Great Women of Antiquity: An exhibition of Historical art in the form of illustrative portraits by Contemporary American Illustrator Howard David Johnson, whose illustrations of Mythology and History have been published all over the world by distinguished learning institutions and publishers including the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

Presents: Paintings of Powerful Women of History & Legend


 A celebration of beautiful and powerful women of ancient history and traditional oils, Contemporary acrylics and cutting edge digital mixed media in the style of the classic illustrators. Realistic Paintings and Photo Realistic Drawings of legendary beautiful women  of Classical, (Greek & Roman) Egyptian and Middle Eastern Legend and History.





   Known throughout the ancient world, Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi was famous for her frenzied prophecies of doom and destruction. 

The Delphic Oracle was the most prestigious and authoritative oracle among the Greeks, and she was without doubt the most powerful woman of the classical world. The oracle at Delphi is a figure of great historical importance that was and still is shrouded in mystery. 

The Pythia was the name given to any priestess throughout the history of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. She spoke for the god Apollo and answered questions for the Greeks and foreign inquirers about colonization, religion, and power. 

The oracle is one of the best-documented religious institutions of the classical Greeks and continued throughout the Roman era. Extant authorities recording the oracle include Aristotle, Herodotus, Aeschylus, Clement of Alexandria, Diodorus, Diogenes, Euripides, Julian, Justin, Livy, Lucan, Nepos, Ovid, Pausanias, Pindar, Plato, Plutarch, Sophocles, Strabo, Thucydides and Xenophon.


Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt


    Cleopatra, ( 69-30 B.C.) descended from Ptolomey, one of Alexander the great's generals. She was heralded as the greatest of all beauties and is arguably the most legendary femme fatale in all the annals of history in competition with the beauteous Helen of Troy.  At the age of seventeen, she became Queen of Egypt ruling jointly with her younger brother Ptolemey V by marriage, according to the ancient Egyptian custom of the Pharaohs.      


 After he betrayed her and stripped her of all power and authority, she withdrew to Syria, and prepared to recover her rights by force of arms.

    Her opportunity came when Julius Caesar followed Pompey into Egypt. The personal fascinations of Cleopatra induced Caesar to undertake a war on her behalf, in which Ptolemey lost his life.

    She regained her throne through a marriage to her younger brother whom she rid herself of with poison. She lived openly as Caesar's mistress until his assassination in Rome. Their association had been terribly unpopular, and she became aware of her unpopularity and returned to Egypt. 

      Subsequent to her legendary relationship with the legendary Roman General Cleopatra became ally and mistress to Mark Antony (Antonius ), his successor. 

egiption queen cleopatra
egiption queen cleopatra painting   Enter Gaius Julius Caesar Octavian ( 63 B.C.- 14 A.D.) who was the adopted son of Julius Caesar.  He declared war on the star crossed lovers and defeated them at Actium. After a secret conference, she accepted the victor's proposal that she  poison Antony, her lover, and "for Egypt" she set out to seduce this newest Roman Commander, Octavian... 


She lured Antony to a mausoleum where he committed suicide himself in the mistaken idea she had already done so. Octavian refused to yield to the charms of Cleopatra, who, according to tradition, put an end to her own life by applying an asp to her bosom.   Octavian went on to realize their unfulfilled ambitions and became Caesar Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome and founder of the Imperial Roman Government.

The Annals of Tacitus (1st Century A.D.)

Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra

Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra is one of the grandest & most underrated heroines of antiquity! She come from a long line of fabulous Syrian & Abyssinian queens, including the Legendary Queen of Sheba. She adored & emulated Cleopatra & ironically met a similar fate. Assyrian records speak of mighty Arab warrior queens like Zabibi, who revolted but was finally subdued in 738 B.C. Here is Zenobia at the end of her career, betrayed by the Romans she had served faithfully all her life, her city in flames, & surrendering to the soldiers of Aurelius.

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Queen Zenobia of Palmyra, (circa 278 A.D.) born Septima Bath-shabbi, consort of Odaenathus, the Dux Orientus succeeded his throne as his widow & on behalf of her son, the lawful successor. She ruled with very capable hands and was determined to surpass his excellence and make Palmyra mistress of the Roman Empire in the east.

 She was a scholar in her own right and was instructed in the sciences by the celebrated Longinus. Besides her native tongue, she spoke the Latin, Greek, Coptic and Syrian languages. She patronized learned men and herself formed an epitome of Egyptian history. The Talmud speaks of her goodness to rabbis. She was a conqueror and commanded a fine army, protecting the Roman flank from the Persians and subduing Egypt. In spite of her loyalty and capable leadership Zenobia was betrayed when the new emperor Aurelius took the throne because of gender prejudice. 
babailon glory painting Zenobia Queen of Palmyra painting pre raphaelite art picture roman solder queen captured
Zenobia then stood up to the tyranny of the Romans in the grandest heroic fashion. She led her troops into Phoenicia and Palestine, conquered the land to the borders of Egypt and defeated the world-governing Roman army. Personally leading her troops into battle on horseback was an important ingredient for Zenobia's success. A woman's presence in battle is inspiring (like a mythical goddess) common among early Arabs, in a pre-Islamic tradition; called the Lady of Victory. Her hair flowing and her body partly exposed, this Lady of Victory appealed both to valor and passion. In addition to this, the fact that every man that met her fell in love with her due to her beauty and charm makes her even more fascinating. 

Life of Aurelian, by Vopiscus in Augustae Historiae Scriptores (translated into English by Bernard in 1740)

Helen of Troy


spartain hero greek warrior queen painting

Helen of Troy ( circa 1194 B.C. ) was referred to as " The most beautiful woman who ever lived" and "The Face that launched a Thousand Ships".

The Trojan War resulted when Paris, the prince of Troy carried her off during the reign of her husband the Spartan King Menelaus. 

      Here Helen has just seen the sea lights of her husband's enormous amphibious  invasion fleet on the horizon heralding the beginning of the Trojan Wars. 

To recover Helen, the Acheans under Agamemnon, brother of Menelaus lay ferocious siege to Troy.

The war raged to no avail for ten years until Hector was killed by Achilles and he by in turn by Paris with a poisoned arrow in his one vulnerable spot - the classic Achilles' heel while he rode in his chariot parading Hector's corpse...



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At last a wooden horse was contrived. Odysseus had masterminded a strategy to break the stalemate... The Trojan Horse...



helen iliyad troy war trojan princess_The Trojan Horse.jpg (54811 bytes)spartain warrior picture historical art whose hollow interior many elite Achean Warriors hid themselves... Leaving Their Giant Gift outside the city and withdrawing their army and fleet to Tenedos, feigning to have raised the siege. The Trojans conveyed the wooden horse into the city.

 Later that night the Greeks stole out & opened the gates, & Troy was taken. The Spartan King Menelaus recovered Helen &  forgave her. She was thought for ages to be merely a part of mythology - partly because of lack of evidence & partly because of the portrayal of Olympian pagan religion as a reality in history's only extant account - Homer's  immortal epic poem "The Iliad" -  prejudiced the scientific & academic communities...

until archaeologists excavated Troy. Now, Helen of Troy is one of the Legends of History... 

    History? Herodotus and Thucydides, like ancient pagan writers generally, accepted the Trojan War as historical, but criticized what they politely called "epic statements" in detail. Traditional genealogies, collated by Hecataeus of Miletus and others , enabled   Eratosthenes to date the fall of Troy to 1194 B.C. This is consistent with  the Roman scholar Pliny the elder and Egyptian records from Rameses' time as well. The belief in Olympian gods and monsters was as commonplace then as our superstitions are today and some people are still prone to embellish true events with "epic statements".


The 7 Wonders; Queen Amyitis & her Hanging Gardens 

Queen Amyitis ( circa 605-562 B.C.) was the daughter of the king of the Medes. She married King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to create an alliance between the nations. The ancient city of Babylon (Iraq) ruled the world in it's day just as the Roman Empire did in hers. It boasted as it's showpiece one of the 7 wonders of the Ancient World; The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, built espescially for her. Her homeland was lush & fertile, rugged & mountainous, & she found the flat, barren sun-baked terrain of Babylon depressing.  King Nebuchadnezzar decided to recreate her homeland by building an artificial mountain with rooftop gardens.

hanging guardin abale queen amyitits painitng

 In any case Queen Amyitis' Hanging gardens had to be an amazing sight: A green, leafy, artificial mountain towering above the plains. Vaulted terraces raised one above another, and resting upon cube-shaped pillars. These were hollow and filled with earth to allow trees of the largest size to be planted. The pillars, the vaults, and terraces were constructed of baked brick and asphalt.

 Called "The Cradle of Civilization", the land between the Tigris & Euphrates rivers contain sites of several ancient civilizations. Ancient Babylon, (Today's  Iraq) was the birthplace of our modern courts and justice system based upon the legendary "Code of Hammurabi".

 Of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, only The Great Pyramids in Egypt are still standing today.


Queen Jezebel of the Northern Kingdom


    Jezebel, (circa 842 B.C.) Queen of the Northern Kingdom of Israel was born a Phoenician princess, the daughter of Ethbaal, king of Tyre. In the centuries since her death, she has attracted numerous references in popular culture, none of them flattering.

   In the Books of Kings in the Hebrew Bible she dominated her husband King Ahab of Israel and led him to abandon the worship of Yahweh and promote worship of the demon gods Baal and Asherah on a national scale with ritual child sacrifices. 

  In the biblical story, Jezebel was the arch nemesis of the prophet Elijah. She brought 800 priests of Baal to Israel and ordered many prophets of the Hebrew God to be massacred and her name became associated with false prophets. 

   In some interpretations, her dressing in finery and putting on makeup led to the association of the use of cosmetics with "painted women" or prostitutes. Jezebel's name means 'Where is the Prince?', a ritual cry from worship ceremonies in honor of Baal during periods of the year when the god was considered to be in the underworld.



Queen Kriemhilde's Revenge

     The Lady Kriemhilde  (circa 453 A.D.) (A.K.A. Grimhild, Hild, Brnhild) Like the legendary Helen of Troy, was not only a mythical figure, but also a historical one as well, wife of Attila the Hun and sister of Gunther.

 She marries Attila in one reliable historical account and kills him in revenge for the death of her former husband on their wedding night. Her name means ‘armored warrior woman’ and the English word Grim derives from her name too. In her earliest legends she was originally a daemonic mythical figure representing darkness and death.

Here she is illustrated according to the 13th century Middle High German version preparing to confront her cowardly brothers with her dead husband’s shield and sword, demanding action!

The lady Kriemhilde.jpg (68344 bytes)

 In another version she demands revenge for her murdered father. She is depicted here as the heroine of the The Nibelungenlied, greatest epic of Teutonic Mythology.


      The warrior woman has emerged in recent times in our popular culture as ferocious and deadly as the mightiest male warriors of myth and history. The weaker sex? Not in these stories! The oddest part of this fun new phenomenon in fantasy art, cartoons, novels and movies is the eagerness of certain writers to pretend they always existed and to present historical figures in this light. Generals participating in battle plans? Yes! Judges and mayors? Yes! Battlefield combatants? Almost never. I have a collectible copy of Tacitus Annals of Rome printed in the 1880’s. She rode as a passenger in a chariot before battle and her daughters were before her in the bus-wagon like seating. Because of the removal of history from schools and the influence of television the dividing line between history and myth & legend is becoming increasingly blurred.

Did The Amazons ever REALLY live?

legendary woman amazon queen myth lagend  

The legends of the Amazons have a basis in historical fact according to Herodotus, the Father of History. (book four)

He wrote thousands of years ago that the Scythian warrior women encountered by the Greeks had the characteristics of the mythical Amazons and they were an amazing tribe of people.

  The Scythians who lived in today's Southern Ukraine lost all their men in the war with Darius so they procreated with their slaves, who it was their custom to blind so they posed no political threat. These warrior women had to kill at least three men in combat before surrendering their virginity and raising children.

They wore the same armor as the men and used the same weapons. Many historians doubted Herodotus accounts but Russian archaeologists in the 19th century found graves and tombs with women buried in full armor with weapons in the region and dated to the time period to substantiate his reports.

 The Amazons were persistent in their appearances in the shadow area between myth and history. they were mentioned in the Iliad at the battle of Troy which was only until recently thought to be a myth until archaeologists proved otherwise.




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The Realistic and Fantastic Art Galleries of Contemporary American Illustrator Howard David Johnson

Click on these Fun Educational Realistic Art Gallery link icons  for Two-fisted Tales of VALOR & Frontline Combat featuring Legendary Warriors of History, Knights and ladies of Arthurian Legend, Celtic, Nordic, Asian and Olympian gods & monsters, unicorns, dragons, fairies... and more!

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All these pieces of art and the text are legally copyrighted and were registered with the U.S. Library of Congress Office of Copyright by the author, Howard David Johnson All rights reserved worldwide. Permission for many academic or non-commercial uses is freely and legally available by simply contacting the author via e-mail or visiting


Celebrating  20- plus Years on the World Wide Web 1996- Today!

With a background in traditional media including oils, pastels & colored pencils, Howard David Johnson embraces leading edge digital media in the creation of his depictions of fantasy, folklore, mythology, legend, religion, and heroic history. He works in  a wide variety of media * Oil paintings * Acrylic Paintings * Prismacolor Paintings * Drawings * Chalk & Oil Pastel Paintings * Photography * 2D &3D Digital Artistry & Mixed Media *  


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Who is American Illustrator Howard David Johnson?

In one of David's invitations to the Florence Biennale Contemporary Art Exhibition, (a partner in the United Nations' Dialog among Nations), UN Secretary General Kofi Anon wrote him: "Artists have a special role to play in the global struggle for peace. At their best, artists speak not only to people; they speak for them. Art is a weapon against ignorance and hatred and an agent of public awareness... Art opens new doors for learning, understanding, and peace among nations."

      Howard David Johnson is a contemporary realistic artist and photographer with a background in the natural sciences and history.  David works in a wide variety of mixed media ranging from oil on canvas to digital media. David's realistic illustrations have made appearances in every major bookstore and game shop chain in America as well as magazines and educational texts around the world. 

   Some of David's more prestigious clients have included the University of Texas, the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in England, The Australian Mint, The National Geographic Society, Paramount Studios, Universal Studios, MGM Studios, Warner Brothers Home Video, ABC/Disney, CBS TV, PBS TV, The History Channel, Enslow Educational Publishers, Adobe Photoshop, Auto FX, Tree-Free Greeting, Verizon wireless, Apple IPOD, Penguin, Doubleday (Now Random House), Harlequin Top Historical Romances, and the History Book of the Month Club, as well as appearing in periodical publications like Popular Photography and the Wall Street Journal.   


A Traditional style portrait of the artist. [Photo by his son Erich.]

   After a lifetime of drawing and painting, David's Traditional Art was exhibited in the British Museum in London in 1996, ( 3 years before he got his first computer ) as well as numerous American ones since, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 


    Working in a variety of media David offers his customers a variety of options and more than three decades of experience. As an illustrator he has not only used the computer but has been involved in the development and marketing of software for Adobe Photoshop. Digital art, Colored pencils, Pastels, Mixed media, & also Oil Paintings can also be commissioned for select projects.Digital illustration projects start at $500.U.S. and group rates are available. David delivers custom made copyright free illustrations & old fashioned customer service when he does work-for-hire. To publish existing pieces of his realistic art, David sells licenses starting at only $99.USD.




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