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Ancient Greece Synopsis:


Greek and Roman Art: Development of Style

Greek Art

The villages of the ancient Aegean world were organized into independent city-states, built upon a hilltop as a fortified acropolis, in th 9th and 8th centuries BCE. This newly developed Greek civilization depended heavily upon trade with other regions, and their influence, particularly in the arts, spread to all corners of the Mediterranean and beyond. Ruled first by aristocratic councils and then tyrants, the Greeks eventually developed the first form of democracy with the help of the leader Kleisthenes. Though each city-state was independent, they shared a common language and culture, as well as developments in art. Their ideals of sculpture and architecture have dominated art since their introduction. Greek art can be divided into the Geometric, Archaic and Classical periods.

Geometric (900-700 BCE)

Vases and other forms of pottery discovered from this period are painted with complex linear decorations. Figures and animals are reduced to simple geometric forms, and the remaining spaces are filled with abstract forms. Figures are shown in a "subtly twisted perspective" reminiscent of the more severe Egyptian pose (Stokstad, 96). Small figurines were also produced in wood, ivory, clay and bronze. Though reduced to simple geometric forms, these votive statues are "charged with energy" (Stokstad, 96).

Archaic (600-480 BCE)

The earliest Greek temples date from this period, and serve as an introduction to the ideals of architecture perfected in the Classical period. The temple, built as a home and treasury to a particular god or goddess, was divided into a main room (cella or naos) and a vestibule (pronaos). Surrounded by a single or double row of columns (peristlye), in one of the three orders (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian), this structure was often decorated with either relief or free-standing sculpture (on the metopes and pediments). Freestanding statues, lifesize or larger, were sometimes placed at the entrance. The female statue (kore) and male statue (kouros) serve as an introduction to the Greek ideal of the human form. The anatomy is depicted accurately, though the forms are reduced to balanced, geometric patterns. The large eyes and archaic smile characterize statues from this period. Male figures are shown nude, while females are usually dressed.

Vase painting from the archaic period presents a story, or narrative, using larger-scale figures than the geometric style. The single image, presented in a clear composition, is executed in either the black-figure (figures painted in black) or red-figure (figures left unpainted) style. The story of "The Suicide of Ajax" was painted on an amphora (large storage jug), and scenes from a bronze foundry were painted on a kylix (two-handled drinking cup) (Stokstad, 101).

Early Classical (480-450 BCE)

During this transitional period the Greeks banded together to fight against the invading Persian army. An increase in naturalism is displayed in both painting and sculpture."Artemis Slaying Actaeon," painted on a krater (bell-shaped bowl), shows an increased naturalism in the figures and drapery, as well as a "sense of balance and order" which "adjusts to the actions of the figures" (Stokstad, 102). Freestanding sculpture moved from the stiff, simple kore or kouros to the "Kritios Boy," whose facial features, musculature and have become more natural and fluid. The engaged leg supports his weight while the other bends slightly. Bronze hollow-casting led to "more complex and even off-balance action poses" (Stokstad, 104). The "Riace Warriors" display a more developed naturalism and attention to detail. The "Charioteer" shows a greater understanding of drapery.

High Classical (450-400 BCE)

The "golden age," occuring even amidst internal war, marks the greatest developments of Greek and and architecture. The Acropolis at Athens is home to the Parthenon, one of the most complex and widely influencial works of architecture ever created. Built by Kallikrates and Iktinos, and decorated by Pheidias, the Parthenon's refinements in detail counteract optical illusions and give it a sense of buoancy and an organic nature. Sculpture in the round on the pediment portrays the birth of Venus, while the Doric frieze tells stories of human victory. The continuous Ionic frieze shows the Panathenaic procession. The Erechtheion introduces the caryatid (sculpted women serving as columns) on the "Porch of Maidens" (Stokstad, 110). The Temple of Athena Nike contains the relief panel, "Nike Adjusting Her Sandal," admired for the delicate and light treatment of the drapery.
Greek sculptors combined the most desired ideals of human beauty into a single idea of perfection. Polykleitos then developed a set of mathematical rules (c. 450 BCE) for the ideal human form, which became "The Canon." "Spear Bearer" displays these ideals in a more dynamic pose than even the Kritios Boy.

Late Classical (400-323 BCE)

Though this period was particulary turbulant, falling under control of the Spartans, then Macedonia, and finally the empire of Alexander the Great, Greek art continued to develop. The Ionic and Corinthian orders were favored in architecture and a new canon was developed in sculpture. The figure became more elongated with a smaller head and a more pronounced S-curve pose. Contrasts in texture and deep folds in draperies created a more life-life appearance. The nude female was introduced by Praxilteles with his sculpture of "Aphrodite." Lysippos was known for his monumental statues of Zeus and Alexander the Great.

Hellenistic (323-? BCE)

Though never unified again by government, the city-states of Greece remained tied through art and culture. Artists began exploring more everyday themes, more unique attributes and emotions, and melodramatic poses. Idealized beauty, such as "Aphrodite from Melos" and "Nike of Samothrace" remained, but the poses became much more dramatic. Realistic depictions, such as "Market Woman" were introduced. All levels of society and people of unusual physical types were exectued in art. Hellenistic painting follwed the trend of "dramatic narravtive subject matter," evident in the battle scene of Alexander the Great and Darius III (Stokstad, 130).



The Art of
Ancient Greece

Geometric 900 - 700 B.C.
Orientalizing 700 - 600 B.C.
Archaic 600- 480 B.C.
Early Classical (Severe) & High Classical 480 - 400 B.C.
Late Classical 400 - 323 B.C.
Hellenistic 323 - 31 B.C.


Amphora - ceramic storage jug
Krater - wide-mouth ceramic jug for mixing wine and water
Black-figure - Archaic period vase painting style with black figures against a reddish background
Engobe - finer-grain clay "slip” mixture that oxidizes at different temperatures in kiln to create dark figures; figures delineated by incising through the slip to red clay beneath
Kore - female statuary figure
Kouros - nude male statuary figure
Encaustic - painting method of mixing pigment with wax
Acropolis - literally, "high city”
Cella - The principal interior structure at the center of a Greek and Roman temple within which the cult statue was usually housed. Also called the naos. (S -G3)
Peristyle - A collonade surrounding a building or court (G9-1103)
Ionic - second of three Greek Classical construction "orders" or styles, with presumed origins in Ionia, characterized by continuous sculptured frieze and columns with volutes
Stylobate - topmost part of platform which supports building construction of Ancient Greek styling
Flutes - vertical radiussed grooves in columns
Volutes - spiral capital decoration on Ionic columns
Pediment - triangular panel of temple's gable end, usually infilled with sculpture
Triglyphs - tripartate vertically scored alternating panels along a Doric frieze probably representing timber beams of earlier temples
Metopes - panels between triglyphs with carved figuration
Caryatids - female figures as columns
Red-figure - Archaic period vase painting style with red figures against a dark background, reverse of black-figure style with background filled with slip and red figures delineated by painting the slip
Kylix - wide-mouth two-handled drinking cup
Contrapposto - figure positioning where the body's weight is placed on one leg with a corresponding shift in shoulders and hips
Lost wax casting - method of creating metal statuary where wax creates a "negative" mold between two layers of clay and then is replaced with hot molten metal
Canon - artistic standards, a set of mathematical rules (c. 450 BCE) for the ideal human form
Hydria - three-handled ceramic jug for carrying water
Corinthian - third of Greek Classical construction "orders," or style, characterized by increased ornamentation over the Ionic and by "acanthus" capitals on columns
Gigantomachy - scene depicting battles between Greek gods and giants
Centauromachy - scene depicting battles between Centaurs and Lapiths
Amazonomachy - scene depicting battles between Greeks and Amazons

Temenos - a sacred enclosure surrounding temple or other holy spot
Embolos - a collonnaded street
Tetraprostyle - said of a classical temple having a portico of four columns in front of the cella or naos


Geometric 900 - 700 BCE

Geometric Krater, from Dipylon cemetery, Athens, 3’4” c. 740 B.C.

Dipylon Vase, amphora, Dipylon cemetery, Athens, 61” c. 750 B.C.

Bronze horse, c. 750 - 730 B.C.

Orientalizing 700 - 600 BCE

Corinthian black-figure amphora, from Rhodes, 1’ 2”, c. 625 - 600 B.C.

Lady of Auxerre, Limestone, 2’ 1 1/2”, c. 650 - 625 B.C.

Archaic 600 - 480 BCE

Kouros, Marble, 6’ 1/2” c. 600 B.C.

Calf-bearer, (Moschophoros), from the Acropolis, Athens, Marble, 5’ 5”, c. 560 B.C.

Kroisos from Anavysos, Marble, 6’ 4”, c. 530 B.C.

Peplos Kore, from the Acropolis, Athens, Marble, 4’, c. 530 B.C.

Kore, from the Acropolis, Athen, Marble, 1’9 1/2” c. 510 B.C.

Temple of Hera I, Paestum, c. 550 B.C.

West pediment of the Temple of Artemis, Cork, Limestone, 9’ 4” c. 600- 580 B.C.

Gigantomachy, detail from north frieze, Siphnian Teasury, Delphi, 2’ 1,’, c. 570 B.C.

Francois Vase, by Kleitias & Ergotimos, krater, 2’ 2”. c. 570 B.C.

Dionysus in a Ship, by Exekias, kylix, 1’ c. 570 B.C.

Three revelers, by Euthymides, amphora, 2’ c. 510 B.C.

Dying Warrior form the east pediment, Temple of Aphaia, Aegina, 6’ 1,’ c. 490 -480 B.C.

Early & High Classical 480 - 400 BCE

Kritios Boy, from the Acropolis, Athens, Marble, 2’ 10” c. 480 B.C.

Charioteer, dedicated by Polyzalos of Gela, Delphi, Bronze, 5’ 11” c. 470 B.C.

Zeus of Poseidon, Bronze, 6’ 10 ‘½. 460 -450 B.C.

Diskobolos (Discus Thrower), by Myron, 5’ 1,’, c. 450 B.C.

Doryphoros (Spear Bearer), by Polykleitos, 6’ 11”, c. 450 - 440 B.C.

Works from the Athenian Acropolis

Parthenon, by Iktinos and Kallikrates, (Temple of Athena), Acropolis Athens, c. 447 -438 B.C.

Athena Parthenos, by Phidias, 38’ c. 438 B.C.

Details from Panathenaic Festival procession frieze, 3’ 6” c. 447- 438 B.C.

Propylaia, by Mnesikles, c.437 - 432 B.C.

Temple of Athena Nike, by Kallikrates, c. 427 -424 B.C.

Erechtheion, c. 421 - 405 B.C.

Late Classical 400 - 323 BCE

Aphrodite of Knidos, by Praxiteles, 6” 8” c. 350-340 B.C.

Hermes and the infant Dionysos, by Praxiteles, from the Temple of Hera, Olympia, 7’ 1” c. 340

Apoxigomenos (Scraper) by Lysippos, 6’ 9” c. 330 B.C.

Battle of lssus, by Phioxenos of Eretria, 8’ 10” x 16’ 9”, c. 310 B.C.

Hellenistic Period 323 - 31 BCE

Altar of Zeus, Pergamon, c. 175 BCE

Athena battling Alkyoneos, detail of the gigantomachy frieze, Altar of Zues, 7’ 6”

Dying Gaul, Epigonos?’, 3’ 1/2” c. 230 -220 B.C.

Nike of Samothrarce, 8’ 1” c. 190 B.C.

Seated Boxer, Bronze, 4’ 21/2” c. 100-50 B.C.

Laocoon and his sons, by Athanadoros, Hagesandros, and Polydoros, 7’ 101/2” first cent. A.D.



The Parthenon

Parthenon and Acropolis photos page

Greek Temple Construction

"The Sole Witness": The Periclean Parthenon
Text of Hum 110 Lecture, 23 October 1995
by Minott Kerr, Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History and Humanities

Korous Lecture
by Minott Kerr, Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History and Humanities

DJB Quick Notes:

"Kristios Boy," more realistic kourous

Temples of interest:

DJB In-Depth Notes:

Greek Pottery Notes

The Orders: