A Timeline of World Civilizations for Mythology
Mythology seeks to explain the world and thus reflects the culture, events, and history of the societies that create the stories handed down as myths. Egypt’s Nile River and its cycle of overflowing its banks leaving fertile ground as it receded became the basis for Egyptian religion that demanded that the people help the gods prevent anything from interfering with the cycle.
Myths form around the founding of cities, including Athens and Rome — about 10,000 to 2,500 years ago, respectively — and the founding of civilizations, including the creation myths passed down in virtually every culture.
Chinese and Native American myths account for astrological occurrences as well as for more earth-bound events such as the Toltec invasion of the Mexican city of Teotihuacan in 900 CE. The myth of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, grew from this victory.
Famous poems, such as Beowulf and the Saga of the Volsungs are combinations of history and legend. The stories of the mythical Br’er Rabbit, who won every encounter despite his subservient position, inspired hope in African-American slaves in the Civil War era.
And don’t assume that all the myths are hundreds, if not thousands, of years old. The mythical city of Brigadoon, a Scottish village that appears once every hundred years was essentially the invention of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe who wrote a play in 1947.
The following table offers historical highlights from 3,000 years before the common era to the eve of the 20th century.
|3300-1900||Beginning of Sumerian Civilization||31 BCE-476 CE||Roman Empire|
|2550-2150||Old Kingdom, Egypt||150 -750||Teotihuacan: Central America|
|1980-1640||Middle Kingdom, Egypt||27-30||Jesus of Nazareth preaches reforms in Palestine and is executed
by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.
|1792-1750||Hammurabi’s reign, height of Babylonian Empire||35-62||Paul, a Diaspora Jew, founds a series of churches in Syria,
Asia Minor, and Greece. Christianity separates from Judaism.
|1600-1100||Greek Bronze Age||400-499||Historical King Arthur might have lived|
|1540-1070||New Kingdom, Egypt||250-900||Maya: Central America|
|1500-400||Olmec; Central America||570–632||The Prophet Mohammed writes the Qur’an and founds
the religion of Islam.
|1500||Aryans invade India; start of Vedic Age||632–750||Islam spreads to the Near East, North Africa, Spain, and
|1250||Moses leads Israelite slaves from Egypt, establishes worship of
Yahweh at Mt. Sinai (formerly sacred to the moon god Sin)
|700-1000||Age of Vikings|
|1200-1000||Earliest Hindu Literature, the Rigveda||900-1180||Toltec: Central America|
|1100||Trojan War||1000-1300||Apache and Navajo Indians move to Southwestern United
|800-700||Age of Homer||1250||End of Anasazi culture, North America|
|776||First Olympic Games in Greece, in honor of Zeus||1325-1521||Aztec empire: Central America|
|753||Founding of Rome||1438-1532||Inca empire: South America|
|600-400||Age of Athenian Democracy||1492||Christopher Columbus lands in North America|
|599-500||Lao-Tzu, founder of Taoism, active in China||1600-1700||North American Plains Indians incorporate horses|
|551-479||Confucius||1800-1899||North American Indians in United States mostly displaced by
|563||Birth of Gautama (founder of Buddhism)|
|540||Birth of Vardhamana (founder of Jainism)|
|365-323||Alexander the Great|