CLAS 1000 Chapter 4-6: CLAS 1000 Ancient Greece Chapter Chapter 4-6: Chapter 4: Poetry and Sculpture of the Archaic Period, Chapter 5: Symposia, Seals, and Ceramics in the Archaic Period & Chapter 6: The Birth of Philosophy and the Persian Wars

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Week #2 – January 12th-16th, 2015
Week #2 – Chapters #4-6:
Chapter #4 Poetry and Sculpture of the Archaic Period:
The Archaic Period (8th-6th centuries BC) is the tie when many of the defining features of
Greek civilization began to take shape
This chapter will concentrate on two of those features, the centrality of the human figure in
visual arts and the emphasis on personal self=expression in the lyric poetry of the period
Archaic sculpture is characterized by the development of life-size stone statues representing
young men and women, which were used earlier as dedicatory offerings or as grave markers
The small-scale lyric poetry of the Archaic Period, which survives often in only a fragmentary
state, allows the poet to express (or affect to express) his or her own individual
personality and to sing or specific, named members of his or her own community
Archaic poets may sing of their love for this or than young man or woman, revile their
personal enemies by name, or urge their fellow citizens on to acts of bravery in the new,
communal style of warfare that developed in the 8th century BC, replacing the individualized,
“heroic” combat celebrated in the Homeric species
The Human Figure in Archaic Art:
One of the most dramatic developments during the Archaic Period of Greek civilization is the
sudden appearance and rapid refinement of the ability of Greek artists to represent human
Frieze a horizontal band of decoration, usually either painted or sculpted in relief
The Egyptians, unlike the Greeks, had a tradition of creating monumental stone sculptures, a
tradition that had been in existence for many centuries and that resulted in the creation of a
standardized set of proportions and poses
Those proportions and one of those poses are reproduced by Greek sculptors who adopted
Egyptian techniques and conventions for use in a Greek context
Kouros an Archaic statue of a naked young man in a standing pose
Greek kouroi are sometimes accompanied by an inscription, usually on the base on which the
kouros stands, but the inscription gives the name of the g-d’s to whom the statue is dedicated
or the name of the person making the dedication or the name of the person over whose tomb
the statue stands
Kouroi can serve one of two functions, either as a grave marker or as a dedicatory offering to
a G-d
o The only other function that large-scale Archaic sculpture fulfills is that of cult
statue of a g-d or g-ddess, in which case there can be no uncertainty regarding
the identity of the subject of the statue: the cult statue is a representation of
Apollo, or Athena, as is clear from the statue’s placement in the g-d’s temple, or
from the fact that the figure is represented with the attributes of the deity, Apollo,
with his bow, Athena with her ageis
Greek civilization, particularly in the Archaic Period, has often been thought of as the
birthplace of the Western concept of the individual, and yet the Archaic kouros is far less
individualized than the representations of specific Egyptian pharaohs that inspired its creation
What seems to underlie this paradox is the difference between the types of society that form
the context for the Egyptian and the Greek sculptures
In the context of the Greek polis, however, to proclaim one’s individuality in so direct and
conspicuous a manner would be regarded as dangerous or threatening to the stability of the
So the individual who sets up a dedicatory offering to a deity or who wishes to mark the grave
of a deceased relative commissions a statue that is neither a portrait of himself nor of the
deceased it’s not a portrait, but rather a representation of a generic citizen, in the same way
that the figures on the 8th century funerary amphora represent generic mourners
There is one other signal that the kouros sends: it proclaims paradoxically for a piece of
stone that it is alive this vitality is conveyed by the figure’s youthfulness, but its
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Week #2 – January 12th-16th, 2015
uninhabited display of its organs of procreation, and by its slightly advanced left leg, which is
intended to give the impression that the figure is in motion, walking toward the viewer
It is characteristic of all sculptural traditions (at least until the 20th century AD) that sculpture is
concerned to represent animate figures, whether human or bestial or monstrous, in contract
to decorations on ceramics or on fabrics, which often allow non-representational patterns, like
those on Greek vases of the Geometric Period
This animate quality of sculpture is reflected in two Greek myths, both of which are connected
with the regions of Greece that have the closest connections with Egypt and the Near East,
from which the Greeks adopted the practice of creating large-scale sculpture and the tradition
of figurative representation
It is reasonable to see the kouroi that we have been considering as, among other things,
powerful assertions of vitality
It may consider a stretch of the imagination for us to think of these rather stiff, stone statutes
in this way, but in fact, we are today not seeing them as they were intended to be seen
Very faint traces of pigment on some of the kouroi indicate that they, like apparently all
ancient Greek sculptures, were originally painted we have to imagine the skin of the kouros
painted a realistic flesh colour, the whites and the irises of the eyes painted in the appropriate
colours, the hair dyed black or brown or blonde, the lips and nipples reddish, and the fillet in
the young man’s hair perhaps a deep purple
Greek sculptures of the Archaic Period also creased scores of figures of young women,
which we now refer to as korai, the plural form of the ancient Greek word kore, meaning
“young woman”
Korai were represented as fully clothed, since the Greeks considered it shameful for women,
but not men, to be seen nude
Ancient Greek building and statues were regularly elaborately coloured almost all the
marble sculpture and marble architecture that survives from antiquity has been stripped of its
original paint by the action of sun and moisture and time
This accident of history has distorted our perception of Greek art and architecture to the point
that we find aesthetically acceptable ancient sculpture and ancient buildings that are the pure
and natural colour of naked stone
Artists and architects of more recent times who work in a classicizing tradition have created
“classical” masterpieces of pure white marble
This confirms our perception and encourages us to condemn as gaudy those historically
accurate reconstructions that restore the bright colours with which ancient Greek statures and
buildings were originally painted
The colours with which Archaic kouroi and korai were originally decorated undoubtedly
served to enhance their life-like appearance and will have contributed to their function as,
virtually, an abstract representation of vitality
For this reason, they were appropriately used as grave markers, as an indication, not of who
the deceased was or what he or she looked like, but of the vitality that the deceased now
Alternatively, kouroi and korai were set up in the sanctuary of a deity as a dedicatory offering
Although kourai are generally dedicated to female deities and kouroi generally to male, just
as g-ddesses are generally served by female priests and g-d’s by male, there are enough
exceptions that this cannot be taken as an absolute rule
The one attribute that korai but not kouroi have is the dedicatory offering that they hold out to
the deity in their right hand
o In the few cases where the offering survives, it is a piece of fruit, usually a
pomegranate, or a small animal, either a bird or hare
o The statue itself is a dedicatory offering, so that a kore is a life-like represenation
of a mortal making an offering to a g-d and it is itself an offering by a mortal to a
These statues were erected either in communal cemeteries or in communal sanctuaries, both
of which arose in conjunction with the development of the polis
These sculptures represent characteristically Greek modifications of imports from non-Greek
cultures, in this case the appropriate transformation took the form of removing the (minimal)
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Week #2 – January 12th-16th, 2015
clothing worn by the pharaoh and exposing the kouros in a state of total nudity, which is the
state in which men trained for and competed in athletic contests in the Panhellenic games,
another product of the Archaic Period
The Greek acceptance of (male) nudity in public statuary and at the public games has been
the subject of a good deal of scholarly debate, and it cannot be said that the reasons for this
acceptance are fully understood today
This phenomenon dates to the period of the development of the polis, seems to have arisen
out of the same tension that we have seen at work in some of the other phenomena that also
date to this period, namely the tension between individuality and uniformity
Public nudity is the ultimate form of self-expression, but at the same time, by stripping away
the external accouterments of wealth and privilege, it sets everyone on the same level
Poetry of Archaic Greece:
The developments in literature during the Archaic Period feature the baring of the poet’s soul,
but only in a conventionalized framework
Dactylic hexameter and artificial literary dialect continued to be used by Greek poets for well
over a thousand year, for composing epic poems in the tradition of the Iliad and Odyssey and
didactic poetry in the tradition of Hesiod
This poetic idiom was also used for hymns in honour of the g-d’s, a collection which has
These hymns, some of which are only 5 or 6 lines long, some of which are a few hundred
lines, were attributed in antiquity to Homer and so are known today as the “Homeric Hymns”
The reason for the similarity in meter and dialect between these hymns and the poems of
Hesiod and Homer is that hymns to the g-ds were conventionally used to open a recitation of
poems like those of Homer and Hesiod, and when there hymns are referred to by ancient
Greek authors, they are often called “preludes”
The Homeric Hymns glorify the deity to whom they are addressed by recounting myths that
illustrate the deity’s power and influence
There are poetic traditions active in the Archaic Period in which the poet reveals his or her
innermost feelings
These traditions are connected with poetry on a smaller scale than the hexameter poems of
Hesiod and Homer
The poetry we are concerned with is sometimes referred to as “lyric” poetry because “lyric” is
a word with an appropriate Greek etymology (meaning “accompanied by the lyre”) and
because today “lyric poetry” means poetry characterized by an outpouring of the poet’s own
thoughts and feelings
Many of the small-scale, non-hexameter poems of the Archaic Period were accompanied not
by a lyre but by an oboe-like reed instrument called an Aulos, and the thoughts and feelings
poured out by the poet may have just been as conventional and contrived as the elaborate
metrical conventions in which they were expressed
o Aulos an oboe-like reed instrument used as an accompaniment for sacrificial
ritual, certain athletic activities, elegiac poetry, and the advance of hoplites into
The metrical and musical form in which poetry of the Archaic Period was composed dictated
what kinds of thoughts and feelings were expressed, in certain types of content and to
exclude others
Iambic referring to a metrical form that was considered to approximate to the rhythm of
ordinary speech, generally used in the Archaic Period for invective and satire, but later also
used for epigram and other serious purposes, including the dialogue of drama
Papyrus a marsh plant native to Egypt; also, the sheets used a writing surface made by
laying thin strips of the stem of the papyrus plant side by side, with another layer of similar
strips crossing them, and usually a third layer again parallel to the first, the whole being then
soaked in water, pressed together, and dried
It is characteristic of iambic verse that is is the poetic form most like everyday conversation,
both in its manner of expression and its subject matter, and we have seen that both
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