Rhetoric in the Ancient World: A Timeline

This timeline enables Peitho's devotees to see at a glance the interaction of rhetoric with ancient cultures in Greece, Rome, and the Near East. Ends with the beginnings of Christian rhetoric.

Prior to 8th c. BCE Invention of Writing / Israelite Monarchy

18th - 12th c. BCE

  • Ca. 1780 BCE | Hammurabi's law, the first known written law code.
  • Ca. 1700 | Invention of alphabet by Canaanites, proto-Phoenicians/Israelites, inhabiting Sinai and Palestine
  • 12th c. | Israelites occupy hill country of Palestine

1050-950 BCE

  • Greek speaking Ionians colonize coast of Asia Minor (present-day Albania, Turkey, Syria)
  • Ca. 926 | Israelites divide into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah.
  • Possible date of the Book of J, the oldest Israelite history, partially preserved in Genesis-Kings.

8th C. BCE - 450 BCE Homeric Age in Greece / Israelite Monarchy / PreSocratics

800 - 750

  • 776 First Olympic Games
  • 753 Traditional date for founding of Rome
  • By 750 Greek alphabet developed from Phoenician-Hebrew prototype

750 - 600

  • 722/21 Kingdom of Israel destroyed by Shalmaneser V of Assyria and his successor Sargon II. 8th c. prophets Isaiah, Amos, Hosea, Micah.
  • By 700 Homeric Epics, Iliad, Odyssey
  • 639-609 | Reign of Josiah king of Judah. Book of Deuteronomy and Deuteronomistic History.
  • Milesian Presocratic philosophers (Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes) Beginnings of Athenian Democracy

600 - 450 BCE

  • 594 | Solon archon of Athens; law code of Solon
  • 586 | Kingdom of Judah destroyed by Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon. Prophet Jeremiah.
  • 561 | Reign of Pisistratos in Athens, first tyrant
  • 538 | Cyrus of Persia conquers Babylon: beginning of Persian empire. Prophet Second Isaiah.
  • 525 | Cleisthenes archon of Athens; Cambyses of Persia conquers Egypt
  • 509 | Rise of Roman republic
  • 507 | Cleisthenes introduces democratic reforms in Athens
  • Presocratics: Theognis of Megara, Xenophanes, Pythagoras
  • 499-494 | Ionian revolt against the Persians
  • 494 | Roman office of tribune established, wielding the veto to protect the interests of the plebeians against the patrician magistrates
  • 490-479 | Persian Wars
  • 487 | Athenian archons chosen by lot
  • 478 | Delian league of Greek city states against Persia, Athenian leadership. Origins of Athenian empire.
  • 476 | Thrasybulus, tyrant of Syracuse, overthrown. Corax and Tisias. The first techne.
  • 470 | Great tragedians Aeschylus and Sophocles begin their careers
  • 467-466 | Athenians defeat Persians
  • 465-464 | Delian league breaks up when Spartans refuse Athenian assistance
  • 463 | Pericles begins public career in Athens. Beginning of Athenian Golden Age
  • 461 | Athenians institute radical democracy; First Peloponnesian War.
  • 451 | Recording of Twelve Tables of Roman law, perhaps as a result of Greek influence. Traditional date for the invention of rhetoric in Syracuse.

450 - 336 BCE | Rise of Rhetorical Education to Reign of Alexander

450 - 403 Peloponnesian Wars

  • Ca.450 | Periclean citizenship law; truce with Sparta; Early sophists Protagoras of Abdera; Empedocles; Zeno of Elea (the "Eleatic stranger")
  • 447 | Parthenon begun
  • 443 | Pericles general of Athenian forces
  • 440s-430s | Herodotus active, writes History of the Persian War
  • 441-439 | Ionian island of Samos revolts against Athens
  • Ca.441 | Euripides, tragedian, begins career
  • Fl.440 | Protagoras, Prodicus, Hippias of Elea, sophists
  • 431 | Second Peloponnesian War begins; Thucydides begins his History. Phase One: Archidamian War
  • 430 | Pericles' Funeral Oration
  • 429 | Death of Pericles; Cleon leads Athens
  • 428-427 | Revolt of Lesbos; Athenian expedition to Sicily
  • 427 | Gorgias of Leontini, sophist, arrives with embassy to Athens.
  • Ca.427 | Birth of Plato
  • 425 | Aristophanes, comedian, begins career; Death of Herodotus
  • 424 | Boiotians defeat Athenians at Battle of Delion; Thucydides exiled
  • 422 | Nicias leads Athens
  • 421 | Peace of Nicias with Sparta ends Archidamian War (Peloponnesian War Phase One)
  • 420 | Alcibiades, student of Socrates, becomes general
  • 423 | Aristophanes writes The Clouds, a play lampooning sophists, including Socrates
  • 416 | Athenian expedition to Melos (The Melian dialogue)
  • 415 | Expedition to Sicily. Peloponnesian War, Phase Two. Alcibiades discredited over mutilation of Hermae at Athens.
  • 412 | War resumes with Sparta; Spartans deal with Persians; Theodorus of Byzantium, sophist
  • 411 | Oligarchic coup at Athens
  • 410 | Democracy restored, Alcibiades recalled
  • 410-400 | Athenian laws revised
  • 407 | Plato joins the circle of Socrates
  • 404 | Athens falls to Sparta
  • 404-403 | Oligarchic coup of Thirty Tyrants, led by Critias, a student of Socrates
  • 403 | Democracy restored; Lysias xii, Against Eratosthenes (Attic orator c.407-c.380, enemy of Thirty Tyrants, appears as author of first speech in Phaedrus)

403 - 336

  • 401-399 | Combined Greek forces under Cyrus mount new expedition against Persia
  • Ca.400 | Other rhetoricians flourishing about this time: Evenus of Paros, Callippus, Pamphilus, Lycophron, Polus, Licymnius, author of Dissoi Logoi.
  • 399 | Trial and death of Socrates; Andocides i, On the Mysteries (Attic orator before 415-392/1).
  • 397 | Isocrates xvi (Isocrates active 390s-338).
  • 395-387 | War with Corinth
  • 394 | Persians defeat Spartan fleet at Cnidus
  • 393 | Isocrates opens his school at Athens
  • 391 | Isocrates xiii, Against the Sophists
  • ca. 387 | Lysias, Funeral Oration (commemorates Athenian casualties in Corinthian war)
  • 386 | Truce with Persia; Plato founds his Academy
  • 385 | Plato, Menexenus
  • 384 | Births of Demosthenes and Aristotle
  • 380 | Isocrates iv, Panegyricus; Plato, Gorgias
  • 378-377 | Second Athenian League
  • 371-362 | War between Thebes and Sparta; Sparta defeated
  • 367 | Aristotle joins Plato's Academy; First plebeian consul elected to assembly at Rome; plebeians become eligible to serve as magistrates and thus eventually to enter the Senate.
  • Ca. 360 | Plato, Phaedrus. Introduction of the Roman praetorship, a civil and juridical office that freed the consuls for military affairs.
  • 359 | Philip II king of Macedon
  • 357-356 | Social War between Athens and its allies; war with Philip II over Amphipolis; Demosthenes, First Philippic
  • 354 | Athens defeated in Social War
  • 353 | Isocrates iv, Antidosis
  • 349 | Demosthenes, Second Olynthiac
  • 347 | Death of Plato
  • 346 | Peace of Philocrates between Philip and Athens. Isocrates, Address to Philip
  • 343 | Trial and acquittal of Aeschines: Demosthenes xix and Aeschines ii (On the Embassy); Aristotle leaves the Academy to become tutor of Alexander, son of Philip of Macedon
  • 341 | Demosthenes, Third Philippic
  • 340 | Letter of Philip to Athens
  • 339 | Isocrates xii, Panathenaicus
  • 338 | Philip defeats Athenians and Thebans at Chaeronea. Conventional end of Greek "liberty." Death of Isocrates
  • 337 | Philip's Corinthian League declares war with Persia; Lycurgus controls Athenian finances
  • 336 | Philip assassinated, Alexander becomes emperor

335-27 BCE Hellenistic Age

335 - 300 Alexander / Spread of Hellenism / Beginnings of Rome

  • 335 | Alexander destroys Thebes. Aristotle settles at Athens, founds Peripatetic School near Lyceum. Produces Rhetoric Bks. I-II. Preceded by the Organon: Categories, On Interpretation, Topics, Prior Analytics, Posterior Analytics. Followed by On Sophistical Refutations, Nichomachean Ethics, Politics, Poetics, and Rhetoric Bk. III. Lost works: Synagoge technon; Rhetoric to Theodectes; Gryllus
  • 334 | Alexander begins expedition to Persia
  • 331 | Alexandria founded in Egypt
  • 330 | Demosthenes xviii, On the Crown; Aeschines iii, Against Ctesiphon; Lycurgus i, Against Leocrates Anaximenes, Rhetorica ad Alexandrum.
  • 325-324 | Death of Lycurgus; Demosthenes exiled
  • 323-322 | Death of Alexander sets off Lamian War; Athens defeated by Macedonians. Enkyklios paideia establishes Greek rhetorical education as center of Panhellenic culture from Sicily to India.
  • 322 | Athenian constitution altered; oligarchy imposed, enforced by Macedonian garrison. Death of Aristotle (384-322), Demosthenes (384-322). Hyperides, Funeral Oration for Athenian dead in last battle against Macedon.
  • ca. 300 | Theophrastus; On Characters.

300 - 27 Roman Republic

  • 264-241 | First Punic War with Carthage, a Phoenician colony in Tunisia that developed a trans-Mediterranean empire
  • ca. 250 | Demetrius, On Style. Translation of Hebrew Bible into Greek (Septuagint) in progress or complete? in Alexandria, Egypt.
  • 253 | Titus Coruncanius, first plebeian chief priest, begins teaching jurisprudence to lay students, initiating tradition of Roman jurists. The jurists did not practice law but were teachers and advisers to those who did. By recording, enlarging and interpreting traditional statutes they developed Roman legal precedent.
  • 218 | Second Punic War
  • ca. 150 | Hermagoras of Temnos. Credited with introduction of stasis system of invention. Treatise does not survive.
  • 149-146 | Third Punic War results in destruction of Carthage. Roman aristocrats benefit while plebeians suffer cost of war. Prisoners of war increased the slave population.
  • 133-123 | Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, elected consuls, attempted agrarian reforms to grant land to citizens uprooted by war and to give equal citizenship to Italics (Italians not born in Rome). Reform fails.
  • 106 | Birth of Cicero
  • 102 | Caius Marius professionalizes army, defeats Germans in France and northern Italy.
  • 91 | Setting of Cicero's dialogue De Oratore: Crassus' villa in Tusculum.
  • 88 | Civil War breaks out between Sulla and Marius. Sulla occupies Rome; Marius recruits indigent citizens as mercenaries, irreversibly altering the relationship between civil and military power.
  • 86 | Cicero, De inventione.
  • 81 | Dictatorship of Sulla
  • 79 | Cicero leaves for tour of eastern Mediterranean: begins rhetorical studies at Rhodes.
  • 73-71 | Slave revolt of Spartacus
  • 70 | Consulship of Pompey and Crassus
  • 63 | Consulship of Cicero. Catilinarian conspiracy.
  • 60 | First triumvirate of Pompey, Crassus and Julius Caesar.
  • 59 | Consulship of Caesar
  • 55 | Cicero, De oratore
  • 53 | Death of Crassus
  • 49-45 | Civil War
  • 46 | Cicero, Brutus, Orator
  • 45 | Cicero, De partitiones oratoriae
  • 44 | Dictatorship and assassination of J. Caesar. Cicero, Topica.
  • 43 | Second triumvirate of Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus. Assassination of Cicero.
  • 30 Dionysius of Halicarnassus teaches in Rome. Critical Essays.
  • 27 | Octavian becomes Augustus Caesar. End of the Roman Republic.

27 BCE- 410 CE Roman Empire, Christian Era

  • 14CE | Emperor Tiberius. Traditional beginning of "second sophistic."
  • ca. 50 | Longinus, On the Sublime.
  • 54 | Emperor Nero.
  • 69 | Emperor Vespasian.
  • 70 | Destruction of Second Jerusalem Temple by Romans. Gospel of Mark.
  • 80-90 | Gospel of Luke-Acts
  • 87 | Quintilian appointed head of state school of oratory in Rome.
  • ca. 90 | Gospel of Matthew
  • 92-95 | Quintilian, Institutio oratoria. Tacitus, Dialogue on Oratory.
  • ca. 100 | Council of Jamnia fixes Jewish canon of Hebrew Bible, separating Christians from Judaism. Gospel of John.
  • ca. 175 | Hermogenes of Tarsus, Techne, including On Staseis and On Qualities of Style.
  • 330 | Founding of Constantinople.
  • 382 | Jerome begins Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible, effectively fixing the Latin canon.
  • 390 | Gregory of Nazianzus, Orations (d. 390)
  • 395 | Division of Roman Empire into East (Constantinople = Byzantium) and West (Rome)
  • 395-430 | Augustine bishop of Hippo
  • ca. 400 | Apthonius, Progymnasmata.

John Chrysostom, Orations (d. 407)
410Edit

Fall of Rome to Vandals.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License