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LOS ANGELES—The Getty Villa focuses on three civilizations that dominated the
ancient Mediterranean world for more than 1,000 years: Greek, Etruscan, and Roman.
These cultures left behind remarkable examples of their art that can be studied and
admired today in the galleries of the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa. The
influence of these societies can be traced throughout history, forming the basis of
various ideas and objects that are still in use in the contemporary world. The
permanent collection of antiquities, together with changing and loan exhibitions,
interactive installations, and a year-round schedule of scholarly and public programs at
the Getty Villa help communicate the achievements of the ancient world and celebrate
their artistic innovations.
The Greeks, 1000 to 31 B.C.
Ancient Greeks defined themselves by their common language, culture, and religion
rather than by geography. They settled not only the mainland of present-day Greece and
the islands of the Aegean, but also coastal sites around the Mediterranean and Black
seas. After the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greek culture spread all the way to
India. By 30 B.C., Greek territories had been absorbed by Rome. The Greeks are credited
with developing democracy, philosophy, theater, and athletics, which remain important
to Western societies.
The Etruscans, 1000 to 27 B.C.
The Etruscans lived in the central part of the Italian peninsula and were perfectly situated
for trade and cultural exchange. In a land rich with mineral resources, they became
expert metalworkers, fashioning gold, bronze, and copper into lavish jewelry, decorative
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reliefs, and cast figures. The Etruscans were avid students of Greek culture, which they
adopted and made their own. Most evidence of Etruscan culture comes from tombs and
temple sites.
The Romans, 753 B.C. to A.D. 565
From humble origins as a small city-state in central Italy, Rome expanded into an empire
that reached from Britain to the Near East. The Romans built upon elements of Greek
culture to create distinctive traditions of art, architecture, law, philosophy, and literature.
Their legacy, which includes Christianity—the official religion of the empire by the end of
the 4th century—continues today.
6500 B.C.
The oldest object in the J. Paul Getty Museum, a terracotta
Neolithic figurine, is dated from this period.
3000 B.C.
The potter’s wheel is introduced into the Mediterranean from the
Near East.
3200–2100 B.C.
The Cycladic Civilization
Small settlements dot the Cyclades, an archipelago of islands in the
central Aegean Sea. People live in fortified towns and engage in
fishing, agriculture, and trade. They make vessels and statuettes out
of local marble.
3000–1000 B.C.
Minoan Civilization
A sophisticated culture thrives on the island of Crete. Minoan society
was organized around large “palace” complexes. Monumental
architecture, wall paintings, ceramics, metalwork, and stonework
have been excavated at Minoan sites.
1700–1100 B.C.
The earliest writing systems develop in Europe.
1600–1000 B.C.
Mycenaean Civilization
The Mycenaeans, a warrior society, dominate mainland Greece. Their
walled cities and rich graves (filled with gold, silver, gemstones, and
other precious materials) suggest a militaristic society, which later
Greeks mythologized in art and literature as the Heroic Age.
1000 B.C.
Rise of the Greek and Etruscan Civilizations.
900–700 B.C.
The Greek Geometric Period
Interactions between Indo-European invaders and indigenous
populations lead to a distinct Greek culture that revered a heroic
Page 3
776 B.C.
past. Artistic styles and imagery of this period are based on abstract,
geometric forms and repeated patterns.
Traditional date of the first Olympic Games.
753 B.C.
Rome is founded by the mythical twins Romulus and Remus.
700–480 B.C.
The Greek and Etruscan Archaic Age
Independent city-states emerge around the Mediterranean. Trade
and colonization lead to increased wealth and the development of
painting and monumental architecture and sculpture. Greek archaic
sculpture is recognized by formalized schematic representations of
the human form. Etruscan large-scale figural sculptures feature Greek
stylization of facial features but emphasize gesture and movement.
675 B.C.
Etruscan pottery known as “Bucchero” ware is created. Intricate
designs begin to decorate their metalwork.
600 B.C.
Coinage is introduced throughout the Greek world.
600–500 B.C.
Large-scale bronze casting develops in Greece.
530 B.C.
Red-figure vase-painting technique, developed from the Black-figure
vase-painting technique, is invented in Athens.
500 B.C.
Etruscans build large-scale temples.
480–323/300 B.C. The Greek and Etruscan Classical Age
Although this period marks the beginning of Etruscan political
decline, artistic production flourishes. The originality and vitality of
their metalwork is renowned in the ancient world. The Greek
victories in the Persian wars bring an optimism and confidence to the
Greek world. Art, literature, and democracy thrive; Athens becomes
the center of Greek power. Eternal poses and ideal figures are
hallmarks of Classical Greek style.
431–404 B.C.
The Peloponnesian Wars are fought between Sparta and Athens,
leading to the decline of Athenian supremacy.
400 B.C.
Etruscan bronze work reaches its height.
343–290 B.C.
Romans expand into southern Italy.
336–323 B.C.
Reign of Alexander the Great
Alexander’s empire reaches from Greece to India.
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323–31 B.C.
The Hellenistic Period
Alexander’s successors establish independent kingdoms in the
eastern Mediterranean as Rome expands in the West. During this
time, Etruscan art becomes increasingly violent as Roman invaders
strike their cities, while Greek art becomes infused with drama and
emotion inspired by contact with the East.
294–273 B.C.
Six key Etruscan cities fall to Rome.
200–146 B.C.
Romans conquer the Greek mainland.
146–31 B.C.
The Rise of Rome
Roman influence grows throughout the Mediterranean.
27 B.C.–312 A.D.
Infusion of Greek Classical idealism transforms Roman art. Roman
buildings and imagery carry imperial messages of autocratic military
27 B.C.
Age of Augustus
The Roman Empire is established, incorporating Egypt. Augustus
ushers in a time of peace and prosperity, referred to as Pax Romana,
which lasts until 180 A.D.
A.D. 79
Mt. Vesuvius erupts, burying Pompeii and Herculaneum.
A.D. 117
Height of the Roman Empire
Roman rule stretches from northern Britain to present-day Iraq.
A.D. 313
Edict of Milan allows Christians to worship freely throughout the
Roman Empire.
A.D. 395
The Roman Empire Divided
Rome becomes the capital of the Western Empire,
Constantinople becomes the capital of the Eastern Empire.
A.D. 476
Collapse of the Western Roman Empire.