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Glossary

Updated:  February 22, 2018


Acropolis:  High, rocky hill above the city of Athens


A.D.:  “Anno Domini.”  Years since the birth of Christ


Agora:  Town square and marketplace in Athens


Alexander the Great:  Macedonian king who conquered most of the then-known world.  He introduced Hellenization


Archimedes:  Greek scientist who explained the principles of the lever and water displacement


Aristotle:  Ancient Greek philosopher.  A student of Plato and the teacher of Alexander the Great


Agriculture:  Farming; Started as a result of the Neolithic Revolution


Akenhaten:  Pharaoh who converted Ancient Egypt to a monotheistic religion.  Formerly known as Amenhotep IV.


Artifact:  An object used by humans.  We use artifacts to learn about the past


Ashurbanipal:  Assyrian king


Assyrian Empire:  Mesopotamian civilization remembered for their military strength and cruelty


Athens:  Ancient Greek city-state.  A center of art, philosophy, and learning.  Inventor of democracy.


Augustus Caesar:  Adopted son of Julius Caesar.  Considered to be the first emperor of the Roman Empire.  Formerly known as Octavian.

Babylon:  Mesopotamian city-state.  Home of the Ishtar Gate, the Hanging Gardens, and a large ziggurat

B.C.:  “Before Christ.”  Years before the birth of Christ

B.C.E.:  “Before the Common Era.”  Nonreligious term.

Beijing:  Capital city of China.  Formerly called "Peking"


Buddhism:  Religion founded in India by Siddhartha Gautama

Buddha:  Siddhartha Gautama.  Founder of Buddhism.

Caesar, Julius:  Roman leader who became dictator-for-life.  He was a friend of Cleopatra VII.


Carter, Howard: Archaeologist who discovered King Tut's tomb in 1922


Caste System:  System of social classes in Hinduism

C.E.:  “Common Era.”  Nonreligious term.

Circa:  “Approximately.”  Abbreviated as “c.”

Cincinnatus:  Roman dictator who voluntarily gave up his power and returned to his farm


City-State:  A city that is an independent nation.  Examples: Babylon, Ur, Athens, Sparta, Vatican City


Cleopatra VII:  Last pharaoh of Egypt.  Her relationships with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony led to Egypt becoming a territory of Rome


Code of Hammurabi:  Set of laws written by Hammurabi

Confucius:  Chinese philosopher

Cuneiform:  Written language in Mesopotamia

Cyrus the Great:  Persian ruler who conquered Babylon

Democracy:  Form of government in which the citizens make laws directly.  Invented by Athens.


Demosthenes:  Greek public speaker and teacher


Dead Sea Scrolls:  Ancient Hebrew writings discovered in 1947

Dharma:  The rules a Hindu must follow in order to get good karma


Dictator:  Non-royal ruler who has absolute power


Dictatorship:  Government in which one non-royal person rules with absolute power


Domestication:  Using plants and animals for your own purposes.  Began as a result of the Neolithic Revolution 


Emperor:  Ruler of an empire


Euclid:  Ancient Greek mathematician who formulated the mathematical branch of geometry


Eratosthenes:  Greek scientist who calculated the circumference of the earth


Euphrates River:  Along with the Tigris, one of the two Mesopotamian rivers.  Located on the Fertile Crescent


Egypt:  Ancient civilization located on the northeast corner of Africa. 

Fertile Crescent:  The land on which the Mesopotamian civilizations were located.  Formed by

the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

Forbidden City:  Complex of palaces where the Chinese emperor lived.  Located in Beijing.

Forum:  "Downtown" area of the ancient city of Rome.  It was the main place of business and socializing


Four Noble Truths:  Main beliefs of Buddhism

Grand Canal:  Very long canal used as a trade route in China

Greece:  An ancient civilization comprised of many city-states, including Sparta and Athens.


Greek Period:  Period when Egypt was ruled by kings and queens who were of Greek, not Egyptian, heritage.  The most famous of these was Cleopatra VII


Great Wall of China:  Defensive barrier in the north of China.  Built by Qin Shi Huangdi.  Protected against the Mongols.

Gunpowder:  Explosive powder invented by the Chinese.  Used for weapons and fireworks


Hammurabi:  King of Babylon who wrote the Code of Hammurabi.


Hanging Gardens:  Very beautiful gardens on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon

Hatshepsut:  Egyptian pharaoh who disguised that she was a woman


Hellenistic World:  Started by Alexander the Great.  The Greek culture was universal throughout much of Europe and western Asia.  It blended with native cultures.


Hellenization:  Blending the culture of Ancient Greece with native cultures.  This was done by Alexander the Great as he conquered other nations


Helot:  Slaves in Sparta


Herodotus:  Ancient Greek historian.  "The Father of History"


Hinduism:  A polytheistic religion founded in India

Hippocrates:  Ancient Greek physician.  "The Father of Medicine"


History:  The study of past events.  Learning about the past helps us make better decisions now

and in the future.

Ides of March:  March 15, 44 B.C.  Date on which Julius Caesar was assassinated.  "Ides" means middle day.


Indus River:  River that supported life in Ancient India

Inoculation:  Creating immunity to a disease by exposing a person to a weakened form of that disease

Irrigation:  Using canals to bring water from its source to where it is needed

Ishtar Gate:  Main entrance to Babylon

Judaism:  A monotheistic religion founded by Abraham


Karma:  A Hindu belief.  It determines how a living thing will be reincarnated


Khufu:  Ancient Egyptian pharaoh who was buried in the Great Pyramid of Giza

Legalism:  Chinese philosophy.  People must be controlled by the government.  This is for their own good.

Megalith:  Large prehistoric stone structures

Mesopotamia:  Ancient societies on the Fertile Crescent

Menes:  First pharaoh of Ancient Egypt.  United Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt


Migration:  People moving from one place to another.  This is done because of human needs, such as sources of food or water


Monarchy:  Form of government in which a royal person, such as a king, queen, or emperor, rules


Monotheism:  Belief in one god

Nebuchadnezzar:  King of Babylon who built the Hanging Gardens

Neolithic Era:  Prehistoric period.  People had developed agriculture and they domesticated plants and animals

Nefertiti:  Wife of Akenhaten.  Said to have been very beautiful.


Nineveh:  Capital city of the Assyrian Empire

Nirvana:  State of peace.  The goal of all Buddhists


Noble Eightfold Path:  The way a Buddhist should live his/her life

Nomads:  People who move from place to place, usually following their food source

Octavian:  See AUGUSTUS CAESAR


Old Kingdom:  The first period of Ancient Egyptian history


Parthenon:  Temple of Athena.  Located on the Acropolis in Athens


Paleolithic Era:  Prehistoric time when people were hunter-gatherers


Patricians:  Upper-class citizens in Ancient Rome


Peloponnesian War:  War in which Sparta defeated Athens.  As a result of this war, Greece was not united and the city-states could not cooperate to fight off invaders, such as Alexander the Great


Plato:  Greek philosopher.  A student of Socrates.  Wrote many books, including The Republic.


Plebeians:  Ordinary citizens in Ancient Rome


Plutarch:  Greek historian.  Wrote biographies of many historic figures, including Cleopatra VII.


Polytheism:  Belief in more than one god

Prehistory:  The period of time before the invention of writing

Primary Source:  An account written by someone who witnessed the events

Pythagoras:  Greek mathematician.  Formulated the Pythagorean Theroum


Qin Shi Huangdi:  The first emperor of China.  Responsible for the Great Wall, the Terracotta Warriors, the execution of his critics, and a legendary tomb


Ramses II:  Pharaoh who conquered much land, lived a very long life, and had many children.  (There are multiple English-language spellings of his name)


Reincarnation:  The belief that living things have souls that, after death, are reborn into new bodies


Republic:  Form of government in which citizens elect representatives to make laws for them


River Valley Civilizations: The earliest historic (not prehistoric) human societies – Mesopotamia, Ancient India, Ancient China, Ancient Egypt

Remus:  Legendary founder of Rome, along with his brother Romulus


Roman Republic (509 B.C. - 44 B.C.):  Rome was run by elected representatives of the people. 


Roman Empire (27 B.C. - 476 C.E.):  Rome was an absolute monarchy ruled by emperors


Rome:  City on the Italian peninsula.  Known as the "eternal city." 


Romulus:  Legendary founder of Rome, along with his brother Remus


Scribe:  A person whose job was to keep records and write things down

Secondary Source:  An account written about an event by someone who did not witness it

Sennacherib:  Assyrian king

Shang:  People who first settled in the Yellow River Valley

Siddhartha Gautama:  See BUDDHA

Socrates:  Ancient Greek philosopher.  Teacher of Plato.  Known as "the Gadfly of Athens"


Silk Road:  Trade route that connected China with Europe

Sparta:  Ancient Greek city-state whose society was focused on the military


Sphinx:  Ancient Egyptian statue.  Had the head of the pharaoh Khafre and the body of a lion


Stoa:  Covered part of the Agora in Athens.  The Stoic philosophers taught there


Stylus:  Wooden stick used by Mesopotamian scribes to write cuneiform on clay tablets


Sumer:  The first Mesopotamian civilization

Taj Mahal:  Very beautiful tomb in India.  Built by Shah Jahan for his wife.


Taoism A Chinese philosophy.  People should be balanced in all things.  Also spelled DAOISM


Temple of Heaven:  Main place of worship for Chinese emperors

Terra Cotta Warriors:  Thousands of clay soldiers that “protected” the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi

Tigris River:  Along with the Euphrates, one of the two Mesopotamian rivers.  Located on the Fertile Crescent


Tribunes:  Representatives of the plebeians in the Roman Republic


Tutankhamun:  Very young pharaoh.  His tomb was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter.


Twelve Tables:  Set of laws in the Roman Republic


Valley of the Kings:  Valley in southern Egypt where many pharaohs, including King Tut, were buried


Yellow River:  River that supported life in China

Ziggurats:  Mesopotamian religious temples