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The Etruscan civilization flourished in central Italy between the 8th and 3rd century BCE. The culture was renowned in antiquity for its rich mineral resources and as a major Mediterranean trading power. Much of its culture and even history was either obliterated or assimilated into that of its conqueror, Rome. Nevertheless, surviving Etruscan tombs... [continue reading
In ancient Egypt, if a woman were having difficulty conceiving a child, she might spend an evening in a Bes Chamber (also known as an incubation chamber) located within a temple. Bes was the god of childbirth, sexuality, fertility, among other his other responsibilities, and it was thought an evening in the god's presence would encourage conception... [continue reading
Heka is the god of magic and medicine in ancient Egypt and is also the personification of magic itself. He is probably the most important god in Egyptian mythology but is often overlooked because his presence was so pervasive as to make him almost invisible to the Egyptologists of the 19th and 20th centuries CE. Unlike the well-known Osiris and Isis, Heka had... [continue reading
The Regolini-Galassi Tomb is located in the Etruscan town of Cerveteri (aka Cisra or Caere) near the western coast of central Italy, around 50 km north of Rome. Cerveteri flourished between the 7th and 4th century BCE and has hundreds of rock-cut tombs from that period. The Regolini-Galassi tomb dates to c. 680-660 BCE and is one of the most important... [continue reading
A famous story from Greece relates how a young woman named Agnodice wished to become a doctor in Athens but found this forbidden. In fact, a woman practicing medicine in Athens in the 4th century BCE faced the death penalty. Refusing to give up on her dreams, she traveled to Alexandria where women were routinely allowed in the medical profession. Once she... [continue reading
Ixion is the fiendishly wicked king of the Lapiths from Greek mythology. In an attempted seduction of Hera, he was tricked by Zeus into making love to a cloud instead, from which was born Centaurus, the founder of the race of centaurs. Ixion's eternal punishment for his audacity and complete disrespect for both humanity and the gods was to be tied to an ever-spinning... [continue reading
Medicine in ancient Egypt was understood as a combination of practical technique and magical incantation and ritual. Although physical injury was usually addressed pragmatically through bandages, splints, and salves, even the broken bones and surgical procedures described in the medical texts were thought to have been made more effective through magic spells... [continue reading
The language of the Etruscans, like the people themselves, has remained somewhat mysterious and has yet to be fully understood. The alphabet used a western Greek script, but the language has presented difficulties to scholars because it is unrelated to contemporary Indo-European languages and the surviving examples of it are largely limited to very... [continue reading
The ancient Egyptians experienced the same wide array of disease that people do in the present day, but unlike most people in the modern era, they attributed the experience to supernatural causes. The common cold, for example, was prevalent, but one's symptoms would not have been treated with medicine and bed rest, or not these alone, but with magical... [continue reading
Narcissus is a figure from Greek mythology who was so impossibly handsome that he fall in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. Even the lovely nymph Echo could not manage to tempt him from his self-absorption. Narcissus' name lives on as the flower into which he was transformed and as a synonym for those obsessed with their own appearance... [continue reading