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Greek Context:
● The Greeks developed more than 2500 years ago. Was the mixing of Aegean
and Indo-European peoples. Greece was a city state culture (“poleis”). The
Dorians from Peloponnesos are believed to have been the end of Mycenaean
civilization. In the 11th and 8th centuries BCE, Ionians settled into modern Turkey
and the islands of the Aegean Sea. Despite disputes, in 776 BCE the first athletic
games was held in Olympia among all the Greek-speaking states.
● The idea of humans as the “measure of all things” still exists as a fundamental
principle in Western societies today.
● The Greeks invented democracy- “demos” means people
● The Athenian aim was to be able to balance intellectual and physical discipline.
The saying “a sound mind in a sound body” originates from the Athenians.
Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides were famous play writers while Socrates
and Plato were philosophers- all from Athens. The creation of the Republic is
also from Athens. Athenian Democracy was a political reality for only one
segment of the people because of slavery and the treatment of women. Wealthy,
high status women usually remained in their homes only emerging for weddings,
funerals and religious festivals where they played prominent roles.
● Most female artists are unknown and their art has disappeared over the ages.
Sappho a famous female poet is the exception.
● The exclusion of women and the prevalence of slavery is reflected in Greek art.
Freeborn men are often depicted with slaves in large scale public sculptures and
“Symposiums”- a dinner party exclusively for men and prostitutes- are popular
subjects for painted vases in private homes.
● The main difference between the Greek gods and the Egyptian gods or any other gods
in the neighboring areas is that the Greek gods were immortal. They portrayed the
perfect individual and the Greek ideal. These gods and goddesses as well as beautiful
humans in general became the focus of Greek art.
● The Gods and Goddesses names appear as early as the 8th century. The Iliad by
Homer, an epic tale of the war against Troy. The Odyssey which tells of the adventures
of Odysseus, a Greek hero, and his long journey back home. And Theogony written by
Hesiod in 700 BCE tells of the genealogy of the Gods.
All of the Greek Gods come from Gaia (mother Earth) including her lover Uranus (Heaven and
sky.) Together they created by the 12 titans including Ocean and Cronus. Cronus castrated his
father, Uranus, and took his place as ruler and married his sister Rhea. Cronus then swallowed
all of his and Rhea’s children after hearing a prophecy that one would overpower him. When
Zeus was born, Rhea wrapped a stone in clothes and tricked Cronus into swallowing that
instead. Zeus then grew up and forced his father to vomit up his other siblings. With the help of
his siblings- Hera, Poseidon, Hades, Hestia, and Demeter- Zeus overthrew Cronus and the
Titans. Together the gods rule the world from Mount Olympus (the highest peak in Greece).
(Which was also very climbable).
● The origin of the Greek Gods has parallels to Mesopotamian mythology and rarely
appears in paintings or sculptures. However the 12 Olympian Gods appear in art from
the Middles Ages, Renaissance, and the present prominently.
1. Zeus: King of the Gods, rules the sky, weapon of choice is the thunderbolt and with his
thunderbolt he led the other gods into victory over the Titans for control over the world.
2. Hera: Wife/sister/Queen of the Gods. Goddess of marriage.
3. Poseidon: Lord of Sea. Controls waves, storms, and earthquakes with his trident (a 3
pronged pitchfork.)
4. Hestia: Sister, Goddess of the hearth.
5. Demeter: Sister, Goddess of grain and agriculture.
6. Ares: Son of Zeus and Hera, God of war, and lover to Aphrodite. His Roman equivalent,
Mars, is the father of Romulus and Remus the twins who discovered Rome.
7. Athena: Daughter of Zeus, a virgin born out of Zeus’s head. Goddess of wisdom and
warfare. (Only God/goddess stronger than Zeus)
8. Hephaestus: Son of Zeus and Hera. He is the God of fire and metal working. Was born
lame and ugly unlike the other gods. He created the armor for Achilles for the battle of
Troy and Zeus’s Lightning bolt and Poseidon’s trident. Hephaestus is the husband of
9. Apollo: Son of Zeus and Leto (the daughter of a Titan.) He is the God of light and music
and is often associated with the sun. (Associated with some aspects of war)
10. Artemis: Twin sister of Apollo. Goddess of the hunt and wild animals- associated with the
moon. (Associated with some aspects of war)
11. Aphrodite: Daughter of Zeus and Dione (the daughter of Ocean and one of the nymphs.)
Goddess of love and beauty; is said to have been born from the foam of the sea. Her
most famous sons are Eros and Aeneas.
12. Hermes: Son of Zeus and a nymph. He is the “fleet-footed” messenger of the Gods. He
is shown with winged sandals, Herald’s rod (caduceus), and winged travelers hat. He is
the guide of travelers and the dead on their journey to the Underworld.
13. Hades: Brother of Zeus, God of the Underworld and the Dead.
14. Dionysos: Son of Zeus and a mortal. God of wine.
15. Eros: Son of Aphrodite and Ares. Winged child-god of love.
16. Asklepios: Son of Apollo and mortal: God of healing. His serpent-entwined staff is the
emblem of modern medicine.
Geometric/ Orientalizing Art period
● Small bronze figures
● paintings
● Ceramic pots
Krater, found in Dipylon cemetery of Athens, now found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
● Demonstrates advanced craftsmanship
● Memoriam for potter’s dead family
● Hole in the bottom, may have been for souls to enter and escape at will
● Depicts mourning people
Herakles and Nessos
● Schematic figures of the hero Herakles and and the centaur Nessos locked in a
hand-to-hand struggle.
● Clearly mythical representation showing that geometric art was not completely tethered
to scenes inspired by daily life.
● The figure on the right is a centaur, a mythical creature not found in nature. It is a
human in the front and a horse in the back.
● The human part of the centaur is similar to Herakles (the figure on the left), but since
Herakles is the victor he is shown to be larger than his opponent, even if his opponent is
a horse.
● Both are naked showing that even in its earliest stages, greek art showed the hellenic
instinct for the natural beauty of the human figure.
Mantiklos Apollo, from in Thebes Greece, now found in the Museum of
Fine Arts
● Small bronze statue
● Message scratched into thighs proclaiming the statue’s
dedication to Apollo
● Human figure; is this a god in human form? Or a human?
Group 4 presentations: ​Stewart Harrison: Greek gods, Karina
Michaels: Greek Context, Thomas Vogel: Hero and Centaur Sculpture, Arianna
Visscher: Intro, Julia Allegretti: Vase, Owen Larence: Lady of Auxerre