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Art and Architecture

Greek Art and Architecture

Greek humanism, Greek legacy, Greek artists, Magna Graecia, architecture today

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Greek Art and Architecture, paintings, sculpture, buildings, and decorative arts produced in ancient Greece, from about 1050 bc to 31 bc. Greek civilization encompassed not only mainland Greece but also nearby islands in the Aegean Sea, the western coast of Turkey (known as Ionia), southern Italy and Sicily (known as Magna Graecia, or Great Greece), and by the late 300s bc, Egypt, Syria, and other Near Eastern lands. Among its best-known monuments are stone temples, statues of human figures, and painted vases.

The importance of Greek art and architecture for the history of Western civilization can hardly be overstated, for the Greeks established many of the most enduring themes, attitudes, and forms of Western culture. The stories told in Greek art and literature of gods and heroes have been retold ever since and continue to form a common ground for the art, literature, and even popular culture of the Western world.

Greek artists were the first to establish mimesis (imitation of nature) as a guiding principle for art, even as Greek philosophers debated the intellectual value of this approach. The repeated depiction of the nude human figure in Greek art reflects Greek humanism—a belief that 'Man is the measure of all things,' in the words of Greek philosopher Protagoras. Architecture is another Greek legacy that the West has inherited, as Greece established many of the structural elements, decorative motifs, and building types still used in architecture today.


Hurwit, Jeffrey M., A.B., M.A., Ph.D.

Professor of Art History and Classics, University of Oregon. Author of "The Athenian Acropolis", and "The Art and Culture of Early Greece, 1100-480 BC".

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