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In the opening monologues of Babylon 5 it is proclaimed to be the "dawn" of the third age of mankind, which started in 2257 with the founding of Babylon 5. What time periods covered the first two ages of mankind?

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Sheridan and Delenn have a discussion at the end of B5:Into the Fire. They've just won the Shadow War and the Shadows and Vorlons (as well as the other Old Ones) have gone beyond the rim and left the galaxy:

Sheridan : It's a new age, Delenn. A third age.

Delenn : Why third?

Sheridan : Well, we began in chaos, too primitive to make our own decisions. Then we were manipulated by forces that thought they knew what was best for us. And now, now we're finally standing on our own.

JMS spoke about his desire to end on a slow note rather than an all-out battle specifically to indicate that we'd outgrown the need for intergalactic warfare;

"[I] Definitely didn't want it to end in a big explosion. We've seen many of those; how many more can you see? One is the same as the other after a while. And if we destroyed everything, how would that show we'd grown enough to create the new age? It's a matter of evolution, not destruction."

The timescales themselves aren't well defined and would obviously be different for different species but it seems clear that the Shadows and the Vorlons have been at each other's throats for thousands (if not millions) of years, with various planets falling under their respective spheres of influence at different times.

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    The Second Age of Mankind (it specifically says "mankind") is probably when we entered space and began meeting other races. Just guessing, though, based on Sheridan's dialogue.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 21:08
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    @Omegacron - Yes, albeit we know that the Vorlonns exerted an influence on many younger societies well before they gained spaceflight.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 2, 2015 at 21:23
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    A nitpick: humans have never engaged in intergalactic warfare, even by the end of the series. The Shadow War was interstellar, but entirely within the confines of the Milky Way--in fact at its conclusion Sheridan tells the Shadows and Vorlons to "get the hell out of our galaxy, the both of you!" So no other galaxies were harmed in the making of this series. ;)
    – peyre
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 4:53
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    For what it's worth, Mongoose Publishing's Babylon 5 Roleplaying Game described five ages races can go through and had somewhat different definitions for the first and second ages. This system, while interesting, doesn't seem to match JMS' views on it. Commented Mar 31, 2017 at 6:23
  • If I understand the timescales I would have thought shadows and volons have been battling for billions of years. Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 19:42

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