The Flood, by Michelangelo Buonarotti, 1509, Sistine Chapel © Bridgeman Images.

Human suffering is at the heart of Michelangelo’s masterpiece.

Penelope Unravelling the Shroud, by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1783-84, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles © akg-images.

Despite a legion of suitors, the wife of Odysseus remains loyal to his memory.

The Family of Darius before Alexander, by Paolo Veronese, c.1565-67, National Gallery, London © Bridgeman Images.

The Classical world in Venetian colours.

Diana and Actaeon, by Tiziano Vecellio (Titian), 1556-59, National Gallery and National Galleries of Scotland.

Ovid’s tale inspired one of the world’s greatest works of art.

Freja Seeking Her Husband, by Nils Blommér, 1852, Stockholm National Museum, Sweden. Nationalmuseum Stockholm/akg-images.

The Norse god who found a new immortality in the stage works of Richard Wagner.

Triumph of Galatea, c.1512, by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (Raphael), Villa Farnesina, Rome © Getty Images.

The water nymph, whose affair with a peasant shepherd inspired numerous works of art.

Ehecatl (left) and Mictlantecuhtli with 20 calendar day signs,  Codex Borgia, c.1450, Apostolic Library, Vatican City © Bridgeman Images.

An ‘almanac of destiny’ predicts the fortunes of the harvest.

The Journey of the Magi to Bethlehem, from the east wall of the Chapel of the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence, by Benozzo di Lese di Sandro Gozzoli, c.1459 © Bridgeman Images

Three wise men, guided by a star, search for the new-born Christ.

‘A Grecian Harvest Home, or Thanksgiving to the Rural Deities, Ceres, Bacchus Sylvanus and Pan’, from The Progress of Human Culture and Knowledge, by James Barry, c.1777-84, Royal Society  of Arts, London © Bridgeman Images.

A scene of ancient Arcadian bliss which hints at the coming of modernity.

Augustus Closing the Temple  of Janus, by Louis de Silvestre, 1757, Gemäldegalerie, Dresden © akg-images

Rome’s First Citizen brings peace to its territories.