What Was Happening in Three Civilizations from 1000 to 1 BCE in Greece, Rome, and China: A Simultaneous Chronology

By Heather L. Bennett / 04.19.2016
Visiting Instructor
University of Buffalo

We decided to create a timeline that merges [the chronology of] three civilizations together, so that we can all learn about the chronological order of the happenings around the world! Like, during the Dark Ages of Rome, when life seemed all so gloomy because of the harsh conditions and tight supply of food, China was under the reign of the Zhou Dynasty and in the midst of the Warring States period. This period is more commonly known to us as the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. (So now you’ll know that while you are starving in Rome, your long lost brother who migrated to China is currently fighting it out.) We got pretty intrigued about the various happenings around the world as civilizations begin to emerge and so we compiled this timeline of Greece, Rome and China. The period of 1000 BCE – 1 CE has the most happenings!

7250 BCE: The Earliest of Greek Burials and Commerce

The earliest of burials were found in the Franchthi cave in Argoli.  These burials sites show the commerce and funerary customs in ancient Archaic Greece.

Excavated area of Franchthi Cave looking toward mouth of cave.

3500 BCE – 1150 BCE: Greek Bronze Age

From Bronze Greek Age Warrior, 1600-1100 BC, by A. Salimbeti and R. D’Amato

During this period of time, Greeks were using bronze as their main metalworking resource in Mesopotamia. During this period of time, Greece was the hub of activity for the Mediterranean region, thus producing social, economic and technological advances.

2070 BCE – 1600 BCE: Reign of the Xia Dynasty

Ma Lin via Wikimedia Commons

Considered to be legendary, the dynasty was established when Yu the Great was handed the empire by his father, which set the precedent for a dynasty as previously, rulers were chosen based on their contributions instead of passing power via a bloodline. There are no reliable historic evidence of its existence as an established written medium on a durable medium did not exist then.

1766 BCE-1122 BCE: Reign of the Shang Dynasty

From User Kowloonese via Wikimedia Commons

Overthrowing the legendary Xia Dynasty, the Shang kingdom became the strongest state in northern China.  They developed the first known written records, mostly on oracle bones (bones or shells of animals).  These records provide crucial insights into their religious practices, political, and economic way of life, and are similar to the system of writing currently being used in China today.

1600 BCE – 1100 BCE: First Greek Hellenic Civilization

The seven remaining columns of the Doric peripteral temple of Apollo at Corinth / Photo by Mark Cartwright, Creative Commons

This era is also commonly referred to as the Classical Greece. It is also Greece’s Golden Age. In fact, it is the whole group of thinkers people mainly writers, artists, doctors, that came up with the structure, creating the Western tradition that we have today. However, it is important to not get the Hellenic Civilization mixed up with the Hellenistirc Civilization. Each of the columns in the photograph is actually carved out from a single block of stone.

1450 BCE: Linear B Syllabic Script

Linear B Syllabary / Image from Simon Anger, Creative Commons

This is one of the earliest form of writing in Greek, which paved the way for the alphabets that we use today. It descended from an earlier version of Greek writing called Linear A, however the writings have never been deciphered. Linear B was used for writing Mycenaean Greek.

1122 BCE – 256 BCE: Reign of the Zhou Dynasty

States of the Western Zhou Dynasty / From Philg88, Wikimedia Commons

Divided into 2 different periods, the Western (1122-771 BCE) and Eastern (771-256 BCE), the former was an era of powerful emperors who conquered and valued hegemony, while the latter gave rise to a number of powerful reigning provinces. This Eastern Zhou Dynasty is traditionally separated into the “Spring and Autumn period” (770-476 BCE), as well as the “Warring States period” (476-221 BCE). All together, the Zhou Dynasty is considered to be the longest lasting dynasty in the Chinese history.

1100 BCE – 700 BCE: The Dark Ages of Greece

Greek Dark Age Hoplites / From The Ancient Greece of Odysseus by Peter Connolly

This period marks the end of the Mycenaean civilisation due to the destruction and abandonement of regional centres. There are speculations that it was because of pre-exsiting conflict and instability. Life was very harsh during this time period and there are no written records, therefore the people may have been illiterate. Also, this period saw a plunge in population numbers, thus the dark age.

800 BCE: Invention of the Alphabet

Phoenician Alphabet / Wikimedia Commons

During the Greek Dark Ages, the Mycenaean civilisation was abandoned which meant that the economic and social class, along with the strict class hierarchy is disbanded. During the process, the Linear B syllabic was lost and a new vowel based Greek alphabet was founded. This paved the way for the alphabets that we have today.

776 BCE: The First Olympiad

Olympia, Palaestra / Wikimedia Commons

The Olympic games were held in Olympia. In this event, atheletes competed in various sports just like today. However, in the past, these sports were closely linked to religion, particularly Zeus .The ancient people believed that participating in the games allowed them to achieve greater spiritual purity. On top of that, the games also helped to bond the cities of ancient Greece together.

753 BCE – 509 BCE: Founding of the Roman Kingdom (Monarchy)

Symbol of Rome – Romulus and Remus suckling the wolf / Wikimedia Commons

One Roman legend has described that the Kingdom was founded by half-divine orphaned twins, Romulus and Remus. Destined for greatness, they were raised in the wilderness but they found a city full of outcasts and transformed it to become the Roman Kingdom. In a heated argument, Romulus killed Remus and he came to be the ruler of the city.

750 BCE – 480 BCE: Greek Archaic Period

Greek art of vase / Photo by Rebecca Harris, Creative Commons

This is the period of the Greeks between the Dark Ages and the Classical period. Over here, polcies were established as the Greeks soon began to rebuild after the Dark Ages. Here is also where culturea and art was developed. Past the Dark Ages period, the Greeks lived in tribes, with the city states being the political centre for them. In this process, marketplaces were born, making trade much easier, and the city states allowed the villages o bond together and build up their defence together.

700 BCE: Writing of the Homeric Epics

Bust of Homer / Wikimedia Commons

There is an ancient Greek poet named Homer, who wrote two major literature pieces, the Iliad and Odyssey.  These two epics tell of the myths and the legends in ancient Greece. The past accounts of Ancient Greece and its people were lost when the Mycenaean civilization was destroyed, therefore the two epics is what remains from the people of the past.

551 BCE – 479 BCE: Period When Confucius Lived

Carving of Confucius / Wikimedia Commons

Kong Fuzi, or Confucius, is a highly respected and influential Chinese teacher and philosopher who lived during the Spring and Autumn period. He used lessons from the sage emperors to embody virtue and morality, and advocated that men should be selfless and good architects of society. Also, he emphasized that men should be loyal to their family, should pay homage to their late ancestors, and practice fillial piety. After his death, Confucianism became the imperial philosophy in China and was particularly influential in the later Han, Tang and Song Dynasties.

509 BCE: Founding of the Roman Republic

Bust of Titus Livy / Wikimedia Commons

In accordance to later writers like Livy, they mentioned that the Republic was founded when the last ruling King, Tarquin the Proud, was expelled and replaced by Lucius Junius Brutus. The Republic had significant wars like the one with Veii (their closest neighbor) in c. 406 BCE, and this lasted for 10 years. Despite all the casualties, they doubled in size upon winning the war.

484 BCE – 425 BCE: Herodotus, the Father of History

Statue of Herodotus / Wikimedia Commons

During this time period, Herodotus of Greece began to record events and human actions as he observed, which paved the way for History and providing us with the much valued Herodotus’ Histories, giving us an in-dept account of the Greeks and non-Greeks. He documented the achievements of both parties and also how both races came into conflict. Many people also claim Herodotus to be the father of History as he is the first person to start documenting about his time period thus providing us with much information about life in the past.

390 BCE: The Raid of Rome by the Gauls

The Gauls came down from the Italian peninsula, overpowered the Roman army, and set their city on fire. They came close to seizing the Citadell and hence the entire city altogether. It took numerous years for Rome to rebuild her city, and this was coupled with strained relations between the patricians and plebeians. In 366 and 387 BCE, institutions of magistrates and representative assemblies was initiated and changed on a yearly basis, which guaranteed their citizens to be free from oppressions, rights and an accumulation of power.

323 BCE – 30 BCE: The Greek Hellenistic Age

Greek Hellenistic art, Laocoön and His Sons / Wikimedia Commons

This age saw Greece open up its doors to the rest of the world. This allowed many people to stream in from the eastern Mediterranean and Southwest Asia. With the people who came into Greece, they brought their traditions and cultures in. However the Greek culture continued to remain strong causing the foreign cultures to have a tinch of Greek culture. After Greek was determined as the official language of the Hellenistic world, the art and literature of this era stemmed from there. The arts depicted the daily lives of the Greeks, as well as fictional and emotional stories of their gods. Whereas literature saw almost all of its texts written in Greek.

221 BCE – 206 BCE: Reign of the Qin Dynasty

Qin Shihuang / Wikimedia Commons

One of the leading states during the “Warring States” period, it ultimately emerged as the first unifier of Ancient China when they had to fend off neighboring barbarian tribes to keep their land. Conquering of the tribes were successful and they moved on to engage other Chinese states in wars during mid-4th century BCE. The aim to create a unified nation from a variety of different regions was successful eventually. The Qin emperor, Qin Shihuang, capitalized on brutality, and after his death in 210 BCE, the uprisings and rebeliions were uncontainable and the last Qin emperor surrended his throne in 206 BCE.

202 BCE – 221 CE: Reign of the Han Dynasty

Extent of the Han Dynasty / Wikimedia Commons

Ruling China for over 400 years apart from a brief stint between 9 and 23 CE when a formidable minster took possession of the throne. Considered to be the most important dynasty of all, the Han empire focused on Confucianism and also enjoyed an extended period of peace and prosperity. The Han empire adapted a bureaucratic structure and promoted officials based on merit. Rules that the Qin empire had established were also abolished, and this garnered immense support from the population. It was during this time also that the Silk Road brought massive amounts of trade, cultural exchanges and the arrival of Buddhism into China.

83 BCE – 31 BCE: Period of Civil Wars that Led to the Fall of the Roman Republic

The Battle of Actium between Octavian (later Augustus), Mark Antony, and Cleopatra.  English Heritage, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

There was an extended period of political instability and social unrest, from about 133 BCE to 30 BCE.  Sulla’s first civil war (88–87 BCE) was fought between Lucius Cornelius Sulla’s supporters and Gaius Marius’ forces.  Sulla was victorious.  The Sertorian War (83–72 BCE) was fought between Rome and the provinces of Hispania under the leadership of Quintus Sertorius, a supporter of Gaius Marius which resulted in another Sullan victory.  Sulla’s second civil war (82–81 BCE) was between Sulla and Marius’ supporters, and Sulla was yet again victorious.  Lepidus rebelled against the Sullan regime unsuccessfully in 77 BCE.  The Catiline Conspiracy (63–62 BCE) was fought between the Senate and the dissatisfied followers of Catiline.  The Senate emerged the winner.  Caesar’s Civil War (49–45 BCE) was fought between Julius Caesar and the Optimates initially led by Pompey, and Caesar won.  The Post-Caesarian civil war (44–43 BCE), between the Senate’s army (led first by Cicero and then by Octavius) and the army of Antony, Lepidus, and their colleagues – resulted in a union of forces. The Liberators’ civil war (44–42 BCE) was fought between the Second Triumvirate and the Liberators (Brutus and Cassius, Caesar’s assassins).  The Second Triumvirate (which consisted of Octavian, Mark Antony, and Lepidus) carried the victory.  The Sicilian revolt (44–36 BCE) – between the Second Triumvirate (particularly Octavius and Agrippa) and Sextus Pompey, the son of Pompey – saw the Second Triumvirate prevail again.  The Perusine War (41–40 BCE) involved the forces of Octavian against Lucius Antonius and Fulvia (the younger brother and wife of Mark Antony).  Octavian was victorious.  The Final War of the Roman Republic (32–30 BCE), between Octavius and his friend and general Agrippa against Mark Antony and Cleopatra, saw the end of the Republic with Octavian’s victory and rise as Augustus, the first emperor of Rome.

75 BCE – 70 BCE: Rise of Pompey

Plaster cast of a Roman original, around 50 BCE.  Museum of Classical Archaeology, Rome.

Gnaeus Pomeius (Pompey) was a general tasked to exterminate a rebellion led by a gladiator, Spartacus. Having started from the mainland, this was the most threatening of the slave rebellions. Pompey and Licinius Crassus were given a large army and overcomed the slaves with immense ruthlessness. Thereafter, they travelled back to Rome and demanded to be made consul the following year.

59 BCE: The Rise of Caesar

Statue of Julius Caesar by Nicolas Coustou / Wikimedia Commons

Politician and general, Julius Caesar was voted consul in 59 BCE and brokered an informal pact with both Pompey and Crassus. The trio controlled the bulk of the Republic with their combined wealth and influence.

45 BCE: Caesar Defeats Pompey

From David Hiskey, Creative Commons

In 53 BCE, Crassus was killed in a war against the Parthians and the trio disbanded. Caesar led his army towards Greece, where Pompey was situated in. At the battle of Pharsalus in 48 BCE, Pompey was defeated and finally, assassinated after he fled to Egypt under orders of Ptolemy (the Egyptian King). By 45 BCE, Caesar attained absolute authority of Rome and became the first dictator of the Republic.

44 BCE: Assassination of Julius Caesar

Vincenzo Camuccini, La morte di Cesare, 1804-1805, Oil on canvas, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea

The governing body of Rome were still unappeased and Caesar was finally murdered during of the meetings of the senate.

44 BCE – 31 BCE: Second Triumvirate of Mark Antony, Lepidus, and Octavian (Caesar Augustus)

From Dissecting Rome’s Second Triumvirate by Michael Anderson

Formal lieutenants Marc Antony, Aemilius Lepidus and C. Octavianius (Caesar’s grand nephew / adopted son), formed the second Triumvirate (formal this time!). They purged the city of rebels, and hunted down Caesar’s assassins to Greece before vanquishing them in Philippi, 42BCE. Thereafter, they separated the Roman lands amongst themselves and the Triumvirate disintegrated.

31 BCE: Octavian Defeats Lepidus, Antony (and Cleopatra)

Antony, Octavian, Cleopatra: The end of the Republic

Octavian imposed a mandatory retirement on Lepidus, and retained all the territories that the latter possessed. Then, as Antony had an affair with the Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra VII, this was seen as an act of treachery and he became Rome’s enemy. Octavian annihilated the Egyptian army, while Antony and Clepatra took their own lives. Thereafter, Octavian occupied Egypt and expanded the Roman Empire.

27 BCE – 68 CE: The Julio-Claudians Rulership

The Julio-Claudian Dynasty / Wikimedia Commons

This style rulership of the Roman Empire consists of leaders, Augustus (c. 27 BCE.–14 CE), Tiberius (c. 14–37 CE.), Gaius Germanicus (c. 37–41 CE.), Claudius (r. 41–54 CE), and Nero (c. 54–68 CE). During this time, Republican ideals were instilled in the Roman Empire. Despite this rulership encouraging the Senate to be more involved, along with various Roman aristocrats, imperial control of power strangely shifted from the Senate to the equestrian officers and imperial freedmen. During this period of time, there was more diplomacy than military warfare, which allowed Rome to strengthen its borders and enjoy stable governance, thus allowing Rome to flourish and many technological advances to be made. This also saw the rapid urbanization of Rome, and many of the neighbouring provinces joining the Roman citizenship.

Around 8 BCE:  The Birth of Jesus

This appears in a cemetery in an imperial villa that belonged to Constantine and is dated to the 4th century. / Wikimedia Commons

Jesus is also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth and he is commonly referred to as the Son of God by Christians. He was born in Bethlehem and during the time that he was alive, he conducted ministry works of teaching the people how to lead a spiritual life and performing healing miracles. Upon seeing his works, Jesus gained many followers, with the closest 12 followers to him as the 12 disciples. Jesus ended his time on earth after being betrayed by one of his disciples during “the last supper” and was crucified. Three days later, Jesus’ burial tomb was found to be empty, hinting that he was risen from the dead as he made an appearance to Mary Magdeline and then to his mother and lastly to the disciples who were in hiding.

14 CE – 37 CE: Death of Augustus and Reign of Tiberius

Statue of Augustus / Wikimedia Commons

Augustus was born in 63 BCE and he controlled vast Roman armies during his reign. Upon being granted powers for life by the Senate, Augustus continued to successfully rule over Rome, initiating an era of Pax Romana (The Roman Peace). Despite ongoing civil wars within the state for a year, Rome continued to remain peaceful in the Mediterranean region and protecting the empire with a region of client states. Augustus reformed the public policies in Rome and was so successful as a leader that he earned the title “Caesar”. After Augustus Caesar died of natural causes, his stepson and also former son-in-law, Tiberius, assumed the role of Emperor.

Around 33 BCE: The Crucifixion of Jesus

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” – John 19:30

Jesus was to be crucified at Golgotha, which means Calvary in Latin. It is a place outside Jerusalem as crucifixion was not allowed within the city. Jesus was nailed to the cross and after a period of time, a spear was thrusted into his side to confirm that he was dead. After crucifixion, Jesus was put in a tomb which is considered as new during the first century. Old “garden tombs” were made during the past, however Jesus’ body rested in a “new age” tomb during its time, called the rock-cut tombs. These tombs were constructed with a different layout and required different tools. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ remains central to the beliefs of Christians today, that he died on the cross for the sins of men.

116 CE – 150 CE: The Roman Empire Reaches Its Largest Extent

The Roman Empire at its greatest size / Wikimedia Commons

Rome had a massive land area of five square kilometres and 70 milliion in population. That is 35% of 200 million global population. This was during the reign of Trajan, the 13th Emperor of the Roman Empire and who was also declared as the Optimus Princeps by the Senate. Which meant that he was the best ruler.

221 CE:  Fall of the Han Dynasty

A rebellion that lead to the fall of the Han Dynasty.

The fall of the Han Dynasty marked the end of ancient China.  When the Han Dynasty collapsed in 220 CE, no one was powerful enough to reunify China under a single emperor. The result was the period of the Three Kingdoms, which lasted until 280 CE, when the Jin Dynasty took over. These three kingdoms, Wei, Shu, and Wu, battled for control in a long series of wars.

306 CE – 312 CE: Constantine the Great Legalizes Christianity After Conversion and Victory

The Edict of Milan (Toleration), Constantine’s gift to Christianity / Lawrence Lew, Creative Commons

Emperor Constantine is known for converting Rome to Christianity. Howeverm it was not something that could have been done overnight. He first fought the Western Roman Emperor Maxentius at the Tiber River;s Mulvian Bridge during 312 BCE. It is interesting to note that Contantine proclaimed his victory in the name of his religion. He eventually won the battle and signed an edict with the Eastern Roman Emperor to practice religious tolerance against the Christians. Christians were given legal rights and their properties were returned to them. On top of that, churches around Rome soon began to sprout and as the Christian ruling class grew under the leadership of Constantine the Great, Christianity gained many followers.

410 CE – 476 CE: The Sack of Rome and Its Eventual Fall

The Course of Empire: The Destruction (1836) / Thomas Cole, Wikimedia Commons

The Visigoths are a tribe of the Germanic people. For approximately 10 years, Alaric, the leader of the Visgoths have always wanted to invade Rome but has contantly failed. However in 410, Alaric was finally successful as he invaded the city from the Salarian Gate. Many Romans were killed and raped, however the buildings were mostly left intact. I tis interesting that as the Visigoths are Arian Christians, they respected the Christian sites and did not loot those areas. After three days of looting, the Visigoths went back to their homeland. Alaric suddenly fell ill 20 years later and passed away, and Rome eventually fell at the end of the fifth century.