Major Events in Ancient History

Ancient History Time Line

Wide-bowled Drinking Cup, Greece
Dennis Jarvis/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

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 a 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.

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.


13200Civilization is said to have begun at Sumer.
22560Building of the Great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza.
31900-1300The Minoan Period - Crete.
41795-1750Hammurabi, who wrote the first legal code, conquered Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
51200Fall of Troy - if there was a Trojan War.
6995Hebrew King David captured Jerusalem.
8th Century B.C.
7780-560Greeks sent settlers to create colonies in Asia Minor.
8776Legendary start of the Ancient Olympics.
9753Legendary founding of Rome. [See Ancient Rome Timeline.]
7th Century B.C.
10621Greek lawgiver Draco.
11612Nineveh (Babylonian capital) captured, marking the end of the Assyrian Empire.
6th Century B.C.
12594Solon 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
13588Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem. Jews of Judea were exiled to Babylon.
14585Thales predicts a solar eclipse.
15546-538King Cyrus of Persia and the Medes defeated Croesus and captured Lydia. Cyrus freed Jews in Babylon.
16509Traditional date for the founding of the Roman Republic.
17508Athenian Democracy established by Cleisthenes
5th Century B.C.
18499Greek city-states revolted against Persian rule.
19492-449Persian Wars
20490Battle of Marathon
22479Salamis and Plataea
23483Buddha - In 483 Gautama Buddha died.
24479Confucius died.
25461-429Age of Pericles and 431-404 Peloponnesian War
4th Century B.C.
26371Battle at Leuctra - Sparta defeated.
27346Peace of Philocrates - Philip forced Athens to accept a peace treaty with Macedonia marking the end of Greek independence.
28336Alexander The Great rules Macedonia [See Alexander Timeline.]
29334Battle of Granicus - Alexander the Great fought the Persians and won.
30333Battle of Issus - Macedonian forces under Alexander defeated the Persians.
31331Battle 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.
32276Eratosthenes measures the Earth's circumference.
33265-241First Punic War / 218 - 201 B.C. 2nd Punic War - Hannibal / 149-146 Third Punic War
34221Great Wall of China Building begun during the Qin Dynasty. The wall was built along 1,200 miles of China's northern border.
35215-148The Macedonian Wars lead to Rome's control of Greece.
36206Start of the Han Dynasty.
2nd Century B.C.
37135The first Servile War - The slaves of Sicily revolted against Rome.
38133-123The Gracchi.
1st Century B.C.
3991-88The Social War - Revolt of the Italians who wanted Roman citizenship.
4089-84The Mithridatic Wars - between Mithridates of Pontus and Rome.
4160Pompey, Crassus, and Julius Caesar form the 1st Triumvirate. [See Caesar Timeline.]
4255Caesar invades Britain. [See Roman Britain Timeline.]
4349Caesar's Campaigns and Caesar crosses the Rubicon.
4444Ides of March (March 15) Caesar assassinated.
45432nd Triumvirate - Mark Antony, Octavian and M Aemillius Lepidus.
4631Battle of Actium - Antony and Cleopatra defeated. Soon after, Augustus (Octavian) became 1st emperor of Rome. [See Cleopatra Timeline.]
47c. 3Jesus was born.
1st Century A.D.
489German tribes destroyed 3 Roman legions under P. Quinctilius Varnus in the Teutoberg Forest.
4964Rome burned while Nero (supposedly) fiddled
5079Mount Vesuvius Erupted covering Pompeii and Herculaneum.
2nd Century A.D.
51122Hadrian's Wall was begun as a defensive wall to stretch 70 miles across Northern England.
3rd Century A.D.
52212Edict of Caracalla extended Roman citizenship to all free inhabitants of the Empire.
53284-305Age 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.
54313Decree of Milan legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire.
55324Constantine the Great established his capital at Byzantium (Constantinople)
56378Emperor Valens killed by the Visigoths at the Battle at Adrianople.
5th Century A.D.
57410Rome sacked by the Visigoths.
58451Attila 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
59455Vandals sacked Rome.
60476Western Roman Empire ended - Emperor Romulus Augustulus was removed from office.