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



Judea and Arabia before the Romans

CA.1100 B.C.-136 A.D.


1 The "Shelter of the Pharaoh" of Petra,
capital of the Nabataea

As the Babylonian exile ended in 539 B.C., the returning Jews installed a priestly principality in Palestine, later taken over by the Maccabees. Herod the Great first established a secular kingdom. The ancient Arabian kingdoms benefited from the 2 Incense Road trade route connecting India and the Persian Gulf with the Mediterranean. These states, and the Nabataea of 1 Petra, acquired great wealth and made significant cultural developments. While Petra fell to Rome, southern Arabia was occupied by the Sassanids.

2 Perfume flacon from Jerusalem,
first century a.d.


Palestine from the Persians to the Maccabees

After their return from Babylon, the Jews were able to maintain their cultural and religious autonomy under changing regimes. The Maccabees finally established the first king/high priest monarchy.

see also collection:
David Roberts "A Journey in the Holy Land"


David Roberts

When the Persian king Cyrus II conquered Babylon in 539 B.C., he ended the "Babylonian captivity" of Jews captured by Nebucbadressar II in 588 B.C. Most of the Jews returned to the vicinity of Jerusalem, where they erected a shrine to Yahweh. They came into conflict with the Samarians and the Ancient Judeans who had settled there in the meantime.

It wasn't until 520-515 .c. that the Jews were able to reestablish a central Yahweh cult in Jerusalem under a 3 high priest, who was simultaneously political leader of the Jews.

3 High priest and minor priest

Palestine remained a province of the Persian Empire until 332 B.C, when Alexander the Great incorporated it into his growing empire. After Alexander's death, it ultimately came under the rule of the Egyptian Ptolemies in 301, who allowed the Jews complete religious freedom. Around 200 B.C. a strong Hellenization of the Jewish culture began. In 198, Palestine and Phoenicia came under the domination of the Seleucid Antiochus III of Syria, who confirmed their religious freedom and constitution.

His son 4 Antiochus IV Epiphanes, however, deviated from this policy when he intervened in the conflicts between Jewish priestly families, attempted to introduce the Seleucid cult, and plundered the temple in 168 B.C.

4 Antiochus IV Epiphanes' portrait on a coin

A Jewish revolt in Jerusalem was crushed and an altar to Zeus was installed in the temple. The Maccabee family overthrew the high priests in charge and led an uprising of the people.

5 Judas Maccabee ("the Hammer") drove the Seleucids from Jerusalem and restored the Yahweh cult in 164.

His successors extended their rule over Judea, made the high priest office hereditary, and Judaized the regions of Samaria, Idumaea, and Galilee.

Power struggles in the first century B.C. allowed the Romans to intervene in Judea, installing Hyrcanus II (76-40 B.C.) but granting him only limited powers.

When the Maccabean king 6 Antigonus Mattathias allied with the Parthians, he was captured and executed in 37 B.C.

5 Judas Maccabeus Pursuing Timotheus, by Dore

6 Mattathias Appealing to the Jewish Refugees, by Dore


The Punishment of Antiochus, by Dore


Judas Maccabeus Before the Army of Nicanor,  by Dore



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