Historical Events of the 4th Century BCE

Instructor: Flint Johnson

Flint has tutored mathematics through precalculus, science, and English and has taught college history. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow

Learn about the people and events of the fourth century before the common era (B.C.E.). When you've read about it, take the quiz and see what you remember.

The Setting, 400-301 B.C.E.

Map of the World in 323 B.C.E., When Alexander the Great died
Map of the World at the Death of Alexander

It might seem strange, but when you read a history book you probably won't hear much about what was happening in the Americas, Asia, most of Europe, or even Australia when it covers the fourth century. That isn't because there weren't people in all those areas or because what they were doing wasn't interesting, but more because they weren't organized into kingdoms and recording themselves.

In most of Asia, for instance, most people were either hunter/gatherers or pastoralists. North America was occupied by nomads. Even a lot of places where people were living in villages, like the Mayan maize farmers or the Celts, hadn't organized themselves into large enough groups to have much impact on the rest of the world.

The Persian Empire and the Hellenistic Age

At the beginning of the fourth century, 400 B.C.E., the biggest kingdom in the world was the Persian Empire. In Africa, Persians ruled over Egypt. In Asia, they controlled some of India all the way to Asia Minor and the Levant. Persian armies had failed to conquer Greece in the fifth century, but Persians still had larger armies, more money, and wider trade interests than any other kingdom on Earth.

In 336 B.C.E., Alexander the Great took over Macedonia. By 323 B.C.E. he had conquered the entire Persian Empire and was dead. That left his empire in a crazy situation; his generals carved his lands up and fought among themselves. Their wars would continue for decades.

But, they were all still Macedonians and they all respected Greek culture. As long as their dynasties continued, Greek culture and Greek thinking was spread from Greece to India and back to Egypt. When Greek traders sailed all over the Mediterranean they brought their culture and ideas with them. From then on, the ideas of Socrates and Pythagoras and the plays of Sophocles and Aristophanes spread throughout the world.

Other Kingdoms

A Statue of Chandragupta Maurya
Chandragupta Maurya

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