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6th century

Related subjects: General history

Background Information

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The world at the beginning of the 6th century AD.
Millennium: 1st millennium
Decades: 500s 510s 520s 530s 540s
550s 560s 570s 580s 590s
Categories: Births – Deaths
Establishments – Disestablishments

The 6th century is the period from 501 to 600 in accordance with the Julian calendar in the Common Era. In the West this century marks the end of Classical Antiquity and the beginning of the Middle Ages.


Following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire late in the previous century, Europe fractured into many small Germanic Kingdoms, which competed fiercely for land and wealth. From this upheaval the Franks rose to prominence, and carved out a sizeable domain encompassing much of modern France and Germany. Meanwhile, the surviving Eastern Roman Empire began to expand under the emperor Justinian, who eventually recaptured North Africa from the Vandals, and attempted to fully recover Italy as well in the hope of re-establishing Roman control over the lands once ruled by the Western Roman Empire. Following Justinian's death, most of his gains were lost.

During its second Golden Age, the Sassanid Empire reached the peak of its power under Khosrau I in the 6th century. The classical Gupta Empire of Northern India, largely overrun by the Huna, ended in the mid-6th century. In Japan, the Kofun period gave way to the Asuka period. After being divided for more than 150 years into the Southern and Northern Dynasties, China was reunited under the Sui Dynasty toward the end of the 6th century. The Three Kingdoms of Korea persisted throughout the 6th century. The Göktürks became a major power in Central Asia after defeating the Rouran.

In the Americas, Teotihuacan began to decline in the 6th century after having reached its zenith between AD 150 and 450. Classic Period of the Maya civilization in Central America.


This Buddhist stela from China, Northern Wei period, was built in the early 6th century.
  • Early 6th century – Archangel Michael, panel of a dyptich probably from the court workshop at Constantinople, is made. It is now kept at The British Museum, London.
  • Early 6th century – Page with Rebecca at the Well, from " Book of Genesis", probably made in Syria or Palestine, is made. It is now kept at Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna.
  • By 6th century – Shilpa Shastras is written.
  • Early 6th century – first academy of the east the Academy of Gundeshapur founded in Iran by Khosrau I of Persia.
  • Early 6th century – Irish colonists and invaders, the Scots, began migrating to Caledonia (later known as Scotland). Migration from south-west Britain to Brittany.
  • Early 6th century – Glendalough monastery, Wicklow Ireland founded by St. Kevin. Many similar foundations in Ireland and Wales.
  • Early 6th century – Zen Buddhism enters Vietnam from China.
  • Early 6th century – Haniwa, from Kyoto, is made during the Kofun period
  • Early 6th century – Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe's apse's mosaic is completed.
  • Early 6th century - Cassiodorus founds a cenobitic monastery and scrinium at Vivarium in Italy
  • 518: Eastern Roman Emperor Anastasius I dies and is succeeded by Justin I.
  • 522: Byzantines obtain silkworm eggs and begin silkworm cultivation
  • c. 524: Boethius writes his Consolation of Philosophy.
  • 525: Having settled in Rome c. 500, Scythian monk Dionysius Exiguus invents the Anno Domini era calendar based on the estimated birth year of Jesus Christ.
  • 527: Justinian I succeeds Justin I as Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire.
  • 529: Saint Benedict of Nursia founds the monastery of Monte Cassino in Italy.
  • 532: Nika riots in Constantinople; the cathedral is destroyed. They are put down a week later by Belisarius and Mundus; up to 30,000 people are killed in the Hippodrome.
  • 535: Postulated volcanic eruption in the tropics which causes several years of abnormally cold weather, resulting in mass famine in the Northern Hemisphere. (See Extreme weather events of 535–536.)
  • 537: Battle of Camlann, final battle of legendary King Arthur.
  • 541- 542: First pandemic of bubonic plague ( Plague of Justinian) hits Constantinople and the rest of Byzantine Empire.
  • 543/ 544: One of Justinian's edict leads to the Three-Chapter Controversy
  • 545: Nubian Kingdom of Nobatia converts to Christianity.
  • Mid-6th century – Buddhist Jataka stories are translated into Persian by order of the Zoroastrian king Khosrau.
  • Mid-6th century – Cave-Temple of Shiva at Elephanta Caves, Maharashtra, India, is built. Post- Gupta period.
  • Mid-6th century – Eternal Shiva, rock-cut relief in the Cave-Temple of Shiva at Elephanta Caves, is made
  • Second half of 6th century – Virgin and Child with Saints and Angels, icon, is made. It is now kept at Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai, Egypt.
  • 550: Kingdom of Funan dies out.
  • 552: Buddhism introduced to Japan from Baekje during the Asuka period.
  • 553: Second Council of Constantinople
  • 554: Eviction of the Ostrogoths from Rome, and the re-unification of all Italy under Byzantine rule.
  • 561 to 592: Buddhist monk Jnanagupta translates 39 sutras from Sanskrit to Chinese.
  • 563: The monastery on Iona is founded by St. Columba.
  • 566: Birth of Lǐ Yuān, founder of the Tang Dynasty and Emperor of China under the name of Gaozu (618-626)
  • 568: Lombards invade Italy and establish a federation of dukedoms under a king.
  • 569: Nubian kingdom of Alodia converts to Christianity.
  • 569: Nubian kingdom of Makuria converts to Christianity.
  • 582 to 602: Reign of Byzantine Emperor Maurice.
  • 585: Suevi Kingdom conquered by Visigoths in Spain.
  • 587: Reccared, king of the Visigoths in Spain, converts to Catholicism.
  • 588: Shivadeva ascends the throne of the Lichchhavi dynasty in Nepal.
  • 589: Third Council of Toledo adds the " filioque" clause to the Nicene Creed in Spain.
  • 589: China reunified under the Sui Dynasty (589 – 618).
  • 590: Gregory the Great succeeds Pope Pelagius II (who dies of plague) as the 64th pope.
  • 595: Pope Gregory sends Roman monks led by Augustine to England.

Significant persons

  • King Arthur, legendary British king and victor over the Anglo-Saxons
  • Aryabhata, Discoverer of Zero and First to propose Heliocentre Model of solar system
  • Augustine of Canterbury, Roman monk, missionary, and bishop
  • Belisarius, Byzantine general
  • Benedict of Nursia, (480–547), Umbrian founder of Western Monasticism
  • Beowulf, legendary king of the Geats
  • Boethius, (c.480-525), Roman philosopher and theologian
  • Bozorgmehr, Persian sage
  • Cassiodorus, (c.485-c.585), Roman senator and scholar
  • Clovis I, (c. 466–511), first sole King of the Franks
  • Columbanus, (540–615), Irish monk and missionary
  • Dayi Daoxin, (580-651), fourth Chán Buddhist Patriarch
  • Dazu Huike, (487-593), second Chán Buddhist Patriarch
  • Gregory the Great, (c. 540- 604), theologian, sixty-fourth pope (590-604), and civil administrator of Rome
  • Gregory of Tours (c. 538–594), Frankish bishop and historian
  • Hrodgar, legendary Danish king depicted in Beowulf
  • Jianzhi Sengcan, (d. 606), third Chán Buddhist Patriarch
  • Jizang, (549–623), Buddhist monk and scholar, founder of the Three Treatise School
  • Jordanes, Byzantine author of the Getica
  • Justinian, (527–565), Byzantine Emperor
  • Karaikkal Ammeiyar, one of the few females amongst the sixty three Nayanmars, is one of the greatest figures of early Tamil literature
  • Khosrau I of Persia, Sassanid Shah (531–579)
  • Leander of Seville, (c.534-601), Spanish bishop and theologian
  • Mohammad, Final Prophet of Islam, (born 570)
  • Muhan Khan, Khagan of Göktürk Empire from (554 - 572) during which Sogdian influence reached its zenith
  • Procopius, Byzantine historian
  • Empress Suiko, Japanese empress
  • Prince Shōtoku, (573–621), Japanese statesman, philosopher, and writer of a 17 article constitution
  • Taliesin, Welsh poet
  • Tirunavukkarasar, Indian poet (late 6th century-mid-7th century)
  • Venantius Fortunatus (c.540-600/9), Venetian poet, traveler, bishop of Poitiers (c.599-600/9)
  • Emperor Wen of Sui, founder and first emperor of Chinese Sui Dynasty

Inventions, discoveries, introductions

  • Dionysius Exiguus creates the Anno Domini system, inspired by the birth of Jesus, in 525. This is the system upon which the Gregorian calendar and Common Era systems are based.
  • Backgammon (nard) invented in Persia by Burzoe.
  • Chess, as chaturanga, entered Persia from India and was modified to shatranj.
  • Breast-strap horse harness in use in Frankish kingdom.
  • Byzantine Empire acquires silk technology from China.
  • Silk is a protected palace industry in the Byzantine Empire.
  • Vaghbata, Indian medical books.
  • In 589 AD, the Chinese scholar-official Yan Zhitui makes the first reference to the use of toilet paper in history.
  • Significant to the history of agriculture, the Chinese author Jia Sixia wrote the treatise Qi Min Yao Shu in 535, and although it quotes 160 previous Chinese agronomy books, it is the oldest existent Chinese agriculture treatise. In over one hundred thousand written Chinese characters, the book covered land preparation, seeding, cultivation, orchard management, forestry, animal husbandry, trade, and culinary uses for crops.

Decades and years

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