Prophets, Philosophers and Universalizing Religions Compilation


The original monotheists?

Aryan Migrations

Approx. 1700 BCE - Approx. 1000 BCE

Aryan tribes came to Iran from central Asia and settled in the valleys of Zagros Mountains in Western Iran. Ancient Zoroastrian scriptures revealed that Zoroastrianism originated from Aryan tribal religions. Although Aryans worshipped multiple deities in a polytheistic religion similar to those found in other early cultures (animal sacrifice to appease multiple gods, rituals, etc). The god was the most widely worshipped was Mazda, whose name would be used in the title of the Zoroastrian supreme god.

Birth of Zoraster?????

Approx. 1500 bce - Approx. 600 bce

The birth of Zoraster is not entirely clear. Some scholars say he was born as late as 600 BCE, but others say as early as 1200 BCE. Zoraster was born in present day Iran and lived in a polytheistic religion until Zoroastrianism was founded. Zoraster disagreed with the violence, sacrifice, and beliefs of the polytheistic religion and created his own monotheistic religion.

The Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian Empires

900 BCE - 535 BCE

The Assyrians and Babylonians were rivals in their efforts to control Mesopotamia. Their conquests and conflicts led to instability and warfare in the region that often involved hardship and disorder due to invasions and sometimes terrible treatment. The Neo-Assyrian empire lasted from 912-612 BCE and the Neo-Babylonian from 612-535 BCE when it was conquered by the Persians, who by then had been introduced to Zoroastrianism.


Approx. 600 BCE - Approx. 800

Basic Beliefs: Zoroastrians believe in one Supreme and Universal God worthy of worshipping- Ahura Mazda, who represents justice, truth, power, courage, purity and responsibility and is believed to protect earth from everything evil by keeping it at bay. Evil is represented by Ahura Mazda's opposing force, Aingra Mainyu, who constantly attacks Ahura Mazda's goodness with things like famine and death and natural disasters, etc. Some people refer to this religion as monotheistic with only one worthy god, and some say it is dualistic, with opposing cosmic forces of good and evil and also opposing moral ones. According to Zoroastrianism there is a constant battle between good and the evil on the earth which is mirrored in the behavior and morality of humans=> people are always being tempted to make bad choices and it is up to them whether they want to remain pure or not. In this religion humans are not born as sinners, as they share the same spiritual nature of God. In Zoroastrianism it is forbidden to bury bodies in the ground, cremate them or throw them in the water – only disintegration or consumption of the body by other animals is allowed. What about the afterlife? Zoroastrians believed in the immortality of the soul; once the soul left the body, it remains near it on earth for three days and then it is decided whether the soul will go to heaven or hell. They also believed in that that after the end 3000 years period, the judgment day would come and God would destroy everything evil, and people who made bad choices on earth would go to hell.

Sacred Texts

600 BC - 550 BCE

The Avesta, the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, is divided into many parts. The Gathas, which are hymns, are the oldest and some think Zoroaster wrote them himself. They emphasize the ethical nature of his thought and the spiritual revelations he experienced. His teachings described an ethical code based on "Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds."

Zoroaster has a vision.

Approx. 600 BCE

In the sacred texts known as the Gathas, it is said that when Zoroaster was about 30 years old, he was bathing in a purification ritual and was visited by a shining being ("Vohu Mana" or "Good MInd," who took him to the presence of god "Ahura Mazda." Ahura Mazda declared himself to Zoroaster as the highest, eternal and ethical God and through a series of visions imparted to him the knowledge of Zoroastrianism and its many secrets with an instruction to spread them among people.

Magi and the spread of Zoroastrianism

600 BCE - 500 BCE

he teachings of Zoroaster began to spread among people mainly through wandering tribes. When Cyrus became the Persian emperor, he made zoroastrianism popular throughout Egypt, Greece, Persia and parts of India, mainly with the help of magi, a priestly community.

Persian Empire (aka Achaemenid Empire)

550 BCE - 330 BCE

The Achaemenid Empire were the first peoples to be open to Zoroastrianism and make it their official religion. After little success in converting people to his religion, Zoraster travelled to a region near where he grew up and preached his religion to this empire and they adopted it. The Zoroastrian religion is one of the reasons that the Persian leaders treated their subjects with humaneness (they also did not want to have rebellions all the time like the Assyrians did).

Cyrus the Great frees Jewish people from Babylonian captivity

539 BCE

This is a huge event in the history of the Jewish people, when he permitted them to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians who then made the Jews captives. Cyrus' liberation of the Jews is seen as a very big indication of the benevolence of the Persian rulers.

Fall of the Achaemenid Empire

330 BCE

Alexander invaded Iran and overthrew the Achaemenid dynasty. Alexander destroyed a complete copy of the Avesta written in gold on twelve thousands goatskins. However, Alexander III died in Babylon, one of his general took control of persia and established Seleucid Empire. Seleucid empire was not in favor of Zoroastrianism and the king preferred Greek polytheistic religion. Zoroastrianism suffered a temporary decline in persia during that time.

Parthian Empire

227 BCE - 224 CE

The Parthian Empire another “dynasty” of the Persian Empire thrived during the turn of the millennium and the time of the birth of Christianity. The Parthian Empire also adopted Zoroastrianism and revived Persian traditions that had declined during the Hellenistic period.

Sasanian Empire

224 CE - 700 CE

The Sasanian Empire overthrew the Parthians and presided over a huge developments in Zoroastrianism, for instance the establishment of a central state church and the codification of the sacred texts. The Sasanian leaders based their claims to the throne on Zoroastrianism and used the religion as propaganda. They also abandoned the cultural tolerance that had been characteristic of earlier Persian empires. The Sasanian empire fell with the arrival of Islam, which also started the biggest decline of Zoroastrianism to this day.

MIgration of Zoroastrians

660 - Approx. 2014

After the arrival of the Muslims, many Zoroastrians converted to Islam, and others left Persia went to India. Today, they continue to live in India as Parsis, a vibrant community who played an important role in the economic development of India. They constitute the single largest Zoroastrian community and still practice the ancient religion without the fear of persecution. Zoroastrian communities are found in other countries as well, including modern day Iran. There are fewer that 200,000 Zoroastrians today.



2000 BCE - 2014

Judaism is one of the first monotheistic religions, saying that there is a single God who not only created the universe, but with whom every Jew can have an individual and personal relationship. The Jewish relationship with God is a defined by an agreement, a covenant: In exchange for the many good deeds that God has does for the Jewish people, Jews keep God's laws and seek to bring holiness into every aspect of their lives. Judaism is the faith of a community, beginning with the Hebrew peoples of Mesopotamia who were led by Abraham to Palestine. According to Jewish faith, God appointed the Jews to be his chosen people in order to set an example of holiness and ethical behavior to the world. Over the time its early development, the Jewish religion developed the concept of a God very merciful and just. most scholars date the beginning of the religion of the Israelites to their forefather in faith, Abraham, whose life is generally dated to circa 2000-1800 B.C.E.

Torah is composed?

1312 BCE - Approx. 550 BCE

One of the sacred texts of Judaism, the Torah is the written Law set down in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Scholars debate when it was composed, but the most commonly agreed upon theory is that the Torah was written and developed, possibly by different collections of people, by the 6th century BCE. According to Jewish tradition it was written by Moses on Mount Sinai after God revealed it to him in or around 1312 BCE. Before the Torah and Moses, there were traditions, stories and writing; however, some Jews believed that the Torah existed way before it was given to Moses, in a time when the world haven’t been created. The Torah relates the history of the creation of the world up to the time of Moses and the Hebrew peoples. The story includes laws and instruction for the Jewish faith, including the Ten Commandments.

The Beginning of a Structured Religion

1050 BCE

The early history of the Jewish people is debated, but according to Jewish tradition, during the second millennium BCE the Hebrews were led by their patriarch Abraham from Mesopotamia to Palestine, from which some fled to Egypt where they were enslaved. They were led to freedom by Moses and rejoined their kin in Palestine and established a kingdom around 1000 BCE, building a very important temple in Jerusalem. This Kingdom was under threat from neighboring Assyrians and Babylonians, the latter of whom would conquer them, destroy their temple, and exile their leaders to Babylon.

Cyrus the Great Frees the Jewish people from Babylonian Captivity

539 BCE

This is a huge event in the history of the Jewish people, when he permitted them to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians who then made the Jews captives.

Rebuilding a Jewish Kingdom

539 BCE - Approx. 63 BCE

After the release from Babylonian captivity, the Jews grew in strength for the next 300 years BCE, despite their lands being ruled by foreign powers (i.e. the Persians, then Alexander the Great, then the successor states and eventually the Romans). At the same time they became more able to practice their faith freely, led by scribes and teachers who explained and interpreted the Bible.

In 175 BCE the King of Syria desecrated the temple and implemented a series of laws aiming to wipe out Judaism in favour of Zeus worship. There was a revolt (164 BCE) and the temple was restored.

The revolt is celebrated in the Jewish festival of Hannukah.

The First Revolt and the Origin of Hannukah

168 BCE - 166 BCE

Around 200 B.C., the Jewish Kingdom—also known Judea and as the Land of Israel—came under the control of Antiochus III, the Seleucid king of Syria, who allowed the Jews to continue practicing their religion. His son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, proved less benevolent: Ancient sources recount that he outlawed the Jewish religion and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods. In 168 B.C., his soldiers descended upon Jerusalem, massacring thousands of people and desecrating the city’s holy Second Temple by erecting an altar to Zeus and sacrificing pigs within its sacred walls. A large-scale rebellion broke out against the Seleucid monarchy within a couple of years the Jews had successfully driven the Syrians out of Jerusalem. This event is commemorated in the Jewish festival of Hannukah.

Roman Rule of the Jews and the Diaspora

63 BCE - 135 CE

Shortly after the Roman takeover of Jerusalem, the Jewish kingdom was made a province of Rome, Judea. The Jews began to revolt against the Roman Empire in 66 CE which culminated in the destruction of the second temple in 70 AD. In 132 CE, the again against the Roman emperor Hadrian and were defeated. Jerusalem was turned into a pagan city called and the Jews were expelled, resulting in a dispersion of Jewish people to places all over the world that continues to this day.

The Birth of Jesus of Nazareth

1 CE

What is nowadays called the 'Current Era' traditionally begins with the birth of a Jewish teacher called Jesus. Jesus' emergence led gradually to the division of Christianity and Judaism. At first Christianity was not a separate religion but considered a sect of Judaism and were treated the same as the other sects. Jesus' followers came to believe he was the promised Messiah and later split away from Judaism to found Christianity, a faith whose roots are firmly in Judaism.

Destruction of the Second Temple

70 CE

When the Jews in Jerusalem revolted against Roman rule, their second temple was destroyed and they were defeated.

Expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem


Following another revolt against Roman rule, the Jewish people were banished from Jerusalem by Roman Emperor Hadrian.

The Modern State of Israel


After hundreds of years of dispersal, the Jewish people, with the support of the brand new and Western-dominated United Nations, re-establish a state in the MIddle East, created by the European movement of Zionism founded in the 19th century. This event followed the worst of the many episodes of Jewish persecution over the previous hundreds of years, The Holocaust during World War II, and has been beset by conflict with Arab neighbors who had developed their own culture and religion in the ancient Jewish homeland.


Indus Valley Civilization

2800 BCE - 2000 BC

The Indus Valley Civilizations was a developed urban culture akin to the civilizations of Mesopotamia. The Indus civilization did not develop as a result of contact with other civilizations such Sumer or Egypt but was an indigenous development growing out of earlier, local cultures. An abundance of artifacts, like clay figurines of fertility goddesses, have been found from the remnants of this early civilization, but extracting meaning out of them is more often than not entirely speculation. That being said, there are many links from this culture to Hinduism that suggests that its beginning stems from the Indus Valley.

Arrival of Aryans in India & Development of the Vedas (Vedic Period).

1700 BCE - 800 BCE

The Vedas and its supplements are widely considered the most significant of the many ancient texts of Hinduism. Around 1575 B.C., the Vedas religion and texts emerged in India as a result of nomadic Aryans who traveled on horseback from the steppes of central Asia. Supposedly, Hinduism originated from the combining of Aryan beliefs with the beliefs of the indigenous cultures that they dominated. The Vedic Period is defined by the period centered around the writings known as the Vedas or the Rigveda. This compilation of texts was an assortment of rituals, hymns, poems and prayers that were put together over centuries. The Vedas were accumulated by priests called the Brahmins, who orally passed down the words of the texts until they were put into writing around 600 B.C.E. Of the Vedas, the Brahmanas and the Upanishads became defining texts that steered the path of Hinduism’s evolution.

The Brahmanas describe spiritual and ritual sacrificing that the priests, Brahmins, would perform, giving them so much power in society that they sometimes surpassed the king in importance. The much more philosophical writings of the Upanishads gave meaning to those sacrifices. It took preexisting spiritual ideas and turned them into externalized practices, many of which are alive in modern Hinduism.


Approx. 1200 BCE - 2014

Unlike other religious traditions, Hinduism does not originate in a single founder, a single book or a single point in time. It contains many different beliefs, philosophies and viewpoints, not always consistent with each other. These apparent contradictions strike only those who are not familiar with this tradition: the Hindu insight claims that the Oneness expresses itself in many different forms. Although it is not easy to define Hinduism, we can say that it is rooted in India, most Hindus revere a body of texts as sacred scripture known as the Veda, and most Hindus draw on a common system of values known as dharma. Most Hindus believe in a Supreme God, whose qualities and forms are represented by the multitude of deities which emanate from him. They believe that existence is a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, governed by Karma, the sum of a person's actions in this and previous lives, which decides his or her fate in future ones. Hindus believe that the soul passes through a cycle of successive lives and its next incarnation is always dependent on how the previous life was lived. Ultimately the soul (or atman) seeks union with the Supreme God (or Brahman), which is called "liberation" or moksha.

Major Upanishads--Reincarnation and Karma

800 BCE - 300 BCE

The Upanishads were written around 800-400 BCE as a response to the abuse from the Brahmins. Therefore, they were created to establish a religion that could be practiced by everyone individually and to articulate the underlying philosophical beliefs. The paramount idea underlying Hinduism is Brahman - the World Soul - the final and ultimate reality. It is this divine entity that goes further than all other physical or even spiritual ideas and ties it all together. It is the real truth. What humans experience physically is an illusion, but the human soul, called an atman, is part of Brahman and very much real. The final quest of an atman is to join with Brahman and to remove itself from the illusion. This ultimate and enlightened end is called moksha.

Joining a soul with Brahman in moksha is no simple task. In fact, it takes many human lifetimes for the possibility a soul achieving this union, which spurred the significant Hindu belief of reincarnation. This allowed a soul to travel from body to body after its physical death and continue its quest, but that depended on the actions of the previous lifetime. This became a concept called karma. If one’s actions in life were deemed as good and pure, the soul would be reborn into a higher caste, thus the caste system becoming a socially and spiritually important construction. With that tenet, being born into a higher-ranking caste is a direct result of good karma in the previous life putting the soul one step closer to achieving moksha. Moksha is similar to the Buddhist idea of enlightenment in that is a spiritual liberation, a breakthrough of sorts, into the realm of the ultimate truth – but how one reaches it, through knowledge or meditation for example, is individualistic. This quest to unify one’s atman with Brahman is a driving force for purity and goodness extends throughout Hinduism.

Buddhism and Jainism

600 BCE - 500 BCE

Buddhism and Jainism are both developed from Hinduism from India. Jainism is the nonviolence branch of Hinduism, which emphasizes spiritual independence and equality between all forms of life. Buddhism was not confined to India but spread over Asian. They have common origins in the Ganges culture, Karma is also a central part of Buddhist teaching. (Allen An)

The Development of the Caste System

Approx. 600 BCE

Hinduism led to the establishment of a religious hierarchy. Brahmins, or Hindu priests, quickly became the most dominant figures because they performed religious rituals for profit, which made them both affluent and revered. Next came the Kshatriyas, which were mostly nobles and warriors. They were a significant part of society because they were considered the “protectors” of the people. Below the Kshatriyas were the Vaisyas, which were artisans, craftsmen, and farmers, and at the very bottom were the Shudras, which were unskilled laborers.

Buddhism and Jainism developed

Approx. 500 BCE

Buddhism and Jainism are both developed from Hinduism from India. Jainism is the nonviolence branch of Hinduism, which emphasizes spiritual independence and equality between all forms of life. Buddhism was not confined to India but spread over Asian. They have common origins in the Ganges culture, Karma is also a central part of Buddhist teaching.

Maurya Empire

322 BCE - 185 BCE

The Maurya Empire was a unified Indian state ruled first by Chandragupta. HInduism was the major religion at the time and there were many Hindu priests and ministers at the imperial court. Chandragupta's grandson Ashoka, one of the most famous figures in Indian history, converted to Buddhism after seeing the horrors of wars of conquest, and tried to spread those beliefs around the empire through edicts inscribed on stone and rocks and pillars.

Rule of Ashoka

268 BCE - 232 BCE

Ashoka was a ruler of the Maurya Empire. In the beginning, Ashoka ruled the empire like his grandfather did, in an efficient but cruel way. He used military strength in order to expand the empire and created sadistic rules against criminals.

During the expansion of the Mauryan Empire, Ashoka led a war against the feudal state of Kalinga with the goal of annexing its territory. It is considered one of the most brutal and bloodiest wars in world history. The people from Kalinga defended themselves stubbornly, keeping their honor but losing the war. The disaster in Kalinga was supreme: with around 300,000 casualties, the city devastated and thousands of surviving men, women and children deported. Afterward, Ashoka issued an edict expressing his regret for the suffering inflicted in Kalinga said he would renounce war and embrace the propagation of dharma.

Gupta Empire--India's Golden Age

320 CE

The Mauryan Empire collapsed in 185 B.C.E, after their final king was assassinated. For the next 500 years, the many states in India were at constant war. When Chandragupta ascended the empire in 320 CE, the time of darkness was reversed. He set up a stable civilization with a well functioning government, but his son, Samudragupta, was the individual responsible for extending the empire. He raided through Indian territories with little mercy. Literary and archeological evidence dating from this period depicts a ruling class as interested in cultural developments as they were in expanding their political control. The court actually paid artists for their work. This period is considered a golden age, with great achievements in literature, music, art, architecture, and philosophy, such as the patronage of the Nalanda monastery, the epics of Mahabharata (including the Bhagavad Gita) and the invention of zero and infinity.


Early Teachings

528 BCE - 522 BCE

Confucius started teaching some of his early ideas (the embryo of Confucianism) at the age of 23. Until the age of 30, he formally began the teaching of Confucianism to his first disciples.

The Beginnings of Confucianism

Approx. 522 BCE

With the collapse of the rule of Zhou, Zhou Li, a classical ideology which functioned as the core value of the feudal system, lost its influence on society, and a chaos was created. Scholars and idealists started developing and providing their own ideologies that might help settle down the turbulence and create a stable rule. Under this big circumstance, Confucianism was born and later became one of the most influential ideology during the time.


500 BCE - 2014

Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system. It is a complex system of moral, social, political, and philosophical thought that influenced the culture and history of East Asia. In Confucianism, human beings are teachable, improvable and perfectible through personal and communal endeavor especially including self-cultivation and self-creation. A main idea of Confucianism is the cultivation of virtue and the development of moral perfection. Confucianism holds that one should give up one's life, if necessary, either passively or actively, for the sake of upholding the cardinal moral values of ren (humaness and goodness) and yi. (honesty and righteousness) Other important virtues are propriety and correct behavior, loyalty and sincerity, and wisdom and knowledge. There are many other important virtues cultivated in Confucianism. The practice of Confucianism involves simply following these ethical principles. In Confucianism, the acts of everyday life can be considered practices/rituals.

The Journey Through States

496 BCE

In 496 bc, Confucius took his disciples and began to travel among states and to seek a right ruler who would appreciate his ideologies provide safety. He went back and force through state Wei, Cao, Song, Zhen, Zhen, Chen, Cai, Ye, Chu, Kuang, Pu. During this uneasy journey, Con’s group undertook rejections and doubts, encountered a lot of troubles and dangers. Nevertheless, they also received acceptance and help from people who admired them.

The Five Classics and the Four Books.

480 BCE - 200 BCE

The principles of Confucianism are contained in the nine ancient Chinese works handed down by Confucius and his followers, who lived in an age of great philosophic activity. These writings can be divided into two groups: the Five Classics and the Four Books. The most famous of these is The Analects, one of the four books, which is a collection of maxims by Confucius that form the basis of his moral and political philosophy.

The Warring States Period

426 BCE - 221 BCE

Following the Zhou Dynasty, China became involved in a seemingly endless conflict between the various regions for supreme control of the country. This period of conflict has come to be known as The Warring States period (426-221 BCE). This was a period of intensive warfare, and of bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. At the same time, the conflict and instability helps explain the development of many different philosophies, including Confucianism and Daoism and Legalism, as different thinkers sought better models for society. Some of these different schools of thought were adopted and promoted by the various competing states.

Life of Mencius

372 BCE - 289 BCE

Mecius was a student of Confucianism, said to have studied under his grandson, and is one of the giants of Confucianism's history. He defended the teachings of Confucius against other influential movements of thought, as this was a time of much philosophizing in China. Some say he had more influence than Confucius himself because he further developed Confucianism to being the state ideology and later it became orthodox doctrine in the Chinese society. He was influential in Han Dynasty China, and also much later during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE).

Qin Dynasty reunifies China

221 BCE - 206 BCE

Qin was one of the seven warring states during China's period of instability, and eventually was the state that reunited China under one dynasty, the Qin. The emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, reduced the power of the aristocracy, expanded the empire, and developed important structures like the roads and standardized coinage, government organization and other elements that brought order to China. He adopted one of the schools of thought, Legalism, which called for harsh rules and strict punishments. Under his rule the Great Wall was built (with a lot of slave labor--hundreds of thousands of people died), and the famous Terra Cotta Army is in his tomb. His dynasty fell to the Han Dynasty shortly after his death, as his successors were not very effective rulers. The name "China" comes from this dynasty, as it is also spelled "Ch'in."

Burning of the Books and Burying of the Scholars

213 BCE

During the Qin dynasty, ruler ShiHuangdi suppressed points of view that did not conform to his views of Legalism, which was founded by Hanfeizi. The idea was that people should not be educated in philosophical thinking or any other way, so they would be more obedient to his rule. Hence he burned a lot of books and destroyed much Chinese knowledge (they were not really "books" but collections of writing on bamboo paper) and banned books in the empire. He had many scholars executed too, although some historians dispute that these executions really happened. This was how he ruled by fear.

Imperial Examination established

Approx. 136 BCE - 1912 CE

The idea of the imperial examination system, in which people could take a test on Confucian classics and get positions in the government, originally appeared in Han Dynasty. However, since nobles and big families were controlling most of the empire, there were hardly peasants or poor people who could take the exams and become officials. If people wanted to take the exam, they had to pay money. If they wanted to get good grades, they had to pay money. If they wanted to get a good position as an official, they had to pay money. Humble families really had no any opportunities to become an official. This situation changed later during the Sui Dynasty (581-618) when the imperial examination was made more accessible. The Imperial Examination system was instrumental in further establishing the ideas of Confucianism throughout China.

Han Dynasty Embraces Confucianism

136 BCE

After the unpopular Qin dynasty fell to the Han Dynasty, Legalism was no longer the government ideology. ,The great philosopher and thinker Tung Chung-shu suggested the Emperor Wu-ti to carry out a policy of using Confucianism as the central and official theory of China and rejecting all other kinds of philosophies. The emperor did carry out this policy, but he did not ban other ideologies like what the First Emperor of Qin did, but let other thinkings develop and make Chinese culture more diverse. His decision made Confucianism, the central and official theory that Chinese government. Tung Chung-Shu is also responsible for establishing the imperial school to train students in Confucian ideas, and the imperial examination system that made Confucian expertise required for anyone working in the Chinese government bureaucracy.


The Context of Buddhism

500 BCE

Siddhartha Gautama lived during a time of profound social changes in India. The authority of the Vedic religion was being challenged by a number of new religious and philosophical views. This religion had been developed by a nomadic society roughly a millennium before Siddhartha’s time, and it gradually gained hegemony over most of north India, especially in the Gangetic plain. But things were different in the 5th BCE, as society was no longer nomadic: agrarian settlements had replaced the old nomad caravans and evolved into villages, then into towns and finally into cities. Under the new urban context, a considerable sector of Indian society was no longer satisfied with the old Vedic faith. Siddhartha Gautama was one of the many critics of the religious establishment at that time.

The Lifetime of the Buddha

490 BCE - 410 BCE

The founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama, was born into a royal family in India, a Hindu. According to legend, he lived a protected and luxurious life as a prince, and did not know pain and suffering until he was a young man, went outside his palace, and saw the "four sights:" a sick person, a poor man, a dead body, and then an ascetic who had dedicated himself to finding the cause of human suffering (an ascetic is someone who practices extreme self-denial for spiritual purposes). This led him on his own path to finding the cause of human suffering, which he finally did. His conclusions constitute the teachings of Buddhism.

Siddartha Gautama seeks

460 BCE - 454 BCE

After learning about suffering in the world, Siddhartha decided to seek his own explanation for its cause. He renounced the life of luxury that he grew up with, left his family, and became an ascetic, practicing six years of self-denial. This did not give him the answers he sought.


454 BCE - 450 BCE

According to Buddhist legent, after rejecting asceticism as a path to understanding the cause of human hardship, SIddartha Gautama sat under a bodhi tree to meditate and think upon it. He sat there until he reached "enlightenment," or "awakening," a state of perfect understanding or knowledge. He was now called the Buddha, the awakened one, and he gave his first sermon around 450 BCE

The Main Buddhist ideas

450 BCE

What Buddha came to understand when he was awakened, is codified in the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. These were revealed in his first sermon, becoming the fundamental Buddhist teaching:
1. Existence is suffering.
2. The cause of suffering is within the self.
3. An end to suffering is possible.
4. Following the Eightfold Path ends suffering and leads to Nirvana.
Noble Eightfold Path has eight factors: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration/meditation. This path is called the Middle Way because it steers clear of two extremes (e.g.indulgence/denial), which are misguided attempts to gain release from suffering.

The Spread of Buddhism

Approx. 450 BCE - Approx. 250

Small communities of monks and nuns, known as bhikkus, sprung up along the roads that Buddha traveled. Devoted to his teachings, they dressed in yellow robes and wandered the countryside to meditate quietly. For almost 200 years, these humble disciples were overshadowed by the dominant Hindu believers. Eventually, though, Buddhism spread throughout Asia and the world.

Buddha's First Sermon

450 BCE

To them and others who had gathered, he preached his first sermon (henceforth known as Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Dharma), in which he explained the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, which became the pillars of Buddhism. The ascetics then became his first disciples and formed the foundation of the Sangha, or community of monks. Women were admitted to the Sangha, and all barriers of class, race, sex and previous background were ignored, with only the desire to reach enlightenment through the banishment of suffering and spiritual emptiness considered.

For the remainder of his 80 years, Buddha traveled, preaching the Dharma (the name given to the teachings of the Buddha) in an effort to lead others to and along the path of enlightenment. When he died, it is said that he told his disciples that they should follow no leader.


Approx. 450 BCE - Approx. 2014

Buddhism is a spiritual tradition that focuses on personal spiritual development and the attainment of a deep insight into the true nature of life. Buddhists seek to reach a state of nirvana, following the path of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, who went on a quest for Enlightenment around the sixth century BC. There is no belief in a personal god. Buddhists believe that nothing is fixed or permanent and that change is always possible. The path to Enlightenment is through the practice and development of morality, meditation and wisdom. Buddhists believe that life is both endless and subject to impermanence, suffering and uncertainty. The path to release from the suffering of life is prescribed by Buddhist texts as an "8-fold path" of right behavior and thought, with which one can eventually reach nirvana, or release from the cycle of birth and re-birth, which is Buddhism's goal.

Development of Different Buddhist Schools

Approx. 250 BCE - Approx. 1900 CE

During its spread throughout Asia and beyond, there have been many different sub-divisions created. Theraveda Buddhism remains the most orthodox, meaning the closest to the teaching of the original Buddha.

Edicts of Ashoka

250 BCE

The Mauryan Indian emperor Ashoka, after witnessing horrors of warfare, turned Buddhism into the state religion of his Indian empire. He provided a favorable social and political climate for the acceptance of Buddhist ideas, encouraged Buddhist missionary activity, and even generated among Buddhist monks certain expectations of allowed Buddhist monks to have influence in politics. Ashoka issues a number of edicts around the kingdom in support of Buddhism.

Buddhism reaches Sri Lanka

200 BCE

That was the First Buddhism Introduction to anywhere outside of India. Introduced by Venerable Mahinda, the son of Emperor Ashoka, in the 3rd century BC. In the time of Devanampiya Tissa, king of Sri Lanka, monasteries were begging to be built and a sacred fig tree, known as a Bodhi Tree, was planted.

Buddhism Reaches China

142 BCE

Buddhism made its way into China when the emperor, Wu Ti, sent an ambassador, Chang Chien, out into central Asia. While there Chang Chien came across this new religion and brought it to the attention to the emperor, who then embraced Buddha and his teachings.

Buddhism spreads along the SIlk Road

Approx. 1 CE - Approx. 600 CE

From about the first century BC, Buddhism began its spread along the Silk Road. As it travelled and was accepted, whole communities took the message on board and monks lived along the way. Many ruins exist in the desert regions where numerous finely decorated caves formed the centre of whole monasteries. Some areas have up to a thousand caves in a single group. Many of these caves had beautiful wall paintings and Buddha images which often were sponsored by travelers who sought protection for their journey ahead or gave thanks for having made it that far.



604 BCE

According to myth, at his birth around 604 B.C.E., Lao-tzu came from the womb as an old man, white-haired and full of wisdom. He eventually took a position as head librarian of the Imperial Archives. Saddened by society's lack of goodness, Lao-tzu decided to leave his home in Luoyang to live out the rest of his life in quiet and solitude somewhere beyond the Great Wall of China. As he passed through the city gates for the final time, the gatekeeper asked Lao-tzu to write down his parting thoughts. The "Old Master" agreed, and three days later returned with a small book. Lao-tzu then left civilization, never to return. His writings were titled the DaodeJing, and became the most important text of Daoism.

Main Daoist text and principles: the Daoedejing

600 BCE - 250 BCE

The Daodejing is one of the most significant pieces of writing to Daoism. It focuses on the tenets of Dao: the proper way of life, the ultimate truth and fundamental nature of the universe. Living in harmony with Dao is the overall goal of Daoists, they do so by practicing compassion, simplicity, and patience, which allows Daoists to stay in touch with the fundamental way of nature. It is believed that the Daodejing was written sometime during the Zhao Dynasty, and particularly in the Warring States Period. This period was a time of destruction where smaller Chinese states fought brutally to be the empire to unify China: not exactly an example of simple, compassionate life. The major Daoist principle could have been a reaction to the destructive period of the Warring States. No one knows exactly when Daoist principles were written down, but legends abound. It was possibly a number of authors over several centuries.


Approx. 450 BCE - Approx. 2014

According to Daoism, the entire universe and everything in it flows with a mysterious, unknowable force called the Dao. Translated literally as "The Way," it is difficult to describe. It is the ultimate creative principle of the universe. All things are unified and connected in the Dao. It is a system unity and opposites--Yin and Yang. The principle of Yin Yang sees the world as filled with complementary forces - action and non-action, light and dark, hot and cold, and so on. The Dao is not a God and is not worshipped. The Dao also explains the powers that drive the universe and the wonder of human nature. Over time a Daoist religion evolved, becoming somewhat different from the philosophy of Daoism just described. While religious Daoism held some of the same beliefs, it also called for worship of gods and ancestors, a practice that began during the Shang dynasty. Other religious practices included the cultivation of bodily energy called "chi," the creation of a system of morals, and use of alchemy in attempts to attain immortality.

The Warring States Period

426 BCE - 221 BCE

Following the Zhou Dynasty, China became involved in a seemingly endless conflict between the various regions for supreme control of the country. This period of conflict has come to be known as The Warring States period (426-221 BCE). This was a period of intensive warfare, and of bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. At the same time, the conflict and instability helps explain the development of many different philosophies, including Confucianism and Daoism and Legalism, as different thinkers sought better models for society. Some of these different schools of thought were adopted and promoted by the various competing states.


389 BCE - 286 BCE

Zhuangzi was one of the most significant interpreters of the Daoist philosophy, as well as being the composer of one of the major texts of Daoism: The Zhuangzi. He is described, in his writings, as an eccentric and unpredictable man which is believed to stem from his understanding of human nature and the natural way of life (dao): everything is both dynamic and continuous.

Writing of Zhangzi

350 BCE - 300 BCE

This text is one of the main texts of Daoism along with the Tao Te Ching. It emphasizes the importance of spontaneity, along with the need to withdrawal from a life with ulterior motives, such as social and political service, in to a private life of reclusion, self recollection and cultivation. In short, this text stands for the escape of societal pressure to a life a of individual freedom.

QIn Dynasty Reunifies China

221 BCE - 206 BCE

Qin was one of the seven warring states during China's period of instability, and eventually was the state that reunited China under one dynasty, the Qin. The emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, reduced the power of the aristocracy, expanded the empire, and developed important structures like the roads and standardized coinage, government organization and other elements that brought order to China. He adopted one of the schools of thought, Legalism, which called for harsh rules and strict punishments. Under his rule the Great Wall was built (with a lot of slave labor--hundreds of thousands of people died), and the famous Terra Cotta Army is in his tomb. His dynasty fell to the Han Dynasty shortly after his death, as his successors were not very effective rulers. The name "China" comes from this dynasty, as it is also spelled "Ch'in."

Daoism and Han Dynasty

206 BCE - 100 BCE

While Daoist beliefs and writings existed during the Zhao Dynasty, it wasn't until the Han Dynasty that Daoist writings, such as the Tao Te Ching and the Zhuangzi, were organized and studied by Chinese literati such as Liu An, an advisor to Emperor Wudi, who compiled the writings for Daoism, Confucianism and Legalism.

China becomes a Confucianist State

137 BCE

Emperor Wu, the sixth sovereign of the Han dynasty elevated confucianism to the status of official state ideology. With this, all who worked for the state should learn and practice confucianism. This created some conflict with many who practiced Daoism since these two ideologies have contrasting ideals: confucianism preaches active interference in the world around while daoism says such interferences only cause distress. Still, many people saw daoism and confucianism as complementary instead of contradictory; therefore, Daoism survived the Confucianist state.

Greek Rationalism

Pre-Socratic Philosophers

600 BCE - 501 BCE

The first round of Greek philosophers to have rejected mythology and adopt rationalism were the pre-Socratics. The Milesian School was founded in 6th century BCE by these philosophers. The three philosophers associated with the school were all from the town of Miletus. They were Anaximander, Thales, and Anaximenes.

Greek Rationalism

Approx. 600 BCE - Approx. 2014

This is the theory that the universe should be understood by using logic and observation. It emphasizes reason, questioning and doubt, using argument and observation to gain knowledge about the "natural laws" governing the universe. It separated religion from philosophy. Greek rationalism was later refined by philosophers in Arab-controlled lands while Europe was in the Middle Ages. As Europe emerged and entered the Renaissance period, the annotated Arabic translations of ancient Greek works became popular topics of study, and the Greek and Arabic texts formed the basis for modern rationalism.


582 BCE - 492 BCE

Pythagoras (582-496 BCE) was the first Greek philosopher to introduce mathematics or “practical thinking” to the Greek interpretation of the world. He founded a school of his own in Kroton, southern Italy, where mathematics and science were taught.

Socratic Era

450 BCE - 400 BCE

Socrates was born in 470 BC and embraced a way of thinking sans writing that grew based upon discussion and thought within the streets of Athens; this became known as the Socratic Method in which various questions spring answers. Prior to Socrates, Greek philosophy centered more on mathematics, cosmology and biology. A shift appears with Socrates as a pivot in which thought begins out of ideals. For example, previous philosophers, like Democritus, may have looked at the body and determined that atoms compose it. Socrates, on the other hand, may have wondered why the body existed in general, primarily. And after this, why of atoms? Socrate’s key foundation was his obvious admittance to doubt; he claimed to know nothing. From this stemmed his ethics on the topic of virtue, in which he taught against the In addition, he taught conventional ideas of Greek government and its focus on wealth. He believed virtue to be key in happiness and knowledge.

The Socratic Problem

450 BCE - 350 BCE

Although Socrates remains as an incredibly influential philosopher, there is an interesting problem; he didn’t write anything down. Plato, a prodigy of Socrates, is responsible for recording Socrate’s thoughts. Although the writings appear in the voice and mind of Socrates, debate exists as to whether the writings have been morphed by the voice of Plato. Nevertheless, Plato recordings are important for preservation. For example, Plato’s Apology, is a written version of Socrate’s speech against the accusations of his corrupting the youth. Perhaps what is more interesting and telling is the fact that Socrates chose to not write anything down as it marks a clear transition from previous philosophy; it shows an ephemeralness that focuses on doubt.

Socrates' Legacy

400 BCE - Approx. 2014

Initially, the Socratic Method was groundbreaking amidst the youth of Athens and led to debate and discussion and a general shift in thinking, which ultimately resulted in his execution. These students, however, went on to expand upon various philosophical schools of thought, and even take positions of power, with examples being the tyrant Critias or or Plato. Plato, perhaps, is the ultimate legacy of Socrates, as, in his direction, he opened an academy of thought which became a central location for philosophy. In addition, it is Plato who is responsible for preserving Socrates, who would later face rebirth during the Renaissance after the conquest of Greece by Rome. Ultimately, Socrates was one of the original thinkers of morals and of human nature and his thought laid a strong base for various ways of expansion, whether it be biology or metaphysics as he left a rich method behind that only permitted great minds to grow.

The Execution of Socrates

399 BCE

The city of Athens ruled that Socrates be put to death for “corrupting the youth” and disbelieving in the gods of the city. Accused of being a sophist, or paid philosopher, Socrates apparently taught the youth how to defend themselves against the traditional order of Greece through debate, and, more specifically, led to tension between the youth and the elderly. Though Greek philosophy has been incredibly influential in the development of Western civilization, it was not so during the time of its own development. Thinkers like Socrates were not only unpopular, but sometimes punished for their teaching. Their new rationalism challenged the power of gods and mythology, which threatened the status-quo and unsettled those in charge. Within the trial, the accuser Meletus summoned Socrates and a randomly selected jury sat to watch his appeal. Socrates pled jokingly for his prosecution to be the treatment of an Olympic medalist. Meletus chose death and so did the jury which ended in Socrates drinking hemlock. Plato writes in Apology, in the voice of Socrates. “Men of Athens, I honor and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you, and while I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy… Understand that I shall never alter my ways, not even if I have to die many times.”

Founding of Plato's Academy

387 BCE

Plato founded The Academy in Athens in 387 BCE. This is ultimately where Aristotle studied before founding his own school at the Lyceum and eventually tutoring Alexander the Great. During it’s time of origin, the Academy may not have had a core curriculum or school structure; instead, Plato and hit associates would pose problems to discuss and analyze with students. This reflects Socrates’s earlier discussions with his followers, such as Plato himself.

Plato's Republic

380 BCE

In “The Republic,” Plato outlines the structure of his ideal society. He explores the meaning of “justice” through a dialogue format, which reflects the importance of conversation and constant questioning in Greek philosophy. By using this back-and-forth conversation between characters such as Socrates and Glaucon, Plato can relay his ideas with support and reasonable proof. He is not simply stating conclusions, but backing them up as well from more than one perspective.

Aristotle's Metaphysics

350 BCE

Much of the known texts of Greek rationalism come from Aristotle. Unlike Socrates, who conversed greatly but did not write much of his philosophy, Aristotle was prolific, writing rational opinion pieces on several facets of life and the universe, including: dreams, metaphysics, meteorology, memory, rhetoric, and virtues, to name a few. In contrast to Plato’s conversational dialogue writing style, Aristotle wrote in a matter-of-fact, straightforward style to convey his thoughts. He does, however, like Plato, back up his conclusions with proofs and deductions. -Will Greenberg.

The Spread of Greek Culture

323 BCE - 31 BCE

When Alexander of Macedonia conquered Asian and Egyptian lands he took with him many Greek ideas and cultural products. This, and his successors, spread Greek Culture around, in a process known as "hellenism." The Hellenistic era ended with the expansion of the Romans, who also borrowed and adapted many Greek ideas continuing their spread.



1000 BCE

Rishabha, is regarded as the traditional “founder” of Jainism. He was the first of the twenty-four tīrthaṅkaras or “ford-makers”, teachers who established the Jain teachings. According to legends, he belonged to the Ikshvaku dynasty of ancient Ayodhya. His son was believed to be the first chakravartin. Rishabha is also known as Rikhava and is sometimes called Rishabha of Kosala.


877 BCE - 777 BCE

Parsva was the twenty-third Tirthankara of Jainism.He is the earliest Jain leader for whom there is reasonable evidence of having been a historical figure. Followers of Parsva are mentioned in the canonical books; and a legend in the Uttaradhyayana sutra relates a meeting between a disciple of Parsva and a disciple of Mahavira which brought about the union of the old branch of the Jain ideology and the new one.

Composition of Agamas

600 BCE - 300 BCE

Agamas are original texts of Jainism based on Mahavira’s teachings. Mahavira’s preaching were orally compiled by his disciples into various Sutras (texts) which were collectively called Jain canonical or Agamic literature. Traditionally these sutras were orally passed on from teachers to the disciples for several centuries.

Royal Patronage

600 BCE - 250 BCE

Jains consider the king Bimbisara (c. 558–491 BCE), Ajatasatru (c. 492–460 BCE) Udayi of the Haryanka dynasty as a patron of Jainism.22 Jainism also flourished under the Nanda Empire (424–321 BCE).23 Tradition says that Chandragupta Maurya (322–298 BCE), the founder of Mauryan Empire became disciple of Bhadrabahu during later part of his life. Jainism becomes replaced from royal patronage by Buddhist emperor, Ashoka (273–232 BCE).


599 BCE - 527 BCE

Agamas are original texts of Jainism based on Mahavira’s teachings. Mahavira’s preaching were orally compiled by his disciples into various Sutras (texts) which were collectively called Jain canonical or Agamic literature. Traditionally these sutras were orally passed on from teachers to the disciples for several centuries.

The Great Schism

367 BCE

Around 160 years after the nirvana of Mahavira, the Jain church partition into two separate sects – the Svetambaras and the Digambaras. This schism had started when certain important leaders of the Church had disagreed with the views of the Main Church on some points of philosophy or ritual. These leaders had then taken away their followers and established what one might call separate sects. Both the sects have exactly the same religious and philosophical beliefs and practically the same mythology. The only noticeable difference in the mythology of the two sects is regarding the sex of the nineteenth Tirthankara Mali. The Svetambaras believe that Mali was a woman, while Digambaras think that Mali was a man. This difference of opinion about Mali arises out of the few differences in the beliefs of the two sects. The Digambaras think that it is not possible for a woman to achieve salvation, and as all Tirthankaras do achieve salvation, the nineteenth Tirthankara could not have been a woman.

The Great Famine

350 BCE

There was a great famine in 350 BC that killed off many Jain monks and nuns. This is important to the history of Jainism because the primary text of the religion (Agmas they contain the teaching of Mahavira) had to be memorized. This is because Jain monks and nuns were not allowed to possess religious books as part of their vow of non-acquisition, nor were they allowed to write. This method is not very practical as many of the texts were, forgotten, misremembered, or lost in the deaths of the famine.

Decline of Jainism

300 BCE - 700 CE

Once a major religion, Jainism declined due to a number of factors, including persecution, withdrawal of royal patronage, and fragmentation due the absence of central leadership. Since the time of Mahavira, Jainism faced rivalry with Buddhism and the various Hindu influences. The Jains suffered isolated violent persecutions by these groups. There are several legends about the mass massacre of Jains in the ancient times. The Buddhist king Ashoka is said to have ordered killings of 18,000 Jains or Ajivikas after someone drew a picture of Buddha bowing at the feet of Mahavira. The Saivite king Koon Pandiyan, who briefly converted to Jainism, is said to have ordered a massacre of 8,000 Jains after his re-conversion to Saivism. Nevertheless, the main factor responsible for the decline of their religion was the success of Hindu reformist movements -

The Chaluka Dynasty

550 CE - 753 CE

he Chalukya Dynasty was established in central India with its capital in Badami. It was a golden age of Karnataka. The provinces of southern India shifted from smaller kingdoms to large unified kingdoms. The rise of this kingdom lead to efficient administration, overseas trade, and developments of a new style of architecture called Chalukya architecture. With new leadership and new ways of thinking came the birth of Jainism. -