Timeline of World History: Year by Year from Prehistory to Present Day





First Empires

ca. 7000 B.C. - 200 A.D.


The Hittites

CA. 1570-CA. 650 B.C.


The Hittites were an Indo-European people who migrated out of the steppes north of the Black Sea and into Asia Minor during the second millennium B.C. From there they pushed into Syria and Mesopotamia, where they established an empire that competed with Egypt's New Kingdom for supremacy in the Near East. The empire came to an end under the onslaught of the sea peoples in 1200 в.с.


The Old Kingdom
ca. 1570-1343 в.с.

The Hittite Empire (red) at the height of its power in ca. 1290 BC,
bordering on the Egyptian Empire (green)

The Hittites encountered an old, highly developed civilization in Asia Minor from which they adopted numerous cultural developments and religious concepts.


One of the oldest cities of the world, Catal Huyuk, existed in Anatolia possibly as early as 7000 B.C.

The city on the west coast of Asia Minor, known as 5 Troy (Ilium) from Homer's Iliad and referred to as "Wilusa" by Hittite sources, also belonged to the cultural area of ancient Anatolia. The Hittites first settled, however, in central Anatolia in the land of the Hattis, from whom their name may have derived. There they lived in numerous, independently ruled communities until about 1630 B.C., when King Labarnas II established political unity and moved his capital to the ancient city of Hattusa, after which he took his name Hattusilis I.

5 Artist's reconstruction of ancient Troy

Hattusilis expanded the borders of the Old Kingdom that he had founded through 1 military campaigns in western Asia Minor and northern Syria. His grandson, Mursilis I, conquered the important Syrian trading center, Aleppo, and reached Babylon with his armies around 1600 B.C.

In addition to his role as commander of military forces, the Hittite king also held, together with his queen, religious offices in the state cult as the 3 weather god and sun goddess respectively. The queen participated in council meetings, had her own chancellery, and also maintained independent diplomatic relations with other princes. After the death of the king, she retained her offices and titles as his widow.

In general, 4 women, whether they were 2 married, widowed, or divorced, were well provided for. Hittite law also appears to have been rather progressive in comparison with the other cultures of the Near Hast, as the death penalty was rarely imposed. The assassination ot Mursilis I by his brother-in-law Hantilis around 1590 вд . led to turmoil around the throne and a revolt of the nobility. Because of the instability in the leadership. the Hittites lost control of Syria to the Hurrite Mitanni kingdom and were forced to focus on Anatolia.

1 Archer and charioteer, ninth century B.C.
2 A Hittite couple, ca. 800 B.C.
3 The Hittite weather god with a bundle of lightning bolts beneath the winged sun disk
4 Hittite women, spinning, eighth-seventh century B.C.



The Hittite Gods

Hittite gods

The Hittites were called the "people of the thousand gods." Apart from their own, they took up many of the deities and religious concepts of their neighbors. A deity pair associated with the weather and the sun was always at the head of the Hittite pantheon and was worshiped in the official national cult. Above all, vegetation, mountain, and water gods also played a role in daily religious life.

Hittite gods



The New Kingdom
ca. 1335-1200 в.с.

The rise of the Hittites marked the beginning of the New Kingdom. Weakened by fierce battles with Egypt, the empire managed to settle the conflict only to ultimately  be destroyed by the sea peoples.

After a transitional and chaotic phase in which the Hittites contended with enemies such as the Gashga people in their immediate vicinity, Suppiluliumas I (reigned 1380-1346 B.C.), brother of Arnuwanda, established the Hittite empire by defeating the Mitannian kingdom and making vassals of the Amorite princes in Syria about 1335 B.C. He fortified his capital and organized the state, dividing it into provinces ruled by princes. He installed his son Telipinus in Aleppo as priestking of the weather god, who was worshiped there as well.

Suppiluliumas, his son 7 Mursilis II, (reigned 1345-1315 B.C.), and his grandson Muwattalis (reigned 1315-1290 в.с.) were all drawn into conflicts with Egypt, which had been allied with the Mitanni and also claimed hegemony over Syria.

7 Earthenware plaque with the seal of King Mursilis II
in Hittite hieroglyphics and cuneiform script, ca. 1300 b,c.

In about 1285, Muwattalis and the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II fought at the 6 Orontes River in Syria in the 9 Battle of Kadesh. No clear victor emerged, although Muwattalis was able to maintain his hegemony over Syria. It was only after Hattusilis III signed a treaty with the Egyptians in 1259 в.с. that peace between the two exhausted powers was secured for the remainder of the century. During this period, disputes within the royal family and with the nobility led to political disintegration. Catastrophic crop failures and famine made  the import of grain from Egypt necessary and compounded the empire's difficulties. The weakened empire of the Hittites was no longer able to withstand the onslaught of the sea peoples, particularly the Greek Achaians.

The Orontes River in Syria

9 Three marching soldiers, ninth century B.C.

The line of 8 Hittite kings ended abruptly with Suppiluliumas II around 1200 B.C. The capital, Hattusa, was completely demolished by unknown attackers. They may have been raiding Gashga peoples, former soldiers, or even the city's own populace. Troy, a Hittite vassal state located in present-day Turkey, was also destroyed at this time.

Only in southeastern Anatolia and northern Syria did small, independent Hittite kingdoms survive, lasting into the seventh century B.C. They were finally overrun by the advance of  the Neo-Assyrian Empire, while the rest of Anatolia sank into a "Dark Age" until the appearance of the Phrygians and Lydians.

8 Statue of a late Hittite king, ninth century B.C.



The Peace Treaty between Hattusilis III and Ramses II

"Look, Reamasesa-mai-amana, the great king, the king of the country of Egypt, is at peace and fraternity with Hattusili, the great king, the king of the country of Hatti. Look, the children of Reamasesa, the great king, the king of the country of Egypt, they will be forever in a state of peace and of fraternity with the children of Hattusili, the great king, the king of the country of Hatti. They will remain in the line of our bond of fraternity and of peace; the country of Egypt and the country of Hatti will be forever in a state of реaсе and of fraternity as it is with us...."

Peace treaty in cuneiform script, 1259 B.C.





Kingdoms on the Borders of the Fertile Crescent

ca. 1500-546 B.C.


Besides the great empires of the Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and Egyptians, there were many, often short-lived kingdoms in Asia Minor, North Syria, and Mesopotamia. They served as buffer states between the great powers and were frequently occupied by foreign soldiers. They were also sought after as partners in alliances and agreements to secure trade routes passing through their territories. During periods when their more powerful neighboring empires fell into crisis or collapsed, they sometimes won a precarious status of independence and occasionally rose to positions of considerable power and influence in the region.

Mitanni and Urartu


In the north of the Fertile Crescent lay the Mitannian kingdom of the Indo-Iranian Hurrites. After a period of Hittite supremacy, the Kingdom of Urartu supplanted the Kingdom of Mitanni.

Around 1500 B.C., at the time of the fall of the Hittite Old Kingdom, the Hurrites founded the Kingdom of Mitanni, of which they formed only a small ruling elite. At its peak, between 1450 and 1350 B.C., the kingdom stretched from the Mediterranean coast through Syria to East Anatolia, Armenia, and North Mesopotamia, where Assyria was a vassal state of the Hurrites. The first written evidence, using the Akkadian alphabet, dates from the beginning of the third millennium B.C., with inscriptions over the next 2000 years in Akkadian, Sumerian, Hittite, Ugaritic and Hebrew, as well as in Hurrite. At first, Egypt competed with the Hurrites for control of Syria, but then the pharaohs of the 18th dynasty formed an alliance with them against the renewed and mounting threat of the Hittites. The alliance was then sealed over many generations through marriage. Eventually, after the Middle Assyrian Kingdom had forcibly liberated itself from Mitannian dominance, the Hurrites were subdued by the Hittites under King Suppluliuna, who elevated the Hittite state to its maximum splendor, in about 1335 в.c.

In Urartu, a region on Lake Van in 4 East Anatolia, descendents of the Hurrites established various kingdoms after the fall of the Hittite New Kingdom in 1200 B.C. when it was invaded by many tribes. These merged to create a unified state around 860 B.C.

4 Landscape in East Anatolia

The economy was based primarily on 1, 3 ore mining and processing, along with agriculture and trade.
Fierce disputes with the Neo-Assyrian Empire over the control of trade routes and ore deposits developed in the eighth century. The Assyrians allied themselves with the Cimmerians, an Indo-European nomadic people, and defeated Urartu in 714. The story of Urartu comes to its ultimate end in 640 в.г. with the invasion of the Scythians, who followed the Cimmerians. At the same time, Armenians entered Urartu territory from southwestern Europe. The area remained a bone of contention between the great powers, including the Roman Empire, the Farthians, and the Sassanians.

Bronze helmet from Urartu, eighth century B.C.

3 Bronze votive tablet from Urartu, showing the weather god Teisheba


The 2 kings of Urartu expanded their kingdom into the Caucasus, East Anatolia, and northwest Iran.

2 Urartian language stone


Urartu Sphinx

Part of a throne with deity on a bull


Phrygia and Lydia

Following the end of the Hittite empire around 1200 B.C., Anatolia experienced a cultural decline until the Phrygians in the eighth century в.с In the seventh century the Lydians carved out an extensive area of territory in which they established powerful kingdoms.

The 7 Phrygians emerged from the Balkans around 1100 B.C. and penetrated into Asia Minor. By the eighth century, there was a thriving Phryrian kingdom in the center of Anatolia that maintained cultural and trade relations with the Greeks in the west and the Urartians and Assyrians in the east.

The 5 Lydians then gained control of the western part of Asia Minor. They defeated the Cimmerians and attempted to expand their kingdom westward over the Greek colonies on the coast of Anatolia (Ionia), as well as over the entire Anatolian highlands. Their eastern border, by agreement first with the Medes and later with the Persians, was fixed at the Halys River in north-central Anatolia.

7 Phrygian Bronze Helmet, sixth century B.C.

5 Remainder of the Temple of Artemis
in the Lydian capital Sardis,
steel engraving, 19th century

King Croesus's golden broach

The last Lydian king, Croesus—whose 8 wealth became proverbial— conquered almost all of the Greek coastal cities. He then turned eastward after the Oracle of Delphi prophesied that a great empire would fall if he crossed the Halys. Thus feeling assured of victory, Croesus crossed the river in 546 B.C. and marched against Persia but was defeated by the Persian king Cyrus II—the prophesy came true, but it was his own great kingdom that fell.

According to legend, Croesus was 11 pardoned shortly before he was to be burned at the  stake, and he may later have become an official f at the Persian court.The Phrygians and Lydians lived on, not only in myths but also , in the cultural legacy they left to the Greeks and the Romans—the cults of Dionysus and of the "Great Mother" Cybele.

They also introduced the practice of 9 minting coins to Europe.

9 Lydian gold coin from Croesus's reign,
sixth century B.C.

Croesus on the pyre, Attic red-figure amphora,
500–490 BC, Louvre


1st century BC marble statue of Cybele
from Formia, Campania

Cybele with her attributes, a Roman marble,
c. 50 CE, Getty Museum



11 Croesus, about to be burned at the stake,
is shown mercy by Cyrus,
wood engraving, 19th century

Babylon:Croesus on the Funeral Pyre



Croesus, (died c. 546 bc), last king of Lydia (reigned c. 560–546), who was renowned for his great wealth. He conquered the Greeks of mainland Ionia (on the west coast of Anatolia) and was in turn subjugated by the Persians.

A member of the Mermnad dynasty, Croesus succeeded to the throne of his father, Alyattes, after a struggle with his half brother. Croesus is said to have acted as viceroy and commander in chief before his father’s death. He completed the conquest of mainland Ionia by capturing Ephesus and other cities in western Anatolia. Lack of sea power forced him to form alliances with, rather than conquer, the islanders of Ionia. His wealth was proverbial, and he made a number of rich gifts to the oracle at Delphi.

After the overthrow of the Median empire by the Persians under the Achaemenian Cyrus II the Great (550), Croesus found himself confronted by the rising power of a Persian empire. The Lydian king formed a coalition with Nabonidus of Babylon, and Egypt and Sparta promised to send troops. Taking the initiative, Croesus invaded Cappadocia, a region of eastern Anatolia. After what was evidently an inconclusive battle at Pteria, he returned to his capital, Sardis, to gather the forces of the confederacy. Cyrus pursued him, caught him completely by surprise, and stormed the city (546).

Croesus’ subsequent fate is recounted in several ancient sources. According to the Greek poet Bacchylides, Croesus tried to burn himself on a funeral pyre but was captured. Herodotus claims that the King, condemned by Cyrus to be burned alive, was saved by the god Apollo and eventually accompanied Cyrus’ successor, Cambyses II, to Egypt. The Greek-born Persian doctor Ctesias says Croesus subsequently became attached to the court of Cyrus and received the governorship of Barene in Media.

One of the most famous tales concerning Croesus is Herodotus’ account of the (fictitious) meeting of Croesus with the Athenian lawgiver Solon. Solon was said to have lectured his host on how good fortune, not wealth, was the basis of happiness.



8 Solon before Croesus, Croesus boasts about his treasures before the Athenian lawgiver and traveler Solon,
painting by Gerard van Honthorst. 1624


Croessus and Solon



Solon, (born c. 630 bc—died c. 560), Athenian statesman, known as one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece. He ended exclusive aristocratic control of the government, substituted a system of control by the wealthy, and introduced a new and more humane law code. He was also a noted poet.

Solon’s era.
In Solon’s lifetime, the Greeks had not yet begun to write history or biography. It was not until the 5th century that accounts of his life and works began to be put together, on the evidence of his poems (of which the 300 or so lines preserved by quotation probably represent only a small proportion), his law code, oral tradition, and inference from existing institutions. Although certain details have a legendary ring, the main features of the story seem to be reliable.

Solon was of noble descent but moderate means. As the tradition states and his travels and economic measures suggest, he may have been a merchant. He first became prominent about 600 bc, when the Athenians were disheartened by ill success in a war with their neighbours of Megara for possession of the island of Salamis. By publicly reciting a poem that made the issue a matter of national honour and that called on the Athenians to “arise and come to Salamis, to win that fair island and undo our shame,” Solon induced them to resume the war, which they eventually won.

The early 6th century was a troubled time for the Athenians in other ways as well. Society was dominated by an aristocracy of birth, the eupatridae, who owned the best land, monopolized the government, and were themselves split into rival factions. The poorer farmers were easily driven into debt by them and when unable to pay were reduced to the condition of serfs on their own land and, in extreme cases, sold into slavery. The intermediate classes of middling farmers, craftsmen, and merchants resented their exclusion from the government. These social, economic, and political evils might well have culminated in a revolution and subsequent tyranny (dictatorship), as they had in other Greek states, had it not been for Solon, to whom Athenians of all classes turned in the hope of a generally satisfactory solution of their problems. Because he believed in moderation and in an ordered society in which each class had its proper place and function, his solution was not revolution but reform.

Economic reforms.
Solon had already held office as archon (annual chief ruler) about 594 bc. It was probably about 20 years later that he was given full powers as reformer and legislator. His first concern was to relieve the immediate distress caused by debt. He redeemed all the forfeited land and freed all the enslaved citizens, probably by fiat. This measure, known popularly as the “shaking off of burdens,” was described by Solon in one of his poems:

These things the black earth . . . could best witness for the judgment of posterity; from whose surface I plucked up the marking-stones [probably signs of the farmers’ indebtedness] planted all about, so that she who was enslaved is now free. And I brought back to Athens . . . many who had been sold, justly or unjustly, or who had fled under the constraint of debt, wandering far afield and no longer speaking the Attic tongue; and I freed those who suffered shameful slavery here and trembled at their masters’ whims.

He also prohibited for the future all loans secured on the borrower’s person. But he refused to go to the length demanded by the poor, which was to redistribute the land. Instead, he passed measures designed to increase the general prosperity and to provide alternative occupations for those unable to live by farming: e.g., trades and professions were encouraged; the export of produce other than olive oil was forbidden (so much grain had been exported that not enough remained to feed the population of Attica); the circulation of coined money (invented in Solon’s lifetime) was stimulated by the minting of a native Athenian coinage on a more suitable standard than that of the coins of neighbours, which had been used hitherto; and new weights and measures were introduced. The rapid spread of the new coinage and of Athenian products, particularly olive oil and pottery, throughout the commercial world of the times, attested by archaeology, shows that these measures were effective. Poverty, though not eliminated, was never again in Attica the crying evil that it had been before Solon’s reforms.

Political reforms.
Solon’s new political constitution abolished the monopoly of the eupatridae and substituted for it government by the wealthy citizens. He instituted a census of annual income, reckoned primarily in measures of grain, oil, and wine, the principal products of the soil, and divided the citizens into four income groups, accordingly. (Those whose income was in other forms, including money, must have been rated on a system of equivalents.) Henceforth, political privilege was allotted on the basis of these divisions, without regard to birth. All citizens were entitled to attend the general Assembly (Ecclesia), which became, at least potentially, the sovereign body, entitled to pass laws and decrees, elect officials, and hear appeals from the most important decisions of the courts. All but those in the poorest group might serve, a year at a time, on a new Council of Four Hundred, which was to prepare business for the Assembly. The higher governmental posts were reserved for citizens of the top two income groups. Thus, the foundations of the future democracy were laid. But a strong conservative element remained in the ancient Council of the Hill of Ares (Areopagus), and the people themselves for a long time preferred to entrust the most important positions to members of the old aristocratic families.

Code of laws.
Solon’s third great contribution to the future good of Athens was his new code of laws. The first written code at Athens, that of Draco (c. 621 bc), was still in force. Draco’s laws were shockingly severe (hence the term draconian)—so severe that they were said to have been written not in ink but in blood. On the civil side they permitted enslavement for debt, and death seems to have been the penalty for almost all criminal offenses. Solon revised every statute except that on homicide and made Athenian law altogether more humane. His code, though supplemented and modified, remained the foundation of Athenian statute law until the end of the 5th century, and parts of it were embodied in the new codification made at that time.

Response to Solon’s reforms.
When Solon had completed his task, complaints came in from all sides. In attempting to satisfy all, he had satisfied none. The nobles had hoped that he would make only marginal changes; the poor, that he would distribute all the land in equal shares and, if necessary, make himself tyrant in order to enforce the redistribution. But Solon, although concerned for freedom, justice, and humanity, was no egalitarian, nor had he any ambition for autocratic power. Though discontented, the Athenians stood by their promise to accept Solon’s dispositions; they were given validity for 100 years and posted for all to see on revolving wooden tablets. To avoid having to defend and explain them further, he set off on a series of travels, undertaking not to return for 10 years.

Later years.
Among the places Solon visited were Egypt and Cyprus. These visits are attested by his poems. Less credible (because of chronological difficulties) is the famous encounter with the fabulously rich Croesus, king of Lydia, who, so the story goes, learned from Solon that wealth and power were not happiness and that, so long as he was alive, no man could be counted happy.

When Solon returned, he found the citizens divided into regional factions headed by prominent nobles. Of these, his friend Peisistratus, general in the final war for Salamis and leader of northeastern Attica, seemed to Solon to be planning to become tyrant. The old statesman’s urgent warnings were disregarded, even dismissed as the ravings of a madman. His reply was that “A little time will show the citizens my madness, / Yes, will show, when truth comes in our midst.” It was not long before he was proved right: Peisistratus did become tyrant (560 bc). Although on this occasion he was soon ejected, it seems that Solon did not live to see it.

Solon embodied the cardinal Greek virtue of moderation. He put an end to the worst evils of poverty in Attica and provided his fellow countrymen with a balanced constitution and a humane code of laws. Solon was also Athens’ first poet—and a poet who truly belonged to Athens. As the medium through which he warned, challenged, counseled the people, and urged them to action, his poetry was the instrument of his statesmanship.

It was probably before the end of the 5th century that the Greeks first drew up a list of the Seven Wise Men who had been prominent intellectually and politically in the 6th century. The earliest list, accepted by the Greek philosopher Plato, did not satisfy later writers, who expanded it to 10 and even 17 to accommodate rival claimants. Every version, however, contained four names that were not challenged. One of them was that of Solon of Athens, a testimony to the abiding respect in which his memory was held.

Theodore John Cadoux

Encyclopædia Britannica


Croesus Receiving Tribute from a Lydian Peasant, by Claude Vignon.


The area's significant deposits of gold inspired the 10 myth of King Midas, son of Gordius, the legendary founder of the kingdom, and the goddess Cybele. Midas committed suicide at the beginning of the  seventh century when the Cimmerians, who were being driven westward by the Scythians, burned the Phrygian capital, Gordium, to the ground.

10 Midas's daughter is turned to gold by his touch,
colored lithograph, 19th century


The Legend of Midas

The legend of Midas relates how Dionysus granted the king his wish that everything he touched would turn to gold. However, when even food and drink turned to gold, he was pushed to the verge of starvation. Then the god commanded him to bathe in the Pactolus River to be freed of his gift, ft was said that this was the reason the little river in Asia Minor had such a wealth of gold. In another myth, Midas was given the ears of an ass by Apollo because he favored Apollo's rival in a contest he judged. Midas concealed his ears under a Phrygian cap. Erroneously interpreted as the cap of liberty, it later became the symbol of freedom during the French Revolution.