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Top reads of 2018

Happy New Year from all of us here at Ancient World Magazine. Here’s a look back at the most popular articles of the past year.

Written by Josho Brouwers on

Now that 2018 has made way for 2019 – Happy New Year to you from all of us here at Ancient World Magazine. We launched in November 2017, which meant that 2018 was the first full year that we’ve been operational, and it has been a huge success. Visitor numbers have grown month over month, with leaps and bounds, and there’s no sign of this slowing down.

Ancient World Magazine has managed to build a bit of a name for itself, and we’ve even been mentioned in a press release, alongside other outfits such as Salon, Wired, the New York Times Book Review, and The Washington Post. Our articles have been shared widely on social media, and our Facebook and Twitter accounts have built respectable followings, even though the majority of our visitors reach the website via Google (and a smattering of other, smaller search engines).

Most popular articles of 2018

In order to see what visitors read at the website, how they arrive here and what they do, we use analytics software called Matomo, which runs on one of our own servers (so the data stays in the Netherlands, where we’re based). This way, we can easily figure out what our most popular articles of 2018 were. What follows is an overview of our top ten reads.

In first place is my own article on the Augustus of Prima Porta, good for 6.5% of all page views on the website in 2018. Most people came to this place via Google, and they were just looking for information on this famous statue. While the aim of Ancient World Magazine isn’t to be an encyclopedia, the article is comprehensive, and I assume people find it useful.

Search results also propelled a second article of mine to the number two spot in our top ten, namely my exploration of heroic nudity in Greek vase-painting, which generated 2.9% of all page views on the site. Matomo tells me a lot of people arrived on this site while looking in Google for “naked men” – I’m not sure if these people were interested in Greek heroic nudity, but I hope they learned something interesting nonetheless!

Our third most popular article dealt with the Nike of Samothrace, an article written by Cindy Meijer and Branko van Oppen. It generated 1.9% of all page views on the website in 2018. Richly illustrated, including a reconstruction drawing by Cindy, the article is concise yet comprehensive, so as with the Augustus of Prima Porta piece, I’m sure people who read this article came away satisfied.

In fourth place is my article on the death of Seneca, generating 1.7% of all page views. This article was inspired by my work at Primavera Pers, the publishing house in Leiden where I work most of the week. Working on a new edition of our Latin coursebook, I happened on the story of Seneca’s death and figured it would make a good subject for an article here.

Occupying the number five slot is Matthew Lloyd’s article on Dionysus and the return of Hephaestus. Articles like this are what make Ancient World Magazine unique, as Matt uses an ancient subject (drawn from Greek mythology) to help us better understand our own world, in this case specifically how we talk about masculinity.

A second article by Matt occupies the number six spot, namely his measured take on the Pylos Combat Agate. This article was actually published in November 2017, but it was still good for 1.7% of all page views on the website throughout 2018. Matt engages with the hype surrounding the Combat Agate and has produced what is probably the definitive take on the object, so I’m not surprised it has continued to do well.

Weirdly, the seventh most popular article of 2018 is a small piece by me on the colossal statue of Ramesses the Great at Memphis. I’m not sure why this has done so well, generating 1.6% of all page views in 2018. It’s a short piece, with only a single photo (used for the article’s featured image), but I guess perhaps there’s a relative dearth of articles on this statue on the internet?

In eighth place is my article on Aeneas before Virgil, where I explore the role that Aeneas has played in Greek sources, from Homer onwards. It’s interesting how much of Aeneas’ story was already established well before the rise of Rome. It generated 1.5% of all page views on the website in 2018.

In ninth place is an article by Branko van Oppen on Graeco-Buddhist art, generating 1.5% of all page views. It deals with Gandharan art, and features lots of high-quality photos of relevant objects. Gandharan art continues to speak to the imagination, as a bridge between “Western” and “Eastern” art styles, so it’s not a surprise that it has proven so popular.

Finally, an article on the Greek concepts aristeia and philotimia, written by Eugenia Russell early in 2018, has done very well throughout the year, generating 1.4% of all page views. It’s one of the longer articles on the website and explores two concepts that were central to the ancient Greek warrior ethos. Again, this is the kind of stuff that, as far as I’m concerned, really sets Ancient World Magazine apart.

Closing thoughts

Of course, these ten articles are only a small sample of the amount of stuff we’ve published in 2018. In all, no fewer than 128 items were published: most of these were articles, but we also released a small handful of podcast episodes and another video. That means that we released, on average, a little over 10 items every month, or between two and three items per week.

Will we publish as much in 2019? Probably not in the first half of the year. The reason for that is that I’m the main contributor to the website, and I’m going to have to focus on some other stuff in the next few months, most notably a new book I’m writing about the Trojan War that I have to finish before June. So my output will slow down a bit as work on that ramps up, but you can expect at least one fresh article a week moving forward.

Of course, the website’s contributing editors, Matthew Lloyd and Joshua Hall, without whom I’d be entirely lost, will also continue to contribute to the site, as will our other volunteers. And there’s plenty to look forward to: I’m currently editing our most recent episode of the podcast (scheduled for release next Monday), there’s more stuff coming as regards Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, and so on.

We’re also toying with the idea of doing a digital (e-book-like) or even paper version of Ancient World Magazine. A paper magazine is an expensive enterprise, so that won’t happen soon and not without people expressing their interest in such a thing, but a digital PDF or epub version, with longer, more in-depth articles, richly illustrated and with a modern, fresh design, is definitely on our radar. But these ideas do cost money, obviously.

So I end with a familiar plea. We’d love to do more, but for that we really need your financial support, so that we can start paying our contributors, attract more voices to the website, and start up new projects. If you love what we do, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Thank you.