Greek Art and Architecture

Greek Art and Architecture is the product of Greece and the Greek colonies from about 1100 BC to the 1st century BC. It has its roots in Aegean civilization, but its unique qualities have made it one of the strongest influences on subsequent Western art.

Greek art is characterized by the representation of living beings. It is concerned both with formal proportion and with the dynamics of action and emotion. Its primary subject matter is the human figure, which is also the form of the divine; monsters, animals, and plants are secondary. The chief themes are from myth, literature, and daily life.

Few undamaged originals of Greek architecture or large sculpture remain, and no large Greek paintings have survived. An abundance of pottery vases, coins, jewelry, and gems have survived, however, and along with Etruscan tomb paintings, these give some indication of the characteristics of Greek art. These treasures are supplemented by literary sources. Such travelers as the Roman author Pliny the Elder and the Greek geographer Pausanias saw many works that have since perished, and their writings give much information about the artists and their creations.

Architecture, painting, and large sculpture up to about 320 BC had primarily a public function, being employed to produce religious objects and to commemorate important secular events, such as athletic victories. The major arts were used by private individuals only to decorate tombs. Decorative arts, however, were chiefly for private use. The average household contained a number of well-made painted terra-cotta vases, and some wealthier households had bronze vessels and mirrors. Many terra-cotta and bronze utensils incorporated small figures and reliefs.

Greek architects usually worked in marble or limestone, using wood and tile for roofs. Sculptors carved marble and limestone, modeled clay, and cast works in bronze. Large votive statues were made of hammered plates of bronze or had gold and ivory coverings laid over wooden cores. Heads and outstretched arms were sometimes made separately and then attached to the torso. Stone and clay sculpture was brightly painted, entirely or partly. Greek painters used water-based colors to paint large murals or decoration on vases. Potters formed vases freehand on the potter’s wheel; when the vase was dry, it was polished, painted, and fired.

Greek art and architecture are customarily divided into periods reflecting changes in style. Chronological divisions in this article are as follows: (1) Geometric and Orientalizing periods (circa 1100-650 BC); (2) Archaic period (c. 660-475 BC); (3) Classical period (c. 475-323 BC); (4) Hellenistic period (c. 323-31 BC).


The most important remains from the earliest periods of Greek art are pottery. Vases of the Geometric period have bands of meanders and other angular geometric ornament, which give the period its name. In early examples rectilinear motifs are combined with curvilinear elements derived from the Mycenaean style. Beginning about 750 BC, animals and humans were introduced, represented by slim, abstracted figures, such as a dead warrior lying in state or a chariot with horses. The finest example of Geometric pottery is the Dipylon Vase (Metropolitan Museum, New York City), a large grave marker intended to hold offerings, which was found in a cemetery near the Dipylon Gate in Athens.

About the 7th century BC the style of vase painting changed, reflecting increasing Greek colonization of the eastern Mediterranean and trade with the Phoenicians and other Eastern peoples. On vases of this period, known as the Orientalizing phase of vase painting, the abstract geometric designs were replaced by the more rounded, realistic forms of Eastern motifs, such as the lotus, palmette, lion, and sphinx. Ornament increased in amount and intricacy.

Only small pieces of Geometric-period sculpture, in bronze and clay, have been found. The sculptures include a small bronze statuette of Apollo (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). Figures of this period are not direct visual representations but are based on the artist’s conceptions.

Architecture of the Geometric and Orientalizing periods consisted of simple structures of mud brick and rubble. The earliest houses were circular huts, which evolved into elliptical and subsequently horseshoelike shapes. Later houses became rectangular, built on an east-west axis with an entrance and a columned porch at one end. Roofs were flat mud or thatched gable.

The basic plan of temples was similar to that of houses. Foundations of temples of the late Geometric period have been found in Sámos, Sparta, Olympia, and Crete (Kríti). Somewhat later temple foundations in Eretria and Thermon have a horseshoe plan. In rectangular temples the two side walls projected beyond the front wall to form a porch. Within the single room, or cella, the wooden beams of the gable roof were supported by a single row of wooden columns along the main axis, which, because it obscured the image of the divinity, was later replaced with two rows of columns. These, like the side walls, extended beyond the front wall to support the porch roof.

During the Archaic period, as Greek society expanded geographically and economically, greater wealth and foreign contacts led to the development of formal architecture and monumental sculpture. Both were made from the marble and limestone with which Greece was plentifully endowed. Temples housed images of the gods and were decorated with sculpture and paintings. Painting also flourished on vases, which were important articles of trade.

Inspired by the monumental stone sculpture of Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Greeks began to carve in stone. Freestanding figures share the solidity and frontal stance characteristic of Eastern models, but their forms are more dynamic than those of Egyptian sculpture, as for example the  Lady of Auxerre and Torso of Hera (Early Archaic period, c. 660-580 BC, both in the Louvre, Paris). These and other figures, male and female, after about 575 BC wear the so-called archaic smile. This expression, which has no specific appropriateness to the person or situation depicted, may have been a device to give the figures a distinctive human characteristic.

Three types of figures prevailed—the standing nude youth (kouros), the standing draped girl (kore), and the seated woman. All emphasize and generalize the essential features of the human figure and show an increasingly accurate comprehension of human anatomy. The youths were either sepulchral or votive statues. Examples are Apollo (Metropolitan Museum), an early work; Strangford Apollo from Límnos (British Museum, London), a much later work; and the Anavyssos Kouros (National Museum, Athens). More of the musculature and skeletal structure is visible in this statue than in earlier works. The standing, draped girls have a wide range of expression, as in the sculptures in the Acropolis Museum, Athens. Their drapery is carved and painted with the delicacy and meticulousness common to the details of sculpture of this period.

Relief sculpture, which developed somewhat later than freestanding sculpture, showed figures in action. Noteworthy examples from the Middle Archaic period (c. 580-535 BC) are friezes from the Treasury of the Siphnians in the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi (Archaeological Museum, Delphi), depicting a battle in the Trojan War. Also notable is the fragmentary pediment, representing a struggle between gods and Titans, from the old Temple of Athena on the Acropolis in Athens (Acropolis Museum). Examples from the Late Archaic period (c. 535-475 BC) include sculptures (now in the Glyptothek, Munich) from the pediments of the Temple of Aphaia at Aegina (Aíyina). Late 19th-century critics first recognized in these figures the artistic merit of Archaic sculpture. The figures of the east pediment seem as full of life as the athletes described by the poet Pindar.

Archaic sculptors continued casting bronze statuettes. Examples from the 6th century BC have muscular limbs, a narrow arch for the lower boundary of the thorax, and horizontal markings. Sculptured stone sphinxes and other forms served as finials, or headpieces, on gravestones.

Aware of Egyptian temples in stone, Greeks in the 7th century began to build their own stone temples in a distinctive style. They used limestone in Italy and Sicily, marble in the Greek islands and Asia Minor, and limestone covered with marble on the Greek mainland. Later they built chiefly in marble. The temples were rectangular and stood on a low, stepped terrace in an enclosure where rituals were performed. Small temples had a two-columned front porch, sometimes with a portico before it. Larger temples, with front and back porches, might have a six-columned portico before each porch or be entirely surrounded by a colonnade. The colonnade supported an entablature, or lintel, under the gabled, tiled roof.

Architects developed two orders, or styles of columns, the Doric and the Ionic (see Column). Doric columns, which had no bases and whose capitals consisted of a square slab over a round cushion shape, were heavy and closely spaced to support the weight of the masonry. Their heaviness was relieved by the tapered and fluted shaft. On the entablature, vertical triglyphs were carved over every column, leaving between them oblong—later square—metopes, which were at first painted and later filled with painted reliefs. The Doric style originated on the mainland and became widespread. The Doric temples at Syracuse, Paestum, Selinus, Akragas, Pompeii, Tarentum (Taranto), Metapontum, and Corcyra (Corfu) still exist. Especially notable is the Temple of Poseidon at Paestum (450 BC).

Columns in the Ionic style, which began in Ionia (Asia Minor) and the Greek islands, are more slender, more narrowly fluted, and spaced farther apart than Doric columns. Each rests on a horizontally fluted round base and terminates in a capital shaped like a flat cushion rolled into volutes at the sides. The entablature, lighter than in the Doric style, might have a frieze. Examples of Ionic temples are in Ephesus near modern Ýzmir, Turkey, in Athens (the Erechtheum), and (some traces) in Naucratis, Egypt.

About 675 BC vase painters in Corinth began to decorate their wares with black silhouetted figures, usually in one or more small friezes of running animals with rounded forms, in what is called the proto-Corinthian style. In the fully developed Corinthian style, which flourished until 550 BC and of which numerous examples survive, the vases are crowded with figures set against backgrounds of floral ornament. The vases often depict fabulous monsters such as the fire-breathing Chimaera, a creature with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail. Similar Oriental motifs appear on vases found in Laconia, Boeotia, Khalkís, Rhodes, and Sardis.

By the Middle Archaic period, Athens was saturating the world market for vases. Athenian vases have been found in the Aegean Islands, North Africa, Asia Minor, Italy, Sicily, and even in France, Spain, and Crimea. The popularity of Athenian pottery resulted from its practical excellence and its beautiful proportions; velvety, jet-black finish; and lively narrative scenes.

Athenian vase decoration was in the black-figure style, which had been brought from Corinth to Athens about 625  BC and blended with the more linear and larger-scale Athenian style. The decoration was painted in black slip on the red ground of the clay. Details were incised and were sometimes emphasized and given three-dimensionality by the use of red and white highlights.

From this period on, the scenes on vases and the artists who painted them often are identified by inscriptions on the vases. About 30 vase painters signed their names, and about 100 are identified by their style. Modern names have been assigned to the latter painters on the basis of the location of a good example of their work, for example, the Berlin Painter; the subject of a prominent work, for example, the Pig Painter; a collection containing their works, for example, the Saint Audries Painter; or the name of the potter for whom the painter worked, for example, the Amasis Painter. Among masterpieces are the François Vase made in 560 BC by Ergotinus and painted by Clitias (Museo Archeologico, Florence), the Dionysus Cup by Exekias (Glyptothek), and works by two of the most distinguished painters in the black-figure style, Lydos and the Amasis Painter (Metropolitan Museum).

Vases decorated in the red-figure style, believed to have been introduced by the Andocides Painter, were first produced about 530 BC. The figures retained the red of the clay and were surrounded with a black background. Details, instead of being incised in the clay, were drawn in black slip in a stiff, wiry line that often stands out in slight relief. A new golden-brown accessory color, obtained by diluting black slip, was used also.

About 540 BC Athenian vase painters developed still another style, exemplified in the Antaius Krater (cup) by the potter Euphronius. Besides possessing an intense interest in the anatomy of the human body, these innovators developed a new conception of space, which they expressed through foreshortening and the use of a brown wash for shading. Thus was initiated a type of painting in which three-dimensionality is indicated both by shading and by contrasting areas of color.

Although the black-figure style continued to dominate throughout the Archaic period, production of the red-figure style gradually increased. Among important Late Archaic vase painters were Duris, the Brygus Painter, the Berlin Painter, and the Cleophrades Painter.

IV        CLASSICAL PERIOD  Greek art of the Classical period, from the era of the Persian Wars through the reign of Alexander the Great, was fully developed, independent of foreign influences, and much sought after in other lands.

A         Early Classical Period  (C. 475-448 BC)After the Greek victory over Persia, the need to repair the devastation caused by the Persian invasion generated great activity in both architecture and sculpture. This was especially true of Athens, the dominant political and economic power.

A1       Architecture  Most of the Early Classical temples were Doric. An outstanding example is the Temple of Zeus (mid-5th century BC) in Olympia, designed by Libon of Elis. Its relatively slim columns indicate a reaction against the heavy proportions of the Archaic Doric style.

Early Classical sculpture does not have the typical archaic smile or the delicate and tender details characteristic of the Archaic period. Instead it expresses a solemnity, or a new seriousness, along with a new strength and simplicity of form. Examples include the pediment sculptures from the Temple of Zeus in Olympia (Archaeological Museum, Olympia); Charioteer (Archaeological Museum, Delphi); Standing Youth, or the Kritios Boy, bearing the name of the Athenian sculptor Critius or Kritios, and Blond Head (both in the Acropolis Museum); and Idolino (Museo Archeologico, Florence).

Sculptors of the period usually portrayed the scene during the moment before or the moment after a significant action. The sculptures from the Temple of Zeus in Olympia are of this type. On the east pediment of the temple were depicted the preparations, supervised by Zeus, for the fateful chariot race between the legendary figures Oenomaus and Pelops. On the west pediment was represented the battle between the centaurs and the Lapiths. The 12 extant metopes from this temple portray the labors of Hercules, helped by the goddess Athena.

Many works of the Early Classical period are lost. Because the Classical style appealed to the Romans, however, they made copies of many works that have since perished. Among such copies are those of the Tyrannicides (National Museum, Naples) by Critius and his coworker Nesiotes and of several works of Polyclitus, including the Doryphorus, or Spear Bearer (National Museum, Naples), the Diadumenus (National Museum, Athens), and the Amazon (Metropolitan Museum). In these works the symmetrical frontal stance of Archaic figures is replaced by more complex positions and more lifelike forms.

A3       Painting  Almost all the mural painting created during the Early Classical period has been lost. It includes the work of Polygnotus, the greatest painter of his time. His murals in the Lesche, or assembly hall, of the Cnidians in Delphi, which depicted the fall of Troy and the world of the dead, were described by Pausanias; Pliny the Elder wrote that Polygnotus was the first master of expression. The discovery in 1968 of a fresco-painted Greek tomb in Paestum (c. 470 BC, Museo Archeologico, Paestum) suggests the achievements of Early Classical muralists. The figures of banqueters and of a diver show understanding of anatomy, line, and facial expression. Eyes are drawn in profile instead of full face, and landscape painting appears.

In vase painting, decorative figural scenes were gradually replaced by three-dimensional representations, as on vases by the Pistoxenus Painter and the Penthesilea Painter. Forms are broader, the eyes are in profile, and folds of drapery assume natural shapes and depth. These characteristics, especially in the vases of the Niobid Painter, suggest the influence of Polygnotus and provide further information on his style.

(c. 448-400 BC). Mature classicism developed during the second half of the 5th century  BC, especially under the patronage of the Athenian statesman Pericles. The architecture and sculpture of Periclean Athens reached a perfection rarely if ever equaled.

Architects developed a number of refinements to counteract the apparent distortions of perspective. For example, the temple terrace was curved upward in the center, the taper of a column was made convex, the axes of columns were inclined inward, and the vertical lines of a building were given an inward or outward tilt, depending on the desired “correction.”

In the West, the huge Temple of Apollo in Selinus, Sicily, was completed after 100 years of work. In Attica, Pericles ordered the restoration of the many temples burned by the Persians. He entrusted supervision of the work on the Acropolis, the citadel that was the traditional site of Athenian temples, to the sculptor Phidias. The most important of the temples was the Parthenon, designed by the architects Ictinus and Callicrates. Another significant structure was the Propylaea, the monumental gateway to the Acropolis.

The Parthenon was built on the site of two previous temples, the old temple of Athena, known as the Hecatompedon, built about 570 BC and enlarged about 530  BC, and the older Parthenon, begun in 488 BC and burned by the Persians in 480 BC, while it was still unfinished. Construction of the new building began in 447 BC.

The Parthenon is built entirely of marble from the renowned quarries on Mount Pentelikon. It is surrounded by an unusually large colonnade consisting of 8 slender columns in front and back and 17 on each side. The colonnade had a coffered marble ceiling. The sanctuary had two sections, each entered through a shallow porch. The ceiling of the larger, east room, or cella, which contained the huge chryselephantine (gold-and-ivory) statue of Athena, protector of the city, was supported by a two-story Doric colonnade on three sides. That of the smaller, west room, or treasury, was supported by four tall Ionic columns. An ambitious sculptural program filled the metopes, the pediments, and a frieze high around the outside of the cella.

The style of the Parthenon sculptures was created by Phidias, but most of them were executed probably by pupils under his direction. The metopes on the east side depicted a battle of giants, those on the west a battle with the Amazons, those on the north the fall of Troy, and those on the south the battle between the Lapiths and the centaurs. The frieze depicts the people of Athens approaching Athena in the festal procession of the Panathenaea, wherein they presented her with a new robe. On the east pediment was represented the birth of Athena, surrounded by the Olympian gods; on the west pediment, her contest with the god Poseidon for the land of Attica. Sculptures from the Parthenon and other edifices of ancient Athens are preserved as the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum in London.

The Propylaea was begun in 437 BC but was never completed, probably because of the start of the Peloponnesian War in 431 BC. Phidias entrusted its construction and design to the architect Mnesicles (fl. about 437-409 BC), who pierced its wall with five openings and constructed both of its porches in the manner of those fronting Doric temples. In addition, he used Ionic columns, which are among the finest of this order, and reinforced the architraves of the building with iron bars.

Other Doric works of the period are the Hephaesteion, formerly called the Theseion, which stands on a hill west of the Agora, or marketplace, in Athens and is one of the best-preserved Greek temples in Greece; the Temple of Poseidon in Sunium; and the Temple of Apollo Epicurus (450 BC) at Bassae in Arcadia, in which the earliest examples of Corinthian capitals also appear.

An outstanding Ionic temple is the Erechtheum, built, perhaps by Mnesicles, on the Acropolis opposite the Parthenon. The architect was forced by the uneven ground, and by the religious fear of destroying former sanctuaries, to construct it on a complicated asymmetrical floor plan. The entablature of the porch is supported by statues of maidens, called caryatids, instead of by columns.

Another Ionic work is the Temple of Athena Nike, at the southwest corner of the Acropolis. A light, graceful building, the temple stood until the 17th century, when the Ottoman Turks pulled it down to make an artillery position. The temple was rebuilt in 1835 in close accordance with the original structure.

The greatest sculptors of the Middle Classical period were Phidias and Polyclitus. To ancient critics, Phidias was the sculptor of gods, in contrast to Polyclitus, the sculptor of mortals. Phidias created two colossal Chryselephantine statues, that of Zeus, in Olympia, and that of Athena, in the Parthenon. Both statues have been lost. Not even good copies exist, although the Zeus probably is depicted on certain coins, and the Varvakeion Statuette may remotely resemble the Athena. The head of the Athena Lemnia (Museo Civico Archeologico, Bologna) is a Roman copy of a work by Phidias, and, together with the work of his pupils Alcamenes and Agoracritos, it conveys some idea of his art.

Contemporary with the Parthenon are the Flying Nike by Paionius, in Olympia, and the subsequent works of the distinguished sculptor Myron, whose two masterpieces, Discobolus (Discus Thrower) and Athena and Marsyas, formerly on the Acropolis, survive only in copies.

B3       Painting  In the vase painting of the Middle Classical period the figures are drawn in a rudimentary linear perspective that gives them a three-dimensional appearance. Such vase paintings probably resemble the lost works of the famous painters Apollodorus and Zeuxis. The latter is reported to have painted a bunch of grapes so realistically that birds tried to peck at them.

(c. 400-323 BC). Architectural projects in Greece declined when Athens, defeated in the Peloponnesian War, lost political supremacy in the Greek world. In the visual arts a new, detailed characterization of figures reflects an interest in the individual that was also shown by poets and philosophers of the time.

C1       Architecture  Temples still were built in the Doric style, but the porch in back was omitted. An example is the Temple of  Asclepius in Epidaurus (c. 380 BC). Corinthian columns (the third Greek order), modified Ionic columns with acanthus leaves on the capitals, were used in the interior of the circular Tholos (360 BC) at Epidaurus, designed by Polyclitus the Younger. Theaters, formerly wooden benches on a hillside, were now constructed in stone, as, for example, the extant theater of Epidaurus (350 BC), also by Polyclitus the Younger, built on sloping ground around an orchestra circle.

A renaissance of the Ionic style took place in Asia Minor. Its most imposing edifice was the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the enormous tomb of Mausolus, king of Caria (flourished about 376-353 BC), which was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Raised on a pedestal, it was surrounded by an Ionic colonnade and topped with a pyramid and a quadriga, a sculptured chariot with four horses. According to tradition, each side was decorated with friezes by Scopas and three other Attic sculptors. Remains of the structure are in the British Museum, together with the colossal statue  of Mausolus, an imposing portrait of a typical ruler of the time.

Late Classical sculpture was dominated by Lysippus, Praxiteles, and Scopas. Lysippus created lithe young athletes, such as the lost bronze Scraper (c. 330 BC). Perhaps the most outstanding of the three was Praxiteles, who worked in a soft, graceful style. In his Hermes with the Infant Dionysus (c. 330-320 BC, Archaeological Museum, Olympia), the tree trunk that supports Hermes is drawn into the composition by the voluptuous curves of the figure. His Aphrodite of Cnidus (c. 350 BC, Roman copy in the Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican City), with her right hand in front of her body in a gesture of modesty, set the example for later female nudes. Her expression combines dignity, delicate charm, and worldliness. Her lower eyelids are indicated only by very light carving, and the surface of the figure is sculptured in a manner that produces a soft play of light and shadow upon it.

Sculpture in the 4th century BC further advanced the achievements of Polyclitus. Lysippus introduced a new set of proportions that produced a more slender body and a smaller head. As the court sculptor of Alexander the Great, Lysippus brought figures of rulers into the repertoire of statuary types. Scopas, his contemporary, gradually abandoned the serene expressions of the Classical period in favor of rendering expressions of passions and intense emotions in the faces of his images, preserved in the sculptures (now in the National Museum, Athens) from the Temple of Athena Alea at Tegea.

Many 4th-century statuettes of unfired terra-cotta, called Tanagra figurines, are extant. Of a type first found at Tanagra in Boeotia, these charming pieces come mainly from tombs. Most of them are hollow because they were made in molds. They are painted in tempera and depict such subjects as comic actors, women in fashionable dress, dwarfs, and miniature deities.

The Attic gravestone of the 5th and 4th centuries consisted of a slab decorated in relief with figures conveying the sadness of parting. The figures were often framed by pilasters on each side and surmounted by a cornice.

C3       Painting  All 4th-century Greek murals, including those of the great Apelles, have perished. Their influence, however, may probably be seen in the illusionistic (giving an illusion of reality) landscapes and architectural scenes depicted on the walls of Roman houses in Pompeii and Herculaneum in the 1st century AD.

After 320 BC no more pottery was exported from Athens, and only prize vases for athletes competing at the Panathenaea were made there. Italian ware took the place of Athenian vases in the Mediterranean market. The Italian vases exhibit a great variety of types, among which are those from Canosa, a city in southern Italy, as well as the so-called Calene ware from the neighboring city of Cales. Both types often bear the signatures of the potters. The vases from Centuripe in Sicily are more elaborate, containing figures in scenes painted in hues recalling those of modern pastels. The bodies of the vessels themselves are adorned with three-dimensionally modeled floral and figural forms.

After Alexander the Great conquered the Greek city-states, his armies carried Greek culture throughout the Middle East. As the Greek cities suffered political and economic decline, civic religion and pride waned, and a more subjective emphasis appeared in art and religion. Greeks were receptive to a new influx of such Oriental tastes as luxurious decoration and mystery religions. A new Hellenistic mixture of Greek and Eastern styles flourished, especially in the rich cities of Asia Minor and in Alexandria in Egypt.

The Doric style continued in use for small temples and for the lower story of new two-storied buildings. Large Ionic temples were built in Asia Minor, such as the Temple of Apollo at Didyma (c. 300 BC), which had two Ionic colonnades, one inside the other, with 10 columns on the front and back and 21 along each side. Corinthian columns were much more widely used than before, as in the Temple of the Olympian Zeus (begun 174 BC) in Athens, commissioned by the Syrian king Antiochus IV.

New types of buildings, including gymnasia and senate houses, were constructed in the elaborate Hellenistic style, including profuse ornamentation and Corinthian columns. Monumental altars were set up in Syracuse, Pergamum, Priene, and Magnesia. Hellenistic kings built porticoes, libraries, theaters, and monumental gates. Sepulchral monuments imitated the sumptuous style of the Mausoleum. The private house changed from a rectangular hall to a hollow rectangle around a court surrounded with columns.

With the conquest of the East by Alexander the Great, the insularity of Greek art was challenged by artists who selected as viable themes for their works not only different ethnic types, such as Persians and Indians, but also extreme physical forms, such as are seen in the old, infirm, and grotesque. The dissolution of Alexander’s empire into several rival dynasties produced kingdoms characterized by specific schools of art. For example, the Ptolemies of Egypt perpetuated the traditions of the Classical period and its 4th-century  BC successors. The Attalids of Pergamum, an ancient city of Asia Minor (present-day Bergama, Turkey) followed the lead of Scopas and others by concentrating on body movements contorted by violent combat. An illustrious example is the 400-ft-long frieze of the Altar to Zeus—the Pergamum Altar (now in the Pergamum Museum, Berlin), showing the battle of the Gods and the Giants. This work was erected at Pergamum by King Eumenes II, son of Attalus I Soter, who won noted victories over the Gauls and over the Seleucid king Antiochus III, the Great.

At the same time, sculpture was created that had open forms—that is, forms that tended to carry the eyes of the viewer beyond the space occupied by the figures—and an emotionally charged style. Famous examples include the  Sleeping Satyr (Palazzo Barberini, Rome); the Nike of Samothráki, or Winged Victory, and the Aphrodite of Melos, better known as the Venus de Milo (both in the Louvre). Additionally, sculpture in the Hellenistic Age relied on experimenting with new compositional devices. One favorite device, called the cross axe, portrays the human form with a twisted torso—that is, the head and limbs face in opposite directions to one another. This device is effectively employed in group compositions, such as Menelaus with the Body of Patroclus (Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence). In these and other works, the sculptors invite the viewer to walk around their compositions. In such a way are discovered, for example, the apples of the Hesperides held by Heracles behind his back (the  Heracles Farnese, National Museum, Naples) and both sexes of the Sleeping Hermaphrodite (Terme Museum, Rome).

Many of these innovations in Greek sculpture appealed to the Romans, who made copies of many works and modified them according to their taste, with the addition of one or more subsidiary figures, as seen in the Laocoön (Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican City). During Roman times most sculptors were Greeks who continued the Hellenistic tradition in Greece, Asia Minor, Africa, and Italy. See also Roman Art and Architecture; Sculpture.

During the Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries (see Renaissance Art and Architecture), the Greek tradition in art was revived and developed, mainly through the influence of Roman copies. Realism, a sense of proportion, and Greek architectural and design motifs began to appear in European art. The excavation of Pompeii and other Greco-Roman sites in the 18th century led to a new revival of the antique in Western architecture, sculpture, painting, and design in the late 18th and early 19th centuries (see Neoclassical Art and Architecture). The term classical became not only the name of a period in Greek art but also a term for Greek and Roman art in general, and beyond that a term meaning the best of its kind (see Classic, Classical, and Classicism).

Academic artists and architects imitated the outward characteristics of Greek art, often without grasping its spirit. In the 20th century, artists reacting against outworn academic traditions came to value Archaic Greek art more highly than that of later periods.

See also Greece; Greek Mythology. For additional information on individual artists, see biographies of those whose names are not followed by dates.

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