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  • The Axial Age, 600 BCE to 300 BCE x
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Analects  

Confucius

The details of Confucius’s life are murky, especially given the chaos surrounding the declining Zhou period in the 490s and 480s BCE. It is important to take into account the impact of ... More

The Art of War  

Sun Tzu

The Warring States era (464 to 221 BCE) was a crucial turning point in Chinese history. During this time, the many effectively independent states into which China had become divided were at ... More

The Battle of Thermopylae  

Herodotus

Herodotus (c. 484-c.425 B.C.E.) is generally recognized as the “Father of History.” Following the tradition of the Homeric epics, Herodotus sets out to chronicle the great and heroic deeds ... More

The Bhagavad Gita  

Anonymous

The Bhagavad Gita comprises the sixth book, and is the central component, of the Mahabharata. Because it centers on the struggles between kings and princes, the Mahabharata can be read as a ... More

The Book of Lord Shang (Shang Chun Shu)  

Shang

This collection of sayings and reports attributed to Lord Shang (d. 338 BCE) may have been compiled by later officials, but its vision of a centralized bureaucracy was emulated at many ... More

Book Of Mencius (MENGZI)  

Meng

A later student of Confucian doctrine, Master Meng (ca. 371–289 BCE) spread the teachings of the master, while also making his own distinctive contributions. Having traveled throughout ... More

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad  

Upanishads

A diverse set of writings, the Upanishads were thought to convey secret knowledge and serve as the vedanta, or fulfillment, of the Vedic tradition. Among these documents are the Aranyakas ... More

Cosmas Indicopleustes (Cosmas The India-Voyager), Christian Topography  

Cosmas

This remarkable account of a merchant’s travels throughout Eastern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and India resulted from the singular obsession of a monk in retirement. Determined to prove ... More

The Cyrus Cylinder  

Cyrus the Great

Founder of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, Cyrus (Kurosh) the Great rose to the throne of a small kingdom in 559 BCE; by the time of his death in 529, he had brought virtually the entire ... More

The Duties of Government Superintendents  

Kautilya

Kautilya was a political advisor to the first Mauryan king, Chandragupta Maurya, who in c. 321 BCE. created a vast empire across northern India. Kautilya wrote this treatise to guide ... More

Excerpts from the Book of Odes (Shi Jung)  

Anonymous

Over 300 poems of various lengths were anthologized and transmitted by Confucius in the early fifth century BCE. Philosophers of the Confucian school cherished the Odes and cited them ... More

Histories  

Herodotus

Having failed to defeat the Athenians in their first attempt in 490 BCE, the Persians launched a massive invasion of the entire Greek peninsula in 480, under the leadership of Darius’s ... More

The Market At Jenne-Jeno, Mali  

Anonymous

After extensive archaeological work was done at the site of Jenné-jeno in the 1980s, researchers concluded that the city was the oldest known in sub-Saharan Africa, and that it flourished ... More

Praise of the Virtuosity of the Citizen Soldier  

Tytaeus

Greek warfare in the Archaic and Classical, or Hellenic, periods (600 to 323 BCE) was not connected with large empires as Chinese, Roman, and Indian warfare came to be after 200 BCE. But ... More

Relief Sculpture from Meroe, Sudan  

Anonymous

The kings of Meroë, successors of the Nubia-descended 25th dynasty of Egypt, established their capital on the Middle Nile about 100 miles north of Khartoum, Sudan. At its height, the city ... More

Res Gestae  

Ammianus Marcellinus

The Roman Empire was facing difficulty in the fourth century. Barbarian invasions by both steppe nomads and seminomadic farmers and herders from the forests of northern Europe exacerbated ... More

Rock and Pillar Edicts  

Asoka

Asoka (304–232 BCE) was third king of the Mauryan dynasty. After taking the throne, he initially pursued the expansionist policies of his father Bindusara and his grandfather Chandragupta ... More

Selections from the Analects  

Followers of Confucius

Traditional versions of the Confucius’s life say that he was born in the sixth century B.C.E., and was an itinerant political advisor. He was, technically speaking, a failure in his ... More

“Selections on Legalism”  

Han Fei-tzu

Although Han Fei-tzu (d. 233 BCE) began his studies as a Confucianist, he was a protégé of Hsun Tzu, one of Confucius’s more cynical successors. Thus Han Fei-tzu switched to Legalism, which ... More

The Seven Pillar Edicts of King Ashoka  

Ashoka

The third of the Mauryan kings, Ashoka ruled a vast empire throughout the Indian subcontinent in the period 273–231 BCE. His abrupt conversion to Buddhism in 260 led him to govern according ... More

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