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Europe

Europe 3500 BC
Europe 2500 BC
Europe 1500 BC
Europe 1000 BC
Europe 500 BC
Europe 200 BC

Europe 3500 BC

For the past two thousand years or so, farming has slowly been spreading throughout Europe, and now covers most of the continent. People live in small village communities, mostly practicing a mixed economy of agriculture, hunting and gathering. To the north the hunting and gathering elements predominate.

Europe 2500 BC

The period since about 3000 BC has seen nomadic peoples from the central Asian steppes, speaking Indo-European languages, coming into eastern and central Europe. Their domestication of horses has given them a military edge, and they seem to have imposed themselves upon the earlier populations as a ruling class.

Material progress has continued for the past thousand years. Long-range trade networks are becoming established throughout the continent, and copper is coming into use, starting in southern Europe and spreading into eastern and central areas of the continent.

Europe 1500

Europe is now coverd by a network of Bronze Age farming cultures, ruled for the most part by powerful chiefs and warrior elites. Much of eastern and central Europe is home to Indo-European speakers, ancestors of the Celts, Germans, Italians and Illyrians.

In the south east corner of the continent, in Greece, an important development in world history has taken place. Civilization has arrived from the Middle East, with its already ancient cities and empires, by way of Crete and the Aegean.

Greece and the Balkans 1500 BC

On the island of Crete, the first civilization in European history – the Minoan – has been flourishing since around 2000 BC. This is centred on some of the most sophisticated palace-complexes in the world at that time, distributed across the island. Of these, Knossos is the largest and most elaborate. Minoan Crete is a well-developed state with trading contacts throughout the eastern Mediterranean.

On the mainland of Greece and throughout the Aegean sea, another civilization, the Mycenaen, also flourishes. This consists of many small kingdoms, at Mycenae, Troy and other places famous in the epics of later Greeks, and ruled by warrior lords in their thick-walled palaces.

Anatolia 1500 BC

The Hittites are an Indo-European people from the steppes who have established a powerful, war-like kingdom in Anatolia. They owe much of their military success to a technology originating from their steppe homelands, the chariot.

The Hittite kingdom, based on its central Anatolian capital, Hattusa, has by this period reached a high level of civilization.

Further west, on the Aegean coast, such cities as Troy and Miletus participate in the Aegean civilization, and have developed close links with Crete and mainland Greece.

Europe 1000 BC

The peoples of Europe have experienced widespread disruption as the peoples of the Tumulus cultures have expanded out from their central Europe homelands, just before 1200 BC. The train of migrations and invasions that this set in motion has had a huge impact on the wider world. It probably caused the fall of the first civilization on the European mainland, that of the Mycenaeans in Greece, and led to the violent eruption of the “Sea Peoples” from southern Europe into Middle Eastern history.

Within Europe itself, the peoples of the old Tumulus cultures are now distributed around western, central and southern parts of the continent, the ancestors of today’s Celts, Slavs and Italians.

Europe 500 BC


In southern Europe, the Greeks, Carthaginians and other peoples have colonized the coasts and islands of the Mediterranean sea, and hundreds of small city-states (among them the as-yet-insignificant city of Rome) have sprung up.

The emergence of the Classical city-state in the Mediterranean world has allowed one of the most brilliant civilizations in all human history to develop, that of ancient Greece. The small city-states are normally governed by republics rather than monarchies, and are fiercely competitive. They provide a fruitful environment for advances in many branches of endeavour, artistic, intellectual and political. In them, the foundations for future Western civilization are being layed.

To the north, the Celts now cover western Europe from Spain in the west to Britain in the north. Peoples closely related to them, both ethnicaly and culturally, dominate central Europe.

Italy 500 BC


By 700 BC, when Italy first appears in (Greek) written records, most of its inhabitants lived as farmers or herders in villages or small towns, and spoke an Indo-European language. Colonists from Greece had already established several city-states in the south of Italy and in Sicily. These have brought Greek civilization to the peninsula, and with it the alphabet, Greek styles of art and architecture, and other Greek ways. In central Italy, a sophisticated civilization – that of the Etruscans – has emerged, centred on a group of wealthy city-states. At around this time their power reaches its peak with the establishment of outposts in the Po valley, in the north. By 500 BC, other Italian peoples are living in city-states, and that distinctively Greek political form, the republic, is taking root in the peninsula.

In central Italy, the small city of Rome is even now winning its independence from Etruscan domination and becoming one of these new-fangled city-republics.

France 500 BC


The past few centuries in Western Europe (from around 800 BC) have seen the spread of Celtic peoples across France and into Britain, Ireland and Spain. The Celts have brought with them an Iron Age culture, a society dominated by aristocratic warriors, and their characteristic hill forts around which large settlements cluster. Powerful chiefdoms have emerged in the region.

They have also brought with them a thirst for luxury goods. This demand is fed by imported goods from the Mediterranean as well as by domestic manufacture – the Celts make beautiful jewellery. This trade is enhanced by the presence of Greek and Carthaginian colonies on the southern coasts of France and Spain.

North Africa 500 BC


Carthage was founded shortly after 1000 BC by Phoenician colonists from Syria. In the following centuries the city flourished, and has become the great trade emporia of the western Mediterranean, dominating not only with its merchant ships but with its fighting navy as well.

To secure its position, commercially and militarily, Carthage has set up colonies along the North African coast, in the Balearic Islands and in Spain, and has established control over the cities of western Sicily.

Greece and the Balkans 500 BC


The Greek tribal societies of around 1000 BC have now formed themselves into several hundred small city-states, covering Greece and the Aegean. Many of these have sent out colonies, so that Greek civilization is now spread far and wide across the Mediterranean basin.

By this period in history most Ancient Greek city-states have a republican form of government. These are in some cases dominated by a small number of aristocratic families, while in others all male citizens have a share in government. These latter are the first democracies in history. The largest of them is the city of Athens, soon to be one of the most famous centres of civilization in the ancient world.

Political life in these states is frequently unstable and sometimes violent, but they allow a degree of freedom unknown in other lands. It is this above all else that gives rise to the dramatic intellectual achievements of Greek civilization.

Europe 200 BC


In the Mediterranean world, the city-states of Greece, where immense cultural achievements have been registered over the past three centuries, are now overshadowed by powerful new kingdoms to the north and east, carved out of the conquests of Alexander the Great. These kingdoms are home to a new cosmopolitan civilization, which modern scholars label “Hellenistic”.

Similarly, to the west, a new power has made its appearance in history, Rome. She has risen to control Italy and, having defeated Carthage, that ancient and wealthy city on the north coast of Africa, now dominates the western Mediterranean.

In northern Europe, Celtic tribes, now experiencing the late Iron Age La Tene phase of their cutlure, continue to cover much of the continent, and have thrown out offshoots into northern Italy, the Balkans and even Asia Minor.

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