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 Rule of the Generals and Imperial Rome

74 B.C.-192 A.D.


The civil war destroyed the structure of the Roman republic. The seizure of power by the generals Pompey, Caesar, and Antonius prepared the way for the transition to autocratic imperial rule finally accomplished by Augustus. The era of imperial Rome had begun. After the dynasty of Augustus, other dynasties ruled including that of Julius Caesar and Octavian, with the emperors increasingly coming from the provinces of the empire rather than from thecity of Rome itself. Diocletian's tetrarchy restored a strong system of government to the late Roman Empire.

Pompey, Caesar, and Crassus


Julio-Claudian family tree

The alliance of the generals Pompey and Caesar with Crassus, the richest man in Rome, ended the Republic. In the ensuing power struggle between Caesar and Pompey, it was Caesar who ultimately triumphed.

After Sulla retired as dictator in 79 B.C., two of his followers tried to seize power.

Gnaeus Pompcius Magnus
(Pompey the Great), as a general under Sulla, had liberated Italy's coasts from pirates.

3 Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus

Now his political ambition awoke and in 70 B.C. he shared the consulship with Marcus Licinius Crassus, the wealthiest man in Rome. Together they repealed the major part of Sulla's constitution and reestablished the tribunate, which made them very popular in Rome. After Pompey brought eastern Europe up to Asia Minor under Roman control, everyone expected him to claim the dictatorship, but the opposition of the Senate caused him to delay. Instead, Pompey and Crassus sought an ally from within Marius's powerful party of the people.

This ally was the general 1, 7 Gaius Julius Caesar.

1 Gaius Julius Caesar

He was Marius's nephew and was married to Cinna's daughter. In order to get the plebeians on his side, Caesar forced the Senate to pass land reforms and purchase state lands for settlers and war veterans. As the First Triumvirate, Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar shared power in 60-59 B.C. and effectively repealed the republican constitution.

They also divided the provinces among themselves: Pompey took Spain, Crassus took Syria, and Caesar took Illyria and 2 Gaul.

When Crassus fell against the Parthians in 53 ., Pompey (the only consul for 52 B.C.) and Caesar faced each other in a bid for sole power. Both depended on their loyal armies and financial strength.

Gaius Julius Caesar

7 Gaius Julius Caesar

Caesar was the first to print his own bust on a Roman minted coin.

2 Armor and weapons of Caesar's
army in the Gallic War, 58-51 B.C.

Armor and weapons of Caesar's army

When Pompey's followers attempted to keep Caesar away from Rome so he couldn't campaign for the consulship in 49, Caesar marched out of Gaul with his troops and crossed the 5 Rubicon River to Rome.

Civil war broke out once more, and Pompey was soon forced to flee. Caesar occupied Spain and won the decisive battle at Pharsalus (Thessaly) against Pompey.

Pompey fled to Egypt, where he was 4 assassinated when he arrived on orders of the Egyptian King Ptolemy.

Caesar then 6 entered Rome in 47 B.C. as its undisputed ruler, popular and pardoning most of his rivals.

Map of Italy with Rubicon river

Caesar crossing the Rubicon River

5 Caesar crossing the Rubicon River, 49 B.C.


4 Murder of Pompey

6 Caesar's triumphal procession


Modern bronze statue of Julius Caesar, Rimini, Italy


Vercingetorix surrenders to Caesar , by Lionel Royer.


The Rule of Caesar to the Victory of Augustus

Caesar's dictatorship was ended by his assassination. In alliance, Antony and Octavian, Caesar's grand-nephew and heir, forcibly assumed power. Octavian eventually became sole ruler.

9 Julius Caesar, supported by his clients and soldiers, solidified his power and defeated the last supporters of Pompey and the Republic in Africa, Spain, and at sea in 4645 B.C.

9 Coin from Caesai:
"I came, saw and triumphed"

He then carried out wide-ranging social and legal reforms in the empire. Caesar rejected monarchical titles, but in 44 became dictator for life.

However, some senators who still held republican ideals 13 stabbed Caesar to death while he was on his way to the Senate on March 15 (the "ides" of March), 44 B.C.

13 Murder of Julius Caesar on March 15,44 A.D., painting, 1815

10 Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony), one of Caesar's generals, called for the banishment of the murderers, who fled from Rome.

Then the 19-year-old grand-nephew of Caesar, 11 Octavian, made his claim for the inheritance, and signs of a power struggle appeared.

As Brutus and Cassius, two of Caesar's assassins, had won the entire east of the empire over to their cause, Octavian and Mark Antony entered into an alliance of convenience. Together with the consul Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, they formed the Second Triumvirate, which lasted from 43 to 33 B.C. In 42 they defeated the republicans at Philippi and then divided the provinces among themselves, Antony receiving the East (and, at first, Gaul), Octavian Italy and the West (eventually in-eluding Gaul), and Lepidus North Africa.

Antony's clashes with the Parthians gave Octavian the opportunity to build up his power in Rome. In 33 B.C., he was elected to the consulship, along with one of his followers. In the meantime, Antony had begun an affair with the Ptolemaic queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, to whose charms Caesar had also succumbed. This gave Octavian the excuse to fight Antony, who was married to Octavian's sister. He convinced the Senate that Antony was planning to separate the East from the rest of the Roman Empire. Even Lepidus, who was later compensated with the office of the highest priest (pontifex maximus), joined Octavian's side.

Using Caesar's money, Octavian armed an enormous fleet under the command of his friend 12 Agrippa, who destroyed the fleets of Antony and Cleopatra in 31 B.C. at 8 Actium.

The next year, Octavian occupied Egypt. With this he unified, for the first time, the empire under one man.

10 Marcus Antonius

11 Bust of Octavian ca. 40-50 A.D.

12 Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa


Cleopatra VII,
painting by
Mose Bianche's 1865

Cleopatra VII

Cleopatra VII, the last Greek ruler of Egypt from 51 B.C. and blessed with legendary beauty, successfully opposed her co-regent and brother Ptolemy XIII with the help of Rome and her lover Julius Caesar.

 After a stay in Rome, she removed Ptolemy XIII and elevated her son by Caesar to co-regent as Ptolemy XV (Cesarion) in 44 B.C. In 41, she became the lover of Mark Antony, who then moved to Alexandria.

Both of them took their lives when Octavian entered Alexandria in 30 B.C., she using the poison of a snake.

8 Antony and Cleopatra after the
battle at Actium


In this Baroque vison, Battle of Actium by Lorenzo A. Castro (1672),
Cleopatra flees, lower left, in a barge with a figurehead of Fortuna.


The Death of Caesar, by Jean-Leon Geérome (1867).
On March 1544 BC, Octavius's adoptive father Julius Caesar was assassinated
by a conspiracy led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus


Death of Caesar, by Vincenzo Camuccini


The Suicide of Brutus


David, The Lictors Bringing Back to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons, 1789


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