"Greatest Events in History" Pre-Game Thread

About five years ago I ran a contest thread where we identified the most influential person in human history (Winner: Isaac Newton). It’s about time to revive that idea with a contest to identify the greatest events in history, which is where this “Pre-Game” thread comes in.

Here are the basic contest rules:

  1. I have broken up history into 10 separate eras (below), each era with 10-20 events to select from. (I have selected 10, but we may do more (see below))

  2. The game will go in rounds where the contestants job will be to pick the least influential event from each era. For example, if the decision is between “The Rise of Hitler” and “Penicillin is discovered” and you think that Hitler is less influential than penicillin, you would select “The Rise of Hitler”

  3. It is up to the contestant to determine what is meant by “influential.” If you care, my thoughts are here.

  4. Each round will last a minimum of one day, usually scored in the evening (Central Time, USA.) Because of this thing called “life”, some rounds might last for two days as I might not get around to scoring for one reason or another.

  5. Some events (eg, the battle of Marathon) occurred at a specific day/time. Others (eg, the Industrial Revolution, the spread of Confucianism in China, the Slave Trade) are processes where it is harder to decide when they began. We’ll keep the confusion to a minimum, but life is messy like that - calls will have to be made, and once made, decisions are final.

Because I am who I am, and we live in a world where the rise of the West has been the dominant trend in global development for the past 500-1,000 years, the list will be Western-centric. We’re not going to ignore events in China, Japan, or Islamic cultures, however we are not going to try to be “fair” and give each center of civilization equal weight. This is the thread to debate this subject, if you wish, but not the game thread.


  1. I don’t know what to do at the end - do we have rounds where the different eras face off, or do we leave the contest finished once we have winners for each era? PLEASE DISCUSS

  2. I want each era to be equal in number of events. One of the problems of the first thread was that the categories were of unequal size - religious people had 17 people, leaders had 20, etc, which meant that a “final ranking” was not possible. In a later post, I will list the current eras and their respective events that I have come up with. I prefer that each era have 10 events, but if we need to increase this to 15 or 20, we’ll do so… but we need to make sure that ALL eras have the same # of events. Why? Because I’m anal that way, that’s why.

If you don’t like the inclusion (or exclusion) of an event, PLEASE TELL ME WHICH EVENTS YOU WOULD TAKE OUT (AND ADD). Don’t do one without the other!

  1. Any other suggestions. They may be implemented, they may not.

Following this post will be the list of 100 events I have come up with. Have fun tearing my work down by saying “How, in the name of all that’s Holy, could you forget…!” :stuck_out_tongue:


Pre-History, Pre 3500 BCE

  1. Invention of Agriculture, Pre-Historic
  2. Domestication of Animals, Pre-Historic
  3. Invention of Alphabet, Pre-Historic
  4. Discovery (and control) of fire, Pre-Historic
  5. Creation of Pottery, Pre-Historic
  6. Crossing of the Bering Strait, Pre-Historic
  7. Invention of the Wheel, Pre-Historic
  8. Invention of the Plow, Pre-Historic
  9. Invention of Beer, Pre-Historic
  10. Invention of Metallurgy, Pre-Historic

Bronze and Iron Ages, 3500 BCE-1000 BCE
11. Hammurabi’s Code, Bronze and Iron Age
12. Egyptian Empires, Bronze and Iron Age
13. Founding of Ur (first city), Bronze and Iron Age
14. Coalescing of Jewish Culture, Bronze and Iron Age
15. Sumerian Cuniform, Bronze and Iron Age
16. Emergence of Mayan Civilization, Bronze and Iron Age
17. Minoan Civilization, Bronze and Iron Age
18. Alphabetic Writing Invented, Bronze and Iron Age
19. Xia Dynasty in China, Bronze and Iron Age
20. First use of Papyrus, Bronze and Iron Age

Early Classical Antiquity, 1000 BCE - 200 BCE
21. Democracy established in Athens, Early Classical Antiquity
22. Alexander the Great conquers the known world, Early Classical Antiquity
23. Buddism founded, Early Classical Antiquity
24. Rise of Persian Empire, Early Classical Antiquity
25. Unification of China under Qin Shi Huang, Early Classical Antiquity
26. Babylonian Captivity of Jewish People, Early Classical Antiquity
27. Greek Philosophy and Mathematics at peak, Early Classical Antiquity
28. Confucianism, Early Classical Antiquity
29. Battle of Marathon, Early Classical Antiquity
30. Invention of number “0” and Binary Systems, Early Classical Antiquity

Late Classical Antiquity, 200 BCE - 476 AD
31. Expansion of Roman Empire (Punic Wars, expansion into Gaul, etc), Late Classical Antiquity
32. Death of Caesar, Late Classical Antiquity
33. Augustinian Empire, Late Classical Antiquity
34. Life of Jesus, Late Classical Antiquity
35. Three Kingdoms Period in China, Late Classical Antiquity
36. Split of Roman Empire into E/W by Diocletian, Late Classical Antiquity
37. Constantine Promulgates Edict of Milan, Late Classical Antiquity
38. Christianity becomes official religion of Rome, Late Classical Antiquity
39. St. Augustine publishes “City of God”, Late Classical Antiquity
40. Collapse of Rome, Late Classical Antiquity

Early Middle Ages, 477 AD - 1099 AD
41. Vision of Mohammed, Early Middle Ages
42. Development of Arabic Numerals, Early Middle Ages
43. Battle of Tours, Early Middle Ages
44. Crowing of Charlemagne, Early Middle Ages
45. Kievan Rus’ Founded, Early Middle Ages
46. Battle of Hastings, Early Middle Ages
47. University of Bologna (first university) founded, Early Middle Ages
48. Crusades, Early Middle Ages
49. Magna Carta, Early Middle Ages
50. Genghis Khan conquers much of Asia, Early Middle Ages

Late Middle Ages, 1100 AD - 1453 AD
51. Ottoman Empire Founded, Late Middle Ages
52. Double-Entry Accounting, Late Middle Ages
53. Great Schism Begins (ends 1417), Late Middle Ages
54. Hundred Years War Begins, Late Middle Ages
55. Black Death Begins, Late Middle Ages
56. Chaucer Writes “Cantebury Tales”, Late Middle Ages
57. Zheng He naval expeditions, Late Middle Ages
58. Prince Henry the Navigator, Late Middle Ages
59. Invention of Printing Press, Late Middle Ages
60. Fall of Constantinople, Late Middle Ages

Early Modern Era, 1454 AD - 1648 AD
61. Renaissance in Italy, Early Modern Era
62. Columbus “Discovers” America, Early Modern Era
63. Protestant Reformation, Early Modern Era
64. Peak of Ottoman Empire/Siege of Vienna won by Austrians, Early Modern Era
65. Copernican Revolution, Early Modern Era
66. Development of Logarithms, Early Modern Era
67. Establishment of Dutch-East India company (First global corporation), Early Modern Era
68. Elizabethan Age in England, Early Modern Era
69. Spanish Dominance of Middle/South America, Early Modern Era
70. Thirty Years War, Early Modern Era

Middle Modern Era, 1649 AD - 1788 AD
71. Scientific Revolution, Middle Modern Era
72. Slave Trade, Middle Modern Era
73. French Dominance of Europe, Middle Modern Era
74. The Enlightenment, Middle Modern Era
75. Rapid development of mathematics, Middle Modern Era
76. Invention of Vaccination, Middle Modern Era
77. Russian Expansion at peak (Peter the Great), Middle Modern Era
78. Publication of “Wealth of Nations”, Middle Modern Era
79. Start of Industrial Revolution, Middle Modern Era
80. Founding of the US, Middle Modern Era

19th Century, 1789 AD - 1900 AD
81. French Revolution and Napoleon, 19th Century
82. Pasteurization, 19th Century
83. Development of Motorized Mass Transportation (Trains, Ships), 19th Century
84. Implementation of Modern Sanitation, 19th Century
85. British Empire, 19th Century
86. End of Slavery, 19th Century
87. Beginning of the Oil Age, 19th Century
88. Formation of Germany , 19th Century
89. Germ Theory of Disease developed, 19th Century
90. Electrification Begins, 19th Century

20th Century and Beyond, 1901 AD - 2014 AD
91. WW1, 20th Century
92. WW2, 20th Century
93. The Rise of Mass Culture, 20th Century
94. Invention of the Computer/Internet, 20th Century
95. Apollo Moon Landing, 20th Century
96. Rise and Collapse of Communist States, 20th Century
97. End of the European Age and Rise of Asia, 20th Century
98. Green Revolution, 20th Century
99. Development of Powered Flight, 20th Century
100. Nuclear Weapons, 20th Century

Citations: mostly Wiki timelines.

The Maya are way off.

The Magna Carta was signed in 1215. And Genghis Khan lived from around 1162 to 1227.


For those last two, I think I changed the periods - I had originally 1 “Middle Ages” category, then when I went with two, I futzed around with the dates… and got them wrong. For the purposes if this game, “Early Middle Ages” is to be from 476 AD - 1250 AD, while “Late Middle Ages” is 1251-1453.

For the Mayan civilization entry, Ike Witt, I got that from Wiki: Timeline of ancient history - Wikipedia

It doesn’t matter to me if it stays or goes, but if you prefer it goes, give me something to replace it with. :slight_smile:

The Rise of Mass Culture doesn’t really seem like a specific historical event.

How about tossing it and putting in 1911: The Chinese Revolution. The collapse of a two thousand year old Imperial government was certainly a major event.

I don’t mind making the switch, but let’s talk about that one for a bit…

While the political structure of Imperial China collapsed, the culture remained. It had its modifications, brought about by Western ideas such as Communism, but the idea of “China” as a thing in itself, didn’t disappear with the Imperial Dynasty.

However, a new culture, one based upon mass production techniques and standardization (of weights and measures, of machine and processes, etc), utilizing recorded sounds and images (and, with satellites, live broadcasts of such things as the Moon landings, the World’s Cup matches, etc), resulting in globally shared experiences and ideas being disseminated to the masses is a unique development, one that could only have happened in the 20th century. Empires and dynasties come and go, regardless of traditions of civilization… a global culture is something else entirely, one that has many times transcended the originating culture.

Therefore, I feel that the rise of a global mass culture is of greater historical significance than the collapse of a governmental structure, even one that lasted 2,000+ years.


The “Invention of Language (pre-historic)” should be included. You can take out the “invention of beer” one, if one must be removed. I love beer, but it’s not in the running, it seems to me.

Yeah, that makes sense. Done!

I think you underestimate the far reaching effect of beer and fermentation in general.

Remember, it wasn’t until recently in mankind’s history that we discovered why it was important to boil water if we wanted to drink it safely. However, we did know early on that we couldn’t ferment if we didn’t boil the water first. Because bacteria and yeast are mortal enemies. And if there are bacteria in the water, the yeast can’t survive. And vice-versa.

So people would drink beer and not get sick. This led to planting more grain to make more beer. And then after boiling the grains, you could eat them far easier than you could if they weren’t boiled. So beer was a large reason as to why we became an agrarian society in the first place. And when we started raising our own crops, we began to settle down and stop our nomadic ways.

Maybe I should combine the two… “The invention of drunk talk. Sweet, beautiful drunk talk.” :wink:

Why are we supposed to be voting for the least influential instead of voting for the most with the lowest vote eliminated? Seems odd

Also, why did you repeat the era after the event separated by a comma when you already had the era at the top of each section?

I like the idea of having each era’s champion be put into a battle royale until all other challengers are eliminated.

The game goes in rounds where you vote for the least influential. So in the first round, you have 10 events per period. People vote for the least influential event, so that at the end, all votes are added and the vote leader gets removed from the list. In the next round you have only 9 events to choose from. Repeat until you have only 1 left. As to why it’s done that way, it’s because what do you do if you have a situation where 4 events receive votes and 6 don’t? How do you decide which of the 6 to kick off? For game balance issues, it just makes more sense to do it this way.

To see how this worked with the most influential people game, check out the thread: The 100 Most Influential People - Try the Third - The Game Room - Straight Dope Message Board

The periods are repeated because that’s how I set it up in Excel and, after posting the post, didn’t have enough time to edit them all out.

As for the last comment, that’s fine with me as well. My only hesitation is that the pre-history event has an advantage over all the others - the development of language or agriculture is almost definitely more important than events that followed because of the development of language or agriculture. But what the hell… it will allow me to rank the events, which will be an interesting exercise in itself.