Initially, Ant was part of the Tomcat code base, when it was donated to the Apache Software Foundation. It was created by James Duncan Davidson, who is also the original author of Tomcat. Ant was there to build Tomcat, nothing else.

Soon thereafter, several open source Java projects realized that Ant could solve the problems they had with Makefiles. Starting with the projects hosted at Jakarta and the old Java Apache project, Ant spread like a virus and is now the build tool of choice for a lot of projects.

In January 2000, Ant was moved to a separate CVS module and was promoted to a project of its own, independent of Tomcat, and became Apache Ant.

The first version of Ant that was exposed to a larger audience was the one that shipped with Tomcat's 3.1 release on 19 April 2000. This version has later been referred to as Ant 0.3.1.

The first official release of Ant as a stand-alone product was Ant 1.1, released on 19 July 2000. The complete release history:

Ant VersionRelease Date
1.1 19 July 2000
1.2 24 October 2000
1.3 3 March 2001
1.4 3 September 2001
1.4.1 11 October 2001
1.5 10 July 2002
1.5.1 3 October 2002
1.5.2 3 March 2003
1.5.3 9 April 2003
1.5.4 12 August 2003
1.6.0 18 December 2003
1.6.1 12 February 2004
1.6.2 16 July 2004
1.6.3 28 April 2005
1.6.4 19 May 2005
1.6.5 2 June 2005