- 3 BC
Timeline: 3rd Century BCE (300 to 201)
Taoists scoff at Confucianism's veneration of early Zhou kings and
reject Confucianism's striving for virtue, belief in ritual and
governmental regulation. They expect society to continue to be driven
by greed and lust for power, and they advocate withdrawal from social
strife. For ending strife and greed they advocate an end to profits.
The Taoists seek serenity in the beauties of nature and in surrender to
the will of heaven. They have a saying not fashioned to encourage
technological and economic growth: He who does nothing accomplishes
Zeno of Citium turns forty. He has founded a new school of thought:
stoicism. Zeno believes that God is the father to all and that all men
are therefore brothers. He looks forward to one great nation under
divine laws to which everyone consents - a nation bound together by
love. He believes in God's will, that God works in mysterious ways,
that humanity sees only a tiny portion of God's plan. Believing that
God plans all, he believes in facing all circumstances with
resignation. He and his followers believe that self-discipline is the
starting point of virtue and that freedom is a state of mind. For the
Stoics, poverty and slavery affect only the body. The poorest slave,
they hold, could be a king in his own soul.
Epicurus is turning fifty. He is founder of a school of thought opposed
to cynicism and stoicism. His is a philosophy for people who have
enough wealth to live a life of ease and have enough time to smell the
roses. He too is against exposing oneself to strife. He is atheistic.
He believes in an empirical approach to knowledge and explains why he
thinks life is worth living.
The great library at Alexandria is founded. A new Hellenistic,
cosmopolitan culture is rising in the wake of Alexander's empire.
Commercial enterprises are growing. Merchant ships are bigger. From
Marseille to India, Greek is becoming the language of business.
Education and training are on the rise. Migrations are increasing and
with it religious diffusions. Monotheism is on the rise with the belief
that all of the gods worshiped across the world are really Zeus, that
Zeus is the universal god. Slavery continues.
Ptolemy abdicates in favor of his twenty-five year-old son, Ptolemy II.
To win support from the Egyptians the Ptolomies have created a cult
that includes worship of the goddess Isis. Priests clad in white
initiate people by submerging them in the Nile or in sacred water from
the Nile, believed to remove one's sins. The daily routine of the
priests faith includes ceremonies with the singing of hymns and
sprinkling of sacred water. Members of the cult believe that they will
be judged after death, and they hope that with death they will pass
into an everlasting life.
Pyrrhon, founder of a school of thought called skepticism, turns forty.
While a soldier with Alexander he had come into contact with a variety
of cultures and conflicting beliefs. He is the ultimate cultural
relativist, holding that equally valid arguments can be made on both
sides of any question and that there is no way to know which point of
view is correct. He takes an absolutist approach to knowledge,
believing that because we can know nothing with certainty we know
nothing at all. Pyrrhon is left with intuition and faith.
What matters, believes Pyrrhon, is living well and living unperturbed.
Rome wins its last war over who will dominate Italy, defeating the city
of Tarentum and its ally, a former kinsman of Alexander the Great,
Pyrrhus, of "Pyrrhic victory" fame.
Rome goes to war against Carthage, the result of a politician arousing
the chauvinism of Roman citizens, overriding the Roman Senate's
misgivings and breaking an old treaty with Carthage.
Asoka (Ashoka), grandson of Chandragupta Maurya, has been ruling the
great Maurya Empire since around the year 273. He is disgusted by his
wars of expansion and converts to Buddhism. He gives up the kingly
pastime of hunting game and instead goes on religious pilgrimages. He
supports philanthropies, advocates non-violence, vegetarianism, charity
and tenderness to all living things. He proselytizes for Buddhism and
promises no more wars of expansion. He keeps an army for defense. He
maintains monarchical authoritarianism and the network of spies that he
In Alexandria, most literate Jews cannot read Hebrew, and the Five
Books of Moses are translated into Greek - a translation called the
Septuagint. The translations are proclaimed to be miraculous creations,
and a curse is announced against anyone who changes what has been
produced. Jews in different areas need clarifications, and they ignore
the curse and insert new words to fit local meaning.
In Greece an alarm clock is created - a water clock.
Parthians, from the steppe lands east of the Caspian Sea, have been
establishing themselves in Persia, and their chief, Arcases, becomes
The governor for the Seleucus dynasty in Bactria declares Bactria's
independence. The Seleucus dynasty continues to rule in Syria,
Mesopotamia, Palestine and parts of Persia. Colonies that Alexander
created are islands in a sea of eastern people, and Greek culture is
diffusing with eastern cultures.
Twenty-three years of war between Carthage and Rome comes to an end.
Many Romans believe that victory confirms that their city has been
called on by the gods for a special destiny. Rome's concern for
security has been raised. Rome wins control over Corsica and Sardinia.
The Sardinians resist. Roman soldiers with trained dogs invade
Sardinia, hunt down people and glut the slave market in Italy. A new
saying emerges: "as cheap as a Sardinian."
To Japan's major southern island, Kyushu, migrants have brought, or are
about to bring, a culture with iron, bronze, tool making and wet-rice
agriculture. The migrants are perhaps from Korea - the shortest
distance from the Asian mainland and where such ways of living exists.
Sometime around now, the scholar Han Feizi complains about people
thinking that five sons are not too many. People are more, he writes,
and wealth is less. "The life of a nation depends on having enough
food, not upon the number of people."
The scholar Han Feizi kills himself or dies as a result of political
intrigue, at the age of around 47. He had abandoned Confucianism,
believing that moral example is not enough. He has followers known as
Legalists. The Legalists see goodness as people cooperating with
authority. Society, they believe, must be organized by the state.
Seeing rivalries between states as a fact of life, the Legalists
believe in strengthening the state, and some of them advocate expansion
as a means of strengthening the state. Seeing Taoism and Confucianism
as unessential and divisive, the Legalists favor restricting these.
Qin, the most eastern of the states in Zhou civilization, defeats the
first of its rival states, Han, in a drive to unify all the states of
Zhou civilization. Qin has been considered the most barbaric of states,
mixed as it was with tribal peoples to the west. But it has been the
most innovative and vigorous of the states, and it has been open to
immigration, adding to its manpower.
Qin has defeated its other rivals: Chao, Wei, Ch'u and Yan. Qin's ruler
takes the title of First Emperor - Shihuang-di. It is said that Heaven
has given him the mandate to rule. The new and widespread unity gives
birth to what will be called China.
The second war between Carthage and Rome begins, sparked by a clash
of interests between the two imperial powers in Spain. The
Carthaginians, led by Hannibal, cross from Spain through Gaul and over
the Swiss Alps into Italy.
At Lake Trasimenus, the Carthaginians kill all but a few Roman
soldiers, and in the wake of this disaster, on December 17th, Rome
introduces a festival to lift the morale of its citizens, a festival
called Saturnalia for the god of agriculture, Saturn. The courts and
schools close and military operations are suspended so that soldiers
can celebrate. It is a time of goodwill and jollity that includes
visiting people, banqueting and exchanging gifts.
Shihuang-di is trying to secure his rule. He is collecting weapons from
all those not in his armies, and his agents are confiscating books
thought to be dangerous. Books on agriculture, forestry, herbal
medicine and divination are spared. Writings of Confucius and his
followers are burned. Shihuang-di makes himself an enemy to
Shihuang-di dies and civil war erupts.
In China's civil war, Liu Bang, a former policemen, has been better at
attracting support, and he defeats his brutal and ruthless rival, Xiang
Yu. Having won the title Prince of Han, Liu Bang begins what is to be
known as the Han dynasty.
After sixteen years of fighting, the second war between Carthage and
Rome is about over. A Roman soldier runs a sword through the Greek
scientist and philosopher, Archemides, at his home in Syracuse.
Rome defeats Carthage. Hannibal finds refuge with the Seleucid king in
Syria, Antiochus III. Rome considers itself ruler on the Iberian
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