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 the mid-point of the Hellenistic period.

Millennium: 1st millennium BC
State leaders:
Categories: BirthsDeaths
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.

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 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 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 BCEdit

  • 198 BC: Fifth Syrian War: Antiochus III takes control of Coele Syria and Judea.[5]
    • (November 12): Antiochus issues a decree requiring registration of all Egyptians taken slave during the war (somata Aigyptia) for census purposes. [6]
  • 192 BC:
    • The Yue Kingdom of Eastern Ou established in Zhejiang with Chinese support.[citation needed]
    • (February)— Antiochus, 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. [14]
    • (November) — Antiochus III leads an army into Greece to challenge Roman control, at the invitation of the Aetolians, starting the Roman-Syrian War.[15][16]

180s BCEdit

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.
  • 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, taking the regnal name of Emperor Qianshao. Because of his minority, his grandmother, Empress Lü continues as the actual ruler and serves as the regent.
  • 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, Empress Lü. Prince Liu Hong, the brother of Qianshao, is installed by the regent as the new Emperor, under the name of Emperor Houshao.

170s BCEdit

Bust of Antiochus IV at the Altes Museum in Berlin.

160s BCEdit

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

150s BCEdit

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

140s BCEdit

130s BCEdit

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

Drachm of Mithridates II of Parthia, wearing a bejeweled tiara.
  • 125 BC: Zhang Qian returns to China after a protracted journey through the west.

110s BCEdit

100s BCEdit

Significant peopleEdit

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 philosophyEdit

Inventions, discoveries, introductionsEdit

Hipparchus' equatorial ring.

See alsoEdit


  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.
  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.
  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. ^ "15 Significant Science and Tech Discoveries Ancient India Gave the World – Arise Arjuna Foundation". Retrieved 2021-06-12.
  30. ^ "Polybius • Histories — Book 10". penelope.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2020-06-22.
  31. ^ Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization in China: Volume 4, Physics and Physical Technology, Part 2, Mechanical Engineering (Cambridge University Press, 1985) p118