Ancient Greece Timeline

Ancient Greece refers to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Dark Ages to the end of antiquity (circa 800 B.C. to 600 A.D.).

During this period, Greek civilization had a powerful influence on the Roman Empire and significantly contributed to many aspects of Western civilization, including philosophy, politics, and the arts.

Also Read: Ancient Greece Accomplishments

Ancient Greece is most known for the establishment of democracy, the creation of drama (tragedy and comedy), significant progress in science and mathematics, the Olympic Games, the philosophical teachings of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and the military campaigns of Alexander the Great.

The historical timeline of Ancient Greece is typically divided into several periods, including:

  • The Prehistoric Period
  • The Archaic Period
  • The Classical Period
  • The Hellenistic Period
  • Roman Greece
PeriodDate RangeKey Events
Prehistoric Periodc. 3000 BC – c. 1100 BCBronze Age, including the Mycenaean civilization and the Trojan War; Dark Ages
Archaic Periodc. 800 BC – c. 500 BCEmergence of the polis (city-state), rise of the tyrants, development of early democracy, advancements in arts, poetry, and philosophy
Classical Periodc. 500 BC – c. 323 BCPersian Wars, Golden Age of Athens (Age of Pericles), Peloponnesian War, Macedonian Ascendancy (Philip II, Alexander the Great)
Hellenistic Periodc. 323 BC – c. 146 BCDivision of Alexander’s empire among his generals, fusion of Greek and Eastern cultures, Roman conquest of Greece
Roman Greece146 BC – 330 ADGreece as a key eastern province of the Roman Empire, continued cultural and intellectual influence on Rome

Also Read: Ancient Greece Facts

Timeline of Ancient Greece

Prehistoric Period (c. 3000 BC – c. 1100 BC)

This period begins with the Bronze Age, which is further divided into three sub-periods:

  • Early Helladic (c. 3000–2000 BC): This period saw the early inhabitants of the Greek mainland living in small agricultural communities. They worked with bronze and stone tools and engaged in farming and animal husbandry.
  • Middle Helladic (c. 2000–1550 BC): There’s evidence of increased contact and cultural exchange with the Minoan civilization of Crete during this period. The Minoans were a highly sophisticated society, known for their palace complexes, frescoes, and written language (Linear A).
  • Late Helladic or Mycenaean period (c. 1550–1050 BC): This period is associated with the Mycenaeans, an advanced civilization on the Greek mainland. Mycenaean society was characterized by its architectural marvels, including fortified palaces and beehive tombs, and the development of the Linear B script. The Mycenaean era culminated in the Trojan War, around 1200 BC.

The Bronze Age was followed by the Greek Dark Ages (c. 1100 BC – c. 800 BC), a period of decline after the fall of the Mycenaean civilization.

Also Read: Timeline of Ancient Civilizations

The use of written language was lost, many settlements were abandoned, and the population declined.

Archaic Period (c. 800 BC – c. 500 BC)

The Archaic period marks a time of revival after the Dark Ages:

  • Rise of the Polis (City-State): During the Archaic period, the basic political unit of Greece was the city-state, or polis. Each polis was an independent entity, often with its own government, military, and laws. Notable city-states included Athens, Sparta, and Corinth.
  • Colonization: As city-states grew, some found it necessary to establish colonies elsewhere in the Mediterranean. This led to a period of Greek colonization, which helped to spread Greek culture and language.
  • Tyrants and Early Democracy: Many city-states were initially ruled by monarchs or oligarchs, but there was often a shift to tyranny (rule by a single, non-hereditary leader). The tyrants were eventually overthrown, and in Athens, this led to the development of the world’s first democracy.
  • Cultural Developments: The Archaic period also saw significant cultural developments, including the creation of the Greek alphabet (adapted from the Phoenician alphabet), advancements in art (including the introduction of monumental stone sculpture), and the composition of epic poetry, such as the Iliad and the Odyssey, traditionally attributed to Homer. The philosophical tradition of the West also began in the Archaic period with thinkers such as Thales and Pythagoras.

Classical Period (c. 500 BC – c. 323 BC)

  • Persian Wars (499 BC – 479 BC): This was a series of conflicts fought between the Greek city-states and the Persian Empire. The battles of Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis, and Plataea were significant engagements during these wars. The Greeks were ultimately victorious, marking a significant turning point in the Greco-Persian Wars.
  • Golden Age of Athens (c. 461 BC – c. 429 BC): This was a period of political, philosophical, artistic, and scientific achievements that formed a legacy with unparalleled influence on Western civilization. The statesman Pericles was a central figure in this period, overseeing the rebuilding of the city following the Persian Wars and promoting the arts, literature, and philosophy. This period also saw the construction of the Parthenon.
  • Peloponnesian War (431 BC – 404 BC): A devastating war between the Athenian empire (the Delian League) and Sparta (the Peloponnesian League). The war ended with the defeat of Athens and the end of its cultural and political dominance.
  • Macedonian Ascendancy (359 BC – 323 BC): The kingdom of Macedonia, under the leadership of Philip II and then his son Alexander the Great, conquered all of Greece and created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from Greece to Egypt and as far east as India. Alexander’s conquests spread Greek culture throughout the known world, marking the beginning of the Hellenistic period.

Hellenistic Period (c. 323 BC – c. 146 BC)

  • Following the death of Alexander the Great, his empire was divided among his generals, known as the Diadochi, resulting in a number of Hellenistic kingdoms, including the Seleucid Empire, Ptolemaic Egypt, and the Antigonid dynasty in Macedonia.
  • This period was characterized by a fusion of Greek and Eastern cultures, reflected in aspects such as art, architecture, and philosophy.
  • Key Hellenistic cultural centers included cities like Alexandria in Egypt and Antioch in Syria. Hellenistic science and philosophy flourished, with figures like Euclid, Archimedes, and Epicurus leaving a lasting legacy.
  • The Hellenistic period ended when Greece was conquered by Rome in 146 BC.

Roman Greece (146 BC – 330 AD)

  • After the Roman conquest, Greece became an important part of the Roman Empire. It continued to be a vital cultural and intellectual center, exerting influence on Roman institutions.
  • During this period, Greek became the lingua franca of the Roman elite, and Greek philosophy and literature were widely studied. The city of Athens was considered a center for philosophers.
  • The Greek influence on Rome was such that Horace, a Roman poet, famously said: “Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit” (“Captive Greece captured her rude conqueror”).
  • This period lasted until the Roman Empire was divided into the Western Roman Empire, centered around Rome, and the Eastern Roman Empire, centered around the new capital of Byzantium (later renamed Constantinople), in 330 AD. The Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire, maintained Greek as the language of the state, and Greek culture continued to thrive.