Abd al-Rahman III Islamic ruler in Spain who held a countercaliphate and reigned from 912 to 961 CE.

Agones Athletic contests in ancient Greece.

Ahmosis An Egyptian ruler in the southern part of the country who ruled from 1550 to 1525 BCE; Ahmosis used Hyksos weaponry—horse chariots in particular—to defeat the Hyksos themselves.

Ahura Mazda The Supreme God of the Persians believed to have created the world and all that is good and to have appointed earthly kings.

Alaric II Visigothic king who issued a simplified code of innovative imperial law.

Alexander the Great Alexander came from the frontier state of Macedonia, to the north of Greece. He was a path-breaking conqueror who transformed the Mediterranean world. In the fourth decade of the fourth century BCE, Alexander brought under the rule of his Greek-speaking forces all the lands that had comprised the Persian Empire that extended from Egypt and the shores of the Mediterranean to the interior of what is now Afghanistan and as far as the Indus River valley.

Alexandria A port city in Egypt named after Alexander the Great. Alexandria was a model city in the Hellenistic world. It was built up by a multiethnic population from around the Mediterranean world.

Al-Khwarizmi A scientist and mathematician who lived from 780 to 850 CE and is known for having modified Indian digits into Arabic numerals.

Allomothering A system by which mothers relied on other women, including their own mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends, to help in the nurturing and protecting of children.

Amorites A name that Mesopotamian urbanites called the transhumant herders from the Arabian desert. Around 2300 BCE, the Amorites, along with the Elamites, were at the center of newly formed dynasties in southern Mesopotamia.

Amun A once insignificant Egyptian god elevated to higher status by Amenemhet (1991–1962 BCE). Amun means "hidden" in Ancient Egyptian; the name was meant to convey the god's omnipresence.

Analects Texts that included the teachings and cultural ideals of Confucius.

Anatolia Now mainly the area known as modern Turkey; in the sixth millennium BCE, people from Anatolia, Greece, and the Levant took to boats and populated the Aegean. Their small villages endured almost unchanged for two millennia.

Angkor Wat A magnificent Khmer Vaishnavite temple that crowned the royal palace in Angkor. It had statues representing the Hindu pantheon of gods.

Animal domestication A gradual process that occurred simultaneously with or just before the domestication of plants, depending on the region.

Annals Historical records. Notable annals are the cuneiform inscriptions that record successful Assyrian military campaigns.

Aramaic A dialect of a Semitic language spoken in Southwest Asia; it became the lingua franca of the Persian Empire.

Aristotle Philosopher who lived from 384 to 322 BCE; he was a pupil of Plato's but came to different conclusions about nature and politics. Aristotle believed in collecting observations about nature and discerning patterns to ascertain how things worked.

Aryans Nomadic charioteers who spoke Indo- European languages and entered South Asia in 1500 BCE. The early Aryan settlers were herders.

Ashur One of two cities on the upper reaches of the Tigris River that were the heart of Assyria proper (the other was Nineveh).

As'oka Emperor of the Mauryan dynasty from 268 to 231 BCE, he was a great conqueror and unifier of India. He is said to have embraced Buddhism toward the end of his life.

As'vaghosa The first known Sanskrit writer. He may have lived from 80 to 150 CE and may have composed a biography of the Buddha.

Atma Vedic term signifying the eternal self, represented by the trinity of deities.

Atman In the Upanishads, an eternal being who exists everywhere. The atman never perishes but is reborn or transmigrates into another life.

Attila From 433 to 453, Attila was the sole ruler of all Hunnish tribes. Harsh and much feared, he formed the first empire to oppose Rome in northern Europe.

Augustus In 27 BCE, Octavian (63–14 BCE) assumed the title Augustus, "Revered One." This was one of many titles he assumed; others included imperator, princeps, and Caesar.

Australopithecus africanus A hominid species that appeared 3 million years ago. It had a brain capacity of approximately one pint, or a little less than one-third of the brain size of a modern human and about the same size as modern-day African apes. These beings were different from other animals because they walked on two legs.

Avesta A compilation of holy works transmitted orally by priests for millennia and eventually recorded in the sixth century BCE.