Mesopotamia, the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (in modern day Iraq), is often referred to as the Cradle of Civilization because it is one of the first places where complex urban centers grew.
Tribes and kingdoms in the Arabian Peninsula became important sites of exchange for ancient Mediterranean empires, resulting in a combination of cultures, languages and artistic traditions that would later impact Islamic art.
Egypt’s impact on later cultures was immense. Historians believe that Egypt provided the building blocks for Greek and Roman culture, and, through them, influenced all of the Western tradition. Ancient Nubia (in Sudan) was also a major player with the Kushite kings, who at one point took control over Egypt.
Nineteenth-century archaeologists were looking for evidence of the people and places mentioned in Homer’s epic poems. Instead they found the Bronze-Age art of the Cycladic islands, and the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations.
The ancient Greeks traveled across the Mediterranean and built colonies far and wide. They had close contact with other peoples such as the Egyptians, Persians, and Etruscans. At home, they lived in separate city-states but shared both language and religious beliefs.
The Etruscans were the first “superpower” of the Western Mediterranean. The cities of modern Tuscany: Florence, Pisa, and Siena, were first established by the Etruscans and have been continuously inhabited ever since.
When Augustus rose to power, the Roman Republic ended and the Empire began. Roman art was now put to the service of the ruler of a region so vast it eventually stretched from Egypt to England and from Spain to Iraq.
The ancient site of Dura-Europos is noted for its cultural and religious diversity, having preserved evidence of multiple written languages, Roman temples, a Jewish synagogue, and the oldest Christian house-church that is archaeologically known.