Accessible Art History
AP Art History - Ancient Greece, Part One
Welcome back to the Accessible Art History blog! This week, I’m continuing with my AP Art History series. We are still in unit two, The Ancient Mediterranean, and am moving forward with Ancient Greece. This section is quite a doozy, so I’ll be dividing this section into three posts! Today, we will start with some of the older objects from Ancient Greece! So, to learn more, keep on reading!
#26 - Athenian Agora
Besides creating great art, Ancient Greece is also known for being the birthplace of democracy. This is symbolized, in particular, by the Athenian Agora. This community, business, and political spaces were found all over Greece, but the one located in Athens represents the development of the new style of government and rule. It was filled with areas for social gatherings, store fronts, and religious temples. The idea of a space where people from all over the city could come and people (male citizens) could participate in the government was a revolutionary idea that would shape western civilization. The required image for the AP Art History test is actually a plan/schematic of the entire Agora.
Altar of Twelve Gods
Royal Stoa (Stoa Basileios)
Temple of Zeus, later Stoa of Zeus
Old and new Temple of Apollo Patroos
Aiakeion (not Heliaia as previously thought)
SE fount (often Enneakrunos)
Eleusinion (outside the map)
Temple of Hephaestus
Prytanikon, later Tholos
Monument of Eponymous Heros
Altar of Zeus Agoraios
Temple of Zeus Phratrios and Athene Phratria
House of Simon & agora boundary stone
South Stoa I
#27 - Anavysos Kouros
In Ancient Greece, Kouros figures are sculptures of young men. (The female equivalent is called a kore.) They are most commonly found in grave sites, standing in honor of the deceased. This particular example, known as the Anavysos Kouros, dates from the Archaic period, c. 540–515 BCE. It represents a young named Kroisos who fell in battle. There is an inscription that reads "Stop and show pity beside the marker of Kroisos, dead, whom, when he was in the front ranks, raging Ares destroyed"
Although this sculpture is fairly naturalistic, there are some details that are not. The most prominent is his stance. It is stiff, with his shoulders straight and his knees locked into place. Imagine standing like this in real life, your muscles would start to hurt after a while! Another interesting element of this work is the half smile the man has on his face. This is called an archaic smile and it is another hallmark of the era.
#28 - Peplos Kore
As I mentioned a moment ago, the female version of a kouros figure is called a kore. They are fairly similar in style and function, though the female figures are usually clothed, while male figures are almost always nude. This example of a Kore figure, the Peplos Kore, is one of the most famous. She dates from around 530 BCE, making her a contemporary of the Anavysos Kouros. This statue was discovered at the Acropolis, a site I will cover in a later video!
Despite her fame, the Peplos Kore is not a typical example of her type. One of the major differences is the fact that she does not stand stick straight. Looking at her gown, we can see a hint of her body underneath. It seems that she has shifted some of her weight to one leg and her head tilts slightly to one side. Although the Peplos Kore is dated to the Archaic period, we are starting to see the shift to the classical.
#33 - Niobides Krater
In many ancient cultures, as with today, everyday objects were often decorated to bring art and culture into people’s lives. Ancient Greece was no exception! This next object is an example of this concept. It is called the Niobides Krater and dates from c. 460-50 B.C.E. A krater was a vessel used in Ancient Greek households to dilute wine. This one was decorated with a scene from mythology. It shows the divine twins Apollo and Artemis in a story rarely shown in ancient art. The two are defending the honor of their mother, Leto. Another woman, named Niobe brags that she is better than the goddess because she has seven sons and seven daughters, while Leto just had the twins. Angered, Leto sent her children to kill Niobe’s with their arrows.
What makes this work so fascinating is its attempt to create all the scenes in three dimensions. This is a movement towards naturalism that the Greeks are so famous for! In addition, it is interesting to see how ancient cultures dealt with the themes of death and retribution.
These objects are just four of the amazing required images for Ancient Greece! Make sure to keep an eye out for the next post in this series!