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Ancient Greece

The term ancient Greece refers to the period of Greek history lasting from the Greek Dark Ages ca. 1100 B.C. and the Dorian invasion, to 146 B.C. and the Roman conquest of Greece after the Battle of Corinth. It is generally considered to be the seminal culture which provided the foundation of Western civilization and shaped cultures throughout Southwest Asia and North Africa. Greek culture had a powerful influence on the Roman Empire, which carried a version of it to many parts of the Mediterranean region and Europe.

The end of the ancient Greek period was traditionally seen as the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C., which was seen to begin the Hellenistic period; however, ancient Greece is often taken to include the following period until the Roman conquest of 146 B.C.

The art of Ancient Greece is usually divided stylistically into three periods: the Archaic, the Classical and the Hellenistic. The Archaic period is usually dated from about 1000 B.C., although in reality little is known about art in Greece during the preceding 200 years (traditionally known as the Dark Ages). The onset of the Persian Wars (480 B.C. to 448 B.C.) is usually taken as the dividing line between the Archaic and the Classical periods, and the reign of Alexander the Great (336 BC to 323 BC) is taken as separating the Classical from the Hellenistic periods.

  • 1000 – 490 B.C. > Archaic Period > artists made larger free-standing sculptures in stiff, hieratic poses;
  • 500 – 323 B.C. > Classical Period > characterized by the trend towards a more naturalistic depiction of the world. Artists stopped merely “suggesting” the human form and began “describing” it with accuracy;
  • 323 – 146 B.C. > Hellenistic Period > when Greek culture and power expanded into the Near and Middle East. This period begins with the death of Alexander and ends with the Roman conquest. focused on the Real. Depictions of man in both art and literature revolved around exuberant and often amusing themes that for the most part explored the daily life and the emotional world of humans, gods, and heroes alike.

In reality, there was no sharp transition from one period to another. Forms of art developed at different speeds in different parts of the Greek world, and as in any age some artists worked in more innovative styles than others. Strong local traditions, conservative in character, and the requirements of local cults, enable historians to locate the origins even of displaced works of art.

Chronology websites for ancient Greece:

General ancient Greek history websites:

Greek Attic Hydria, Owl - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Greek Terracotta Figure, Tanagra - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Greek South Italian Situla - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Greek Attic Funerary Plaque - Metropolitan Museum of Art

Greek Attic Grave Stele - Metropolitan Museum of Art