Writing a Bad Ancient article

Articles should be limited to 1,500 words if possible. This limit applies only to the main body of the answer (including any subheadings), but does not include the article’s title, lede, any website headings, the question, nor the short bibliography at the end.

Subject of the article

The website specialises in ancient history, so this generally dates from between 3,000 BCE and 600 CE. Geographic remit is entirely open and can cover a topic relevant to any of the continents, not just Europe or the Mediterranean. Exceptions beyond this dating will be made for pre-Columbian Americas, and Australasia.

Format of the article

Take a look at the site for specific examples, but it should include these subheadings:

  • Title – make it short and eye-catching, and in a question format.
  • Lede – no more than two sentences, maximum, summing up the query and ending with either a leading question or a firm statement.
  • Claim – keep it clear and concise, but without judgement. This should not be a question. No more than one sentence.
  • Rating – Chose from: True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False, Misleading, Unproven. For a full breakdown of the categories, refer to the website’s own definitions.
  • Explanation – Answer the claim, making sure you give historical context, evidence, and a fair assessment of the query. Using a few, important direct quotes from the evidence, and any relevant images are strongly advised.
  • References – a short bibliography of between 4-8 pieces of scholarship (more is ok, but stick to works you reference or used for your answer). This can include books, edited volume chapters, journal articles. This is not a conventional essay, so you can also use blogs and online articles by specialists.

Writing style

This is not an essay! However, some of the same rules do still apply:

  • We are not an academic publication, but we are thorough.
  • We simplify, but we do not dumb down.
  • It obviously needs good spelling, punctuation and grammar, but avoid jargon!
  • Prose should be free flowing and clear.
  • We do not blame or attack proponents of Bad Ancient claims; the issue is the claim itself, not the people involved.

What makes writing for this history site different is the intended audience. As a result, you should:

  • Aim for clarity above all else.
  • Choose key examples rather than try to cover everything.
  • Choose direct quotes that highlight your point best.
  • Avoid jargon and technical language where possible, explain it where not.
  • There are no footnotes! But in-text referencing is a must (see below).
  • Did we mention, avoid jargon?


There are no footnotes. Referencing is closer to a scientific style of citation. Use in-text referencing when citing either a source or scholarship, and do not use abbreviations. Eg.:

  • (Tacitus, Annals 2.4)
  • (Jones 2001, p. 87)
  • (Goodge 2005)
  • (Hope 2000, p. 103; Futrell 2006, pp. 144-145)

If possible, hyperlink the ancient references to a free online translation, there is no need to do this for scholarship.

When directly quoting from a source the citation goes at the end of the sentence:

An epitome of Livy’s book 51 describes a siege taking place, but no more than that (51.1): “Carthage, which had a circumference of thirty-four kilometers, was besieged with much labor, and captured part by part…”

Indirect referencing is a good way to show off research without having to cover it in the article. This means citing as you go – remember to hyperlink ancient translations if available:

Later sources suggest that it was not only destroyed, but reduced to dust (Orosius 4.23.5-7) and even ploughed over (Justinian, Digest 7.4.21). There is even mention of a curse by Macrobius (Saturnalia 3.9.7), writing in the fifth century CE, which is mentioned by Appian (Punica 28) and possibly alluded to in the works of Cicero as well (On the Agrarian Law 1.2.5).

Using images

When using visual evidence there are a few considerations to be made:

  • Does it support my argument or is it there just to look pretty?
  • Do I mention it in the article, if not then what function does the image actually serve?
  • Is the image free from copyright? If not, then it cannot be used.

The image should be placed in the text where it is appropriate. It should come after a full paragraph, not in the middle of one (it should not break up the text of a sentence or paragraph). Under the image should be a text box with the name of the piece (or a description), museum collection and inventory number. For example:

  • Leaning satyr, Musei Capitolini MC73
  • The birth of Mithras relief from the Mithraeum of Köln, third century AD, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne (14749256290)


For the list of references at the end of the article, the format is a simple one:

  • Book: First name/Initial Surname, Title (Year).
  • Journal article: First name/Initial Surname, “Title”, Journal Name # (Year), pp. x-y.
  • Edited Volume: First name/Initial Surname, “Ch. Title”, in: Editors Names, Title (Year), pp x-y.
  • Blog: First name/Initial Surname, “Title”, Blog Name (Year).

For an example of each of these, see the referencing at the bottom of this example article.