sense their stories in the presence of the past. Poulnabrone, a dolmen in the region known as the Burren in County Clare, Ireland, is one such site.

In January of 2015 I visited Poulnabrone with my wife, Betsy. It was a cold day with a strong wind coming down from the highlands across the strange, cratered, rock slabs which make up the Burren.

Categories
Education

Ancient History Short Courses

Hello Ancient History enthusiasts!

Over the last two years I have been doing some investigating and today I will share with you my efforts. This post contains a collection of free ancient history courses you can find on the web. I believe it is important to learn and always expand our knowledge. Not only is it exciting to learn a new area of study but being so informed helps us to make better choices for our future, as they say in Battlestar Galactica, “all of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.” Therefore, it is my hope that you find something of interest in this post. 

photo_1704_20120419
Old World Inspirational sign. Photographer: Nicolas Raymond, CC BY 3.0.
Categories
Education Exhibitions Interviews

Rediscovering Ancient Colombia’s Rich Past

Despite the popular appeal of the legendary city of El Dorado, our collective understanding of ancient Colombia’s history remains largely obscured by the advanced civilizations of Mesoamerica and the Andes. A new exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in Los Angeles, CA, however, reveals that ancient Colombia’s past is far older and more diverse than is apparent in documents written by Spanish conquistadores. Drawing from LACMA’s impressive collection of ancient Colombian artifacts, Ancient Colombia: A Journey through the Cauca Valley offers fresh perspectives on the material culture and indigenous history of Colombia’s native peoples.

M2007_146_447In this interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Dr. Julia Burtenshaw-Zumstein, a Post-Doctoral Curatorial Fellow in LACMA’s Art of the Ancient Americas department, about this exciting new exhibition, which juxtaposes colonial Spanish documents with recent archaeological finds.

Categories
Travel

10 Hidden Ancient Treasures in Caria, Turkey

Located at the crossroads of many ancient civilizations, Turkey is a haven for archaeology lovers. Over the centuries, a succession of empires and kingdoms – Hittite, Lydian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and, finally, Ottoman – ruled over Anatolia. The country’s unique cultural legacy, its remarkably beautiful landscape as well as the friendliness of its people make visiting Turkey a rewarding experience. The country is scattered with so many archaeological wonders that each visit always seems too short. I have myself come back several times discovering one fascinating place after another. Having visited most of the great classical sites in western Turkey, I invite you to discover the ancient treasures of Caria, a region of considerable historical importance and geographical diversity. Some sites, such as the coastal city of Miletus and the oracular sanctuary of Didyma are already familiar to the modern visitor. Other lesser-known ancient cities that are no less spectacular are to be found inland, in relatively remote areas.

Interactive Map of Ancient Sites
Interactive Map of Ancient Sites

Caria is the name given during ancient times to the south western region of Anatolia’s Aegean shore in Asia Minor, present-day Turkey. Caria’s neighbours included Ionia in the north and Lycia in the east whereas nowadays it mostly covers the Muğla province. Its inhabitants were the Carians and the Leleges (the descendants of the Carians). Even though Carians are mentioned frequently in ancient literature, their history is still largely unknown. In the Iliad, Homer writes that they fought against the Greeks as allies to the Trojans. The historian Herodotus, who was born in the Carian city of Halicarnassus, describes them as fierce, seafaring warriors and as being of Minoan descent. However Pausanias, the intrepid Greek traveler of the 2nd century AD, tells that the Carians were the former inhabitants of the land and that colonists from Crete mixed with them and adopted their name. The Carians themselves thought that they were indigenous people of Asia Minor.

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Photos

Rome: 4 Triumphal Arches

The triumphal arch was a type of Roman architectural monument built all over the empire to commemorate military triumphs and other significant events such as the accession of a new emperor. Arches were often erected over major thoroughfares and as the structure had no practical function as a building it was often richly decorated with architectural details, sculpture and commemorative inscriptions, typically using bronze letters. The city of Rome has four outstanding examples of these lasting testaments to Roman vanity.

Arch of Constantine I, 315 CE

The largest surviving Roman arch was built to celebrate Constantine's defeat of Maxentius in 312 CE.
The largest surviving Roman arch was built to celebrate Constantine’s defeat of Maxentius in 312 CE.

The Arch of Constantine I, erected in c. 315 CE, stands in Rome and commemorates Roman Emperor Constantine’s victory over the Roman tyrant Maxentius on 28th October 312 CE at the battle of Milvian Bridge in Rome. It is the largest surviving Roman triumphal arch and the last great monument of Imperial Rome. The arch is also a tour de force of political propaganda, presenting Constantine as a living continuation of the most successful Roman emperors, renowned for their military victories and good government.

Categories
Culture Photos Travel

Jordan: The Wonders of Petra

Today we have another contribution from Timeless Travels Magazine in which Archaeologist Ben Churcher explores the highlights of a visit to Petra a ‘rose red city, half as old as time.’

El-Khasneh
El-Khasneh

As an archaeologist who has been privileged to travel widely, I’m often asked “what is your favourite site?” While the pyramids at Giza are awe-inspiring in their size, the ruins of Palmyra in Syria evocative in their desert location and the Lion Gate at Mycenae majestic, I always answer “Petra” as no other site in the world is quite like Petra.

As an icon for Jordanian history, this popular and much-visited site is simply stunning. No other site in the world can match the entry into Petra and nor can they compete with the sheer artistry and labour that was expended in the creation of the site’s monuments. The oft quoted description of Petra as ‘the rose-red city half as old as time’ is almost right: the site is set in a chain of rose-red (and yellow and buff) mountains, although the site, for an archaeologist, is not ‘half as old as time’.However, I won’t let dry academic niceties detract from the more romantic notions that do capture the feeling one gets when at Petra.

Categories
Behind the Scenes

New Record: 1 Million Monthly Readers

It’s an immense pleasure to tell you that we’ve just surpassed a major milestone this month: We now have over 1,000,000 monthly unique visitors on Ancient History Encyclopedia! A million! Every month. Wow… mind blowing.

This is by far the biggest success we have ever celebrated here at the AHE team in our six-year history. This makes us without a doubt the world’s #1 ancient history website: We were already ranked the world’s 11th history website overall on July’s data where we only had 675,000 unique visitors, with no website specific to ancient history in front of us. Now there’s no possible doubt that we’re the #1 for ancient history!

When I launched AHE over six years ago, I had no idea we would ever reach such heights. It was just a little side project… Now it’s a non-profit organisation with 14 amazing team members (all very dedicated volunteers), countless contributors from all over the globe, members & donors who support us financially, and partnerships with many other reputable organisations. We’ve become kind of a big deal now, and we get more traffic than all but two of the world’s top 10 museums. I’m immensely proud of the amazing team we have, and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together.

Literally millions of students, teachers, and history enthusiasts worldwide rely on us to learn about this amazing time period. Thank you all for your continued support. Whether you’re a reader, contributor, member, donor, or a part of the team: Without your help, none of this would have been possible! You all help us in our ongoing mission to publish the best ancient history information on the internet, for free.

Thank you all for making this success story happen!

Jan van der Crabben
CEO & Founder
Ancient History Encyclopedia

Categories
Culture Travel

7 Strange Artifacts from Malta

We know many things about history, but what we don’t know outweighs what we think we know. Throughout my travels, I have come not only to embrace, but to seek out history’s mysteries. If your eyes and your mind are open you can find mysteries whenever and wherever you travel. Malta is one of those places where the mysteries are too numerous to count, and the culture is too rich to understand in just a few days. Out of the hundreds of unique sites and artifacts found throughout Malta, seven are highlighted below that pose more questions than answers.

The Sleeping Lady of Malta
The Sleeping Lady of Malta was discovered on the lower floor of the Hypogeum of Hal-Safleni.