Ancient Era - 1 BCE
Infinity BCE: QUEST FOR POTENTIAL
Infinity BCE – 14 billion BCE: ADVANCED META–PHYSICAL REALMS CONCRETIZE
c. 13.7 billion BCE: “CREATION”
(a.k.a. The Big Bang)
*** A half billion years transpire ***
The first 26 elements of the Periodic Table are created in the process.
c. 13.2 billion BCE: GRAVITY EXERTS ITS PULL
Gravity starts to pull together huge regions of relatively dense cosmic gas from the far reaches of the cosmos.
Within half a billion years, this dynamic will be forming the vast, swirling collections of stars we call galaxies. These galaxies, in turn, form clusters, of which one—the so–called Local Group cluster—will eventually contain our own Milky Way galaxy.
c. 12.95 billion BCE: SUPERNOVAS
Supernovas, collapsing hi–mass stars, start creating the heavier elements (that is, the elements heavier than iron).
The elements are created in the massive fusion reactions in the superheated and super–compressed imploding and exploding cores of the supernovas.
To date, over 90 elements heavier than iron have been uncovered.
In addition, supernovas
–seed their respective galaxies with heavy elements;
–heat their respective galaxies with the energy of their radiation;
–stir up their respective galaxies with the force of their blast waves;
and, last but not least,
–cause new stars to form.
Note: Stars with at least 3–10 times the mass of our sun are potential candidates for “supernova” status.
c. 12.7 billion BCE: GALAXIES
–continue to emerge and the Milky Way coalesces.
*** Approximately 8.1 billion years transpire ***
4.6 billion BCE: THE SUN
4.5 billion BCE: OUR SOLAR SYSTEM
*** A half billion years transpire ***
4 billion BCE: “LIFE”
The first living cell appears, probably as self–replicating RNA, such as bacteria.
3.9 billion BCE: PHOTOSYNTHESIS
*** Four hundred million years transpire ***
3.5 billion BCE: DNA
First strand of DNA appears.
*** Approximately 1.5 billion years transpire ***
2 billion BCE: “SNOWBALL THEORY”
Possible global Ice Age.
*** A half billion years transpire ***
1.5 billion BCE: ORGANISMS
–with cell nucleus containing DNA appear.
*** A half billion years transpire ***
1.2 billion BCE: SEXUAL REPRODUCTION
–leads to an explosion of evolution.
1 billion BCE: MULTI–CELLULAR LIFE APPEARS
First algae and seaweeds appear in the ocean.
*** A half billion years transpire ***
c. 540 million BCE: CAMBRIAN EXPLOSION
Some 50 phyla (basic body plans) suddenly and simultaneously appear—the first appearance of complex animal life.
With the appearance of complex animal life, predator–prey dynamics manifest, as well.
Darwin apparently viewed the Cambrian Explosion as one of the principal objections to his theory of evolution by natural selection.
Note: The Cambrian Explosion has never been even near–adequately explained by mainstream science, perhaps because mainstream science is too “bounded.”
*** 80 million years transpire ***
c. 460 million BCE: LIFE MOVES ASHORE
At first, primitive plants and algae, then arthropods such as spiders and scorpions.
*** 70 million years transpire ***
c. 390 million BCE: AMPHIBIANS
Amphibians evolve from freshwater fish, developing lungs (from swim bladders) and legs (from fins).
*** 55 million years transpire ***
c. 335 million BCE: THE FIRST FORESTS
*** 270 million years transpire ***
c. 300 million BCE: REPTILES
Reptiles evolve from amphibians,
courtesy of the amniotic egg,
which allows reproduction on land.
Small mammals subsequently evolve from
reptiles in the 250–230 million BCE period.
275 million BCE: LARGE MAMMALS
Mammals approximately the size of later respectable–sized dinosaurs evolve from reptiles and roam the planet but become extinct during…
250 million BCE: THE PERMIAN EXTINCTION (a.k.a. the Permian–Triassic Extinction)
“The mother of all extinctions”
Catastrophic worldwide volcanic eruption and/or drought causes about 75 percent of all species to become extinct.
Note: at this point in time, “worldwide” means Pangaea–wide, with Pangaea being the C–shaped super–continental land mass spread across the equator. It is the sole significant land mass.
200 million BCE: DINOSAURS (meaning “terrible lizards”)
–and pterosaurs (flying reptiles)
c. 150 million BCE: BIRDS
They are believed to have primarily evolved from ancestors of flying dinosaurs.
*** 36 million years transpire ***
c. 114 million BCE: FLOWERS
*** 50 million years transpire ***
65 million BCE: DINOSAURS BECOME EXTINCT
Enormous meteor 6 miles in diameter hits Mexico; creates impact crater 100 miles across, simultaneous with catastrophic volcanic eruptions in the Greater India region.
The resultant mega dust–cloud enveloping Earth destroys the dinosaurs one way or another.
65 million BCE: LARGE MAMMALS (AGAIN)
–evolve and flourish.
The largest mammal ever to have lived is the Blue Whale, currently an endangered species.
Potentially up to 190 tons and 110 feet long, the Blue Whale is considerably larger than the largest extinct dinosaur.
The Blue Whale probably evolved from an animal resembling the hippopotamus, which had returned back to the sea.
Note: Humans are, of course, also mammalian and will appear later.
*** 61 million years transpire ***
4 million BCE: EARLIEST HOMINIDS
(Precursors of human lineage)
French and Chadian paleontologists assert that the “Toumai” male fossil, discovered in 2001 in the Djurab Desert in northern Chad, is the earliest hominid. Standing 4 feet high at age twenty, and with a nuclear family group of about six, paleontologists date him to 7 million BCE—i.e. 230,000 generations back—but the current consensus (June 2008) is that Toumai, whatever he is, is not the earliest hominid, but rather a precursor of hominids.
So, which fossil is the earliest hominid?
The famous “Lucy” fossil was discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia. The American anthropologist, who discovered her, Donald Johanson, was listening to the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” as he unearthed her remains… hence, “Lucy.” Lucy (3.2 million BCE) is considered by consensus the first clear–cut hominid fossil, and hominids as a group are dated to 4 million BCE.
3 million BCE: NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA BECOME JOINED
–courtesy of volcanic activity around Panama.
This joining allows migration of animals and affects ocean currents, triggering an Ice Age.
1.8 million BCE: HOMO ERECTUS EMERGES
780,000–400,000 BCE: PEKING MAN
Peking Man was an example of Homo Erectus. Remains were discovered in Zhoukoudian, China near Beijing in 1923–27.
130,000 BCE: NEANDERTHAL MAN
–evolves in the savannas of Africa and migrates to other continents. Neanderthal will die out in 33,000 BCE.
120,000 BCE: HOMO SAPIENS (Latin for “wise/knowing man”)
The first anatomically modern humans, evolved from Homo erectus, not from Neanderthal, appear in Africa.
So, if one generation is calculated as 30 years, then from the earliest hominids (4 million BCE) until Abraham (1700 BCE) will be 133,000 generations; from the first Homo sapiens (120,000 BCE) until Abraham will be 3,933 generations; and from Abraham to the current day will be 123 generations.
Therefore, the period from Abraham to the present represents only about 3 percent of the time since the appearance of anatomically modern humans.
18,000 BCE: HOMEO FLORESIENSIS LIVED ON FLORES, INDONESIA
Homo Floresiensis, (“Flores Man,” nicknamed the Hobbit) which has a very small body and brain, and which is possibly a new species, lived contemporaneously with humans on the Indonesian island of Flores. Its tenure spanned from somewhere starting in the 75,000–20,000 BCE zone until 12,000 BCE before becoming extinct. Note that Neanderthal Man became extinct c. 33,000.
The other possibility is that “Flores Man” is not a new species, but, rather, a line of homo sapiens with retarded growth aspects to its physiology. This theory has distinguished advocates, as well.
The fossil which was uncovered, and which has been dated at 18,000 BCE has been named LB1. If “Flores Man” is indeed a new species, it would be the non–modern human species which existed the latest into history.
As of the closing point of this book, June 2008, the anthropology community is fairly evenly split on the issue: new species v. dwarf human. In June, 2007, a research team from Tel Aviv University published a paper arguing that the physiology of LB1 was very similar to that of humans afflicted with Laron Syndrome, which causes pituitary dwarfism, meaning that we are not dealing with a new species. All theories to date from both sides of the academic debate, including the Tel Aviv University paper, have been challenged vigorously.
13,000 BCE: AGRICULTURE
Agriculture, permanent settlements, and cities have archaeological traces in present–day Iraq.
11,000–7000 BCE: ROCK SHELTERS OF BHIMBETKA,
In the foothills of the Vindhya Mountains at the southern edge of the central Indian plateau, five clusters of natural rock shelters display paintings apparently from the Mesolithic Period (c. 11,000–7000 BCE) right through to the 9000–7000 BCE period.
9500 BCE: GRANARIES EMPLOYED
Jordan Valley: Storage areas for grain were located between buildings. By 8500 BCE, they were moved inside houses; by 7500 BCE they were in separate rooms in houses.
8700 BCE: METAL WORKING CARRIED OUT
Mesopotamia: Iraq: Copper pendant found in the area dated to this era.
7600 BCE: ZHENPIYAN, CHINA CULTURE
Archeological evidence related to this culture exists – on domestication of pig for the first time.
7500 BCE: PENGTOUSHAN, CHINA CULTURE
Analysis of Chinese rice residues shows that rice had been domesticated by this time in this culture.
6000 BCE: CISHAN, CHINA CULTURE
Archeological evidence related to this culture exists – on domestication of dog and chicken for the first time.
5500 BCE: FABRIC
Egyptians weave flax threads together to create fabric for the first time.
5000 BCE: BAIJIA, CHINA CULTURE
Archeological evidence exists related to this culture exists – on domestication of ox and sheep for the first time.
4400 BCE: HORSES DOMESTICATED
–power… transportation… farming… warfare.
4000 BCE: IRRIGATION CANALS EMPLOYED
Mesopotamia: Artificial channels for water are known to have been employed (in the area that is modern day Iraq and Syria).
4000 BCE: BANPO (CHINA) SCRIPT
Scholars still debate if it is actual writing or not.
4000 BCE: Water Clocks
China possibly saw the utilization of water clocks at this point.
3630 BCE: SILK
Approximate date of the oldest discovered silk in China – found by archaeologists in what is now Henan province – related to the late Yangshao period in China.
3500 BCE: EARLY BRONZE AGE
Invention of writing and the beginning of recorded history. Organization of city–states (c. 3500–2000 BCE).
c. 3500 BCE: THE SUMERIANS, PART 1
The Sumerians develop a phonetic alphabet, as well as the first numeral system and a system of weights and measures. Most of the surviving records are of business transactions.
c. 3500 BCE: BRONZE
Copper is combined with tin, creating the new metal bronze, which can be used in many tools.
c. 3250 BCE: PAPER
The central pulp of papyrus reed is split, dried, and glued together in Egypt to produce the first known paper.
c. 3250 BCE: HIEROGLYPHIC WRITING
The Egyptians develop a system of recording/writing known as hieroglyphics, which initially tell a story with pictographs.
c. 3200 BCE: THE SUMERIANS, PART 2
More advanced civilization begins. A system of city–states develops along the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers (modern–day Iraq).
Of course, the stage had been set by the Sumerians’ development of an alphabet 300 years earlier.
3100 BCE: 60 PLACE–VALUE
The Babylonians develop a base–60 (sexagesimal) place–value numeration system (as opposed to our base–10 system), where the value of a digit depends on its relative placement in the sequence.
With 12 factors (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20, 30 and 60) in their system, the Babylonians had rich mathematical material to play with.
The Babylonians inherited key components of the base–60 system from earlier Sumerian civilization. The Babylonian system is, of course, the basis of our 60–minute hour system.
3000 BCE: LONGSHAN (CHINA) CULTURE
During the Longshan Neolithic period, the buffalo are domesticated for the first time in China, and the plow may have been used.
c. 3000 BCE: FIRST CHARIOTS AND WAGONS
The wheels are made of wood, and are initially very heavy and cumbersome, as might be expected.
c. 3050 BCE: NARMER (a.k.a. Menes)
Founder of the first dynasty of Egypt and generally considered the first pharaoh.
3000 BCE: Candles employed
Egypt: Made out of beeswax
2800 BCE: SOAP IN USE
Mesopotamia: Ancient Babylon
A formula for soap has been found on a Babylonian clay tablet 600 years later, around 2200 BCE. The formula was apparently: water, alkali, and cassia oil.
c. 2800 BCE: CHINA
According to Chinese legend, China is ruled by the Three August Ones and the Five Emperors, sage–kings and moral–exemplars.
One of them, the Yellow Emperor, is possibly the royal ancestor of the Han Chinese.
Note that the earliest written records of China’s past date from approximately the thirteenth century BCE, the time of the Jewish Exodus.
These written records are inscriptions (spiritual/religious–related) on a trove of bones and shells known as the “Oracle Bones.”
The Shang Dynasty spans approximately 550 years, from 1600 BCE to 1046 BCE. It incorporates 31 kings, from Tang to Di Xin (a.k.a. Zhou, Zhou Xin, Zhou Wang). Note that this last emperor, notwithstanding his name,
is not a Zhou Dynasty emperor.
Over the 550–year span, the Shang Dynasty moves its capital six times, the last time to the city of Yin (modern–day Henan in east–central China), traditionally considered the “cradle of Chinese civilization.”
The Shang Dynasty is succeeded by the 800–year Zhou Dynasty (1046–256 BCE).
King Wu of Zhou invokes the so–called “Mandate from Heaven,” a celestial invocation of legitimacy to rule by divine right, employed by succeeding claimants to the Chinese thrown over the centuries.
(Author’s note: I use this line, with my three kids, with mixed results.)
The Zhou Dynasty, China’s longest, spans 37 emperors.
Note that for some reason, Zhou Dynasty emperors reign approximately 21 years on average, whereas preceding Shang Dynasty kings reign just 8 years on average.
In any event, in 221 BCE, Qin defeats the other six states, including the Zhou, and finally unifies China under the Qin Dynasty.
Note: Whenever you hear that so–and–so “unified a country,” do not assume that this was a nice and sweet “Boy Scout operation.”
2700 BCE: ALPHABET
Egypt: Twenty–two Hieroglyphics employed. Civilization as we know it commences.
2700 BCE: PLUMBING (OUTDOOR)
Urban settlements in the Indus Valley. Earthenware pipes employing asphalt are used.
2700 BCE: PRECISION SURVEYING
–sets the stage for more advanced pyramid building in Egypt.
2697 BCE: YELLOW EMPEROR
This period is part of the Chinese mythology.
The Battle of Banquan, the first battle in Chinese lore….
2630 BCE: IMHOTEP
Vizier of Egypt designs and constructs the great Step Pyramid Complex of Pharaoh Djoser at Saqqara (2630–2611 BCE), the first stone pyramid (as opposed to mud brick).
The central pyramid rises about 20 stories.
Imhotep—doctor, sage, architect, astronomer and high priest—is credited as a founder of the Egyptian and Masonic mystery traditions.
2570 BCE: MORE ADVANCED SILK PRODUCTS
Silk and other items found at the Liangzhu culture site at Qianshanyang in Wuxing District, Zhejiang; silk items found there included a braided silk belt, silk threads, and woven silk.
c. 2560 BCE: GREAT PYRAMID OF GIZA
a.k.a. Khufu’s Pyramid, Tomb of Cheops, Khufu (with Khufu being a fourth dynasty Egyptian pharaoh)
The approximately seven–year construction was the world’s highest manmade structure, at 480.9 ft or 146.6 m, until 1300 CE, although height was certainly not its primary defining historical significance.
Note: The Great Pyramid was not surpassed in height until 3,652 years later, by the Lincoln Cathedral in Lincoln, England, in 1300.
c. 2500 BCE: STONEHENGE
A sophisticated civilization spawns Stonehenge over many centuries… but disappears from any radar.
The Stonehenge edifice itself seems to have been a spiritual/religious/astronomical edifice, marking, as well, seasonal solstices via the sun’s projection through its carefully laid out architectural apertures.
Edifices with a similar sun–centered spiritual/religious/astronomical dimension will manifest later in world history around the globe, including the well–known Incan Machu Picchu complex in the Andes Mountains, halfway around the world, 4,000 years later.
2500 BCE: DOORWAY ARCHES EMPLOYED
Indus Valley (current day India):
Dating 700 plus years still–further down the road in history, the oldest arched city gate in the world, 8 ft. wide, was found in Ashkelon, Israel, dating to the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1775 BCE). [Ashkelon is a coastal city on the (southern end of the) Mediterranean Coast of Israel, just north of the Gaza Strip.]
2500 BCE: GLASS
Egypt: Glass beads found here dated to this time period. Whether they were the accidental by–product of metal production or the intended product, they nevertheless have been found there.
2400 BCE: PRECISE ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR
Used in Egypt into the Middle Ages for its accuracy.
2400 BCE: First known shipyard
–in Lothal, Indus Valley Civilization.
24thth and 23rd centuries BCE: The Akkadian Empire
–At its peak (2300s–2280) pursuant to the conquests of King Sargon of Akkad (d. 2280 BCE).
Fuller span: 2334–2083 BCE; sometimes regarded as the first manifestation of empire in history; stretched from the Mediterranean at the northwest (modern day Syria) to the Persian Gulf in the southeast (modern day Kuwait). Hurrian kingdoms to the northeast; Elam kingdom to the southeast.
2000 BCE: Early currency employed
Sumer, Ancient Mesopotamia: Silver ingots employed as a receipt for deliveries to temple granaries.
2000 BCE: MATHEMATICAL DEVELOPMENT
Babylonians develop a mathematical system based on units of 60. They divide the circle into 360 units/degrees.
1900 BCE: COTTON
Harappans in the Indus Valley (modern–day Pakistan) become the first to grow and weave cotton into fabric.
1792–1749 BCE: REIGN OF HAMMURABI
–son of Mubalit, in Babylon
The inscriptions glorifying his reign note the building of new temples and the restoration of old towers and temples in Babylon. Babylon – granted complete remission of debts with his accession – becomes the most important town and religious–cultural center of the entire region. As is well known, Hammurabi’s famous codex of laws was to have a major influence on the laws of the Torah. In his last years Hammurabi renews his conquests; he battles, amongst others, with the King of Mari, Zimri–Lim (1775–1761 BCE) and liquidates his kingdom. Hammurabi’s dynasty rules Babylon for 150 years after his death.
1790 BCE: THE HYKSOS, AN ASIAN PEOPLE, INVADE EGYPT
They gain control of the Nile Delta; as a result, many Egyptians migrate southward to escape them. The Hyksos adopt Egyptian customs and contribute to their diffusion outside Egypt. This could be the background to the story of Joseph, his arrival in Egypt, and his sojourn there.
1790 BCE: CODE OF HAMMURABI
Enacted by the sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi (1796–1750 BCE), in Old Babylonia.
Note: Possibly the earliest known collection of laws is the approximately 325–years–earlier codex of Ur–Nammu, king of Ur (c. 2050 BCE).
The Code of Hammurabi laws are engraved on a pillar found at Susa in 1901. Framed in a hymnic prologue that catalogues his conquests and an epilogue that stresses his concerns for justice, Hammurabi’s laws are partly based on older Sumerian and Akkadian codes. They contain 282 articles classified by subjects: property, commerce, family, etc. Among them is the principle of proportional punishment, an idea later expressed in Exodus as “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” This code is thus regarded as the starting point for the understanding of all Near Eastern legal ideals. Many of its individual formulations are apparently paralleled by the legislation of Exodus and Deuteronomy to come.
1700s BCE: SHANG DYNASTY, CHINA
–Extending approximately 600 years, to the time of Torah at Sinai.
1700s BCE: “LECH L’CHAH”
Genesis: God said to Abraham, “Walk from your land…” (Ur Kasdim, Middle East)
“…and from the land of your forefathers, and go from your birthplace…unto Canaan…the land which God bequeaths unto thee.”
Middle Bronze Age (c. 2500–1600 BCE): Amorites, Hittites, Hurrians, Hyksos and Israelites in the Middle East and Near East.
“Great Stone Palace” of Knossos, Crete: extraordinary 1300–room edifice built over 300 years, 1700–1400 BCE (some contractors take longer than others).
Political and ceremonial center of Minoan civilization. Indoor plumbing, complex and highly sophisticated water and drainage systems. To keep it cool, the palace is mostly constructed of stone, hence its name.
1700s BCE: ABRAHAM PURCHASES HA–MACHPELAH
According to the Book of Genesis (Bereshith), subsequent to the death of Sarah, first Matriarch of Israel, Abraham purchases the Cave of the Machpelah, the Me’arat ha–Machpelah (“the Cave of the Couples”) in the city of Hebron (in the current–day West Bank) as a burial chamber for his family.
All three Patriarchs and three of the four Matriarchs are buried here. The fourth Matriarch, Rachel, beloved wife of Jacob, is buried on the “Ephrath–BethLehem” (Bethlehem) roadside, outside the current Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.
The Patriarchs are: Abraham, his son Isaac, and his grandson Jacob (Israel).
The Matriarchs are their primary wives: Sarah (wife
of Abraham); Rebekah (wife of Isaac); and Leah and Rachel (wives of Jacob).
Hagar, handmaiden given by Sarah to Abraham, bears him Ishmael, who becomes the progenitor of the Arab world.
Jacob’s fraternal twin, Esau, emerges as the progenitor of the Edomites.
1700s BCE: ABRAHAM: PATRIARCH OF ISRAEL
Abraham lays the salient historical (and, the Bible would say, divine) claim to the land of Canaan for the unbroken line of his offspring, the Children of Israel.
1700s BCE: ABRAHAM: PHILOSOPHICAL REVOLUTIONARY
Abraham rejects idolatry and conceptualizes monotheism, belief in a single, unitary god.
Abraham’s ideological revolution transforms the Western world to this day.
Later 1700s BCE: ISHMAEL
Ishmael is a figure in the Torah, Bible, and in the Qur’an.
Jewish, Christian and Muslim believers regard Ishmael as Abraham’s eldest son, born of his wife Sarah’s hand maiden Hagar (Genesis 16:3). Though born of Hagar, according to Mesopotamian law, Ishmael was credited as Sarah’s son (Genesis 16:2) [by Sarah’s own suggestion]. Both Jewish and Islamic traditions consider Ishmael as the ancestor of northern Arab people…. The Qur’an views him as an Islamic prophet.
Later 1700s BCE: ISAAC
According to Bereshith/Genesis, Isaac was the second patriarch of Israel, the only son of Abraham and Sarah, and father of Esav and Yaakov (Esau and Jacob). Although Sarah was past the age of childbearing, God, according to the Tanach, promised Abraham and Sarah that they would have a son, and Isaac was born. Later, to test Abraham’s obedience, God commands Abraham to sacrifice the boy. Abraham makes all the preparations for the ritual sacrifice (Akedat Yitzchak) but God spares Isaac at the very last
“In the Old and New Testaments, God is called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because with them God’s relationship of promise and purpose was fixed for all those who descended from them. The story of Abraham’s acquiescence to God’s command to sacrifice Isaac was used in the early Christian church as an example of faith (Heb. 11:17) and of obedience (James 2:21). In later Jewish tradition, the sacrifice of Isaac was cited in appeals for the mercy of God.”
Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/294933/Isaac (accessed July 1, 2009)
c. 1600 BCE: THE HEBREWS
–Migrate westward to Egypt to escape famine in Canaan. This migration sets the stage for the epochal drama to unfold.
1586–1556 BCE: Spoke–wheeled assault war chariots employed in battle
Hittite Empire. By King Hattusili I. [Historians employ the span of his rule, 1586–1556 BCE as the time–frame for the introduction of the above–noted war chariots. Hattusili I apparently used the title “Labarna” and extended Hittite territory to the Mediterranean in the Syria region…. The Hittite Kingdom reached its height in the fourteenth century, meaning approximately 200 years after Hattusili I….
The Battle of Kadesh (on the Orontes River in modern–day Syria) in 1274 BCE noted below, in which Hittite chariot–innovations proved pivotal in besting the Egyptian armies, was likely to have been the largest chariot battle ever fought, involving over 5,000 war chariots in total. Thus, it would appear that the Hittite’s consistently parlayed technological advance in chariot design and battle tactics to best their adversaries – over more than a 300–year span. [Note: After the Hittites defeated the Egyptians at Kadesh, civil war imploded the Hittite empire.]
c. 1531 BCE: Mursili I
King of the Hittites invades Babylon (after an unprecedented 2000 km march from the north) and puts an end to the Hammurabi dynasty. The Hittites adopt the Babylonian cuneiform script and Mesopotamian culture.
1522 BCE: JOSEPH
Joseph, now Viceroy of Egypt, reveals his identity to his brothers (who, jealous of him, and not particularly enamored of his outsized ego, had sold him into slavery two or three decades earlier).
1498–1483 BCE: THE FEMALE PHARAOH
Joint reign of Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut and Thutmose III. With the help of her favorite architect, Senmut, Hatshepsut erects the splendid burial temple in Deir el–Bahri near the Valley of the Kings.
1322 BCE: “BITYA”
BitYa, daughter of Pharaoh, rescues baby Moses from the bulrushes on the banks of Nile River in Egypt.
Note: BitYa’s rescue of baby Moses will significantly impact world history. Egyptian, Roman, Greek, Babylonian, Persian—and later British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Muslim, Byzantine, Ottoman et al., empires are heavily impacted by the “giving of the Torah” by Moses and the unfolding of Judaism, then Christianity, Islam and Protestantism.
BitYa is referred to, in the Torah only, as “Pharaoh’s daughter”; she is later named BitYa (a.k.a. BatYa, “daughter of God”) by Jewish Midrashim.
It is noteworthy that this extraordinary name is given by the rabbis 3200 years ago, to a non–Jew, and a female at that.
1290–1279 BCE: SETI I, KING OF EGYPT
–Conducts military campaigns in Canaan. Reliefs on a wall of the Amon temple at Karnak indicate the existence of fortified towns in Canaan and of Egyptian guard–posts in the Sinai Desert.
1279–1212 BCE: REIGN OF RAMSES II
–Known for conducting many wars and great building enterprises. It is possibly the memory of his reign which is reflected in the biblical description of cruel slavery: “Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens, and they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Ramses…and they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field” (Exodus, 1:11, 14).
1275 BCE: RAMSES II BUILDS
Ramses II builds throughout Egypt and Cush on an unprecedented scale. He erects the magnificent temples in Abu Simbel and enlarges the temples of Amon in Karnak and Luxor. A document dating from that time, describing the towns in Canaan, mentions “the head of the tribe of Asher” – perhaps an indication of an Israelite presence in Canaan at this early date.
1274 BCE: BATTLE OF KADESH
–Epochal battle for supremacy of the Levant region, on the banks of the Orontes River in modern–day Syria.
The region under contention stretches from the Egyptian Empire in the south, under Pharaoh and Commanding General Ramesses II, to the Hittite Empire in the north, under King Muwatalli II and Commanding General Hattusili II.
The forces were apparently each comprised of approximately 50,000 men.
Note: These were “chariot warfare” years, and the evolving expertise of the Hittites perhaps surpassed that of the Egyptians in this sphere.
Classically, two wheels were positioned at the back edge of the (Hittite) chariot, and each chariot carried two warriors. In the period leading into the epochal battle, however, Hittite engineers moved the wheels to the center of the chariot’s under–carriage. This forward–adjustment gave the chariot more strength—creating room for a crucial third warrior—that was the margin of victory as the war chariot drove into enemy lines. Apparently, this was one key component that helped tilt the balance of power towards the Hittites.
The Hittites prevail at The Battle of Kadesh, and in the subsequent treaty—the earliest known example of a written international agreement of any sort—the Egyptians are forced to refer to the Hittite King as “the Great King.”
But within decades, the awesome Hittite Empire implodes from civil war. Apparently, subsequent to the Battle of Kadesh, the Hittite king and the commanding general battle each other for supremacy of the empire. The denouement of this civil war is the implosion—and subsequent disappearance from history—of the Hittites.
c. 1250 BCE: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
The Aseret Ha–Dibrot: A list of ten key religious and moral directives/Precepts, which, according to the Bible (Torah), were given by God and transmitted via Moses.
Given on Mt. Sinai (Exodus–Shemot 19:23) or Mt. Horeb (Deuteronomy–Devarim 5:2), presumably one and the same. The Ten Commandments are one of the most salient defining components of the Jews—and of Western civilization.
The Aseret Ha–Dibrot is also known as “The Decalogue,” from the Greek “dekalogos.” There are, of course, parallel chapters in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Bible composed between the First and Third centuries (see entry later).
c. 1250 BCE: MOSES: PRINCE OF EGYPT
–Born to Yocheved and Amram, a member of the Israeli tribe of Levi.
According to the Biblical account, Moses grows up in Pharaoh’s Court, having been saved from the Nile during infancy by Pharaoh’s daughter. In young adulthood Moses slays an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew slave. Moses lees to the desert, and subsequently marries Zipporah, daughter of Midianite priest Yitro.
Leading his flock of sheep on Mt. Horeb, Moses encounters the “burning bush.”
Eheyeh asher Eheyeh. I WILL BE THAT WHICH I WILL BE. The God of Israel then commissions reluctant Moses to go down to Egypt and command Pharaoh “Let my people go.” The prince (Moses) returns to his original palace to confront Pharaoh. Ten plagues later, Pharaoh temporarily agrees.
The Jews exit Egypt. THE EXODUS. Out of Egypt and into history.
c. 1250 BCE: MOSES: SPIRITUALLY PIVOTING THE WESTERN WORLD
Religious leader, lawgiver, and Prophet Moses delivers the Torah to the Jewish people, redefining religion as intellectually–grounded. In a straight trajectory from Abraham, Moses brings monotheism several quantum advances further. He prevails in motivating the Twelve Tribes of Israel to accept, in principle, the spiritual discipline of the Torah.
1260–1250 BCE: MOSES CONFRONTS PHARAOH (possibly Pharaoh Hatshepsut)
c. 1250 BCE: MOSES AND THE EXODUS
Four hundred and thirty years after the patriarch Jacob had arrived with his household of seventy (and the Pharaoh of Egypt at the time of the Exodus then possibly Amenhotep II), the Israelites exit Egypt with panache, organized into 12 tribes.
Six hundred thousand men, aside from boys and women, will assemble at Mt. Sinai shortly thereafter.
The Israelites are organized into three ceremonial levels: These “classes” come into play in ceremonial matters relating to the Temple, in particular. The progenitor “Temple” was the “mishkan” of the desert. So the three “temple” classes were/are:
1) Priesthood (Ko–hen) holds prime Temple ceremonial duties; descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses; exclusively from the Tribe of Levi.
2) “Levite class”: Levites (Lai–vi) hold a variety of Temple ceremonial duties; from the Tribe of Levi.
3) Nation as a whole: Israelites (Yisrael) – from the other eleven tribes.
So, to clarify: From the Tribe of Levi, if one were a descendant of Aaron (brother of Moses), one was a Kohen; if one was from the Tribe of Levi, but not a descendant of Aaron, one was a Levite. All other Jews are the “Israelite class” in ceremonial matters. However, the term “Israelites,” unless specifically referring to Temple matters, 99.9 percent of the time refers to all 12 tribes.
After 40 years in the desert, the Israelites finally establish themselves in Canaan through a series of military victories and political ententes.
c. 1250 BCE: MOSES / “MATTAN TORAH” (giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai)
Monotheism is codified for the Jews in the 613 Precepts (mitzvot), including, but not limited to, the more complex laws of Kashrut and Shabbat and Temple–related regulations…. The Torah deals with the “dignity of man” (all men)…with focus on the God of Israel…including, of course, the Ten Commandments, noted above. There are numerous metaphysical themes embedded within the Torah.
There are 7 Precepts, known as the “Noahide Laws,” mandated for all mankind from the time of Noah.
Six of the Laws are prohibitions: These include prohibitions against idolatry, murder, theft, sexual promiscuity, blasphemy and cruelty to animals; one of the Laws is a “positive” requirement: just courts and laws.
The “Giving of the Torah” will change the world forevermore, a sui generis epochal event.
Over the centuries, the Jews will reach great heights—and then great depths—both as historical consequences, whether direct or indirect.
The Jews will protect the Torah; the Torah will anchor the Jews.
The Jews will have a uniquely stellar–dynamic journey and then an exceedingly tortuous and brutal fight for survival, equality, dignity. At some points, and for some Jews, both simultaneously.
Perspective: The extreme polar opposites are not coincidental. Having reached a zenith with the Torah, the Jews are permanently a subtle threat to claimants of cultural or spiritual primacy; thus, the more the Jews are degraded, it will be felt, the lower the threat. Other inter–related powerful and toxic dynamics will play major roles, as well.
c. 1250 BCE: MOSES: THE MILITARY COMMANDER
According to the Torah, Moses leads his people through the Red Sea (a.k.a. the Reed Sea). The Jews fend–off the pursuing Egyptians, beat back Amalekite raiders, reconnoiters Jericho, fights and overcomes Og (king of Bashan), and decimates the Midianites. In addition, the Israelites under Moses concomitantly defeat the five kings of Midian: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba.
c. 1250 BCE: MOSES AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS
Via rulings concerning “b’not Tzlaf–chad,” Moses grants rights to the five daughters—and only survivors—of their deceased father, Tzlaf–chad.
Back in the household of Moses, Miriam, sister of Moses, carps about Moses’s “dark–skinned” wife, Zipporah. Miriam, as a consequence, is afflicted (by God, according to the Torah) with tzora–ath, a disease somewhat akin to leprosy.
c. 1250 BCE: AARON THE LEVITE
“The traditional founder and head of the Jewish priesthood, who, with his brother Moses, led the Israelites out of Egypt. The figure of Aaron as it is now found in the Pentateuch is built up from several sources of traditions. In the Talmud and Midrash; he is seen as the leading personality at the side of Moses. He has appeared in different roles in Christian thought.
Aaron is described in the Old Testament book of Exodus as a son of Amram and Jochebed of the tribe of Levi, three years older than his brother Moses. He acted together with his brother in the desperate situation of the Israelites in Egypt and took an active part in the Exodus. Although Moses was the actual leader, Aaron acted as his “mouth.” The two brothers went to the pharaoh together, and it was Aaron who told him to let the people of Israel go, using his magic rod in order to show the might of Yahweh. When the pharaoh finally decided to release the people, Yahweh gave the important ordinance of the Passover, the annual ritual remembrance of the Exodus, to Aaron and Moses. But Moses alone went up on Mt. Sinai, and he alone was allowed to come near to Yahweh. Moses later was ordered to “bring near” Aaron and his sons, and they were anointed and consecrated to be priests “by a perpetual statute.” Aaron’s sons were to take over the priestly garments after him. Aaron is not represented as wholly blameless. It was he who, when Moses was delayed on Mt. Sinai, made the golden calf that was idolatrously worshiped by the people.”
Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/277/Aaron (accessed June 24, 2009)
c. 1250–1200 BCE: PHILISTINES
–Arrive on Israel’s coastal plain.
Nomadic pagan warriors, possibly originally from Crete. They establish five city–states: Ashdod, Ashkelon,
Ekron, Gath and, last but not least, Gaza.
The Philistines will be a thorn in the back of Israel for thousands of years.
Perspective: How did those battle–smart Israelites allow the Philistines to hold that strategic waterfront/gateway to the sea property?
Military historians believe that the Philistines had entered the Iron Age before the Israelites and possessed iron chariots [see Shoftim (Judges) 1:19] and iron swords—a major, and generally decisive, advantage.
So, from the perspective of Israel’s military leaders, battle during rain or floods, wherever possible, might neutralize the advantage of the Philistines’ chariots.
Shortly thereafter, against another iron chariot–enabled foe, rain did neutralize the advantage of Israel’s enemy.
King Ja’bin of Hazor brings to bear “900 chariots of iron” [Shoftim (Judges) 4:3] against the Israelites. It is possible that the flooding of River Kishon was pivotal in the overwhelming of Ja’bin’s forces by Judge Devorah and General Barak [Shoftim (Judges) 5:1: “The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Ki’shon”].
(See 1100s BCE below for entry on Devorah)
c. 1230 BCE: BATTLE OF NIHRIYA
Tukulti–Nunurta I, King of Assyria, (1243–1207 BCE), successor to Shalmaneser I, vanquishes Babylon and the vestiges of the Hittite Empire. The statue of Marduk is brought from Babylon to Assyria; the “Epic of Creation”
is written in celebration of this victory.
After his death (murder), the Assyrian Empire fell into decline.
c. 1230 BCE: PINCHAS HA-KOHEN
High Priest and grandson of Aaron.
“Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, is so incensed at the sight of an Israelite consorting with a Midianite woman that he kills them both, thus ending a plague that has broken out and earning God’s special favor: a covenant of perpetual priesthood with him and his descendants (a forward reference to the Zadokite priesthood of post–exilic times). This account is connected by the last two verses with God’s call for Israel to harass and smite the Midianites. After the plague ends, in chapter 26, a second census of arms–bearing men and of the Levites is taken, and again a fantastically large total, 601,730, is given, perhaps referring to a much later time. It is noted at the end that all of the previous 603,730 had died in the wilderness, as prophesied, except for Caleb and Joshua, who have been especially picked out by God. This census, coming at the end of the 40–year period of wilderness wanderings, is for the purpose of allotting lands to the various tribes and families. Hence the logical positioning of the passage in the first 11 verses of chapter 27 assuring that a family may inherit through a daughter when there is no son and through a brother when there are no children and through the closest relative when there are neither.
At this point (chapter 27, verse 12) comes the impressive and poignant passage in which Moses ascends the heights, at God’s bidding, to look over the Promised Land, which he is not to enter, and calls on God to appoint a leader to succeed him. At God’s command, Moses selects Joshua, and before the priest Eleazar and the whole community he lays his hands on him and commissions him to lead Israel. It is noteworthy that Joshua is invested only with some of Moses’ authority and is to learn God’s will through Eleazar and the sacred lot (Urim), not directly, as did Moses.”
Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/456909/Phinehas (accessed June 24, 2009)
1200 BCE: ORACLE BONE SCRIPT
Ancient Chinese characters found on oracle bones, which are animal bones or turtle shells used in Divination in Bronze Age China.
–a fully functional and fairly mature writing system, notwithstanding that it is highly pictorial.
c. 1200 BCE: JOSHUA
Joshua conquers Canaan, and “the walls of Jericho fall.”
First battle: Israelite leader Joshua, successor to Moses, camps outside the heavily–fortified city of Jericho, and sends spies in to reconnoiter. Their main ally inside the city is an interesting woman, Rahab. Subsequent to the conquest of the city, only Rahab and her family are spared.
According to the Biblical account, Joshua and his army march around the city one time each day for six days, and then seven times on the seventh day. Then, subsequent to the Jewish priests’ sounding their ram’s horns and the Israelites shouting a battle cry, the city walls crumble. Interestingly, while Joshua “puts a curse” on anyone who might rebuild Jericho, Jericho is currently one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Archaeologists have unearthed over twenty successive settlements there, dating back to 9000 BCE.
Contemporary note: Eight hundred feet below sea level, north of the Dead Sea and east of Jerusalem, a visit to Jericho today will find a casino, the “Oasis Casino.”
1200 BCE: BATTLE OF TROY
Actual historical event which is the source of the legendary tale of Troy.
Historically, the Greeks, united under Agamemnon, captured the bulk of Asia Minor in 1184 BCE, and finally, the city of Troy.
The myth, Helen, the young wife of Agamemnon, deserts him for the younger Prince Paris of Troy. The myth revolves around the legendary torrid romance between Helen of Troy (“the face that launched a thousand ships”) and (Prince) Paris, heir to the throne of Troy. Note that Prince Paris got Helen, but lost everything else. Helen got Prince Paris, but effectively destroyed Troy.
That myth is combined with the myth of the Trojan Horse from the epic Latin poem The Aeneid. In the poem, after a fruitless 10–year siege of Troy, Greeks bearing gifts construct a huge figure of a horse on rollers and leave it at the gates of Troy (with Greek warriors hidden inside); the Greeks pretend to sail away; the Trojans wheel their new–found victory trophy inside; at night the Greek warriors slither out of the horse; they overpower the surprised gate–keepers of Troy from the inside, and manage to open the city gates; the Greeks who had secretly sailed back under cover of night, now finally gain entry to the city; Troy falls.
Late 1200s BCE: AMALEK
“According to Genesis, Amalek is a son of Esau’s son Eliphaz and of the concubine Timna, a Horite and sister of Lotan. Genesis refers to him as the “chief of Amalek” thus his name can be understood to be a title derived from that of the clan or territory over which he ruled. Indeed an extra–Biblical tradition recorded by Nachmanides relates that the Amalekites were not descended from the grandson of Esau but from a man named Amalek after whom this grandson was later named.
The Amalekites existed as early as the time of Abraham, in the region that would later become the Roman province of Arabia Petraea. This view corroborates Nachmanides’ claim of an origin for the Amalekites earlier than Esau’s grandson.”
“The Amalekites – members of an ancient nomadic tribe, or collection of tribes, described in the Old Testament as relentless enemies of Israel, even though they were closely related to Ephraim, one of the 12 tribes of Israel. The district over which they ranged was south of Judah and probably extended into northern Arabia. The Amalekites harassed the Hebrews during their Exodus from Egypt and attacked them at Rephidim near Mt. Sinai, where they were defeated by Joshua. They were among the nomadic raiders defeated by Gideon and were condemned to annihilation
by Samuel. Their final defeat occurred in the time of
Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/18343/Amalekites (accessed November 4, 2008)
“As the Jewish Encyclopedia put it, “David waged a sacred war of extermination against the Amalekites,” who may have subsequently disappeared from history. Long after, in the time of Hezekiah, five hundred Simeonites annihilated the last remnant “of the Amalekites that had escaped” on Mt. Seir, and settled in their place (1 Chr. 4:42–43).”
–The Book of Genesis 36:12 and 1 Chronicles (Jewish Tanach and Christian Old Testament). Accessed November 4, 2008
c. 1300–1075 BCE: INSTRUCTION OF AMENEMOPE
The alleged period (still disputed) of the composition of an Egyptian book of proverbs, (published in the last century by the British scholar Sir Wallis Budge in 1923). Passages from this book appear similar to the Hebrew Book of Proverbs c. 950 BCE, (connected with King Solomon’s reign 971–931 BCE) testimony to the close cultural ties between Israel and Egypt in the days of Solomon. At the same time, the wisdom articulated is generally quite universal. Furthermore, the wisdom sayings within the Book of Proverbs may have been assembled and collated by a literary (possibly Court) figure of Ancient Israel, and either presented to Solomon for his final editing, flourish and publication – or simply published “in his honor.” In the TaNaKh Solomon himself never refers to the Book of Proverbs work.
Amenemope belongs to the literary genre of “instruction” (Egyptian sebayt). It is the culmination of centuries of development going back to the Instruction of Ptahhotep in the Old Kingdom but reflects a shift in values characteristic of the New Kingdom’s “Age of Personal Piety”: away from material success attained through practical action, and towards inner peace achieved through patient endurance and passive acceptance of an inscrutable divine will….
Amenemope counsels modesty, self–control, generosity, and scrupulous honesty, while discouraging pride, impetuosity, self–advancement, fraud, and perjury—not only out of respect for Maat, the cosmic principle of right order, but also because “attempts to gain advantage to the detriment of others incur condemnation, confuse the plans of god, and lead inexorably to disgrace and punishment.”
–Wikipedia online, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instruction_of_Amenemope (accessed April 6, 2010)
1126–1103 BCE: THE REIGN OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR I IN BABYLON
He conquers the city of Shushan (of Purim fame) from the Elamites and recovers the statue of the god Marduk which was taken from Babylon by the King of Elam (Kudur Nehunde III, in the fourteenth century BCE). Elam, once an important power, declines and will not play a major role in Mesopotamia for the next 300 years.
1115 BCE: TIGLATH PILESERT I ASCENDS THE THRONE IN ASSYRIA
The first chronicles in Assyrian history record the major events of his reign: Tiglath Pileser wages war against the peoples who threaten his kingdom, particularly the Arameans; according to these chronicles he crossed the Euphrates River twenty–eight times to fight against this people who were becoming a major force northwest of the Fertile Crescent.
c. 1100s BCE: RUTH
“Do not implore me to leave you
or to turn back from you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
Where you dwell, I shall dwell;
Your people will be my people;
And your God, my God;
Where you die, I will die;
And there I will be buried with thee’
…Nothing but death will ever separate us.”
–the young widowed Ruth to her
Imbued with loving kindness, gracious, and loyal to the death, Ruth will not leave center–stage so easily. Symbolizing, as well, sincere and dedicated conversion to Judaism (she is originally a Moabite), the Jews will name and devote a book of the Tanach in her honor. The Book of Ruth is read annually on the Jewish festival of Shavuot (Tabernacles), commemorating the receiving of the Torah at Sinai.
Note: The date of the Book of Ruth is in wide dispute by scholars, as is its author.
Great–grandmother of King David, Ruth emerges, as well, as a key figure in Catholic and Protestant tradition.
1100s BCE: DEVORAH
Prophetess and Judge Devorah leads the Israelites.
Her commanding general is Barak who defeats the
Canaanite/Assyrian General Sisera.
Devorah was the fourth Judge of Israel (the only female judge), a celebrated leader, poet and prophetess.
In celebration, Deborah and Barak compose their famous song, one of the earliest of Hebrew heroic poems:
“Praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel,
When the people willingly offered themselves.
Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes;
I, even I, will sing unto the Lord;
I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel
Lord, when thou wentest out of Seir
when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom,
the earth trembled,
and the heavens dropped,
the clouds also dropped water.
The mountains melted from before the Lord,
even that Sinai from before the Lord, God of Israel.
In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath,
in the days of Jael,
the highways were unoccupied,
and the travelers walked through byways.
The inhabitants of the villages ceased,
they ceased in Israel,
until that I Deborah arose,
that I arose a mother of Israel.
They chose new gods;
then was war in the gates:…
Awake, awake, utter a song:
arise Barak, and lead thy captivity captive,
thou son of Abinoam.
Then he made him that remaineth
have dominion over the nobles among the people:
the Lord made me have dominion over the mighty…
So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord:
but let them that love him be as the sun
when he goeth forth in his might” (Judges, 5:2–31).
Deborah appears in the narration of events as a national leader, as a “mother in Israel,” but it is clear from her song that she had the allegiance only of some of the Israelite tribes that came together for the purpose of defeating a common enemy. She is the only iconic “Israelite Judge” whose activities actually included some judicial functions.
An Israelite homemaker Yael, assassinates the retreating Assyrian general Sisera who had stopped by her home to rest while fleeing from the lost battle; Yael serves him milk and drives a stake through his head when he dozes–off.
After the victory and killing of Sisera, there were forty years of peace.
1100s BCE: GIDEON
He becomes Judge (and warrior–commander) of the Israelites.
According to the Bible, God commands him to deliver Israel from the Midianites and the Amelekites.
Gideon chooses only a small cadre of 300 highly motivated, fearless warriors. (Note: Iconic King Leonidas of Greece will employ a similar stratagem at Thermopylae 675 years later with his immortal “300” (i.e. precisely the same number of warriors).
Gideon is also an important progenitor of “psychological warfare.” Arming his warriors with torches, trumpets and noise–making clay pots, and then attacking at night in full fury, trumpets blaring, torches alit, pots shattering, Gideon strikes fear into the enemy camp. His attacking and surrounding 300 seem to the Midianites like 3,000 and the Midianites retreat across Israel.
After prevailing over Israel’s enemies, master–strategist Gideon nevertheless declines to be king, telling the Jews that God is their ruler.
1100s BCE: SAMSON (Shimshon ha–Gibor)
According to the Book of Judges, Samson is betrayed by Delilah.
The temptress Delilah cuts his Nazir–ite hair, thereby eviscerating his strength. Samson is then enslaved by his mortal enemies, the Philistines. They bind, shackle, and torment him to a temple column during their pagan rites at the Temple of Dagon. Samson thereupon brings down the colossal temple roof upon the 3,000 assembled Philistines, their rulers and priests and upon himself.
Note: This will later become known as “the Samson
Defense” (meaning taking your enemies down with you).
c. 1050 BCE: THE PHILISTINE MEMESIS
Philistine expansion from the coastal plain into the interior. Following their victory in Eben Ezzer, when they captured the Ark of the Covenant and destroyed the temple in the capital Shiloh, the Philistines appoint commissioners to govern over Israel in the hills of Ephraim, forbidding metal–forging in order to prevent the production of chariots by the Israelites.
1047–1012 BCE: SAUL
Saul, first king of Israel, conducts many wars against the Philistines, exhausting their power and slowing down their advance. His victories over the Ammonites in Gilead, the Moabites, Amalekites, Arameans, and Edomites, determine the boundaries of the kingdom of Israel. But, victorious abroad, the king faces serious problems within the land: his relations with the Prophet Samuel deteriorate, a fact which tarnishes his image among the people; furthermore, in a single combat against Goliath the Philistine giant, young David wins glory and popularity, as well as the friendship of Saul’s son, Jonathan; these personal rivalries seriously undermine the young monarchy of King Saul.
1012 BCE: GOLIATH
The young David, the designated Jewish “champion” by King Saul, slays the Philistine “champion”—the giant Goliath (Golyat) with a slingshot in the one–on–one winner takes all conquest.
1008–1007 BCE: DEATH OF KING SAUL
King Saul is killed by the Philistines at the Battle of Mt. Gilboa along with his son, Jonathan (platonic soul mate of David).
From the dirge of soon–to–be–king David:
Eich naf–lu gi–bo–rim…
In life or in death!
They were swifter than eagles,
They were stronger than lions!…
How the mighty have fallen…
–Samuel B (Shmuel Beth)
1: 23…25 (quotes non–continuous)
1007 BCE: COMMENCEMENT OF THE REIGN OF KING DAVID
–over Judea: 1007 > 967 BCE
–over Judea and Israel combined: 1005 > 967 BCE
(meaning, he reigned over both until his death in 967 BCE)
David attacks and captures Jerusalem;
Jerusalem becomes the “City of David” (993 BCE) and capital of the Kingdom of Israel.
David is an acclaimed battle hero, musician and writer, credited with penning the majority of the Psalms, known as the “Psalms of David” (Tehillim).
David is depicted in extraordinary terms in both the Book of Samuel (Shmuel Aleph) and Chronicles (Sefer Divrei ha–Yamim)—along with his major character flaws. He is tenacious, phoenix–like, multi–faceted, and ultimately victorious.
Adroitly sets the stage for the golden successive kingdom of his son, Solomon.
c. 1005 BCE: MISHLÊ – PROVERBS
–by King David
(See Excerpts Exhibit)
c. 1000 BCE: TEHILLIM – PSALMS
–by King David
(See Excerpts Exhibit)
c. 950 BCE: THE FIRST TEMPLE (a.k.a. THE TEMPLE OF SOLOMON)
King Solomon completes Israel’s First Temple, in Jerusalem.
Solomon’s legendary temple will last approximately 364 years, to be destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.
The Temple is the de facto successor to the (portable) Tabernacle (Mishkan), which the Israelites used during the bulk of their 40–year exodus from Egypt. The Temple will be succeeded approximately 50 years later by the Second Temple, built in the early 500s BCE primarily under Persian–Jewish satrap Zerubavel.
The Second Temple will later undergo an extraordinary and historic renovation (if not total rebuilding) under King Herod the Great approximately 500 years later in the latter half of the first century BCE, only to be destroyed, in turn, by the Romans in 70 CE.
Clearly, with the erection of the First Temple under freedom, peace, prosperity and historically grand boundaries—as well as under a wise and benevolent ruler—Judaism reached an extraordinary apex.
However, the independent and spiritually uplifted state of King Solomon would set the bar high for succeeding generations, who would clash incorrigibly—and fatally—with the Roman rule of the first and second centuries.
c. 950 BCE: KOHELET ECCLESIASTES
–by King Solomon
(See Excerpts Exhibit)
c. 923 BCE: EGYPT INVADES PALESTINE/JUDEA
Shishak, King of Egypt (946–923 BCE), invades Palestine: He marches through southern Judah, the valley of Jezreel, the valley of Beth Shean, even crossing the Jordan to the east. A list of the cities he sacked is preserved in the temple of Amon at Karnak: it includes Gibeon, Jerusalem, Megiddo – where part of a stele bearing his name was found – Aijalon, Beth Shean, and many more. His campaign badly weakens Israel which has only recently split into two kingdoms.
850 BCE: HOMER
The very rough consensus is that a Greek, Homer, is the author—or transcriber—of the epic saga–poems the Iliad and the Odyssey.
Much hyper–obsessive academic warfare has always surrounded the identity or non–identity of Homer.
Homer’s Iliad is considered by many to be the earliest extant work of Western literature. But biblical texts—for instance, Joshua, Judges, Kings I & II, and Samuel I & II, epic–saga texts themselves—clearly all precede it.
840–400 BCE: MINOR PROPHETS OF THE
c. 825 BCE: ELIJAH THE PROPHET (Eliyahu ha–Navi)
“Elijah is a Hebrew prophet who ranks with Moses in saving the religion of Yahweh from being corrupted by the nature worship of Baal. Elijah’s name means “Yahweh is my God” and is spelled Elias in some versions of the Bible. The story of his prophetic career in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reigns of Kings Ahab and Ahaziah is told in 1 Kings 17–19 and 2 Kings 1–2 in the Old Testament. Elijah claimed that there was no reality except the God of Israel, stressing monotheism to the people with possibly unprecedented emphasis. He is commemorated by Christians on July 20 and is recognized as a prophet by Islam.”
Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/184625/Elijah (accessed June 30, 2009)
c. 800 BCE: ELISHA THE PROPHET
“The popular traditions about Elisha (2 Kings 2–13) sketch a charismatic, quasi–ecstatic figure, very similar to Elijah. Like his mentor, Elisha was a passionate exponent of the ancient religious and cultural traditions of Israel, which both felt to be threatened by the ruling dynasty of Omri, which was in alliance with Phoenicia. (King Ahab’s wife, the Tyrian princess Jezebel, was then trying to introduce the worship of Baal into Israel.) As a prophet, Elisha was a political activist and revolutionary. He led a “holy war” that extinguished the house of Omri in Jerusalem as well as in Samaria (2 Kings 9–10).”
Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/184750/Elisha (accessed June 30, 2009)
796 BCE: ISRAEL SPLIT INTO TWO KINGDOMS
–Jeroboam, King of Israel in the north
–Rehoboam, King of Judah, in the south
776–146 BCE: GREECE
Greek warfare, Olympics, democracy, math, philosophy, literature and architecture.
Alexander the Great, son of Philip, dies in 323 BCE at age 33 after a cross–continental swath of extraordinary conquests, including the Iberian Peninsula, the Mediterranean, former Babylon, Persia and India.
Alexander was a conqueror of mythical stature, who, as far as these matters go, was benevolent to the conquered territories and, as a rule, benevolent even to the hitherto royal families of the respective conquered lands.
c. 770–700 BCE: YISHAYAHU (PROPHET ISAIAH)
8th century BCE: IRON SWORDS INTRODUICED IN EUROPE
–by the Proto–Celtic Halstatt Culture (in what is contemporary Western–Central Europe): Swords were made both in bronze and iron. It is possible that the Philistines had them several centuries earlier in Gaza/Palestine.
764 BCE: AMOS BEGINS TO PROPHESIZE
Amos is one of the twelve Minor Prophets in the Tanach. He was born in the town of Tekoa, south of Bethlehem. Amos prophesied in the days of King Jeroboam II of Israel, while Uzziah was King of Judah.
“The days are coming, declares the LORD,
when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman
and the planter by the one treading grapes.
New wine will drip from the mountains
and flow from all the hills.
I will bring back my exiled people Israel;
they will make gardens and eat their fruit.
I will plant Israel in their own land,
never again to be uprooted from the land
I have given them,
says the LORD your God.”
c. 760 BCE: JONAH’S RUN–IN WITH WHALE
755 BCE: HOSEA BEGINS TO PROPHESIZE
A contemporary of the Greek poet Hesiod, Amos is the first of the “literary prophets.” A herdsman from Tekoa in Judah, but active mainly in Israel, he castigates the rich subjects of Jeroboam II for oppressing the defenseless poor.
753 BCE: ZECHARIA LEADS ISRAEL AS KING
752 BCE: MENACHEM LEADS ISRAEL AS KING
c. 750 BCE: ROMULUS
Romulus founds Rome along with his younger brother— and doomed future victim of fratricide—Remus.
740 BCE: PEKACH BECOMES KING OF ISRAEL
739 BCE: YOTAM BECOMES KING OF JUDAH
736 BCE: MICAH BEGINS TO PROPHESIZE
735 BCE: AHAZ BECOMES KING OF JUDAH
732 BCE: HOSEA BECOMES KING OF ISRAEL
722 BCE: SHALMANESER V
Assyrians overrun the northern kingdom of Israel, initially under Shalmaneser V and then under Saragon II, father of Sennacherib. Shalmaneser V asserts in his Annals that he carried away 28,000 Israelite inhabitants from the Samaria region (central/northern Israel), i.e. “The Lost Ten Tribes.”
Saragon II repopulates the Samaria region with people from Cuthah in the Assyrian Mesopotamian area. These new inhabitants form a new Samaritan (or Samarian) population known as the Cuthim. The Cuthim Samaritans practice a hybrid religion—part Jewish, part Pagan; however, the Jewish theological component of the hybrid religion does not quite evolve apace with mainstream Judaism over the centuries to come. Thus, there is a time–lag between their practices and that of normative Judaism. Their temple sits on Mt. Gerizim, which is about 40 percent of the distance from Jerusalem to the Sea of Galilee in the northeast.
c. 700 BCE: SENNACHERIB
Sennacherib attacks Jewish King Hezekiah’s rebellious Judea. He sacks 46 towns and villages, but fails to take Jerusalem. According to Melachim Beth (Kings II 19:35), God slayed the entire Assyrian camp of 185,000 troops the night before the anticipated battle. The Greek historian Herodotus (in his Histories, 450 BCE) relates a parallel divinely–appointed “mega disaster saga” befalling Sennacherib’s army the night before it faces the Jewish forces.
600s BCE: Ox–drawn ploughs
Indus Valley Civilization and Mesopotamia simultaneously: With the contemporaneous advent of the domestication of oxen in both civilizations, the stage was set for more advanced agriculture.
660 BCE: JIMMU
Empire of Japan established by Jimmu Tenno. Successively and uninterrupted to this day, the Imperial house of Japan has traditionally based it claim on descent from Jimmu. The Japanese Imperial line is possibly the oldest surviving hereditary line. However, information about Jimmu’s reign is historically very thin, straddling the boundary between myth and reality.
621 BCE: GREEK LAWGIVER DRACO
Greek lawgiver Draco drafts a proposed legal code for Athens with severe punishments (generally the death penalty) for all crimes, hence the word “draconian” (extremely harsh).
606 BCE: NEBUCHADNEZZAR
Babylonian Empire under Nebuchadnezzar defeats and eclipses the Assyrians.
c. 600 BCE: LEGEND OF JUDITH
Yahudith, a beautiful and daring widow who urges her countrymen to adhere to Mosaic law and to engage the enemy Assyrians, goes with her loyal, if recalcitrant, maid Abra to the camp of Assyrian General Holophernes. Judith gains his trust, enters his tent while he is sleeping, and decapitates him.
Ever–pure, Judith remains a faithful widow and never remarries.
The Book of Judith is not accepted by the Jews as part of the Jewish canon, as the details do not jive with the historical record. However, interestingly, the Book is accepted in the Septuagint (see below 250 BCE) and by the Roman Catholic canon in the Old Testament. (The Eastern Orthodox Church doctrinally accepts all the Septuagint as Old Testament.)
This means, ironically, that the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches accept at face value the saga and chronological details of a legendary Jewish heroine as accurate Jewish history, while the Jews do not.
c. 600 BCE: LAO TZU / TAOISM / TAO TE CHING
593 BCE: YECHEZKEL (EZEKIEL)
Prophet Ezekiel: originally, from Jerusalem then, Babylon. A prophet and priest who prophesied 22 years.
From Sefer Yechezkel (593 BCE):
As I looked
there was a hand (of God)
holding a written scroll.
He (God) unrolled it before me,
and it was inscribed on both the front
and the back;
On it were written lamentations, dirges, and woes.
– Ezekiel 1:9–10
Then He said to me, “Mortal,
go to the House of Israel
and repeat My very words to them…”
– Ezekiel 3: 4
By 586 BCE, Temple I is under siege by Babylonians.
586 BCE: DESTRUCTION OF TEMPLE I
The Babylonians of Nebuchadnezzar destroy the First Temple
–on the ninth day of the Jewish lunar month of Av (Tish’a B’Av), a pivotal (disasterous) day in Jewish history.
586 BCE: BABYLONIAN EXILE
There are four interrelated Biblically–
recounted “Babylonian exiles”:
–605 BCE: Deportation of Judean nobility (Daniel 1:1–6; Chronicles 36:6–7)
–597 BCE: Deportation of additional elite (Jeremiah 52:28–30; 2 Kings 24:10–16)
–586 BCE: Temple I destroyed (2 Kings 25:1–21)
–581 BCE: Another deportation (Jeremiah 52:30)
The Prophet Yechezkel is exiled in 586 BCE along with the Jewish people to Babylon, but all things considered, this is a relatively non–brutal exile.
The exile is under Nebuchadnezzar II, who reigns from 605 BCE to 562 BCE and constructs the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, a Wonder of the Ancient World.
Babylon will in due course incubate the development of the Talmud.
Babylon will also see Hebrew script adopted (employed overwhelmingly thereafter), as opposed to the more formal Israelite lettering (as per Torah scrolls).
In Daniel 3:13, in a temporary political twist of Jewish Babylonian fortunes, Nebuchadnezzar orders three Jewish administrators of Babylon who refuse to worship as per Babylon’s customs into the furnace. Shadrach, Meshach and Abad–nego are then, according to Daniel 3:25, joined by a divine agent in the fire, and emerge unscathed.
Ezekiel will later write the Book of Ezekiel in Babylon, which, among other things, commands the Jews not to worship foreign gods, but allows them to become part of (simpatico) Babylonian culture, which indeed they did, to the extent that most did not return to Judea when the conquering Persians allowed it. (The Persians as well as facilitating the rebuilding of the Temple).
Ezekiel also prophesizes the return of the Jews to their land, and their eventual fulfillment in a segment known universally as “The Valley of Dry Bones.”
From Sefer Yechezkel:
The hand of the Lord came upon me.
He took me out by the spirit of the Lord
and set me down in the valley.
It was full of bones.
He led me all around them;
There were many of them spread over the valley
and they were very dry.
He said to me,
“O mortal can these bones live again?”
I replied, “O Lord God, only You know.”
And He said to me,
“Prophesy over these bones and say to them:
O dry bones,
Hear the word of the Lord!
Thus said the Lord God to these bones:
“I will cause breath to enter you
and you shall live again.
I will lay sinews upon you,
and cover you with flesh,
and form skin over you.
And I will put breath into you,
and you shall live again.
And you shall know that I am the Lord!”
– Ezekiel 37: 1–6
This prophecy is inscribed at Yad Vashem
Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.
Nebuchadnezzar’s empire is to fall, within 50 years (539 BCE), to Cyrus the Great’s Persians, who are to be historic friends to the Jews.
But, 200 years later, the Persian Empire will (unfortunately for the Jews) in turn fall to Alexander the Great.
Successor regimes to Alexander will include the Seleucid–Greek Antiochus, enemy of the (Jewish–liberator) Maccabees.
Note: Ezekiel is revered as a saint in both the Eastern Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic churches.
c. 563 BCE: BUDDHISM
–founded by (Prince) Siddhartha.
Buddhism is viewed slightly differently, and with various nuances, through different prisms.
But generally accepted are its Five Precepts (as opposed to “divine commandments”):
1) no killing
2) no stealing
3) no immoral sexual behavior
(adultery, sodomy, etc.)
4) no lying
5) no drugs or alcohol
c. 551–479 BCE: CONFUCIUS
At approximately age 60, the Chinese minister Lu Long (known later as Confucius), resigns from his high ministerial post at court and spends the last decade of his life traversing China and teaching morality, family values, the importance of inter–personal relations, justice and sincerity, with a sprinkling of statecraft.
Both the series “The Five Classics” (which he used) and the “Analects of Confucius” (which actually post–date him), although widely attributed to him, were actually written by others.
c. 551 BCE: DEATH OF ZOROASTER
Zoroaster, founder of a faith resting on a dualist conception of divinity.
548 BCE: BOARD GAME
Oldest known reference to the weiqi or go board game.
539 BCE: THE “WRITING ON THE WALL”
Babylon: Daniel writes the? Book of Daniel in 539 or 538 BCE.
Belshazzar succeeds Nebuchadnezzar.
Belshazzar (profanely) uses sacred golden and silver vessels which had been removed from the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar (who had conquered Jerusalem and sacked the Temple in 586 BCE). Belshazzar and his Court blaspheme God by praising the gods of gold and silver.
Immediately the disembodied fingers of a human hand appear and writes on the wall of the royal palace the Aramaic words “Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin.”
Daniel, an exile from Jerusalem and formerly of high office under Nebuchadnezzar, is sent for to decipher the cryptic and mysterious writing.
Daniel translates as follows:
Mene Mene = God has numbered the days of your kingdom, which will now be brought to an end.
Tekel = You have been weighed in the balance
(of the scales of merit/justice) and have been
Upharsin = Your kingdom is (imminently) divided and given to the Medes and Persians.
Belshazzar is, according to lore, slain that night
(apparently by his sons).
Cyrus the Mede of Persia (later known as Cyrus the Great) becomes ruler of Babylon and of the general area.
Daniel rises to great prominence as the preeminent of the “Three Presidents” of Babylon, presumably a triumvirate.
Later, temporarily caught in political intrigue, Daniel finds himself imprisoned in a lion’s den. He is apparently protected, however, by the God of Israel.
After Daniel’s deliverance, Cyrus the Great issues a decree encouraging reverence to “the God of Daniel” (6:26).
In the 4000–year history of the Jews, there was no greater friend of the Jews than Cyrus the Great.
539 BCE: DOMINANT PERSIANS
Persia, under Cyrus the Great, now dominates the Near East.
538 BCE: THE CYRUS PROCLAMATION
“Thus saith Cyrus King of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the Kingdom of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him a House at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whomsoever is there among you of all his people, His God be with him, let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the House of the Lord God of Israel (He is the God) which is in Jerusalem...” (Ezra, 1:2–3).
538 BCE: EDICT OF CYRUS THE GREAT
Cyrus, emperor of Persia, proactively facilitates the return of the Jews from Babylon to Israel. There wee two waves of returnees, 40,000+, and 5,000+. Cyrus also arranged the return of the sacred (Jewish Temple) vessels, which had been taken from Temple I by Nebuchadnezzar. He also provides funding and total political support for the rebuilding of the Temple. Cyrus emerges as the pivotal and key player in the building of Temple II.
525–455 BCE: AESCHYLUS
The first of the classic triumvirate of ancient Greek tragedian playwrights is born. The others are Sophocles (496–406 BCE) and Euripides (480–406 BCE).
Some especially noted works:
–Aeschylus: The Persians
–Sophocles: Ajax, Antigone, Trachinian Women, Oedipus the King, Electra, Philoctetes, and Oedipus at Colonus
–Euripides: Alcestis, Medea, Electra, the Bacchae, and the Satyr play, Cyclops
522 BCE: DARIUS THE GREAT
Darius I becomes king of Persia.
Note that Cyrus’s two sons are killed in the bloodshed surrounding Darius’s ascent to power.
Darius, who will battle on all fronts, reigns for 36 tempestuous years. Among other exceptional legacies, he constructs the legendary capital of Persepolis, and expands the empire from the Indus River on the east to the border of Macedonia (Greece) on the west.
Darius is known, as well, for acute financial, legal and organizational skills. One hundred and eleven postal stations are set up with horses and riders, the first “pony express.” Darius organizes the empire into twenty provinces, each under a separate governor or satrap.
The Achaemenid Dynasty generally bans slavery over the breadth of its span.
As noted, under Darius, Daniel, back in Babylon, holds the position of the first–among–equals of the “Three President” supreme administrative office. That is, Darius effectively puts a Jew (a Jewish exile and prophet, no less) in charge of former Babylon (which had conquered and exiled the Jews in the first place).
Darius designates to Zerubaval, a (Jewish) Persian satrap in charge of Judea, the work of rebuilding the Temple. The work is carried to completion and consecration by the year 515 BCE under the stimulus of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah.
But there are items permanently missing from the First Temple, including the core and iconic crown jewels, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Ten Commandments. Their fate, a mystery for all time….
Five–hundred years later, c. 19 BCE, Herod effects an extraordinary overhaul, renovation and expansion of Temple II.
Note: The Achaemenid Dynasty had effectively incubated the Babylonian Talmud.
510 BCE – 476 CE: START OF THOUSAND YEAR ROMAN EMPIRE
Fancy soldiers’ outfits, impressive roads and architecture, brutality abroad (and, indeed, at home against real and imagined political threats), and gory spectacles are the centerpieces of Roman culture.
Ongoing brutality: Five hundred years later in Rome’s Coliseum, an amphitheater built in part by 20,000+ Jewish captives from Jerusalem in 70 CE. Some say well over 50,000 Jewish captives—both male and female—were sent to Rome and Alexandria (Egypt) combined.
Note that Rome has an ongoing Jewish community from c. 165 BCE (Maccabeean times in Judea) through the present day. The community traces its origins to a delegation sent by Judah Maccabee to Rome to attempt to enlist Rome’s assistance against the Greeks. The Romans decline the invitation, but according to Italian Jewish lore, the delegation liked what it saw in Rome, and networking leads to the establishment of this uninterrupted 2200–year–old Jewish community. Its centerpiece, the Great Synagogue of Rome (completed 1904), is an artistic masterpiece.
The unique Italian Jewish nusach (prayer service detail) is continuous for these same 2200 years.
The exquisite contemporary film “The Garden of the Finzi–Continis” chronicles the life of a wealthy northern–Italian Jewish family and the racial laws enacted under Mussolini (in the 1930s–1940s) that separated the Jews from society at large.
Moving to the present day, the tight–knit and heavily traditional Roman Jewish community—a mile down the road from the Vatican—asserts that it has just a 1 percent intermarriage rate.
But regardless, each day after Mincha (afternoon prayer service) in the Great Synagogue, the names of every Italian Jew who ever died on that day are read aloud by the Chazzan (cantor), and a special Yahrzeit room (Yahrzeit is the annual anniversary marking the passing of an individual), contiguous to the main chapel and fully outfitted with ornate Yahrzeit candle–lamps, which commemorates each Yahrzeit individually.
The only permanent pews in the Great Synagogue are the six center–front pews reserved for the “Returning Internees” of Auschwitz and their descendants. [Of approximately 2,000 Italian Jews who were deported (a mile away from Pope Pius) to Auschwitz, 16 survived – 10 men and 1 woman.
500 BCE: THE IRON PLOUGH
Approximate date for the invention of cast iron in China and the earliest possible date for the invention of the iron plough, which by the third century BCE, with better casting techniques, would become the heavy moldboard iron plough.
500 BCE: Germanic tribes appear in northern Germany
–within Nordic Bronze Iron Age
500s BCE: PROPHECIES OF HAGGAI, ZECHARIAH, AND MALACHI
–active during the Return to Zion, promising a glorious future.
490 BCE: BATTLE OF MARATHON
Rebellious Athenians (Greeks) defeat the expansion–minded Persians (of Darius I).
An Athenian herald, Pheidippides, runs from Marathon to Athens (between 21 and 25 miles) to convey the news of the victory to the Athenians. According to legend and the historian Herodotus, the Athenian runner dies from exhaustion upon proclaiming in triumph “We were victorious!” The legend of the “Marathon runner” is born, and will later be enshrined in the Olympics of the Twentieth Century.
Note: At the 1908 Olympics, the marathon route was laid between Windsor Castle (Berkshire County, outside London) and the royal family’s box at the Olympic Stadium in London, a distance of 26.2 miles—slightly longer than the route Pheidippides ran. This 26.2 mile distance was codified in 1921, after the Antwerp (Summer) Olympics.
484–425 BCE: HERODOTUS
Regarded by some as the “father of history” in European culture (recall, however, that many biblical histories precede him by many hundreds of years). By Western reckoning, the first European to collate his materials systematically, after verifying the accuracy. Almost exclusively known for his “Histories” on the Greco–Persian Wars (490 BCE and 480–479 BCE).
Successor Greek historians include –
Thucydides (460–395 BCE). Regarded by some as “the father of scientific history” for his fastidious analysis from multiple angles. His classic “The Peloponnesian War” recounts the war between Sparta and Athens in the fifth century BCE.
Xenophon (431–355 BCE). Soldier, mercenary leader, and writer/historian.
A leader of the legendary “Ten Thousand,” the army of Greek mercenaries isolated in the heart of Mesopotamia after their entire Persian leadership is betrayed and murdered. The journey home (to Greece) was recorded by Xenophon as The Anabasis (The Expedition).
Wrote, as well, several works on animals. Often cited as the original “horse whisperer” for his advocacy of sympathetic horsemanship in “On Horsemanship.” Wrote “Memorabilia,” which posits that animals were created by, and in order to serve, humans.
Xenophon was an admirer and recorder of the writings of Socrates (Xenophon’s are the only surviving representative writings of the genre Sokratikoi logoi). Perhaps his most important work is the history of his own times in Greece, “Hellenica.”
Polybius (203–120 BCE). Noted for his book The Histories, covering in detail the period from 220 to 146 BCE. Renowned, as well, for his ideas on political theory and balance of government, in particular. These ideas influenced Montesquieu’s The Spirit of Laws, as well as Jeffersonian democracy.
Plutarch (46–120 CE). Wrote Moralia, a series of 78 essays and speeches on politics, morality and philosophy.
His most noted work is Parallel Lives, a series of biographies of prominent Greeks and Romans.
480 BCE: BATTLE OF THERMOPYLAE
Outnumbered, King Leonidas of Sparta and his valiant “300” make their legendary “last stand” against the overwhelming forces of Persian Xerxes the Great (a.k.a. Xerxes I, son of Darius I) at the narrow mountain pass of Thermopylae, off the east coast of Greece. The valiant Spartan forces lose the battle on day 3, but, presumably inspired by Leonidas and the “300,” ultimately prevail, first in the naval battle of Salamis, and then in the battle of Plataea, ending Xerxes’ expansion into Greece and Europe at large.
478 BCE: QUEEN ESTHER
Jewish–born Esther and her uncle Mordechai turn the tables (and gallows) on Machiavelli–like Haman, viceroy (probably) of Xerxes I (a.k.a. Achashverosh, ruler of Persia.
Haman had secured a decree from Achashverosh calling for the slaying of the Jews on the 13th day of the lunar month of Adar.
Beautiful Esther, after a little maneuvering, adroitly secures a counter–decree from Achashverosh permitting the Jews to defend themselves on that day, which they successfully do, and slay their would–be killers. The day will be commemorated celebrated forevermore as the holiday of Purim (on lunar calendar Adar 14, four months and one day before Passover).
460–429 BCE: AGE OF PERICLES
Pericles, born a young Athenian aristocrat, and later an Athenian general, politician and orator, comes to dominate Greek politics. Although future (Western) history books will extol the Age of Pericles (448–406 BCE at its widest bracketing) for the birth of democracy, his era is also a period of violent Greek conquest, imperialism, and slavery.
459 BCE: EZRA
“Ezra the Scribe” (Ezra haSofer) returns from Babylon to Jerusalem, having been commissioned by Artaxerxes I (son of Xerxes I) to take charge of the ecclesiastical and civil affairs of the Jews.
In the seventh year of Artaxerxes’ reign, Ezra is believed to have led about 4,500 additional Jewish exiles living in Babylon back to their home city of Jerusalem. Ezra is credited by many scholars as the author of the Book of Ezra and the Book of Chronicles I (Sefer Divrei ha–Yamim I).
450 BCE: THE GREAT ASSEMBLY
120 Rabbis canonized the TaNaKh.
445 BCE: NECHEMIA
Satrap Nechemia is appointed governor of Judea by Artaxerxes I of Persia.
Nechemia returns from Babylon and rebuilds Jerusalem’s city walls. He is governor for approximately 33 years, with a 2–year interlude back in Persia at the 13–year mark into his administration.
431–404 BCE: PELOPONNESIAN WARS
Sparta vs. Athens.
The Peloponessian League (currently southwest Greece) led by Sparta, v. the Athenian Empire.
(Oligarchic) Sparta basically trumps (democratic) Athens, which never quite regains its pre–war prosperity/glory.
The wars caused mass devastation and marked the end of the “golden age” of Greece.
410–310 BCE: THE GREAT ASSEMBLY
The 122–member “Anshei Knesset HaGedolah” (a.k.a. The Great Synagogue) counts among its renowned members the last of the prophets—Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
400 BCE: EARTHLY AND COSMIC MAPS
Chinese Astronomers Gan De and Shi Shen "star catalogue" compilation.
Earliest date for the creation of the earliest known maps made in China, from the State of Qin.
399 BCE: SOCRATES
Socrates is accused of corrupting Athenian youth, and is sentenced to death. Playing the good citizen, he drinks the allotted poison.
Socrates had significant pedagogic influence over Plato, Aristotle, and the original pillars of western philosophy.
The “Socratic problem” is the problem of gaining accurate information about the true philosophy of Socrates. He has no known writings, and the primary writings about his philosophy are in a quasi–artistic medium. It is not clear if Plato’s later Dialogues simply use Socrates to mouth Plato’s own ideas.
Socrates is the architect of the “Socratic method,” a dialectic method whereby, in order to solve a problem, it is broken down into a series of questions, the answers to which presumably yield the correct solution. [Author – The problem with the Socratic method is that it works best if you know the answer first.]
However, the inherent power of the Socratic method is perhaps more that it reveals the contours of an issue.
387 BCE: PLATO
Plato, a disciple of Socrates, founds his Academy in a sacred grove near Athens. Aristotle is his pupil. Plato helps to lay the foundation of natural philosophy, science and Western philosophy.
The classic the “Socratic Dialogues,” which consists of 35 dialogues and 13 letters, is generally ascribed to Plato.
370 BCE: ROMAN ROADS
Romans commence building their legendary empire road network. The first road runs from Rome to the Alban Hills (to the southeast) and are used primarily for military traffic.
Of course, road networks only work to Rome’s advantage as long as Rome remains the superior military power. Later, Rome’s enemies will use these same roads to penetrate to the epicenter of the empire.
350 BCE: REVOLT AGAINST ARTAXERXES
Revolt of the Jews against Artaxerxes III in Persia. Little concrete detail is known of this saga.
341 BCE: CROSSBOWS / BATTLE OF MAI–LING
The battle pitted the Chinese state of Qi against the Chinese state of Wei (both in Henan Province).
Crossbows, invented in Ancient China c. 600–400 BCE, are employed in an ambush (the Qi “Tactic of the Missing Stoves”) by some of the 10,000 archers of Qi at the above–noted battle, who ambush the Wei at Meiling Pass.
338 BCE: PHILIP OF MACEDON
The father of Alexander the Great unites all Greece under his rule.
338 BCE: EARLY ROMAN COINAGE
Roman coins (Western Roman Empire) had intrinsic metal value, whether by dint of gold, silver or copper content. The currency value was often in the range of 1.5–3 times the underlying metal value.
Roman coinage from the mid–200s BCE through the mid–200s CE included, among other coinage, the following: the aureus (gold), denarius (silver), sestertius (bronze), dupondius (bronze) and the as (copper).
336 BCE: PHILIP ASSASSINATED
Philip of Macedon is assassinated (probably under the aegis of his hostile wife, the mother of his Alexander).
335 BCE: ARISTOTLE
Student of Plato; teacher of Alexander the Great in Athens.
Wrote on a range of subjects, including physics, metaphysics, logic, rhetoric, politics,
government, ethics, and biology.
His most important works (all in treatise form) include:
De Anima (On the Soul)
332 BCE: ALEXANDER PROJECTS SOUTHWARD INTO THE LEVANT
Alexander dispatches his lieutenant Parmenio to conquer Syria and Palestine.
According to legend, Alexander the Great visits Judea.
332–331 BCE: FOUNDING OF ALEXANDRIA (EGYPT)
331 BCE: GAUGAMELA
In the Battle of Gaugamela, Alexander the Great (of Greece) surprises the Persians (Darius III) with an original and seemingly bizarre maneuver, which nevertheless succeeds in opening a subtle gap in the Persian line. And changes the course of civilization.
Alexander consolidates his hold on far–flung Persia, and then continues his legendary march eastward.
Thus the First Persian Empire (Achaemenid Dynasty), spanning from 648 BCE (under Cyrus the Great) until 330 BCE, falls at Gaugamela.
Ramifications for the Jews of Alexander’s defeat of Darius III at Gaugamela:
Alexander seizes Palestine from the Persians in the process, and the “Hellenization” of Palestine/Judea commences (Hellenization meaning the layering of Greek culture onto the regional landscape).
The Persian potentates had been good to the Jews, sometimes overwhelmingly so. The Hellenization of Judea, begun under the Greeks and ongoing under the Romans 300 years later, triggers a series of extraordinary interlocking events. These events will include the Jewish revolts against Rome, the destruction of Temple II, the ascendancy of Christianity, and the eventual morphing of the Roman Empire to an increasingly anti–Jewish Christian Europe.
This morphing of Rome to Christendom will trigger often grave persecutions of the Jews, scattered across far–reaches of Europe, which will unhinge the Jews for centuries, through the twentieth century.
323 BCE: DEATH OF ALEXANDER
Alexander the Great dies in Babylon enroute home to Greece. His massive empire is carved up by his generals, followed by successive wars.
306–304 BCE: THE DAIDOCHI DO BATTLE
Alexander’s generals, the Diadochi (“successors”), fight over his empire, each taking the title of king and founding a dynasty; Asia and the Levant (including Palestine) fall to the Seleucids, Egypt to the Ptolemies.
c. 300 BCE: SAMARITAN SEVERANCE
The Samaritan religion, centered on Mount Gerizim, is finally severed from the Jewish faith centered in the Temple of Jerusalem.
300 BCE: EUCLID
Euclid, a Hellenist living in Alexandria, Egypt publishes Elements, a 13–volume treatise on geometry and the ancient Greek version of number theory.
Euclidean geometry employs, among other
– postulates (axioms: highest level “laws”);
– propositions (theorems derived from postulates);
– proofs of theorems.
Euclidean geometry is a self–contained construct of mathematical and formal logic of elegance and perfection.
Elements has been revised in over 1,000 editions, and is considered the most successful “textbook” ever written.
300 BCE: THE ABACUS
The Babylonians invent the earliest calculator, the abacus, in Mesopotamia.
300 BCE: ERYA
China’s oldest known dictionary.
287 BCE: ARCHIMEDES
“The most famous mathematician and inventor of ancient Greece. Archimedes is especially important for his discovery of the relation between the surface and volume of a sphere and its circumscribing cylinder. He is known for his formulation of a hydrostatic principle (known as Archimedes’ principle) and a device for raising water, still used in developing countries, known as the Archimedes screw.
Far more details survive about the life of Archimedes than about any other ancient scientist, but they are largely anecdotal…
There are nine extant treatises by Archimedes in Greek:
On Conoids and Spheroids deals with determining the volume.
On the Equilibrium of Planes (or Centres of Gravity of Planes; in two books) is mainly concerned with establishing the centers of gravity of various rectilinear plane figures et al.
The Sand–Reckoner is a small treatise that is a jeu d’esprit written for the layman—it is addressed to Gelon, son of Hieron—that nevertheless contains some profoundly original mathematics. Its object is to remedy the inadequacies of the Greek numerical notation system by showing how to express a huge number—the number of grains of sand that it would take to fill the whole of the universe.
Method Concerning Mechanical Theorems describes a process of discovery in mathematics. It is the sole surviving work from antiquity, and one of the few from any period, that deals with this topic. In it Archimedes recounts how he used a “mechanical” method to arrive at some of his key discoveries.
On Floating Bodies (in two books) survives only partly in Greek, the rest in Medieval Latin translation from the Greek. It is the first known work on hydrostatics, of which Archimedes is recognized as the founder.
Archimedes is known, from references of later authors, to have written a number of other works that have not survived. Of particular interest are treatises on catoptrics, in which he discussed, among other things, the phenomenon of refraction….
Archimedes’ mathematical proofs and presentation exhibit great boldness and originality of thought on the one hand and extreme rigor on the other…
In antiquity, Archimedes was also known as an outstanding astronomer.”
Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/32808/Archimedes (accessedJuly 1, 2009)
273 BCE: ASHOKA OF INDIA
Ashoka the Great (304–232 BCE) ascends as emperor of the Mauryan Empire. He then conquers and unifies most of South Asia, along with parts of Afghanistan and Iran. After conquering the adjacent kingdom of Kalinga in 265 BCE, Ashoka has regrets over his warlike tendencies, adopts Buddhism, and makes it the official religion of the Mauryan Empire.
In the 260s BCE, Ashoka grants increasing religious and social tolerance, as well as animal rights. He builds hospitals for the poor and for animals, and treats his subjects as equals regardless of class or creed. He promotes non–violence and republicanism. His historical zenith is probably the Edicts of Ashoka, which codify his historic reforms.
250 BCE: THE “REPEATING CROSSBOW”
–featured in drawings from the records of Chu (in China).
250 BCE: THE SEPTUAGINT (THE SEVENTY)
Greek King of Egypt, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, has 72 Jewish scholars translate the Five Books of Moses (as well as other books from the Tanach) into Greek.
Note: The title “The Septuagint” (a.k.a. “The LXX”) comes from the Greek number 70 (rounded–off from 72).
One wonders…if they rounded off the precise number in their own title, whether they also rounded off the translations….
247 BCE: PARTHIA
Parthian kingdom, whose center of gravity is northeast Iran, founded in the Middle East and Near East during the Arsacid Dynasty. Allied with the Jews against Rome.
Arch–enemy of the Roman Empire to the west, Parthia reaches its greatest extent around 150 BCE under Mithridates and lasts approximately 500 years. It was defeated in 224 CE by a vassal group, the Persians of the Sassanid Dynasty.
230 BCE: ARISTARCHUS
Greek mathematician and astronomer from Samos, an island off ancient Greece.
The first recorded person to place the sun, moon and planets in correct orientation with each other (known as heliocentric theory). Although the proposal of Aristarchus was rejected as wrong and impious, the world eventually caught up with his thinking – about 1800 years later – when Copernicus proposed the same theory c.1543 in the year leading–into his death. The heliocentric theory was finally “accepted” about 100 years subsequent to the death of Copernicus.
221 BCE: THE (FIRST) GREAT WALL OF CHINA
First Emperor Qin Shi, regarded by many as the founding father of China, builds a wall along 1,200 miles of China’s northern border. The wall stands between 20 and 50 feet high and 18 and 30 feet wide. It has a roadway on top, along with many periodic stations and connecting towers.
The wall’s more muscular successor, the 4,000–mile–long Great Wall, is built 17 centuries later under the extraordinary Ming Dynasty.
216 BCE: BATTLE OF CANNAE
General–in–Chief Hannibal crosses the (after marching through Iberia and Gaul) in the winter with 30,000–40,000 men, 6,000 horses and some surviving elephants. Although he is vastly outnumbered, Carthaginian (now Tunisia) Hannibal annihilates the Romans’ 87,000–man army in southeast Italy, outside of Rome.
The Battle of Cannae is considered by many military historians, along with the Battle of Gaugamela (331 BCE), to be one of the greatest tactical feats in military history.
Rather than line up his forces head–to–head against the massed Romans, Hannibal instead assembles them in a V formation, with the point of the V pointing straight at the Romans.
When the Romans advance, Hannibal feigns weakness, and then gradually “collapses” the front of the V, steadily encircling the Romans. Hannibal then signals a full–scale attack from all directions. A massacre of the Romans ensues.
The extraordinary count of 50,000+ Romans killed in one day is a uniquely dark historic figure in military annals.
Eighty Roman senators, who came anticipating basking in the glory of a dramatic victory over Hannibal, were either killed or captured at Cannae.
Military historians speculate that if Hannibal had pressed his advantage and marched on nearby Rome itself, he would have prevailed. The weight of the evidence is, indeed, on that side of the argument. However, Hannibal paused, and Rome would not be caught vulnerable again for a long time.
Several Italian city–states hitherto aligned with Rome, did defect to the Carthaginian side, however. They would ultimately regret that decision.
210 BCE: XIAN
Emperor Qin Shi dies. Buried next to his mausoleum in the Shaanxi Province of China is the Xian necropolis (meaning “city of the dead”), 8,000 life–size terra cotta replicas of Qin’s army.
Xian vies with Egypt’s pyramids as the preeminent (surviving) man–made “wonder of the Ancient World.”
The 8,000 clay replicas—in formation and in battle dress with weaponry and chariots—are believed to have taken 700,000 workers and craftsmen 38 years to complete.
The figurines, with an average height of about 6’ 2.5,” are actually about 25 percent bigger than the actual size of the local humans at the time.
Each figure has a unique expression and facial details. The figures vary in height, uniform and hairstyle in accordance with rank.
The clay battalions were discovered in 1974 subsequent to some pottery–fragment discoveries by a local farmer.
190–120 BCE: HIPPARCHUS
Greece: One of the great astronomers of antiquity. He was involved in the development of trigonometry and the astrolabe, the earliest known star chart. He was also a geographer and mathematician. Hipparchus spent the latter part of his life in Rhodes.
175 BCE: ANTIOCHUS IV EPHIPANES
–ascends to the Seleucid throne. Original name: Mithridates.
Greek–Syrian Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, successor to the Egyptian Ptolemies (who, in turn, are successors to Alexander the Great).
His adversaries called him “The Mad One.”
(b. 215 BCE; d. 164 BCE)
168 BCE: “LINE IN THE SAND” / ANTIOCHUS
The Seleucid army from the east had invaded Roman Protectorate Egypt.
The Roman ambassador (Gaius Popillus Laenas) in Egypt confronts Seleucid King Antiochus IV and demands that Antiochus commit to withdraw from Egypt. The ambassador draws a circle in the sand around Antiochus. The Roman ambassador demands that Antiochus—prior to crossing the circle line in the sand—commit to withdrawing all his forces from Egypt, implying that Antiochus’s breach of the circle in the absence of a commitment to withdraw, would provoke war with Rome. Antiochus hesitates, but then capitulates and commits to withdraw from Egypt. The Roman ambassador shakes his hand and Antiochus exits the circle in the sand. Antiocus subsequently indeed withdraws his forces from Egypt.
169 BCE: ANTIOCHUS IV OVERSTEPS
Having been stymied in Egypt and compelled to withdraw, Antiochus turns his attention to Judea.
Antiochus asserts strict control over Judea, plunders Jerusalem and its Temple, suppresses Jewish religious cultural and religious observances, and imposes Hellenistic practices.
On December 25th 169 BCE he profanes the Temple. Among other acts, he orders a statue of Zeus erected inside, provoking the Maccabees (the Hasmoneans) into rebellion.
c. 167–162 BCE: THE MACCABEAN (HASMONEAN) REVOLT COMMENCES
The revolt is sparked and led by the Maccabean family of Jewish priest Matisyahu and his five sons: Jochanan, Simon, Ezra, Jonathan and Judah.
Matisyahu refuses to allow anyone to sacrifice to the Greek gods—and slays a Hellenistic Jew who attempts to do so.
The revolt is on.
“Mi l’Adoshem, ai–lye”
“He who is for God, follow me!”
–Battle cry of Matisyahu the Maccabee
The Jews will follow him into battle—and will ultimately prevail—after two–and–a–half decades of battle.
167 BCE: MATISYAHU DIES
Son Judah succeeds him as preeminent leader of the revolutionary forces. While Matisyahu was more priest than commander, Judah is more commander than priest; his actual taken name is “Judah the Hammer,” i.e. Judah the Maccabee.
Judah the Maccabee, revolutionary commander, recaptures Jerusalem and rededicates the Temple on December 14, 164 BCE (25 Kislev).
The Jews are offered compromise by the Greek–Syrians: religious freedom but under continued Greek rule.
The Maccabees decline the offer. They have heard that line before.
The Maccabean insurgency will continue another 23 years in the endeavor to shake off Greek–Syrian rule totally, and to achieve political independence. One after the other, the sons of Matisyahu—the Maccabean commanders—are killed in battle. Judah is killed in 160 BCE, and his successor Jonathan is killed in 142 BCE. Another son is crushed by a charging Greek–Syrian military elephant in battle. Finally, in the same year, under the command of Judah’s surviving brother Simon—priest, warrior and master statesman—the Greek–Syrians, now under Demetrius II, grant the Jews complete political independence (and religious freedom).
After 25 years of almost unrelenting battle against the regional successors of Alexander the Great, the Macabees have prevailed and secured total Jewish independence.
Under the command of Judah the Maccabee previously, the Jews had restored the Temple, complete with the
miracle of the oil lamps. In commemoration of the miracle, Judah institutes the holiday Chanukah, when festive candles are lit for eight days each December (starting on the Hebrew calendar day Kislev 25). Dedicated priest, faithful son, triumphant battle commander, leader of Israel and liberator of Jerusalem, re–dedicator of the Temple, then killed in battle, Judah the Maccabee bequeaths an extraordinary legacy for the ages.
144 BCE: ROMAN AQUEDUCTS
The Romans develop hydraulic cement, which does not dissolve in water, allowing them to build major large aqueducts bringing fresh water to Rome. Eleven aqueducts, constructed over a period of 500 years, ultimately supplied the city of Rome itself.
142 BCE–40 CE: ZUGOT PERIOD
First rabbinical era; refers to the period when five successive pairs (zugot) of legal scholars ruled the Beit Din HaGadol (the Jewish supreme court).
The five pairs of zugot are:
• Jose ben Joezer + Jose ben Johanan
• Joshua ben Perachyah + Nittai of Arbela
(John Hyrcanus period)
• Judah ben Tabai + Simeon ben Shetach
(Salome Alexandra period)
• Sh’maya + Abtalion
(Hyrcanus II period)
• Hillel + Shammai
(Herod the Great period)
The (macro) rabbinical eras are:
Zugot – just–described
135 BCE: HASMONEAN ASSASSINATION
Simon Maccabeus and his two sons are assassinated at the instigation of his son–in–law Ptolemy (the Judean, not the Roman general of the same name).
However, Simon Maccabeus’s third son, John Hyrcanus, emerges from the maelstrom of the assassinations and assumes kingship. He incorporates an aggressive leadership style that includes the historically unusual forced conversion of the Idumeans (Edom) in the northeast regions of greater Israel, as well as a campaign against the Samarians (in middle–northern greater Israel) including the destruction of their temple on Mt. Gerizim.
130 BCE: PHARISEES
The Pharisee thrust in Judaism begins to emerge. Meaning, Judaism periodically developed tributaries. Sometimes these tributaries “dried up” and sometimes they flourished (and flourishes to this day), The Pharisee thrust flourished, leaving the Sadducee camp to ultimately wither.
The Pharisees, with Hillel to be their iconic standard–bearer, were less authoritarian and more humanistic on the ideological spectrum than the competing Sadducees.
The Pharisees were more into the “spirit of the law” than the technical dictates of the law. The so–called “Oral Law” – Rabbinic Law – Talmudic Law—is redacted from the so–called “Written Law” (of the Five Books of Moses). Of course, the “Oral Law” was ultimately written down—after it was debated – orally.
The Pharisees will eventually become essentially synonymous with Judaism post–Hillel, blossoming contemporaneously with the times of Jesus (who was himself a Pharisee).
Christianity, somewhat will incorrectly try to position all of Jewry as synonymous with the somewhat less humanistic Sadducees. (Humanistic) Jesus was Pharisee—in the spirit of (humanistic) Hillel. Their respective humanistic ideologies are one, and the same.
The destruction of Temple II c. 70 CE, along with the destruction of the central Jewish authority and the subsequent ignominies unleashed by the Christianized Roman Empire post–Constantine, hundred of years later, will give the development of the Talmud—a Pharisee centerpiece—more centrality and importance.
130 BCE: HASMONEAN LEGACY
The legacy of Judah the Maccabee—“Judas Macabeeus”—of extraordinary and victorious resistance and redemption, is so powerful that 250 years later the Romans will attempt to hunt down and slaughter all of his descendants in Judea in order to preclude another Maccabean leader from emerging to challenge them. The later demonization by the Church of the names Judas was possibly, as well, an attempt to undermine the Jewish icon of the same name, aside from the Jews as a whole.
In 145 BCE, two decades after Judas Maccabeus defeats Antiochus, his brother Simon Maccabeus sets up a Maccabean Dynasty.
Thus a revolutionary and priestly family shifts gears and asserts a royal claim to leadership, a claim far from universally welcome by the Jews. A corruption–plagued dynasty will then prevail for a hundred years before becoming a client kingdom of Rome in 37 BCE, with the installation of Rome–backed (technically non–Jewish) Herod the Great as King of Israel.
The Hasmonean dynasty was the only independent Jewish state in the four centuries after the destruction of the kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and was essentially the last prior to the modern state of Israel (founded in 1948).
Vicious civil war between Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II, grandsons of Simon the Maccabee, presented political and military vulnerability, which was then exploited by Roman general Pompey, who then adroitly and firmly secured control of Judea.
Later, when Pompey and Caesar die (48 BCE and 44 BCE, respectively), leading to yet another civil war in Rome, there is a brief Hasmonean resurgence backed by the Parthians, only to be crushed by Roman emperors Mark Antony and Octavian. By c. 6 CE, Rome will assert full control over Judea.
113 BCE: COMMENCEMENT OF GERMANIC WARS BETWEEN GERMANIC TRIBES AND THE ROMANS
–These wars will continue 552 years through 439 CE
Early First Century BCE: Bookbinding originated
–in India: Religious sutra copied onto palm leaves.
76 BCE: HER EXCELLENCY SHLOM–TZION
Commencement of the reign of Shlom–Tzion (Salome Alexandra), the only Jewish queen ever over Judea.
During her nine–year reign, Salome’s son Hyrcanus II is named her successor and installed as high priest. However, power apparently resided in the hands of his Machiavellian adviser, Antipater the Idumaean.
In sync with the Pharisees (Shimon ben Shetach, the head of the Pharisees, is said to have been Salome’s brother) Salome reorganizes the Sanhedrin according to their (Pharisee/Sanhedrin) wishes.
This effectively re–morphs the Sanhedrin from a quasi house of lords (of the aristocracy) which it had evolved into, back into a “supreme court” for the adjudication of religious matters, which was its very original mandate.
Salome was the last ruler to die as the head of a fully independent Jewish state in Israel until the formation of the modern state of Israel in 1948, 2015 years later.
73 BCE: SPARTACUS!
Former gladiator Spartacus leads a slave revolt back in Rome and initially defeats many Roman soldiers.
Roman legions are brought home from abroad to deal with the insurgency.
After Spartacus is defeated and his army surrenders, all the insurgents are executed (crucified), with the 6,000 corpse–laden crucifixes lined–up along the Appian Way.
The Romans justify the execution of the surrendered army with the (spurious) assertion that “since the slaves had violated their employment contracts, they were liable for the death penalty.”
67 BCE: DEATH OF QUEEN SALOME/ HYRCANUS II MARCHES
Civil war between the two sons, of Salome, Hyrcanus and Aristobulus.
Hyrcanus II reigns as king of northern Judea from 67 to 63 BCE.
Allied with Aretas, King of the Nabataeans, he marches on Jerusalem—the stronghold of his adversary Aristobulus. Both Hyrcanus II and Aristoblus were from wings of the Maccabeean dynasty.
During the siege of Jerusalem, the forces of Hyrcanus II commit two interrelated acts that incense the majority of the Jews and brand him forever:
1) The besieged forces in Jerusalem (under Aristobulus) had needed of pascal lambs for the
Passover rites, and negotiated the purchase of
one* from the besieging forces—apparently for the
huge sum of 1,000 drachmas. However, instead of sending a pascal lamb, the besieging Hyrcanus II forces malevolently and insultingly send a pig.
2) The pious ONI (Honi Hameagel), along for the march with the forces of Hyrcanus II, refuses to support Hyrcanus II after the pig incident and is consequently stoned to death by Hyrcanus II’s forces.
The two actions in concert give Hyrcanus II a niche in infamy in Jewish lore. The internecine fighting also has other consequences—in that it gave the Roman General Ptolemy the opening he needed to soon de facto seize control of the country.
* Many rabbinic commentators say: one/day for each
day of Passover, even though the parties were warring against each other. Some commentators go still further and say one/day was tendered ongoing to maintain the Temple rites.
68–63 BCE: ONE SPAN OF THE GREAT SANHEDRIN
Preeminent successor to the Great Assembly, noted above. An assembly of the 71 greatest Jewish judges and scholars of the time. Various Sanhedrins will appear periodically over a several hundred year span.
The august legislative–judicial–Halakhic body was one of the most esteemed institutions in Judaism’s entire 3,000–year history.
According to both Roman and Jewish sources, the Sanhedrin ceased prosecuting capital cases after Rome asserted control over Jerusalem/Judea c. 6 CE.
When Rome co–opted the Sanhedrin c. 6 CE, by imposing the High Priest (which Rome selected) as head of the Sanhedrin in lieu of the nassi (president), the prerogative of the Sanhedrin is effectively neutralized.
The co–opted Sanhedrin of that era indeed later dissolves completely in 68 CE in the wake of the Roman military counter–onslaught, as the Jewish community in Judea implodes under Roman assault, destruction, and subsequent exile in the decade following–upon 68 CE.
63 BCE: ROMAN GENERAL POMPEY…
Roman general Pompey maneuvers for conquest of Judea.
He enters Judea with his forces and, allied for the moment with Hyrcanus II (of the Maccabeean dynasty), captures Jerusalem from Aristobulus (also of the Maccabeean Dynasty).
The internecine Jewish fighting between Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus had given General Pompey the opening to capture Jerusalem with minimal cost. The fighting was an offshoot of total Hasmonean squandering of the political capital bequeathed to them by Matisyahu and his son, Judah the Maccabee.
General Pompey first appoints (the weak) Hyrcanus II as a puppet–government symbol via the high priesthood, and dispatches Aristobulus, nemesis of Hyrcanus II and pretender to the Jewish throne, back to Rome in chains.
Meanwhile, the puppet Hyrcanus II not only has Pompey on his case, but the old intriguer Antipater. Twenty–three years later, in 40 BCE, Emperor Mark Antony will strip Hyrcanus II of all titles, and then bestow the kingship on Herod.
63 BCE: MACCABEEAN RULE CONTINUES
Maccabean (Hasmonean) rule continues, but under the protection and supervision of Rome.
57 BCE: JULIUS CAESAR"S GALLIC WARS
Caesar invades a European region, which ultimately becomes German Inferior.
57 BCE–935 CE: SHILA (a.k.a. SILLA) DYNASTY
1000–year golden empire on the Korean peninsula stressing peace, spirituality, and learning, particularly during its 500–year zenith from the 400s CE to the
49 BCE: CAESAR CROSSES THE RUBICON
Jan 10: Roman General Julius Caesar defies the Roman Senate and crosses the Rubicon River (in Northern Italy) enroute with his armies to Rome itself.
Caesar seizes power and reigns as “perpetual dictator” of Rome.
This marks the transition from the 450–year–old
“Roman Republic” to the commencement of the
But Caesar’s reign is to be short–lived….
44 BCE: JULIUS CAESAR
The Emperor of Rome is assassinated on the “Ides of March” (March 15).
“Et tu Brute?” (“You as well, Brutus?”) exclaims Caesar to Brutus in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. Brutus, once a friend of Caesar’s, had joined the rebels who assassinate Caesar, hoping to restore the Republic.
[There is an antecedent biblical parallel to the famous line “Et tu Brute” in Samuel I (Shmuel Aleph), written 900 years earlier:
“Ha–gam Sha–ul ba–N’veim?” [“Is (King) Saul as well with these false prophets?”]
The rebels against Caesar are known as known as the Liberatores (“liberators”). After the initial knife thrust by a senator named Casca is deflected by Caesar, approximately sixty senators participate in the stabbing of the Emperor.
Although the assassins hoped to restore the Republic, the denouement is another civil war, which leads eventually to the (almost) permanent establishment of the Roman Empire (military dictatorship). Caesar’s adopted heir, Octavius (later to be called Augustus) becomes emperor.
Caesar is front–and–center on the stage of world history, with details of his life recorded by many historians, including Plutarch and Strabo.
Caesar authored the work Commentaries on his military campaigns.
Caesar was a political rival of the famous orator Cicero, and we know Caesar somewhat (filtered, of course) from Cicero’s oratory.
40 BCE: ROME
Emperor Mark Antony appoints Herod as King of Judea, but Herod assumes control only in 37 BCE, after prevailing in war against the invading Parthians.
Mark Antony executes the leader of the Parthians, Antigonos.
Herod rises from a wealthy and influential Idumaean family. (The Idumaeans were successors to the Edomites, descendants of Esau a.k.a. Esav) in southeastern Judea/West Jordan.)
As noted above, when the Maccabeean (Hasmonean) John Hyrcanus (Hyrcanus I) conquered Idumaea in 130–140 BCE, he required all Idumaeans to obey Jewish law or leave. Most Idumaeans apparently converted to Jewish practices at that point, but not necessarily including (halachically required) circumcision by the males.
Therefore, while King Herod identified himself as Jewish and was considered as such by much of contemporary Jewish society, nonetheless according to Jewish law he technically was not Jewish. Jewish history prefers to refer to him simply as Herod the Great.
In 40 BCE the Roman senate “elects” Herod as king of the Jews. Herod is, for sure, a kindred spirit to the Roman senate: He is power–crazed and homicidal, willing to murder his own children to advance his personal glory and power.
Ironically, the Romans will 73 years later, mock Jesus with the same appellation. “King of the Jews” reads the placard placed around the neck of Jesus, as Pilate and functionaries crucify him.
In any event, matters come full–circle, with an Idumaean–neo–Jew displacing a Hasmonean as king of the Jews and of Judea. Thus, in a bizarre twist of history, while the Edomites were sidelined by the patriarch Isaac way back in biblical times, an Edomite/Idumaean ends up as ruler of the Jews.
Note that, importantly, Herod was the second son of Antipater the Idumaean, the Machiavellian manipulator of Hyrcanus II until Antipater was poisoned in 43 BCE (possibly by Herod himself).
A tax collector is pinned with the poisoning of Antipater and executed by Herod, but historians are not so sure that Herod himself was not the culprit. One would be wise not to bet against Herod being the culprit here. It would later be manifest that one of the most dangerous positions to be in was to be part of Herod the Great’s nuclear family.
In any event, Antipater, who pulled the strings behind Hyrcanus II’s rule, now exerts dominion from his grave over Judea via his son Herod.
Herod’s brother–in–law and competitor, Aristobulus III, the high priest, will mysteriously drown at a party, as well. With Herod’s father and brother both dead, Herod is free to concentrate on being Herod the Great.
31 BCE: BATTLE OF ACTIUM
Roman power–player Octavian defeats Mark Antony in a decisive naval encounter on the Ionian Sea, off the Roman colony of Actium in Greece.
The pivotal battle is considered to mark the completion of the transition from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire (essentially a military dictatorship).
Octavian’s fleet is commanded by the legendary commander Agrippa. Mark Anthony is supported financially by his lover, Cleopatra VII, Queen of Ptolemaic Egypt.
Octavian’s victory enables him to further consolidate his power. He accepts the designations princeps (“first citizen”) and “Augustus” (meaning “August One”).
The rule of Augustus initiates a two–century era of relative peace known as the “Pax Romana,” or “Roman Peace.” But note that the first Roman war against the Jews takes place during this (presumably relatively peaceful Roman) era.
Sextilis, the eighth month of the Roman calendar, is renamed August in his honor.
29 BCE: HEROD THE SON–IN–LAW
Herod has his mother–in–law, Alexandra, executed.
28 BCE: HEROD THE BROTHER–IN–LAW
Herod executes his brother–in–law, Kostobar.
c. 22 BCE: HEROD THE BUILDER
Herod commences major renovation and expansion of Temple II, rebuilt approximately 500 years earlier under the Persian satrap, the Jew Zerubavel.
The newly renovated complex is popularly called “Herod’s Temple.”
Herod’s Temple complex will be somewhere between 5–15 times larger than Zerubavel’s (approximately 500 ‘x 165’ complex).
With the entire Temple complex constructed on a perfectly horizontal carved–out plateau, and made of white stone, and with the central Temple itself constructed exclusively of glistening white marble, Herod’s Temple will be one of the Wonders of the World.
Counterpoised against Herod’s glistening white Temple, where doves are sacrificed to God, 1,426 miles to the west is the symbol of Rome, the gladiator amphitheatre, where human prisoners were pitted against each other and wild animals for daytime entertainment. The Roman state–sponsored gore and sadism in the public amphitheatre would only be trumped by the licentiousness in the Palace itself.
Before Herod can commence (the grandiose–planned) construction, however, the wary Jewish priesthood authority requires Herod to quarry at least all the foundation and central Temple stone.
They had good reason to be wary of Herod’s planned construction: the largest foundation bricks were to weigh 628 tons. (We know the weight because these bricks still exist in place today).
Inasmuch as only Kohanim (the Jewish priest class) are permitted to enter the central zones of the Temple, 1,000 Kohanim were trained as masons and stone–cutters.
It is not clear how long the entire process took from start to finish; estimates range from 3 years to 25 years. But Herod was good at completing projects and an experienced mastermind. So, the central Temple was probably complete within two years, with the entire Temple Complex essentially complete within fourteen years (by 8 BCE).
“He who has not seen the Temple of Herod,
has never seen anything truly beautiful.”
– (alleged) First Century BCE saying
Note: Temple functions (including karbanot, or animal sacrifices) apparently continued uninterrupted throughout construction (somehow).
20–35 BCE: THE FLEETING MINI–STATE
Two brothers Hanilai and Hasinai (Anilaeus and Asineaus) establish a short–lived “Jewish State” in the region of Nehardea (Persia/Babylon).
13 BCE: HEROD THE OVER–ACHIEVER
Herod completes Caesarea Maritima, the port city of Caesarea, in honor of his patron Caesar in Rome, with another temple, this one dedicated to the divine spirit of Augustus. Thus, Herod shows that he is an “equal opportunity temple builder”: one for the Jews and one for the Romans.
12 BCE: EMPEROR AUGUSTUS INTERCEDES
Augustus stops Herod from putting both his sons from his first marriage on trial.
Herod executes them in 7 BCE anyway, as well as another son in 4 BCE.
And what of the Idumaeans (the Edomites)?
As if matters were not incredible enough, on the eve of the siege of Jerusalem by Titus around 69 CE, 20,000 Idumaeans appeared before Jerusalem to fight on behalf of the (Jewish) Zealots.
The Idumaeans then subsequently apparently fade out of existence in the second century CE some time after the multiple Jewish rebellions against Rome. Presumably, this fade–out of a loyal Jewish ally was not discouraged (if not actively aided and abetted) by Rome.
10 BCE: HEROD THE COMPLETER
Herod finishes adding an artificial harbor at Caesarea.
c. 10 BCE: HILLEL
Primacy of the Jewish sage Hillel (Hillel I).
Humanistic–focused Jewish sage and scholar, Hillel is one of the most important figures in Jewish history.
Cites “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself” (Leviticus 19:18) as centerpiece dogma (as will Jesus in the generation right after him). Hillel is integral to the development of the Talmud and an intellectual/religious counter–point to Shammai.
“School of Hillel” (Beit Hillel) generally prevails in Talmudic debates.
Both Hillel and Shamai are sages in Jerusalem, their tenures and schools overlapping with the birth nearby of the to–be central icon of Christianity. Hillel’s teachings, whose “time has come,” are accepted and codified. Hillel: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow… That is the whole Torah: “all the rest is commentary.”
8 BCE: HEROD THE TRULY GREAT
Work is completed on the final outer courtyards of Herod’s new Temple, a cutting–edge achievement.
4 BCE: THE “VARUS’ WAR”
–after Herod’s death, uprisings in Judea are brutally put down by the governor of Syria, Varus.
c. 4 BCE: JESUS IS BORN
• Jewish population ‘worldwide’: approximately 7 million (but heavily in the greater Mediterranean and Mesopotamian areas.
• Total world population: 750 million
• So, the Jewish population as a percentage of total world population: approximately 1 percent. The vicissitudes of subsequent history will very significantly and steadily lower that percentage.
• Percentage of world’s total Jewish population living in Herod’s Judea: approximately 33 percent (2.31 million of the 7 million total “worldwide”)
The most sophisticated societies at this point in time in the Americas, are apparently located along the Andes Mountains of Peru and in the central valley of Mexico.
The ancient city of Teotihuacán (Mexico) was built—probably by the Totonac people—in central Mexico starting 200 BCE. The largest pyramid of the city, the Pyramid of the Sun, was completed by 100 CE. The city reaches its zenith around 150–450 CE, when it is the center of a powerful culture, possibly radiating well over a thousand miles.
At its peak, the city housed 150,000–250,000 people, covered over 11.5 square miles, was laid–out in very broad avenues at right angles, and had a sophisticated underground water–conduit system. Most interestingly, the city had no fortifications or military structures.
The city contained a special district for religious
worship, with the above–noted Pyramid of the Sun—214 feet, or 17 stories high—dominating the horizon.
The religious district centerpiece is a spectacular “Avenue (in honor) of the Dead,” with an associated major plaza at its terminus, complete with architectural pond.
Note that the iconic Peruvian city of Machu Piccu (“the Lost City of the Incas”), with the nearby Cuzco administrative nexus, only comes into existence over
a thousand years later, around 1450 CE.
3 BCE: HEROD THE GREAT DIES
3 BCE – 39 CE: HEROD ANTIPAS TETRARCH OF GALILEE
Whereas King Herod was relatively strong vis à vis Rome, his son Tetrarch Herod Antipas is weak—and successfully marginalized by Rome—and by the Roman procurator in Jerusalem. Herod’s capital was in Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee in north east Judea…
Matters will now move apace.