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


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.


The golden mask of Tutankhamun, a jewel of ancient Egyptian artwork,
 showing the pharaoh in a ceremonial robe decorated with the heraldic animals, the vulture and cobra, ca. 1340 B.C.


see also:

The Art of the Ancient Kingdoms

Egyptian religion (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Egyptian Goddess (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Illustration from the Book of the Dead


Ancient Egypt

CA. 29OO-332 B.C.


The New Kingdom III: Ramessid Period 1320-1070 ..

The pharaohs of the 19th and 20th dynasties, who almost all bore the name Ramses, were barely able to hold Egypt's great empire together.


In the confusion surrounding the throne at the end of the 18th dynasty, Ramses I was able to prevail and founded the 19th dynasty. His two-year reign was spent in heavy fighting.

While Thebes remained the religious center, the capital was moved to the Nile Delta, where the hotly contested front with the Hittites in the north was more easily accessible. The Libyan nomads, who regularly attacked Egypt from the west, were another threat. Ramses I's son, Seti I, fought campaigns in Palestine, Syria and the Sudan, returning home to Egypt with enormous plunder. He continued to build temples, adding in particular many columns to the great edifice at Karnak.

One of the most important 8 battles against the Hittites and their ally, the Amorite prince of Kadesh in Syria, occurred in 1285 B.C.

8 Ramses II at the Battle of Kadesh,
drawing, 19th century

Ramses II, grandson of Ramses 1, known as "the Great", a vigorous ruler but a cruel and extravagant one whose vast harem gave him 150 offspring, marched against his foes with an enormous army in order to prevent the complete loss of Syria and Palestine, but it was only by good fortune that he did not suffer a crushing defeat. The Battle of Kadesh was a draw and led to a peace treaty signed in 1259. Ramses II's foreign policy problems contrasted with his immense construction activities.

5 Mummified body of Ramses II

Ramses II at the Battle

Ramses II

Even the most significant pharaoh of the 20th dynasty, 6 Ramses III (1198-1166 B.C.), who undertook extensive social and administrative reforms, was forced to defend Egypt against fierce attacks.

6 Ramses III and one of his sons, wall painting ca. 1370 B.C.

The sea peoples, among them the Achaians and the 7 Philistines, allied with the Libyans and pushed forward into Egypt by land and sea. The pharaoh was unable to prevent either the Philistines from settling in Palestine or the Libyans from settling in Egypt. Trade and the tribute payments ceased. The economic problems led to social unrest, which resulted in the first documented strike in history.

7 Captured Philistines, relief on the funerary temple
of Ramses III in Medinet Habu


Ramses III was eventually murdered, although a memorial to him remained in the form of the huge temples and palaces he had constructed. His successors lost control over the nation. The foreign peoples living in Egypt, descendants of mercenaries or slave laborers, rebelled, while the high priests of Amun in Thebes established a theocracy in Upper Egypt. With the end of the 20th dynasty, Egypt was once again divided up into parts.

The 9 rock-cut temple of Abu Simbel is the most famous among the many temples that he had built or restored.


Abu Simbel

(The Temple of Ramesses II)
(The Temple of Nefertari dedicated to Hathor)


Abu Simbel, The Temple of Ramesses II, The Temple of Nefertari dedicated to Hathor

The Temple of Ramesses II

9 Temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel


Temple of Ramses II




Abu Simbel, Ramesses Temple, chamber decoration, Egypt

The Temple of Hathor

The Temple of Nefertari dedicated to Hathor


The Temple of Nefertari dedicated to Hathor



The Israelites in Egypt

Among the many foreigners living in Egypt under the Pharoahs were the Israelites, who were ruthlessly exploited as slave labor. At the same time, they were considered a threat:
"A new king came to power in Egypt, and he said unto his people: 'Behold, the people of the children of Israel are too many and too mighty for us... when there befalleth us any war, they also join themselves unto our enemies, and fight against us, and get them up out of the land. Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Ramses.'"

(Exodus 1:8-11)



The finding of Moses, by Edwin Long


The Israelites may well have been circumcised by the Egyptians,
and decided further down the lines that "a boy should look like his father"...


The Israelites are enslaved in Egypt

Exodus 1:13-14



And they made their lives bitter wich hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick and in all manner of service in the field... .

Exodus 1:14


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