Ancient History & Civilisation


Achilles Tatius: Author (about the second century AD) of the Greek romance Leucippe and Clitophon.

Acts of the Apostles: An account of the first decades after the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. Traditionally by Luke; written in the later first century AD.

Aelian: Claudius Aelianus (c. AD 175–235), author of Various History, a collection of observations and information about Romano-Grecian culture.

Aesop: Early and most famous recorder of fables. Traditionally born a slave about the sixth century BC, his life is told in the fictionalizing Life of Aesop of the first century AD. Collections under his authorship, such as those by Phaedrus and Babrius, were very popular.

Ammianus Marcellinus: Historian (c. AD 325–90s), portions of whose history of Rome in the fourth century AD survive.

Appian: Historian (c. AD 95–165) who wrote a history of Rome in twenty-four books, most of which survive.

Apuleius: L. Apuleius of Madaurus, North Africa (c. AD 125–80). Author of The Golden Ass, as well as other rhetorical and philosophical works.

Aristotle: Greek philosopher (384–322 BC).

Arrius Menander: A writer on military affairs in the early third century AD. Six extracts survive in the legal material.

Artemidorus of Daldus: Professional dream interpreter from Asia Minor who lived sometime in the first to second centuries AD and wrote The Interpretation of Dreams, which is a professional guide.

Astrampsychus: Pseudonymous author of Astrampsychus’ Predictions (or Oracles), a popular guide to interpreting the casting of lots in order to foretell the future; written in Egypt in the third century AD.

Athenaeus: Author (second to third centuries AD) of Intellectuals Dining, an astonishing collection of cultural information in the guise of dinner-table observations.

Augustine of Hippo: Christian church leader, theologian, and philosopher who lived AD 354–430 and who wrote voluminously, his most famous work being his spiritual autobiography, Confessions.

Babrius: Produced a collection of ‘Aesop’s’ fables in Greek. Exactly when he lived is uncertain.

Cato the Elder: Roman politician and military leader (234–149 BC) who wrote On Farming, a guide to successful large-estate management.

Celsus: Encyclopedist (c. 25 BC–AD 50). Only his On Medicine survives.

Chariton: Author (first to second century AD?) of the Greek romance Chaereas and Callirhoe.

Cicero: Roman rhetorician, politician, and philosopher (106–43 BC).

Collectio Augustana: Anonymous book of Greek fables of the second or third century AD.

Columella: Roman agricultural writer (AD 4 to c. 70).

Cyprian: Christian leader (c. AD 208–58) and writer of letters and theological treatises.

Digest: A comprehensive collection of material relating to Roman law, which was compiled at the order of the emperor Justinian I in the sixth century AD and contained essential legal material from the centuries before.

Dio Chrysostom: A Greek orator (c. AD 40–120), nicknamed ‘Golden Mouthed,’ who wrote Discourses.

Dorotheus of Sidon: A first-century AD Greek astrologer, probably based in Alexandria in Egypt, whose textbook in verse on horoscopes, Carmen Astrologicum, mainly survives via a ninth-century Arabic translation.

Epictetus: Greek (?) Stoic philosopher (AD 55–135). Born a slave, at some point he was freed and taught; he left no writings, but a student’s notes record much of his observations and thinking.

Epigraphy: The study of writings on stone, bronze, or other durable material.

Epistles: Letters; the New Testament epistles used here include those of Paul (to Christians at Corinth, Rome, and Thessalonica, and to his friend Philemon), and of unknown authors fictively to others (Peter, Timothy, Titus).

Fable: A brief story that features animals or other nonhumans as characters and which teaches a lesson.

Gaius: Roman legal writer (c. AD 110–79) whose Institutes are a basic text of Roman law.

Galen: Roman doctor, medical writer, and philosopher (129 to the early third century AD). The most famous physician of his day; many of his works have survived and were central to medical knowledge into early modern times.

The Golden Ass: Apuleius’ major work, also known as The Metamorphoses, a novel of transformation and salvation that contains many accurate details of the daily life of ordinary people.

graffiti: Writing or images scratched, painted, drawn, etc., on surfaces of property.

Greek Anthology: Greek poems, in large part epigrams, written over a thousand-year period beginning in the seventh century BC.

Greek Magical Papyri: A mass of papyri texts dealing with magic and religion and dating to the second to fifth centuries AD. Bought in Thebes, Egypt, about 1827 and dispersed to various private and public collections thereafter.

Heliodorus: Author (c. third century AD) from Syria who wrote the Greek romance An Ethiopian Story.

Herodian: Historian (c. AD 170–240) who wrote an account of Rome during the period AD 180–238.

Horace: Q. Horatius Flaccus (65–8 BC), famous Roman lyric poet whose father was a freedman and who was part of the literary circle of the emperor Augustus.

Juvenal: Roman satirist who wrote during the late first and early second centuries AD.

Lactantius: Christian writer (c. AD 240–320) who specialized in explaining and defending Christianity to polytheists.

Lucian: Rhetorician and satirist (c. AD 125–80) from Samosata (Syria). Born into a subelite family, his education and brilliance served elites but his writings often retain a sense for the experience of ordinary Romans.

Lucretius: Roman philosopher and poet (c. 99–55 BC) whose On the Nature of Things is an epic poem dealing with Epicurean philosophy.

Martial: A Spanish provincial who made it in Rome as a poet. His Epigrams are mostly sharp satires of the lives of those in his circle and of his elite patrons.

Material culture: Physical remains of society, usually discovered and identified through archaeology.

Mishnah: Early Jewish oral tradition about legal opinions and debates which was written down c. AD 220 and is a foundation of Rabbinic Judaism, as well as a fundamental element of the Talmud.

Musonius Rufus: Roman philosopher of Stoicism (c. AD 20/30–101) who, like his pupil Epictetus, apparently wrote nothing himself but whose students collected and published material based on his lectures.

New Testament: The name given to twenty-seven Christian (as opposed to Jewish) sacred texts accepted as the foundation of early Christianity: the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, twenty-one letters, and Revelation. The corpus was generally accepted as complete by the late second century AD.

Papyrology: The reading and study of writings on papyri, rot-resistant paper produced from the papyrus plant of the Nile Delta and elsewhere.

Paul: A Jew of Tarsus (c. AD 5–67) who, though he had not been with Jesus of Nazareth while he was alive, was the main player in early Christian preaching and teaching and an energetic letter writer and missionary to many town populations of the Eastern Empire.

Petronius: Called ‘Arbiter’ (c. AD 27–66) because he was the ‘arbiter of elegance’ in the emperor Nero’s court, and usually assumed to be the author of the Satyricon (see below).

Phaedrus: Roman fabulist (c. AD 15–50) whose collection Latinizes the Greek fables of ‘Aesop’.

Philo: An elite Hellenized Jew of Alexandria, Egypt (AD 20–50).

Philostratus: A Greek sophist (c. AD 170–250) who wrote The Life of Apollonius of Tyana.

Plautus: Roman writer of comedies (c. 254–184 BC).

Pliny the Elder: Roman political and military figure and polymath (AD 23–79) who wrote the encyclopedic Natural History.

Pliny the Younger: Nephew of Pliny the Elder (AD 61- c. 112). A political and cultural figure who wrote letters and a panegyric of the emperor Trajan.

Plutarch: A member of the provincial elite from Boeotia (c. AD 46–120) whose voluminous Parallel Lives and Customs survived antiquity and remained popular.

Priapeia: An ancient, anonymous collection of ninety-five Latin poems centered around Priapus, the phallic god.

Publilius Syrus: Born a slave (first century BC), he was freed and became a successful actor of mimes, as well as the author of a collection of Roman proverbs.

Satyricon: A fragmentary tale of humorous, erotic, antiheroic adventures told in a mixture of prose and poetry. Petronius is usually accepted as the author. Many details reflect the reality of everyday life for ordinary Romans.

Seneca the Elder: Roman lawyer and rhetorician (c. 54 BC–AD 39) originally from Spain, whose Controversiae are exemplary treatments of themes used in training orators.

Seneca the Younger: Son of Seneca the Elder (c. 3 BC – AD 65) and a politically important literary figure and Stoic philosopher who wrote tragedies, essays, and philosophical treatises.

Strabo: Greek geographer (c. 63 BC–AD 24).

Suetonius: Roman polymath (c. AD 70–130) and biographer of the early emperors, most of whose works do not survive.

Tacitus: Roman historian (c. AD 56–117) of the early empire.

Talmud: A central Jewish text, this record of discussions regarding Jewish law and customs was compiled around AD 500 from earlier material.

Terence: Roman writer of comedies (c. 195/185–159 BC). Born a slave, his plays do not seem to contain much evidence of his life in that condition.

Tertullian: Christian intellectual (c. AD 160–220) and a polemicist who wrote against heresies (although he himself ended up in one) and the polytheistic world around him.

Ulpian: An important Roman legal authority (c. AD 170–223) whose work constitutes about a third of the Digest material.

Valerius Maximus: Roman rhetorician (first century AD) and writer whose Memorable Deeds and Sayings seems to be a compilation to provide grist for oratorical displays.

Varro: Roman politician and intellectual (116–27 BC) who wrote on many topics including Latin language and the management of agricultural estates. Most of his work is, however, lost.

Vegetius: Roman military writer (fifth century AD) whose On Military Affairs is the only surviving complete ancient manual on that topic.

Xenophon of Ephesus: Author of the Greek romance An Ephesian Tale (second to third centuries AD).

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