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Top reads of 2019

A very happy New Year from all of us here at Ancient World Magazine. Let’s take a look back and see which ten articles were read most in 2019.

Written by Josho Brouwers on

Happy New Year! We hope 2019 has been good to you. It’s certainly been good to us. We’ve grown continuously as far as visitors to our website are concerned, to the point that I expect we’re probably among the most popular websites about the ancient world. Our number of contributors has also increased, as well as our followers on Twitter and Facebook. Despite the growth on social media, analytics show that relatively few people arrive on the website via these platforms; most visitors to Ancient World Magazine continue to come from search engines.

Because most of our visitors get here via search engines, looking at the most popular articles on the website gives a decent idea of the kinds of articles that people are searching for. It might not come as much of a surprise that our least popular articles of the past year dealt with more obscure topics. But what qualifies as obscure? Among the least-read articles of last year is my piece on the “Battle of the Champions”, which is a bit of a pity. More surprising – or perhaps not, considering its age? – is that my review of the movie 300 is close to the bottom of the popularity pile.

Ah well, such is the way of things, I suppose.

Most popular articles of 2019

What were the ten most popular articles of last year, according to our analytics? Well, like last year, the list is topped by my article on the Augustus of Prima Porta. Turns out, people on the internet are really interested in this piece of Roman statuary. Interestingly enough, though, it was only good for 4.2% of all page views last year rather than 6.5% I recorded for 2018. No doubt, this ties into the fact that a great deal more people visited the website in the past twelve months than in the year before, and they visited a greater variety of pages. It helps, of course, that the number of articles on offer keeps increasing, too.

The second spot is occupied by Branko van Oppen’s article with a title that was helpfully phrased as a question: was Cleopatra beautiful? If you thought Cleopatra was only popular back in Elizabeth Taylor’s glory days, think again. Among all the kings and queens of ancient Egypt, this Ptolemaic monarch undoubdtedly ranks among the best known among general audiences. And if there’s one thing she’s famous for, it’s her looks. Why should this be the case? Read Branko’s article to find out.

Next up is an article by contributing editor Joshua Hall. His article deals with the subject of Etruscan promiscuity and the story of Lucretia. As Josh puts it, modern commentators have “tended to downplay the promiscuity of Etruscan women as described by Greek sources. But with evolving modern sexual sensibilities, perhaps a different approach is required.” Articles that deal with sexuality, gender, and related themes generally rank high on the website (my article on naked men on Greek pots and Matthew Lloyd’s article on masculinity are in the top 20 of most popular articles on the website). There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

The fourth and fifth spots are occupied by two more of my articles. The first deals with the death of Seneca. I honestly have no idea why this would be a popular subject, but there you go; it was also on this list last year. The next is my article on the names of ancient Greek ships. The latter was the result of someone sending us a question – which doesn’t happen that often, weirdly enough; don’t be shy if you have any queries. It also ties in to all the stuff I’ve been doing related to little game you may have heard of called Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey.

The sixth most popular article is Roel Konijnendijk’s piece about the ancient Spartans at war. The article is based on the lengthy answer he gave to the question, “Is our worship of Spartan warriors really justified?” It’s an important topic to talk about since the ancient Spartans in particular are so often abused for modern political goals. I asked Roel if he would be willing to retool his answer on Reddit into an article and he was kind enough to do so. We also included a video about the ancient Spartans by Invicta History for which Roel had done the research. Considering how extensive the article is, and how popular the Spartans continue to be, it’s no surprise that this was among 2019’s most popular articles. Go read it if you haven’t yet!

The next three articles are all written by me. The first a lengthy article about how ancient Greek pots are made, with particular reference to black- and red-figure vases. The next deals with the question of whether or not there were ever lions in ancient Greece. (Spoilers: the answer is yes.) The ninth most popular article of last year was a piece I wrote, in anticipation of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, I must admit, about ancient Greek shield blazons.

Coming in as the tenth most popular article read in 2019 is again an article by Josh, this time on the Bagradas dragon. Was the weird creature encountered by the Roman army and described by a number of ancient sources really a dragon? Read the article to learn more.

Closing thoughts

Ancient World Magazine has grown tremendously in the past year as far as visitors are concerned. We hope to continue to grow. However, if we are to increase our output with regards to articles and podcasts, please consider supporting us on Patreon. You can join the lowest tier at $2 a month (less than a cup of coffee!), or give as much or as little as you want.

We’ve got lots of plans, as usual, so you can look forward to more great pieces on the ancient world as the year rolls by. Exactly how much we’ll be able to do depends on your level of support. The Patreon backing we have at present more or less covers most of our hosting costs (website, podcast), but that’s it. If you’d like us to do more, please throw us a few pennies via Patreon. It’s greatly appreciated.

Thank you, and have a wonderful 2020!