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The Most Important Events in European History, I - V century

Posted January 19th, 2018 at 11:45 AM by Valens
Updated July 3rd, 2018 at 03:03 AM by Valens

The purpose of this chronology is to list some of the most important events which had great influence on the course of European history.
My initial plan was to start with the first century after Christ and finish with the twentieth, but soon realized that the scope of that task was enormous.
From this reason, I came to the idea of doing separate entries for periods spanning over several centuries, with respect to traditionally accepted periodization of history.
This first post starts with the first century and concludes with the fifth.

Before I embarked on a task of compiling this chronology, I inevitably had to consider what criteria should be used to determine the importance of the events to be included in it.

Thus I came to the following list of criteria:

1) Overall legacy of the event. Specifically, how the given event influenced subsequent historical processes.
2) The event's consequences on later social, economic, political and military developments of the area it influenced (be it a nation state, a whole region or Europe and the world as a whole).
3) Lasting impact of the event. Concretely, the amount of time the given event continued to influence later developments.
4) The impact of the event on later thought and subsequent historical development. Most of the events included in this list are still widely discussed in our times.


The Most Important Events in European History By Century:



9, Battle of Teutoburg Forest. A defeat of the Roman army led by Publius Quinctilius Varus halts Roman expansion into Germania beyond the Rhine River.

14, Emperor Augustus dies in Nola, Italy, and is succeeded by Tiberius, the son of his third wife, Livia Drusilla.

26 - 37, The proposed time frame for the death of Jesus.

Based on ancient Roman and Christian sources, Jesus was crucified in Judaea on the orders of Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate, during the reign of Emperor Tiberius.

43, The Romans begin their conquest of Britannia under Emperor Claudius.

46 - 57, Paul the Apostle travels across the cities in the Roman Empire and preaches the new Christian faith. During this time, he composes the 13 epistles, included in the New Testament.

64, Rome is ravaged in a great fire (The Great Fire of Rome). Much of the city is destroyed. Emperor Nero orders a set of ambitious re-building projects.

66 - 73, First Jewish-Roman War in Judaea results in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple and the beginning of Jewish exile.

69, Year of the Four Emperors. Following the suicide of Emperor Nero, Rome is plunged in civil conflict between various pretenders. It is the first civil war in Rome after Octavian's victory over Anthony and Cleopatra in the naval battle of Actium in 30 BC. The conflict is ended when general Vespasian defeats Vitelius and becomes the first Emperor of the Flavian dynasty.

70 - 80, The Flavian Amphitheater, better known as Colosseum, is being constructed in Rome.

98, Trajan becomes the new Roman Emperor. The beginning of a the period of 'Five Good Emperors' in which Rome is ruled by the succession of able Emperors and achieves unprecedented political stability.


101 - 106, The Romans, led by Emperor Trajan, conquer Dacia and annex it to the Empire.

115 - 117,
  • Emperor Trajan's campaign in the East, against Parthia, extend Roman control to Mesopotamia, marking the greatest territorial extent of the Empire.
  • Second Jewish-Roman War. The uprising of local Jewish population across Empire's eastern provinces is quelled.
  • Trajan dies en route to Italy, and is succeeded by Hadrian.

122, The Romans begin the construction of a wall in the province of Britannia, with the aim of securing the province from the tribes inhabiting modern parts of northern England and Scotland. It becomes known as 'Hadrian's Wall'.

132 - 136, Third Jewish-Roman War, known as the Bar Kokhba revolt is fought between Jewish rebels led by Simon bar Kokhba and Roman forces in Judaea. The rebels are defeated. Hadrian bans Jews from Jerusalem and puts an end to their political and religious autonomy.

165, The first outbreak of the 'Antonine Plague' a disease brought by Roman soldiers from the East. The disease decimates Roman army and population across the Empire.

166 - 180, Emperor Marcus Aurelius leads a series of long campaigns (Marcomannic Wars) against Germanic and Sarmatian tribes on the Danube.

180, Death of Marcus Aurelius. His son Commodus succeeds him as Emperor.

193, Following the assassination of Commodus, Roman Empire is plunged into conflict known as the Year of the Five Emperors. Septimius Severus is ultimately victorious and establishes the Severian Dynasty.


212, Edict of Caracalla (Constitutio Antoniniana) grants full citizenship rights to all free inhabitants of the Roman Empire.

224, The Fall of Parthian Empire, replaced by the new Persian Empire under Sassanid Dynasty.

235, Emperor Severus Alexander is murdered by his troops in Mogontiacum, during his campaign in Germania. The event marks the beginning of the crisis of the third century, a period of political instability in the Roman Empire.

249/50 - 262, Plague of Cyprian ravages the Roman Empire.

250, Emperor Decius enact an edict requiring from all inhabitants of the Empire to offer sacrifice to the Gods in front of local magistrates. The edict leads to the first large-scale, state-sponsored persecution of Christians, known as 'The Decian Persecution'.

250 - 253, Sassanian Emperor Shapur I invades Roman Mesopotamia, Syria and Armenia. Antioch, one of the largest cities in the Empire falls to the Persian ruler.

251, Decius and his son, Herennius Etruscus are killed in the Battle of Abritus against the Goths. Decius becomes the first Roman Emperor to die in battle against foreign enemy.

c. 258 - 260, Germanic tribes of Alemanni and Franks cross the Rhine and raid into Gaul. Provinces of Germania Superior and Raetia suffer during the invasion.

  • The Romans suffer a crushing defeat in the Battle of Edessa in Northern Mesopotamia at the hands of Shapur I.
  • Emperor Valerian is captured by the Persians. He dies in captivity.
  • Provinces of Britain, Spain, parts of Germania and Gaul break away from the Empire and form a separate entity under general Postumus. They form the 'Gallic Empire'.

c. 268 - 269, Roman army inflicts a decisive defeat on the Goths in the Battle of Naissus. As a result, Roman frontier on the Danube and its Balkan provinces remain secure in the following decades.

270, Most of Roman provinces in the east, including parts of Asia Minor, Syria, Palaestina, Arabia and Egypt break form the state known as the 'Palmyrene Empire' with its capital in Palmyra.
Aurelian becomes Emperor.

270 - 275, Aurelian manages to re-unite the Empire. He defeats several Germanic raids in Northern Italy and build a new wall around Rome (Aurelian Walls).

285, Diocletian becomes undisputed Roman Emperor after a succession of civil wars against his rivals. The end of the crisis.

286, Maximian is named co-augustus by Diocletian, and is given control over Western provinces.

293, As a part of Diocletian's wide-reaching military, economic and political reforms, the Empire is divided between four joint rulers, two Augusti (senior Emperors) and two Caesars (junior Emperors). The beginning of Tetrarchy.


303, The start of the 'Great Persecution' of Christians across the Roman Empire by Emperors Diocletian and Galerius.
Diocletian issues four edicts against Christians.

305, The abdication of Diocletian and Maximian. They are succeeded by Constantius Chlorus in the West, and Galerius in the East, but the Tetrarchy soon descends into civil war.

311, Galerius, Emperor in the East, abandons his policy of persecution against Christians and issues an Edict of Tolerance, granting them freedom of worship.

312, Constantine I defeats Maxentius in the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. He becomes undisputed master of the Western half of the Roman Empire.

313, Edict of Milan issued by Emperors Constantine I and Licinius ends the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire.

324, Constantine defeats Licinius and becomes the sole Emperor.

325, The First Council of Nicaea, the first Ecumenical council lays the foundation of Christian dogma. Nicene Creed is formulated.

330, The foundation of Constantinople on the site of the Greek town of Byzantium (Βυζάντιον, Byzántion) by Constantine.

337, Constantine dies in the vicinity of Nicomedia. Following his death, a bloody struggle ensues between the members of his family.

351, Emperor Constantius II defeats the usurper Magnentius in the bloody Battle of Mursa Major.

361 - 363, Emperor Julian attempts to restore the status of polytheism as the main religion in the Roman Empire.

378, The Romans suffer a devastating defeat against the Goths in the Battle of Adrianople. Eastern Emperor Valens is killed in the battle.

380, Edict of Thessalonica proclaimed by Emperor Theodosius I makes Christianity the official state religion of the Empire.

381, Second Council of Constantinople is convened by Emperor Theodosius I. The council is accepted as the Second Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church.
The council reaffirms the Nicene Creed and denounces many heresies causing division in the Church.

395, On his deathbed, Theodosius I splits the Empire between his two sons, Arcadius and Honorius.


c. 401, Alaric I, the king of Visigoths, invades Italy.

406, Vandals, Alans and Suebi cross the frozen Rhine River and penetrate the Roman limes. They later settle across Rome's Western provinces.

410, The Sack of Rome by Visigoths under king Alaric I. Western Roman Empire descends into chaos.

The Romans evacuate Britain.

425, The University of Constantinople is founded by Emperor Theodosius II, under the influence of his educated wife, Aelia Eudocia.

c. 429, Vandals cross into Africa after successfully raiding Roman Spain. They begin attacking Roman cities in the province of Africa, paving the way for the establishment of their kingdom in the Western Mediterranean.

431 The Third Ecumenical Council (The Council of Ephesus) is held in the city of Ephesus in Asia Minor. The council denounces Nestorius, Pelagius and their followers.

434, The Huns under Bleda and Attila begin their raids on the Eastern Roman Empire. They extract a huge tribute from the Eastern Emperor who agrees to pay them 115 kg of gold.

438, Codex Theodosianus is published by Emperor Theodosius II, representing a compilation of Imperial laws published after the reign of Constantine the Great. The codex represents an important step in codification of Roman law before Justinian.

441 - 447, The Huns ravage the Balkans and lay waste to a number of cities in the interior and threaten Constantinople itself.

451, Hunnic invasion of Gaul is stopped in the climactic Battle of the Catalaunian Plains. Attila resumes his campaign against the Western Empire in the following year.

Emperor Marcian, the heir of Theodosius II, conveys the Council of Chalcedon, the Fourth Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church. The cause for the council is the controversy brought by Monophysitism. Among many other decisions, the council accepts the dogma of two natures of Jesus Christ.

453, Attila dies suddenly and the Huns soon fall into disarray.

455, Rome is sacked by the forces of Vandal king Geiseric.

468, The combined forces of Eastern and Western Roman Empire suffer a decisive defeat in the naval battle of Cape Bon against the Vandals. Roman attempt to reconquer North Africa fails.

476, Germanic warlord Odoacer deposes Western Roman Emperor Romulus Augustulus. Now in control of Italy, Odoacer receives the title of Magister Militum per Italiam from Eastern Emperor Zeno, officially ruling Italy in the Emperor's name.
Western Roman Empire seizes to exist.

486, The Franks, led by Clovis I defeat Gallo-Roman forces in the Battle of Soissons. Clovis begins a series of campaigns extending Frankish control over large parts of Gaul.

493, Theodoric the Great invades Italy and kills Odoacer. Ostrogothic Kingdom, consisting of Italy and Illirycum is formed.


I plan on editing and updating every entry in order to correct mistakes, possibly add additional events and include a list of sources.
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