World History BC Timeline

Timeline of World History, BCE

Approx. Time Events & People
1250 BCThe earliest European battle is fought at the Battle of the Tollense Valley in Bronze Age Germany with 5,000 warriors armed with bronze weapons and flint arrowheads.
11,000 BCEHunter-gathers create stunning limestone monuments at Gobekli Tepe, in Turkey, 8,000 years before Stonehenge.
3500 The wheel is used in Mesopotamia, modern day Iraq.
3114, August 13Start of the Mayan calendar. The Mayans had 20 days in their month starting with day 0 and ending with day 19. They understood zero not only as a place holder, but as a true counting number.
3100 Work begins on Stonehenge in England. Some of the stones came from 240 miles away, the Preseli Mountains in southwestern Wales. What possessed the Neolithic people to build such a monument is still unknown.
2900 First Egyptian hieroglyphs appear.
2750 Egyptians build first known dam called the Sadd el-Kafara, 37 ft tall, 348 ft wide of rubble masonry filled with 100,000 tons of gravel and stone.
2700 Egyptians create the 365 day calendar with the new year starting in June.
2560 The Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt is finished. It will be the tallest man-made structure for 3,800 years only being eclipsed by St. Paul's Cathedral in 1240.
2000 Minoan Bronze age culture on Crete develops hieroglyphic script and extensive palace complex at Knossos.
2000 The Babylonians estimate pi to be 3.125 using a hexagon inscribed in a circle.
1650-1700 Minoans "Linear A" create a syllabic script - still mostly undeciphered. Scientist believe, unlike Linear B, it represents a non-Greek language.
1650 Minoan "Linear B" script is created and used until about 1200 BCE. In 1953 Michael Ventris and John Chadwick decipher the text and read the first inscription in 3,000 years.
1450 Minoan culture destroyed, perhaps by the Mycenaeans.
1200 The Iron Age begins. Iron used for weapons and tools. Those peoples possessing iron, will dominate those still in the bronze age.
1200 Invasion of the Sea Peoples destroys Mycenaean civilization. Greece enters a 400 year "Dark Age"; writing is forgotten; cities abandoned.
1185The Greeks and Ilium (another name for Troy, hence "The Iliad") square off in the Trojan War.
1120 Magnetic compass is starting to be used.
1100 Phoenicians develop an alphabetic script.
957 Solomon builds the First Temple in Jerusalem.
800-750? Greece starts to recover from the Bronze Age collapse. The blind poet Homer recites the Iliad and the Odyssey. This is written down since the art of writing had been rediscovered.
750-680? Hesiod writes Theogony, ("Birth of the Gods"), which details a version of Greek mythology.
776 The Greek city of Elis hosts the first recorded athletic games to honor Zeus on the Olympia plain (although the games may have been held for hundreds of years before). Coroebus, a cook, won the only event - a 192-meter race called the stade to become the first recorded Olympic champion. Three other cities hold annual athletic events to their deities, so the Olympic games are played every four years.
775-750 Lycurgus gives laws to the Spartans which included the banning of silver and gold, redistribution of all land, creation of a senate, eating at public mess (so no dainty desire for expensive food would develop), and forbidding all useless occupations.
753, April 21According to legend, Rome is founded by Romulus, grandson of King Numitor of Alba Longa, and son of Mars. Twelve birds circled overhead during the founding ceremonies and legend had it that the city would survive for 12 centuries.
725 Sparta conquers Messenia and implements Helot slavery. Having slaves to do all the tedious work of farming allows the Spartans to spend all their time in military training.
721 Sennacherib, king of Assyria, captures the Israelite capital of Samaria and takes the Israelites of the northern ten tribes to Assyria where they mostly assimulate into the culture.
701 The Assyrians attack Jerusalem but are unsuccessful at taking the city.
650 Earliest coins appear. Later, Lydian kingdom produces the first true coins with guaranteed quality and weight.
650 Earliest writing in the Americas by the Olmec culture.
621 Draco publishes his harsh laws for Athens. Many crimes punishable by death (hence the term 'Draconian').
610-600 The Kingdom of Lydia (modern-day western Turkey) mints the first coins. They are made of electrum, a mixture of gold and silver. Instead of barter, people could now trade goods directly for coins of a known value facilitating trade. Wealth could now be transported easily. Tax collection became easier, supporting the rise of nations.
600 Anaximander theorizes that humans arose from other species.
594 Wide reaching reforms of Solon in Athens.
586, 18 July After a 30 month seige Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar conquers Jerusalem, destroys the First Temple, and burns the city down. He will take Jewish captives to Babylon.
585, May 28 Greek philosopher Thales predicts an eclipse.
578 Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, the fifth king of Rome, builds the Cloaca Maxima, the first sewer system in Rome, allowing Rome to grow into an immense city.
559 Cyrus the Great becomes king and will lead Persia to form a great empire that will stretch from Egypt to India.
550 The Greek engineer Eupalinos designs a water tunnel 1036 meters long through a solid limestone mountain to bring water to the ancient city of Samos. Work started on both ends and met in the middle, an extraordinary feat of ancient mentioned by Herodotus. The tunnel was used for 1,100 years.
539, October 12 Cyrus the Great conquers the Babylon when his army wades up the Euphrates river through the city canals.
538 The 70 year Babylonian captivity ends when Cyrus the Great allows the Jews to return to Palestine.
532 Pythagoras starts his school in Croton Greece. He founds a brotherhood which sees the world through numbers.
509 Rome expels the last of its 7 kings, and starts a republic based on the Senate and the Assembly. This date is highly suspect since its one year before the Athenians start their democracy and the official records were burned by the Gauls.
508 Cleisthenes reforms enacted in Athens. Attica divided into demes.
505 Cleisthenes puts Athens on the road to democracy.
500 The concept of the wheel rolls into Britain, but not the Americas.
490 Twenty-six miles from Athens on the plain of Marathon, 11,000 Athenians fight 100,000 Persians. If the Greeks lose the battle, the city of Athens will flee to the hills. If the Athenians win the battle at Marathon, the Athenians will stay and try to hold the city against the Persian navy. While the battle rages the Athenians waited for the word, to flee or to fortify. A lone runner, Eucles, runs 26 miles and brings the much awaited news. According to legend, he utters "Nike" (victory) and then dies from exhaustion. 6,400 Persians are killed but only 192 Greeks.
480 Spartan King Leonidas, 300 Spartans, and their allies make a sacrificial last stand at Thermopylae against Xerxes and the Persians. King Xerxes demands the surrender of the Greeks weapons, to which King Leonidas replies, "Molon Labe", or "Come and take them." (See: Texas Independence, "Come and Take It" flag).
September 480 General Themistocles leads the Athenian navy to victory over the Persian Navy at battle of Salamis. Themistocles uses varies ruses to trick the Persians into battle in the narrow straits of Salamis, where the larger, more numerous Persian ships could not use their advantages.
479 110,000 Greek hoplites defeat 300,000 Persians at the battle of Plataea. The Persians suffered 257,000 casualties, the Greek only 159.
480 Anaxagoras of Clazomenae arrives in Athens. He taught the philosophy of Ionia to the Athenians sparking the flowering of Western philosophy.
485 Protagoras of Abdera (485-415) is born. He states that truth, goodness, and all other values are relative, depending solely on the person or society.
484-425 Herodotus of Halicarnassus aka, the first Historian. Oddly enough, for being a Historian, we know practically nothing about him. He writes The Histories about the Persian War with Greece creating the genre of historical writing.
460-455 Birth of Thucydides who writes The Peloponnesian War and builds upon Herodotus's work of recording history. Thucydides though, is more direct and rigorous in his writing, leaving out extraneous stories and dubious material. He also omits references to the gods as causing events in human affairs.
480 Second Persian War. The Athenians retreat, and the Persian forces led by Xerxes destroy Athens, but Greek forces win a major naval battle at Salamis.
465 Greek philosopher Democritus explains that matter is composed of very small units which cannot be broken down into smaller pieces. He calls these pieces "atmos", or "uncut-ables".
450 At the insistence of the Plebes, who were tired of the elites manipulating the legal system against them, had all the Roman laws written on metal plates for all to see. The laws, known as the Twelve Tables of Roman law, are accessible to all now - and memorized by all, even the illiterate.
433 The Parthenon in Athens is completed after 40 years of work. This stunning piece of architecture was the crowning achievement of Pericles.
430 Democritus theorizes that matter is composed of tiny grains that cannot be subdivided. He calls them "atomos", or un-cutables.
421 The first artillery piece is created by Zopyros, an Italian engineer and used in the siege of Cumae. It is a giant bow, or gastraphetes, mounted horizontally on a wooden base which used the tension in a composite bow to store energy. This increased the range of arrows 50 meters farther than a hand-held bow.
415 The Athenians invade Sicily. Before his death, Pericles warned the Athenians not to try to expand their empire until the war with Sparta was completed. Alcibiades convinced the Athenians that he knew better than Pericles and they should attack Sicily for glory and treasure. The resulting battles destroyed two fleets and many sailors and soldiers. Although not the final blow in the war with Sparta, this tragedy starts the decline of Athens.
406 Battle of Arginusae.
404 Sparta finally defeats Athens in the Peloponnesian War with a navy financed by the Persians.
399 Socrates is put on trial. He is arrogant and antagonistic during the proceedings. Had he been more gracious he might have escaped the hemlock. The vote was 281 to 220.
396 Rome defeats the Etruscan city of Veii after 80 years of war and starts the eventual rise of Rome. The Etruscans were skilled engineers and craftsmen. Many of the "Roman" innovations, like their numerals, were really taken from the Etruscans.
386 The Gallic Senones tribesmen sack Rome and occupy it for seven months. The Romans never forgot this. It will become the legend that will fuel the Roman psyche of military dominance.
371 The Theban commander Epaminondas defeats the reigning champs of the Peloponnese, the Spartans, in the Battle of Leuctra. This marks the end of the centuries-old Spartan reputation of being unbeatable.
386 Plato starts "The Academy" in Athens.
July 4, 362 Epaminondas leads the Thebans to war against the Spartans again, and wins again at the Battle of Mantinea. He is killed in the battle. The war between Thebes and Sparta leaves Greece weaken just in time for the upstart Macedonians to enter the stage.
July 21 356 BCTo do something significant so he would be remembered, Herostratus burns down the Ephesian Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Alexander the Great was born the same night.
338 Philip of Macedon conquers Greece in the battle of Chaeronea.
336 Aristotle starts "The Lyceum" in Athens .
333 Alexander the Great defeats Persia under Darius at battle of Issus. Alexander was the fourth in a line of great men and scholars: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle. Darius escapes and gathers his forces for the next battle.
332 Alexander the Great conquers Egypt. The Greeks bring coinage into Egypt for the first time.
October 1, 331 Alexander's 35,000 troops fight Darius's 200,000 in the battle of Gaugamela. Darius has leveled the wide plain to allow better use of his chariots and superior numbers. Alexander leads his troops off to the edge of the prepared field. This tactic opens a gap in the Persian lines that Alexander drives into, threatening King Darius himself. In panic Darius flees. Seeing their king depart, some in the Persian army scatter.
326 At the Hyphasis river, Alexander's army refuses to march further into India and he is forced to turn back.
323 Alexander dies near Babylon and is reported to have left kingdom, "to the best". Four of his generals carve up the empire and usher in the Hellenistic period.
310 Greek astronomer Aristarchus of Samos born. He was one of the first to suggest the earth moved about the sun.
To protect shipping, the new Greek rulers of Egypt build the 120 meter tall Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Excluding the Pyramids, it will be the tallest man-made structure for over 12 centuries until it is damaged by earthquakes.
Lighthouse of Alexandria by Theirsch
287 Strato of Lampsacus (ca. 340-ca. 270 BC) becomes the third head of the Aristotle's school, the Lyceum. Strato correctly theorizes that objects accelerate when falling. He notes this by observing water flows from a roof as a solid stream at first and then breaks into droplets as it is getting faster. Another demonstration is that stones dropped from higher heights have larger craters in sand.
279 King Pyrrhus of Epirus wins the Battle of Asculum against the Romans, but his casualties are so high he says, "One more such victory and we are lost,", hence the term "Pyrrhic Victory".
265 Rome completes the conquest of Italy.
264-241 First Punic War between Rome and Carthage (called "Punic" from "Phoenician"). Hamilcar Barca commands the army and never loses a major battle. Hamilcar feels betrayed when the politicians of Carthage surrender. He feels they can still win the war. Hamilcar makes his son Hannibal swear an oath to hate Rome.
256 A convoy of Roman ships rescuing soldiers from Africa is caught in a storm and 90,000 Romans die, one of the worst disasters in maritime history.
250 Alexandrian Librarian Eratosthenes of Cyrene calculates dimensions of the earth to within a 5 percent. After reading that on the summer solstice the sun is directly overhead at Aswan and shines straight down into a well, one the same day of the year, he calculates the angle of a shadow at noon in Alexandria to be 7 degrees. Knowing the distance to Aswan was 5,000 stadia, the circumference must be 360/7 times larger or about 250,000 stadia (25,000 miles).
250 Greek mathematician Archimedes of Syracuse estimates pi by inscribing and circumscribing regular polygons about a circle to find upper and lower bounds. With a 96-gon he determines a lower bounds of 3 1/7 and the upper as 3 10/71 or about 3.1418. He is the first person in history to calculate π to three decimal places.
221 Qin Shi Huang unites all of china under his rule. He standardizes units of measure, coinage, and the Chinese script. Qin improves commerce by creating an extensive network of roads and canals. On the dark side, he burns books, kills scholars, and causes famine by his many public works projects like the Great Wall. Believing that eating mercury will prolong his life, he eats mercury and dies of heavy metal poisoning at the age of 49.
218 Second Punic War - Hannibal Barca crosses the Alps to attack Rome. (Hannibal is praised by Machiavelli for being brutal in visible examples, thereby gaining order in his army, so the amount of true cruelty to his soldiers was less than if he had been softer). Hannibal is wildly successful militarily, but cannot pry the Italian cities away from Rome.
216 Hannibal wins one of the greatest military victories at Cannae. About 70,000 men from the Roman forces are killed, only 6,000 of Hannibal's. Generals ever since have tried to replicate this stunning victory.
202 Hannibal, who did not want to fight with an inferior army, is ordered to by the city fathers, and is defeated at the battle of Zama by Scipio Africanus. The influx of slaves from Carthage into Rome will destabilize the agricultural economy of Italy. Small farmers will find it hard to compete against slave labor.
197 BC, June The end of the Greek phalanx of tightly packed soldiers with long spears is signaled when the descendant kingdom of Alexander the Great under the command of Philip V of Macedonia loses to the more flexible Roman army led by Titus Quinctius Flaminius at the Battle of Cynoscephalea.
153 The Roman Senate moves New Year's day from March 25, near the Spring Equinox, to January 1, the month named after the god of gateways and beginnings, Janus. Before this September was the seventh month, October was the eight month which makes sense, now the names are off by two.
146, February 5 The Third Punic War ends with the total destruction of Carthage. The remaining 50,000 people are enslaved.
146In the same year Roman armies obliterate Carthage in the Third Punic war, the Roman Legions sack Corinth in Greece as an example to the rest of Greece. To any doubters it is now clear that Rome is the dominant power.
133 Tiberius Gracchus disposes fellow tribune Marcus Octavius from his office to prevent Octavius from vetoing the Lex Agraris bill that would give land illegally held by the rich to the poor. This egregious violation of ancient law and custom, mos maiorum, starts a series of events that will eventually destroy the Republic. Ironically, Plutarch claimed tribune Marcus Octavius was an ancestor of Emperor Augustus.
133 Tribune Tiberius Gracchus, although sacrosanct and immune from harm based on his office of tribune, is bludgeoned to death with a bench leg during the first of its kind political riot which will claim the lives of 300 Roman citizens and start a dangerous precedent.
121The gifted orator Gaius Gracchus continues the populist agenda of his late brother Tiberius. Gaius skillfully plays the equestrian and pleb classes against the Senate to push for reforms. He succeeds with many reforms, but fails in his last project of extending full citizenship to the Latin-speaking allies of Rome. This sets the stage for the devastating Civil wars between Rome and her allies. Gaius is hounded by his enemies and commits suicide. Three thousand citizens who followed Gaius are killed without a trial.
107Marius launches his military reforms that save Rome in the short term, but will sow the seeds of the fall of the Republic.
105, October 6So he can take all the glory for the battle, Roman General Caepio refuses to join his legions with the soldiers of consul Mallius to fight the Germanic Teutones and Cimbri tribes from Denmark. The tribes annihilate 80,000 Romans and 40,000 camp followers at the Battle of Arausio in Southern France. This will be one of Rome's worst defeats rivaling Cannae. Fortunately for Rome, the attackers did not chose to invade Italy which had few troops to stop them.
106The Jugurthine War (112-106) with Rome finally ends when Jugurtha, king of Numidia (present day Algeria), is finally captured by Lucius Cornelius Sulla under the command of Gaius Marius. The conflict exposes wide-spread corruption throughout the Roman government and sets the stage for a Civil War in Rome.
87-80 Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla fight a civil war over Rome.
82Sulla makes himself the first dictator without a time limit on his powers. Sulla is deeply conservative and sets the senate back in power. He resigns in 80 BC snug in the feeling that he has restored the Republic. Ironically, it is his own example of seizing absolute power that some men, (I'm looking at you Julius), see and know this is possible now. In trying to save the Republic, Sulla destroys it.
73 Spartacus, a former Roman soldier and gladiator fights against Rome.
52 BC, SeptemberBattle of Alesia - Vercingetorix, leader of the Gauls, retreats to a natural fortress at Alesia. Caesar orders his men to build fortifications all around the fortress so Vercingetorix is trapped inside. Reinforcements for the Gauls start to arrive, and Caesar orders his men to build fortifications on the other side. The Romans are now trapped inside a "donut" with Gauls on the inside and outside. Caesar narrowly wins the battle through a personal charge with his German cavalry.
51 Cleopatra & Ptolemy XII inherit Egypt. Ptolemy was the name of Alexander the Great's general who "inherited" Egypt. Cleopatra was the name of Alexander the Great's sister. Almost three centuries later, the Greek influence in Egypt was still strong. Cleopatra was the first Ptolemy to learn the tongue of the common Egyptians.
49 Although it's against the law and custom, Julius Caesar crosses the Rubicon with his legions, starting a civil war against Pompey the Great.
46, February 29 The first Leap Day is observed. The traditional Roman year only had 355 days, so a month was sometimes added by the priests to get the calendar back in sync with the seasons, but it would often by incorrect. Julius Caesar reforms the calendar and adds a Leap Day. He also takes the occasion to rename the month of "Quintilis", the fifth month since the spring equinox in March, to July to honor himself.
45 Julius Caesar wins the civil war and is declared dictator for life.
44, March 15 A group of senators assassinate Julius Caesar on the Ides of March. They feared Caesar would be a king. After his death, his nephew Octavian organizes Caesar's troops, defeats those senators, and becomes Rome's first emperor.
31 Against all odds, Octavian defeats Antony at battle of Actium which involved 900 ships and 150,000 infantry. Antony's sailors lose heart when they see Antony leave the fight to follow Cleopatra who is fleeing the battle. This decisive naval battle ends the Roman Republic.
27 Octavian is given the title Augustus by the Senate and becomes the first Roman Emperor, this is somewhat ironic since the senators assassinated Julius Caesar to prevent Julius from moving from the "first man of Rome" to emperor.
5 BC - 6 AD Jesus is born