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Ancient art and civilizations

Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker of Smarthistory together with leading art historians, and our museum partners have created hundreds of short engaging conversational videos and articles, making Khan Academy one of the most accessible and extensive resources for the study of the history of art.
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Ancient Near East

Was writing invented to record poetry or great literature? Nope. Writing was invented to help keep track of beer and other goods and services. The ancient Sumerians were nothing if not practical. Ancient Near Eastern cultures established the first cities and large scale architecture. From the gates of the city of ancient Babylon, to the ancient code of laws instituted by King Hammurabi, the Ancient Near East is distant but also remarkably familiar.
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Judaism and art

Judaism is a monotheistic religion that emerged with the Israelites in the eastern Mediterranean (southern Levant) within the context of the Mesopotamian river valley civilizations. The Israelites were but one nomadic tribe from the area, so named because they considered themselves to be the descendants of Jacob, who changed his name to Israel.
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Egyptian art and culture

Woody Allen famously said, “I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.” The ancient Egyptians on the other hand, confronted death head on. In fact, the art of the ancient Egyptians was (for the most part) never meant to be seen by the living—it was meant to benefit the dead in the afterlife. Throughout human history, art has been recognized for its ability to outlive us and has been used as a receptacle for our fears and hopes about our own mortality.
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Aegean art

Excavations led by teams of archaeologists in the nineteenth century hoped to find evidence for places and people in Homer's epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey. They may not have found what they sought, but along the way, they made remarkable discoveries. This tutorial covers the art of the Cycladic Islands, and the Island of Crete (Minoan), and of Mainland Greece (Mycenaean).
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Greek art

The ancient Greeks kept busy. They produced painting and sculpture that was copied by the ancient Romans, by Renaissance and Baroque masters, and by the royal academies up until the early 20th century. We still copy ancient Greek architecture, refer to their philosophy, use their geometry, perform their theatre, hold olympic games, and redefine their democracy.
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Nabataean

There is only one true way to experience Petra, the greatest city of the Nabataeans, a people who occupied the area from Sinai and Negev to northern Arabia in the west and as far north as southern Syria. On foot or mounted on a camel, one should leave the modern village of Wadi Musa in modern-day Jordan and enter the Siq, a narrow, curving canyon, that traders, explorers and travelers have been walking through since time immemorial.
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Etruscan

Before the small village of Rome became “Rome” with a capital R (to paraphrase D.H. Lawrence), a brilliant civilization once controlled much peninsula we now call Italy. This was the Etruscan civilization, a vanished culture whose achievements set the stage not only for the development of ancient Roman art and culture but for the Italian Renaissance as well.
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Roman

The Romans weren’t very original (they borrowed the Greek’s and Egyptian’s gods, architecture, etc.), but they sure knew the political value of art and they were brilliant engineers and administrators. This tutorial traces Roman art and architecture from the Republic through the collapse of the Empire and the rise Christianity. Fly over a reconstruction of the ancient city of Rome. Understand how the Colosseum was built to appease a population angry at the excesses of the former Emperor Nero, and uncover the secret initiation rites buried by the ash of Mount Vesuvius.
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Asia

Asia is both huge and diverse. Explore Hinduism's principal deities, Buddhism's most sacred shrines and recently uncovered treasures from ancient Afghanistan.
Roman
The Romans weren’t very original (they borrowed the Greek’s and Egyptian’s gods, architecture, etc.), but they sure knew the political value of art and they were brilliant engineers and administrators. This tutorial traces Roman art and architecture from the Republic through the collapse of the Empire and the rise Christianity. Fly over a reconstruction of the ancient city of Rome. Understand how the Colosseum was built to appease a population angry at the excesses of the former Emperor Nero, and uncover the secret initiation rites buried by the ash of Mount Vesuvius.
All content in “Roman”

A beginner's guide to ancient Rome

Roman art spans almost 1,000 years and three continents. The first Roman art can be dated back to 509 B.C.E., with the legendary founding of the Roman Republic, and lasted until 330 C.E. (or much longer, if you include Byzantine art). The city of Rome was a melting pot, and the Romans had no qualms about adapting artistic influences from the other Mediterranean cultures that surrounded and preceded them.

Wall painting

Paintings from antiquity rarely survive—paint, after all, is a much less durable medium than stone or bronze sculpture. But it is thanks to the ancient Roman city of Pompeii that we can trace the history of Roman wall painting. The entire city was buried in volcanic ash in 79 C.E. when the volcano at Mount Vesuvius erupted, thus preserving the rich colors in the paintings in the houses and monuments there for thousands of years until their rediscovery.

Republic

In legend Rome was founded in 753 B.C.E. by Romulus, its first king. In 509 B.C.E. Rome became a republic ruled by the Senate (wealthy landowners and elders) and the Roman people. During the 450 years of the republic Rome conquered the rest of Italy and then expanded into France, Spain, Turkey, North Africa and Greece. Rome became very Greek influenced or “Hellenized,” filled with Greek architecture, literature, statues, wall-paintings, mosaics, pottery and glass. But with Greek culture came Greek gold, and generals and senators fought over this new wealth. The Republic collapsed in civil war and the Roman empire began.

Early empire

In 31 B.C.E. Octavian, the adopted son of Julius Caesar, defeated Cleopatra and Mark Anthony at Actium. This brought the last civil war of the republic to an end. Although it was hoped by many that the republic could be restored, it soon became clear that a new political system was forming: the emperor became the focus of the empire and its people. Although, in theory, Augustus (as Octavian became known) was only the first citizen and ruled by consent of the Senate, he was in fact the empire's supreme authority. As emperor he could pass his powers to the heir he decreed and was a king in all but name.

Middle empire

The imperial system of the Roman Empire depended heavily on the personality and standing of the emperor himself. The reigns of weak or unpopular emperors often ended in bloodshed at Rome and chaos throughout the empire as a whole. In the third century C.E. the very existence of the empire was threatened by a combination of economic crisis, weak and short-lived emperors and usurpers (and the violent civil wars between their rival supporting armies), and massive barbarian penetration into Roman territory.

Late empire

Financial pressures, urban decline, underpaid troops and consequently overstretched frontiers - all of these finally caused the collapse of the western empire under waves of barbarian incursions in the early fifth century C.E. The last western emperor, Romulus Augustus, was deposed in 476 C.E., though the empire in the east, centered on Byzantium (Constantinople), continued until the fifteenth century.