Ancient Greek Art – Archaic Phase

The Greek "start"

Today we are going to learn more about the Archaic Phase of the Ancient Greek Art. The stage that brought to beautiful Classical works of Art!

Ready? 😉

Hi and welcome back to Exploring Art with Alessandro!

As anticipated in the previous post, today we will learn more about the ancient Greece during the artistic period of time known as Archaic Phase.

It is an important moment for the ancient Greek Art history that goes from 700 BC to about 500 BC when the Persian Wars started. Why important? Well art usually is an evolution, but the Archaic Phase represents really a big step ahead compared to the Geometric stage. Even if the word “archaic” means “old” and it could suggest a primitive stage.

What was going on?

Art of the Archaic Phase is a consequence of a great revolution in the Greek society. Everything started with the establishment of the first “poleis“. They were the distinctively Greek city-states under the rule of autocratic leaders, called “tyrants”, but where law and systems of communal decision-making started to develop.

These first steps brought the poleis to grow earliest evidence for law codes and constitutional structures. As a consequence, the foundation for democracy.

I want to specify that we will see the full development and strength of the poleis during the Classical phase. Both Athens and Sparta are perfect examples. However, it is during the Archaic stage that Greek politics, economics, international relations, warfare and culture were revolutionized. And one of the biggest innovations was the creation of the alphabet. In fact, it gave the opportunity to write the earliest Greek literature with thousands of legends and myths!

That welfare improvement brought to a massive increase in the Greek population that doubled during the eighth century!

Actually, some scholars state that it was part of a wider phenomenon of population growth across the Mediterranean area at that time. Which may have been caused by a climatic shift that took place between 850 and 750, which made the region cooler and wetter. This led to the expansion of population into uncultivated areas of Greece and was probably also a driver for colonization abroad. The consequence was a spread of Greek culture with a big influence in particular on the future Roman Empire‘s culture. Not by chance Romans used to call the Greek Southern Italy’s colonies Magna Graecia (“Great Greece”)!

Greek colonization Archaic Phase

Consequence on Visual Arts

What we know for sure is that in visual art we have evidence of this life improvement. In the pottery we go from the repeating patterns of the late geometric period to the earliest black-figure vases.

Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora_Archaic period
Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora_Archaic Phase

Also in the sculpture we see a big change with the life-size human sculptures in hard stone that are going to be the prelude to the classic ones. At the moment in fact the statues are still in simple postures, but it’s just the first step to reach the perfection… Perfection that will be reached following the natural proportions.

Kroisos statue_Ancient Greek Art - Archaic Phase
Kroisos statue, Archaic Phase

Another important innovation in visual art, the most evident to anyone actually, is the development of permanent temples as a regular feature of sanctuary sites. Yes, exactly: the famous stone Greek temples with a lot of elegant columns and decorations.

Temple of Neptune, Paestum Italy
Temple of Neptune, Paestum - Italy

They “boomed” in their “basic” style during the Archaic period in all Greece and then the Greek colonies started a beautiful revolution in architecture!

Please follow the next posts and videos because we are going to see some amazing examples of Archaic art and discover some interesting surprises! See you soon and don’t forget to check my social medias for other cool pics!

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