Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
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Artists that Changed the World
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Visual History of the World
First Empires
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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.




see also:

Art of the Indus


India from the Beginnings to the Invasion of Alexander the Great

ca. 7000-325 B.C.




Shorter of the two great epic poems of India, the other being the Mahābhārata (“Great Epic of the Bharata Dynasty”). The Rāmāyana was composed in Sanskrit, probably not before 300 bc, by the poet Vālmīki, and in its present form consists of some 24,000 couplets divided into seven books.

The poem describes the royal birth of Rāma in the kingdom of Ayodhyā (Oudh), his tutelage under the sage Viśvāmitra, and his success in bending Śiva’s (Shiva’s) mighty bow at the bridegroom tournament of Sītā, the daughter of King Janaka, thus winning her for his wife. After Rāma is banished from his position as heir by an intrigue, he retreats to the forest with his wife and his favourite half brother, Laksmana, to spend 14 years in exile. There Rāvana, the demon-king of Lankā, carries off Sitā to his capital, while her two protectors are busy pursuing a golden deer sent to the forest to mislead them. Sītā resolutely rejects Rāvana’s attentions, and Rāma and his brother set about to rescue her. After numerous adventures they enter into alliance with Sugrīva, king of the monkeys; and with the assistance of the monkey-general Hanumān and Rāvana’s own brother, Vibhīnana, they attack Lankā. Rāma slays Rāvana and rescues Sītā, who in a later version undergoes an ordeal by fire in order to clear herself of the suspicions of infidelity. When they return to Ayodhyā, however, Rāma learns that the people still question the queen’s chastity, and he banishes her to the forest. There she meets the sage Vālmīki (the reputed author of the Rāmāyana) and at his hermitage gives birth to Rāma’s two sons. The family is reunited when the sons become of age, but Sītā, after again protesting her innocence, asks to be received by the earth, which swallows her up.

The poem enjoys immense popularity in India, where its recitation is considered an act of great merit. Many of its translations into the vernacular languages are themselves works of great literary merit, including the Tamil version of Kampan, the Bengali version of Krttibās, and the Hindi version, Rāmcaritmānas, of Tulsīdās. Throughout North India the events of the poem are enacted in an annual pageant, the Rām Līlā, and in South India the two epics, the Rāmāyana and the Mahābhārata, even today make up the story repertoire of the kathākali dance-drama of Malabar. The Rāmāyana was popular even during the Mughal period (16th century), and it was a favourite subject of Rājasthānī and Pahārī painters of the 17th and 18th centuries.

The story also spread in various forms throughout Southeast Asia (especially Cambodia, Indonesia, and Thailand); and its heroes, together with the Pāndava brothers of the Mahābhārata, were the heroes of traditional Javanese-Balinese theatre, dance, and shadow plays. Incidents from the Rāmāyana are carved in bas-relief on many Indonesian monuments—for example, at Panataran in eastern Java.

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)


Hanuman Fetches a Mountain of Healing Herbs

Rama and Ravana Face Each Other in Close Encounter

Rama Renounces His Wrath, Puts Aside His Weapons

Vibhishana Fetches Sita

Standing Before Rama, Sita Protests Her Innocence During Captivity

Agni Proclaims Sita’s Innocence, As Gods of Directions Watch

Rama and Sita Return to Ayodhya in Pushpaka Chariot

Rama, Sita, and Their Entourage at the Coronation

Agastya’s Discourse

Hanuman, Destined to Live Forever, Takes Leave of Rama and Sita

Rama and Sita Pass Happy Hours in the Ashoka Garden

Rama Is Informed of Stories Circulating about Sita

Rama Orders Lakshmana to Abandon Sita

Lakshmana Leaves Sita, Bereft, on the Farther Shore

Kusha and Lava Sing the Ramayana at King Rama’s Court

Sita, Accompanied by Valmiki, Stands Once More before Rama

Mother Earth Invites Sita to Share Her Throne

Rama, with a Golden Statue of Sita at His Side, Continues to

Rama Ascends to Heaven from the River Sarayu

Valmiki with Kusha and Lava



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