The Benefits and Drawbacks of Wikipedia
In the 21st century, with access to the internet widespread and readily available, there is perhaps no single source of information that has become more commonly used, and more debated about, than Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. This website, edited by community members, boasts articles on just about any subject of any notability. The problem is that a great many people assume that everything on Wikipedia is true and accurate and use it as their go to for information on anything they don’t already know about. On the flip side of the coin, Wikipedia has been roundly criticized by academics and other professionals for being inaccurate, out of date, and incomplete in its information and they routinely point out the fact that people can, and have, edited articles with deliberately false information.
From my point of view, being a 24 year old academic, is that both stances are more or less correct. If you know nothing about a particular subject, Wikipedia is a good springboard into the topic giving you both a good background and often a place to look for more detailed information. Once you start getting into specifics and details, however, the articles on Wikipedia are often inaccurate, incomplete, and very often out of date with current academic trends. You should always check the history of the article to see if it has recently been heavily edited. You should also never cite Wikipedia without some kind of independent verification of its information and if you have that, you don’t need to cite Wikipedia at all.
Here is a rundown on News regarding the ancient world, and important anniversaries, from the past month. The news articles were brought to my attention thanks to http://www.ablogabouthistory.com/, a site I definitely recommend you check out if you are interested in reading news regarding history.
Notable Historical Events
- May 31, of the year 1279BCE is the traditional, and generally assumed, date of the ascension of Ramesses II to the throne of Egypt. His 66 year reign would see the Egyptian Empire rise to its greatest size and power. When one pictures Ancient Egypt and the Egyptian Pharaohs, Ramesses II and his Egyptian Empire is what you are pictures, to the point where he is often depicted in stories set in ancient Egypt with which he had nothing to do(mostly famously several versions of the Exodus story). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rameses_II
- June 2nd, of 455CE, is a commonly held date for the beginning of the Vandal Sack of Rome, a event of considerable destruction(hence the term Vandalism being associated with pointless destruction) but some sources say that it was not a particularly bloody one. This Sack of Rome is cited by some historians as being the end of the Roman Empire in the West, if any one date can be called such. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sack_of_Rome_(455)
- June 9th, of 68CE, was the date of the suicide of the Emperor Nero, bringing an end to the Julio-Claudian Dynasty which had ruled the Roman Empire for 99 years. Though Nero had been popular with the common people of the Empire, and still had plenty of support his increasingly fearful and erratic behavior in dealing with the rebellion of Galba in Spain and the disquiet of the German Legions caused the Praetorian Guard to abandon their allegiance and the Senate to declare him an enemy of the state(the first emperor to be so declared). Abandoned by his friends Nero eventually opened his veins. On his death Galba would be declared Emperor, however his severe style of rule would spark a brutal civil war the following year which would see 4 emperors, 3 of them dying, including Galba, before Vespasian would stabilize the Empire, inaugurating the Flavian Dynasty. Despite its severity, the civil war, and Nero’s death itself, would demonstrate the stability of the Roman Imperial Administration, which retained its stability and effectiveness through the rough transition. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nero#The_revolt_of_Vindex_and_Galba_and_the_death_of_Nero
- Either June 10th or 11th of the year 323BCE marked the death of the Macedonian King Alexander the Great in Babylon at the age of 32. Accounts are unclear as to what exactly he died from, some argue that he was poisoned, others that he died of some illness or another, although most agree that his heavy drinking habit likely indirectly contributed. His young death ensured that no stable Macedonian kingdom came out of his vast conquests as his general soon set about to fighting amongst themselves and formed the Antigonid, Seleucid, and Ptolemaic Kingdoms. The extraordinary things he accomplished in his short life, especially the seizure of the Persian Empire(for he can be more accurately described as having seized control of it from its Achaemenid founders and rulers than having conquered it), and the Hellenistic Culture which came out of his conquest, has ensured that no aspect of his life has not been more exhaustively scrutinized and debated than almost any other figure in history. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_the_Great
Here is a rundown of ancient historical anniversaries of the coming two weeks(I normally do one, but a)there isn’t much going on in the next couple weeks and b)I’ll be out of town and thus unable to write one of these next weekend) and news on ancient history from the past week. As always, the news articles come from http://www.ablogabouthistory.com/, which is well worth looking at.
- May 20th marks the anniversary of the beginning of the First Council of Nicaea in 325CE, the first ecumenical council of the Christian church. It was called by the Roman Emperor Constantine who, having recognized the Christian religion, called the council to decide matters of doctrine and orthodoxy and hopefully end some of the schisms and infighting with the young religion. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Council_of_Nicea
- May 22nd is the date often given for the Battle of Granicus, in which the Macedonian armies of Alexander the Great defeated the army of the Satraps of Asia Minor. This was the first of Alexander’s three battles against the Persian Empire and gave him virtually free reign to seize control of Asia Minor, the first part of his conquest of the Persian Empire. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Granicus
For the first two centuries of the common era it is estimated that a full 50% of the world’s population lived under either the Roman Empire or the Han Dynasty. The only time in which the human race was, perhaps, more united was during the height of the Achaemenid Empire under which lived about 45 percent of humans, by some estimates, but that height lasted for far less time. There are a number of fascinating similarities between both of these famous and influential empires. They had similar periods of success, similar advances in bureaucracy and city life, similar problems, and similar influences on later life in those regions.
Before delving into some of these fascinating similarities, still little studied or understood, a couple of things should be understood. The first is that despite the size and power of both Empires, they had very little contact with or knowledge of each other, and most of that was information passed through various traders and middle men along what would later be called the Silk Road. The second thing is that I know far less about China (ancient or modern) than I probably should. The third is that these similarities, while fascinating, come largely from the necessities of running a large and administratively complex empire, and one should be careful of reading cultural, or any other such important, significance behind the similarities.
Though the details differ a great deal, one of the first similarities between the Roman Empire and the Han Dynasty are the general path of how they came to power. Both were the culmination of centuries of warfare between political units growing ever larger, cities, then kingdoms, etc., until they ruled the entire region, for the Han the heartland of what is now China and for the Romans the Mediterranean basin. Along with that both powers also made advances in the structure and organization of their military forces which were, for a time, unmatched in their respective regions.
Here is a rundown of the news stories from the past week and anniversaries of important events from the coming week. As always, most of the news stories come from http://www.ablogabouthistory.com/. I highly recommend checking it out to keep updated on news regarding history.
- Chinese Archaeologists have discovered a tomb dating back 2500 years that may have belonged to one of the warlords of the Eastern Zhou Period(770-256BCE). The tomb was discovered in January in Shandong Province and several bronze weapons, jade jewelry and ritual utensils have been found. The remains of the warlord archaeologists presume was buried there have yet to be found. The tomb was found on a steep hill, which was unusual given that warlords tended to be buried on mountains. The unique aspects of this tomb may shed more light on an extremely chaotic period in Chinese history. Source: http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2012-04/24/content_15126480.htm
- The Temple of Hathor, on the island of Philae in Upper Egypt is due to be opened this month after a program to restore the long deteriorated temple. The temple was originally built by King Ptolemy VI and expanded under Ptolemy VII and the Roman Emperors Augustus and Tiberius. That the site has been restored, its blocks had been deteriorated and the walls cracked, points to the ability of workers and archaeologists to restore and reinforce ancient buildings, even when they are pretty poor shape. Source: http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/9/40/40238/Heritage/Ancient-Egypt/Philaes-Hathor-temple-gets-facelift-in-advance-of-.aspx
- Evidence has been uncovered from the remains of a large, sunken, Roman vessel, found six months ago near the shore of Marausa Lido, contains evidence of Roman smuggling activities. The vessel dates from the 3rd century CE and primarily contains jars, which have been perfectly preserved, of walnuts, figs, olives, wine, oil and fish sauce. Also found on the ship were a bunch of terracotta tubes, pointed at one end, which were used by builders to reinforce vaulted ceilings. These fictile tubes were approximately a quarter of the cost in North Africa than they were in Rome and were likely smuggled by sailors looking to pad their small pay. This vessel is in pieces but when the pieces are assembled it will be the most complete Roman ship ever discovered. Archaeologists in Salerno are expecting it to be restored and on displayed within 2 years. More importantly this discovery sheds more light on both commerce in the Roman world, and smuggling activities which is one of many activities which are not well recorded in ancient sources. Source: http://news.discovery.com/history/roman-shipwreck-smuggling-120425.html
- In an excavation beginning in 2010, archaeologists have discovered the remains of a small temple in the mountains between Ilia and Messinia in Greece, across from the famous temple of Epicurean Apollo. The temple dates from the 6th century BCE and seems to have been demolished and some point to make way for a larger temple. Various pieces from the temple, including its triglyphs, and items dedicated to the god of the temple, including bronze figure of a naked man holding a spear, and some sharp iron weapons. Tools used to build a small temple were also found. It is unclear exactly what god the temple was dedicated too, but presumably it was a deity that was involved war in some way. Source: http://greece.greekreporter.com/2012/04/24/ancient-temple-discovered-in-messinia/
- Archaeologists working on the Struma Highway in Bulgaria have found a Necropolis dating back approximately 2800 years. Archaeologists are apparently perplexed at the size of the site and the amount of time it was in use, although there are two ancient settlements that have been found in the region. source: http://www.sofiaecho.com/2012/05/02/1818561_archaeology-ancient-necropolis-found-in-path-of-bulgarias-struma-motorway
- In excavations in Jerusalem a building has been discovered below the base of an ancient drainage channel near the Western Wall of Temple Mount. It is the closest building to the First Temple that has thus far been uncovered. Among the discoveries was a personal seal of a semi-precious stone marked with Lematanyahu Ben Ho, meaning ‘belonging to matanyahu ben ho’. The rest of the inscription has been erased. Such personal seals were common during the First Temple Period. Source: http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/History/Early+History+-+Archaeology/Hebrew_seal_Matanyahu_uncovered_Jerusalem_1-May-2012.htm