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Glossary for the Ancient World

CAVEAT LECTOR "Reader Beware!"

For many important terms such as 'History', 'Polis', 'Democracy', 'Republic', Dictator, 'Tyrant', 'Imperialism' simple definitions can be both problematic and misleading. These terms do not have a static definition over time and insomuch as they differ from modern definitions, they are subject to significant variation in the ancient world.

While this glossary is a place to start, students are strongly encouraged to ask about terms in lectures as they arise (terms will be added throughout the year), to research and to formulate their own ideas about these terms over the course of the year.

Please consider how these terms vary over time and why....

  • epoch - a period of time
  • epigraphy- the study of writing on material objects, quite literally, epi graphein "writing on". This includes inscriptions on monuments, buildings, coins, graffiti, pottery, mosaics, etc.
  • ethnography / ethnographic - the study of human customs and cultures (for example, through Homer, or in Herodotus)
  • Historiography - the study of the methodology and development of "history" as a field, particularly with reference to the critical analysis/treatment of sources; also the study of history-writing.
  • palaeography- the study of 'old writing' often including analysis of letter forms to decipher, date and identify dialects, styles and/or social contexts of writing in the ancient world. Often linked with epigraphy.
  • Latins -
  • Numismatics- the study of ancient currency (in the ancient world, this usually involves coins and/or metal objects).
  • topography - description/study of a particular place/locality