5th century BC

Millennium: 1st millennium BC
Decades: 490s BC 480s BC 470s BC 460s BC 450s BC
440s BC 430s BC 420s BC 410s BC 400s BC
Categories: Births – Deaths
Establishments – Disestablishments

The 5th century BC started the first day of 500 BC and ended the last day of 401 BC.

The Parthenon of Athens seen from the hill of the Pnyx to the west. Location 23°43'35.69"E 37°58'17.39"N

This century saw the establishment of Pataliputra as a capital of Magadha Empire. This city would later become the ruling capital of different Indian Kingdoms for about a thousand years. This period saw the rise of two great philosophical schools of the East, Jainism and Buddhism. This period saw Mahavira and Buddha spreading their respective teachings in Northern Plains of India. This essentially changed the socio-cultural and political dynamics of the region of South Asia. Buddhism would later go on to become one of the major world religions.

This period also saw the work of Yaska, who created Nirukta, that would lay the foundation stone for Sanskrit grammar and is one of the oldest works on grammar known to mankind.

This century also saw the beginning of a period of philosophical brilliance among Western civilizations, particularly the Greeks, which would continue all the way through the 4th century until the time of Alexander the Great.[1] Ancient Greek philosophy developed during the 5th century BC, setting the foundation for Western ideology. In Athens and elsewhere in the Mediterranean world, the 5th century marked a high point in the development of political institutions, art, architecture, and literature.

The century was also notable for the Persian Wars, fought between the Greek cities and the vast Persian Empire. Determined to punish Athens for supporting a revolt by conquered Greek cities in Asia Minor, King Darius I sent several armies against them, only to have his plans first thwarted by a storm and later by a defeat at the Battle of Marathon. His son Xerxes attempted to finish the job 10 years later, and succeeded in capturing Athens and burning it to the ground, and was defeated later on land at Plataea. In the latter part of the century the Greeks became locked in a bitter war among themselves, with the major cities Athens and Sparta competing for absolute domination. The Spartans were victorious in this battle.


490s BC

480s BC

470s BC

460s BC

450s BC

440s BC

430s BC

420s BC

410s BC

400s BC

Significant people

Visual arts


Science and philosophy

Inventions, discoveries, introductions

Sovereign states

See: List of sovereign states in the 5th century BC.

Decades and years


  1. Guthrie, William Keith Chambers (1969). A History of Greek Philosophy: Volume 3. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521075661.
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