- 4 BC
Timeline: 4th Century BCE (400 to 301)
Zoroastrianism is the faith of many Persians. The Zoroastrians believe
in a struggle between their god, Mazda, and the devil. They believe
that the birth of their founder, the prophet Zarathustra, was the
beginning of a final epoch that is to end in an Armageddon and triumph
of good over evil. Perhaps Persian officials or merchants in Judah are
passing Zoroastrian notions to the Jews, who at this time have respect
for Persians and the late Cyrus II, who freed the Jewish captives in
Democrats, back in power in Athens and afraid of enemies, condemn the
aristocratic philosopher Socrates to death. Socrates wants people to
question, and he pretends to be without conclusions. He believes in a
god like that of his teacher, Anaxagoras. Like Xenophanes he thinks
that the gods of Homer are examples of bad behavior. Greeks are looking
upon Homer's writing as divinely inspired and as a reference for
religious thought. Those who sentence Socrates at least pretended to be
believers in the gods of the common people, and they consider Socrates
subversive and against democracy.
Antisthenes is around forty. He has founded a school of thought called
Cynicism. He is disgusted by the world around him and what he sees as
the worthless quibbling of refined philosophy. He has left the company
of other philosophers and preaches to common people in market places
using simple language. He tells people that virtue demands withdrawal
from involvement with a world that is immoral and corrupt. But dropping
out is meaningless to people trying to survive.
Rome, now grown to about thirty by twenty miles, responds to a request
from the Etruscan city of Clusium for help against an attack by a
Celtic people called Gauls.
The Gauls attack and almost destroy Rome. Rome is determined to be
stronger. They are to adopt new military weaponry, dropping the spear
in favor of a two-foot long sword. The Romans also begin to use
helmets, breastplates and a shield with iron edges. And they are to
reorganize their army.
The philosopher Plato turns forty. He returns to Athens from exile and
starts his own academy. Plato dislikes democrats and the likes of
Protagoras (the sophists). He is an aristocrat who dislikes the world
around him, including aristocratic rule, and he favors a society
divided into classes and run by philosophers. He believes that
abstractions are real unto themselves rather than representations, that
words are absolutes rather than convention and representative of
meaning. He understands nothing about the body allowing the brain to
function. The heavens, he believes, are nothing but perfection,
including perfect circles. He belongs to the Pythagorian tradition in
philosophy. And like his mentor, Socrates, he is a monotheist.
Carthage has begun trading with Africans to their south, sending iron
through the Sahara. Iron smelting has appeared in what we now call
Nigeria. The use of iron is improving hunting and forest farming, which
is helping to build population pressures that send Bantu speaking
people migrating eastward.
Sparta has made a mess of policing other Greek city-states. Sparta is
no longer the society it was a century before. It is defeated by
Thebes. Greeks recognize that Sparta's domination has ended, and new
coalitions form across Greece.
Jerusalem has been rebuilt and the power of Judaism's hereditary
priesthood is firmly established. If a father finds his son rebellious
and disobedient he can take him to the city elders and have him stoned
to death. In a dispute that goes to court, a man judged wicked is
whipped, but no more than forty times. Priest scribes have described
the Hebrews as descendants of Noah and Noah's forebears as the first
family of humankind. And the priest scribes describe the god of the
Jews as supreme above all other gods. Moses is described as living
during the time of the kingdoms of Moab and Edom, and Abraham is
described as living when the Chaldeans were in possession of Sumer.
Jewish law permits slavery, but the enslavement of a fellow Jew is
restricted to seven years.
Hindu stories, the Ramayana and Mahabharata, are being put into
writing. They are from oral tradition, and, like Homer's Iliad, they
focus on the power of the gods and praise the heroism and virtues of
warrior-princes. The heroes of these sacred stories are devoted to
truth, have a strong sense of duty and affection for their parents.
The Athenian orator Demosthenes turns forty. Of marriage he has said or
will say: "We have prostitutes for our pleasure, concubines for our
health and wives to bear us lawful offspring."
Also, Aristotle turns forty. He had been a student of Plato. He
dislikes Plato's utopia and believes more in empiricism than does
Plato. His empiricism: If you do not believe that rivers begin as
little streams in mountains, follow them upstream. He likes to
categorize everything, including things biological. He believes in
syllogistic logic - consistency from the general to the specific. He
believes in harmony and balance, that the best is between extremes,
including a balance between state power and individual freedom. He
believes in the god of Anaxagoras. He dislikes communism and supports
slavery. He is for a balance between individualism and a
totalitarian enforcement of collective interests.
2) An army from the nation-state of Macedonia, led by its
king, Philip II, defeats the combined forces of the Greek city-states
Athens and Thebes, at the Battle of Chaeronea.
Philip II has created a strong and unified nation in Macedonia. He is
devoted to Greek culture and has hired Aristotle to tutor his son,
Alexander. He imposes unity on the divided Greek city-states and
creates the Hellenic League, which meets for the first time in the city
Philip II is assassinated. Alexander becomes king.
Alexander begins warring against Persia, he and his army moving through
the Persian empire, from Asia Minor, to Egypt, across Persia, into the
Hindu Kush and the Indus Valley.
1) Alexander defeats an army of Persia's King Darius III and
his Greek mercenaries, at the Battle of Gaugamela.
Alexander returns to his new capital, Babylon. He wants cooperation and
brotherhood across his empire and has plans for expanded commerce and
extending his rule to Italy. Then he dies, at thirty-two. Myth is still
the dominant way of considering the past, and many myths about
Alexander are to develop.
Alexander's Persian wife, Roxana, gives birth to Alexander's child,
Alexander IV. Alexander's generals have sworn to keep Alexander's
empire together, but for some Macedonians it is unthinkable that their
king should be the son of a barbarian Asian woman.
In India, competition between kingdoms produces one dominant power
under Chandragupta Maura, founder of a new dynasty.
Alexander the Great's mother, Olympias, has claimed rule in Macedonia,
has raised an army and is supporting the legitimacy of Roxana's son,
Alexander IV. Macedonia is overrun by her opponents and she is killed.
Alexander IV is executed, and his mother, Roxana, also dies. Former
subordinates of Alexander the Great have been fighting each other and
are dividing his empire. Alexander's former bodyguard, Ptolemy, is
making himself king of Egypt.
A former officer in Alexander's army, Seleucus, considers himself
emperor across Persia and into lands east of Persia. He attempts to
recover lands taken by Chandragupta that had been a part of Alexander's
Empire. Chandragupta turns back Seleucus' drive and Seleucus is forced
to agree to peace terms. Chandragupta then conquers into the Himalayas
and the rest of northern India.
Chandragupta abdicates in favor of one of his sons and withdraws with a
Jainist sage to a religious retreat. There, while appealing to God for
relief from a drought, he fasts to death.
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