Basic Dates in Greek History

Note: All dates are B.C. The abbreviation “c.” before a date, from the Latin word circa, meaning “about,” indicates an approximate date.

The following list features some of the most frequently-tested dates from recent Hellenic History tests. Each of these dates and the people, places, and events associated with them will be discussed within later modules; however, perhaps it will be of use to you to learn these milestones and a few facts about them in advance.

1100-750: Greek Dark Ages [Different sources give different dates to the beginning and the end of this period.]

776: Traditional date for the First Olympic Games [Facts – (1) Dedicated to Zeus; (2) Beginning of the Greek Calendar; (3) Celebrated every four years; (4) Greek city-states usually suspended wars with temporary treaties to celebrate the games]

c. 700-c. 630: Dates of the ancient (perhaps legendary) lawgiver of Sparta, Lycurgus

621: Draco establishes law code at Athens [Fact: The code was notoriously harsh. As a result, any similar legal measure which is excessively harsh may be referred to as “draconian.”]

594: Solon establishes law code at Athens [Fact: Solon’s code repealed mearly all of the provisions of Draco’s code]

561-508: Period of the tyrants at Athens

490-479: The Persian Wars [Fact: The best source for this period, and the Father of History, was Herodotus]

490: Battle of Marathon; Athens defeats Persia

480: Battle of Thermopylae; Sparta’s Leonidas leads 300 Spartiates at the head of a small Greek force sent to delay the advance of the Persian forces of Xerxes

480: Battle of Salamis (sea battle); Athenians lead the Greek navy to victory over a Persian fleet of superior numbers

479: Battle of Plataea (land battle); Spartans lead the combined Greek army to victory over a Persian army of superior numbers

478: Delian League established by Athens

461-429 (start and end dates vary): Age of Pericles, aka. the Golden Age of Athens

431-404: The Peloponnesian War; Sparta (with her allies in the Peloponnesian League) defeats Athens (with her allies in the Delian League) [Fact: The best source for this period is the Athenian historian, Thucydides]

429: Pericles, leader of Athens, and two of his sons die in the Athenian Plague

421: Peace of Nicias brings a temporary halt to the war

404: Athens surrenders [Fact: Sparta forces Athens to tear down the “Long Walls” that surrounded the city and extended to Piraeus, the port city of Athens]

404-371: Spartan Hegemony; Sparta is the most powerful force in Greece

371: Battle of Leuctra; Thebans (under Epaminondas and Pelopidas) defeat Sparta (under Cleombrotus)

371-362: Theban Hegemony; Thebes is the most powerful force in Greece

362: Battle of Mantinea; Thebans (under Epaminondas) defeat Sparta (under Agesilaus II) [Fact: Although the Thebans won the battle, Epaminondas and his hand-picked successors were killed. The battle left both Sparta and Thebes greatly weakened.]

338: Battle of Chaeronea: Philip II of Macedon defeats Athens and Thebes, ending the independence of Greece’s ancient city-states

336: Alexander succeeds his father, Philip II, as king of Macedon

334-323: Alexander crushes the Persians in battle after battle

323: Alexander the Great dies in Babylon at the age of 33

Note: By my reckoning, if you know everything in this module, you would get 40 questions right out of the 250 that appear on the following tests: States 2007, Regionals 2007, States 2006, Regionals 2006, and States 2005. Cumulative total: 42 of 250.