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CLA160H1: Lecture notes #4.docx

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Victoria Wohl

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Art and Politics: Archaic Period: 750- 480BC (writing to Persian War) There are political, economic and artistic developments in this period. The most important political development is the rise of the polis and the invention of politics. The polis is a city state, made up of the city and surrounding land to make up a single, self-governing political unit. It is a state the side of a city. These poleis would mint their own coins. Each city had their own currency and their own weights and measures. They had their own laws and religious festivals. Each one had its own domestic policy. There is a lot of diversity in the structure of the poleis. Athens was a democracy; Sparta was a monarchy with two kings. They also decided their own foreign policy. Greek history is a constant shift between the poleis working together and going to war against each other. In certain periods, they would come together in a Pan-Hellenic effort. When there is no outside threat, they would tend to fight each other. There was a change in political mentality, and the mentality of people as a whole. In Mycenaean time, we don’t hear a lot about the People, but they likely identified with their king. This continued to a certain extent in the Dark Age, even though the communities became much smaller. In Homer, there is a sense of the demos (the people) but they are defined by their loyalty to the king. At the end of the Dark Ages, all of the little communities start to merge together into the polis. They start to develop a much stronger central political identity. They start to be identified by their polis rather than their leader. For the first time, we have a sense of political community and identity. People start to feel like citizens of a shared polis. Not all poleis were democracies. They did not necessarily have democracy, but it was still different from the Mycenaean period in that the people had a political identity separate from their monarch. They have a sense of shared responsibility. Alcaeus envisions the polis as a ship. It imagines the polis as a unity, or a collective enterprise in which everyone plays a part. There might be disagreement over who should steer and where to go, but if people don’t work together and do their part, it will sink. There is a fundamental change in how people see themselves and their relationship to others. There is a new sense of community and belonging. In Athens, every citizen had a share in the polis. However, not everyone was a citizen. Every polis had different laws about citizenship. In Athens, women were not citizens. Their only share in the polis was through their male kin and religious rites. Foreigners were also not citizens. In many poleis there was also a slave class who were not citizens. But within the group of citizens, everyone was an equal. The polis is a new human identity. Man is a political animal. The polis is the natural habitat of humanity. We see these changes reflected in a change of warfare. Homer’s epics were mostly about the prowess of individuals. People are fighting for their own individual time^ rather than any common cause. In the Archaic period we start to see the rise of a new kind of warfare. We start to see people fighting in a more corporate, collective way. It is known as hoplite warfare. Your shield would cover the left side of your body and the right side of the person next to you. You would use your spear over it. In order for this to work, everyone must work together. This kind of warfare gives rise to a new definition of bravery and heroism. The ideal becomes cooperation rather than individual glory. You need to stand firm, shoulder to shoulder. There are no individual heroes. You’re fighting for the kleos and time^ of your polis and, like citizens, everyone in the phalanx is equal. It is, however, and exclusive group. In order to join, you need to be able to buy your own hoplon (shield). Hoplite warfare also gives a certain amount of emphasis to the individual. In the Iliad, everyone who isn’t a hero is part of the faceless mob. In the phalanx, it is every individual who makes up the group. The polis, even as it strengthens communal identity, it gives identity to each individual. The Archaic period art starts to reflect this. There is a new form of art: individual statues of normal people. There is a kind of equality to them but also individuality. They tend to be found at grave sites. They might be idealized representations of aristocratic youths and maybe even commemorating dead individuals. These might represent this same movement toward individuality. We see the same thing in vases. There is an innovation in vase painting. There is a shift from black figure to red figure. Black figure is made by painting the figures in a different type of clay and the firing the clay. The different clay becomes black and you scratch out the detail in the figure you want. In the later archaic period they did the same thing but reversed
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