Classical Studies – Fifth Century BC Timeline


499 BC • The Greek cities of Ionia rebel against Persian rule, with the partial support of Athens
493 BC • After six years the Persians recover control of Ionia, but Athens is now identified as a target for invasion
490 BC • Darius sends a fleet across the Aegean, carrying a large army of infantry and cavalry for an attack on Athens
490 BC • The Persian fleet secures the Greek island of Euboea before making the short crossing to Marathon on the mainland – where they await the Greeks
490 BC • Pheidippides, given the task of running from Athens to Sparta to request help at Marathon against the Persians, completes the journey in two days
490 BC • At Marathon the Athenian hoplites, heavily outnumbered, win a spectacular victory against the Persians – of whom the survivors escape in their ships
490 BC • The Persian fleet moves south towards Athens, but then heads home across the Aegean without attempting an assault on the city  


487 BC • Ostracism is introduced in Athens as a way of getting rid of unpopular politicians
484 BC • Aeschylus wins the prize for tragedy at the City Dionysia in Athens
483 BC • Themistocles persuades the Athenians to build up their fleet against the expected renewal of the threat from Persia
481 BC • Xerxes I, renewing the campaign of his father Darius against the Greeks, leads a large army round the Aegean and through Thrace
481 BC • The Greek city-states meet in Corinth to devise a joint strategy against the Persians
c. 480 BC • Kritios sculpts a naturalistic male nude, now the earliest surviving masterpiece in a central tradition of Greek art
480 BC • 300 Spartans, led by Leonidas, die attempting to hold the pass of Thermopylae against the advancing Persian army
480 BC • Athens, abandoned to the advancing Persians, is looted and destroyed
480 BC • The Athenian fleet defeats a considerably larger Persian force in the narrow strait between Salamis and the mainland  


479 BC • A Spartan army, led by Pausanias, wins a victory at Plataea, completing the rout of the Persians on the Greek mainland
479 BC • An Athenian force destroys at Mykale the remainder of the Persian fleet, ending the threat from them at sea
478 BC • In the last joint campaign by Sparta and Athens the strategically important city of Byzantium is liberated from Persian rule
478 BC • Representatives of Athens and other Aegean city-states meet in Delos to form a coalition, later known as the Delian League
478 BC • The Delian League is formed for mutual defence, but also to liberate the Greek cities of Ionia from Persian rule
477 BC • A life-size bronze of a racing chariot, with its driver and horses, is presented to Delphi to commemorate a victory in the games
472 BC • The Olympic games are extended to five days, the first and last of which are taken up with religious ceremonies
c. 470 BC • Vardhamana, an Indian prince, leaves home to live as a beggar – at the start of the Jain religion  


468 BC • Sophocles wins the prize for tragedy in Athens, defeating Aeschylus in the competition
c. 466 BC • The Athenian general Cimon wins a spectacular victory over the Persians at the mouth of the Eurymedon River, in southwest Turkey
c. 465 BC • Pericles is one of a radical group in Athens, eager to curb the reactionaries controlling the Areopagus, and hostile to Sparta
464 BC • An earthquake in Sparta leads to an uprising by the helots, who take up a defensive position on Mount Ithome
463 BC • Sparta appeals to its allies for help against the helots, and Athens – against the wishes of Pericles and his group – sends an army
462 BC • With the army away, Pericles introduces full democracy for all Athenian citizens, enabling them to vote and participate in the administration of the state
c. 462 BC • Sparta causes offence in Athens by dismissing the Athenian army without using them against the helots
461 BC • Athens makes provocative alliances with two city-states opposed to Sparta
461 BC • Pericles is given the task of constructing Athens’ two famous Long Walls, stretching from the city to either side of the harbour at Piraeus
c. 460 BC • Herodotus, the ‘father of history’, writes his account of the Greco-Persian Wars from a vantage point in Asia Minor
460 BC • Simmering hostilities between the allies of Sparta and Athens develop into endemic conflict among the Greek city states of the Peloponnese
460 BC • Forces of the Delian League assist the Egyptians in a successful revolt against their Persian rulers  


457 BC • Athens completes its famous Long Walls, providing protected access between the city and its harbour, at Piraeus
454 BC • Euripides enters the drama contest at the City Dionysia in Athens for the first time
c. 450 BC • The earliest known example of Arabic writing is on an inscribed column at Tema, in northwest Arabia
c. 450 BC • The followers of Pythagoras maintain that the earth revolves on its own axis and moves in an orbit
450 BC • The Athenians mount successful attacks on the Persian forces occupying the Greek island of Cyprus
c. 450 BC • The Sophists, professional philosophers, travel round Greece educating the sons of the rich
c. 450 BC • The Greek historian Herodotus visits Egypt and provides, among many other details, an account of the process of mummification
c. 450 BC • Pericles introduces payment in Athens for jury service so that no citizen is excluded by poverty  


448 BC • In the Peace of Kallias the Persians acknowledge the independence of Greek Ionia, and agree not to bring their fleet into the Aegean
447 BC • The Athenians begin building the Parthenon, a temple to Athena, which they complete within ten years
447 BC • Ictinos, the architect of the Parthenon, blends Doric and Ionic elements in a way which will later influence many other Greek temples
c. 446 BC • Phidias sculpts a huge statue of the goddess Athena, to be the central feature of the new Parthenon
446 BC • An army commanded by a Spartan king turns back mysteriously during an invasion of Attica, leading to rumours that Pericles has bribed the king
446 BC • Pericles negotiates a treaty, scheduled to hold for thirty years, establishing spheres of influence for Sparta (the mainland) and Athens (the Aegean coast and islands)
443-429 BC • Pericles is selected by the assembly as the leading general of Athens, a post to which he is re-appointed every year until his death
c. 440 BC • Myron sculpts the Discus Thrower, an outstanding example of the Greek ability to suggest movement
c. 440 BC • Under Pericles, colonies and garrisons are established in strategic areas with the colonists remaining Athenian citizens
c. 440 BC • An extensive trading network, backed up by force, gives Athens control over the whole of the Aegean and the Black Sea  


433 BC • Socrates is now sufficiently prominent to be satirized in Clouds, a comedy by Aristophanes
433 BC • Pericles breaches his own Thirty Years Treaty, sending 30 triremes in support of a city state in dispute with Corinth, an ally of Sparta
433 BC • Sparta demands withdrawal of the Athenian ships from the Peloponnesian coast, but Pericles will offer only independent arbitration
431 BC • A sudden attack on Plataea (an ally of Athens) by Thebes (an ally of Sparta) begins the Second Peloponnesian War
431 BC • The renewal of the Peloponnesian War prompts Thucydides to begin a great work of contemporary history
c. 430 BC • Siddartha Gautama, a prince in Nepal, leaves home to become a wandering ascetic c.
430 • Phidias creates a massive statue of Zeus, covered in gold and ivory, to stand in the temple at Olympia
430 BC • A plague strikes Athens in the second year of the Peloponnesian War  


429 BC • Pericles dies in Athens of the plague
427 BC • Athenians vote to kill all the men on the captured island of Mytilene, but the next day change their mind – almost too late
c. 425 BC • Aristophanes wins first prize in Athens for his comedy The Acharnians
c. 424 BC • Gautama Buddha preaches his first sermon, at Sarnath, setting out the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path
c. 424 BC • Gautama, after a night of meditation under a pipal tree at Buddh Gaya, is ‘enlightened’ and becomes the Buddha
c. 420 BC • The Greek philosopher Democritus declares that matter is composed of indivisible and indestructible atoms
c. 420 BC • Buddha introduces a vigorous tradition of monasticism, in the order of Buddhist monks known as Sangha  


416 BC • The Athenians, capturing Melos, kill all the males of the island and sell the women and children into slavery
414 BC • The Persians, renewing their interest in the Aegean, fund the Spartans in the building of a fleet to match that of Athens
c. 410 BC • The Greeks develop the three classical styles of column, the Doric, the Ionic and the Corinthian  


409 BC • A Carthaginian army lands near Marsala to begin the long involvement of Carthage in Sicily
405 BC • The last remaining Athenian fleet is surprised and destroyed by the Spartans in the Hellespont
404 BC • The famous Long Walls of Athens, her impregnable defence, are dismantled by the Spartans in the final act of the Peloponnesian War
401 BC • Greek mercenaries, on the losing side at Cunaxa, begin a long journey home – described by Xenophon in the Anabasis
c. 400 BC • Hippocrates, on the Greek island of Kos, founds an influential school of medicine
c. 400 BC • The Upanishads, written over a long period from oral tradition, are the mystical texts of early Hinduism
c. 400 BC • The Zapotecs create a great city at Monte Alban, continuing the Olmec culture
c. 400 BC • Daodejing (‘The Way and the Power’) is the book of Daoism
c. 400 BC • The kingdom of Magadha, with its capital at Rajgir (near modern Patna), emerges as the dominant power in north India

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