2nd century BC

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Millennium: 1st millennium BC
State leaders:
Categories: BirthsDeaths
Eastern hemisphere at the beginning of the 2nd century BC.
Eastern hemisphere at the end of the 2nd 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 referred to as the Hellenistic period.

Fresh from its victories in the Second Punic War, the Roman Republic continued its expansion into neighboring territories, eventually annexing Greece and the North African coast, after destroying the city of Carthage at the end of the Third Punic War. Rome's influence was also felt in the Near East, as crumbling Hellenistic states like the Seleucid Empire were forced to make treaties on Roman terms to avoid confrontation with the new masters of the western Mediterranean. The end of the century witnessed the reform of the Roman Army from a citizen army into a voluntary professional force, under the guidance of the noted general and statesman Gaius Marius (Marian Reforms).

In South Asia, the Mauryan Empire in India collapsed when Brihadnatha, the last emperor, was killed by Pushyamitra Shunga, a Mauryan general and the founder of the Shunga Empire.

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. Also in the 2nd century BC, the Han dispatched the explorer Zhang Qian to explore the lands to the west and to form an alliance with the Yuezhi people in order to combat the nomadic tribe of the Xiongnu.[2]


Bust of Antiochus IV at the Altes Museum in Berlin.
Mural from the tomb of Liu Wu whose principality was at the heart of the Rebellion of the Seven States
Coin of Menander I, the Greek king who ruled most of Northern India (c.150-130) and converted to Buddhism.
Cleopatra II ruled Egypt in co-operation and competition with her brothers Ptolemy VI and VIII for most of the century.
Emperor Wu of Han was probably the most powerful man in the world at the end of the century
Posidonius was acclaimed as the greatest polymath of his age.

190s BC[edit]

  • 194 BC:
    • (April 4) — The first Games of Megalesia and a festival are held in Rome after games were promised in honor of Cybele following Rome's triumph over Carthage in the Punic Wars. The festival and games last seven full days, closing on April 10. [7]
    • Wiman of Gojoseon establishes Wiman Joseon in Korea, marking the first Chinese imperial presence on the Korean peninsula.
  • 192 BC:
    • The Yue Kingdom of Eastern Ou established in Zhejiang with Chinese support.
    • (February)— Antiochus IV, the son of Antiochus III and co-regent for the Seleucid throne since 209 BC, dies; according to cuneiform tablets, news reaches Babylon sometime during the month of Addara after April 8. [8]
    • (March)— Rome sustains a destructive flood of the River Tiber shortly before the new Roman magistrates are preparing to take office. G[9]
    • (July) — During the sixth month of the third year of China's Emperor, 20,000 criminals and slaves are sent to rebuild the city wall of Chang'an. [10]
    • (October)— In the fourth year of his reign, China's Emperor Huindi marries Princess Lu-yuan. [11]
    • (November) — Antiochus III, ruler of the Seleucid Empire in what is now Syria and Iraq, brings his troops to Greece, at the invitation of the Aetolians who wanted to challenge Rome's attempt to gain control of Greece; four months later Manlius Acilius Glabrio, Roman Consul, assembles a force of 30,000 Roman troops beginning the Roman-Syrian War.

180s BC[edit]

  • 188 BC: (September 26) Prince Liu Gong, the 5-year old younger brother of Emperor Hui becomes the third Han dynasty Emperor of China upon his brother's death. Liu Gong takes the regnal name of Emperor Qianshao. Because of his minority, his grandmother, Lü Zhi continues as the actual ruler and serves as the regent. She imprisons Qianshao after less than four years and has him put to death in 184 BC at the age of 11.
  • 184 BC: (June 15) Emperor Qianshao of Han, the 11-year old nominal ruler of China, is removed, imprisoned and then put to death on order of his grandmother, the Empress Regent Lü Zhi. Prince Liu Hong, the brother of Qianshao, is installed by the regent as the new Emperor, under the name of Emperor Houshao.

170s BC[edit]

160s BC[edit]

150s BC[edit]

140s BC[edit]

130s BC[edit]

  • 130 BC: Greek astronomer Hipparchus continues lifelong studies, becoming the first to calculate the precession of moon and sun and to create a sizable catalog of stars.

120s BC[edit]

  • 125 BC: Zhang Qian returns to China after a protracted journey through the west.

110s BC[edit]

100s BC[edit]

Significant people[edit]


Science and philosophy[edit]

Inventions, discoveries, introductions[edit]

Hipparchus' equatorial ring.

Sovereign States[edit]

See: List of sovereign states in the 2nd century BC.


  1. ^ Meister, Chad (2009). Introducing Philosophy of Religion. Abingdon: Routledge. p. 10. ISBN 0-203-88002-1.
  2. ^ C.Michael Hogan, Silk Road, North China, The Megalithic Portal, ed. A. Burnham
  3. ^ John Drinkwater and Timothy Venning, A Chronology of the Roman Empire (Bloomsbury Academic Press, 2011)
  4. ^ Willy Clarysse, Dorothy J. Thompson, Ulrich Luft, Counting the People in Hellenistic Egypt, Volume 2, Historical Studies (Cambridge University Press, 2006) p263
  5. ^ Bernard Mineo, A Companion to Livy (Wiley, 2014) p412 (drawn by author from Polybius and Livy
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ Eckart Kèohne, Gladiators and Caesars: The Power of Spectacle in Ancient Rome (University of California Press, 2000) p10
  8. ^ T. Boiy, Late Achaemenid and Hellenistic Babylon (Peeters Publishers, 2004) p157
  9. ^ regory S. Aldrete, Floods of the Tiber in Ancient Rome Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007) p67
  10. ^ Alfred Schinz, The Magic Square: Cities in Ancient China (Axel Menges, 1996) p115
  11. ^ Hong Yuan, The Sinitic Civilization, Book II: A Factual History Through the Lens of Archaeology, Bronzeware, Astronomy, Divination, Calendar and the Annals (2018) p397
  12. ^ F. W. Walbank, Philip V of Macedon (Cambridge University Press, 1940) p330, 344
  13. ^ a b Victor Duruy, History of Rome, and of the Roman People: From Its Origin to the Invasion of the Barbarians (Estes and Lauriat, 1894) pp117-122
  14. ^ a b Michael Koortbojian, Crossing the Pomerium: The Boundaries of Political, Religious, and Military Institutions from Caesar to Constantine (Princeton University Press, 2020)
  15. ^ "Mathematics in the Context of Alexandrian Culture" (PDF).[dead link]
  16. ^ "Polybius • Histories — Book 10". penelope.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  17. ^ Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization in China: Volume 4, Physics and Physical Technology, Part 2, Mechanical Engineering (Cambridge University Press, 1985) p118

Decades and years[edit]