Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Alexander the Great in numbers [quiz]

Have you got Alexander’s number? The Treasures of Alexander the Great: How One Man’s Wealth Shaped the World explains the career of the Macedonian king by exploring a set of mind-blowing numbers. Test your knowledge of Alexander’s life with this quiz!

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Revealing the past of childhood before history

Through most societies of the human past, children comprised half the community. Archaeologists and their collaborators are now uncovering many aspects of the young in societies of the deep past, too long the ‘hidden half’ of prehistory.

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How ‘the future’ connects across subjects

‘Today’s world is complex and unreliable. Tomorrow is expected to be more so.’ – Jennifer M. Gidley, The Future: A Very Short Introduction From the beginning of time, humanity has been driven by a paradox: fearing the unknown but with a constant curiosity to know. Over time, science and technology have developed, meaning that we […]

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It’s not just decline and fall anymore…

One evening in mid-October 1764 the young Edward Gibbon sat among the ruins of the Capitol at Rome. The prospect before him must have looked like a Piranesi print–bony cattle grazing on thin grass in the shade of shattered marble columns. It was then and there that he resolved to write the history of the decline and fall of Rome.

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The Ancient Celts: six things I learned from Barry Cunliffe

Confession: I’m not an archaeologist nor a historian—at least not in any meaningful sense, though I do delight in aspects of both. But I was lucky enough to see Barry Cunliffe speak about the Ancient Celts at the Oxford Literature Festival earlier this year and then to have front row seats to the recording of this podcast, and I wanted to share a little of what I’ve learned.

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Rediscovering ancient Greek music

At the root of all Western literature is ancient Greek poetry—Homer’s great epics, the passionate love poems of Sappho, the masterpieces of Greek tragedy and of comic theatre. Almost all of this poetry was or originally involved sung music, often with instrumental accomp­animent.

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Divine victory: the role of Christianity in Roman military conquests

The Roman Empire derived its strength from its military conquests: overseeing territories across Europe, Africa and Asia. Before Christianity, emperors were praised and honored for their successes on the battlefield; as Christianity took root throughout Rome, it was used as a means to elevate emperors to an even greater status: raising them from successful imperialists to divinely appointed leaders.

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History in 3 acts: a brief introduction to Ancient Greece [excerpt]

Ancient Greek history is conventionally broken down into three periods: Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic. However, the language used to describe them highlights an oversight made by generations of historians. By dubbing one period of history as “Classical,” scholars imply that the other two periods are inferior, simplifying the Archaic age as a mere precursor to and the Hellenistic age as a lesser descendant of the Classical age.

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Humanism—from Italian to secular

Humanism doesn’t get much good press these days. In many circles it comes accompanied by an adjective—secular—and a diatribe: A war of philosophy and of what defines morality is being fought daily in the media, judicial benches and legislative halls across the Western world. On one side stand fundamentalist Protestantism and conservative Catholicism and on the other side secular humanism.

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What is biblical archaeology? [Extract]

“These were some of the original questions in biblical archaeology that intrigued the earliest pioneers of the field. They still resonate today but are far from being answered.” In the following excerpt from Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction, Eric H. Cline explains the interests of biblical archaeologists, and explores the types of questions that those in the field set out to answer.

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Neanderthal cave art

On 23 February this year, the American journal Science published an article by an international group of scientists and prehistorians. It presented a series of dates obtained from layers of calcite that had formed on top of drawings in three Ice-Age-decorated caves in Spain: La Pasiega in the north, Maltravieso in the centre, and Ardales in the south. The results—c. 64-66,000 years ago—are so early that it makes it certain that Neanderthals must have made these markings on cave walls.

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Want to know the Latin for “true love”?

Then Ovid is your man – and woman, as the case may be … Fidus amor. That’s “true love” in Latin. Historically, such love is often claimed to have emerged with the troubadours of twelfth century Provence. The troubadours used the Occitan term fin amor for this kind of love rather than the more famous […]

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Strangest things: The peculiar Byzantine Empire [quiz]

From stories of saints and relics to the (not-so) mundane traditions of daily life, Byzantium has long been regarded as one of history’s most curious civilizations. Rising from the rubble of the Roman Empire, this complex Christian society was a birthplace of literature, art, and architecture. How much do you know about Byzantine culture?

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New finds from the Antikythera shipwreck

The Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities recently announced that the latest season of diving at the famous Antikythera Shipwreck — notable among other things as the findspot of the Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient Greek astronomical gearwork device now recognized to be the most complex and sophisticated scientific instrument surviving from antiquity — had located a concentration of large metal objects buried under the seabed, one of which was recovered: the right arm, lacking just two fingers, from a bronze statue.

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Nine things you didn’t know about love and marriage in Byzantium

The Byzantine civilization has long been regarded by many as one big curiosity. Often associated with treachery and superstition, their traditions and contributions to the ancient world are often overlooked. Referencing A Cabinet of Byzantine Curiosities, we’ve pulled together nine lesser known facts about love and marriage in Byzantium.

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