Texts in Context:
Timeline of the Early Iron Age

By Gabriel Blanchard

Several dates below are approximate and/or conjectural; some that are especially uncertain are noted with a question mark. To see our previous (and first) summary timeline in full, covering the Stone and Bronze Ages, go here; the last few dates it lists from the Bronze Age are listed at the top for context.

The End of the Late Bronze Age
  • ca. 1200-1190 BC—Trojan War (date of any historical matter behind The Iliad); Wilusa sacked, destroyed.
  • ca. 1200-1100 BC—Late Bronze Age collapse: most powers in eastern Mediterranean, Near East crumble due to drought, famine, plague epidemic, invasions by Sea Peoples; Linear B script lost in Ægean basin; Dorian invasion of Greece?
  • ca. 1180 BC—Hittite capital of Hattusa destroyed; permanent end of Hittite power.
  • 1077 BC—Death of Pharaoh Ramesses XI; end of New Kingdom.
Early Iron Age Antiquity

For an introduction to the Early Iron Age in general, see this post.

The Mediterranean Dark Age

To read more about the ancient Israelite people, who pop up a good deal both here and in the Greek Late Archaic Period, see this post; for a literal map of Dark Age Greece, see this one. For a glance at world history around roughly this period (which will be our last “bird’s eye view” for a long while), go here.

  • ca. 1010-970 BC?—Reign of David, founder of Israelite dynasty known as the House of David.*
  • ca. 970-930 BC?—Reign of Solomon, David’s son, and construction of Solomon’s (a.k.a. First) Temple.*
  • ca. 930 BC?—Division of Canaan into Kingdoms of Israel (capital at Samaria) and Judah (capital at Jerusalem) during reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam?*
  • ca. 900 BC—Earliest evidence of Etruscan civilization in north-central Italy.
  • 911 BC—Neo-Assyrian Empire founded.
  • ca. 850-700 BC?—Life of Homer?
  • ca. 820 BC—Traditional date of reforms of Sparta by Lycurgus, basis of its unique culture.
  • 814 BC—Traditional date of founding of Carthage.
The Greek Early Archaic Period**

For an introduction to the entire Archaic Period (dating roughly from the invention of the Greek alphabet to the Ionian Revolt of 499-493 BC), see this post.

  • ca. 800-750 BC?—New Greek alphabet introduced (ending approximately four hundred years of non-literacy†), based on Phoenician script; Greek colonization of Magna Græcia (“greater Greece”), i.e. Sicily and the south of Italy, begins no later than this time.
  • 776 BC—Traditional date of beginning of Olympic Games in Greece.
  • 753 BC—Traditional date of founding of Rome.
  • ca. 750-650 BC?—Life of Hesiod.
  • 722 BC—Neo-Assyrian Empire conquers Kingdom of Israel as part of broader campaign in the Levant; some refugees flee south to Judah.
  • 715-672 BC—Traditional dates for reign of Numa Pompilius, second King of Rome and codifier of many Roman institutions and rituals.
  • 712 BC—Kingdom of Kush (in modern Sudan) conquers Upper and Lower Egypt, establishing itself as the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty (or the Kushite Empire); Egypt enjoys renewal of prosperity and power.
  • ca. 700 BC—Earliest known Etruscan writing (using variant Greek alphabet from Magna Græcia), later basis for Latin alphabet.‡
  • 657 BC—Cypselus of Corinth overthrows corrupt local aristocracy and usurps government with popular support, becoming first known tyrant in Greece; tyrannies become increasingly common in Greek city-states over next 150 years.
  • 656 BC—Kushites expelled from Egypt by Psamtik I, founder of the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty.
The Greek Late Archaic Period

For a description of the beginnings of Western philosophy among the Ionians, go to this post; for a closer look at the authoritarian military dyarchy of Sparta and the mercurial plutocracy democracy of Athens, go to this one.

  • ca. 650 BC—Invention of coinage (possibly in Kingdom of Lydia in western Anatolia), which quickly spreads around Mediterranean as convenient way to use precious metals as currency.
  • 636 BC—Cylon of Athens attempts coup in order to become tyrant of the city, but is unsuccessful; convinced to stand trial, he is treacherously executed.
  • ca. 630-560 BC—Probable dates for life of Solon, celebrated Athenian statesman and poet.
  • ca. 623-545 BC—Probable dates for life of Thales of Miletus, founder of Western philosophy.
  • ca. 620-564 BC—Probable dates for life of Æsop.
  • 616 BC—Traditional date of accession of Tarquin the Elder, fifth King of Rome and founder of its Etruscan Dynasty.
  • 610 BC—Collapse of Neo-Assyrian Empire; ascendancy of Neo-Babylonian Empire.
  • 586 BC—Siege of Jerusalem by Neo-Babylonians; Solomonic Temple looted and razed. Judahite nobility and scribal class deported to Mesopotamia to prevent rebellion; beginning of Exilic period of Judaism (important period of theological development).
  • 585 BC—Eclipse in Anatolia successfully predicted by Thales of Miletus (first recorded example of experimental verification of a scientific theory); said eclipse interrupts Battle of Halys (far further east in Anatolia) between Lydia and Median Empire, convincing Lydians and Medes to make peace.
  • ca. 570-495 BC—Probable dates for life of Pythagoras, major pre-Socratic philosopher, mathematician, and mystic.
  • 561-510 BC—Long period of political tension in Athens: intermittent tyrannies of Peisistratus and, after his death, his sons Hippias and Hipparchus, ending in assassination of Hipparchus and overthrow and expulsion of Hippias from Athens, with aid from Sparta.
  • 549 BC—Achæmenid Persian Empire, led by Emperor Cyrus the Great, established, overthrowing Median Empire.
  • 547 BC?—King Croesus of Lydia wages war on Persian Empire to avenge Medes (purportedly on advice from Delphic oracle that “If Croesus attacks the Persians, he will destroy a great empire”): Lydia conquered (destroying Croesus’s own empire), with Greek vassal cities of Ionia.
  • 539 BC—Cyrus conquers Neo-Babylonian Empire.
  • ca. 535 BC—Cyrus permits return of Jewish exiles to Holy Land; construction of Second Temple begins, but is soon interrupted by reports the Jews are planning to rebel.
  • 522 BC—Accession of Darius the Great to Persian throne; construction of Second Temple resumes in following year, under supervision of Ezra and Nehemiah.
  • 524-455 BC—Life of Æschylus, first major Athenian tragic playwright.
  • 516 BC—Consecration of Second Temple in Jerusalem (though work probably continued after this date).
  • 509 BC—Sextus Tarquin, son of Tarquin the Arrogant (seventh and last King of Rome), rapes married noblewoman Lucretia; rebellion prompted, led by King Tarquin’s nephew Brutus (with Lucretia’s father and her husband), which overthrows and abolishes monarchy; Roman Republic established.
  • 508 BC—After two years of unrest following exile of Hippias, Cleisthenes of Athens institutes constitutional reforms known as isonomia, or Athenian democracy.
  • ca. 500 BC?—Floruit of Ephesian philosopher Heraclitus.
  • 499 BC—Ionian Revolt (aided by Athens) against Achæmenid rule signals beginning of Græco-Persian Wars and transition from Archaic to Classical Period.

Happy the people whose annals are tiresome.

*Scholars are divided on how far the Bible’s portrait of a pan-Israelite monarchy under the early House of David is historical. Literary and archæological evidence both seem to point in multiple directions. (Indeed, given the three Israelite civil wars the Bible assigns to David’s reign—against Saul, Eshbaal, and Absalom—it would seem we should expect confusion in the evidence both if the Bible’s account is inaccurate and if it is accurate!)
**From this point on, we must name our periods partly by region, even though the timelines will continue to reflect events from outside the named region of focus (as the non-Greek dates in this period show). Before now, developments have been slow enough that a trans-continental history has been possible. After this, the events and changes that are relevant to our narrative begin to come on more rapidly; moreover, phases of action do not consistently align between one civilization and another (e.g., the classical period of ancient Greece traditionally falls in the fifth and fourth centuries BC, but the equivalent period in the closely-related civilization of Rome appears few hundred years later).
†”Non-literacy” rather than “illiteracy,” since this was not merely a matter of people not knowing the Greek script, but a matter of there not being any Greek script to know.
‡Attica and Ionia, the most prestigious intellectual centers of Hellenic culture, used the Ionian variant of the Greek script; their influence is likely why that variant is recognized today as “the Greek alphabet.” Colonists of Magna Græcia mainly used a different variant (sometimes called the Euboean), which assigned sound values to certain letters differently. Some of these differences—like the use of X for the ks sound, instead of the hard kh sound X represents in Ionian script—were transferred to Latin accordingly.

Gabriel Blanchard (who has hardly ever destroyed a great empire, even on oracular advice) is CLT’s editor at large. He lives in Baltimore, MD.

Thank you for reading the CLT Journal. To see more of our “Texts in Context” series, outlining Western history and giving context to the great books curriculum we promote at CLT, go here.

Published on 10th June, 2024. Page image of the ruins of the Temple of Apollo at Corinth, one of the first (if not the very first) Greek temples to be constructed out of stone.

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