Ask Calliope - New Q & A
QUESTION: Who were the Huns? -Peter, 12, Web post
The term "Hun" is generally used to refer to the peoples of central Asia who began to invade china, India, Persia, and the Roman Empire in great numbers between the third century B.C. and the sixth century A.D. Although historians have not yet found conclusive proof that all the invaders had the same roots, history has classified them as one group called the Huns. We do know all the tribes shared several traits. There were seminomadic peoples, that is, they did not travel constantly but seem to have kept the same summer and winter quarters, Their houses, called yurts, were large tentlike structures that were easily assembled and reassembled [disassembled].
QUESTION: What are the Pillars of Hercules?-Emma, 13, Web post
According to Greek mythology, the Pillars of Hercules referred to the two promontories that separate the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The Greeks traced the origin of the name to their hero Heracles. After capturing the prized red cattle of Geryon (a monster with three heads, three bodies, six arms, and six legs), Heracles turned east to return home. At the spot where he left the Atlantic Ocean and re-entered the Mediterranean Sea, he erected two stone pillars to commemorate his successful capture. One pillar he set at Calpe (present-day Gibraltar) in Europe; the other, at Abyla (present-day Ceuta) in Africa. Today, this area is known as the Strait of Gibraltar.
QUESTION: Why did astronomers name a planet after the ancient Greek and Roman messenger god? -Harvey, 14, Web post
Well, it seemed most appropriate, as Mercury is the planet that travels around the sun at the fastest speed. Scientists also used his name for quicksilver, the silvery substance used in thermometers, since it could move rapidly from one place to another. Florists honor the god Mercury as well""-they use an image of him, with his winged feet and hat, as the symbol for FTD (Florist Transworld Delivery). Check out "Florists" in the Yellow Pages in a phonebook for the FTD symbol!
QUESTION: What is the difference between a primary source and a secondary source? -Ananya, Web post
This is an excellent question and an important distinction for anyone doing research. Primary sources are original accounts, objects, documents that are created by eye-witnesses to and participants in an event. A secondary source is created by someone who was not present at an event when it took place. For example, the United States Constitution is a primary source, while a book that interprets the constitution's meaning is a secondary source. Anyone who uses secondary sources should be very careful to research the background of the author, as well as any other information that may cause the author to be biased with regard to the primary source.
QUESTION: Do you know who conquered the Sumerians?-Web Post
The Sumerians lived in the area around the lower Euphrates River, known today as southern Iraq and Kuwait. Their culture, which dates to 3000 B.C., is considered by many to be the world's first civilization. Around 2400 B.C., their northern neighbor Sargon I, king of Akkad, an ancient region in what is now central Iraq, rallied his troops and marched south into Sumer. Within a 50-year period, he had taken control. But, Sumer was not his only conquest. The battles continued as he formed what historians recognize as the world's first empire-the Akkadian Empire.
QUESTION: Why was Bloody Mary called Bloody Mary? -Hank, Web post
Mary Tudor (1516""-1558) was given the name "Bloody Mary" because of her persecution of the Protestants in attempt to restore Catholicism to England. During her reign as queen of England (1553""-1558), approximately 300 people were burned at the stake. Upon her death, her half-sister, Elizabeth I, ascended the throne.
QUESTION: Who could be a citizen in ancient Athens?-Heather, 10, Web post
Every male over the age of 18 or 20 who was registered in his deme or village. Residents foreigners, known as metics, could not be citizens; nor could women, even if they had been born in Athens or were married to an Athenian citizen. And, citizens were the only ones in Athens who had political rights, could hold office, and could own land.
QUESTION: Why did civilizations settle near rivers?-Katie, Web post
For thousands of years, people have considered rivers-actually any type of waterway-an ideal place for a settlement. They offer many obvious benefits""-water to drink and to irrigate crops. In ancient times, irrigation was certainly not what it now is in say, present-day Iowa, but it was a hot commodity. Water-both fresh and salt-also provides a great means of transporting goods and people easily and efficiently. Just look at the early traders along the Mississippi River. Think of it this way-is it easier to carry 18 bear skins 30 miles or to put them on a raft and float them down a waterway?
QUESTION: Why is George Washington compared with Cincinnatus? Who is Cincinnatus?-Heather, 13, Web post
Cincinnatus was a fifth century B.C. Roman statesman. When a Roman delegation came to his farm to ask him to help save Rome from advancing enemy troops, he immediately stopped plowing his fields and hastened to the battlefield. After leading the Romans to victory, he relinquished his powers and returned to his farm. Like Cincinnatus, George Washington owned a farm and loved the land. He, too, left his farm to assume the position of commander in chief of the Revolutionary forces in the newly formed United States. Like Cincinnatus, Washington also did not abuse the power entrusted to him. Once the war ended, he immediately offered his commission to the Continental Congress.
QUESTION: Where is Mohenjo-Daro? What was it?-Rachel, 11, Web post
Mohenjo-Daro""-the name means "Place of the Dead"-is the site of an ancient city in northwest India. In 1922, an Indian archaeologist was investigating a 2,000-year-old Buddhist shrine in the area and found some stone seals with carvings of animals and an unknown form of writing. Excavation revealed the ruins of a vast city more than [one mile] square. Seals found in the area suggest that the city dates back to 2300 B.C., 1,000 years earlier than any other city known in India.
QUESTION: What are conservators, and what do they do?-Tasha, 10, Lyndeborough, New Hampshire
Conservators are specialists in the preservation, treatment, repair, and restoration of what is called "cultural property." This includes buildings and public monuments, as well as smaller objects in museums. Conservators need to know the history of the objects on which they work, how they were made, what makes them deteriorate, and what can be done to prevent or correct problems. Conservators generally specialize in one type of object"-For example, paintings, furniture, porcelain, or historic houses.
QUESTION: How long did it take to build the pyramids?-Sheina, Melborne, Australia
Twenty years-according to Greek historian Herodotus. In his description, written some 2,400 years ago, of the building of the Great Pyramid at Giza, Herodotus noted that 100,000 men labored for 20 years to complete the structure, the only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world that still stands today. Archaeologists had questioned this figure and some believe the number of workers may have been as low as 20,000. Still, it was quite a feat. The Great Pyramid was built of 2.3 million stone blocks that had to be cut and transported to the area. The blocks weighed, on an average, 2.5 tons each"-the largest weighed 15 tons.
To learn more about the pyramids, check out Mark Lehner's book, The Complete Pyramids, and David Macaulay's Pyramid.
QUESTION: Did Cleopatra and Caesar ever have any kids? Did she ever have any with Marc Anthony? -Mandy, Web post
Politics was really the motive behind the relationship of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. To preserve some degree of independence for her country, Egypt, Cleopatra needed to maintain a close relationship with the ruler of Rome, the most powerful nation bordering the Mediterranean Sea at the time. Julius Caesar, on the other hand, needed the wealth and grain that Egypt offered to maintain his empire. According to some sources, Cleopatra had a son, whom she named Caesarian for his father, but there is no proof. Soon after Caesar's assassination in 44 B.C., Cleopatra turned to Marc Anthony, a powerful Roman statesman and general. Historical records suggest that Cleopatra bore Anthony two children. But, again, there's no proof! Maybe, someday, a document that proves the theory one-way or the other will surface.
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