The ancient world Chronology
1000 to 500 BC central Asia, south China, Indochina.
Spread of iron making, weapons and Confucianism state ideology.
tools across Asia, Europe, and west and Spread of peasant agriculture and
central Africa. Phonetically based Hinduism into south India and then to
scripts in Middle East, Indian Malay peninsular and Cambodia.
subcontinent and Mediterranean area. Indian merchants ﬁnance great
Clearing and cultivation of Ganges Buddhist monasteries, carry religion to
valley in India, new civilisation, rise of Tibet and Ceylon.
four caste system, Vedic religion. AD 200 to 500
Phoenician, Greek and Italian city Chinese Han Empire disintegrates.
states. Uniﬁcation of Middle East into Collapse of urban economy,
rival empires based on Mesopotamia or fragmentation of countryside into
Nile. Emergence of a small number of aristocratic estates, loss of interest in
‘warring states’ in China. ‘classic’ literature. Buddhism spreads
among certain groups.
600 to 300 BC
Flowering of ‘classical’ civilisations. Gupta Empire unites much of in India in
Confucius and Mencius in China. The 5th century, ﬂowering of art and science.
Buddha in India. Aeschylus, Plato, Growing crises in Roman Empire.
Aristotle, Democritus in Greece. Class Technological and economic stagnation.
struggles in Greece. Trade declines. Slavery gives way to
Conquest of Middle East by taxes and rents from peasants bound to
Macedonian armies of Alexander and land. Peasant revolts in France and
of most of Indian subcontinent by Spain. Increased problems in defending
Mauryan Empire of Ashoka. empire’s borders. Rise of cults of Osiris,
Struggles between Plebeians and Mithraism and Christianity.
Patricians in Rome. City conquers Constantine moves capital to Greek city
most of Italy. of Byzantium (330), makes Christianity
300 to 1 BC the empire’s ofﬁcial religion. Persecution
Disintegration of Mauryan Empire in of pagan religions, other Christian
India, but continued growth of trade beliefs and Jews. Rise of monasticism.
and handicraft industry. Hindu Division of empire. Loss of England to
Brahmans turn against cow slaughter. empire (407). Alarick’s Goths sack
First Ch’in emperor uniﬁes north
China. Massive growth of iron AD 500 and after
working, handicraft industries and ‘Dark Ages’ in western Europe.
trade. Building of Great Wall and of Population falls by half. Collapse of
canal and road systems. Peasant revolt trade, town life and literacy.
brings Han Dynasty to power. Eastern empire survives to reach peak
Rome conquers whole Mediterranean under Justinian in 530s-550s, with
region and Europe south of Rhine. building of Saint Sophia cathedral,
Spread of slavery and impoverishment of then declines.
peasantry in Italy. Peasants support Collapse of Gupta Empire in India.
Gracchus brothers, murdered in 133 and Decline of trade, towns, use of money
121. Slave revolts in Sicily (130s) and in and Buddhist religion. Agriculture and
Italy under Spartacus (70s). Civil wars. artisan trades carried out in virtually
Julius Caesar takes power 45. Augustus self contained villages for beneﬁt of
becomes emperor 27. feudal rulers. Ideological domination
AD 1 to 200 by Brahman priests. Full establishment
Peak of Roman Empire. Crushes revolt of elaborate hierarchy of many castes.
in Palestine AD 70. Paul of Tarsus Decline in literature, art and science.
splits new sect of ‘Christians’ away
from Judaism. Continued fragmentation of China
until rise of Sui Dynasty (581) and
Discovery of steel making in China. then T’ang Dynasty (618) see revival
Extension of Han Empire into Korea, of economy and trade.
44 Chapter 1
Iron and empires
The second great phase in the history of civilisation began among the
peasants and pastoralists who lived in the lands around the great empires,
not in the states dominated by the priests and pharaohs. It depended on
the efforts of people who could learn from the achievements of the
urban revolution—use copper and bronze, employ the wheel, even adapt
foreign scripts to write down their own languages—without being sucked
dry by extortion and brainwashed by tradition.
There were societies across wide swathes of Eurasia and Africa which
began to make use of the technological advances of the ‘urban revo-
lution’. Some developed into smaller imitations of the great empires—
as seems to have been the case with Solomon’s empire in Palestine,
described in the Old Testament. Others were much less burdened, at
ﬁrst, with elaborate, expensive and stultifying superstructures. There was
greater freedom for people to innovate; and also greater incentive for
them to do so.
The adoption of these techniques was accompanied by concen-
tration of the surplus in the hands of ruling classes, much as had hap-
pened in the original urban revolutions. But these were new ruling
classes, from l