This timeline covers the era between the traditional dates of the Trojan War (around 1200 BC) and the death of Cleopatra VII in 30 BC. It extends a little bit beyond that in both directions to include relevant events in the Mediterranean littoral.
The many Greek city-states each had their own political systems, usually revolving around one of the five basic types known in ancient Greece: Democracy, Tyranny, Aristocracy, Oligarchy, and Monarchy.
On March 5, 1223 BC, an eclipse of the sun visible over the Aegean Sea may have been the "sunset in the east" that Agamemnon's family used to secure the kingship of Mycenae, as told in legend.
The Amphictyonic League of Delphi was an international organization of Greek city-states that swore to uphold and defend the safety of Delphi, an ancient sacred site and home of the Oracle. According to League rules, no member could completely allow the total destruction of any other member, nor would any member's water supply lines be cut by other members even in wartime. The league members were allowed to fight each other in war.
Pithekoussai, on the site of modern-day Ischia in Italy, was a colony of the ancient Greek city-states of Euboea. Euboea is an island north of Athens.
semi-legendary lawgiver of Sparta. He established the military oligarchy that ruled Sparta, and created the rules and regulations that made the Spartans into the iron-willed, disciplined military force that fought the Persians at Thermopylae and Plataea.
Syracuse, on the southeastern coast of Sicily, was for a long time the most important Greek colony in Sicily. Its kings later humbled Athens during the Peloponnesian War.
The Ionian League was an amphictyony (confederation) of twelve city-states on the Asia Minor coast and on islands of the Aegean Sea. They had a nominal 'capital' with annual games and council meetings at Panionium, and were a political force until conquered by the Persians around 510 BC.
Byzantium on the Bosporus was one of Greece's most successful colonies, since it regulated trade between the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea. It later went on to have an empire of its own, from 325 AD to 1453 AD.
Solon was an aristocratic Athenian who helped reform the city's legal and political systems in 594 BC.
The 39th Olympiad is the only clear event that we know of in connection with the promulgation of the law code of Draco.
Draco wrote a law code for Athens probably promulgated in 621 BC. It eliminated most of the special privileges of the aristocracy, but imposed the penalties of death or enslavement for nearly every crime.
Solon did away with debt slavery and most of Draco's death penalties. He kept the aristocracy as a political force, but raised the potential powers of the lower three classes of Athens. The Athenians hated his reforms, but kept them long enough to learn to live with them.
Massalia was the most important Greek colony for trading with the Gauls and the northern European interior. It lay close to the mouth of the Rhone river, a principal trade route into what is now France.
Alalia was founded by Phokakia and Massalia together in order to exploit the resources of the island of Corsica.
King Leonidas of Sparta died at the battle of Thermopylae in August, 480 BC. Almost nothing else is known about him besides the fact that he was the first of his name and the 17th of his dynasty. Even the year of his birth is speculative.
Cleisthenes instituted the first true democracy by giving all adult male citizens the right to vote in the Athenian assembly on all legal maters.
The popular leader of Athens through its golden age, and into the Peloponnesian War. He died of a plague that broke out in the city, probably a side effect of his own policies.
Under the rules of Ostracism, the Athenians could vote once a year to expel another Athenian citizen for a period of ten years. It was added to the Athenian constitution of Athens by Cleisthenes in 508 BC.
The Persian Wars brought together 175 Greek city-states into a unified confederation to prevent a renewed Persian invasion. The League organized a common navy to patrol the Aegean and prevent Persian aggression against any one city in the league. Eventually, Athens rose to dominate the League, which the Persians forcibly dissolved at the conclusion of the Peloponnesian War.
The golden age of Athens, sometimes called the Periclean Age, was a time of superior arts and culture in Athens.
Mycenae was a minor city-state in classical times, until the armies of Argos captured the site and forced the inhabitants to move elsewhere. By 200 BC it was a tourist site for Romans wanting to visit the places connected with the Iliad and Odyssey.
An aggressively self-promoting young man from a prominent political family, Alcibiades was famous for using his charm and good looks to advance his political career. He switched political factions numerous times, went over to the Spartans and finally to the Persians when he couldn't get what he wanted from the Athenians.
Xenophon of Athens was a general, mercenary, admirer of Socrates, and commenter on contemporary events. He was one of the 10,000, and a senior leader in that army.
A peace treaty that brought an end to the first stage of the Peloponnesian War.
Commander of the Theban army that defeated the Spartans at the battle of Leuctra in 371 BC. He was the chief architect and military strategist behind the success of the Theban Ascendancy.
The Athenian surrender left Sparta as the sole dominant city-state in ancient Greece.
The end of Athenian democracy. The Spartans installed a government of thirty oligarchs in Athens, who restricted voting rights and legal powers to only a small group of the city's wealthiest elite. Athens was stripped of her navy and league alliances. Though the government returned to democracy after only a year, Athens never recovered her former prestige.
Philip II of Macedon was king of the region directly north of ancient Greece. His love for Greece was such that he couldn't bear to see the city-states fighting, so he conquered them to form into a kingdom. He was assassinated in 336 BC before he could begin an invasion of Persia.
Ptolemy was a Macedonian general, and the founder of the Ptolemaic Dynasty that ruled Egypt as pharaohs from his accession to the throne the year after Alexander the Great's death, until the death of Cleopatra VII.
Alexander the Great sacked Thebes in order to put down a revolt. He left only two buildings standing: the temple of Artemis and the house of the poet Pindar. About 20,000 citizens were sold into slavery.
Alexander the Great crossed the Hellespont and so began his invasion of the Persian Empire.
Ptolemy was the second Greek pharaoh of Egypt after Alexander the Great... his family dynasty remained in control of Egypt until 30 BC.
Attalos was the king of Pergamon, a Greek city-state in Asia Minor, who ruled largely as a benevolent tyrant. He promoted Greek culture and ideas both in his own city and throughout the Hellenistic world.
Cleopatra, last of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, was the lover of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, and the last person to rule Egypt as pharaoh. She was also in many ways the last ancient Greek.
Events in the Persian Wars, the Peloponnesian Wars, and the Wars of Philip II and Alexander are listed here.
These are the traditional dates for the Trojan War, established by Eratosthenes of Alexandria much, much later. The Greeks believed this date was correct, but modern archaeology is less sure.
Thucydides says of the war for the Lelantine plain on Euboea, "The war between Chalcis and Eretria was the one in which most cities belonging to the rest of Greece were divided up into alliances with one side or the other." It was one of two such wars between the Trojan War and the Persian Wars.
The Meliac War was fought between the city-states of Ionia, on the coast of what is now Turkey. It is considered one of the founding events of the Ionian League, an amphictyony of 12 states in the Aegean Sea and in Asia Minor.
This war, between the Amphictyonic League of Delphi and the city-state of Kirrha, was fought for control of the sacred site of Delphi. The war is notable for the use of the plant hellebore to poison Kirrha's water supply, and the complete destruction of Kirrha and the sale of its inhabitants into slavery.
Persia, a great power to the east of Greece with its capital in modern-day Iran, was the ancient world's superpower. It stretched from the borders of India to the Mediterranean sea, and from the Caspian and Black Seas to the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. From 510 to 479 BC, it was actively in conflict with the Greek city-states, and for more than two centuries thereafter was a major influence on Greek affairs.
10,000 Athenians defeat a Persian invasion force of approximately 25,000 on a beach 26 miles from Athens. The herald Pheidippides ran the distance from the battlefield to the city, to inform the token defense force there that the Athenians were victorious, before dying. The Persian fleet arrived a few hours later, expecting to find an undefended city, but instead found the walls bristling with men, women and children armed to the teeth.
Athenian ships crush the Persian fleet in the straits of Salamis, off the coast of Attica, four months after the Battle of Thermopylae
At the battle of Thermopylae, 300 Spartans and 5000 other Greek hoplites held off an army of half a million Persians and allies for four days.
During the Second Sacred War, the Spartans captured Delphi from the city-state of Phocis, and made it an independent city again. No sooner had the Spartans left than the Athenians recaptured Delphi, and handed it back to the Phocians.
Considered the first stage of the Peloponnesian War, this involved the Spartan army marching into Athenian territory annually to loot and burn, while the Athenians used their navy to attack and harass Spartan allies. The Peace of Nicias in 421 BC was supposed to bring peace for 50 years.
The war between the Greek city-states of Sparta and Athens was all-consuming. It pulled nearly every Greek city-state into the war as an ally first of one side and then the other. It even involved an Athenian expedition to Sicily, to try to outflank the Spartan alliance.
The Athenians, trying to get a leg up against Sparta, sent a massive force to seize the island of Sicily, starting with the city of Syracuse. The Syracusans accepted the Athenian seige for two years, before destroying the Athenian force almost to the last man and the last ship.
Second and final stage of the Peloponnesian War, in which Sparta accepted financial and military aid from Persia in order to encourage Athenian allies and subject states to rebel against Athens. After the Battle of Agespotomai, Athens no longer had the power to resist this drain on her resources, and surrendered.
A Spartan commander, Lysander, captured and destroyed the majority of the Athenian fleet on the beach after a series of feints required the Athenians to resupply with food. Only nine ships escaped.
Greek mercenaries under command of Cyrus king of Persia win the battle, but Cyrus is killed, rendering their victory irrelevant. Start of the March of the 10,000 (Xenophon's "Anabasis")
Thebes in Boeotia rose to power during this window of time.
Theban forces under Epimonidas defeated the pick of the Spartan army, the first time Sparta had been truly defeated in a full scale battle against a similarly sized army in 600 years.
Fought between the states of the Amphictyonic League of Delphi and the city-state of Phocis for control of Delphi. In the first stages of the war, Thebes fought most of the battles for the League, but by the end, Philip II of Macedon was the principal enemy of the Phocians. Macedon's control of northern Greece, and of many city-states in southern Greece, was assured by the end of the war.
Alexander the Great defeats a Persian army in Anatolia, which gave him control of most of modern-day Turkey.
Darius III, King of Persia, was unnerved with Alexander's success, and went into battle against him near the fords of the Issus River in what is now Syria in November. The Macedonian king's cavalry broke the Persian lines, and Darius was forced to retreat.
Alexander arrives in Egypt, and takes control of the entire country more or less at once. The Egyptians hated the Persians, and Alexander (according to the accounts) was viewed as a liberator.
Alexander the Great besieges Tyre in his march south to take Egypt.
Alexander defeats another Persian army, and this time Darius III dies shortly after the battle is over at the hands of an assassin. Essentially, Alexander is master of Persia after this.
Alexander wished to subdue a number of the Persian satrapies, and so continued eastward, but each time he did so found excuses to go further. His army eventually revolted and refused to travel farther. Alex's return route eventually brought him to Babylon in 323 BC, barely a year before his death by liver toxicity, poison or appendicitis.
The First Punic War, between Rome and Carthage, largely closed the western Mediterranean to Greek or Hellenistic interference.
The second Punic War between Rome and Carthage was fought largely in Italy, but the way that Greek city-states kept changing sides annoyed and irritated the Romans, and led to later restrictions on Greek freedoms.
This war, between Rome and the Seleucid Empire, was largely fought in and around Greece and formerly Greek territory. Most of the free Greek city-states ended the war as either protectorates or subject peoples of the SPQR.
The Maccabean Revolt is the source of the Jewish story and festival of Hannukah. Judas Maccabee and his sons resolve to rebel against the Antiochid Greeks who ruled the western Persian empire at this time.
The third Punic War left Carthage utterly destroyed, and gave Rome almost complete control over the Mediterranean Sea. In the course of the war, the Romans subjugated most of the remaining Greek city-states.
sometime during this thirty year window, the Iliad and the Odyssey were composed and written down. The exact date is not precisely known, but these two poems were considered the core of ancient Greece's literature and religious system.
during this 40 year window, the poet Hesiod probably composed his two masterworks, WORKS AND DAYS, and THEOGYNY. They formed companion documentation to the Iliad and Odyssey, describing the calendar of ancient Greece and the life-patterns of the merchant, the artisan, the fisherman, and the farmer. He is sometimes called the "father of economics."
Aeschylus was the first and possibly the greatest of the ancient Greek playwrights. He composed over 80 plays, among them the three plays of the ORESTEIA, about the family of Agamemnon from the era of the Trojan War.
Pindar of Thebes was one of ancient Greece's best non-Athenian poets. He traveled widely in the ancient Greek world, including to Sicily and southern Italy. His house was one of two buildings that Alexander the Great left standing when he sacked Thebes in 335 BC.
Sophocles of Athens was one of the three great tragic playwrights of Athens. His works included IPHIGENIA IN AULIS, and the trilogy of plays about Oedipus of Thebes, including OEDIPUS THE KING.
Author of the "Histories", Herodotus is considered the father of the discipline of history. Not everyone agrees that he was an accurate writer of history, but he is the best source we have about the events of the Persian Wars.
Euripides was the third of the great Greek playwrights involved in writing tragedies. His plays, including MEDEA about an event from the voyages of Jason and the Argonauts, featured some of the strongest female characters written before the modern era.
A former Athenian general (though not a particularly successful one) and survivor of the plague in Athens, Thucydides was the first to see the Peloponnesian War as unusual. He recorded some events as they occurred himself, and interviewed other participants, and wrote his history more or less as the war itself unfolded.
The author of numerous plays in the comic style, including "The Birds", "The Frogs", "the Clouds", and "The Knights". His most famous play, "Lysistrata", is based on a plot that the women of Athens and Sparta withold sexual favors from their husbands and lovers in order to end the Peloponnesian War.
Menander was the son of a well-to-do and aristocratic family, and produced more than a hundred plays. Eight of his plays won the prize at the Lenaia, a festival for drama of similar importance to the Olympic Games, and he won a similar number at the City Dionysia in Athens. Only one of his plays, "The Grouch", has survived complete to the present. Many of his plots and characters, even the whole plays, were recycled into Latin plays by Roman authors, and some of them were reworked by Shakespeare and Moliére in the 17th century, as well.
Alexander barely stayed long enough to see the foundation stone laid for the most famous city to bear his name. It would later grow into one of the most important cities on the Mediterranean Sea.
The Library of Alexandria was the premier learning and research institution of the Hellenistic world, and remained open into the Christian era when it was burned for the fifth and last time.
"Western philosophy begins with Thales," said 20th century philosopher Bertrand Russell. He is the first known person to refuse to accept mystical or supernatural explanations for natural phenomena, instead guessing that every event has a natural cause. He is sometimes called the grandfather of science.
Anaximander was a scholar and scientist from Miletus. His studies included the development of the use of the gnomon for measuring land in ancient Greece; the first prediction of the motion of the planets; and the precept that the universe runs on laws or patterns which may be deduced from observation.
Greek mathematician who developed the Pythagorean Theorem: a2 + b2 = c2 . His followers were nearly cultists in their devotion to their founder, who believed that all things were composed of number.
inventor in ancient Greek thought of the dialectic, and the //reductio ad absurdum// -- to prove something false by reducing it to its most absurd or foolish example.
Socrates was one of Greece's greatest philosophers. His thought processes and his method of questioning students are both recorded in the writings of Plato, his student and successor.
Plato was a student of Socrates, and the teacher of Aristotle. He wrote 35 dialogues and 13 letters that survive to the present, demonstrating his skill as a writer and philosopher. He was the founder of the Academy of Athens, the first college or university in the western world.
Aristotle was the student of Plato, and the tutor of Alexander the Great. He is considered the father of the scientific method, and the third greatest philosopher of ancient Greece after Plato and Socrates.
A scientist and weapons designer for the Greco-Sicilian city of Syracuse.
A scientist at the Library of Alexandria, he was the first person to make a strong educated guess on the diameter of the Earth. His guess, about 39,000 Km, was accurate to within 1%. He also invented a system of latitude and longitude, and invented the leap-day to regularize the calendar.
Dates are approximate.
dates are approximate.
dates are approximate.
Phidias was the designer and sculptor of the chryselephantine statue of Zeus at Olympia, considered one of the wonders of the ancient world. He also designed and constructed the Parthenon, and the statue of Athena within it. Dates listed here are approximate.
The Parthenon of Athens, paid for with funds from the treasury of the Delian League, was the masterwork of the sculptor Phidias, and helped secure Athens' reputation as the greatest city in the ancient Greek world.
Phidias created the statue of Zeus at Olympia during this year, at a temporary workshop at Olympia. It was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World at the time, and survived until the 3rd century AD.
A temple on the Acropolis of Athens, containing shrines to Athena, Poseidon, and the legendary founder of Athens, Erechtheus.
Dates are approximate. The theater has the best acoustics of all ancient Geek theaters, in which the sound of a match-strike at center stage can be heard at all 15,000 seats for spectators without amplification. It was designed by Polykleitos the Younger in the mid fourth century BC.
Although it collapsed within 60 years of its construction, the Colossus was until modern times the largest statue in the world. Measuring over 30 meters (107 feet) in height, its pieces lay on the ground for 800 years, a marvel to tourists and locals alike. Pausanias said that few passers-by could even wrap their arms around one of its thumbs.
The pottery styles of ancient Greece help archaeologists and historians today understand the history and economic patterns of that far-off time. The dates given in this timeline are approximate.
The Mycenaean pottery style is divided by modern archaeologists into four stages, called Late Helladic I-IIA, Late Helladic IIB-IIIA1, Late Helladic IIIA2-B, and Late Helladic IIIC. You don't need to know this much, but it's useful to know that the Mycenaean era has a series of subdivisons.
The Protogeometric period of Greek ceramics is characterized by very simple pottery shapes with very simple decoration — rarely more than a lot of horizontal bands and some vertical ones. There's a general lack of artistic style, in favor of usefulness.
The geometric style is characterized by an absence of human figures except in abstract forms, a lot of squares, straight lines, and triangles, and an almost-obsessive need to cover as much of the ceramic surface with decoration of some sort.
During this time, ancient Greek traders were voyaging to Cyprus, Syria, Anatolia, Phoenicia, Israel, and Egypt. They encountered many new artistic styles, and many of these styles were adopted into the Greek vernacular of art.
Black figure ware is formed by painting black figures on a base of red pottery. It was a technique especially loved in Athens, although examples are found all over the Mediterranean littoral.
Exekias was a Greek vase painter who worked in the black figure technique in the Keramikios district of Athens during this time period. He is considered the finest named painter of the age. Most examples of his work that survive come from Etruria in Italy, demonstrating a lively trade route between the two regions, and a love for fine art in Italy.
Red-Figure ware involves taking a piece of ceramic made from red clay, and then painting everything except the figures on it black. The results are often stunning. Red Figure ware was a major part of Greek culture, and how it presented itself to the world; examples of this art form have been found thousands of miles from Greece in almost every direction.
The dates indicated are when he worked, not his birth and death dates. Epiktetos is Greek for "newly acquired" so he was probably a slave. He worked in the red-figure style, and more than 100 masterpieces are attributed to him, in museums around the world.
There are around 230 pieces of ancient Athenian ceramics attributed to this master pot-painter; the signature work of his style is currently in the Cabinet des Medailles, Paris.
The Berlin Painter, named for a particularly fine example of his/her work in the Berlin National Museum, is the conventional name for a painter who worked in Athens during these dates, and whose work started in the black-figure style, but who later switched to the red figure style. He/she is considered a pioneer in the new style.
This artist, or more likely his (or her) studio, painted the designs on approximately 300 known ceramic vessels. The Achilles Painter worked in three forms: black figure, red figure, and white-ground (the least common style in Athenian ceramic-painting).
Events connected with the religious life of ancient and classical Greece.
The first known Olympic Games were held in 776 BC, though they may have existed up to a century or more before that in some form.
The Isthmian Games were held in Corinth on a cycle with the Olympic Games, with the Isthmian Games held every second and every fourth year. The victors received a crown of woven celery or pine leaves, an ode or a statue, and 100 drachmae. The games never achieved the prominence of the Olympic Games.
By 428 BC, the Olympic Games had expanded from one day of footraces to five days of competitions in wrestling, boxing, pankration (a no-holds barred kind of wrestling), footraces, javelin and discus throws, and other competitions.