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






First Empires

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


The Sea Peoples and Equestrian Peoples

Around 1200 B.C., the Eastern Mediterranean area experienced great changes. Neither high civilizations, such as the Hittite empire, nor civilizations like the Mycenaeans, Minoans, or Canaanites were a match for the advance of the sea and equestrian peoples.


The term "sea peoples." which appears in Egyptian and Hittite sources from around 1300 B.C. onward, refers collectively to diverse foreign tribes. Controversy still exists as to their origins. Speculation has traced them to Illyria (today's Croatia and Slovenia) but also to Asia Minor and the Aegean area.

The 4 seagoing people at first spread fear among the settled trading tribes, until they—like the Philistines—permanently settled. The Philistines conquered the coastal region of Palestine and Syria and destroyed the Canaanite city-states. This facilitated the immigration of the Israelites.

4 Prisoners of the sea peoples who have been tied together by the hair

The migratory movements of the Greeks, Thracians, Phrygians, and Lydians fit into this pattern of sea peoples' migrations. The Greeks coming out of the Balkans and invading present-day Greece destroyed the cultures of the Mycenaeans and 3 Minoans. The Hittite empire also went under with the onslaught of the seagoing tribes. The Thracians, Phrygians, and Lydians penetrated Asia Minor from the north; the Greeks and other seafaring peoples fell upon Asia Minor's coasts. The Etruscans also seem to be descended from a seafaring tribe as suggested by the Aeneas saga, which is linked to the founding of Rome.

3 Seaborne procession, Minoan mural. 16th century B.C.

The most significant equestrian tribes of the period were the Indo-European Cimmerians and 5 Scythians, who advanced out of the Eurasian steppes and into Asia Minor and Iran in the south, as well as modern Germany and Italy to the west. The Cimmerians, who had been expelled by the Scythians, destroyed the Kingdom of Urartu in alliance with the Assyrians. They were then pushed into Asia Minor, where they defeated the Phrygians only to be annihilated by the Lydians. Up until 100 B.C., the Scythians occupied the area of present-day Ukraine, but they were then absorbed by other nomadic and equestrian peoples such as the 6 Sarmatians.

5 Scythian riders, tapestry, fourth/fifth century B.C.

6 Sarmatian horse soldiers in armor on armored horses, Pillar of Troy, Rome, 113 B.C.

Reconstruction of Atlantis following the specifications of Plato

The Atlantis Legend

Some researchers link the Atlantis legend to the emergence of the seafaring peoples. According to this theory, a great natural disaster set off the migratory movements. Today, archaeologists suspect the epicenter of this disaster was the island of Santorini (Thera) in the Aegean. Here, in the 17th century B.C., a volcanic eruption caused a large part of the island to sink into the sea. Underwater earthquakes and the fallout of ash affected the whole region and might have forced the inhabitants to flee in a long-term migration.


The Old Assyrian and Middle Assyrian Kingdoms (ca. 1800-1047 в.с.)

The Assyrian kingdom developed in the north of Mesopotamia at the beginning of the second millennium B.C. Due to their superior methods of warfare, the Assyrians were feared by neighboring peoples.

The city of Ashur was a hub of  Mesopotamian trade with Syria,  Anatolia, and Iran. Its rulers laid claims to an empire as early as the time of 2 Shamshi-Adad I and briefly assumed independence (Old Assyrian Kingdom, ca. 1800-1375 в.с.) before coming under the sovereignty of the Hurrites of Mitanni. Assyria became an independent state under the "great kings" of the Middle Assyrian Kingdom (1375-1047 в.с).

In the middle of the 14th century B.C.. Ashur-uballit I (1365-1330 B.C.) broke from Mitanni and forged close ties with Egypt and Babylon. Adadnirari I (ca.1305-1275 B.C) extended the kingdom at Babylonia's expense and was known by the title "King of All."

2 Clay tablet bearing the signature of the Assyrian king Shamshi-Adad I, 1813-1781 B.C.

Assyria's transformation into an expansive military power  with a well-trained 3 army began in the 13th century under rulers  Shahnaneserl (1274-1245 в.с.) and Tukulti-Ninurta I (ca. 1294-1208 B.C.). Tukulti-Ninurta I immortalized his deeds in his Tiikulti-Ninurta Epic, which then became the model for the personal  aggrandizement of Assyrian rulers. According to the Assyrian religion, the state god Ashur had destined his people, over whose welfare the 4 genies watched, for world dominance.

The Assyrians subjugated their neighbors in a series of devastating military 1 campaigns, often conducted with great brutality.

The inhabitants of the conquered territories were 5 deported in the tens of thousands into other parts of the Assyrian Empire, where they were used as forced labor. Revolts of the subjugated regions were considered a crime against the "divine world order" and were crushed with cruel punitive expeditions.

5 Prisoners of war being carried away into slavery in the Assyrian empire,
women and children riding on a wagon drawn by oxen; stone relief, seventh с. в.с.

1 Assyrian fighter kills his enemy, ninth century B.C.
3 Assyrian spear-carrier, eighth c. B.C.
4 Winged genie, ninth century B.C.

Tiglath-pileser I (ca. 1115— 1077 B.C.) extended the empire into northern Syria and Asia Minor. After occupying the Phoenician trading cities, he levied tribute on them. Alongside these military conquests he also promoted scientific research, particularly with regard to zoology, and oversaw the compilation of a great library and encouraged cultural developments. After his death, the expansion of the Middle Assyrian Kingdom came to an end. Pressure from the Aramaean tribes seeking to break into the fertile lands of Mesopotamia, and a revived Babylonian kingdom, ushered in a period of Assyrian decline. The ancient capital of Ashur was later abandoned in favour of  Nineveh, a new capital on the banks of the upper River Tigris.






The Neo-Babylonian Kingdom of the Chaldeans  625-539 B.C.

The greed for power and the luxury of the Neo-Babylonian Kingdom served as the Old Testament model for the depths of iniquity.

Neo-Babylonia empire 540 b.c.

The Chaldeans, one of the Semitic tribes of Aramaeans, moved into southern Mesopotamia in about 850 B.C. and rose up against Babylon's Assyrian rulers. Eventually they prevailed. Nabopolassar (625-605 B.C.) founded the Neo-Babylonian Kingdom and defeated the Assyrians in 612 b.c. by capturing and destroying Nineveh on the east bank of the Tigris.

Nabopolassar's son Nebuchadressar, known in the Bible as 2 Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 b.c), dedicated himself primarily to 3 constructing imposing buildings. In the temple district of Babylon, he had a 5 processional passage and the Ishtar Gate built and decorated with colored relief tiles.

The passage led to a massive central 4 ziggurat, which may have inspired the 6 "Tower of Babel."

His palace's 9 hanging gardens became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Babylon was also a world center for the sciences, above all of astronomy, astrology, and the mantic arts.


2 Seal with the name and title of Nebuchadressar II, 604-562 B.C.
Reconstruction sketch of Babylon under Nebuchadressar II
4 Model of the ziggurat of Babylon built under Nebuchadressar II

5 Festive procession in Babylon; still from the film The Fall of Babylon, 1916


Martin John, The Fall of Babylon, 1831


9 Reconstruction sketch of the hanging gardens of Babylon, 18th century a.d.


The Tower of Babel

Nebuchadressar ll's tower in Babylon, a five-tiered temple in honor of the chief god Marduk, had a square base of around 300 feet (91 m) per side and was about 295 feet (90 m) high. It was called "Ete-menanki" ("House which is the foundation of heaven and earth"). The top was reached by climbing three staircases on the south side. The top levels comprised a two-story temple and were covered in blue tiles. According to Genesis 11:1-9, it reached to heaven and was a symbol of human pride, which was punished by the Babylonian confusion of tongues.

Tower Building at Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 16th century A.D.


Militarily, Nebuchadressar II directed his activities against Egypt and then Palestine. In 597 B.C. he plundered 7 Jerusalem for the first time when it refused to make tribute payments, and in 587 he then destroyed the city.

Its inhabitants were led into 8 "Babylonian captivity" and employed as forced labor. Of the Phoenician city-states, only Tyre was able to withstand conquest by Nebuchadressar.

His successors were weakened by family feuds, and eventually the usurper Nabonidus managed to reconsolidate the empire and repulse the invading Medes in 553 B.C. In 550 he installed his son Belshazzar (also known as Nidintabel and Nebuchadressar III) as regent in Babylon and withdrew to the Oasis of Teima. When he returned in 539 it was already too late; the Persians under Cyrus II had annihilated the armies of Belshazzar and entered Babylon.

7 Nebuchadnessar Besieges Jerusalem,
illumination from a medieval Bible translation, 14th century A.D.

8 Slaves transport a stone block,
still from the film Metropolis, 1927


Nebuchadrezzar II

Nebuchadrezzar II, (born c. 630—died c. 561 bc), the second and greatest king of the Chaldean dynasty of Babylonia (reigned c. 605–c. 561 bc). He was known for his military might, the splendour of his capital, Babylon, and his important part in Jewish history.
Nebuchadrezzar II was the oldest son and successor of Nabopolassar, founder of the Chaldean empire. He is known from cuneiform inscriptions, the Bible and later Jewish sources, and classical authors. His name, from the Akkadian Nabu-kudurri-uṣur, means “O Nabu, watch over my heir.”
While his father disclaimed royal descent, Nebuchadrezzar claimed the third-millennium Akkadian ruler Naram-Sin as ancestor. The year of his birth is uncertain, but it is not likely to have been before 630 bc, for according to tradition Nebuchadrezzar began his military career as a young man, appearing as a military administrator by 610. He is first mentioned by his father as working as a labourer in the restoration of the temple of Marduk, the chief god of the city of Babylon and the national god of Babylonia.

In 607/606, as crown prince, Nebuchadrezzar commanded an army with his father in the mountains north of Assyria, subsequently leading independent operations after Nabopolassar’s return to Babylon. After a Babylonian reverse at the hands of Egypt in 606/605, he served as commander in chief in his father’s place and by brilliant generalship shattered the Egyptian army at Carchemish and Hamath, thereby securing control of all Syria. After his father’s death on Aug. 16, 605, Nebuchadrezzar returned to Babylon and ascended the throne within three weeks. This rapid consolidation of his accession and the fact that he could return to Syria shortly afterward reflected his strong grip on the empire.
On expeditions in Syria and Palestine from June to December of 604, Nebuchadrezzar received the submission of local states, including Judah, and captured the city of Ashkelon. With Greek mercenaries in his armies, further campaigns to extend Babylonian control in Palestine followed in the three succeeding years. On the last occasion (601/600), Nebuchadrezzar clashed with an Egyptian army, with heavy losses; this reverse was followed by the defection of certain vassal states, Judah among them. This brought an intermission in the series of annual campaigns in 600/599, while Nebuchadrezzar remained in Babylonia repairing his losses of chariots. Measures to regain control were resumed at the end of 599/598 (December to March). Nebuchadrezzar’s strategic planning appeared in his attack on the Arab tribes of northwestern Arabia, in preparation for the occupation of Judah. He attacked Judah a year later and captured Jerusalem on March 16, 597, deporting King Jehoiachin to Babylon. After a further brief Syrian campaign in 596/595, Nebuchadrezzar had to act in eastern Babylonia to repel a threatened invasion, probably from Elam (modern southwestern Iran). Tensions in Babylonia were revealed by a rebellion late in 595/594 involving elements of the army, but he was able to put this down decisively enough to undertake two further campaigns in Syria during 594.

Nebuchadrezzar’s further military activities are known not from extant chronicles but from other sources, particularly the Bible, which records another attack on Jerusalem and a siege of Tyre (lasting 13 years, according to the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus) and hints at an invasion of Egypt. The siege of Jerusalem ended in its capture in 587/586 and in the deportation of prominent citizens, with a further deportation in 582. In this respect he followed the methods of his Assyrian predecessors.
Much influenced by the Assyrian imperial tradition, Nebuchadrezzar consciously pursued a policy of expansion, claiming the grant of universal kingship by Marduk and praying to have “no opponent from horizon to sky.” From cuneiform fragments he is known to have attempted the invasion of Egypt, the culmination of his expansionist policy, in 568/567.
In addition to being a brilliant tactician and strategist, Nebuchadrezzar was also prominent in international diplomacy, as shown in his sending an ambassador (probably Nabonidus, a successor) to mediate between the Medes and Lydians in Asia Minor. He died about 561 and was succeeded by his son Awil-Marduk (Evil-Merodach of 2 Kings).

Nebuchadrezzar’s main activity, other than as military commander, was the rebuilding of Babylon. He completed and extended fortifications begun by his father, built a great moat and a new outer defense wall, paved the ceremonial Processional Way with limestone, rebuilt and embellished the principal temples, and cut canals. This he did not only for his own glorification but also in honour of the gods. He claimed to be “the one who set in the mouth of the people reverence for the great gods” and disparaged predecessors who had built palaces elsewhere than at Babylon and had only journeyed there for the New Year Feast.
Little is known of his family life beyond the tradition that he married a Median princess, whose yearning for her native terrain he sought to ease by creating gardens simulating hills. A structure representing these hanging gardens cannot be positively identified in either the cuneiform texts or the archaeological remains.
Despite the fateful part he played in Judah’s history, Nebuchadrezzar is seen in Jewish tradition in a predominantly favourable light. It was claimed that he gave orders for the protection of Jeremiah, who regarded him as God’s appointed instrument whom it was impiety to disobey, and the prophet Ezekiel expressed a similar view at the attack on Tyre. A corresponding attitude to Nebuchadrezzar, as God’s instrument against wrongdoers, occurs in the Apocrypha in 1 Esdras and, as protector to be prayed for, in Baruch. In Daniel (Old Testament) and in Bel and the Dragon (Apocrypha), Nebuchadrezzar appears as a man, initially deceived by bad advisers, who welcomes the situation in which truth is triumphant and God is vindicated.
There is no independent support for the tradition in Daniel of Nebuchadrezzar’s seven years’ madness, and the story probably arose from a fanciful later interpretation of texts concerned with events under Nabonidus, who showed apparent eccentricity in deserting Babylon for a decade to live in Arabia.
In modern times Nebuchadrezzar has been treated as the type of godless conqueror; Napoleon was compared to him. The story of Nebuchadrezzar is the basis of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Nabucco, while his supposed madness is the theme of William Blake’s picture “Nebuchadnezzar.”

Henry W.F. Saggs

Encyclopædia Britannica



Belshazzar's Fall

In Biblical tradition (Daniel 5), Belshazzar insulted his God, whereupon a hand appeared and wrote "Menetekel" on the wall, which the king interpreted as a warning of the imminent fall of Babylon. The king was murdered that night.

Belshazzar's Feast
Rembrandt van Rijn, 17th century a.d.