The following is a rough historical timeline of human civilization, both the past (and our present) as viewed through the lens of the cultures in existence circa 4001, as well as events between now and the beginning of the Fouth Millennium. Calendar years still follow the modern style. The only change is that B.C. is now P.C. (Pre-Christian) and A.D. is now H.E. (Human Expansion).
Many scholars in the Third and Fourth Millennia have argued that Human Expansion (of culture, intellect, industry, technology and physical exploration/colonization) should more accurately be placed at the start of the Roman Empire, but they acknowledge that the disconnect between historical and archeological studies in the second millennium and early third millennium that used Christianity as the chronological breakpoint would make dating unnecessarily complicated, and so they bow to the convenience of P.C/H.E. dating as it currently stands. In addition, the Vatican still often uses A.D. instead of H.E., and given that it controls so much of the globe, this, too, created a need to maintain calendar years based on the old calendar style.
Anything before the dawn of recorded history.
The Proto-Civilized Era
Roughly 10,000 P.C. to 500 P.C. Although there was recorded history during this period, it is too fractured and too primitive to be considered “fully civilized.” Some argue that the period from roughly 5,000 P.C. to 500 P.C. should be split out into a separate historical era called the “Semi-Civilized Era.”
The Ancient Civilized Era
Roughly 500 P.C. to 1800 H.E. Recorded histories are fairly accurate and complete overall and the world becomes increasingly globalized over this timeframe. Technological advancements grow increasingly advanced, and are considered to reach a “critical mass” by 1800 H.E. that ushers in the beginning of the Inspired Era; also with the world population reaching approximately 1 billion around the year 1800, this is another consideration for making it the endpoint of the Ancient Civilized Era.
The Inspired Era
1800 H.E. through 2205 H.E. Although this is an era of much war, rampant disease in many parts of the world and societal upheaval, it is also a period during which much progress is made in the maturation of governmental, judicial, social and technological development. Computer technology and genomics/proteomics are two areas that show particularly large leaps in advancement, particularly from circa 1990 H.E. until the end of this era.
The Pre-Modern Era
2206 H.E. to 2604 H.E. The beginning of this era is marked by the creation of the distortion drive, which not only vastly speeds exploration within the solar system but paves the way for the discovery of slipspace in 2317 H.E. and shortly thereafter, the creation of the earliest slipgates. Shortly thereafter, artificial intelligence becomes a practical reality and the first several AIs are commissioned by major Earth governments. In the last century of this era, warwagons (massive and heavily armed space vessels) begin to be built by various governments, and their creation proliferates until the end of this period until there are 27 of these insanely lethal, AI-operated vessels in orbit of Earth or nearby.
Also, in 2577 H.E., various corporate and government coalitions band together to embark on the ultimately doomed effort to terraform Mars. By 2593 H.E. most of the structures and technologies are built on Mars for this effort, but the “switch is thrown” on April 15, 2594 to begin the atmospheric generators, with the first generation of genetically modified plant life widely disseminated across the surface of the planet two years later.
The Conflagration and The Era of Chaos
2604 H.E. through 2911 H.E. Mid-2604 H.E. is when the Conflagration begins, and it is generally considered to have lasted for three months. Still, the enormity of the event and its effect on civilization cause it to often be referred to as its own era, even though it is more properly classified as the beginning of the Era of Chaos. On May 18, 2604 H.E., numerous hellpods are launched from, apparently, three separate warwagons in close Earth orbit. Two of the offending warwagons belong to an aggressive Islamic coalition that had been involved with terrorist actions against Europe and North America, and the third to China, which was allied with this coalition as well as supplying it militarily.
More recent evidence pieced together in the Modern Era suggests that the hellpods may instead have been launched by other vessels farther out in space, with the intent of making it appear that the the Islamic and Chinese warwagons had done the deed. Regardless, Muslims (and by extension, much of the Arab world) were blamed then and Islam continues to be blamed by many for the event. After the initial hellpod strikes in North America and Europe, responses are made by the besieged nations, setting off a chain reaction of hellpod attacks, nuclear stirkes and other military actions.
In the three months of attacks on land, at sea and from space, the devastation and loss of life is immense. Hardest hit are North America, South America, and the Middle East. Europe and Asia are also hit hard, but not nearly as bad. For the most part, Africa and Australia are untouched by direct attacks, though they still suffer during this period.
The global economy goes into meltdown and governments collapse en masse. It would be unfair to say that civilization itself collapsed, because on a local and regional basis, people were able to mobilize efforts to keep order, usually brutally and occasionaly humanely. Commerce continued between nations and across oceans, but upheaval was frequent during this period. In space, almost every warwagon (or, more accurately, the individual articifical intelligences that operate them) that was ordered to launch hellpod strikes on human populations begins to go insane. Now operating from a toxic mix of self-loathing, guilt and hatred for human governance, those “roguewagons” begin to initiate attacks both on random Earth targets and on the warwagons that have remained sane (most of those having been the ones that didn’t launch hellpod strikes). The Wagon Wars continue until very nearly the beginning of the Renewal Period in 2912 H.E., with the conflicts becoming increasingly focused on warwagon vs. roguewagon engagements that are conducted farther and farther from Earth. Ultimately, all of the roguewagons are destroyed and all but four of the sane warwagons are destroyed as well. Those four take it upon themselves to remain apart from Earth (and away from potential control by humans or temptation to interfere with events) until civilization reasserts itself to their satisfaction.
By 2800 H.E. the Roman Catholic Church emerges as a stablizing force in the Americas, in far-southern portions of Africa and in parts of Eastern Europe. Through humanitarian aid and diplomacy, the Vatican actually begins the process of mending broken relations and encouraging more orderly behavior worldwide. Islamic leaders play a similar role in many parts of the world, as do Jewish ones, though the Vatican ultimately is more cohesive, centralized and wealthy, and thus overshadows both “competitors.” Also, many noble efforts by Muslims are discounted or rebuffed, as people frequently blame them for the Conflagration, so this also reduces the stature of Islamic work at stablizing society.
Interestingly, the very end of the Pre-Modern Era and the first third of the Era of Chaos are among the least-understood years historically speaking. Digitally stored records from most of the Pre-Modern era and earlier eras survived in large numbers, both on Earth and in space vessels, so the historical record prior to the Conflagration survived. And people continued to keep records, of course, even during the Era of Chaos. But because of the vast destruction of the Conflagration and the unstable nature of society in its wake, many written records and personal computers of important people during this period were damaged, destroyed or lost, and the motivations of those in power or with other forms of influence are thus largely unknowable.
The Renewal Period
2912 H.E. to 3582 H.E. During this period, the Vatican and its Terran Catholic Church shine as the great hope of much of the world’s population, aided not only by its organizational abilities, altriusm and wealth, but also the aid of the massively powerful artificial intelligence known as the Godhead, which goes online in 2912 H.E. In 3261 H.E., the Vatican creates a demi-pope position to support the pope in the increasingly complex affairs of the Vatican. Just over a century later, another demi-pope position is added.
The bulk of Europe declines most Vatican aid and rebuilds as Europa. The Middle East digs out of its destruction and Islam enjoys a huge resurgence, with Islam gaining converts in many northern portions of Africa and well into Asia. Several Asian governments in the Asia-Pacific region, along with Australia, band together to form the nation Oceana, and they also shun the Vatican’s aid. Although the Vatican’s leaders begin with what are clearly good intentions, their motives become increasingly selfish and authoritarian as the Renewal Period goes on.
In 3336 H.E., Europa and non-Vatican controlled Africa band together in an effort to colonize Mars as an independent nation, this time under the surface (as the terraforming effort failed, despite the automated systems continuing to run fine for at least 200 years after the Conflagration). The first true colonists (as opposed to engineers and architects) take up residence in 3411 H.E.
Because of lingering anger toward Muslims after the Conflagration and fears of Islam’s growing popularity and power, the Vatican takes a hostile approach toward Islam in the latter portions of the Renewal Period, leading to sometimes armed conflicts that become known as the Renewal Crusades. How much of this is due to concern over saving souls and how much is due to a desire to hoard the glory and power is unknown.
The Modern Era
3582 H.E. is the year that the Vatican officially becomes the governing authority over North America and Central America, with South America following three years later. In 3590, the Vatican controls a large portion of the southern African continent as well. At this point, the Vatican shifts officially to a trinity-style approach to governance, with three popes (Red Pope, White Pope and Black Pope) instead of one pope and two demi-popes, each based on a different continent and with authority over specific aspects of society throughout the Catholic Union.
This change in the nature of the Terran Catholic Church begins a fragmentation among the Catholic faithful, with some of them beginning to fear their church so much that they break away, many of them banding together with a coalition of various Protestant denominations and ultimately forming, in 3591 H.E., the Universal Faith Catholic (or UFC Church), the second largest Christian faith in the Solar System. By 3645 H.E., the UFC’s operations are based on Mars, in an attempt to escape frequent attacks and subterfuge by the Vatican, which considers the UFC a dangerous heretical institution. In 3653 H.E., the UFC completes assembly of its own artificial intelligence (named Ghost) to counterbalance the Vatican’s Godhead.
In 3617 H.E., the surviving four warwagons return to Earth and essentially divvy themselves up between four of the major powers: the Catholic Union, Europa, “Old Africa” and Mars. As a curious condition of their return, they demand that they henceforth be manned by human crews, despite their self-sufficient nature, in part as a sort of second failsafe against a repeat of the Conflagration. The first failsafe being that while outside of human control, the warwagon AIs repogrammed each other to severely limit the conditions under which they would ever attack a plantary population with their most advanced weaponry ever again. As a further condition of their return to service, the warwagons made it clear that they would actively prevent any attempt by humans to create additional warwagons or anything comparable to them ever again.