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Ancient Writers

Although the writers of most of the ancient legends and writings of the world are unknown to us today, there are a few ancient writers whose writing continues to fascinate modern readers. This list is made up of writers about 300 years old or so or older, whose work is still used by archaeologists and historians to learn and understand more about our ancient past.

Bartolomé de las Casas [1484-1566]
Spanish Dominican priest and ancient writer Bartolomé de las Casas was one of the early Spanish visitors to the New World, arriving in Santo Domingo in 1502.

Bernabé Cobo [1582-1687]
Bernabé Cobo was a 17th century Spanish priest and ancient writer, who lived 61 years in Mexico and South America, and did his best to convert the Inca to Christianity. We know much of the Inca religion because of his (fairly) ancient writings.

Faxian [337-422]
Faxian, or Fa-Hsien, was a Buddhist monk who left China about 400 AD and traveled to India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, and Java before returning home 15 years later. His main aim was to gather copies of Buddhist literature for his home monastery, but he ended up gathering stories about the Buddha's birth and teachings, publishing them in a very useful book known as Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms.

Fra Diego de Landa [1524-1579]
The ancient writer (by our definition) Bishop de Landa is known as both the protector and destroyer of the culture of the Mayan people of the central American continent.

Fray Diego Durán [ca. 1537-1588]
Fray Diego Durán [ca. 1537-1588] was a Spanish clergyman, who was brought to Mexico as a child, growing up in the Aztec capital city of Texcoco, and as a (fairly) ancient writer contributed to our knowledge of the Aztec civilization.

Imhotep [ca 2667-2648 BC]
The architect, vizier, wizard, doctor, and ancient writer named Imhotep is a most maligned and mysterious figure of Egypt's Old Kingdom, and one of the few non-royal people known from the period.

Josephus Justus Scaliger [1540-1609]
J.J. Scaliger was an ancient writer (my definition, anyway) French scholar of many parts when you could get away with such a thing, in the late 16th and early 17th century.

Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda [1494-1573]
The ancient writer and Spanish priest Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda is best remembered an a participant in what must be among the most important debates in history, at least with regard to the Spanish colonies in Central and South America.

Pausanias the Traveler [115-180 AD]
The ancient writer Pausanias left a lasting legacy with his travel and guide book to the Greek civilization of the 2nd century AD.

Periplus of the Erythraean Sea
Although not an 'ancient writer' per se, the Periplus of the Erythreaen Sea is a travel guide to the southern Arabian peninsula, written by an unknown individual during the 1st century AD.

Philo of Alexandria [20 BC-ca 40 AD]
Philo Judeaus was an ancient writer and philospher, living in the town of Alexandria at the beginning of the Christian era.

Pindar [522 BC–443 BC]
The Greek poet Pindar is probably best remembered as an ancient writer by archaeologists for his odes written on the ancient sports festivals at Olympia.

Plato [427-347 BC]
The Greek philosopher and ancient writer Plato, while undoubtedly a great writer and philosopher, burdened the science of archaeology with the myth of Atlantis.

Pliny the Elder [AD 23-79]
Pliny the Elder was an ancient writer and Roman scholar whose Natural History pretty much defined science as it was known then--and not that different today.

Polybius [200-118 BC]
The ancient writer and Greek historian Polybius predicted the collapse of the Roman empire; and convinced his fellow Greeks that the Roman empire was inevitable.

Ptolemy [87-150 AD]
Ancient writer and Roman scholar Claudius Ptolemaeus (known as Ptolemy) was an astronomer, mathematician and geographer at the Library of Alexandria.

Père d'Entrecolles
Père Francois Xavier d'Entrecolles [1664-1741] was a French Jesuit priest in China, who spent thirty years studying, among other things Chinese porcelain manufacturing techniques at Jingdenzhen.

Shen Kua [1031-1095]
The 11th century Chinese scholar, engineer, mathematician, astonomer, cartographer, politician, ancient writer, and Go player Shen Kua was a phenomenal character.

Thucydides [ca. 460-400 BC]
The written work of ancient writer and Greek scholar and historian Thucydides has been an invaluable resource to archaeologists interested in the history of Greece

Vitruvius (Marcus Vitruvius Pollio)
The first century AD ancient writer, Roman engineer and architect Vitruvius (or, Marcus Vitruvius Pollio), is best known in archaeological circles for his description of the Greek temple Ionic and Doric structural elements.

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