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4th century BC: Map


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The 4th century BC started the first day of 400 BCE and ended the last day of 300 BCE. It is considered part of the Classical era, epoch, or historical period.


This century marked the height of Classical Greek civilization in all of its aspects. By the year 400 Greek philosophy, art, literature and architecture had spread far and wide, with the numerous independent Greek colonies that had sprung up throughout the lands of the eastern Mediterraneanmarker.

Arguably the most important series of political events in this period were the conquests of Alexander, bringing about the collapse of the once formidable Persian Empire and spreading Greek culture far into the east. Alexander dreamed of an east/west union, but when his short life ended, his vast empire was plunged into civil war as his generals each carved out their own separate kingdoms. Thus began the Hellenistic age, a period characterized by a more absolute approach to rule, with Greek kings taking on royal trappings and setting up hereditary successions. While a degree of democracy still existed in some of the remaining independent Greek cities, many scholars see this age as marking the end of classical Greece.


Significant people

Inventions, discoveries, introductions

  • Oldest Brahmi script dates from this period (Brahmi is the ancestor of Indic scripts).
  • Romans build first aqueduct.
  • Chinese use the handheld trigger crossbow for the first time.
  • The first crossbow, the gastraphetes, is invented at Syracusemarker. (? pre-421 BC)
  • Burnt brick first used in Greecemarker. (source?)
  • Donkey-powered mills first used in Greecemarker. (source?)
  • Torque with lion's-head terminals, from Susamarker (modern Shush, Iranmarker) was made. It is now in Musee du Louvremarker, Parismarker.
  • Daric, a coin first minted under Darius I of Persiamarker is made. It is now kept in Heberden Coin room, Ashmolean Museummarker, Oxfordmarker.
  • Second half of the 4th century BC – Tomb II, so called Tomb of Philip II of Macedon, Verginamarker, Macedonia is made.
  • Starting in the year 309 BC, the later Chinese historian Sima Qian (145 BC90 BC) wrote that the Qin-employed engineer Bi Ling of the newly conquered State of Shu in Sichuanmarker had the shoulder of a mountain cut through, making the 'Separated Hill' that abated the Mo River, and excavated two canals in the plain of Chengdumarker. The significance of this was phenomenal, as it allowed the new Guanxian irrigation system to populate an area of some 40 by 50 miles (60 × 80 km) with over five million people, still in use today (Needham, Science and Civilization in China, Volume 4, Part 3, 288).
  • The Chinesemarker astronomer Gan De divides the celestial sphere into 365¼ degrees, and the tropical year into 365¼ days at a time when most astronomers used the Babylonmarker division of the celestial sphere as 360 degrees (Deng, Yinke. [2005] (2005). Chinese Ancient Inventions. ISBN 7508508378).

Decades and years

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