Persia and the Classical World

Limestone relief (fourth century B.C.E.) from ancient Persia showing a lion and bull in combat. Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Photo: Michael Tropea

Through August 8, 2022
The Getty Villa
Pacific Palisades, California

For more than a millennium, from around 550 B.C.E. to 650 C.E., ancient Greece and later also Rome had a tumultuous relationship with their neighbors to the east: the Medes, Persians, Parthians, and Sasanians of ancient Iran. Although they were sometimes at peace or even united against common enemies, more often than not these major powers were in conflict with each other. The Getty exhibit Persia: Ancient Iran and the Classical World explores the artistic and cultural connections between these rival powers through artifacts and documents.

With Iran as its heartland, the Persian empire once stretched from the Aegean Sea to the Indus River and from the Caucasus Mountains to Egypt. The Persians did not originally view Greece as a serious threat, but a series of defeats—and loss of territory—changed their opinion. Ultimately, their empire fell to Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C.E. The following centuries saw the Parthians and, later, Sasanians rise to power in ancient Iran—and fight with Rome for control of the eastern Mediterranean, Syria, and Mesopotamia.

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