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



Ancient India

321 B.C.-500 A.D.


Since the time of Alexander the Great, India had been in touch with Hellenic culture. The rulers of the Maurya Empire in particular maintained contact with the West. The most significant among them was Asoka, who promoted Buddhism. After the fall of the Maurya, local dynasties continually fought against the invading nomads from the Central Asian steppes. Only the Gupta Empire was able to once again unite large parts of India. In the meantime, Hinduism experienced a renaissance and eventually pushed Buddhism out of the subcontinent.


The Mauryan Dynasty
ca. 321 -185 ‚.Ů.

The Maurya Empire at its largest extent under Ashoka the Great

Emperor Ashoka The Great

After 321 B.C., the Mauryan Dynasty became the leading power in India.
Emperor Asoka made Buddhism the state religion and gave the teaching
and missionary efforts decisive impetus.

Buddhist proselytism at the time of king Ashoka (260-218 BCE).


Alexander the Great marched with his army into the Indus Valley in 327 ‚.Ů. and despite great resistance from the hill tribes, he reduced most of their fortresses and defeated King Poros, as well as other local rulers, with his 2,000 war elephants. Alexander's successors in the east, the Seleucids, came into conflict with what had become the dominant power on the Indian subcontinentóthe Maurya Empire, which had been founded around 321 by Chandragupta Maurya, in the area of Magadha on the Ganges. Chandragupta defeated Scleucus but eventually reached an agreement with the Seleucids about their common borders. He and his successors maintained close contact with the Greeks, ensuring the continued influence of Hellenic culture in India.

Asoka, grandson of Chandragupta, came to the throne between 273 and 265 ‚.Ů., and is considered the most significant ruler of the Maurya Empire and of ancient India as a whole. During his reign, the empire included nearly all of the Indian subcontinent and reached present-day Afghanistan.

His experiences during a brutal military campaign led to his conversion to 2, 3 Buddhism.

Buddha with the Uttariya and Antariya

2 Buddha, old Indie



3 Depiction of the female earth spirit Yakshi,
recognized as a symbol of fertility by Hindus,
Buddhists, and Jains, sandstone, third century B.C.

Nayika Applying Kajal in Her Eyes


The Death Procession of the Buddha, old Indie


Accounts and edicts on 1, 4 pillars and rock faces testify to Asoka's goals and achievements.

While tolerant of other religions, he promoted the spread of Buddhism, even sending missionaries abroad. Around 250 he called a Buddhist council in his capital, Pataliputra, to establish the textual canon of early Buddhism. After his conversion, he refused to wage war. Instead, he sought to extend the social support within his empire. Soon after Asoka's death in ca. 232 B.C., the Mauryan Dynasty began to decline and in 185 B.C. the last Maurya was killed.

1 The lion capital of the Asoka Column,
model for the Indian state crest, third century B.C.

4 Asoka Column, third century B.C.

Mauryan Statuette, 2nd Century BCE


Statuettes of the Maurya period, 4th-3rd century BCE. Musee Guimet



From an Edict of Asoka

"All men are my children. What I desire for my own children, and I desire their welfare and happiness both in this world and the next, that I desire for all men.... Your aim should be to act with impartiality."

Fragment of an inscription of an edict by emperor Asoka on a column in a Buddhist column,
 third century B.C.




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