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GREEK ARTThe history, culture, and arts of Ancient Greece

Greek CultureTheculture of Greecehas evolved over thousands of years, beginning in Mycenaean Greece, continuing most notably intoClassical Greece, through the influence of the Roman Empire and its successor theByzantine Empire.

Historians credit theGreek War of Independence with revitalizing Greece and giving birth to a single entity of its multi-faceted culture.

The ancient Greeks pioneered in many fields that rely on systematic thought, including biology, geometry, history,philosophy, and physics.

They introduced such important literary forms as epic and lyric poetry, history, tragedy, and comedy. In their pursuit of order and proportion, the Greeks created an ideal of beauty that strongly influencedWestern art.

The ancient Greeks were a deeply religious people. They worshipped many gods whom they believed appeared in human form and yet were endowed with superhuman strength and ageless beauty.

Funerary Art: the ancient Greeks did not generally leave elaborate grave goods, except for a coin in the hand to pay Charon, the ferryman to Hades, and pottery; however the epitaphios or funeral oration (from which epitaph comes) was regarded as of great importance, and animal sacrifices were made.

Men ran the government, and spent a great deal of their time away from home. When not involved in politics, the men spent time in the fields, overseeing or working the crops, sailing, hunting, in manufacturing or in trade. For fun, in addition to drinking parties, the men enjoyed wrestling, horseback riding, and the famous Olympic Games. When the men entertained their male friends, at the popular drinking parties, their wives and daughters were not allowed to attend.

With the exception of ancient Sparta, Greek women had very limited freedom outside the home. They could attend weddings, funerals, some religious festivals, and could visit female neighbors for brief periods of time. In their home, Greek women were in charge. Their job was to run the house and to bear children.

The ancient Greeks considered their children to be 'youths' until they reached the age of 30! When a child was born to ancient Greek family, a naked father carried his child, in a ritual dance, around the household. Friends and relatives sent gifts. The family decorated the doorway of their home with a wreath of olives (for a boy) or a wreath of wool (for a girl).

Education - Military Training - Sparta. The goal of education in the Greek city-states was to prepare the child for adult activities as a citizen. The nature of the city-states varied greatly, and this was also true of the education they considered appropriate. In most Greek city-states, when young, the boys stayed at home, helping in the fields, sailing, and fishing. At age 6 or 7, they went to school. Both daily life and education were very different in Sparta [militant], than in Athens [arts and culture] or in the other ancient Greek city-states.

Birds, dogs, goats, tortoises, and mice were all popular pets. Cats, however, were not.

Greek houses, in the 6th and 5th century B.C., were made up of two or three rooms, built around an open air courtyard, built of stone, wood, or clay bricks. Larger homes might also have a kitchen, a room for bathing, a men's dining room, and perhaps a woman's sitting area.

Greek clothing was very simple. Men and women wore linen in the summer and wool in the winter. The ancient Greeks could buy cloth and clothes in the agora, the marketplace, but that was expensive. Most families made their own clothes, which were simple tunics and warm cloaks, made of linen or wool, dyed a bright color, or bleached white. Clothes were made by the mother, her daughters, and female slaves. They were often decorated to represent the city-state in which they lived. The ancient Greeks were very proud of their home city-state.

Dancing - Music

Dance was very important to the ancient Greeks. They believed that dance improved both physical and emotional health. Rarely did men and women dance together. Some dances were danced by men and others by women.

There were more than 200 ancient Greek dances; comic dances, warlike dances, dances for athletes and for religious worship, plus dances for weddings, funerals, and celebrations.

Dance was accompanied by music played on lyres, flutes, and a wide variety of percussion instruments such as tambourines, cymbals and castanets.

The ancient Greeks loved stories. They created many marvelous stories, myths, and fables that we enjoy today, like Odysseus and the Terrible Sea and Circe, a beautiful but evil enchantress. Aesop's Fables, written by Aesop, an ancient Greek, are still read and enjoyed all over the world.

In ancient Athens, wedding ceremonies started after dark. The veiled bride traveled from her home to the home of the groom while standing in a chariot. Her family followed the chariot on foot, carrying the gifts.

Slavery played a major role in ancient Greek civilization. Slaves could be found everywhere. They worked not only as domestic servants, but as factory workers, shopkeepers, mineworkers, farm workers and as ship's crew members.


- Known for democracyConsists of separate city-statesPatriachalNot really Greece until the Persian Wars (490-480 BCE)


THE HISTORIANSHerodotus (c.480-c.429) worlds first historian; described PersiaThucydides (c.460-c.395) objective; Peloponnesian warsXenophon (c.430-c.354) continued Thucydides work on Peloponnesian wars; less objective

ARCHAIC PERIOD8th century BCEImportant city-states: Athens, Sparta,Corinth, andThebes Athens welcomed democracyRise of city-states

THE CITY-STATES- Called poleis (sing. polis)-Emerged from scattered farming villagesOwn governmentsCitizenship were exclusive to malesAthens: democraticSparta: militaristic oligarchy; 2 kingsEvery state was protected by a god/goddess

CLASSICAL PERIODAthens and Sparta allies against PersiaUnited Greece as a countryFormation of Delian LeagueGolden Age of Greece: flourishing of arts and crafts in time of peace

THE PERSIAN WARS490-480 BCE1.The Battle of Marathon- Athens supported Ionian Greeks in rebelling against the Persians- Xerxes led 2 major campaigns- Athenians enlisted help of others- Greeks won2.The Battle of Thermopylae- 300 Spartans- Herodotus: 5,000,000 Persians- Persia won- Leonidas

THE PERSIAN WARS490-480 BCEBattle of Salamis-naval battle-ensured West as a major force-Greeks won- yung 300: rise of an empire4.Battle of Plataea-finally drove the Persians away-Delian league freed Ionian states in city coast-Peace of Callias: ended the hostilities

GREECE AS UNIFIED COUNTRYAthens = its capitalGolden Age ensued;-Parthenon was createdDemocracy thrived

THE PELOPONNESIAN WARSSPARTA vs. ATHENSAbout resources and powerIsland of Melos which was under SpartaSparta won by Lysander

RISE OF MACEDONGreece was weak due to the Peloponnesian warPhilip II of Macedon startedAlexander the Great conquered PersiaWhen he died, the Greek influence was at its peakEvent developed Hellenistic culture

HELLENISTIC PERIODMarked the end of the wars of Alexander the Gr8Annexation of Greece to Roman RepublicMarked the end of Greek independenceMacedon was absorbed by Roman Empire


MATERIALS- mostly bronze and marble- easy to form and lasting

DEVELOPMENT OF GREEK SCULPTURESGeometric (900-700 BCE)-terra cottafigurines,bronzes, andivories- no inscriptions until Mantiklos Apollo found in Thebes- bodies and body parts were simple- most common medium was painting on vases

Archaic- Greeks began to carve stone- solidity and frontal stance but more dynamic than Eastern culture- archaic smile: a device to give the figures a distinctive human characteristic

Kleobis and Biton

Archaic (cont)- human form is the most important subject in art- human body is both secular and sacred; no distinction between- not for mere artistic display

Archaic (cont)- commissioned either by aristocratic individuals or by the state, and used for public memorials, as offerings to temples,oraclesand sanctuaries, or as markers for graves

Archaic (cont)- not all intended to represent specific individuals- depictions of an idealbeauty, piety, honor or sacrifice

Standing nude youth (kouros, pl. kouroi)Standing draped girl (kore, pl. korai)Seated womanTHREE TYPES OF FIGURES

Classical- revolution of Greek sculpture- changes in the style and function of sculpture and increase in technical skill of sculptors

Classical(cont)- poses also became more naturalistic- increasingly to depict real people- increase in the use of statues and sculptures as decorations of building

Classical (cont)- Funeral statuary evolved from the rigid kouros of the Archaic period to the highly personal family groups of the Classical period- burgeoning of artistic credit in sculpture (Archaic and Geometrical periods are centered upon the works themselves)

Artemision BronzeZeus/PoseidonRiace bronzes

LYSISTRATUS- said to have been the first to use plaster molds taken from living people to producelost-waxportraits, and to have also developed a technique of casting from existing statues

Hellenistic (4th century BCE)- increasingly diverse- many sculptures previously considered classical masterpieces are really of the Hellenistic age

Hellenistic (cont)- naturalism in sculpture- common people, women, children, animals, and domestic scenes- doesnt depict people as ideals of beauty

Hellenistic (cont)- consequent standardisation and (some) lowering of quality- shift in expression of the sculptures; more power and energy

Laocon and His Sons


Western civilization Pottery decoration Heroic realism (realism) Paintings on pottery, murals, and panels

GREEK DARK AGE(1200-800 B.C.)


Protogeometricstyle - features concentric circles and patterns of straight, wavy, and zigzag lines.

This reflects technological innovations, namely themulti-headed brush(for painting parallel lines) and thecompass(for painting circles).

Emphasized bysparseness

ARCHAIC AGE(800-500 B.C.)

Mythology, legends, and daily life

Known mainly from vase painting. However, it wasn't limited to pottery.

Murals, frescoes, and panels

Three phases: geometric, orientalizing, and black-figure

GEOMETRIC STYLEElevated geometric decoration to new heights of complexity. Features a variety ofpatterns, such as checkers, repeated shapes, and meandersHuman or animal figures - they are rigidlystylized

ORIENTALIZINGDue to its adoption of images from eastern lands (e.g. lions, sphinxes). Divided into two main styles1. Protoatticstyle - large jars, essentially takes the geometric style and adds large figures 2. Protocorinthianstyle - small figures and light geometric elements (e.g. rosettes)



BLACK-FIGURE STYLESilhouettesof figures are painted in solid black (typically on a vibrant orange background)Details are then added bycutting linesinto the silhouettes6other colors of paint are sometimes used foraccentsBeginning of narrativescenes in Greek pottery decoration (i.e. scenes that tell a story; these scenes are usually framed withgeometric elements)


Age of realistic wall paintingReveals a grasp oflinear perspectiveand naturalist representation which would remain unsurpassed until the Italian High RenaissanceApart from vase-painting, all types of painting flourished during the Classical periodFeatures three-dimensional perspective and shading

ABDUCTION OF PERSEPHONE (Vergina Tombs) Skillful use of shadingforeshortening(the law of perspective that, the more an object is angled toward a viewer, the shorter its length appears to be)

Finest painting of Vergina Tombs

Chariot Mural (Vergina Tombs)

RED-FIGURE styleBlack-figure technique was reversed:orange silhouetteswere formed by painting around them in black, allowing interior details to bepaintedrather than incisedMorecontrolin drawing smooth curves or varying the thickness of lines It also allowed for gradients of colour, since the black paint could bedilutedto acquire shades of brown

PANEL PAINTINGAccording to authors like Pliny (23-79 CE) or Pausanias (active 143-176 CE), it is the highest and respected form of art done in encaustic (wax) or tempera

PITSA PANELSThe only surviving panel painting from Ancient greeks

WALL/FRESCO PAINTINGFlat, sharply outlinedstyle.common method of mural decoration in temples, public buildings, houses and tombs but these larger artworks generally had a lower reputation than panel paintings8Few examples survive; the finest collection may be that of theTomb of the Diver, discovered at a Greek settlement in southern Italy.

Tomb of the Diver

Painting Greek style is also found in Pompeii and Egypt.Painting was also used to enhancearchitectureworks, andsculptures.


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