The 5th century BC
started the first day of 500 BC
and ended the last day of 401 BC
This century saw the beginning of a period of philosophical brilliance among Western civilizations, particularly the Greeks which would continue all the way through the 4th century until the time of Alexander the Great. Ancient Greek philosophy developed during the 5th century BC, setting the foundation for Western ideology. In Athens and elsewhere in the Mediterranean world, the 5th century marked a high point in the development of political institutions, art, architecture, and literature.
The century was also notable for the Persian Wars, fought between the Greek cities, and the vast Persian Empire. Determined to punish Athens for supporting a revolt by conquered Greek cities in Asia Minor, King Darius I sent several armies against them, only to have his plans first thwarted by a storm and later by a defeat at the Battle of Marathon. His son Xerxes attempted to finish the job 10 years later, and succeeded in capturing Athens and burning it to the ground, only to be defeated later on land at Plataea. In the latter part of the century the Greeks became locked in a bitter war among themselves, with the major cities Athens and Sparta competing for absolute domination.
- 499 BC — Aristagoras, acting on behalf of the Persian Empire, leads a failed attack on the rebellious island of Naxos.
- 499 BC — Aristagoras instigates the Ionic Revolt, beginning the Persian Wars between Greece and Persia.
- 499 BC — Sardis destroyed by Athenian and Ionian troops.
- 498 BC — Leontini subjugated by Hippocrates of Gela.
- 498 BC — Alexander I succeeds his father Amyntas I as king of Macedon.
- 497 BC — Potidaea is struck by a tsunami.
- 496 BC — Battle of Lake Regillus: A legendary early Roman victory, won over either the Etruscans or the Latins.
- 496 BC — King Goujian of Yue defeats and banishes King Fuchai of Wu, gaining a temporary hegemony in ancient China during the Spring and Autumn Period.
- 495 BC — Temple to Mercury on the Circus Maximus in Rome is built.
- 494 BC — The Battle of Lade, where Persians take back Ionia.
- 494 BC — Two tribunes of the plebs and two plebeian aediles are elected for the first time in Rome: the office of the tribunate is established.
- 494 BC — The year Rome changed from an Aristocratic Republic to a Liberalized Republic.
- 493 BC — Piraeus, the port town of Athens, is founded.
- 493 BC — Coriolanus captures the Volscian town of Corioli for Rome.
- 492 BC — First expedition of King Darius I of Persia against Greece, under the leadership of his son-in-law Mardonius. This marks the start of the campaign that culminated in the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC.
- 491 BC — Leotychidas II succeeds his cousin Demaratus as king of Sparta.
- 491 BC — Gelo becomes Tyrant of Gela.
- September 12, 490 BC — The Battle of Marathon, where Darius I of Persia is defeated by the Athenians and Plataeans under Miltiades.
- 490 BC — Phidippides runs 40 kilometers from Marathon to Athens to announce the news of the Greek victory; origin of the marathon long-distance race.
- 489 BC Cities of Rhodes unite and start construction of the new city of Rhodes.
- 488 BC — Leonidas I succeeds his brother Cleomenes I as king of Sparta after Cleomenes is judged insane.
- 487 BC — Egypt revolts against the Persians.
- 487 BC — Aegina and Athens go to war.
- 487 BC — Athenian Archonship becomes elective by lot, an important milestone in the move towards radical Athenian democracy.
- 486 BC — First part of the Grand Canal of China is built.
- 486 BC — Xerxes I succeeds Darius I as Great King of Persia.
- 486 BC — Egypt revolts against Persian rule.
- 486 BC — First Buddhist Council at Rejgaha, under the patronage of King Ajatasattu. Oral tradition established for the first time.
- October, 485 BC — Xerxes I succeeds Darius I as King of Persia.
- 484 BC — Athenian playwright Aeschylus wins a poetry prize.
- 484 BC — Xerxes I abolishes the Kingdom of Babel and removes the golden statue of Bel (Marduk, Merodach).
- 484 BC — Persians regain control of Egypt.
- 483 BC — Xerxes I of Persia starts planning his expedition against Greece.
- 481 BC — The Congress at the Isthmus of Corinth ends a war between Athens and Aegina.
- 480 BC — King Xerxes I of Persia sets out to conquer Greece.
- 480 BC — Cimon and his friends burn horse-bridles as an offering to Athena and join the marines.
- 480 BC — Pleistarchus succeeds his father Leonidas I as king of Sparta.
- August, 480 BC — Battle of Artemisium — The Persian fleet fights an inconclusive battle with the Greek allied fleet.
- August 11, 480 BC — The Battle of Thermopylae, a costly victory by Persians over the Greeks.
- September 23, 480 BC — Battle of Salamis between Greece and Persia, leading to a Greek victory.
- 480 BC — Battle of Himera — The Carthaginians under Hamilcar are defeated by the Greeks of Sicily, led by Gelon of Syracuse.
- 480 BC — Roman troops march against the Veientines.
- 468 BC — Sophocles, Greek playwright, defeats Aeschylus for the Athenian Prize.
- 468 BC — Antium captured by Roman forces.
- 468 BC — King Zhending of Zhou becomes King of the Zhou Dynasty of China.
- 466 BC — Delian League defeats Persia at the Battle of Eurymedon.
- 466 BC — The Greek colony of Taras, in Magna Graecia, is defeated by Iapyges, a native population of ancient Apulia; Tarentine monarchy falls, with the installation of a democracy and the expulsion of the Pythagoreans.
- 465 BC — King Xerxes I of the Persian Empire is murdered by Artabanus the Hyrcanian. He is succeeded by Artaxerxes I, possibly with Artabanus acting as Regent.
- 465 BC — Thasos revolts from the Delian League.
- 464 BC — An earthquake in ancient Sparta, Greece leads to a Helot uprising and strained relations with Athens, one of the factors that lead to the Peloponnesian War.
- 464 BC — Regent King Artabanus of Persia is killed by his charge Artaxerxes I.
- 464 BC — Third Messenian war.
- 462 BC — The revolt of Thasos against the Delian League comes to an end with their surrender.
- 461 BC — Athenian politician Cimon is ostracized.
- 460 BC — Egypt revolts against Persia, starting a six year war. An Athenian force sent to attack Cyprus is diverted to support this revolt.
- 460 BC — Cincinnatus becomes consul of the Roman Republic.
- 459 BC — Pleistoanax succeeds his father Pleistarchus as king of Sparta.
- 459 BC — Destruction of the Sicilian town of Morgantina by Douketios, leader of the Sikels, according to Diodoros Siculus.
- 459 BC — Ezra leads the second body of Jews from Babylon to Jerusalem.
- 458 BC — Greek playwright Aeschylus completes the Oresteia, a trilogy that tells the story of a family blood feud. The plays will have a great influence on future writers.
- 458 BC — Cincinnatus is named dictator of the Roman Republic in order to defend it against Aequi. Sixteen days later, after defeating the invaders at the Battle of Mons Algidus, he resigns and returns to his farm.
- 457 BC — Athenian statesman Pericles' greatest reform, allowing common people to serve in any state office, inaugurates Golden Age of Ancient Athens.
- 457 BC — Battle of Tanagra — The Spartans defeat the Athenians, near Thebes.
- 457 BC — Battle of Oenophyta — The Athenians defeat the Thebans and take control of Boeotia.
- 457 BC — Decree of Artaxerxes I to re-establish the city government of Jerusalem. See Ezra 7, Daniel 9 and Nehemiah 1 in Old Testament.
- 455 BC — A thirty years' truce concluded between Athens and Lacedaemon.
- 455 BC — Euripides presents his first known tragedy, Peliades, in the Athenian festival of Dionysia.
- 454 BC — Athens loses a fleet and possibly as many as 50 000 men in a failed attempt to aid an Egyptian revolt against Persia.
- 454 BC — The treasury of the Delian League is moved from Delos to Athens.
- 454 BC — Hostilities between Segesta and Selinunte, two Greek cities on Sicily.
- 453 BC — Taiyuan, a city in China, gets flooded.
- 451 BC — Athens makes peace with Sparta and wages a war against Persia.
- 451 BC — The decemviri come to power in the Roman Republic. They enact the twelve tables, the foundation of Roman Law.
- 450 BC — Battle of Salamis: Athenians under Cimon defeat the Persian fleet.
- 450 BC — Perdiccas II succeeds Alexander I as king of Macedonia (approximate date).
- 419 BC — The Peace of Nicias is broken when Sparta defeats Argos.
- 418 BC — The Spartans win a major victory over the Athenians in the Battle of Mantinea, the biggest land battle of the Peloponnesian War.
- 416 BC — The Athenians capture the island of Melos and treat the inhabitants with great cruelty.
- 416 BC — The Athenians adheres a plea of help from Sicily and starts planning an invasion of the island.
- 415 BC — The sacred Hermae busts in Athens are mutilated just before the expedition to Sicily is sent away. One of the culprits, Andocides, is captured and is forced to turn informer. He names the other mutilators, among them Alcibiades, who are sentenced to death in their absence.
- 415 BC — Alcibiades defects from Athens to Sparta after having learned about his death sentence.
- 414 BC — The Athenians try to make a breakthrough in their siege of Syracuse but are defeated by the Spartans.
- 413 BC — Demosthenes suggests the Athenians leave Syracuse in order to return to Athens, where help is needed. However, Nicias refuses and they are again defeated in battle by the Spartans. Both Demosthenes and Nicias are killed.
- 413 BC — Caria allies itself with Sparta.
- 412 BC — The Persian Empire starts preparing an invasion of Ionia and signs a treaty with Sparta about it.
- 411 BC — The democracy in Athens is overthrown and replaced by the oligarchic Council of Four Hundred. This council is itself soon defeated and order is almost restored, when the Five Thousand start ruling. Early next year, they are also overthrown and the old democracy is restored.
- 410 BC — Athens regains control over its vital grain route from the Black Sea by defeating Sparta in the Battle of Cyzicus.
- 409 BC — Athens recaptures Byzantium, thereby putting and end to its revolt against Athens and taking control of the whole Bosporus.
- 409 BC — The city of Rhodes is founded.
- 409 BC — The Carthaginians invade Sicily.
- 408 BC — The Persian king, Darius II, decides to aid Sparta in the war and makes his son Cyrus a satrap. However, Cyrus starts collecting an army to benefit his own interests, rather than his father's.
- 408 BC — Alcibiades returns to Athens in triumph after an absence of seven years.
- 407 BC — The Athenian fleet is routed by the Spartan one in the Battle of Notium, which gives Alcibiades' opponents a reason to strip him of command. He never returns to Athens again.
- 406 BC — Athens defeats Sparta in the Battle of Arginusae and the blockade of Conon is lifted.
- 406 BC — Sparta sues for peace, but Athens rejects this.
- 406 BC — The Carthaginians once again invade Sicily and return to Carthage with spoils of war, but also with the plague.
- 405 BC — The Spartan king Pausanias lays siege to Athens, which makes the city start starving.
- 405 BC — Dionysius the Elder rises to power in Syracuse. He signs a peace with Carthage and starts consolidating and expanding his influence.
- April 25 404 BC — Athens surrenders to Sparta, ending the Peloponnesian War. Sparta introduces an oligarchic system, the Thirty Tyrants, in Athens.
- 404 BC — Egypt rebels against Persian rule.
- 403 BC — Some exiled Athenians return to fight the Thirty Tyrants and restore democracy in Athens. The are, however, narrowly defeated by the Spartans in the Battle of Piraeus. After this, the Spartan king Pausanias allows democracy to be restored in Athens.
- 403 BC — Thrasybulus restores the Athenian democracy and grants an almost general amnesty.
- 403 BC — The Athenians adopt the Ionian alphabet.
- 401 BC — Cyrus the Younger rebels against the Persian king Artaxerxes II but is, however, eventually slain in battle.
- 400 BC — After Cyrus has been killed, his Greek mercenaries make their way back to Greece, where Sparta is so impressed with their feats in and march through Persia that they declare war on the Persians.
- 400 BC — The Carthaginians occupy Malta.
- 400 BC — The Egyptians successfully revolts against Persian rule.
- ca. 400 BC — London has its origins as far back as this time.
- 498 BC — death of Amyntas I, king of Macedonia
- Pythagoras of Samos, Greek mathematician, discoverer of the Pythagorean theorem (582–496 BC)
- 491 BC — death of Hippocrates, Tyrant of Gela
- Gautama Buddha, founding figure of Buddhism (c. 563–483 BC)
- Confucius, founding figure of Confucianism (551–August 27, 479 BC)
- Mahavira of Vaishali, the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism(possibly 599 BC–527 BC)
- Aeschylus of Athens, playwright (525–456 BC)
- Darius I, King of Persia (reigned 521–485 BC)
- Panini, Hindu Indian grammarian, (520 BC–460 BC)
- Sophocles of Athens, playwright (496–406 BC)
- 496 BC — death of Sun Tzu, military philosopher and author of The Art of War (most likely a colloquial date)
- Pericles of Athens, politician (c. 495–429 BC)
- Zeno of Elea, Greek philosopher (495 BC–c. 430 BC)
- Phidias, Greek sculptor(490 BC–c. 430 BC)
- Empedocles, Greek philosopher, (490 BC–c. 430 BC)
- 489 BC — Birth of Eudoxus of Cnidus, early mathematician and adherent of Pythagoras Dion, student of Plato and tyrant of Syracuse
- 488 BC — Death of Miltiades, Athenian general
- Herodotus of Halicarnassus, historian (c. 485 BC)
- Euripides of Athens, playwright (c. 480–406 BC)
- 479 BC — death of Mardonius, Persian commander at Plataea
- 479 BC — death of Ephialtes, betrayer of Greece at the Battle of Thermopylae
- 476 BC — death of King Jing of Zhou / Ji Gai, King of the Zhou Dynasty of China
- 475 BC — death of Heraclitus of Ephesus, Greek philosopher
- Socrates of Athens, philosopher (470–399 BC)
- 470 BC — birth of Mozi, Chinese philosopher (d. c. 391 BC)
- c. 469 BC — birth of Aspasia of Miletus, mistress of Pericles of Athens (d. c. 406 BC)
- 469 BC — King Yuan of Zhou, king of the Zhou Dynasty of China
- 469 BC — death of Leotychides, king of Sparta
- 469 BC — death of Simonides of Ceos, Greek lyric poet
- 468 BC — death of Aristides, Athenian statesman
- 465 BC death of Xerxes I, king of Persia (murder)
- 464 BC — death of Artabanus of Persia, Regent King for Artaxerxes I
- 461 BC — Ephialtes, leader of the radical democrats, assassinated.
- Thucydides, Greek historian, (460 BC–395 BC)
- Hippocrates of Cos, Greek physician, (460 BC–377 BC)
- Democritus of Abdera, Greek philosopher, (460 BC–370 BC)
- 459 BC — death of Pleistarchus, King of Sparta
- 451 BC — death of Verginia, legendary victim of the decemviri
- c. 450 BC — birth of Alcibiades, Athenian general and politician
- c. 450 BC — death of Cimon, major political figure in Athens and the son of Miltiades
- c. 450 BC — death of Alexander I, king of Macedonia
- 449 BC — death of Appius Claudius, former decemvir (suicide)
- 449 BC — death of Spurius Oppius, former decemvir(suicide)
- Aristophanes of Athens, playwright (a. 446–385 BC).
- 446 BC — birth of Marcus Furius Camillus, Roman soldier and statesman (traditional date)
- 443 BC — death of Pindar, Greek poet
- 442 BC — death of King Zhending of Zhou, king of the Zhou Dynasty of China
- 437 BC — death of Volumnius, Etruscan ruler, in Veii
- 436 BC — birth of Isocrates, Athenian orator
- c. 436 BC — birth of Artaxerxes II, king of Persia
- 435 BC — birth of Philoxenus of Cythera, Greek dithyrambic poet (d. 380 BC).
- Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse (c. 432 BC–367 BC).
- c. 430 BC — death of Empedocles, Greek philosopher
- c. 430 BC — death of Phidias, Greek sculptor
- c. 430 BC — death of Zeno of Elea, Greek philosopher
- Darius II, king of Persia (reigned 423–404 BC)
- Ezra and Nehemiah active in Judea
- Tollund Man, Human sacrifice victim on the Jutland Peninsula in Denmark, possibly the earliest known evidence for worship of Odin
- Zengzi, 505 BC–436 BC, student of Confucius, wrote Great Learning
- Zuo Qiuming, ?-? Chinese historian and author of the Zuo Zhuan.
Inventions, discoveries, introductions
Decades and years