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Society

Essays and videos on social issues, history, political life and the future
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The ancient world

Meet the absentee gods and nefarious spirits of ancient Mesopotamia

6 minutes

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Stories and literature

Vergil’s secret message

Long derided as mere coincidences, acrostics in ancient poetry are finally being taken seriously – with astonishing results

Julia Hejduk

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Archaeology

The secret life of Druids

The Greeks and Romans portrayed these elusive priests as bogeymen who bathed in their victims’ blood. Who were they really?

Miranda Aldhouse-Green

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The ancient world

The great libraries of Rome

Passersby could wander at will into grand public libraries in imperial Rome. Could they trust what they found inside?

Fabio Fernandes

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Stories and literature

Poet of impermanence

Enheduana is the first known named author. Her poems of strife and upheaval resonate in our own unstable times

Sophus Helle

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The ancient world

The horrors of Pompeii

The name ‘Eutychis’ was etched into a wall 2,000 years ago. Finding out who she was illuminates the dark side of Rome

Guy D Middleton

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Art

All those naked Greeks…

Men in ancient Greek art exercise, fight battles, pursue lovers and mourn lost friends, all without their pants on. Why?

Sarah Murray

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The ancient world

What wine vessels reveal about politics and luxury in ancient Athens and Persia

16 minutes

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The ancient world

Guide to a foreign past

The iconoclastic French historian Paul Veyne illuminated the past by showing how deeply alien it is to the present

Carlos Noreña

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History of science

How an ancient polymath first calculated Earth’s size, as told by Carl Sagan

7 minutes

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Thinkers and theories

The sage and his foibles

Scholars cannot agree whether the letters of Plato are fake or genuine. Is this just a symptom of misplaced reverence?

James Romm

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Archaeology

What the tablets say

Some 3,700 years ago, an enslaved girl, a barber, and a king crossed paths in a city by the Euphrates. This is their story

Amanda H Podany

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The ancient world

The other Cleopatra

Daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, she became the influential queen of a mysterious, abundant North African kingdom

Jane Draycott

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Global history

It never existed

The idea of a ‘precolonial’ Africa is theoretically vacuous, racist and plain wrong about the continent’s actual history

Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò

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Archaeology

The pharaoh’s trumpet

The truly wondrous treasures of Tutankhamun’s tomb are not made of gold. They are the mundane things of everyday life

Toby Wilkinson

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The ancient world

What did the Rosetta Stone’s inscription actually communicate?

17 minutes

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The ancient world

Wanderlust of the ancients

The Roman Empire enabled an early version of globalisation that offered travellers adventure, novelty and opportunity

Fabio Fernandes

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The ancient world

Sappho’s homoerotic poetry was beloved in ancient Greece – and burned centuries later

5 minutes

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The ancient world

Why did the Romans create a massive, entirely impractical map of their empire?

7 minutes

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Archaeology

Ancient Greek sculptures were colourful. Why does the white marble ideal persist?

6 minutes

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The ancient world

Our trip to Antioch

Ancient Romans bought mementos to commemorate their travels. These speak eloquently of their world, if we care to listen

Maggie Popkin

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The ancient world

Cracking the Cretan code

Linear B has yielded its secrets, but Linear A remains elusive. Can linguistic analysis unlock the meaning of Minoan script?

Ester Salgarella

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Cities

Energised crowding

To understand why early cities thrived, look not to the temples of kings but to their subjects’ bustling neighbourhoods

Michael E Smith

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Stories and literature

The way of dharma

How do ancient stories of talking elephants and singing birds encourage a life of truth, nonviolence and compassion?

Keerthik Sasidharan