Short Stories About Ancient Civilizations or Empires: Greece, Rome, Egypt & More

These stories all take place in ancient times, or are about ancient times in some way. They may or may not feature known historical figures. See also:

Stories About Ancient Times

“Never Forget” by Tom Holt

Publius Cornelius Sipico, the Roman General, is coming off his defeat of Hannibal. Talking to a Greek philosopher, he tries to understand what a philosopher actually does. The man is trying to get a position working with Sipico. After some conversation about the power of thinking, they strike a deal. Sipico has a problem that he needs solved quickly, and if the philosopher can take care of it, he’ll earn his position.

This story can be read in the preview of The Mammoth Book of Roman Whodunnits(16% in)

“A Gladiator Dies Only Once” by Steven Saylor

Gordius the Finder is in Saturnia for the funeral of an old client, a local magistrate, Thorius. Cicero persuades him to attend the gladiatorial event which is part of the funeral proceedings. Neither man enjoys such entertainment, but there’s a social obligation. In his line of work, it’s important for Gordius to keep up appearances.

This story can also be read in the above preview of The Mammoth Book of Roman Whodunnits(57% in)

“Set in Stone” by Deirdre Counihan

An ape, Huni, runs screaming from the garden. The two gardeners see two legs sticking out of the sandbox. They grab one each and pull the small body out. It’s Udimu, Lord Kanofer’s favorite son. His nursemaid and three older sisters rush to the garden. They mourn in disbelief, and note some details of the scene.

Most of this story can be read in the preview of The Mammoth Book of Egyptian Whodunnits(44% in)

“The Flying Machine” by Ray Bradbury

In ancient China, Emperor Yuan is relaxing when a servant excitedly gives him the news that a man was seen flying with wings. The Emperor enjoys simple things, and this amazing development makes him think about his people’s safety and way of life.

This story can be read in the preview of Bradbury Stories.

“Tower of Babylon” by Ted Chiang

The Babylonians are building a tower to heaven. Hillalum arrives from Elam as part of the mining crew who will dig through at the top into the vault of heaven. On the ascent, Hillalum learns how the construction of the tower takes place, and what the plans are when the top is reached. There are many workers as well as people who live at various points on the tower.

A lot of this story can be read in the preview of Stories of Your Life and Others

“His Master’s Servant” by Philip Boast

Sir Roger, a Christian knight, prays at the Templar fortress in the Holy Land. His servant calls him for an urgent meeting. The men are all asleep and it’s very quiet. Sir Roger goes to Gondemar’s quarters and is led into the sanctum; Gondemar has ensured secrecy. Sir Roger is shocked to see the King, and even more shocked to see the other guest.

Most of this story can be read in the preview of The Mammoth Book of Historical Whodunnits Volume 3.

“The Dead Past” by Isaac Asimov

Arnold Potterley, a Professor of Ancient History, wants to use the chronoscope—the ability to view a scene from the past—for his research on Carthage. The government maintains strict control over its use, and his request is denied. Frustrated, Potterley embarks on a plan to get around this restriction, which is professionally risky.

Some of this story can be read in the preview of The Complete Stories, Vol 1(6% in)

“Today is Friday” by Ernest Hemingway

Three Roman soldiers are at a drinking establishment late at night. The Hebrew proprietor serves them wine. He makes a special mixture for one of them who has a bad stomach. They talk about the man they crucified that day, and how he didn’t come down off the cross.

This is a story/play.

“The Golden Kite, the Silver Wind” by Ray Bradbury

A city, probably in ancient China, is surrounded by a wall shaped like an orange. The leader gets a message that the adjacent city, Kwan-Si, is going to build a wall shaped like a pig. Since a pig could eat an orange, the inhabitants are worried that their city will suffer and Kwan-Si will prosper. At the suggestion of his daughter, the leader consults with the city’s stonemasons and builders to come up with a plan.

Read “The Golden Kite, the Silver Wind”