Advertisement Upgrade to remove ads


India; large - about 2,000 miles (3,200 km) in length & breadth & physically isolated landmass w/in Asia - set off from rest of Asia by Himalayas, the world's highest mountains, to the north, & by Indian Ocean on its eastern, southern, & western sides; the most permeable frontier & 1 used by long series of invaders & migrating peoples, lies to northwest


word that can characterize India in both ancient & modern times

Mahabharata & Ramayana

lengthy epic poems; preserve useful info about early Indian society; based on oral predecessors dating back many centuries; during last centuries B.C.E. & 1st centuries C.E. achieved final form; events said to have occurred several million years in past, but political forms, social organization, proud kings, beautiful queens, wars among kinship groups, heroic conduct, & chivalric values seem to reflect conditions of early Vedic period, when Arya warrior societies were moving into Ganges Plain


group comprising priests & scholars


warriors & officials


merchants, artisans, landowners


peasants & laborers; designation may have been reserved for Dasas, who were given menial (degrading) work; dasa came to mean slave


excluded from class system & members of other groups avoided b/c demeaning or polluting work - leather tanning (touching dead animals) & sweeping away ashes after cremations

Rig Veda

collection of 1,000+ poetic hymns to various deities; collections of priestly lore (knowledge) couched (expressed obscurely) in Sanskrit of Arya upper classes; handed down orally from one generation of priests to next


detailed prose descriptions of procedures for ritual & sacrifice; collections of priestly lore couched in Sanskrit of Arya upper classes;handed down orally from one generation of priests to next




an epic poem in which many strong & resourceful women appear - one of them, the beautiful & educated Draupadi, married - by her own choice - the 5 royal Pandava brothers; not evidence of polyandry (having many husbands) b/c in India legends had own rules


individual pursuit of insight into nature of self & universe through physical & mental discipline


Mehavira (540 - 468 B.C.E.) was known to his followers as Jina "the Conqueror," from which is derived ______, the name of the belief system that he established; strict nonviolence; wear masks to prevent selves from inhaling insects & carefully brushed seat before sitting down; extreme Jainists: self-denial (asceticism), nudity, ate only what given by others, eventually starved selves to death; less extreme: restricted from agri work by injunction against killing - city dwellers engaged in commerce & banking


snuffing out the flame; release from cycle of reincarnations & achievement of state of perpetual tranquility; indivual was composite with out any soul-like component that survived upon entering this


large earthen mounds that symbolized universe; erected over relics of cremated founder & walked around them in clockwise direction


men & women who had achieved enlightenment & were on threshold of nirvana but chose to be reborn into mortal bodies to help others along path to salvation


incarnations; Vishnu's incarnations included the legendary hero Rama, the popular cow-herd god Krishna & Buddha, Shiva (who lives in ascetic isolation on Mt. Kailasa in the Himalayas; represents creation & destruction; represented performing dance steps that symbolize acts of creation & destruction), Devi manifests (makes herself visible) as a full-bodied mother-goddess who promotes fertility & procreation, as docile & loving wife Parvati; frightening deity, who, under name Kali or Durga, causes violence & destruction


common form of worship; service to deity, which can take form of bathing, clothing, or feeding statue; potent (powerful) blessings bestowed on man or woman who glimpses divine image


term for pilgrimage site; "journey to a river-crossing," pointing out frequent association of Hindu sacred places w/ flowing water - Hindus consider Ganges River to be sacred & each year people travel to its banks to bathe & receive the restorative & purifying power of its waters


surviving treastise (a formal and systematic exposition in writing of the principles of a subject, generally longer and more detailed than an essay) on government, written by Kautilya, a crafty elderly Brahmin who guided Chandragupta in his conquests & consolidation of power; in its present form, it is a product of the 3rd cent C.E.; coldy pragmatic (advocating behaviour that is dictated more by practical consequences than by theory or dogma); advocated mandala (cirlce) theory of foreign policy: "My enemy's enemy is my friend"; relates list of schemes for enforcing & increasing collection of tax revenues & prescribes use of spies to keep watch on everyone in kingdom


relates exploits of Rama, a heroic prince, who is an incarnation of the god Vishnu; when beautiful wife kidnapped, defeats & destroys chief of demons & his evil horde (large group), aided by loyal brother & king of monkeys


Seasonal winds in the Indian Ocean caused by the differences in temperature between the rapidly heating and cooling landmasses of Africa and Asia and the slowly changing ocean waters. Most dramatic source of moisture and and are strong and predictable.


Early Indian sacred knowledge long preserved and communicated orally by Brahmin priests and eventually written down. Our main source of information about the Vedic period along with Rig Veda. Associated with dominance of Indo-European groups


Four major social divisions. literally "color"; came to indicate something akin to "class"


Within the system of varna. Regional groups of people who have a common occupational sphere, and who marry, eat, and generally interact with other members of their group.


Residue of deeds performed in past and present lives that adheres to a "spirit" and determines what form it will assume in its next life cycle. deeds that determine what you are reincarnated as; the Brahmin priests taught that every living creature had an immortal essense: the atman ("breath"); separated from body at death, atman was later born in another body.


Hindu concept of the spirit's "liberation" from the endless cycle of rebirths.


Indian prince named Siddhartha Gautama, who renounced his wealth and social position. After becoming "enlightened" he enunciatedthe principles of Buddhism.

Mahayana Buddhism

Branch of Buddhism followed in China, Japan, and Central Asia. Focuses on reverence for Buddha and for bodhisattvas. "Great Vehicle"

Theravada Buddhism

Branch of Buddhism followed in Sri Lanka and much of Southeast Asia. It downplays the importance of gods and emphasizes austerity and the individual's search for enlightenment.


Term for a wide variety of beliefs and ritual practices that have developed in the Indian subcontinent since antiquity. "what Indians do"; foundation is Vedic religion of Arya peoples of northern India; incorporated elements drawn from Dravidian cultures of south, such as emphasis on intense devotion to deity & prominence of fertility rituals & symbolism; elements of Buddhism

Mauryan Empire

First state to unify most of the Indian subcontinent. Founded by Chandragupta Maurya.


Chandragupta's grandson: Third ruler of the Mauryan Empire in India. He converted to Buddhism and broadcast his precepts on inscribed stones and pillars, the earliest surviving Indian writing.


Vast epic chronicling the events leading up to a cataclysmic battle between related kinship groups in early India. Includes Bhagavad - Gita.


Most important work of Indian sacred literature, a dialogue between the great warrior Arjuna and the god Krishna on duty and the fate of the spirit.

Tamil kingdoms

Kingdoms of southern India, inhabited primarily by speakers of Dravidian languages, which developed in partial isolation, and somewhat differently, from the Aryan north.

Gupta Empire

Powerful Indian state based on a capital at Pataliputra in the Ganges Valley. Controlled most of the Indian subcontinent through a combination of military force and its prestige as a center of sophisticated culture.


Term for a state that acquires prestige and power by developing attractive cultural forms and staging elaborate public ceremonies to attract and bind subjects to the center.

Malay peoples

Became the dominant population in Southern Asia.


Early complex society in Southeast Asia between the first and sixth centuries C.E.

Cholas, Pandyas, and Cheras

The three Tamil Kingdoms


Founder of Achaemenid Persian Empire. Revered in the traditions of both Iran and the subject peoples, he employed Persians and Medes in his administration and respected the institutions and beliefs of subject peoples.

Darius I

Third ruler of the Persian Empire. He established a system of provinces and tribute, began construction of Persepolis, and expanded Persian control in the east (Pakistan) and west (northern Greece).


Governor of a province in the Achaemenid Persian Empire, often the relative of the king. Responsible for the protection of the province and for forwarding tribute to the central administration.


Complex of palaces, reception halls, and treasury buildings erected by Persian kings Darius I and Xerxes in the Persian homeland.


Religion originating in ancient Iran with the prophet Zoroaster. Centered on a single benevolent diety - Ahuramazda - who engaged in a twelve-thousand-year struggle with demonic forces before prevailing and restoring a pristine world.


Greek term for a city-state, an urban center and the agricultural territory under its control.


Heavily armored Greek infantryman of the Archaic and Classical periods who fought in the close-packed phalanx formation


Term the Greeks used to describe someone who seized and held power in violation of the normal procedures and traditions of the community.


System of government in which all citizens have equal political and legal rights, privileges, and protections.


Gift given to a deity, often with the aim of creating a relationship, gaining favor, and obligating the god to provide some benefit to the sacrificer.


Heir to the technique of historia - "investigation" - developed by Greeks in the late Archaic period.


Aristocratic leader who guided the Athenian state through the transformation to full participatory democracy for all male citizens, supervised construction of the Acropolis, and pursued a policy of imperial expansion that led to the Peloponnesian War.

Persian Wars

Conflicts between Greek city-states and the Persian Empire. This first major setback for Persian arms launched the Greeks into their period of greatest cultural productivity.


Greek and Phoenician warship of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.E. Was capable of short bursts of speed and complex maneuvers.


Athenian philosopher who shifted the emphasis of philosophical investigation from questions of natural science to ethics and human behavior.

Peloponnesian War

Protracted and costly conflict between the Athenian and Spartan alliance systems that convulsed most of the Greek world.


King of Macedonia in northern Greece. Between 334 and 323 B.C.E. he conquered the Persian Empire, reached the Indus Valley, founded many Greek-style cities, and spread Greek culture across the Middle East. AKA Alexander the Great.

Hellenistic Age

Term for the era, usually dated 323-30 B.C.E., in which Greek culture spread across western Asia and northeastern Africa after the conquests of Alexander the Great.


Macedonian dynasty, decended from one of Alexander the Great's officers, that ruled Egypt for three centuries.


City on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt founded by Alexander. Became the capital of the Hellenistic kingdom of the Ptolemies.

Roman Republic

Period from 507 to 31 B.C.E., during which Rome was largely governed by the aristocratic Roman Senate.

Roman Senate

Council whose members were the heads of wealthy, landowning families.

patron/client relationship

Fundamental social relationship in which the patron - a wealthy and powerful individual - provided legal and economic protection and assistance to clients, men of lesser status and means, and in return the clients supported the political careers and economic interests of their patron.

Roman Principate

Term used to characterize Roman government in the first three centuries C.E., based on the ambiguous title priceps ("first citizen") adopted by Augustus to conceal his military dictatorship.


Honorific name of Octavian, founder of the Roman Principate, the military dictatorship that replaced the failing rule of the Roman Senate.


Prosperous landowners second in wealth and status to the senatorial aristocracy.

pax romana

"Roman peace". Connoted the stability and prosperity that Roman rule brought to the lands of the Roman Empire in the first two centuries C.E.


Process by which the Latin language and Roman culture became dominant in the western provinces of the Roman Empire.


A Jew from Galilee in northern Israel who sought to reform Jewish beliefs and practices. Was executed as a revolutionary by the Romans. Central figure in Christianity.


"Jew from the Greek city of Tarsus in Anatolia, he initially persecuted the followers of Jesus but, after receiving a revelation on the road to Syrian Damascus, became a Christian. Found his greatest success among pagans, "gentiles", he began the process by which Christianity seperated from Judaism.


Conduit, either elevated or underground, using gravity to carry water from a source to a location - usually a city - that needed it.

Third-Century Crisis

Term for the political, military, and economic turmoil that beset the Roman Empire during much of the third century C.E.: frequent changes of ruler, civil wars, barbarian invasions, decline of urban centers, and near-destruction of long-distance commerce and the monetary economy.


Roman emperor. After reuniting the Roman Empire, he moved the capital to Constantinople and made Christianity a favored religion.

Byzantine Empire

Eastern portion of the Roman Empire from the fourth century onward.


People and state in the Wei Valley of eastern China that conquered rival states and created the first Chinese empire.

Shi Huangdi

Founder of the short-lived Qin dynasty and creator of the Chinese Empire. He's remembered for his ruthless conquests of rival states, standardization of practices, and forcible organization of labor for military and engineering tasks.


Dynasty of emperors who ruled from 202 B.C.E. to 220 C.E.


City in the Wei Valley in eastern China. Became the capital of Qin and early Han Empires.


Class of properous families, next in wealth below the rural aristocrats, from which the emperors drew their administrative personnel.


A confederation of nomadic peoples living beyond the northwest frontier of ancient China. Chinese rulers tried a variety of defenses and stratagems to ward off these 'barbarians,' as they called them, and dispersed them in 1st Century. (168)


the throne name of Liu Bang, one of the rebel leaders who brought down Qin and founded Han dynasty in 202 BCE. Modest background and peasant qualities; denounced harshness and laws of Qin but was a Legalist; frugal to cut taxes; stored excess grain

Sima Qian

chief astrologer for the Han dynasty emperor Wu. He composed a monumental history of China from its legendary origins to his own time and is regarded as the Chinese "father of history". Presents a generally negative view of Wu, who had him castrated. His writings were in five parts: dynastic histories, accounts of noble families, bios of important people and groups, chart of historical events, and essays on the calendar, astronomy, and religious ceremonies. Could not openly criticize the government.

Silk Road

Caravan routes connecting China and the Middle East across Central Asia and Iran.


Iranian ruling dynasty between ca. 250 B.C.E. and 226 C.E.

Sasanid Empire

Iranian empire, established ca. 226, with a capital in Ctesiphon, Mesopotamia. The Sasanid emperors established Zoroastrianism as the state religion. Islamic Arab armies overthrew the empire ca. 640.


Device for securing a horseman's feet, enabling him to wield weapons more effectively.

Indian Ocean Maritime System

In premodern times, a network of seaports, trade routes, and maritime culture linking countries on the rim of the Indian Ocean from Africa to Indonesia.

trans-Saharan caravan routes

Trading network linking North Africa with sub-Saharan Africa across the Sahara.


Belt south of the Sahara. "Coastland"

sub-Saharan Africa

Portion of the African continent lying south of the Sahara.


Treeless plains, especially the high, flat expenses of northern Eurasia, which usually have little rain and are coveredwith coarse grass.


Tropical or subtropical grassland, either treeless or with occasional clumps of trees.

tropical rain forest

High-precipitation forest zones of the Americas, Africa, and Asia lying between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.

"great traditions"

Term for a literate, well-institutionalized complex of religious and social beliefs and practices adhered to by diverse socities over a broad geographical area.

"small traditions"

Term for a localized, usually nonliterate, set of customs and beliefs adhered to by a single society, often in conjunction with a "great tradition".


Collective name of a large group of sub-Saharan African languages and of the peoples speaking these languages. The people who spread throughout Africa spreading agriculture, language, and iron.


One of the earliest Christian kingdoms, situated in eastern Anatolia and the western Caucasus and occupied by speakers of the Armenian language.


East African highland nation lying east of the Nile River. A Christian kingdom that developed in the highlands of Eastern Africa; retained Christianity in the face of Muslim expansion elsewhere in Africa; overthrow Axum; had trade contacts with Mediterranean


This empire was noted by Herodotus to be fearsome horse archers and existed between the Black and Caspian seas; Ancient Iranian people who were nomadic horse riding pastoralist


Heresy founded by Mani in 3rd century that involves a dualist faith - a struggle between Good and Evil; religion based on the teachings of Mani to synthesize all the religions of the world.

Mediterranean Sailors

Square sails and long banks of oars to maneuver. Nailed ships together. Rarely ventured out of sight of land.

Indian Ocean Sailors

Relied on roughly triangular lateen sails and normally did without oars. Ships pierced, tied together with palm fibers, and caulked with bitumen. Ventured far off land due to the seasonal monsoon winds.

Seleucid Kings

Succeeded to the eastern parts of Alexander the Great's empire in third century B.C.E. focused energies on Mesopotamia and Syria. Allowed for Parthians to establish kingdom.


overthrew the Parthian monarchy and established the Sassanian Kingdom

Sasanid Religion




Early Saharan cultures

Hunting societies and cattle breeders

King Ashoka

200 years after the Buddha's death, great Indian king converted to Buddhism and made it state religion.


Greatest of the Kushan emperors and supported Buddhism.

Centers of Christian authority

Jerusalem in Pallestine, Antioch in Syria, Alexandria in Egypt

4 Noble Truths

(1) life is suffereing; (2) suffering arises from desire; (3) the solution to suffering lies in curbing desire; & (4) desire can be curbed if a person follows the "Eightfold Path" of right views, aspirations, speech, conduct, livelihood, effort, mindfulness


Roman emperor of 284 C.E. Attempted to deal with fall of Roman Empire by splitting the empire into two regions run by co-emperors. Also brought armies back under imperial control, and attempted to deal with the economic problems by strengthening the imperial currency, forcing a budget on the government, and capping prices to deal with inflation. Civil war erupted upon his retirement.


Western name for the Chinese philosopher Kongzi (551-479 B.C.E.). His doctrine of duty and public service had a great influence on subsequent Chinese thought and served as a code of conduct for government officials. Chinese philosopher, administrator, and moralist. His social and moral teachings, collected in the Analects , tried to replace former religious observances


Chinese School of Thought: Daoists believe that the world is always changing and is devoid of absolute morality or meaning. They accept the world as they find it, avoid futile struggles, and deviate as little as possible from the Dao, or 'path' of nature.


In Chinese belief, complementary factors that help to maintain the equilibrium of the world. Yin is associated with masculine, light, and active qualities; yang with feminine, dark, and passive qualities.


In China, a political philosophy that emphasized the unruliness of human nature and justified state coercion and control. The Qin ruling class invoked it to validate the authoritarian nature of their regime.

Filial Piety

in Confucian thought, one of the virtues to be cultivated, a love and respect for one's parents and ancestors


The practice of identifying special individuals (shamans) who will interact with spirits for the benefit of the community. Characteristic of the Korean kingdoms of the early medieval period and of early societies of Central Asia.

Ancestor Veneration

Part of Confucianism, is about honoring and remembering family members who have died. Is an expression of Hsin (faithfullness)


a member of an American Indian people of Yucatan and Belize and Guatemala who had a culture (which reached its peak between AD 300 and 900) characterized by outstanding architecture and pottery and astronomy


The first major civilization of central Mexico, this was a city-state whose ruins lie just outside of Mexico City.


a politically organized body of people under a single government


a monarchy with an emperor as head of state


a custom that for a long time has been an important feature of some group or society


a system of managing government through departments run by appointed officials


the art and practice of conducting negotiations between nations without arousing hostility


a form of social organization in which a male is the family head and title is traced through the male line


Identity with a group of people that share distinct physical and mental traits as a product of common heredity and cultural traditions.


In antiquity, the land between the eastern shore of the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, occupied by the Israelites from the early second millennium B.C.E. The modern state of Israel was founded in 1948.

Hebrew Bible

A collection of sacred books containing diverse materials concerning the origins, experiences, beliefs, and practices of the early Hebrew people. Most of the extant text was compiled by members of the priestly class in the fifth century B.C.E.

First Temple

A monumental sanctuary built in Jerusalem by King Soloman in the tenth century B.C. to be the religious center for the Israelite god Yahweh. The Temple priesthood conducted sacrifices, received a tithe or percetage of agricultural revenues, and become economically and politically powerful. The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C., rebult on a modest scale in the late sixth century B.C., and replaced by King Herod's Second Temple in the late first century B.C. (destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.).


belief in a single God


the scattering of the Jews to countries outside of Palestine after the Babylonian captivity.


Civilization of north coast of Peru (200-700 C.E.). An important Andean civilization that built extensive irrigation networks as well as impressive urban centers dominated by brick temples.


The system of ethics, education, and statesmanship taught by Confucius and his disciples, stressing love for humanity, ancestor worship, reverence for parents, and harmony in thought and conduct.


A religion with a belief in one god. It originated with Abraham and the Hebrew people. Yahweh was responsible for the world and everything within it. They preserved their early history in the Old Testament.

Greek democracy

direct democracy, citizens participate in government, three branches of government. (Only landowning men could participate).


Hindu god called the Preserver. Is the second member of the triad that includes Brahma the Creator and Shiva the Destroyer. Popular in northern India.


an important Hindu deity who in the trinity of gods was the Destroyer. Dominant in Dravidian south.


The mother goddess of Hinduism. The worship of this deity encouraged new emotionalism in the religion.


Andean civilization culturally linked to Tiwanaku, perhaps beginning as colony of Tiwanaku.

Please allow access to your computer’s microphone to use Voice Recording.

Having trouble? Click here for help.

We can’t access your microphone!

Click the icon above to update your browser permissions above and try again


Reload the page to try again!


Press Cmd-0 to reset your zoom

Press Ctrl-0 to reset your zoom

It looks like your browser might be zoomed in or out. Your browser needs to be zoomed to a normal size to record audio.

Please upgrade Flash or install Chrome
to use Voice Recording.

For more help, see our troubleshooting page.

Your microphone is muted

For help fixing this issue, see this FAQ.

Star this term

You can study starred terms together

NEW! Voice Recording