Global encounters of the ancient kind

Ancient civilisations are often studied in isolation – yet from antiquity, cultures became connected like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Michael Scott looks at five interactions between lands linked by politics, trade, war and religion...

Yangguan Museum and a statue of Zhang Qian. (Getty Images)

This article was first published in the August 2016 issue of BBC History Magazine 

1) Republicans on a political recce

Romans in Athens, 454 BC

Just over half a century after the Roman Republic was established, the Roman body politic was in trouble. The political system had been blocked for almost a decade; the Tribunes of the Plebs (officers representing the interests of the everyday people) demanded reform of the system and a rebalancing of power between patrician (aristocratic) and plebian (everyone else) groups. So in 454 BC a three man commission was appointed to travel to Athens – where the democratic revolution had occurred at about the same time as the birth of the Roman Republic – to research how the politics of that city-state worked, and to bring back possible solutions for the crisis in Rome.

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