4th century BC

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The 4th century BCE started the first day of 400 BC and ended the last day of 301 BC. 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 BCE 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 Mediterranean.

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 dreamt of an east/west union, but when his short life ended in 323 BCE, 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.

In India, the Maurya Empire was founded in 322 BCE by Chandragupta Maurya who rapidly expanded his power westwards across central and western India, taking advantage of the disruptions of local powers in the wake of the withdrawal westward by the armies of Alexander.

China in the 4th century BCE entered an era of constant warfare known as the Warring States period. The period saw the rapid rise of large states (such as Chu) over smaller ones thanks to technological advancement. Though the period has usually been characterized by historians as being excessively violent compared to the Spring and Autumn period, it was also punctuated by several cultural and social growths through the expansion of several different sects of Confucianism and Taoism, and the formulation of Legalist thought.

The world in the 4th century BC[edit]

Map of the world in 400 BCE, the beginning of the fourth century BC.
Map of the world in 323 BCE.
Map of the world in 300 BCE, the end of the fourth century BC.


390s BCE[edit]

380s BCE[edit]

370s BC[edit]

360s BC[edit]

350s BC[edit]

340s BC[edit]

  • 344 BC: Duke Hui of Wei is the first to claim the royal title of king (Chinese: 王) for himself, proclaiming themselves fully independent kingdoms.
  • 344 BC: The rulers of Qi and Wei mutually recognized each other as "kings": King Wei of Qi and King Hui of Wei, in effect declaring their independence from the Zhou court.
  • 343 BC: State of Qi wins the Battle of Maling over Wei that takes place in Maling, currently Dazhangjia Town, Shen County, Henan Province, during the Warring States period. After the death of Pang Juan, Prince Shen was captured by Qi. The power of the state of Wei decreased considerably after this battle.

330s BC[edit]

320s BC[edit]

310s BC[edit]

  • 316 BC: Qin conquers Shu and Ba.
  • 314 BC: Upon the ascension of King Nan, East Zhou becomes an independent state. The king comes to reside in what becomes known as West Zhou.[1]
  • 311 BC: King Hui of Qin dies, follows by prime minister Zhang Yi one year later. The new monarch, King Wu, reigns only four years before dying without legitimate heirs.

300s BC[edit]

Significant people[edit]

Philip II


Military leaders[edit]

Visual arts[edit]


Science and philosophy[edit]

Health professionals[edit]

  • Agnodice, female Athenian physician and midwife

Inventions, discoveries, introductions[edit]

A Han Dynasty Chinese crossbow from the 2nd century BC.
  • Oldest Brahmi script dates from this period. Brāhmī is the ancestor of Brahmic scripts, used in much of India and Southeast Asia.
  • Romans build their first aqueduct.
  • Chinese use the handheld trigger crossbow for the first time.
  • The first crossbow, the gastraphetes, is invented at Syracuse. (pre-421 BC)
  • Donkey-powered mills or 'Pompeiian Mills' were first used in Greece and Italy.[3]
  • In Greece, Aristotle proposes the division of the known sciences.
  • Torque with lion's-head terminals, from Susa (modern Shush, Iran) was made. It is now in Musée du Louvre, Paris.
  • Daric, a coin first minted under Darius I of Persia is made. It is now kept in Heberden Coin Room, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
  • Second half of the 4th century BC – Tomb II, so called Tomb of Philip II of Macedon, Vergina, Macedonia is made.
  • Starting in the year 309 BC, the later Chinese historian Sima Qian (145 BC–90 BC) wrote that the Qin-employed engineer Bi Ling of the newly conquered State of Shu in Sichuan 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 Chengdu. The significance of this was phenomenal, as it allowed the new Guardian 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 Chinese 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 Babylon division of the celestial sphere as 360 degrees (Deng, Yinke. [2005] (2005). Chinese Ancient Inventions. ISBN 7-5085-0837-8).
  • First formal system by Pāṇini in Mahajanapada, ancient India and written in Sanskrit.

Sovereign states[edit]

See: List of political entities in the 4th century BC.


  1. ^ Shi Ji, chapter 4
  2. ^ a b c Siculus, Diodorus. "37". Library. Vol. XX.
  3. ^ Watts, Sue. "Pompeiian Mill (Animal Powered)". Mills Archive Catalogue. The Mills Archive Trust. Retrieved 24 February 2019.

External links[edit]