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


First Empires

ca. 7000 B.C. - 200 A.D.


The Middle East was the cradle of mankind's first advanced civilizations. In Egypt and the Fertile Crescent, which extends in an arc from the north of the Arabian Peninsula east through Palestine to Mesopotamia, the first state structures emerged in parallel with the further development of animal husbandry, agriculture, trade, and writing. The first great empires, such as those of the Egyptian pharaohs, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, and the Persians, evolved at the beginning of the third millennium B.C., out of small communities usually clustered around a city. Similar development also occurred on the Indian subcontinent and in China, where quite distinct early advanced civilizations took shape as well.


The golden mask of Tutankhamun, a jewel of ancient Egyptian artwork,
 showing the pharaoh in a ceremonial robe decorated with the heraldic animals, the vulture and cobra, ca. 1340 B.C.


see also text

KING SOLOMON "Song of Songs"

see below collection:



Syria and Palestine

3000-332 B.C.


The Early Israelites and the Kingdoms of David and Solomon

The Israelites migrated into the region of Palestine in the 13th century B.C. Conflicts in the settlement areas required a military society, which extended beyond individual tribes and became the basis, around 1020 B.C., of national unity.

Many of the Canaanite city-states in Palestine were destroyed by the sea peoples around 1200 ‚.Ů, after which the 3 Philistines settled on the coast and established a federation of individual city-states.

3 A Philistine bust, relief, twelfth century B.C.

At the same time, the Semitic Aramaeans moved in, among them the 1 tribes of Israel. Related folk groups had previously lived in Egypt and are described in the biblical stories of Moses.

1 The Israelites conquer the Canaanite city of Jericho

These Israelite groups had in common the 7 worship of the god Yahweh.The isolation of this god from the gods of the neighboring peoples and the maintenance of the purity of the Yahweh cult defined their society. Around the year 1020 B.C., the Israelites declared Saul their king and commander for the war against the other Aramaean tribes and the Philistines. They did not, however, grant him any internal authority, for example, to levy a general tax.

7 The Philistines rob the Ark of the Covenant,
 the holy relic of the Israelites, painting, 19th century

After 2 Saul's death, the successful military leader 4 David, from the tribe of Judah, was chosen as king around 1004 B.C. Unlike Saul, David relied on a private army, which he also used to seize money and estates for himself. He overrode the autonomy of the individual Israelite tribes and established a unified state, with Jerusalem as its capital and political and religious center.

2 Saul commits suicide,
book illustration, 15th century

The Battle of Gilboa, by Jean Fouquet

Death of King Saul, 1848 Elie Marcuse

David and Saul (1885) by Julius Kronberg

David Plays the Harp for Saul, by
Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1658.

Saul and David, by




After David killed the gigantic Philistine Goliath, Saul had him brought to his court. David was protected from the king's increasing jealousy of his popularity by his love for Saul's son Jonathan. When Jonathan fell in battle against the Philistines, Saul committed suicide and David became king. During his reign, David's own son Absalom rose up in an unsuccessful revolt against him. Later, David fell in love with Bathsheba and deployed her husband's forces in battle in such a way that he would certainly be killed. David's son by Bathsheba, Solomon, succeeded him as king.

King David by Pedro Berruguete





David, Michelangelo, 1500-1504.


David with Goliath's head, by Andrea del Verrocchio


David Entrusts a Letter to Uriah


David and Uriah,
Rembrandt van Rijn


King David And Uriah by Richard Serrin


King David playing a triple harp, Domenico Zampieri


By Shira Schoenberg


The biblical King David of Israel was known for his diverse skills as both a warrior and a writer of psalms. In his 40 years as ruler, between approximately 1010 and 970 B.C.E., he united the people of Israel, led them to victory in battle, conquered land and paved the way for his son, Solomon, to build the Holy Temple. Almost all knowledge of him is derived from the books of the Prophets and Writings: Samuel I and II, Kings I and Chronicles I.

David was the eighth and youngest son of Jesse from the kingly tribe of Judah. He was also a direct descendent of Ruth the Moabite. David began his life as a shepherd in Bethlehem. One day, the prophet Samuel called him out of the field and anointed him without the knowledge of the current king, Saul. David simply returned to his sheep. His first interaction with Saul came when the king was looking for someone to play music for him, and the kingís attendant summoned the skilled David to play for him. Saul was pleased with David and kept him in his service as a musician.

The first time David publicly displayed his courage was when, as an inexperienced boy armed with only a stick and a few stones, he confronted the nine-foot, bronze armored Philistine giant, Goliath of Gath. After skilled warriors had cowered in fear for 40 days, David made a slingshot, invoked Godís name, and killed the giant. After this, Saul took David on as commander of his troops and David formed a close friendship with Saulís son, Jonathan.

David and Goliath, by Caravaggio, c. 1599. Prado, Madrid

David was successful in battle against the Philistines and this aroused the jealousy of Saul, who tried to kill David by throwing a spear at him. David stayed with Saul, however, and Saul offered him his own daughter, Merav, as a wife. He later reneged on his promise, but offered David his second daughter, Michal, in exchange for the foreskins of 100 Philistines, a price that David paid.

Saulís jealousy of David grew and he asked his son Jonathan to kill David. Jonathan was a friend of Davidís, however, and hid David instead. He then went to his father and convinced Saul to promise not to kill David. Saul promised, and David returned to his service. This promise did not last and, after Saul attempted to kill David a second time, Michal helped David run away to the prophet Samuel in Ramah. David returned briefly to make a pact of peace with Jonathan and to verify that Saul was still planning to kill him. He then continued his flight from Saul, finding refuge with the king of Moab. On the way, the priest Ahimelech of Nob gave David a weapon. When Saul heard this, he sent Doeg the Edomite to kill 85 of the cityís priests.

In the course of his flight, David gained the support of 600 men, and he and his band traveled from city to city. At one point, in Ein Gedi, David crept up on Saul while he was in a cave, but instead of killing him, cut a piece from his cloak and confronted Saul. Saul broke down and admitted that David would one day be king and asked David to swear that he would not destroy Saulís descendants or wipe out Saulís name. David swore to this, but it did not stop Saul from continuing to pursue him. Finally, David and his supporters joined the service of Achish, the Philistine king of Gath who entrusted David with control of the city of Ziklag. Under Achishís employ, David raided the cities of nomads who harassed the Jews and gave the spoils as gifts to the leaders of Judah to win their support for him against Saul.

Eventually, while David was out battling a tribe called the Amalekites, Saul and Jonathan were killed on Mt. Gilboa in a fight with the Philistines. David mourned, and then began a new stage in his life, as king of Judah. He moved to Hebron, along with his wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail of Carmel, and his followers. The people of Judea were grateful to David for saving them from desert raiders while he was in Ziklag, and they appointed David king.

Meanwhile, Abner son of Ner crowned Ish-Boshet son of Saul king over the tribes of Israel. The kingdoms of Judah and Israel fought, with Davidís dynasty growing stronger as Saulís grew weaker. Finally, after Abner had a fight with Ish-Boshet, Abner approached David and made a pact with him, which allowed David to unite the two kingdoms and rule over all of Israel. As Abner was leaving David, however, Davidís advisor and army commander, Joab, killed Abner without Davidís knowledge. Soon, Ish-Boshet was also killed and the tribes of Israel anointed David as their king. David was 30 years old at the time, and had ruled over Judah for seven years and six months. Over the years, he had taken more wives and had many children. He had also made pacts with kings of various surrounding countries.

Davidís first action as king was to capture what is now the City of David in Jerusalem, fortify it and build himself a palace. When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king and was threatening their hegemony over all of Palestine, they attacked, spread out over the Valley of Raphaim and captured Bethlehem. David retaliated and, in three battles, forced the Philistines out of Israel.

Once David had established the safety of his kingdom, he brought the Holy Ark, which had been passed from city to city, to Jerusalem. He then wanted to build a temple to God and consulted Natan the prophet. Natan replied to David that God would always be with David, but it would be up to Davidís son to build the Temple because David had been a warrior and shed blood.

David then began fighting wars against Israelís neighbors on the east bank of the Jordan. He defeated the Moabites, the Edomites, the Ammonites and the Arameans. These wars began as defensive wars, but ended with the establishment of a Davidic empire that extended over both sides of the Jordan River, as far as the Mediterranean Sea. David enforced justice in his empire and established civil and military administrations in Jerusalem, modeled after those of the Canaanites and Egyptians. He divided the country into twelve districts, each with its own civil, military and religious institutions. He also established Jerusalem as the secular and religious center of the country. Each district paid taxes to Jerusalem and the people began to make pilgrimages to Jerusalem each year on the holidays of Passover, Shavout and Sukkot.

Despite this flawless reign on a national level, David had many problems in his personal life. One day while the men were at war, David spied a beautiful woman, Bathsheba, from his rooftop. He discovered that she was married to Uriah the Hittite, but this did not stop him from sending for her and getting her pregnant. He then recalled Uriah from battle and pretended that Uriah was the father of Bathshebaís baby. Uriah refused to go home to his wife, so David sent Uriah to the front lines of battle, where he was killed. David then married Bathsheba. When confronted by Natan the prophet, David admitted his sin. In punishment, Bathshebaís child died and David was cursed with the promise of a rebellion from within his own house. Bathsheba and David soon conceived a second son, Solomon.

Davidís personal strife continued when his son Amnon raped Tamar, Amnonís half-sister. Absalom, who was Davidís son and Tamarís brother, then killed Amnon. Absalom fled, but David could not stop thinking about him. Finally, Joab convinced David to allow Absalom to return. Absalom was a handsome man and became popular with the people of Israel. Then, 40 years after Samuel had anointed David king, Absalom, along with 200 men, journeyed to Hebron with the intention of rebelling against his father and taking over his kingdom. He had the support of the men of Hebron who were insulted by the removal of the kingdom from Hebron to Jerusalem, the elders whose status was undermined by parts of Davidís policy and the Benjamites who wanted to avenge Saulís family.

David feared that Absalom would return and conquer Jerusalem, so he and all his followers fled the city, leaving only 10 concubines to guard the palace. David told the priests Zadok and Abiathar to remain in the city along with his friend and now spy Hushai the Archite. Meanwhile, Absalom reached Jerusalem, took over the city and slept with Davidís concubines. Hushai befriended Absalom, advised him, and told the priests to send messengers informing David of Absalomís plans. David gathered his troops and then killed 20,000 of Absalomís Israelite soldiers, including Absalom himself. David returned to power. A second revolt broke out at the hands of Sheba son of Bichri, but with the help of Joab, David succeeded in crushing this rebellion as well, and in killing Sheba.

Eventually David grew old and had to stop fighting. He constantly felt cold and could not get warm. At this point, Adonijah, Davidís oldest son, declared himself king. David, however, had promised Bathsheba that her son Solomon would be king, and publicly anointed Solomon. Fearful of retribution Adonijah ran to the altar in Jerusalem, but Solomon pardoned him and sent him home.

David delivered a last set of instructions to his son, telling him to follow the words of God and to repay in kind specific people that had either wronged David or helped him. David then died after 40 years as king, 33 of those in Jerusalem. He was buried in the City of David.

David was a poet and the rabbis believe that David wrote the Book of Psalms, or at least edited it. Throughout his life, David prepared for the construction of the Holy Temple by setting aside the necessary physical materials, commanding the Levites and others in their duties for the Temple, and giving the plan for the Temple to Solomon. It is then fitting that according to tradition, the Messiah, who will build the third temple, will be from the Davidic dynasty. Today, Jews pray daily for the coming of the "Messiah, son of David."

Abishag, Bathsheba, Solomon, and Nathan
tend to aging David, c. 1435






Orazio Gentileschi


Nicolas Poussin. The Triumph of David


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