Presentation Map of Ancient Greece Greece’s geographical features and location impacted its development and culture. The sea played a dominant role in the life of the Greeks, as did the mountainous terrain. Only certain crops could flourish (for example, olives and grapes), so a merchant sea trade developed to trade these products for food crops that were grown elsewhere.
Greek architecture has directly influenced the Western world for over 2,000 years. Possibly the two most widely copied designs were for the rectangular temple and the circular theater. Mathematics played a major role in the choice and proportions of elements, and the three styles (or “orders”) of columns they developed—the Doric, the Ionic, and the Corinthian—continue to be employed in our buildings and homes today. As in their other arts, simplicity, beauty, balance and line made their works not only successful, but truly classic. The examples of architecture we’ll look at date from the Classical Period (480 to 323 BCE).
The Acropolis, Athens
model reconstruction NearlyeveryGreekcity-statehadanacropolis(“highcity”),awalledfortfor protection.Asthecitywallsmovedoutwards,Athens’Acropolisalsobecameareligiouscenter,withtemplestoAthena,thecity’spatrongoddess.AfteritsdestructionbythePersiansin479BCE,anewgrandbuildingschemewasunder- takenbytheAthenianrulerPericles,andAthens’AcropolisbecamethepremieretemplecomplexinallofGreece.Thehillwasdominatedbythenewtempleto Athena,theParthenon,andfurtheron(attheleft)wastheErechtheum,asmallertempleonthesiteofAthena’soriginalsanctuary.
The Acropolis, Athens
photograph TheAcropolistodayisstillcrownedbytheParthenon,thoughnowinruins.Its colorshavewornawayanditssculptureshavebeenremoved(forthemostpart, tootherlands),butitremainsbeautifulasitloomsabovethemoderncityof Athens.MuchofthedamagedonetotheAcropolisoccurredinthemid-1600s. GreecewasunderTurkishruleforcenturies,andatonepointtheacropoliswasusedasanarmorytostoreweapons.OnSeptember26,1687,itwasshelledby theVenetians,ignitingthestoreofgunpowdertheTurkskeptintheParthenon.Theexplosioncausedseveredamage. The Parthenon
c. 447-432 BCE, marble, Acropolis, Athens This temple, built during Greece’s Classical Age, became the model for thou- sands of buildings throughout the western world. Built, at great expense, in the Doric style to honor the goddess Athena, it is considered the only perfect building created by man.
The pediments and entablatures of the Parthenon were entirely covered in relief sculpture, made by the sculptor Phidias. The west pediment depicted the contest between Athena and Poseidon to become the city’s patron. Athena and Poseidon appear in the center, Athena holding the olive tree and Poseidon raising his tri- dent. They are framed by groups of horses pulling chariots, while a crowd of legendary personalities from Athenian mythology fills the remaining space.
The east pediment represented the birth of Athena. According to Greek mythology, Zeus gave birth to Athena after a terrible headache prompted him to summon Hephaestus’ (the god of fire and the forge) assistance. To alleviate the pain Zeus ordered Hephaestus to strike him with his forging hammer, which caused Zeus’ head split open. Out popped the goddess Athena in full armor.
The sculptures of the Parthenon pediments are some of the finest examples of classical Greek art. The figures are sculpted in natural movement with bodies full of vital energy that bursts through their flesh, as the flesh in turn bursts through their thin clothing. The sculptures were finished all around even though parts of them were placed against the back wall of the pediment never to be seen. Finishing the figures even in areas unseen was necessary in order to ensure a high degree of realism. The distinction between gods and humans is blurred in the conceptual interplay between the idealism and naturalism bestowed on the stone by the sculptors.
Most of the sculptures from the building were removed in the early 1800s by an Englishman, Lord Elgin, and are now in the British Museum in London. The Greek government petitioned for the return of the “Elgin Marbles” (as they are now called) prior to the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, but they were not returned and remain in London.
It is also interesting to note that the Parthenon, sculptures and all, was originally painted in bright colors. All of its coloration has been lost over time and exposure to outdoor elements.
The Parthenon, Doric Order Architecture Eight Doric columns hold up the pediment. The Doric order is the oldest and simplest style of Greek architecture. Note that these wide, solid columns have no base but rest directly upon the temple floor. The columns are tapered about 1/3 of the way up, making them appear slightly convex. This gives the effect of being uplifted. The Parthenon, Interior Frieze
c. 447-432 BCE, marble, Acropolis, Athens Above the interior columns is a continuous frieze, which depicts, in classical splendor, idealized Athenian soldiers on horseback
c. 430-408 BCE, marble, Acropolis, Athens The Erechtheum, a small temple on the north side of the Acropolis, may have been built in honor of the legendary king Erechtheus, who is said to have been buried nearby. The architect chose Ionic columns, which rose to popularity in the islands and eastern colonies of Greece. They are taller and more slender than Doric columns, and they are easily identified by the “volute,” or rolled scroll, capital.
The Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheum
c. 430-408 BCE, marble, figures 7-1/2 feet tall, Acropolis, Athens The Greeks occasionally substituted the human form for columns, using sculpted female figures called “caryatids.” The women embody the classical ideal; young, beautiful, perfectly proportioned, standing in the soft S-curve pose that would again rise to popularity 2,000 years later during the Italian Renaissance.
A book by Vitruvius, a Roman architect, explained the story of the caryatids. The city of Carya joined the Persians in their war against the Greeks. The Greeks, after defeating the Persians, attacked the Caryans. Carya was taken and destroyed, the males killed and the women carried into slavery. To ensure that these circumstances be remembered, and the nature of the triumph perpetuated, the victors represented the matrons suffering under their burden to pay for the crime of their native city. Thus, in their edifices, did the ancient architects, by the use of these statues, hand down to posterity a memorial of the crime of the Caryans.
In other words, caryatids are not only statues with the function of columns, but express a message: if you collaborate with the enemy, you will be subdued, humiliated and punished.
Temple of Zeus
6th Century BCE, marble, Athens The Temple of Zeus is a colossal temple in the center of Athens that was dedicated to Zeus, king of the Olympian gods. Construction began in the 6th century BCE during the rule of the Athenian tyrants, who envisaged building the greatest temple in the ancient world. The temple, however, was not completed until the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century CE, over 600 years after the project had begun.
The temple's glory was short-lived, as it fell into disuse after being pillaged in a barbarian invasion in the 3rd century CE and was eventually reduced to ruins. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the temple was extensively plundered for materials to supply building projects elsewhere in the city.
The third Greek column style, the Corinthian, with its acanthus leaf capital, was developed in Corinth, but was used mostly in the Greek colonies. These columns resembled the Ionic columns, but were slightly taller. We know them so well today because they became the favorite style of the Romans.
Because virtually all paintings and frescoes of the ancient Greeks have been destroyed by time, natural disasters and wars, much of the visual record we have of their lives has been taken from their superb pottery. Corinth was the early leader in this art, during the Archaic period, but soon it was surpassed by Athens. Ceramic vessels were produced for many different functions, from mixing wine to funerary offerings, but most displayed a pleasing use of geometric pattern and figure drawing. Favorite subjects were the gods, goddesses and heroes of Greek legend, and scenes from everyday life, often related to the function of the vessel.
by the Analatos Painter, c. 700 BCE, 31-7/8” high As Greece emerged from its “Dark Ages,” the prevailing style of pottery decoration was called “geometric,” from the multiple bands of repeating geometric pat- terns. Animal and human forms were stylized into simple geometric shapes, and these soon took a more prominent place on the pots, becoming the center of attention. Can you find at least four stylized geometric patterns? Do the figures look real? (Note: white backgrounds were reserved for funeral pottery.)
The Analatos Painter’s identity is unknown, but he or she is named for the area where many pieces of pottery have been found on the Attica peninsula of central Greece.
During the Archaic period, potters developed the “black-figure” technique for embellishing their works. This style involved painting black figures in silhouette on a light background and then incising details in the black with a fine pointed instrument.
Achilles & Ajax Gambling
Amphora by Exekias, c. 530 BCE Two famous heroes from the Greek forces at the battle of Troy are seen here playing games to pass the time during the long siege of the city. Compared to the first amphora, notice the use of larger figures and the reduction of geometric borders to the top and bottom only. The figures’ names are printed above them and Achilles (left) says, “Four,” and Ajax says, “Three.” Although the figures are still stylized (compare faces, eyes, beards, legs, etc.), they seem much more realistic than the flat figures of the geometric period. Repeating patterns are incised on their cloaks, and nearly symmetrical balance is evident. Notice the mirrored curves of their bodies, the diagonal lines of the spears, and the triangles formed by their legs. The square game table serves as our central focus.
The Greeks set the standard for the Western world in sculpture as well as pottery and architecture. Their developing style fit roughly into three distinct styles. During the Archaic Period (c. 650-450 BCE), the Greeks mastered the use of marble and bronze in stylized, static forms that demonstrated their growing interest in realism. By the Classical Period (c. 480-323 BCE) their knowledge of human proportion and reverence for perfection in mind and body lead to the idealized, calm, balanced masterpieces that epitomize the word “classical.” The later Hellenistic Period (c. 323-146 BCE) saw stronger outside influences and a concentration on motion, drama and individual realism.
There are few surviving Greek sculptures due to the fragile nature of the materials used and the ravages of erosion. Therefore, much that is known of Greek sculpture comes from copies of the originals, often made with different materials by later Roman artisans.
The Discus Thrower
by Myron, c. 460-450 BCE
This work ranks among the most recognized art works in the world. Unfortunately, we have only copies of Myron’s original bronze athlete (this one is Roman and done in marble), from which to judge its beauty. It embodies all the elements of the Classical Period: the knowledge of anatomy, the calm sense of motion produced by using asymmetrical balance and the S-curve, the idealizing of the figure into a portrait of perfect youth and beauty, and an unmeasurable quality—a sense of timelessness.
c. 150 BCE (possibly a copy of work from c. 480 BCE)
The Venus de Milo (its French name) has become a world-wide symbol of perfect beauty. She is 6’8” tall and stands in the Louvre Museum in Paris, after being discovered on the island of Melos in 1820 where she had been left for scrap at a limekiln. Some experts believe this work is a copy of an earlier work by Praxiteles. The figure has the classical anatomy and the idealization of youth and beauty and the classical “contrapposto” position (weight on one leg, other knee bent). It is interesting to speculate what lines and curves her arms would have added. Nothing is known about the sculptor, Alexandros of Antioch, other than his name.
Map of the Roman Empire At its height, just after 100 CE, the Roman Empire covered about three million square miles and contained about 50 million people, one quarter of the world’s population. ROMAN SCULPTURE
Portrait Bust of Julius Caesar
1st Century BCE, marble, Vatican Museum, Rome, Italy Portrait sculpture in the form of busts was one of the specialties of Roman artists. Romans were particularly interested in making statues that really looked like one specific person. Note the realistic features on his face, such as sunken cheeks, deep lines around the mouth and wrinkled brow. Literally thousands of portrait busts have been found from the time of the Republic. These were usually made of marble or bronze and served to commemorate, glorify or politically promote a prominent citizen. Many portrait busts were originally painted. This bust is of Julius Caesar, a celebrated general, who then became dictator. He was attempting to become Emperor when he was assassinated on the Ides of March (the 15th of March) in 44 BCE. Despite his untimely death, Caesar played a critical role in the transformation of Rome from a Republic to an Empire. Caesar’s family was recognized as descended from the goddess Venus and the Trojan prince Aeneas, so they occupied a high position in Rome’s social hierarchy. As a military general, Caesar won several important victories, but his conquest of Gaul (now France) was most significant. As dictator, Caesar was a successful lawmaker and instrumental in developing the city plan for Rome with the Forum as the city’s center.
Portrait Bust of Aristotle
2nd Century BCE, Roman copy of Greek original (c. 325 BCE), marble,
National Museum, Rome, Italy The fact that the Romans copied a bust of a Greek philosopher shows their level of respect for Greek art and philosophy. Aristotle, who lived from 384 to 322 BCE, is considered one of the most important founding figures in Western philosophy, his writings encompassing morality and aesthetics, logic and science, politics and metaphysics. This portrait bust is remarkable for its realism and expressiveness.
1st Century, marble, 14” high, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY The impetus to create busts can be appreciated when one understands the importance Romans placed on the face. The traditional Roman concept of virtue called for old-fashioned morality, a serious, responsible public bearing, and courageous endurance in the field of battle. Prestige came as a result of age, experience, and competition among equals within the established political system. These are the values expressed in portraits of grim-faced, middle-aged men, such as the one featured here. Roman cultural identity was also structured around a profound respect for family and ancestry, and a principal funerary practice involved the public display of portraits of distinguished ancestors at the funeral of family members. These wax masks, called "imagines," served to advertise the family's illustrious history of public service and to inspire younger generations to strive for such achievements. Similarly, "veristic" portraits, so-called because of their seemingly harsh and severe realism, emphasized the solemnity with which the Romans regarded their civic and military responsibilities. Because the Romans considered facial features to be the best conveyors of personality, age and wisdom gained through long, hard years of life experience were accentuated in portraiture in order to project the qualities they valued most highly. Excerpt from Metropolitan Museum of Art website.
Augustus of Prima Porta
c. 19 CE, marble, 7’ high, Vatican Museums, Rome, Italy This statue of the first Roman emperor, Augustus, is by a Greek sculptor. As the Roman Empire spread to many lands, artists were brought back to Rome to work in service of the rulers. Augustus, adopted son of Julius Caesar, is portrayed as both orator (through the outstretched position of his right arm) and as a general (dressed in a breastplate). His portrait is a likeness, but it is far more idealized than most Roman portrait sculpture of the period. After Augustus died in 14 CE, the Romans deified him. Hence this statue, created five years after his death, shows him barefoot, referring to his divinity and indicating that he once stood in a sacred place. The Cupid figure seated on a dolphin at Augustus’ right side refers to his familial relationship to the gods. This statue is an example of expertise in both portrait and relief sculpture. Note the reliefs on the breastplate, which illustrate events both real and mythological.
ROMAN ARCHITECTURE Colosseum, Aerial View
c. 72-80 CE, concrete, stone, brick, approx. 187’ high x 617’ wide, Rome, Italy Perhaps the greatest work of architectural engineering left to us by the ancient Romans is the Colosseum. It is one of the most famous buildings in the world. Originally it was called the Flavian Amphitheater, after the family name of the emperors who built it (Vespasian, Titus and Domitian). The Colosseum served as a stage for gladiator and animal fights, shows and even public executions. This type of building is a Roman invention. They expanded the Greek theater into an amphitheater, which is essentially two theaters facing each other enclosing an oval space—the arena. The Roman Colosseum is the largest of its kind, although most major cities in the empire had an amphitheater. This aerial view shows the elliptical (oval) shape of the building with a series of arched entrances and openings repeated across the entire exterior façade. On the interior one can see the remains of the many ramps and corridors used to move the crowd of over 50,000 spectators. In the center are two levels of tunnels and cells, which were once under a wooden floor, used to hold and transport gladiators and animals. The name Colosseum came from the Colossus (giant statue) of Nero that stood next to the building when it was new. It was built on the ruined gardens of Emperor Nero’s palace. After the imperial era, parts of the exterior of the Colosseum were demolished and the material was recycled to construct other buildings in Rome. Realizing that this was the destruction of a national treasure, Pope Benedict XIV stopped this practice around 1032 CE.
View of the Outer Wall of the Colosseum
c. 72-80 CE, concrete, stone, brick, Rome, Italy The view of the exterior wall of the Colosseum shows the tiers of arches as they remain today. Originally it was covered with gleaming marble and had statues in every arch. A noticeable design element is the tradition of attaching Greek-style columns to the wall as a frame for the arches. This is known as a Roman architectural order. The columns serve no structural function, only the aesthetic function of creating decorative features on the architectural form. Three different styles of columns are used, one on each level. The ground floor has Doric columns, the simplest design, while the next level has Ionic columns with their scroll capitals. The third level has the more elaborate Corinthian columns with their acanthus-leaf capitals. This “progression” of column styles would become a hallmark of Roman design and become a feature of Italian Renaissance designs 500 years later.
Arch of Constantine
81 CE, marble over concrete core, 50’ high x 40’ wide, Rome, Italy The Romans were the first to use the form of the arch to create monuments that commemorated victories in war. These monuments, known as triumphal arches, were an ornamental version of a city gate, moved into the center of the city, to permit entry of triumphal processions into the city’s central Forum. Several of these arches still stand in Rome and in other countries that were part of the ancient Roman Empire. This structure consists of a single arch, flanked by massive piers, decorated with attached Corinthian columns. This arch commemorates the October 28th 312 CE victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milivian Bridge. It shows contrasts of older Greek/Roman style to the newer more realistic Roman style of relief sculpture.
Column of Trajan
106-113 CE, marble, 125’ high, Rome, Italy The Column of Trajan is a 125-foot high column that commemorates the Emperor Trajan’s victory over the Dacians, the inhabitants of modern-day Romania. Under Trajan, the empire reached the greatest limits of expansion, and this column records 150 victorious episodes represented by over 2,500 figures carved in relief. The column is constructed of marble drums, joined together. It also has small windows to offer light for the spiral staircase that goes up the column’s interior. The events depicted on this commemorative monument, “reading” from the bottom up, cover a large period of time in a spiraling band of relief, which was originally painted and gilded. The band increases in width as it moves toward the top of the column for better visibility from the ground. If the band was unraveled and laid flat, it would be 650 feet in length—the length of two football fields.
Astoria Column The tower was built in 1926 with financing by the Great Northern Railway and Vincent Astor, the great-grandson of John Jacob Astor, in commemoration of the city’s role in the family’s business history. Patterned after the Trajan Column in Rome, the Column was dedicated on July 22, 1926. In 1974 was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Murals on the column were refurbished in 1995. The Astoria column was one of a series of monuments erected by Great Northern Railway in 1925 and 1926. (cont.)
The 125-foot (38 m)-tall column stands atop 600-foot (180 m)-tall Coxcomb Hill and includes an interior spiral staircase that leads to an observation deck at the top. The spireatl sgrafitto frieze on the exterior of the structure is almost seven feet wide, and 525 feet long. Painted by Electus D. Litchfield and Attilio Pusterla, the mural shows 14 significant events in the early history of Oregon with a focus on Astoria’s role including Captain Gray’s discovery of the Columbia River in 1792 and the Lewis & Clark Expedition. The Astoria Column was built of concrete and has a 12-foot (3.7 m) deep foundation. Built at a cost of $27,133.96 ($361,463.11 in 2014 dollars), the tower has 164 steps to the top, where there is a replica of the State Seal of Oregon.
118-128 CE, stone, marble, concrete and bronze, Rome, Italy The Pantheon is considered the crowning achievement of Roman architecture and is the best-preserved building from ancient Roman times. Famous for its round design and dome, the whole building is based on a circle except for the rectangular porch in front, which is based on Greek design. It is the first temple to combine the Romans’ innovation of concrete construction with Greek decorative elements. Note the similarity to the Greek Parthenon built almost 600 years earlier in Athens. The temple was originally built around 27 BCE but reconstructed by Emperor Hadrian some 100 years later. Marcus Agrippa, the son-in-law of the Roman Emperor Augustus designed it, and above the entrance carved in stone are the words "M. AGRIPPA L. F. COS. TERTIUM FECIT" which is translated, "Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, in his third consulate, made it." Agrippa is also credited as the architect of the Pont de Gard aqueduct. The Pantheon (from Greek, meaning “of all the gods”) was built as a temple to all Roman gods, some of whom were named for the five planets known at the time: Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Saturn and Venus. In 608 CE, it became a Christian church and the burial place of kings, queens and many great men of Italy, including the painter, Raphael. The Pantheon has been in continuous use since it was built. The dome sets this building apart from others that came before it. It was made possible by the innovation of concrete, which allowed for enclosure of a large space with a vaulted roof. Concrete is a mix of cement and stones and the builders changed the composition of the concrete as they built the dome, using lighter and smaller stones near the top. The Pantheon’s dome is the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height and width are the same, 142 feet. Pantheon, Interior view The interior of the Pantheon survives in its original form, which is unique among monuments of antiquity. The hemispherical dome represents the dome of heaven or the vault of the universe. It used to be gilded, so the spectator looked up at golden, as well as natural light from the opening in the center. This round opening to the sky, called an oculus, is the only light for the interior. The recessed square shapes within the dome serve to reduce its weight and mass (this is another example of form serving function).
Because the interior space is based on a circle, it is perfectly symmetrical. Eight niches repeat around the room, separated by eight concrete columns within the walls that are sunk into the foundation and carry the major weight of the dome. There are also visible columns, each carved from a single piece of granite. The walls and floor are decorated with colored marble. This interior rotunda and the classical porch outside have been inspirations for western architecture for centuries.
The Lakewood center (originally a school) in Lake Oswego, is an excellent example of Greek and Roman styles of architecture and design. The slides will quiz the kids on the which parts of the structure are Greek or Roman.
View of a Garden from the Villa of Livia at Prima Porta
c. 20 BCE, fresco wall painting, approx. 9’ 2” wide, Museo delle Terme, Rome, Italy The Romans used paintings to decorate large wall spaces that resulted from few windows and doors in their homes. Landscapes were a popular motif, lending the illusion of a scene viewed through a window. Romans clearly loved art and the wealthy had the means to fill their homes with it, however there may have been another motive for this high level of interior decoration. There were many wealthy families in Rome who lived opulent lives in extravagant homes, but there were many more poor inhabitants who lived in cramped apartments in the city and small huts in the countryside. It was often not safe for the wealthy to go out of their homes and many women and children did not go out at all, even in daylight. This may be one of the reasons there were few windows and doors in the homes as well. Roman wall paintings fall into four styles, and this is an example of the architectural style where the decoration is not limited to a single visual plane. Space is made to look as if it extends beyond the room itself. The architectural forms of the trellis and low wall are convincingly painted so that the image of a garden just outside the limits of the room’s wall is brought into the home. In addition to the architectural features, there are birds, fruit and trees rendered in realistic detail. The effect is an illusion of space beyond the confines of the room.
ROMAN MOSAIC Entry and Atrium with Dog Mosaic
date unknown, mosaic, from house in Pompeii, Italy During the Roman Empire, nearly all well-to-do homes had large courtyards at their center, where occupants could safely be outdoors. Fresco paintings covered the walls, and mosaics covered the floors and, occasionally, also the walls. The Romans improved on the techniques of their predecessors, artists of the Ancient Near East and Greece, who used small pebbles in their designs. The Romans used small shapes called “tesserae” that were made of marble, limestone and glass. At first, mosaics were mostly black and white, but they soon became elaborate, multi-colored artworks. This is a mosaic at the doorway of a home that was excavated after being buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE. Similar images were common in Pompeii. Cave canem means “beware of dog.”
Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
c. 425 CE, Ravenna, Italy The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is one of the most extraordinary monuments of late antiquity. Galla Placidia was the daughter of Roman Emperor Theodosius I and a well-known patron of the arts. Her brother and husband are also entombed there. It contains the earliest and best preserved of all antique mosaics. The interior is covered with Byzantine style mosaic patterns and Christian scenes executed in amazing detail. Light enters through alabaster window panels. The theme of the doves is very ancient and birds are prominent symbolic figures in many religions. Doves are considered messengers from heaven and often associated with godliness, immortality, victory and today, peace. Romans sacrificed doves to Venus, the goddess of love and fertility. A Greek mosaicist, Sosos of Pergamum in the second century BCE, was particularly famous for having created a picture of doves perched on the edge of a vase.
Portrait of a Woman
1st century CE, mosaic detail, size unknown, Museo Nazionale, Naples, Italy One of the striking aspects of Roman mosaics is the use of the modeling (or shading) techniques employed in painting. This is especially evident in this mosaic of a woman’s face. The work is executed using the most delicate of mosaic techniques known as “worm-like” work. Very small mosaic shapes are laid in curved lines resembling the undulations of worms. This is especially evident in the left side of the woman’s face around the cheek and near her nose where the curves of the lines of tiles conform to the shape of her face. Her lower lip has a simulated glossy or moist texture due to the row of white tesserae that cross it. The textures achieved by the artist are made possible by the numerous colors of tesserae used to create the realistic shading of her face.