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



The First Kingdoms in North and
Northeast Africa



More or less on the periphery of the ancient Mediterranean world, the kingdoms of the Berbers, Nubians, and Ethiopians developed in north and northeast Africa as early as 1000 B.C. Despite their geographically marginal position, these states and peoples played a significant role in the history of the Egyptians, Carthaginians, and Romans. Intensive trade relations led to a lively cultural exchange. These areas also came into contact with Christianity, where, primarily in Ethiopia, it has maintained a form of its own since ancient times.

North Africa

While the Phoenicians and the Greeks settled on the coast, the hinterland of North Africa remained in the hands of the Berbers.

North Africa has been inhabited since early times by the 1 Berber peoples, who were partly settled and partly 4 nomadic.

1 A fortified Berber village called Ksour,
and a citadel, in Tansikht, Morocco

4 Farmers herding cattle, rock painting,
Sahara, second B.C.

The 5 Libyans in the east began invading Egypt on a massive scale during the 13th century B.C., but some were also employed by Egypt as mercenaries.

5 A Libyan and a Syrian are captured by
Pharaoh Ramses II, relief, twelfth century B.C.

Eventually, in the early tenth century, several Egyptian pharaohs were Libyan.

From the ninth century, Phoenician colonies, and in the seventh century 6 Greek colonies, developed on the North African coasts and would later come under the rule of either Carthage or Egypt.

6 Temple of Zeus in Cyrene, Libya, sixth century B.C.

The 2 Numidians, who were allies of Rome, used the fall of Carthage in the Punic Wars to found a kingdom in present-day Algeria and Tunisia.

When battles of succession broke out therein 118 B.C., 3 King |ugurtha bought the support of Roman senators and so provoked a bribery scandal in Rome.

In 112 he resorted to violence and ordered a massacre of his opponents, whereupon Rome felt forced to intervene. The Jugurthine Wars ended in 105 B.C., and the king was executed the following year. But it wasn't until 46 B.C. that Julius Caesar deposed the last of the Numidian kings, who had supported Pompey in the civil war. Another allv of Rome, Mauretania profited from Numidia's fall following this event.
After the ruling dynasty had died out there in 25 B.C., Emperor Augustus installed the Numidian Prince Juba II asking. Mauretania remained independent until 40 a.d. when Caligula had King Ptolemy, a grandson of Antony and Cleopatra, killed.
Under Roman rule, North Africa flourished and became rich through its agriculture and trans-Saharan trade, particularly under Emperor Septimius Severus, who originated from the area and had many of the cities magnificently improved. Christianity also spread early through this area. In Hippo Regius (today's northeastern Algeria), the great church father Augustine acted as bishop and must have seen firsthand the invasion of the Vandals around 430. In the seventh century, Muslim Arabs conquered North Africa and revitalized the region.

2 Roman and Numidian riders going into battle,
copper engraving, 18th century

3 Numidia, coin, ca. 110 B.C.


Northeast Africa

From the beginning, Nubia was under the strong influence of Egypt. The roots of the Kingdom of Aksum in Ethiopia lay, however, in local legend.

Early on, the Egyptian pharaohs began to undertake expeditions south into Nubia (present-day Sudan), which was rich in gold.

It was 7 annexed in the 15th century B.C. as the vice-kingdom Kush (or Cush) and colonized.

7 Nubians pay tribute to Pharaoh Tutankhamen,
wall painting, Thebes, ca. 1340 B.C.

Kush regained its independence ir 1070 B.C. and was ruled by n; tive princes, who initially resided in Napata.

The Kushites used the internal collapse of Egypt in the eighth and seventh centuries .. to extend their 8 rule over Egypt, where they reigned as the 25th dynasty.

The intensive contact resulted in the Nubian culture becoming strongly influenced by the 9 Egyptian culture.

8 Colonnade of the Kushite Pharaoh
Taharka in the Amun Temple of Karnak,
Eastern Thebes, seventh . ..

9 Pharaoh Taharka kneels in front of the falcon god Hemen, seventh . ..

The Kushites built pyramid-shaped temples and burial complexes after the Egyptian model and used the title of pharaoh, demonstrating the extent of this influence.

About 530 B.C. the capital was moved from Napata further south to 10 Meroe, which became an important shipping hub for Nubian precious metals. In the fourth century a.d., Christianity reached Egypt by way of Nubia, but by that time, the kingdom of the Kushites was already in decline. Small Christian kingdoms existed in Nubia, however, into the 1500s.

Ethiopians trace their ancestry back to Menelik, the legendary son of the biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba in today's Yemen. Menelik is believed to have brought the Ark of the Covenant to Ethiopia, and it is said to be, until this day, in the town of Aksum.

In the fourth century, King Ezana Mcroe, who had inherited the throne when still a child, destroyed the capital of the Kushites and also established Christianity as the state religion. To protect the southern Arabian Christians, Aksum conquered Yemen in the sixth century, marking the kingdom's greatest territorial expansion. The spread of Islam in the unding countries beginning seventh century, as well as the loss of direct access to the ocean, eventually led to cultural and economic isolation. Aksum's importance diminished after the eighth century, while Ethiopia's political focus shifted to the south, where the protected highlands lie.

As a holy city, however, 11 Aksum remained the coronation site of the Ethiopian emperors into the 19th century.

10 Pyramids of Meroe, lithograph, ca. 1800

11 Church in Aksum, copper engraving, 19th century



The Ethiopian Church

The Ethiopian Church dates back to the missionary work of the Alexandrian brothers Frumentius and Aedesius in the early fourth century. Their opinions conflicted with those of the Catholic Church, particularly on the issue of Christology and on the biblical canon. The head of the church was the Coptic patriarch of Alexandria until 1959, after which the Ethiopian Church installed its own patriarch in Addis Ababa.

Passion scenes in a Coptic church in Ethiopia,
mural, 18th century



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