Ancient history is the study of signifcant cultural and political events from the beginning of human history until the early Middle Ages. Although the ending date is largely arbitrary, most Western scholars use the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD as the traditional end of ancient history. Another term that is often used to refer to ancient history is antiquity, although this term is most often used to refer specifically to the civilizations of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, both of which were predated by ancient Near Eastern cultures.
The span of recorded history is roughly 5,000-5,500 years, with Sumerian cuneiform being the oldest form of writing discovered so far. Genetic evidence, however, points to the first appearance of human beings about 150,000 years ago. There is also a growing body of evidence that Homo sapiens first left Africa about 60,000 years ago.
The study of ancient historyEdit
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. Literacy was not widespread in 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 West'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 still survive. Historians have two major avenues which they take to better understand the ancient world: archeology and the study of primary sources.
References and Further ReadingEdit
- Everyman His Own Historian, Carl Becker (1931) Speech delivered to the American Historical Association
- Eyewitness Testimony, Elizbeth Loftus, Harvard, (1996)
- Decoding Ancient History : A toolkit for the historian as detective, Carol G. Thomas, D.P. Wick, Prentice Hall. (1993)
- Changes in the Roman Empire: Essays in the Ordinary, Ramsay MacMullen, Princeton (1993)
- Greeks and the Irrational, E. R. Dodds, U of Calif Press (1964)
- History of Magic and Experimental Science, Lynn Thorndike (1923)
- Enemies of the Roman Order: Treason, Unrest & Alienation in the Empire, Ramsay MacMullen, Harvard (1966)
- The Idea of History, R.G. Collingwood (1946)
- What is History?, E.H. Carr
|This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Ancient history. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Ancient Near East, the text of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.|