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Timeline: 5th Century BCE (500 to 401)

500  Rebellion against Hinduism and its animal sacrifices gives rise to Jainism. In the gatherings that are entertainment in towns across the Ganges Valley, cult leaders have been debating and picking up followers. Siddartha Gautama is a successful debater and movement leader. He also rejects animal sacrifices and metaphysics. He produces a guide for living and (according to claims passed down by followers) he says people must be their own light rather than follow the dogma of a priesthood.

499  In Asia Minor, Greeks begin a rebellion against Persian rule.

490  To punish mainland Greeks for their support of the rebellion in Asia Minor, Darius the Great of Persia sends a fleet across the Aegean Sea and lands soldiers near Marathon, twenty-six miles north of Athens. A runner covers the distance to announce the arrival of the Persians. A coalition of city-states defeats the Persians at Marathon, and the Persians withdraw. In Athens, the god Pan is said to have given the Greeks their victory, to win back from the Athenians their devotion, which he had seen as diminishing.

486  Darius the Great dies at around the age of seventy-two.

485  The Athenian poet Aeshylus is turning forty. Before he dies he will have written around ninety plays. Athens is developing a literature that goes beyond simple divisions of good versus evil people, a human-centered approach that would be called humanistic. These are writers about which the Yahwist Isaiah would have complained that "...they do not pay attention to the deeds of the Lord." (Isaiah 5:12)

480  Xerxes, son of Darius, marches an army through Thrace and into mainland Greece. The Persians are trying to extend their empire too far.

431  The Great Peloponnesian War begins, with Sparta and its allies on one side and Athens and its allies on the other. Athenians have built an empire among the island states and believe that it is rule or be ruled. Sparta and its allies fear domination by Athens and invade Attica, announcing that they are fighting against Athenian imperialism for their independence and for the liberty of Greeks.

430  A Chinese scholar, Mo-zi, nears forty. Unlike Confucius and his followers, Mo-zi believes that all men are equal before the lord of the heavens. He believes that the powers of heaven exercise love for all humankind. Mo-zi speaks of the value of the labor of common folks, and he advocates promoting people to positions of power solely on the strength of their abilities and virtues. Mo-zi witnesses local rulers sending their armies against neighboring states, devastating crops, slaughtering cattle, burning towns and temples, killing civilians and dragging people away to be made slaves. He tries to mediate between rulers at war with each other. He creates an army of well-trained and highly disciplined warriors which he offers to rulers defending themselves against aggression.

404  Athens has counted too much on military force and too little on hearts and minds. The Great Peloponnesian War ends with defeat for Athens and victory for Sparta and its allies. Sparta is now the undisputed leader and policing power among the Greek city-states.

401?  Radiocarbon dating indicates that the Haraldskær Woman lived in this century – in what is today Denmark. Her body was discovered in Denmark in 1835. Scientists estimate that she would have stood at 150 centimeters (4 feet 11 inches), that she died at about 50 years old, in good health and without signs of degenerative disease. Her stomach contents were of unhusked millet and blackberries. Writes Wikipedia, "Her neck had a faint groove as if a rope may have been applied for torture or strangulation." Cremation was the prevailing mode of interment during this period in this place, and the Haraldskær Woman is believed by those who have examined her remains to have been a victim of ritual sacrifice.

timeline 1000-501 | 4th Century BCE (400 to 301)

479  Near Athens, the Athenian navy and its allies destroy the Persian fleet. With much of the Persian army dependent on ships for supplies, it is forced to march back to Asia Minor.

460  The navy of Athens is still taking war to the Persians, and, asserting leadership, Athens is turning its alliance with other Greek cities into an empire.

458  The Persians are allowing Yahwist priests to return from Babylon to Judah and urging the priests to maintain order in accordance with their teachings – a common practice by the Persians regarding subject peoples. The Persians do not allow the Jews a king, which is okay with the high-priests. In Jerusalem, the high-priest Ezra arrives with 1,800 others and finds assimilations. He begins to organize Judaic law along lines of identity with Yahweh worship. Men are soon to be asked to expel from their homes their foreign wives. Judaic law is to be based on an assembled five books purportedly written by Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Intolerance toward other faiths is encouraged.

450  The philosopher Anaxagoras is teaching in Athens. He gives laboratory demonstrations, conducts simple experiments and tests hypotheses. He speculates that matter too small to see is infinitely numerous and distributed in all things. He speculates that mind is a substance disconnected from all other substances, that mind was the first cause of all motion. He equates mind (collective rather than individual) with soul, which he calls nous, and for Anaxagoras, nous is God, giving rise to a monotheism alongside what has arisen in the Upanishads.

445  Protagoras is around forty and moves from Thrace to Athens. He is a democrat and, contrary to popular opinion, speaks of people from different areas around the world as sharing a common humanity. He claims that by criticizing tradition and eliminating customs derived from “barbarian times” people can create better societies. He is opposed to the tradition of laws made by kings, favoring the privileged and described as having been made by the gods. He claims that laws should be made by and for common people. He claims that humanity must learn for itself what is just and right - a view that "man is the measure of all things."

445  The Hebrew priest Ezra reads the Book of the Law to the people of Jerusalem.

442  In Rome, legislation is introduced against a law prohibiting marriage between aristocrats and commoners. Aristocrats (patricians) are concerned about the purity of their blood and describe the legislation as a rebellion against the laws of heaven. Commoner (plebeian) families headed by vigorous entrepreneurs have accumulated much wealth, and patricians from poorer families have an interest in marrying into these more wealthy families. The law against prohibiting marriage between aristocrats and commoners is repealed.

440  Herodotus is in his early forties. He has or will soon write about the Persian war and about his travels to Babylon, Egypt, the Crimea, Italy and elsewhere. His open-mindedness about the people he visits results in fellow Greeks calling him a "barbarian-lover."  Unlike priestly writers, he does not write to praise his gods and he admits that his work is subjective.

1000 to 501 BCE | 4th Century BCE (400 to 301)

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