Ancient Near Eastern

As civilizations developed and became more complex, they began to vie with one another for the fertile lands of Mesopotamia. Art is used as a way to aggrandize the rulers and the vast cities in which they resided. Temples very often accompanied these dwellings, and were typically built atop neighboring mountains to assert their heavenly powers and, more practically, to protect them from floodwaters.

Artists begin to employ devices that help propagate the influence of their rulers. The Sumerian king is centrally positioned in the Royal Standard of Ur, for example. In the Head of an Akkadian Ruler, the artist uses stylized forms and symmetry to impose a powerful image. Hierarchical perspective (or proportion) is used to increase the scale of Naram-Sin as his army tramples over their defeated enemies, in a stele denoting his might and godliness.

These devices are applied to architectural structures as well. In the Great Ziggurat of King Urnammu, for example, buttresses are added to the façade to give the appearance of additional strength, though they are structurally unnecessary. City entrances were often flanked by powerful or mystical animals as a way to intimidate visitors, as at the Lion Gate at Hittite or the Ishtar Gate at Babylon.

The Achaemenid and Sasanian rulers built grand palaces and employed a diverse group of artists from across their empires to adorn them. Objects of daily life are created with precious metals and often depict animals that symbolize the strength and power of the rulers that owned them.