The Greco-Persian Wars served to unite all of the Greek city-states against their mutual enemy, Persia. Two major victories (at Marathon and Salamis) allowed to the Greeks to maintain control of the Aegean Sea. Though much of Athens was destroyed, the war ended in a stalemate and Greece kept its independence and democracy.
Athens and Sparta fought each other in the Peloponnesian War. The conflict began with a trade dispute involving the city of Corinth. Athens hid behind its walls, letting the Spartan army pillage its farmlands. This worked until a plague swept through Athens and the Athenian navy was defeated. Sparta did not destroy Athens out of respect for the city-state's alliance in the Greco-Persian War.
There were three Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage. In the first Punic War, Rome gained control of Sicily. In the second Punic War, Hannibal made headway for Carthage, but eventually had to back down, letting Rome retain control of the western Mediterranean. In the third Punic War, Rome invaded Carthage and burned it to the ground.
The Qin Dynasty was extremely short, but the dynasty was best known for connecting the separate fortification walls that eventually became the Great Wall of China. The empire was well organized, centralized, and territorial. The dynasty's first emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, standardized laws, currencies, weights, measures, and writing systems, and refused to tolerate any dissent from his subjects.
During the Han Dynasty, the civil service system was developed, based on the teachings of Confucius; this ensured that government officials would be highly educated and great communicators. To ensure great candidates, the Han developed a rigorous civil service examination. During this dynasty, Buddhism spread and trade thrived along the Silk Road to the Mediterranean.
The Edict of Milan, issued by Emperor Constantine, ended the persecution of Christians by Roman pagans, who saw Christianity as a threat to their power and religion.
The Byzantine Empire coexisted with and was situated between the Roman and Islamic Empires. Greek was spoken, and Byzantine culture had more in common with Eastern cultures; its brand of Christianity became an entirely separate branch known as Orthodox Christianity. Byzantine emperors were authoritarian rulers who monopolized the industries in their lands. This empire used coined money, which remained remarkably stable.
The Umayyad Caliphate enlarged the Islamic Empire significantly but also led to more intense conflict with the Byzantine and Persian empires. Mecca remained the spiritual center of Islam, but the Umayyads moved the capital to Damascus. During this caliphate, Muslims split into two groups: Shia and Sunni.
The Abbasid Caliphate was the last dynasty to rule Islam before the Mongols conquered it. The Abbasids had ups and downs, but their reign included a golden age, during which the arts and sciences flourished. The city of Baghdad was constructed during this time, and it became one of the great cultural centers of the world.
Charlemagne was crowned ruler of the empire of western Europe by the pope in 800; this empire came to be known as the Holy Roman Empire. He emphasized the arts and education, but with a strong religious overtone. However, his failure to levy taxes resulted in a weak, poorly united empire.
Tensions increased between the Eastern wing of the church in the Byzantine Empire and the Western wing, centered in Rome. There was controversy over Leo III's iconoclastic policy, the authority of the Pope, and over whether Rome was the central city of Christendom. The Great Schism split the Roman Catholic Church in Western Europe and the Eastern Orthodox Church in the East.
The Normans were descendents of Vikings who settled in Normandy, a region in northwestern France. William the Conquerer, the Duke of Normandy and a vassal to a Frankish king, invaded England and ruled kingdoms on both sides of the English Channel. This was the last time England was successfully invaded.
The Magna Carta was signed by King John under pressure from leading nobles, which limited the power of the king.
The Hundred Years War was a series of wars between England and France over French territory. It eventually resulted in England's retreat from France, which allowed France to centralize its power under a series of monarchs known as Bourbons.
The Turks came to dominate most of modern-day Turkey as the Ottoman Empire grew in the fourteenth century. In 1453 the Turks invaded Constantinople, ending the Byzantine Empire, and made the city their capital, renaming it Istanbul. The early Ottomans were tolerant of Jews and Christians. Eventually, the Turks conquered most of the land previously belonging to the Byzantine Empire. As the empire grew, so did religious persecution
The Protestant Reformation was a movement that established Protestantism as its own branch of Christianity in Europe and challenged the authority of the Catholic Church. It began when Martin Luther nailed a list of 95 theses, detailing his frustrations with the Catholic Church, on a church door. His followers became known as Lutherans, and Protestantism spread throughout Europe.
The Treaty of Versailles brought an official end to WWI. The treaty was harsh on Germany because France and Britain wanted to make sure their adversary could never again rise to power and invade other European nations. Germany was required to pay war reparations, release territory, and downsize its military. Austria-Hungary was divided into separate nations, and Czechoslovakia was created. The United States objected to such a harsh treaty but was overruled.