- 5 BC
Timeline: 5th Century BCE (500 to 401)
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
In Asia Minor, Greeks begin a rebellion against Persian rule.
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.
Darius the Great dies at around the age of seventy-two.
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)
Xerxes, son of Darius, marches an army through Thrace and into mainland
Greece. The Persians are trying to extend their empire too far.
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.
The navy of Athens is still taking war to the Persians, and, asserting
leadership, Athens is turning its alliance with other Greek cities into
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.
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.
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."
The Hebrew priest Ezra reads the Book of the Law to the people of
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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