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How long did it take? 10 fascinating historical facts from a perspective of time

When we watch documentaries or TV series or even read blog posts on famous events and people, the aspect of time is often glossed over. Rarely do we get a good indication of how long (or short) certain things took, or how much time passed between events. The actors/actresses don’t age, and the articles don’t sequence their paragraphs with time.

Sometimes, it’s impossible to figure out if certain events took hours, days, months, or years. In this post, I want to highlight ten interesting situations from the ancient world and point out the time element of the

Hannibal, the Carthaginian general, crossed the Alps and attacked Italy. He defeated Romans in multiple major battles (Trasimene and Cannae amongst the most famous) and is ranked amongst the greatest generals in antiquity. How long was he in Italy with his army?

15 years!

That’s right, he hung around in Italy for a full 15 years(!!!) before returning to Carthage! Imagine a foreign general with his army, loitering around in enemy territory for 15 years, supplying his army, and fighting his opponents. It must have been a strange time for the Romans—the enemy’s army in their backyard just chillin’.

How long did it take for Alexander to reach India and fight Porus, after he defeated the Persian King Darius in Guagamela?

5 years!

It’s easy to imagine that Alexander swiftly moved from Persia, taking control of the empire, and then rushing to India. In reality, it took years for the campaign before he confronted Porus on the banks of Hydaspes. When we watch movies (like Alexander from Oliver Stone), it sometimes feels like he defeated Darius, hung around in Persia at Persepolis and appeared on the banks of the Hydaspes in India just a few weeks later.

Spartacus escaped from his captivity in a Gladiatorial school in Italy. How long did he roam free, fighting the Roman armies?

2 years!

A slave escaping a training school and taking on the mighty Roman army (ies)? How long could he realistically last with his rag-tag slave army? Maybe a few weeks?

Spartacus waged his rebellion for nearly 2 years, defeating successive Roman armies in pursuit, even as he moved the length of Italy.

How long did the famous Egyptian queen Cleopatra rule?

22 years!

It’s so easy to dismiss this remarkable queen as a seductress who did little except to entice two Romans. In reality, she was the supreme monarch of Egypt who ruled through a combination of political brilliance, cunning, charm, and ruthlessness. She came to power at 17 and ruled for over 2 decades! My Last Pharaoh trilogy takes you on a journey with Cleopatra.

Cleopatra charmed Mark Antony in Tarsus. How long did their relation last?

10 years!

Many people think Cleopatra seduced Mark Antony and… that’s it, perhaps the affair lasted a few weeks or a year. In reality, her charming of Antony was deliberate and politically brilliant given her situation. But it wasn’t a short-lived affair. They remained together until their death, and she bore him 3 children. Nothing about this relation indicates she was just a seductress running around.

Assurbanipal, Assyrian King who died in 632 B.C (about 2,600 years ago), built an incredible ancient library that housed texts from various Mesopotamian civilizations. Some of the texts he preserved were Sumerian. How old were those Sumerian texts when Assurbanipal read them?

More than 2000 years!

The amazing Sumerian civilization existed between 5000 to 2000 B.C. They invented the cuneiform, which was later adopted by the Akkadians, and then lasted for nearly two thousand years. When Assurbanipal collected Sumerian texts, including the epic of Gilgamesh, perhaps he had a vague idea that he was looking at Akkadian translations of works that were already over two-thousand years old! My The Death Pit is set in the final period of Sumerian rule.

The Indian emperor Ashoka waged a deadly war against the kingdom of Kalinga, the savagery of which caused him to change his heart on war. He promised never to wage war again and became a committed Buddhist. How long since his coronation did it take for the war to end?

8 years!

Reading about Ashoka’s conversion makes it feel like he became a king, decided to run and conquer Kalinga as his prize. But by his own rock edicts, the Kalinga war ended in the eighth year of his coronation and was devastating in its nature.

How long did Agamemnon wage war against Troy before Troy’s defeat?

10 years!

Often the discussion of an ancient war makes you think it lasted a few hours or maybe a day. Wars took far longer to come to conclusions. For those who watched Troy, Achilles and Priam and Hector never age. They’re the way they were on day 1 and when the war ends, though as per Homer, the war was waged for 10 years.

How long did Egyptian Pharaoh Pepi II rule? He ranks in the longest-serving rulers’ list.

94 years!

There is some debate around his actual rule, but for now, it appears that Seti may have ruled nearly 94 years!

Julius Caesar left Rome to begin the conquest of Gaul. How long did Caesar spend in Gaul?

8 years!

One might get an impression that the Roman general went to Gaul. defeated Vercingetorix, and then waltzed back crossing the Rubicon. In reality he spent years in Gaul, subduing the various tribes, building alliances, consolidating Roman power, finding time to invade Britain twice, and eventually returning to Rome to take on Pompey.

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About Jay Penner

Jay Penner writes fast-paced, realistic ancient historical fiction. His highly-rated books regularly feature in category bestsellers on Amazon. He is the author of Spartacus, Cleopatra, and Whispers of Atlantis series. Reach out to him or subscribe to his popular newsletter.

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