Education and athletics were important parts to the Greek society. Maybe one of the most known Greek traditions around
the world in their Olympic Games. All wars stop for this festival for the god of gods, Zeus. Before the games began, the priests
sacrificed animals for Zeus. This included the butchering of a hundred ox for a public feast. Only free born Greek men were
allowed to take part in the five day long Olympic Games. Unmarried women and girls could sit in the stands. Men competed in
the nude, which was a time honored tradition of the Hellenic culture. Only a true savage would be ashamed to display their
body, but it also put all people, regardless of class, on the same level. The eighteen core events began with the chariot
race. One of the more famed chariot races was in 67AD when emperor Nero won first prize even though he fell off the chariot
and never completed the race. Events also included wrestling, running, javelin, boxing and the discus. There was the hopliodromia
(a 400 yard run in full armor) and pankration (an MMA-style brawl were no eye gouging was the only rule). Beyond the athletic
events, there was also a circus-like atmosphere with many shows and programs, eating races, beauty contests, and Homer reading
competitions. The Games were held every four years from 776 BC-394AD when Christian emperor Theodosius banned all pagan festivals.
They resumed in 1896 and are held every four years to this day.
Greek art was always evolving into new styles.
They developed a new and unique way of visually communicating their ideas. 1000-600 BC is known as the Great-age of Pottery. This began with Geometric patterns glazed onto the ceramic wares. This style is regarded as the Geometric Style
(1000-700 B.C.). As the age evolved, Greeks organized patterns into bands. This is an Egyptian influence. They also start
using a new ceramic media, red terracotta clay with black glazes or slips. This gives the figures
a black look, thus developing the Black-Figure Style (700-480 B.C.). Overlapping with this ideal, the Greeks changed into
a blackened clay with red slip style; this gives the figures a red look. This is called the Red-Figure Style (530-320 B.C.).
The Greeks created wares in specific shapes for a specific purpose.
Five types of vessels:
1. Krater; large opening, to mix water & wine.
2. Kylix; 2-handed cup.
3. Hydria; carried water, 3 handles (2 carry, 1 pour)
4. Oenochoe; wine jug
5. Amphora; food, large.
With the many ways to tell a story with slips on ceramic wares, some artists developed a style that set themselves apart
from the masses. One of the first ceramisicists to develop a reputation for great quality was Exekias. He was the best Black-Figure Style painter who worked from about 550 through
525 B.C. in Athens. His work was exported all over the Greek Empire. He was known for the high quality produced in his artworks.
Only eleven of his signed works are known, but there are about thirty five works that are believed to be created by Exekias.
All works, regardless of the artist that created them, tell us stories of the gods they believed in and explained the world
they lived in. Why are there seasons? Why do we die? Why does a deer look they way it does? Why do we need to act a certain
way? All and more are explained through the gods and their interactions with one another. Because most are illiterate, placing
these stories into an illustration onto ceramics and other places that were seen everyday, reminded
all of the way life was intended to be lived.
The ancient Greeks were drawn as a culture toward many areas of life:
mathematics, philosophy, and the study of the human form. I would say they were borderline obsessive with discovering the
perfect human body. The better a person looked, the closer you were to the gods. They began their sculptures with abstracted bronze human forms. The best example if this is the Kouros Figure.Check out the link to see it. Greeks move toward stone media with a more
realistic feel and a larger scale. The best example of this is Kritios Boy. This is the first known freestanding stone sculpture without supports. The supports were usually
behind or along the legs of the figure. Kritios Boy stands without a leg balance and has space between arms and sides. This
work is said to have been sculpted by Kritios. For the first time, humans create art as a perfect imitation of life. The way
he is standing is also unique. He stands in a natural posturing called contrapposto. The standing
in relaxed and natural stance was a new idea in sculpture and it soon became the common with artists around the world,
but that is not all a good thing for artists. Research by Dr. Nigel Spivey indicates that the human brain is hardwired get
bored with realistic looking art; we need the abstracted and exaggerated. For this reason Greeks moved from realistic images
to the super-human looking images that make humans look better then perfect. No longer was it cool to have
someone standing as people do in a relaxed stance, but they had to be doing some exagurated action. The more complex
the action the more complex the art. Dr. Spivey's theory is that this "hardwiring"
is still evident today. He points to our pull toward fashion, the digital alteration in magazines, make-up, and with ourselves
as a whole.
590–580 BC. Marble. 76 5/8 inches tall and 20 5/16 inches wide.
480 BC. Marble. 2 feet 6.6 inches tall. Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece.
Polyclitos was a sculptor in the 5th century BC and developed mathematic ratios
to keep the human form looking correct. His most important discovery was with the development of contrapposto. It is used
to keep the human form in proper proportion. After this is mastered, an artist has the ability
to give the illusion of the human body in motion. This was done with works like Discus Thrower.
Temples are the most important buildings in Greek society. The temples
are built of several basic parts. The column has two parts: the shaft, and the capital. The capital, at the top of the shaft, give
us the order, or gender of the building. The term capitol comes from the latin word "caput"" meaning head. Greek and Roman architecture
use two basic orders, Doric and Ionic. Doric is male and most popular.
Ionic is female. Resting on top of the capital is an architrave and a frieze (usually decorated). The roof is supported by
the frieze. The triangular shelf created at the roof line and frieze is called a pediment.
Sculptures are placed in these pediments, typically to tell stories.
Greeks were overly obsessed with numbers. Math was seen as a sacred gift, given by the gods. They discovered the importance
of Feriachi Numbers and the Golden Rectangle. This is used everywhere there is harmony: keys on a piano, the curve of a bent
finger, honeycomb, a body from waste up to waste down is all able to figure back to the Golden Mean. This is a 1:1.6 ratio.
The Parthenon was built in Athens on top of the Acropolis, "hill top fortress." Most
students confuse these very different things. The Acropolis is the hill and the Parthenon is the building. A scholarly
student would make it a point to know some of the features of the Parthenon. It was designed
by Iktinos and Kallikrates, although Pericles
played a major role in the design of the structure; It was his idea, after Athens held off Xeries and the
Persians, that the destroyed temples atop Acropolis would be rebuilt. At the center of this work
was the construction of the Parthenon. It was constructed with the illusion of visual perfection.
The parts of the structure are not interchangeable, although the look as though they would be. Mathematically, the building
keeps with a 9:4 ratio throughout (length:width, width:column height, distance between columns:column diameter, etc.) and
also incorporates the Golden Ratio; a 1:1.6 ratio that is considered to be the mathematical formula to aesthetics
or visual beauty. Not only is it the ratio of the front length to height ratio, but is a ratio seen in the creation of honey
comb, human proportion, shell growth, and elsewhere in the natural world. Using these ratios helps look at the symmetry of
the parts compared to other parts in the building, but also the parts in relationship to the whole. As I've stated, the Greeks
The Parthenon is a two cella chamber designed structure (meaning it has a solid wall
inside a colonnade) that is constructed largely out of Pentelic marble. This material was well known in ancient Greece for
its quality and beauty. Although beautiful, the marble would have been painted with bright colors. As far as a function of
the building goes, the primarily purpose of the build was a place or worship for the goddess Athena. The main room housed
a forty foot tall statue of her. She was likely made of ivory and gold over a wooden armature. The second chamber was used
as a treasury for the Delian League.
order column styles were used in most of this buildings colonnades, however Ionic
order was used inside the two cella chambers. The columns them selves are made for stacked sections of marble block that fit
together perfectly. These sections were made with a square notch placed perfectly at the center (on both the top and bottom).
In the bottom notch was placed a cedar wood block with a hole in the center. The top section was lowered with a wooden block
that had a wooden peg coming down. After the peg was inserted to the hole, the blocks were perfectly on center and only minor
alignment adjustment was needed. Another interesting note on the columns is that they tip in slightly so they appear more
stable, and thus appearing stronger as one looks up at them. Along this same optical adjustment, the columns also swell in
the middle so they don't appear to sag.
In its prime, the Parthenon was used as a civic meeting area, art
gallery, worship area, bank and library. Since then, it has also been attacked; partially exploded; set on fire; served as
a church, mosque and Spartan military barracks; its art has been looted and it has survived earthquakes, air pollution and
problems due to damaging restoration techniques of the early 1900’s. Since 1975, the Parthenon has been getting a facelift
by the Acropolis Restoration Project. The project’s president, Charalambos Bouras, stated that, "We preserve all the
original pieces and we add only a few marble in order to fit them to the general construction." The work is painstaking: it
took five years to properly place and restore 500 marble sections. There are over 70,000 in the whole structure.
The Fall of Greece:
The Greeks were weakened after the Peloponnesian War. Soon, Greece was controlled
by a Macedonian Prince: Alexander the Great. He had conquered: Macedonia, Greece, Egypt, Mideast, Persia, and West India.
After Alexander's death, the kingdom was divided into three parts. In 146 BC, Greece became a part of Roman Empire. Although
the Greek civilization is not what it once was, their ideas they developed have changed the world forever.
Classic ideas are those that have developed from Greek and Roman origins.