Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Ancient World

ca. 2500 B.C. - 900 A.D.


The epics of Homer, the wars of Caesar, and temples and palaces characterize the image of classic antiquity and the cultures of ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. They are the sources from which the Western world draws the foundations of its philosophy, literature, and, not least of all, its state organization. The Greek city-states, above all Athens, were the birthplace of democracy. The regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and great parts of Northwest Europe were forged together into the Roman Empire, which survived until the time of the Great Migration of Peoples. Mighty empires also existed beyond the ancient Mediterranean world, however, such as those of the Mauryas in India and the Han in China.


Alexander the Great



Celts, Slavs, and Germanic Tribes



During antiquity, much of Europe was inhabited by the Celts, Slavs, and ancient Germanic tribes. They were considered uncivilized barbarians by the Mediterranean peoples, although some Greek and Roman writers expressed more favorable opinions. These ancient accounts, medieval epics, and archaeological finds provide what little information there is about these peoples, while elements of their culture and language have survived to this day.
Celtic bronze helmet, first century B.C.

The Migrations of the Celts

The Celts moved out from their original homeland in western France and southern Germany and into western and southeastern Europe. They also settled in northern Italy and the plains of central Anatolia.

The name 1 "Celt" dates from the sixth century B.C. when Greek sources used the term to denote tribes living around the Danube and Rhone rivers.

1 Celtic bronze helmet, first century B.C.

Evidence of the migratory movements of the Celts is found where they 3 encountered the Etruscans, Romans, and Greeks. In the sixth century they began to settle the plains of the Po River, which had previously been controlled by the Etruscans. In the fourth century â.c., they began to send raiding parties south, even sacking Rome about 390 B.C. In the third century, the Celts pushed through southern Europe and the Balkans into Greece and plundered Delphi.

The 5 Celtic Galli reached Asia Minor as mercenaries of Nicomedes I of Bithynia in 278 B.C.

They were defeated in the 6 "Battle of the Elephants" in 275-274 by Antiochus I of Syria.

He then settled them permanently in central Anatolia (Galatia), where they were still living in the first century A.D.

A Celt kills his wife and himself after losing a battle, marble statue, third ñ B.C.

5 Celtic warrior on horseback

6 Celtic warrior trampled by an elephant,
terra-cotta statuette, Second century B.C.

There is no evidence of amass Celtic migration into either the Iberian Peninsula or the 4 British Isles.

It is more likely that the indigenous societies adopted aspects of Celtic culture. The bearers of Celtic culture began to spread south from northern Spain in the fifth century B.C. and are referred to as Celtibers. The inhabitants of the British Isles in pre-Roman times were seen as Celts due to their culture and language. In the early first century B.C., Germanic tribes advancing out of the north drove the Celts of Central Europe out of the valleys north of the Rhine and Danube, until they eventually came under Roman rule.

Under Roman influence, an independent 2 Gallo-Roman culture developed in Celtic Gaul.

The Celts on the British Isles, who were never part of the Roman Empire, maintained their independence in 7 Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

From these regions, tribal groups who spoke Celtic despite having been Romanized migrated into Brittany in the fifth and sixth centuries a.d. The Celtic language and culture has been preserved in these areas up to the present.

4 The remains of a Celtic ceremonial complex built of stone, consisting of a round room, two galleries, and a tunnel. in Cornwall, southwestern England

2 The Celtic horned god, Cernunnos, associated
with nature and fertility, seated between
Apollo and Mercury, stone relief, first century a.d.

7 Remains of a Celtic fort in Dun Aengus,
Ireland, ca. first century B.C.


The Celts and the Romans

Between 200 B.C. and 100 a.d., the Romans conquered almost all of the Celtic territories.

The first great clash between the Romans and the "Gauls"—as the 8, 9 Celts were called—ended in 390 B.C. with the sacking of Rome by the Celtic Senones, under Brennus.

The Celts, bribed by the Romans to leave, then withdrew to the north and settled on the Po River plain. The Romans subjugated the region between 225 and 190 B.C.
The conquest of the Celtic regions beyond the Alps began in 125 B.C. and occurred in several stages. The tribes living there frequently quarreled with each other and were incapable of offering collective resistance. Sometimes they even sought help from the Romans against other enemies. Julius Caesar was therefore able to intervene in Celtic affairs when he assisted the Gauls against the Germanic warlord Ariovistus in 58 B.C. By 51 B.C. he had subjugated all of Gaul—present-day France and Belgium—often forming alliances with individual Celtic tribes.

8 Gallic warrior with tattoos (left)
and Senone chief in full armor,
artist's reconstruction

9 Tombstone showing the
Pannonian Umma in
Celtic garb, first ñ a.d.

The Roman's most stubborn and serious opponent was prince 13 Vercingetorix, who in 52 B.C. was proclaimed king by a number of tribes.

He was finally captured and became Caesar's prisoner in Alesia. After being paraded through Rome in 46 B.C., Vercingetorix was executed.
Under Caesar's successors, the boundaries of the empire expanded to the Rhine and Danube so that all of the Celt-occupied areas in central Europe came under Roman control. The Celts on the Iberian Peninsula and in present-day England also succumbed to Roman rule. In 60 a.d., the British Celtic queen Boudicca rebelled against the Romans. After initial success, the rebellion was defeated and Boudicca committed suicide.

The Romanization of Gaul led to the development of a mixed 10 Gallo-Roman culture.

The Gauls rapidly adopted Latin, Roman law and administration. They assimilated the civilization and culture of Rome. The Celtic nobility adapted to Roman ways, gained citizenship, and could even be admitted to the Senate, although they continued to prefer life in the country.

13 Vercingetorix surrenders to Caesar, wood engraving, 19th century

10 Gallic warriors, stone sculpture,
second century B.C.

12 The Porta Nigra, Trier, in Germany, second century a.d.

Celtic settlements, such as Paris and 12 Trier, became flourishing Gallo-Roman cities. Gaul was one of Rome's most important provinces as a result of the revenues generated from the 11 export of grains, wine, and finished textile products.

11 Ship transporting wine vessels, detail from a
wine merchant's tomb, second-third century a.d.



The Sacking of Rome by Brennus

The Roman writer Livy described the sacking of Rome by Brennus in his History of Rome. According to Livy, Brennus was unable to take the Capitoline Hill because the defenders were alerted to the attack by the cries of geese. Since then, geese have been particularly honored there. Brennus made a deal, accepting 1,000 pounds of gold in exchange for his withdrawal. When the Romans complained that the weights on the scales were too heavy, Brennus threw his sword on top with the words: "Vae victis!" ("Woe to the vanquished!").

Brennus throws his sword onto the scales,
steel engraving, 19th century



Battle of the Allia


Brennus and His Share of the Spoils, painting by Paul Jamin


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