This article concerns the period 249 BC – 240 BC.
|Millennium:||1st millennium BC|
- The Battle of Drepana involves the Romans, under the command of the Roman consuls, Publius Claudius Pulcher and Lucius Junius Pullus, attacking the Carthaginian fleet, under the command of Adherbal, in the harbour of Drepanum (modern Trapani, Sicily). The Romans are badly defeated and lose 93 of their 123 vessels.
- Following the disastrous defeat of Roman forces at the Battle of Drepana, Publius Claudius Pulcher is fined 120,000 asses and his colleague, Lucius Junius Pullus, commits suicide. Aulus Atilius Calatinus is then elected dictator and leads an army into Sicily, becoming the first dictator to lead a Roman army outside Italy. The Roman forces at Lilybaeum are relieved, and Eryx, near Drapana, is seized. Its idol of Astarte is transported to Rome, where it becomes the Erycine Venus.
- The Mauryan king Ashoka is dedicated to the propagation of Buddhism and begins establishing monuments marking several significant sites in the life of Gautama Buddha.
- By this stage in the Punic War, Carthage has lost to Rome all its Sicilian possessions except Lilybaeum (now Marsala) and Drepanum (now Trapani). Hamilcar Barca takes over the chief command of the Carthaginian forces in Sicily at a time when the island is almost completely in the hands of the Romans. Landing on the north-west of the island with a small mercenary force, he seizes a strong position on Mount Ercte (Monte Pellegrino, near Palermo), and not only successfully defends himself against all attacks, but also carries his raids as far as the coast of southern Italy.
- The 13-year-old Qin Shi Huang succeeds his father Zhuangxiang of Qin on the throne. Lü Buwei acts as the regent prime minister of the Qin State, which is still waging war against the Seven Warring States.
- Egypt's Ptolemy II dies and is succeeded by his son, Ptolemy III. At the time of Ptolemy II's death, Egypt comprises the ancient kingdom of Egypt in the Nile Valley, Cyrene, Judea and the coast of southern Syria, Cyprus and a number of cities on the shores and islands of the Aegean Sea. The Macedonian Ptolemies maintain their authority over their territories with a small mercenary army made up of Macedonians and other Greeks.
- Antiochus II leaves Berenice in order to live again with his former wife Laodice and his son Seleucus. However, Laodice poisons him and proclaims her son as King Seleucus II Callinicus, while her supporters in Antioch kill Berenice and her children who have taken refuge at Daphne, near Antioch, in Syria.
- Berenice's brother, Ptolemy III, sets about to avenge his sister's murder by invading Syria which begins the Third Syrian War (also known as the Laodicean War). Ptolemy III's navy, perhaps with the aid of rebels in the cities, advances against Seleucus II's forces as far as Thrace, across the Hellespont, and also captures some islands off the Anatolian coast.
- Ptolemy III wins major victories over Seleucus II in Syria and Anatolia and briefly occupies Antioch. These victories are marred by the loss of the Cyclades to Antigonus II Gonatas in the Battle of Andros.
- Seleucus II Callinicus' mother, Laodice attempts to take control over the Seleucid Empire by insisting that Seleucus II make his younger brother, Antiochus Hierax, co-regent and give him all the Seleucid territory in Anatolia. Antiochus promptly declares independence and begins fighting a war with his brother.
- In order to secure the Bactrian King Diodotus' friendship, Seleucus II Callinicus arranges the marriage of one of his sisters to King Diodotus.
- With Hamilcar Barca wearing the Romans down in Sicily, the Romans, by private subscription, build another fleet with the aim of regaining command of the sea.
- In Rome, the number of praetors is increased from one to two. The second praetor is appointed to relieve the backlog of judicial business and to give the Republic a magistrate with Imperium who can field an army in an emergency when both consuls are away fighting a war.
- An irrigation canal approximately one hundred miles long is built across the current-day province of Shaanxi in China, greatly adding to the agricultural productivity of the area and to the military potency of the Qin dynasty.
- Babylon and Susa fall to the Egyptian armies of Ptolemy III.
- Following a long engagement, Ptolemy III marries Berenice II, the daughter of Magas, king of Cyrene; thereby reuniting Egypt and Cyrenaica.
- After the death of his nephew, Alexander of Corinth, Antigonus II gives Nicaea, Alexander's widow, to his son Demetrius in marriage. Through this action, Antigonus II regains Corinth which has been independent while under the rule of Alexander of Corinth.
- Aratus of Sicyon is elected general (strategos) of the Achaean League.
- Agis IV succeeds his father, Eudamidas II, as King of Sparta.
- The war in Asia Minor and the Aegean Sea intensifies as the Achaean League allies itself to Ptolemy III Euergetes of Egypt, while Seleucus II secures two allies in the Black Sea region. Ptolemy III's armies reach as far as Bactria and the borders of India in their attacks on the Seleucid Empire.
- By defeating the Egyptian fleet at Andros, Antigonus II is able to maintain his control over the Aegean Sea.
- Hamilcar Barca transfers his army to the slopes of Mount Eryx (Monte San Giuliano), from which he is able to lend support to the besieged garrison in the neighbouring town of Drepanum (Trapani).
- Ptolemy III returns from Syria due to a revolt in Egypt. As a result, Seleucus II is able to regain control of his kingdom with the Egyptians being pushed out of Mesopotamia and part of Northern Syria.
- Ptolemy III returns from his conquests of Seleucid territory with a large amount of treasure and works of art, including many statues of Egyptian gods carried off to Persia by Cambyses. He restores the statues to the Egyptian temples and earns the title of Euergetes ("Benefactor").
- Without a declaration of hostilities, Greek statesman, Aratus of Sicyon, who has gradually built up the Achaean League into a major power in Greece, makes a surprise attack on Corinth and forces the withdrawal of the Macedonian occupation troops. Megara, Troezen, and Epidaurus also desert the Macedonian King Antigonus II.
- Drawing upon the tradition of the Spartan lawgiver, Lycurgus, the young Eurypontid king of Sparta, Agis IV, seeks to reform a system that distributes the land and wealth unequally and burden the poor with debt. He proposes the cancellation of debts and the division of the Spartan homeland into separate lots for each of its citizens. Full citizenship is to be extended to many perioeci (voteless freemen) and foreigners. In addition to pursuing these reforms, Agis seeks the restoration of the Lycurgan system of military training. Agis is supported by his wealthy mother and grandmother (who surrender their property), by his uncle Agesilaus, and by Lysander, who is an ephor (magistrate with the duty of limiting the power of the king).
- The Roman consul and commander, Gaius Lutatius Catulus, blockades the Sicilian cities of Lilybaeum and Drepanum with a fleet of 200 ships.
- The destruction of the Egyptian fleet by the Macedonians ends the naval supremacy of the Ptolemies but does not force them to relinquish their territories in Syria and the Aegean Sea.
- The Eurypontid King of Sparta, Agis IV, is called away from Sparta when Aratus of Sicyon, temporarily Sparta's ally, requests Agis' aid in his war against the Aetolians. Upon his return, Agis finds that his supporters are discontented with the rule of his uncle, Agesilaus, and are disillusioned by the delay in implementing Agis IV's reforms. As a result, the Agiad king of Sparta, Leonidas II, gains power, supported by mercenaries. Rather than engage in a war with Leonidas, Agis takes sanctuary in a temple, but is enticed out, summarily tried and then executed, along with his mother and grandmother.
- Archidamus V, son of the Spartan King, Eudamidas II, and grandson of Archidamus IV, flees to Messenia after the murder of his brother Agis IV.
- As general of the Achaean League, Aratus of Sicyon defeats the Aetolians at Pellene and then pursues a policy of establishing democracies in the Peloponnese.
- March 10 – Battle of the Aegates: The Carthaginian fleet sent to relieve the Roman blockade of the Sicilian cities of Lilybaeum and Drepanum is totally defeated near the Aegates Islands off western Sicily by the Roman fleet led by Roman consul and commander Gaius Lutatius Catulus. The result is a decisive Roman victory which forces an end to the protracted First Punic War, to Rome's distinct advantage.
- The Carthaginians under Hamilcar Barca are forced to accept severe peace terms and agree to evacuate Sicily. As part of the treaty with Rome, Carthage agrees to abandon all its claims on Sicily, to refrain from sailing her warships in Italian waters and to pay an indemnity of 3,200 talents. However, the Carthaginian army is allowed to return home with its arms. Rome is now the dominant power in the Western Mediterranean basin.
- A mercenary army of some 20,000 is transported from Sicily to Carthaginian territory, by Carthaginian commander, Gesco. On arrival in Carthaginian territory, the mercenaries submit a demand to Hanno the Great for payment of their contracts. Hanno attempts, unsuccessfully, to convince the mercenaries to accept smaller payments due to Carthage's impoverished post-war conditions. Negotiations break down. The mercenaries take up arms, march on Tunis, occupy it, and threaten Carthage directly.
- Given their strong position, the mercenaries inflate their demands and demand payment for the non-mercenary Libyan conscripts in the army as well. Gesco is sent to negotiate with the mercenaries at Tunis.
- Peace is finally reached between Ptolemy III and Seleucus II. Ptolemy manages to keep the Orontes River region in Syria and Antioch as well as Ephesus in Asia Minor and Thrace and Cilicia.
- Five of the seven major warring states: Chu, Zhao, Wei, Yan, and Han, form an alliance to fight the rising power of Qin. King Kaolie of Chu is named the leader of the alliance, and Lord Chunshen the military commander. The allies attack Qin at the strategic Hangu Pass, but are defeated. Afterwards, Chu moves its capital east to Shouchun, farther away from the threat of Qin.
- Two of Carthage's mercenary commanders – Spendius and Mathos – convince the Libyan conscripts in the mercenary army, that is currently occupying the Carthaginian city of Tunis, to accept their leadership. They persuade the native Libyans that Carthage will take revenge against them for their part in the conflict once the foreign mercenaries are paid and sent home. They then convince the combined mercenary armies to revolt against Carthage and convince the various native Libyan towns and cities to back the revolt. Spendius and Mathos then take the Carthaginian commander Gesco as a hostage. What has started as an argument over pay owed to soldiers by the Carthaginian Government, explodes into a full-scale revolt, known as the Mercenary War.
- The Libyan forces loyal to the mercenaries besiege the towns of Utica and Hippacritae, which refuse to defect to the mercenaries.
- Hanno the Great is given command of the Carthaginian forces. However, the mercenaries defeat the Carthaginian armies in the Battle of Utica.
- Carthage decides to give Hamilcar Barca joint command with Hanno the Great. Hamilcar Barca is able to end the siege of Utica by the mercenaries. He is then placed in complete command of the Carthaginian forces and defeats the mercenaries in the Battle of the Bagradas River.
- After the Numidian mercenary leader Narawas defects to Hamilcar Barca, Numidian reinforcements (about 2,000 men) help him defeat the mercenaries again. Hamilcar pardons his captured prisoners, accepting into his army anyone who will fight for Carthage, and exiling anyone who will not.
- Mago Barca, Carthaginian general and brother of Hannibal (d. 203 BC)
- Prusias I Cholus (the Lame), king of Bithynia (approximate date)
- Seleucus III Ceraunus, king of the Seleucid Kingdom (d. 223 BC)
- Antiochus III the Great, younger son of Seleucus II Callinicus, the 6th ruler of the Seleucid Empire (d. 187 BC)
- Alexander of Corinth, Macedonian Greek governor and tyrant
- Moggaliputta-Tissa, Indian Buddhist monk and philosopher
- Zhuangxiang of Qin, Chinese king of the Qin State (b. 281 BC)
- Ptolemy II Philadelphus, king of Egypt from 285 BC, second king of the Ptolemaic dynasty, who has extended his power by skillful diplomacy, developed agriculture and commerce, and made Alexandria a leading centre of the arts and sciences (b. 308 BC)
- Antiochus II Theos, king of the Seleucid dominions in the Middle East from 261 BC. He has spent much of his reign at war with Egypt, recovering much of the territory in Anatolia lost in earlier wars between the Ptolemaic and Seleucid dynasties (b. c. 287 BC)
- Berenice, daughter of Ptolemy II Philadelphus and Arsinoe, wife of the Seleucid ruler Antiochus II Theos, supplanting his first wife, Laodice, whose children she has persuaded him to bar from the succession to the throne in favour of her own.
- Apollonius of Rhodes, Greek poet, grammarian, and author of the Argonautica, an epic in four books on the voyage of the Argonauts (b. c. 295 BC)
- Persaeus, Greek Stoic philosopher and friend of Zeno of Citium
- Xinling, Chinese statesman and general (Warring States Period)
- Agis IV, Eurypontid King of Sparta who has failed in his attempt to reform Sparta's economic and political structure (b. c. 265 BC)
- Agesistrata, Spartan Queen Consort
- Arcesilaus, Greek philosopher, who has become the sixth head of the Greek Academy founded by Plato (b. c. 316 BC)
- Eumenes I, ruler of Pergamum from 263 BC, liberator of the city from the overlordship of the Seleucids
- Tiberius Coruncanius, Roman consul and military commander for the battles against Pyrrhus of Epirus
- Aratus, Greek poet from Soli in Cilicia, best remembered for his poem on astronomy Phaenomena (b. c. 315 BC)
- Aristomachos the Elder, Greek tyrant from Argos
- Asandhimitra, Mauryan empress and wife of Ashoka
- Callimachus, Greek poet and librarian
- Posidippus, Greek epigrammatic poet
- Zou Yan, Chinese philosopher (b. 305 BC)