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