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2nd century BC

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Map of the Eastern Hemisphere in 200 BC, the beginning of the second century BC.
Map of the world in 100 BC, the end of the second century BC.

The 2nd century BC started the first day of 200 BC and ended the last day of 101 BC. It is considered part of the Classical era, although depending on the region being studied, other terms may be more suitable. It is also considered to be the end of the Axial Age.[1] In the context of the Eastern Mediterranean, it is the mid-point of the Hellenistic period.

Fresh from its victories in the Second Punic War, the Roman Republic continued its expansion in the western Mediterranean, campaigning in the Iberian peninsula throughout the century and annexing the North African coast after the destruction of the city of Carthage at the end of the Third Punic War. They became the dominant force in the Aegean by destroying Antigonid Macedonia in the Macedonian Wars and Corinth in the Achaean War. The Hellenistic kingdoms of Ptolemaic Egypt and Attalid Pergamon entered into subordinate relationships with the Romans – Pergamon was eventually annexed. The end of the century witnessed the evolution of the Roman army from a citizen army into a voluntary professional force, which later scholars would misattribute to putative reforms by noted general and statesman Gaius Marius (the so-called Marian Reforms).

In the Near East, the other major Hellenistic kingdom, the Seleucid Empire collapsed into civil war in the middle of the century, following the loss of Asia Minor to the Romans and the conquest of the Iranian plateau and Mesopotamia by the Parthian empire. Outlying regions became independent kingdoms, notably the Hasmonean kingdom in Judaea.

In East Asia, China reached a high point under the Han dynasty. The Han Empire extended its boundaries from Korea in the east to Vietnam in the South to the borders of modern-day Kazakhstan in the west. The nomadic Xiongnu were at the height of their power at the beginning of the century, collecting tribute from the Han. Their victories over the Yuezhi set off a chain of westward migrations in Central Asia. Han efforts to find allies against the Xiongnu by exploring the lands to their west would ultimately lead to the opening of the Silk Road.[2]

In South Asia, the Mauryan Empire in India collapsed when Brihadnatha, the last emperor, was killed by Pushyamitra Shunga, a Mauryan general who founded of the Shunga Empire. The Greco-Bactrians crossed the Hindu Kush and established the Indo-Greek Kingdom, but lost their homeland in Bactria to the Sakas, themselves under pressure from the Yuezhi.


The Rosetta Stone, a trilingual decree recording the coronation of Ptolemy V at Memphis in Egypt.

190s BC[edit]

180s BC[edit]

Tomb of Empress Lü in Changling, Xianyang, Shaanxi
A silver coin of 1 karshapana of King Pushyamitra Shunga (185-149 BC), founder of the Shunga dynasty.

170s BC[edit]

Bust of Antiochus IV at the Altes Museum in Berlin.

160s BC[edit]

Cleopatra II ruled Egypt in co-operation and competition with her brothers Ptolemy VI and VIII for most of the century.

150s BC[edit]

Mural from the tomb of Liu Wu whose principality was at the heart of the Rebellion of the Seven States

140s BC[edit]

130s BC[edit]

Emperor Wu of Han was probably the most powerful man in the world at the end of the century

120s BC[edit]

Drachm of Mithridates II of Parthia, wearing a bejeweled tiara.

110s BC[edit]

100s BC[edit]

Significant people[edit]

Scipio Aemilianus
Antiochus the Great
A bust purported to be of Gaius Marius
Coin of Menander I, the Greek king who ruled most of Northern India (c. 150-130) and converted to Buddhism.
Posidonius was acclaimed as the greatest polymath of his age.




Science and philosophy[edit]

Inventions, discoveries, introductions[edit]

Hipparchus' equatorial ring.
  • According to legend, Liu An invents tofu.
  • The Fibonacci numbers and their sequence first appear in Indian mathematics as mātrāmeru, mentioned by Pingala in connection with the Sanskrit tradition of prosody.[30]
  • Pingala was the first who accidentally discovered binary numbers in which he used laghu(light) and guru(heavy) rather than 0 and 1.
  • Tube drawn technology: Indians used tube drawn technology for glass bead manufacturing which was first developed in the 2nd century BCE
  • The Roman concrete (pozzolana) first used.
  • A system for sending signs to communicate quickly over a long distance is described by Polybios.[31]
  • The earliest known winnowing machine is depicted in a Han Dynasty Chinese tomb model.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Meister, Chad (2009). Introducing Philosophy of Religion. Abingdon: Routledge. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-203-88002-9.
  2. ^ "Silk Road, North China". The Megalithic Portal.
  3. ^ Walbank, F. W. (1992). The Hellenistic world ([Rev.] ed.). London: Fontana. p. 101. ISBN 0-00-686104-0.
  4. ^ "Barangay States". History Learning.
  5. ^ Green, Peter (1990). Alexander to Actium : the historical evolution of the Hellenistic age. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 304. ISBN 978-0-520-08349-3.
  6. ^ Willy Clarysse, Dorothy J. Thompson, Ulrich Luft, Counting the People in Hellenistic Egypt, Volume 2, Historical Studies (Cambridge University Press, 2006) p263
  7. ^ Bernard Mineo, A Companion to Livy (Wiley, 2014) p412 (drawn by author from Polybius and Livy
  8. ^ Walbank, F. W. (1992). The Hellenistic world ([Rev.] ed.). London: Fontana. p. 98. ISBN 0-00-686104-0.
  9. ^ a b Alan K. Bowman, Egypt After the Pharaohs, 332 BC-AD 642: From Alexander to the Arab Conquest (University of California Press, 1989), p30
  10. ^ Errington, R. M. (1989). "Rome against Philip and Antiochus". In Astin, A. E.; Walbank, F. W.; Frederiksen, M. W.; Ogilvie, R. M. (eds.). The Cambridge Ancient History 8: Rome and the Mediterranean to 133 BC (Second ed.). Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press. p. 271. ISBN 978-0-521-23448-1.
  11. ^ Cartledge, Paul; Spawforth, A. (2002). Hellenistic and Roman Sparta : a tale of two cities (2nd ed.). London: Routledge. pp. 74–79. ISBN 0-415-26277-1.
  12. ^ Eckart Kèohne, Gladiators and Caesars: The Power of Spectacle in Ancient Rome (University of California Press, 2000) p10
  13. ^ Kim, Jinwung (2012). A history of Korea : from "Land of the Morning Calm" to states in conflict. Bloomington, Indiana. p. 16. ISBN 978-0-253-00024-8.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  14. ^ T. Boiy, Late Achaemenid and Hellenistic Babylon (Peeters Publishers, 2004) p157
  15. ^ Bringmann, Klaus (2007). A history of the Roman republic. Cambridge, UK: Polity. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-7456-3371-8.
  16. ^ Walbank, F. W. (1992). The Hellenistic world ([Rev.] ed.). London: Fontana. p. 237. ISBN 0-00-686104-0.
  17. ^ Grainger, John D. (2002). The Roman war of Antiochos the Great. Leiden: Brill. pp. 240–246. ISBN 978-90-04-12840-8.
  18. ^ Grainger, John D. (2002). The Roman war of Antiochos the Great. Leiden: Brill. pp. 320–329. ISBN 978-90-04-12840-8.
  19. ^ Grainger, John D. (2002). The Roman war of Antiochos the Great. Leiden: Brill. pp. 341–344. ISBN 978-90-04-12840-8.
  20. ^ Wilson. Nigel Guy (2006). Encyclopedia of ancient Greece. Routledge. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-415-97334-2.
  21. ^ Hölbl, Günther (2013). A History of the Ptolemaic Empire. p. 156. ISBN 978-1-135-11983-6.
  22. ^ Thapar, Romila (2013). The past before us : historical traditions of early north India (First Harvard University Press ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts. p. 296. ISBN 978-0-674-72651-2.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  23. ^ Loewe, Michael (1986). "The Former Han Dynasty". In Twitchett, Dennis; Loewe, Michael (eds.). The Cambridge History of China, Volume 1: The Ch'in and Han Empires, 221 BC–AD 220. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 136. ISBN 978-0-521-24327-8.
  24. ^ Bringmann, Klaus (2007) [2002]. A History of the Roman Republic. Translated by Smyth, W. J. Cambridge & Malden: Polity Press. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-7456-3371-8.
  25. ^ Harris, W. V. (1989). "Roman Expansion in the West". In Astin, A. E.; Walbank, F. W.; Frederiksen, M. W.; Ogilvie, R. M. (eds.). The Cambridge Ancient History 8: Rome and the Mediterranean to 133 BC (Second ed.). Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-521-23448-1.
  26. ^ Beckwith, Christopher I. (2009). Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present. Princeton University Press. pp. 380–383. ISBN 978-1-4008-2994-1.
  27. ^ M. Zambelli, "L'ascesa al trono di Antioco IV Epifane di Siria," Rivista di Filologia e di Istruzione Classica 38 (1960) 363–389
  28. ^ Bringmann, Klaus (2007) [2002]. A History of the Roman Republic. Translated by Smyth, W. J. Cambridge & Malden: Polity Press. pp. 98–99. ISBN 978-0-7456-3371-8.
  29. ^ O'Connor, J.J.; Robertson, E F (April 1999). "Hipparchus". Maths History. St Andrews University. Retrieved March 15, 2024.
  30. ^ "15 Significant Science and Tech Discoveries Ancient India Gave the World – Arise Arjuna Foundation". Retrieved 2021-06-12.
  31. ^ "Polybius • Histories — Book 10". penelope.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  32. ^ Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization in China: Volume 4, Physics and Physical Technology, Part 2, Mechanical Engineering (Cambridge University Press, 1985) p118