Female Gladiators In Ancient Rome › Antigone › Aryan » Origins and History

Articles and Definitions › Contents

  • Female Gladiators In Ancient Rome › Antique Origins
  • Antigone › Ancient History
  • Aryan › Ancient History

Ancient civilizations › Historical places, and their characters

Female Gladiators In Ancient Rome › Antique Origins

Ancient Civilizations

by Joshua J. Mark
published on 05 April 2018
Female gladiators in ancient Rome – referred to by modern-day scholars as gladiatrix – may have been uncommon but they did exist. Evidence suggests that a number of women participated in the public games of Rome even though this practice was often criticized by Roman writers and attempts were made to regulate it through legislation.
Female gladiators are often referred to in ancient texts as ludia (female performers in a ludi, a festival or entertainment) or as mulieres (women) but not often as feminae (ladies) suggesting to some scholars that only lower-class women were drawn to the arena. There is a significant amount of evidence, however, that high-born women were as well. The term gladiatrix was never used in ancient times; it is a modern word first applied to female gladiators in the 1800's CE.
Female Gladiators

Female Gladiators

Women who chose a life in the arena – and it does seem this was a choice – may have been motivated by a desire for independence, a chance at fame, and financial rewards including remission of debt. Although it seems a woman gave up any claim to respectability as soon as she entered the arena, there is some evidence to suggest that female gladiators were honored as highly as their male counterparts.


Women in Rome – whether during time of the Republic or the later Empire – had few freedoms and were defined by their relationship to men. Scholar Brian K. Harvey writes:
Unlike men's virtues, women were praised for their home and married life. Their virtues included sexual fidelity ( castitas ), a sense of decency ( pudicitia ), love for her husband ( caritas ), marital concord ( concordia ), devotion to family ( pietas ), fertility ( fecunditas ), beauty ( pulchritude ), cheerfulness ( hilaritas ), and happiness ( laetitia )…As exemplified by the power of the paterfamilias [husband or father, head of the house], Rome was a patriarchal society. (59)
Whether upper or lower class, women were expected to adhere to traditional expectations of behavior. Women's status is made clear through the many works by male writers which deal with the subject in depth and well as various legislative decrees. It is not known how women felt about their position since almost all the extant literature from Rome is written by men. Harvey notes that “we have almost no literary source that reveals a woman's perspective on her own life or the role of women in general” (59).
The one exception to this is the poetry of Sulpicia (1st century BCE). In her first poem, celebrating falling in love, she says how she does not want to hide her love in “sealed documents” but will express it in verse and writes, “It is nice to go against the grain, as it is tiresome for a woman to constantly force her appearance to fit her reputation” (Harvey, 77). This reputation, of course, was forced upon a woman by males; first her father and then her husband.


Sulpicia was the daughter of Servius Sulpicius Rufus (c. 106-43 BCE), an author, orator, and jurist who was famous for his eloquence. As a writer himself, his daughter's literary pursuits were most likely encouraged but this was hardly the case for most women. Even in her case, she was still under the control of her father and her uncle Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus (c. 64 BCE-8 CE). In her second poem, Sulpicia complains about Messalla's control over her in making birthday plans, writingthat her uncle does “not allow me to live at my own discretion” (Harvey, 77).
Messalla Corvinus, like his brother, was also an author and an important patron of the arts. Sulpicia, then, was most likely brought up in an enlightened home where women could pursue literary endeavors and, based on her other poems, she also seems to have had the freedom to pursue a love affair with a man she calls Cerinthus who did not meet with the approval of her family. Even in this “liberated” environment, however, she still felt constrained and so it may be assumed a woman had far less freedom of choice in other more conservative homes.


It is due to the well-established patriarchy of Rome and women's place in it that scholars have had such difficulty accepting the concept of female gladiators. References to ludia are often interpreted to mean actresses in a religious festival – and this is an accurate interpretation – but the context of the term in some inscriptions makes clear that some women chose their own path as female gladiators and it seems this option was open to them over a considerable length of time.
The Colosseum or Flavian Amphitheatre

The Colosseum or Flavian Amphitheatre

In 11 CE the Roman Senate passed a law forbidding freeborn women under the age of 20 from participating in the games of the arena. This suggests the practice had been ongoing for some time previously. It should be noted that the decree specifies “freeborn females”, not female slaves, who are assumed to have still been able to participate. Emperor Septemus Severus (193-211 CE) outlawed participation of any woman in the arena in 200 CE, claiming that such spectacles encouraged a lack of respect for women in general.
He was also motivated by the concern that women, if allowed to train as athletes, would want to participate in the Olympic Games in Greece ; a prospect he found distasteful and threatening to the social order. Interestingly, his decree seems to have been motivated by the participation of high-born free women in the games – those who would have had all their material needs provided – who may have preferred the life of a gladiator to having their choices limited by male relatives.


In spite of the Severan decree, women were still fighting in the arena later in the 3rd century CE as evidenced by an inscription from Ostia, the port city near Rome. This inscription notes that the magistrate of the city, one Hostilianus, was the first to allow women to fight in the arena since Ostia's founding. The wording of the inscription specifies that Hostilianus allowed mulieres to fight, not feminae and so it may be that Hostilianus was able to get around Severus' law by some legal loophole whereby free born ladies of the upper class were still prohibited but lower-class women and female slaves could still participate in the games.


Gladiator mosaic

Gladiator mosaic

The first gladiatorial games were held in 264 BCE by the sons of the senator Brutus Pera to honor their father after his funeral.They would continue for the next few centuries until finally outlawed under Honorius in 404 CE. During this time, thousands of people and animals would die in the arena for the entertainment of the people.
Contrary to popular opinion and depictions in film, gladiators were not sent into the arena to die and most contests did not end in death. Convicted criminals ( damnati ) were executed in the arena but most of those who fought there were slaves who had been highly trained and were quite valuable to their owners.
The Roman writer Seneca (4 BCE-65 CE) describes a noon show at the arena which took place during the intermission between the morning and evening spectacles. This would have been the time of day when criminals were executed. These would include those convicted of serious crimes, deserters from the army, and those who incited sedition or were guilty of blasphemy or various other crimes against the state. Christians would eventually be included in the noon intermission spectacles:
These noon fighters are sent out with no armor of any kind; they are exposed to blows at all points, and no one ever strikes in vain...The crowd demands that the victor who has slain his opponent shall face the man who will slay him in turn; and the last conqueror is reserved for another butchering. The outcome for the combatants is death; the fight is waged with sword and fire. ( Moral Epistles VII.3-5)


It is unclear whether the “thumbs down” meant death and it has been suggested the gesture was the munerarius ' thumb drawn across his throat. The munerarius would consider the opinion of the crown before rendering a decision and could easily grant missio (allowing the gladiator to live) and call the contest with a decision of stans missus (“sent away standing”) which meant a draw. More gladiators were spared at this moment than killed because, if the munerarius chose death, he would have to compensate the lanista (owner of the gladiator) for the loss.
Gladiators certainly could be killed in their first fight in the arena but there are memorials and inscriptions which show that many fought and lived for years. It has been suggested, in fact, that female gladiators were often the daughters of retired gladiators who trained them. Gladiatorial schools abounded in Rome since their founding in c. 105 BCE and more schools proliferated in the colonies and provinces as the empire expanded.
Upon entering a Gladiatorial school, the novice took a vow to allow himself (or herself) to be whipped, burned and killed with steel and gave up all rights to his - or her - own life. The gladiator became the property of the master of the school who regulated everything in that person's life, from diet to daily exercise and, of course, trained the person to fight.
Gladiator relief

Gladiator relief

At the same time, it does not seem that women trained with men in the schools and there is no record of a woman fighting a man in any of the shows. Female gladiators were most likely trained by their fathers or in private lessons with a lanista.Wooden swords were used in training by both men and women following the revolt of the gladiator Spartacus (73-71 BCE) who had used the iron weapons of his school to launch the insurrection. Men and women were trained in different types of combat and there were four types of gladiator:
  • The Myrmillo (Murmillo) had a helmet (with a fish crest), oblong shield and sword.
  • The Retiarius (who usually fought a Myrmillo): lightly armed with a net and trident or dagger.
  • The Samnite had a sword, visored helmet, and oblong shield.
  • The Thracian (Thrax): armed with a curved blade (a sica ) and round shield.
Each gladiator was taught to fight in one of these four disciplines and the reward for excellence in combat could be fame, fortune, and a lifestyle which "respectable" women in Rome could never dream of. In a later passage from the Moral Epistlescited above, Seneca complains that the people always needed to have some form of entertainment going on at the arena besides the standard shows and this need may have initially been met by female entertainers fighting dwarves (Adkins & Adkins, 348). In time, however, women left off participating in these kinds of shows to become gladiators.


Discovered in 1996 CE and announced in September 2000 CE, the Remains of Great Dover Street Woman (also referred to as “Gladiator Girl”) provided physical evidence to back up the substantial literary evidence from antiquity that women fought as gladiators in the arena. The woman's pelvis was all that remained of the body after cremation but the abundance of expensive oil lamps, together with other evidence of a large and luxurious feast and the presence of pine cones (burned at the arena to purify it after the games) all contribute to the conclusion that this was the grave of a respected gladiator who was a woman.
Aside from the Great Dover Street Woman, physical evidence for female gladiators comes from a c. 2nd century CE relief found in Bodrum, Turkey which clearly depicts two of them, the above-mentioned inscription found at Ostia, a ceramic shard (thought to have been a pendant), found in Leicester, England, and a statue of a female gladiator (of unknown origin but in the style of the Italian peninsula) currently housed at the Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbein in Hamburg, Germany.
The relief depicts two women – clearly gladiators – and gives their stage names under their feet as Amazon and Achillia. They were most likely gladiators who enacted the famous story of Achilles and the Amazon queen Penthesilea (from Biblioteca of Pseudo Apollodorus, 2nd century CE) in which Achilles slays the queen in battle at Troy and then falls in love with her and regrets his actions.
Penthesilea & Achilles

Penthesilea & Achilles

Above the two figures is the inscription indicating stans missus, meaning the women had fought to an honorable draw. These two would have been Myrmillo or Samnite gladiators based on their shields and swords. The two round objects by each of the figures' feet are thought to be their helmets; but what type of helmet is unclear. The women in the relief must have been popular performers to have merited the expense of the work.
The ceramic shard is inscribed Verecunda Ludia Lucius Gladiator which translates as “Verecunda the performer and Lucius the Gladiator”. As noted, ludia can be interpreted as “female gladiator” and this ceramic has been claimed as proof that this Verecunda performed as one. Conversely, it could be interpreted to mean that she was simply an actress who was Lucius the gladiator's girlfriend.
The statue in Hamburg, which for years was interpreted as a woman cleaning herself with a strigil (a curved implement for scraping the body during bathing) is now understood as more likely a female gladiator holding a raised sica. The figure stands in a triumphant pose with the sica held high, bare-chested, in only a loincloth. This depiction fits the descriptions of female gladiators who, like their male counterparts, fought topless in only a loincloth, minimal armor protecting the shins and arms, and a helmet.
The statue is thought to represent a female thrax gladiator who has discarded her helmet in victory (as was common practice) and raised her weapon in triumph. Critics of this interpretation note that the figure is not wearing a greave (shin armor) and so is probably not a gladiator; but the band around the figure's left knee could be a fascia, a band worn to protect the knee under the greave.


There is also ample literary evidence to support the existence of female gladiators. The Roman satirist Juvenal (1st/2nd century CE), medical author Celsus (2nd century CE), historian Tacitus (54-120 CE), historian Suetonius (69-130 CE), and historian Cassius Dio (155-235 CE), among others, wrote on the subject and always critically.
In his Satires, Juvenal wrote:
What sense of shame can be found in a woman wearing a helmet, who shuns femininity and loves brute force...If an auction is held of your wife's effects, how proud you will be of her belt and arm-pads and plumes, and her half-length left-leg shin-guard! Or, if instead, she prefers a different form of combat how pleased you will be when the girl of your heart sells off her greaves! Hear her grunt while she practices thrusts as shown by the trainer, wilting under the weight of the helmet. (VI.252)
Tacitus notes:
Many ladies of distinction, however, and senators, disgraced themselves by appearing in the Amphitheatre. ( Annals, XV.32)
Cassius Dio expands on Tacitus' description:
There was another exhibition that was at once most disgraceful and most shocking, when men and women not only of the equestrian but even of the senatorial order appeared as performers in the orchestra, in the Circus, and in the [ Colosseum ], like those who are held in lowest esteem. Some of them played the flute and danced in pantomimes or acted in tragedies and comedies or sang to the lyre ; they drove horses, killed wild beasts and fought as gladiators. ( Roman History (LXI.17.3)


Scholarly consensus on the existence of female gladiators is far from uniform but the evidence from Roman sources weighs heavily on the side of accepting them as historical reality. The arguments against this claim largely hinge on interpreting ancient Latin texts and what certain terms – such as ludia – may or may not have referred to. Even so, it is difficult to understand how one can dismiss the relief of Amazon and Achillia or the literary and legal works which clearly indicate women's participation in the games as gladiators.
Women may have been considered second-class citizens by the patriarchy but this does not mean every woman accepted that status. Many high-born women were able to exert considerable control over their husbands, homes, and even at court.Juvenal, in the same book of his Satires noted above, makes clear exactly how powerful women could be, in fact, in controlling men who still believed they were the masters. In the case of female gladiators, it seems some women were not content even with that level of autonomy, however, and sought to control their own fate in the arena.

Antigone › Ancient History

Definition and Origins

by Donald L. Wasson
published on 05 April 2018
Antigone with Polynices' Body (VladoubidoOo)
Antigone was the third play in the Oedipus trilogy written by the great Greek playwright Sophocles (c. 496 - c. 406).Produced around 441 BCE and receiving first prize at the Dionysia festival, the tragedy was actually written long before both Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus. In the play, Antigone returns to Thebes after the death of her father Oedipus.Her brothers Polynices and Eteocles have both been killed in the war between Argos and Thebes. Creon, Antigone's uncle, has assumed the leadership of Thebes and by decree refuses to grant the traitor Polynices a proper burial. Antigone chooses to disobey Creon and bury her brother herself. Having violated Creon's order, she is imprisoned and left to die, eventually hanging herself. Haemon, her fiancé and Creon's son, joins her, taking his own life. Finally persuaded by a prophet to change his mind, Creon is too late to save either his son or Antigone. His wife Eurydice commits suicide, blaming Creon for the death of her son. In the end, Creon is left alone.


Sophocles was born around 496/5 BCE to a wealthy family from Colonus, a deme near the heart of Athens. Unlike many of his fellow playwrights, he was active in Athenian politics, serving as a treasurer and a general in 441-440 BCE with the statesman Pericles. Later, he became a member of a select group of magistrates given the task of reorganizing finances and domestic affairs after the disastrous defeat of Athens at Syracuse (412-411 BCE). He had two sons who became minor playwrights; Iophon by his wife Nicostrate and Sophocles by his mistress Ariston. Writing almost to the day he died, his final play of the Theban trilogy, Oedipus at Colonus, was presented in competition by Iophon in 401 BCE. Sophocles received eighteen victories in competition at Dionysia, more than both Aeschylus and Euripides. Although active in Athenian political circles, his plays rarely contain any references to contemporary events or issues, making the dating of his plays difficult.Unfortunately, of his over 120 plays, only seven have survived.
Bust of Sophocles

Bust of Sophocles

According to Edith Hamilton in her book The Greek Way, by the time of Sophocles, the “stream of life” (196) that had existed a few short years earlier during the time of Aeschylus was long gone. Athens was in decline. Hamilton believed Sophocles viewed life as being hard. The always conservative playwright - even in the matters of religion - still believed in his beloved city and its laws, always upholding the established order. To Hamilton he embodied everything we know to be Greek. He was “direct, lucid, simple and reasonable” (199).


Like many of the plays based on Greek myths, the audience was familiar with both the legend and its characters. In Antigone, an understanding of the story leading to her return to Thebes is essential. Long before Antigone left Oedipus and returned to her home in Thebes, her two brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, had been at war. The two quarreled over the leadership of the city. After a long and heated debate, they finally agreed to serve alternate one-year reigns; however, at the end of Eteocles's first year, he refused to surrender the throne. Enraged, Polynices left Thebes and became an exile. Now living as an outcast, similar to his father Oedipus, he allied himself with the king of Argos and waged war against Thebes; this war is the subject of Aeschylus' play Seven against Thebes.


As the conflict progressed and casualties began to mount, it became apparent that the war was a stalemate. The solution was simple: the brothers would engage in a one-on-one combat. Unfortunately, the outcome was the unforeseen death of both brothers. Seizing the opportunity, Creon, the brothers' uncle, assumed the throne and decreed that only Eteocles body would be buried and given the proper rites; Polynices' body would be left exposed to the elements. This is where Sophocles' Antigone begins.
There are relatively few characters in the play:
  • Antigone
  • Ismene
  • Creon
  • Haemon
  • the prophet Teiresias
  • Creon's wife Eurydice
  • two messengers
  • a guard
  • and, of course, the chorus.


The opening scene is at the royal palace of Thebes. Antigone and her sister Ismene stand outside the palace doors. They have both just learned of Creon's edict concerning their brothers. Antigone turns to her sister:
Creon will give the one of our two brothers honor in the tomb : the other none. Eteocles, with just observance treated, as law provides he has hidden under earth to have full honor with the dead below. (Grene, 22)
Polynices, being viewed as a traitor, will not receive a proper burial; a violation of religious tradition. Creon proclaimed that no one may bury him, leaving him “unwept, untombed, a rich sweet sight for the hungry birds' beholding and devouring” (22).While Ismene seems obviously upset, she responds that they are women and there is nothing they can do. However, Antigone has already devised a plan and asks her sister to join her and share in her labor. Fearing they will be punished for breaking the law, Ismene attempts to talk some sense into Antigone, but she refuses. Antigone exits: “Now I go to heap the burial mound for my dearest brother” (24).
Creon appears before the palace and addresses the chorus, asserting his authority as king:
When they two perished by a double fate, on one day struck and defiled each by each other's hand, now it comes that I hold all the power and the royal throne through close connection with the perished men. (27)
He declares that Eteocles who died defending Thebes will be granted holy rites, but Polynices who brought harm to Thebes shall not, leaving his body disgraced. Anyone who violates this edict will die. A guard arrives with troubling news:
Someone left the corpse just now, burial is all accomplished, thirsty dust strewn on the flesh, the ritual complete.(30)
Creon is incensed and orders the culprit to be found. He threatens the guard. The guard exits but quickly returns with Antigone. Creon faces her as the guard explains how she was caught. Antigone quietly listens and finally says, “I say I did it and I don't deny it” (37). Defiantly, she states that she understood the edict but still chose to challenge Creon's order as it did not come from Zeus. She could not leave her brother unburied. She completely realizes that she must die and will not grieve for she has buried her mother's son:
… what greater glory could I find than giving my own brother's funeral? (39)
In defense of his actions, Creon claims that no one else in Thebes sees it as she does, but Antigone quickly dismisses this;there are others who share in her belief, but Creon has everyone cowering. Despite the king's challenges, she refuses to submit or regret her actions. When Creon asserts that her brother was a criminal, she responds, “It was my brother, not a slave, who died” (40). With no regrets, she will accept her fate. Unmoved, Creon discloses that he is charging Ismene as well, for she shared in the planning of the burial. Ismene is brought before him under guard and stands next to her sister. Antigone pleads with her younger sister, “My death's enough” (41). However, Ismene tells Creon that her life is nothing without her sister and reminds Creon that if Antigone dies, he is taking his son's bride from him. The sisters are led away.


Haemon appears and confronts his father. Creon asks if his son has heard the vote that condemned his bride. In an attempt to persuade his father, Haemon reassures him that he still loves him; however, the city of Thebes is grieving for Antigone because she would not leave her brother unburied. Creon dismisses this and claims that his son's mind is poisoned; he should not let lust mislead his mind. Creon defends his actions and tells Haemon that obedience is essential to keep a city secure, so he must protect those who yield to order. He adds that he refuses to be beaten by a woman. Unshaken, Haemon vows that if she dies, her death will bring another. Before leaving he says, “If you weren't father, I should call you mad” (49).
After Haemon leaves, Creon announces that he is releasing Ismene, but Antigone is to be taken to a hollow cave and left to die. He departs as Antigone enters and addresses the chorus:
My last night of the sun, then never again. Death who beings all to sleep takes me alive to the shore of the river underground. Not for me was the marriage hymn, not will anyone start the song at a wedding of mine. Acheron is my bridegroom. (51)
Creon returns and orders her to be taken away. As she exits, the old blind prophet Teiresias arrives assisted by a young attendant. He tells Creon he must heed the signs. He pleads with Creon to rescind his order; all men make mistakes. As with the pleadings of his son, Creon is unmoved and reminds the old seer that he is speaking to the king. Teiresias responds:
You settled a living person without honor in a tomb; you keep up here that which belongs below; a corpse unburied and unholy. Not you, nor any god on high should have any business with this. The violation's yours. [...] men and women shall wail within your house and all the cities you fought in war … will all move against you.(60)
The old seer is escorted off by his attendant. Creon addresses the chorus and asks for their guidance. The chorus leader agrees with the old seer and advises the king to bury the dead properly and release Antigone. Creon finally submits and exits.A messenger soon enters and addresses the chorus. Both Antigone and Haemon are dead. As the messenger speaks to the chorus, Eurydice, Creon's wife appears from inside the palace and is told that her only surviving son's death. The messenger relates how they had given Polynices a proper burial and gone to release Antigone; however, when they arrived she had already hanged herself. Creon begged Haemon to return to the palace. Haemon refused, spat in his father's face and leaned on the blade of his sword. As he died, he embraced Antigone. “He found his marriage, in celebration in the halls of Hades.” (65)
Creon returns to the palace carrying Haemon's body. The messenger tells him of his wife's death, self-inflicted. Before she died, she cursed him as the killer of her children. To the messenger and chorus, Creon says, "I was dead, and you killed me again" (67). Creon prays for death:
Will no one strike and kill me with cutting sword? [...] My life is warped past cure. Fate unbearable has leapt down on my head. (68-69)


In some ways, the play is more about Creon than Antigone. According to Paul Roche in his book The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles, Oedipus and Creon both display the glory and weakness of a self-sufficient man. Creon initially did what he believed to be right; however, his vanity and unwillingness to listen to the advice of those around him eventually brought the downfall of his entire family. He is left standing alone before his palace, praying for the gods to take him.
Moses Hadas in his book Greek Drama said it is easy to praise Antigone as a saint and condemn Creon as a tyrant. However, Creon was right by not honoring the traitor Polynices with the proper burial rights; he was an enemy of the state. On the other hand, Antigone was in the wrong for openly disobeying an order of the king. Although Creon may have displayed a devotion to duty, Hadas believes the play is justly named for Antigone because she sacrificed her life and love for an ideal. However one may perceive Antigone, the play would continue to be performed. Authors would follow in Sophocles' footsteps and write about her, although often with a different ending; Euripides' lost play had her survive, marry Haemon and have children. Even poets such as Shelley and Goethe would write about her. Today many look to her as martyr and symbol of a person fighting for an ideal.

Aryan › Ancient History

Definition and Origins

by Cristian Violatti
published on 06 April 2018
Indus Valley (hceebee)
The source of the English word Aryan comes from the Sanskrit word ārya, which is the self-designation used by the Vedic Indic people who migrated into the Indian subcontinent around 1500 BCE. The Sanskrit term has a cognate in the Iranian word arya, which is also a self-designation. Both the Sanskrit and the Iranian terms descend from a form ārya that was used by the Indo-Iranian tribes to refer to themselves, a term which is also connected to the source of the country-name Iran, from a phrase meaning Kingdom of the Aryans. The term Aryan has had a history filled with controversy.


The original meaning of the term is unknown and different meanings have been proposed, the most common being nobleman.During the 19th century CE, it was proposed that this was not only the Indo-Iranian tribal self-designation but also the self-designation used by the ancestors of all Indo-Europeans, which is a theory no longer accepted. Aryan then came to be used as a synonym of Indo-European. Some time later it was further proposed that the ancestors of the Indo-European people had their homeland located in northern Europe, implying that Indo-Europeans were originally of a Nordic racial type. Thus, Aryandeveloped yet another, purely racial meaning, probably one of the most familiar meanings today.



Before the time of the Aryan migration into the Indian subcontinent, there was a highly developed civilization in ancient Indiaknown as the Indus Valley Civilization, which was located in what is Pakistan and northwest India today, on the fertile flood plain of the Indus River and its vicinity. The earliest evidence of religious practices in this area dates back approximately to 5500 BCE, farming settlements began around 4000 BCE, and around 3000 BCE there appeared the first signs of urbanization. By 2600 BCE, dozens of towns and cities had been established and between 2500 and 2000 BCE the Indus Valley Civilization was at its peak. The evidence suggests that the Indus Valley Civilization had social conditions comparable to Sumeria and even superior to the contemporary Babylonians and Egyptians.
By 1500 BCE the Aryans migrated into the Indian subcontinent. Coming from central Asia, this large group of nomadic cattle herders crossed the Hindu Kush Mountains and came in contact with the Indus Valley Civilization. This was a large migration and used to be seen as an invasion, which was believed by some scholars to be behind the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization; this hypothesis is not unanimously accepted today.
Map of the Indus Valley Civilization

Map of the Indus Valley Civilization

Today scholars have a different understanding of how things developed. We know that a process of decay was already underway in 1800 BCE; some say that the Saraswati River was drying up, others that the region suffered catastrophic floods.The consequences of either event would have had a catastrophic effect on agricultural activity, making the economy no longer sustainable and breaking the civic order of the cities. The evidence supporting the decline of the Indus River Civilization is compelling: Writing started to disappear, standardized weights and measures used for trade and taxation purposes fell out of use, the connection with the Near East were interrupted, and some cities were gradually abandoned.


Linguistic studies have shown that as the Aryans migrated into the Indian subcontinent, the Aryan language gained ascendency over the local languages. They also gradually adopted an agricultural lifestyle which was widely established by around 1000 BCE. Despite the fact that we have no historical records of this periods, we have a mythical record in the form of religious literature known as The Vedas, one of the most important religious books in Indian history. Stories about military conflicts and other hostilities are recorded in the Vedas, but the historical reliability of this episodes is uncertain.


Article based on information obtained from these sources:
with permission from the Website Ancient History Encyclopedia
Content is available under License Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported. CC-BY-NC-SA License

See other Related Content for Ancient History ››

Recommended Contents