The Awakening: −900 - −400

This was the time when the first great thinkers appeared, whose individual names we still recognise. They set philosophy and science and art and religious thought going. They appeared all over the world, not just in one area. It was as if the time was suddenly right for these ideas to appear and spread. The second half from circa −650 onwards marks the first great age of Greece, from the law-making of Solon to the death of Socrates. For consistency I have relied mainly on the dates as given in the Chambers Biographical Dictionary 2007.

Colour coding: red = mathematics, astronomy, physics orange = materials, chemistry, geology, engineering, architecture yellow = biology, medicine, exploration, anthropology, psychology green = visual art, printing blue = literature, poetry, music mauve = history, philosophy, metaphysics, theology grey = wars, politics, events (indented)


c.−900 Zarathustra Spitama aka Zoroaster & & (some still argue for a later date c.550) founder of the Zoroastrian religion or Parsi, which teaches of a struggle between forces of Good and Evil, personified as Ahura Mazda (Ormazd) and Angra Mainyu (Ahriman), as set out in their sacred text the Zend Avesta &.

−900: Etruscans settle in Italy.


−850 Chavin culture appears in Peru.

−814: Phoenicians found Carthage.


c.−800 - c.−730 Lycurgus & & & lawgiver of Sparta.

−800: Indian caste system develops.

−753: Traditional date for the foundation of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita).


fl.c.−750 Hesiod & & & & & Greek poet, Works and Days, Theogony & &.

fl.c.−750 Homer & Greek poet, Iliad & & & H H, Odyssey & & & H H.

−750 - −666: Kush conquest and rule in Egypt.

−705 - −681 Sennacherib, king of Assyria Annals of Sennacherib. Assyrian invasion of Judea −701.


fl.c.−700 Isaiah, Jewish prophet Book of Isaiah.

−685 - −627 Ashurbanipal & &, aka Sardanapalos, king of Assyria −669, gathered cuneiform library at Nineveh, a near-complete Epic of Gilgamesh survives. Assyrian conquest of Kush-ruled Egypt −666.


c.−640 - −559 Solon & & & Athenian ruler and reformer, Laws.

−634 - −562 Nebuchadnezzar II king of Babylon 605, constructed the hanging gardens of Babylon, features in the Book of Daniel.

fl.c.−625 Jeremiah, Jewish prophet. In Jerusalem at time of seige by Nebuchadnezzar. Jerusalem destroyed −587.

fl.c.−621 Draco, ruler of Athens known for his severe 'Draconian' laws.

c.−625 - c.−545 Thales & &, predicted an eclipse of the sun (−586).

c.−610 - c.−545 Anaximander &.


d.−528 Anaximenes &.
These philosophers, all of Miletus, taught more widely than just ethics, attempting speculations, often wildly imaginative, on the nature of the cosmos.

c.−600 - −527 Peisistratus, Athenian ruler.

c.−600 - −529 Cyrus 'the Great' −550: Cyrus unifies the Medes and Persians, to found the Persian Achaemenid Empire.

c.−600 "As early as the 6th century BC the Babylonian princess Ennigaldi-Nanna had a collection of antiquities in a room of her palace at Ur." [TAA]

−597 Ezekiel, Jewish prophet captive in Mesopotamia under Nebuchadnezzar.

−595 - −546 Croesus & & & last king (c.−560) of Lydia, of proverbial wealth, defeated by Cyrus.

fl.c.−530 Pythagoras, taught that "all is number", he and his followers the Pythagoreans developed propositional geometry, investigated proportions in music of lyre strings.

c.−570 - Cleisthenes + + + +. Reformed Athenian constitution based on equality under the law. isonomy, c.−508.

c.−560 - −480 Siddhartha Gautama &, aka Buddha ("enlightened one"), Buddhist text chronology, Buddhsi bark texts, Buddhist timeline.

−551 - −479 Confucius & & aka K'ung Ch'iu, Kong Qiu, or K'ung Fu-tzu, Analects.


fl.−550 Lao-Tzu, aka Laozi &, Tao-te-Ching & (The Way of Power).

−548 - −486 Darius I, king (−522) of Persia, made Zoroastrianism the state religion, −525: Persia conquers Egypt. defeated at Marathon −490.

c.−544 - −496 Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

c.−540 - c.−475 Heracleitus &, philosopher, known for the saying "All is Flux" fragments.

−539; Carthaginians defeated by Greeks (??)

c.−525 - c.−456 Aeschylus & & & &, dramatist, 7 extant plays & out of 60, Persians −472, Seven against Thebes, Prometheus Bound, Suppliants, Oresteia trilogy −458.

c.−524 - c.−459 Themistocles + + + +. Athenian leader who built fleet of 200 triremes for defence agains Persian invaders.

c.−522 - c.−440 Pindar & &, poet, triumphal odes Epinikia survive, but others only in fragments.

c.−520 - c.−460 Panini, grammarian of Classical Sanskrit, Ashtadhyayi.

−516. Jews return to Jerusalem after exile in Babylon.

c.−515 - c.−455 Parmenides of Elea &, radical sceptic.

−510: Tarquin the Proud, last King of Rome deposed. Foundation of Roman Republic.


c.−500: Gallianazo and Salinar cultures in Peru.

c.−500 - −428 Anaxagoras, philosopher, teacher of Pericles and Euripides.

c.−496 - −405 Sophocles, dramatist, 7 plays extant out of over 100, Ichneutae, Ajax, Antigone c.−441, Electra, Oedipus Tyrannus, Trachiniae, Philoctetes −409, Oedipus Coloneus.

c.−494 - c.−434 Empedocles.

c.−490 - −429 Pericles & & & & &, Athenian naval commander and ruler, under whom architecture, sculpture and drama flourished.

c.−490 - c.−430 Zeno of Elea, originator of the paradoxes of infinity.

c.−490 - c.−430 Phidias & & &, sculptor and superintendent of public works under Pericles, Parthenon, Athena, Zeus.

c.−490 - c.−420 Protagoras & & &, sophist philosopher, known for the saying "Man is the measure of all things".

ruled −486 - −465 Xerxes I, king of Persia, halted at Thermopylae by army led by Leonidas king of Sparta, but destroyed Athens −480, defeated in naval battles at Salamis and on land at Plataea −479.

c.−485 - −425 Herodotus, historian and storyteller.

fl.c.−480 - −444 Myron, sculptor in bronze, Discobolus, Maryas.

c.−480 - c.−420 Leucippus, the first 'atomist' philosopher.

c.−480 - −406 Euripides, dramatist, 18 plays survive complete out of 80, Alcestis, Medea, Hippolytus, Hecuba, Andromache, Supplices, Heraclidae, Troades, Helena, Phoenissae, Orestes, Bacchae, Iphigenia in Aulis, Iphigenia in Tauris, Ion, Hercules Furens, Electra, Cyclops, Rhesus(?).

−470 - −391 Mo Tzu, chinese philosopher.

−469 - −399 Socrates & & &, philosopher, left no writings, but his thoughts are expressed in dialogues written by his pupil Plato.

c.−460 - c.−370 Democritus, 'atomist' philosopher.

c.−460 - c.−400 Thucydides, historian, History of the Peloponnesian War.

c.−460 - −377 Hippocrates, physician.

Roman fresco −450 shows musicians performing.


c.−450 Ezra, lived in Babylon during the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus or Artaxerxes II. Led a band of Jews to Jerusalem (−458 or −397) and rebuilt their temple. Believed to have arranged the books of the Pentateuch as they are now.

c.−448 - c.−388 Aristophanes, dramatist, 11 plays of 54 are extant, Acharnians, Knights, Clouds, Wasps, Peace, Birds, Lysistrata, Thesmophoriazusae, Frogs, Ecclesiazusae, Plutus, caricatured Socrates in The Clouds as a sophist.

c.−435 - −354 Xenophon & &, soldier and historian, presents Socrates as a practical common-sense thinker, Anabasis and other works &.

c.−428 - c.−350 Archytas, mathematician interested in the problem of duplication of the cube.

−431: Peloponnesian War, Sparta v Athens

(−427 - −347) Plato & & & &, describes the trial of Socrates and features him as a speaker in his Dialogues.

c.−417 - c.−369 Thaetetus, mathematician, discoverer of the icosahedron (completing the five 'Platonic' solids).

−408 - −355 Eudoxus, believed to have originated the ideas in Euclid Book V for dealing with incommensurable magnitudes (like the side and diagonal of a square), used the method of exhaustion for areas.