Greek Art and Architecture

Greek Art and Architecture

Temple of Dionysus

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Greek Art and Architecture

The Classical Period of Greece started around 800 BC, and lasted no later than 300 BC. These were prosperous times for Greece. As a result, the Greek people dedicated large amounts of money to the arts, architecture, education, science, and philosophy. This period is sometimes referred to as the Golden Age of Greece. At this time music became an important part of a Greek education.

During the Classical Period architecture flourished. The most important building at this time was the Greek temple. It was used to house the local deity. Sacrifices to the gods were performed on an alter that sat in front of the temple. In the center of the temple was a windowless room called the noas. The noas was where a statue of the deity was housed. The average temple was rectangular in shape. The central section of the temple was encircled by a row of columns that formed a colonnade. Temples came in four principle parts: the cornice or roof, the columns, the frieze (wide central moldings that are decorated in bas-relief) and the architrave which is the beam that also rests on top of the crown or capital of the column. Bas-relief sculptures were carved slightly higher than the flat background.

The most impressive of all of the Greek temples were found in Athens, and the best example is the Parthenon. The Parthenon was dedicated to Athenos Parthenos. It is the finest example we have of Greek design and technical achievement. The Parthenon was the location of the gold and ivory statue of Athena created by the legendary Greek sculptor Pheidas. Three other amazing temples in Athens are the temples to Hephaisteion the Olympian, Zeus, and Erechthieon, which was on the Acropolis. Over the centuries three basis styles of decoration developed. They were the Doric order in the 7th century B.C., the Ionic order in the 5th century B.C., and the Corinthian order in the 4th century B.C. The Doric columns were fairly simple and void of decoration. The Ionic order featured a volute at the top of the columns that look like rams horns. The Corinthian columns were were decorated with acanthus leaves that protruded out of the crown (capital)of the column. Greek temples and statues were painted in the bright colors of red, blue, and yellow.

The Greeks were amazing sculptors. Almost all their statues were crafted out of marble or bronze. Besides the statues of deities that were featured in the temples, statues decorated public streets, parks, and individual homes. Statues were created life size and were both male and female. They were also largely nude. Frequently reoccurring sculpture themes included gods, heroes, and Olympic winners. Unfortunately, a great deal of the statues have been lost, destroyed, or melted down for their metal content. Fortunately, Roman replicas of most of the important sculptures have survived and they provide a wealth of information about the ancient lifestyles of the Greeks.

Pottery also developed as an important art form during Classical Greece. The Greeks used pottery to transport perfume, olive oil, and wine. They also used pottery for the preparation of food and in food storage. Pots were decorated with scenes of daily life, religious activities, and mythological figures, as well as athletic activities. Essentially, the Greeks produced two types of pottery, Black Figure and Red Figure.


The Parthenon