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 Rise and Fall of a World Power:
From Macedonia to the Diadochoi



The Seleucids and the Ptolemies

The two most important and longest lasting of the Diadochoi kingdoms were those of the Seleucids in Syria and the Ptolemies in Egypt. These kingdoms were ended by Roman conquest.

6 Seleucus I Nicator, founder of the Seleucid dynasty, received the province of Babylonia after Alexander's death.

6 Seleucus I Nicator

Starting in 312 B.C., he extended his rule through Syria and Mesopotamia and eastward into India. In 305 Seleucus took the title of king and solidified his domain through numerous alliances and military expeditions. He brought Greek and Macedonian settlers into his realm and founded many cities. His son Antigonus I Soter (king from 280 B.C.) introduced the Seleucid ruler cult, settled Celts in Galatia, and founded Antioch.

The most prominent of his descendents was 9 Antiochus III the Great (king from 223 B.C.), who subjugated the Armenian, Bactrian, and Parthian kingdoms and, between 202 and 194, occupied Phoenicia, the western and southern coasts of Anatolia, and Thrace.

9 Antiochus III the Great

War with Rome in 192-189 resulted when he crossed over to Europe and forced the Greek cities of Asia Minor under his rule. In 189-188 B.C. Antiochus had to withdraw from Asia Minor down to Taurus.

His successors dissipated their powers in fratricidal wars until the Roman general Pompey dethroned the last Seleucid ruler in 64 B.C. and made a Roman province of what was left of the empire.

As a friend of Alexander, 7 Ptolemy I Soter, founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty, wrote Alexander's biography and started the state cult around him.

7 Ptolemy I Soter

He won Egypt in 323 B.C. and took the  title of king in 305. In alliance with Seleucus I, he attacked Macedonia several times. Ptolemy solidified his rule in Egypt, generally adopting Egyptian religious concepts and the image of sovereign.

He founded the Mouseion, the 8 Serapeion, and the great 12 library of Alexandria.

His son Ptolemy II installed the Egyptian national cult around his own dynasty and constructed the 10 Pharos lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

8 Sphinx on the Serapeion in Alexandria

12 The destruction of the Royal Library
of Alexandria by a fire in 47 B.C.

10 The Pharos lighthouse in Alexandria,
one of the Seven Wonders of antiquity


11 Ptolemy III Euergetes (king from 246 B.C.) advanced to the Euphrates and Asia Minor and defended the empire against the expansionist ambitions of the Seleucids. After him, insignificant and often shortlived kings reigned until Ptolemy XII Neos Dionysos (king 80-51 B.C.). who completely relied on the power of Rome. The story of his daughter Cleopatra VII, the last of the Ptolemaic dynasty, belongs to the Roman era under Julius Caesar.

11 Ptolemy III Euergetes



Ptolemy II Philadelphia

Ptolemy II (308-246 B.C., king from 285 B.C.) married his sister Arsinoe II (ca. 316-271 B.C.) according to old Egyptian custom.
He extended the kingdom from Egypt into Nubia and the Arabian Peninsula and gained maritime strength in the Mediterranean.
The couple, deified as the "Theoi Adelphoi," were generous patrons of the arts and sciences and made Alexandria a cultural center of the world.

Ptolemy II Philadelphus and his wife Arsinoe II



Macedonia after Alexander's Death

The struggle of the Diadochoi for Macedonia and Greece was played out through family intrigues. Alexander's dynasty fell, and almost all of the Diadochoi joined in the scramble for power in Europe.

Upon Alexander's death in 323 B.C., his strongest generals proceeded to divide power. They controlled the richest satrapies, leading the strongest and largest armies, and fought for control of the empire.

Antipater, whom Alexander had appointed viceroy, ruled 3 Macedonia until his death in 319 ‚.Ů .

3 Map of ancient Greece showing Macedonia in the north in red, Thracia in yellow, Epirus in green, copper engraving,
18th century

4 King Antipater in battle, copper engraving,
17th century

The Macedonians in Alexander's army wanted to hold on to the Argead dynasty and chose Alexander's half-brother Philip III Arrhidacus as king in 325 B.C.

Alexander IV, who was born after the 2 death of his father, also had dynastic claims.

Antipater became regent of the empire in 321, while at the same time 1 Olympias, Alexander the Great's mother, tried to secure influence as head of the dynasty.

1 Olympias, wife of Philip II and mother of Alexander the Great
2 Dying Alexander, marble sculpture, second century B.C.

Antipater decided on the loyal general Polyperchon as his successor, but his own son Cassander wanted control and allied himself with Antigonus I, who had established an empire in Asia. Cassander and Antigonus unseated Polyperchon and allied themselves with King Philip III and his wife Eurydice. Polyperchon in turn allied himself with Olympias, and together they had the royal couple killed and from 317 ruled as regents in the name of the child Alexander IV. Thereupon, Cassander started a campaign of revenge against the royal house. He marched out of Athens with the army at his side in 316, had Olympias executed, and drove out Polyperchon. He took the young Alexander IV and his mother Roxana as prisoners and put them to death in 310. With this, Cassander had annihilated Alexander's dynasty. Through shifting alliances with other Diadochoi rulers (Lysimachus, Ptolemy I, and Seleucus I), he was able to gain recognition from all as "viceroy of Europe" by 311 B.C. After engaging in serious clashes with Antigonus beginning in 307, Cassander's position finally became untenable around 300 B.C.

5 Thessalonica, Cassander's wife, who had tried to decide his succession, was murdered by her son Antipater.

In 294 Antipater was finally deposed by Demetrios I Poliorcetes, who gave way to the rule of the Antagonids over Macedonia and Greece.The peace between the successors ot Alexander recognized the effective division between Antigonus, who was supreme in Asia; Cassander. who dominated Greece and Macedon; Lysimachus, who ruled Thrace; Ptolemy, who governed Egypt; and Seleucus, who ruled the eastern satrapies. Soon after his death in 297, his dvnasty came to an end.

5 King Antipater I kills his mother Thessalonica


Macedonia under the Antigonids

The descendents of Antigonus I finally succeeded in gaining power in Macedonia and thus over Greece. Their successors waged war against the growing power of Rome.

Antigonus I Monophthalmus ("the One-eyed," ca. 382-301 ‚.Ů.) and his son Demetrius I Poliorcetesó"the Besieger"ówere the last of the Diadochoi to hold onto Alexander's plans for a world empire. From their power base in Asia, they invaded Greece and took Athens claiming to be "liberators." After the expulsion of Cassander, Antigonus assumed the title of king in 306 B.C. and revived the Corinthian League for the liberation of all of Greece. In 301 Antigonus fell at Ipsus against Lysimachus and Seleucus I.

Demetrius was able to bring a large part of Greece, Macedonia, and Asia Minor under his control but was captured by Seleucus I in 285 B.C.
His son Antigonus II Gonatas (king 283-239 B.C.), however, was able to maintain Antigonid control of Macedonia and most of the Greek cities through alliances until the country was invaded and conquered by the Romans in 168 B.C.

By about 250 B.C. the situation was generally settled, and Macedonia was again the undisputed master of Greece. Demetrius II (king 239-229 B.C.) son of Antigonus I, secured victories over the Celts and the Dardanians and dominated the Aegean Sea, defeating the battle fleets of the Egyptian Ptolemies at Cos in 258 ‚.Ů. and at Andros in 245 B.C. Antigonus III Doson (regent, then king 229-221 B.C.) brought Sparta under their sovereignty, and Antigonus united almost all of the Greek peninsula in the "Hellenic League" in 224.

However, conflict began to develop with the rising power of Rome, which sought to hinder Macedonia's consolidation of its strength in Europe.

Philip V of Macedonia (king from 221 B.C.) allied himself with the Carthaginian general Hannibal in 215 B.C. to expand westward against Rome.

6 King Philip V forces Theoxena and her husband Poris
to commit suicide for fleeing Macedonia

During the First Macedonian War (215-205 B.C.) Philip was relatively  successful, gaining access to the  Adriatic Sea, but when a few Greek cities pulled out of the 8 Second Macedonian War (200-197 B.C.), he was defeated by the Romans.

In the following years he became entangled by internal Greek unrest. Philip's son 7, 9 Perseus was the last king of Macedonia. After suffering several 10 defeats by Rome, Perseus was captured in 168 and paraded through the streets of Rome in a victory procession in 167.
Macedonia was then divided into four republics and finally made part of the Roman Empire as a new province.


8 The Greeks are set free at the
Isthmic Games, 196 B.C.,
after the Second Macedonian War

7 King Perseus of Macedonia in profile,
contemporary cameo

9 Perseus marches through the Thessalian
canyons to Illyria during the Third Macedonian War

10 Roman legionnaires break the Macedonian
phalanx in the Battle of Pydna, 168 B.C.


The philosopher Epicurus,
ca. 270 B.C.

The Athenian Philosophy

During the period of Antigonid rule over Greece, Athens remained a center of culture and philosophy. In 306 B.C. Epicurus founded his school, whose followers strove for individual happiness andpeace. The Stoics, named after their meeting place in the columned hall on the Agora of Athens, first met around 300 B.C. and with their austere rationalism stood in opposition to the hedonism of the Epicureans.

The Stoa Poikile ("painted colonnade"),
at the Agora in Athens, where philosophy
was taught and after which the
Stoics were named



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