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Major Events in Ancient History

Ancient History Time Line


Eras of Ancient History | Roman Timeline | Greek Timeline

In History, You Need to Know the When and Where of Events

The Starting Point


This page of dates for major events in ancient history is a fine place for you to start your exploration of the ancient world: you would be wasting your time if you tried to read about ancient history without having any idea of the timeline of major events. (Similarly, please consult maps or an historical atlas.) You need to know, for instance, who came first: Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great; and which came first: Alexander's conquest of Persia or the Persian Wars.

In their mid-nineteenth century "notes to teachers," historians William Smith and George Washington Greene describe the necessity of knowing the events and geography of Greece as well as one knows the U.S. Presidents or the states in the U.S. Familiarity with Greek dates and geography has, if anything, only become worse since the 1854 publication of their book and advice: "The historical course in our public institutions is thus far so imperfect, that it is safer to take it for granted that the student on opening this volume gets his first glance at Grecian history. Now it is very important that this glance should be accompanied by a definite conception of the space which that history fills both in territory and in time; and it is for this purpose that I have added Heeren's clear and comprehensive geographical summary, and drawn up the synchronitic tables in the Appendix. The first should be studied with the map; the second by itself; and both repeated, even after the narrative has been begun, until the geography and general chronology of Greece have become as familiar as the boundaries of the States and the names of the Presidents.... The student now begins with a firm basis."
~ A History of Greece: From the Earliest Times to the Roman Conquest, by Sir William Smith, George Washington Greene; p.ix
This timeline shows many such major events in ancient history.

How to Use a Timeline

You may use this major events timeline in one of two ways: You may consult it, preferably often enough that you know the sequence of events, or you may memorize dates and names. The first method is easier; the second more old-fashioned, but both have their virtues. Feel free to adapt this for personal use by adding to these 60 events and dates.

Quiz on the Major Events Timeline

Caveat About the Dates

Many of the events in this timeline are only approximate or traditional. This is particularly true of the events before Greece and Rome, but even with Greece and Rome, the early years are in doubt.

Need a quick digest? See this cross-civilization Major Eras of Ancient History.


1 3200 Civilization is said to have begun at Sumer.
2 2560 Building of the Great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza.
3 1900-1300 The Minoan Period - Crete.
4 1795-1750 Hammurabi, who wrote the first legal code, conquered Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
5 1200 Fall of Troy - if there was a Trojan War.
6 995 Hebrew King David captured Jerusalem.
8th Century B.C.
7 780-560 Greeks sent settlers to create colonies in Asia Minor.
8 776 Legendary start of the Ancient Olympics.
9 753 Legendary founding of Rome. [See Ancient Rome Timeline.]
7th Century B.C.
10 621 Greek lawgiver Draco.
11 612 Nineveh (Babylonian capital) captured, marking the end of the Assyrian Empire.
6th Century B.C.
12 594 Solon became archon and wrote laws for Athens.
Archons replaced kings as rulers in Athens, but there were 9 of them and their time in office was more limited than that of a king.
William Smith
13 588 Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem. Jews of Judea were exiled to Babylon.
14 585 Thales predicts a solar eclipse.
15 546-538 King Cyrus of Persia and the Medes defeated Croesus and captured Lydia. Cyrus freed Jews in Babylon.
16 509 Traditional date for the founding of the Roman Republic.
17 508 Athenian Democracy established by Cleisthenes
5th Century B.C.
18 499 Greek city-states revolted against Persian rule.
19 492-449 Persian Wars
20 490 Battle of Marathon
21 480 Thermopylae
22 479 Salamis and Plataea
23 483 Buddha - In 483 Gautama Buddha died.
24 479 Confucius died.
25 461-429 Age of Pericles and 431-404 Peloponnesian War
4th Century B.C.
26 371 Battle at Leuctra - Sparta defeated.
27 346 Peace of Philocrates - Philip forced Athens to accept a peace treaty with Macedonia marking the end of Greek independence.
28 336 Alexander The Great rules Macedonia [See Alexander Timeline.]
29 334 Battle of Granicus - Alexander the Great fought the Persians and won.
30 333 Battle of Issus - Macedonian forces under Alexander defeated the Persians.
31 331 Battle of Gaugamela - defeat of Darius III, King of Persia, in October 331 at Gaugamela near Arbela.
See Map of Alexander's Campaigns
3rd Century B.C.
32 276 Eratosthenes measures the Earth's circumference.
33 265-241 First Punic War / 218 - 201 B.C. 2nd Punic War - Hannibal / 149-146 Third Punic War
34 221 Great Wall of China Building begun during the Qin Dynasty. The wall was built along 1,200 miles of China's northern border.
35 215-148 The Macedonian Wars lead to Rome's control of Greece.
36 206 Start of the Han Dynasty.
2nd Century B.C.
37 135 The first Servile War - The slaves of Sicily revolted against Rome.
38 133-123 The Gracchi.
1st Century B.C.
39 91-88 The Social War - Revolt of the Italians who wanted Roman citizenship.
40 89-84 The Mithridatic Wars - between Mithridates of Pontus and Rome.
41 60 Pompey, Crassus and Julius Caesar form the 1st Triumvirate. [See Caesar Timeline.]
42 55 Caesar invades Britain. [See Roman Britain Timeline.]
43 49 Caesar's Campaigns and Caesar crosses the Rubicon.
44 44 Ides of March (March 15) Caesar assassinated.
45 43 2nd Triumvirate - Mark Antony, Octavian and M Aemillius Lepidus.
46 31 Battle of Actium - Antony and Cleopatra defeated. Soon after, Augustus (Octavian) became 1st emperor of Rome. [See Cleopatra Timeline.]
47 c. 3 Jesus was born.
1st Century A.D.
48 9 German tribes destroyed 3 Roman legions under P. Quinctilius Varnus in the Teutoberg Forest.
49 64 Rome burned while Nero (supposedly) fiddled.
50 79 Mount Vesuvius Erupted covering Pompeii and Herculaneum.
2nd Century A.D.
51 122 Hadrian's Wall was begun as a defensive wall to stretch 70 miles across Northern England.
3rd Century A.D.
52 212 Edict of Caracalla extended Roman citizenship to all free inhabitants of the Empire.
53 284-305 Age of Diocletian - Diocletian divided empire into 4 administrative units. From then on, there was usually more than one head of Rome.
4th Century A.D.
54 313 Decree of Milan legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire.
55 324 Constantine the Great established his capital at Byzantium (Constantinople)
56 378 Emperor Valens killed by the Visigoths at the Battle at Adrianople.
5th Century A.D.
57 410 Rome sacked by the Visigoths.
58 451 Attila the Hun faced the Visigoths and Romans together in the Battle of Chalons. He went on to invade Italy, but was convinced to withdraw by Pope Leo. He died in 453
59 455 Vandals sacked Rome.
60 476 Western Roman Empire ended - Emperor Romulus Augustulus was removed from office.

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