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



Rome: From the Beginnings to the End of the Republic

753-82 B.C.


The Crisis in the Republic

The rapid expansion of state power exacerbated the social disparities in Rome. The Senate's brutal suppression of the Gracchi land reform further aggravated the general crisis and led to social unrest which threatened to overwhelm the political structures of the Republic.

By the second century â.c.. Rome had built a world empire, but culturally it leaned on the traditions of other peoples. In the early period.

Greek cultural influence was significant, while later the Hellenistic culture with its Oriental aspects was more important.

Leading patrician families, such as the Fabians, the Julio-Claudians, and the Scipiones, who provided consuls and generals in every generation, enjoyed high esteem and 5 wealth as a result of military fame and the spoils of war.

They ruled the city with their network of clients.

The tributes of subjugated peoples and allies brought enormous amounts of money and precious metals to the city of Rome. Corruption scandals, primarily in the provincial administration, shook the republic. The inequality between the large landowners and the destitute city plebeians threatened to shatter the internal peace of Rome yet again.

4 The Hercules temple on Forum Roanum in Rome,
built in the second century â.ñ

5 Roman banquet feast in the house
of a wealthy citizen of Pompeii

In 133 B.C.., the Roman tribune 6 Tiberius Gracchus sought to push through a program of land reform entailing a more just redistribution of land, putting himself in open opposition to the Senate.

6 Gracchus, tribune of the people, wood engraving from 1873,
from a play by Adolf von Wiibrandt

This program was unpopular with many of the patricians, and Tiberius was 2 killed in 132, along with a majority of his supporters, in the civil war-like battles between the plebeians and Senate troops. His younger brother Gains Gracchus then took over his reform proposals and planned a plebeian colony in the provinces. He provoked a national crisis when he promised full citizenship for Roman allies. Renewed attempts to revolt were crushed by the Senate and patricians, who forced Gaius to commit suicide.

Ultimately, the Senate and the consuls came out of the conflict they had made themselves the advocates of patrician interests against the plebeians.

In this situation, external threats, especially the Jugurthine War (111 —105 B.C.) against King 3 Jugurtha of Numidia and the attacks of the Germanic 1 Cimbri and Teutoni in northern Italy (113-101 B.C.), highlighted an  unexpected explosive force with  the state of Rome.

2 The death of Tiberius Gracchus,
132 B.C.
Steel engraving, 19th century

3 Coin portrait of Jugurtha,
king of Numidia

1 Battle between the Cimbri and the Romans
under Manus in northern Italy,
near Vercelli 101 B.C.



P. Cornelius Scipio Africanus the Elder

Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus the Elder (ca. 235-183 B.C.), the most significant Roman general before Julius Caesar, participated in the battles against Hannibal.

Entrusted with the com rnand of the Roman troops in Spain as proconsul in 210 B.C., he drove the Carthaginians out by 206 and landed in North Africa in 204, where he defeated Hannibal at Zama in 202. Afterward, he fought in Rome's wars against Antiochus III of Syria.



The Civil War

The political clashes of the generals Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla resulted in the Roman Civil War that divided the state. After the rule of Marius and Cinna, Sulla established a dictatorship that led to the fall of the republic.

In 107 B.C.. the Senate appointed the ambitious general 9 Gaius Marius to lead Rome in the struggle against external enemies.

He completely destroyed and defeated King Jugurtha and the Germanic tribes who threatened Rome from the North. At the same time, he strove for political office, supported by the military power of his troops. He occupied the office of consul several times. Marius took up the cause of the plebeians, formed a volunteer army of semiprofessionals—with a single ensign, the Roman eagle—and opened its ranks to the innumerable destitute plebeians. After military service, these volunteers were given their own land, creating plebeian and soldier colonies in the provinces.

The Senate was split over the issue of land reform when the Italian allies revolted against Rome in 91-89 B.C. and were pacified only when granted full Roman

During these battles 8 Lucius Cornelius Sulla particularly distinguished himself as a commander of the troops and the name "Felix"—the fortunate— was added to his name in reference to his luck in war.

Sulla was elected consul in 88 B.C., but the Senate relieved him of supreme command in the war against Mithradates VI of Pontus in favor of Marius.

Sulla then marched to Rome at the head of his troops, expelled 7 Marius to Africa, and restored his command.

For the first time, a military leader had dared to force his will upon the Senate through military means. The civil war had begun.

9  General Gaius Marius,
marble bust, ca. 90 B.C.

8 Lucius Cornelius Sulla,
marble bust, ca. 50-40 B.C.

7 Marius after his exile by
Sulla to Carthage in 87 B.C.


10 Sulla had hardly marched off again to resume the war against Mithradates, when 11 Lucius Cornelius Cinna (consul 87-84 B.C.), an ally of Marius's, led his own army against Rome in a bid for power. Cinna occupied the city in 86 and ruled alone as dictator until he was murdered in an uprising of his troops in 84. Sulla returned to Italy the next year, and a majority of the patricians and Senate defected to his side.

In 82 B.C. Sulla entered Rome as dictator and "restorer of the state and the Senate's power." In the following years he ushered in an era of brutal persecution of his opponents. He had the followers of Marius and Cinna hunted down and killed, which led to the bloody extermination of whole families (the "proscriptions"). In 81-80 Sulla rewrote the constitution, strengthening the Senate and limiting the tribunate. Individual state offices and courts were allotted far-reaching new authority and jurisdiction. At the same time he settled 120,000 army veterans in Italy. In 79 B.C., Sulla voluntarily resigned his offices and retired to the country. He died shortly thereafter. Sulla's restoration of the old Roman constitution did not long outlive him—but the example set by him and by General Marius set a precedent for later dictatorships.

10 Sulla triumphs over
Mithradates Vl's army in 86 B.C.

11 Cinna, depiction from
Pierre Corneilles's drama, 1640



Description of the Proscriptions:

"Sulla now busied himself with slaughter, and murders without number or limit filled the city. Many, too, were killed to gratify private hatreds, although they had no relations with Sulla, but he gave his consent in order to gratify his adherents."

From Plutarch's Parallel Lives



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