Phryne, thy human lips shall pale,
Thy rounded limbs decay;
Not love nor prayer can aught avail
To bid thy beauty stay.
But there thy smile for centuries
On marble lips shall live;
For art can grant what love denies,
And fix the fugitive.
When all our hopes and fears are dead,
And both our hearts are cold,
And love is like a tune that's played,
And life a tale that's told,
This senseless stone, so coldly fair,
That life nor love can warm,
The same enchanting look shall wear,
The same enchanting form.
And there upon the silent face
Shall unborn ages see
Perennial youth, perennial grace,
And sealed serenity.
And strangers, when we sleep in peace,
Shall say, not quite unmoved,
So smiled upon Praxiteles
The Phryne whom he loved.
The architecture and art of the great nations of antiquity have been sketched in the preceding pages, of those who dwelt in the valley of the Euphrates, on the delta of the Nile, on the plains of Iran and India, in China and Japan, together with such mention of the native races of America as their cruder forms of artistic conception would seem to require. In Europe it is but natural that art should first make its home in the peninsula which is separated only by a narrow strip of sea from the coast of Asia; nor is it to be wondered at that the earlier structures and sculptures of the Greeks should have much in common with those of Egypt Assyria, and Persia, though never marred with their stiffness and rigidity of outline. But these influences did not long endure, and nowhere do the achievements of civilization assume such dazzling luster as on the page of Hellenic story,—the word Greece, it may here be observed, being of Roman origin, and never used by the Greeks themselves. Yet it was a brilliance that was not destined to endure; for the classic period of art did not exceed a century and a half; so that the son of him who saw its dawn may have lived to see its decadence. While it lasted, however, it was a phenomenon such as the world had never witnessed before, and never again may witness.
From the time of the pyramid builders the history of architecture has been one of continuous progress and change, but not always of continuous improvement, so far at least as artistic qualities are concerned, each period and almost every nation having its own peculiarities, though in none was the prevailing style entirely original. Thus, as in their earlier structural compositions, the Greeks borrowed from the Egyptians and Assyrians, and the Romans from the Greeks, both medieval and modern architecture are largely in imitation of the classic. Yet in all there are certain distinctive features which cannot be readily mistaken; so that from the plan of a building, or even from its decorative scheme, may be determined the era and school to which it belongs. The various orders that have succeeded or merged into each other will form in part the theme of later chapters of this work; nor is it my purpose here to speak of the dramatic or other literature of the Greeks, though closely connected with their art; for both music and poetry may find expression on canvas, in marble or bronze, or in architectural embellishment, as well as in sound or on printed page.
As with architecture, so with sculpture and painting, progress has been incessant, if not always in the right direction; for there is a limit to human achievement, and especially in the sculptors art it is possible that the Greeks attained to the highest degree of excellence of which mankind is capable. By some it has been said that Greek art is lacking in expression; but in answer to this charge may be quoted the words of a well-known critic, himself a sculptor of repute. "Greek artists were enlightened by the philosophers, and the gods represented by their sculptors were pure, passionless, and beautiful. In their art the Greeks themselves were gods, and with all our efforts we find it hard to creep upward after them; for the eminence on which they stand is beyond our reach.
Their grand works are ever new, and always produce fresh enchantment; but m order to obtain a proper conception of their merits, and to understand the sublime and beautiful therein expressed, the taste must be cultivated by long study and experience. To surpass the best works of the Greeks is a hopeless task; to approach them is a triumph.”
In order to understand the genius of Greek art, let us consider for a moment the environment and characteristics of the nation which, occupying so small a corner on the great stage of the world, yet played its part so grandly; for the world has seen nothing more magnificent than the great military dramas enacted at Marathon, at Thermopylae, at Salamis and Plataea, followed by the brief but brilliant classic era which came to an end with the conquest of Hellas by Philip of Macedon. Small as was their country, it contained all the elements of the picturesque, together with all that was requisite for defense, for commercial intercourse, and for industrial development. Surrounded on three sides by the sea and on the fourth by mountain barriers impassable except through narrow defiles, its shores were indented with harbors, many of them running far inland and affording ready access to the coast, while fertile plains and valleys, alternating with lofty mountain ranges yielded an abundance of cereals and fruits, of pasture for flocks and herds, of valuable timber, and of the useful and precious metals. The Greek was both mariner and mountaineer, familiar with the sea and fond of adventure and roaming; yet though he loved well the ocean breeze, he loved better the breath of his painting native hills, bathed in the transparent atmosphere which clearly revealed their beauty of form and outline. Like the later dwellers in Alpine regions, he owed much of his bodily and mental vigor, his alertness and versatility, his keen and ready wit, to the physical features of the land that gave him birth. But more was due to his simple mode of life, his athletic training, his cleanliness, his frugal diet, and his temperance in all things.
A nation thus nurtured, to whom freedom was a birthright, and in which every citizen was inspired with the noblest ambition of manhood, could not be otherwise than a nation of heroes; and no wonder that modern literature and art never tire of reproducing the splendors of Greece, of throwing upon them the side-lights of many subsequent ages. From the free and natural life of the Greek his art unfolded with a beauty of its own, the tastes of this nation of artists being guided and developed by an education that was essentially artistic. At an age when the modern student is wrestling with the intricacies of Plato and Aristotle, a Greek youth would criticize with the skill of a connoisseur the design of a temple or the outlines of a Phidian statue. With foreign languages he did not trouble himself; since nothing that they contained would compare with the treasure in his own. Poetry, rhetoric, and philosophy were his favorite studies, though to politics he gave much of his time, for to become a statesman was his chief and often his only ambition. Music was an essential part of his training, and to play on the flute and sing to the accompaniment of the harp were among the accomplishments of polite society. In a word, whatever was beautiful belonged to the culture of the Greeks; for as Zeno declared, beauty was the noblest flower of virtue, the most handsome men being selected at Elis to carry the sacrificial offerings, while the supple and shapely victors at Olympian games were honored with statues and with the choicest seats at public festivals.
It is in truth refreshing to turn from the art so painfully evolved under the incubus of eastern despotism to the pure artistic atmosphere of Greece, beneath whose sky the human race first claimed its heritage of freedom. Wonderful as was the civilization of the Orient, now revealed to us through modern discovery, it was one with which we are not in sympathy; for while we cannot but admire the results, we shudder at the cruelty by which these results were attained. The story of Egyptian, of Babylonian and Assyrian architecture and sculpture is written in human suffering, in the misery of innumerable multitudes crushed like grains of sand beneath pyramids and colossi. It was not so with the Greeks, among whom none were more highly honored than the artist and the artificer. Nor was there any place in their art for the grim deities which dwelt by the Nile and the Euphrates. They fashioned their own gods; fashioned them in human forms and with human attributes, removing only the limitation of mortality; for to them man was himself an apotheosis, the culmination of all things created, and to the gods they could ascribe nothing better than the perfection of the human form. Their gods were also represented as heroes and athletes, at least one of them taking part in the Olympian Games, and even of human vices they partook, though in a measure softened and purified, while the beauty and strength of the mortal became in the immortal yet more beautiful and strong. The divinities of the earlier Greeks were regarded rather as companions and friends; for there was neither kingly nor priestly despotism to interfere with liberty of thought, and the childish fear of an avenging deity, common to Christian as well as to Pagan nations, was unto the Greeks as foolishness.
As with other ancient nations, the architecture of the Greeks was seen to best advantage in their temples, though there are monuments older than any of the temples; for the gods of the Pelasgic races, the first to rule in Greece, were worshiped on mountain tops or in groves where their voices were heard in the rustling of leaves. At Mycenae, wealthy Mycenae, as Homer terms it, surrounded as was Tiryus, with a wall of rough cyclopean masonry, is still in a state of fair preservation the tomb and treasury of Atreus, the largest and most perfect of its kind. It consists of two subterraneous chambers, built in horizontal courses uniting at the top in a pointed arch or dome, this form being afterward found in Italy and Asia Minor, and with certain modifications as late as the Middle Ages. The entrance was adorned with marble pilasters of various colors; the walls were richly sculptured, and the dome was lined with plates of bronze, the holes for the nails still appearing in several rows. Here and in other vaults was stored the wealth of the kings of Mycenae, of whom Atreus was one of the earliest,—tripods and vases, of gold, the richly decorated weapons and equipments of the heroic age, and garments of finest texture embroidered with purple and gold.
Chieftains are described by Homer as dwelling in stately edifices glittering with the precious metals, as travelling swiftly in chariots drawn by the powerful steeds of Argos, or in galleys manned by many oarsmen. But when dealing with sober facts, we can only, of course, accept as poetic imagery the brilliant word-painting of the Iliad, as where it gives to the palace of Alcinous brazen walls and golden doors having silver posts and lintels, while the abode of Menelaus is resplendent as the mansion of Jove himself. No temples, it may be remarked, are mentioned by Homer or any of the earlier poets, the gods dwelling above the clouds, where they feast on nectar and ambrosia, condescending at times to feast with mortals, as when Zeus banquets with the "blameless Ethiopians, and returning presently, disciplines sharply Juno, his wife, for untimely interference with his flirtations among Olympian goddesses.
Pelasgic civilization culminates with the Trojan War, and it was not until several centuries later that Hellenic culture began to make itself felt. Meanwhile the Cypselidae, a race with strongly marked Asiatic characteristics, had made of Corinth a great commercial city, the home of the nascent art of Hellas. Here ruled Cypselus about 657 BC, his son and successor, Periander being numbered among the wise men of Greece and exalting Corinth far above all other cities. It is even said that painting was first introduced by the Corinthians, and certain it is that their richly decorated bronzes, coffers, and other articles of luxury were in demand throughout the ancient world. Among them was the cedar chest of Cypselus, profusely inlaid with figures in ivory and gold, one of the most finished masterpieces of archaic art.
The earlier architecture of the Corinthians partook somewhat of Egyptian proportions and especially of Egyptian massiveness, as appears in a Doric temple belonging to the age of Cypselus, the diameter of the pillars being more than one-fourth of their height, while the architrave was one of the heaviest of which there are any remains. To the middle of the sixth century, so far as can be determined from its sculptural design, belongs the miniature temple at Ægina, its famous marble statues, as restored by Thorwaldsen, being preserved in the Glyptothek at Munich, while many of its Doric columns are still standing in a sequestered corner of the island, overlooking the gulf of that name and the Attic coast beyond. About this time was probably erected the first great temple on the Acropolis at Athens , destroyed by the Persians, as were many other Grecian fanes, most of those which remained being demolished or rebuilt by the Greeks themselves, as unworthy of their national greatness. Hence nearly all the classic temples whose ruins have been preserved were built within half a century after the final overthrow of the Persians.
Before proceeding further a few remarks may be in place as to the temple architecture of the Greeks, wherein expression was given to the highest forms of Hellenic art In its original shape the temple was merely a hollow tree in which was placed an image of the presiding deity; then came a wooden house, and then one of stone, such as were used for the habitation of man, most of these earlier structures serving for the abode and not for the worship of the gods. In design they were extremely simple, and almost uniform in plan,—a rectangular building with peristyle or porticos, lighted from an opening in the center, and thence called hypaethral, or under the sky, the roof being of marble resting above the entrance on a richly ornamented entablature, where was the decorative scheme and the point of architectural emphasis.
In front of the pronaos, or vestibule, if intended for worship, was an altar on which sacrifices were offered in presence of the devout; in the naos, or temple proper, was a statue of the god, and back of this the opisthodomus, where were kept the treasures of the sanctuary, and often those of the citizens, thus taking the place of banks or safe-deposits, especially in time of war.
In the earlier temples columns were used only for support of the roof, and in all the elaborate ornamentation of later periods this purpose was always kept in view. It was in relation to the structural form and embellishment of the columns that Greek architecture was divided into the three orders known as the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. Of the Doric pillar, and especially of the triglyph which adorned its entablature, we have the prototype in Upper Egypt, as in the temple of Beni Hassan on the Nile. Between the triglyphs were the metopes, originally open spaces serving as windows, but later covered with tablets sculptured in relief. The pillars were without bases, resting only on the substructure, the massive, fluted columns tapering toward the top and surmounted by a plain, heavy capital. On the architrave were often golden inscriptions, with gilded shields suspended in token of victory. The ceiling and frieze were painted with the brightest of colors, the roof of the portico usually with golden stars on a ground of blue, contrasting with the simpler beauties of polished marble columns and statuary.
In grace and delicacy the Ionic order is as much above the Doric, as was the later Doric above the stiffness of Egyptian architecture; for the Greeks sought the beautiful everywhere, and whatever they found they were not slow to improve. Compactness is the feature of the Doric style; versatility of the Ionic, the latter showing much variety of design, with greater independence of the various members. The shaft of the column is more slender, its flutings more numerous and more deeply hollowed; above the square plinth on which it rests are two enclosing rings, and the capital is adorned with spiral volutes, probably of Assyrian origin. All portions of the entablature are partially covered with moldings; the architrave is in three faces, each slightly projecting beyond the one below, and with a lower cornice between it and the frieze. Of the origin of this beautiful style of architecture the following is the explanation given by Vitruvius here repeated in substance, for what it is worth. When about to build a temple to Diana, the Ionian colonists in Asia Minor bethought them of a new method which would improve on the Doric fashion of proportioning the column according to the form of a man. So they imparted to it the delicacy of the female figure, making the diameter one-eighth of its height, forming the base in twisted cords, like the sandals of a woman, placing on the capital volutes like the hair which hangs from her head, and fluting the pillar in imitation of the folds of her garments. Thus were invented the two orders, one imitating the dignity of man, the other the beauty of woman.
While there may be some truth in this fanciful description, it cannot of course be accepted as sober reality, albeit the De Architectura of Vitruvius, though little esteemed in the time of Augustus, to whom it was dedicated, exercised a powerful influence from the early renaissance almost until the present day. If as to the earlier forms of the Ionic capital there is much difference of opinion, it is reasonably certain that the Ionian colonists borrowed their model from Nineveh, the curls of the volutes being probably suggested by the curved wire-work of Assyrian goldsmiths.
From an intermingling of the Ionic and Doric orders, but with the former strongly predominating, comes the style of architecture known as the Attic, in which the capital is less slender, the frieze much wider, and the capital projects more boldly in its strongly emphasized volutes. In both the Attic and Ionic is a lavish display of crowning and terminating members in graceful profile, rich in sculptural ornaments and without the garishness of coloring observed in the later Doric, pictorial decoration largely giving place to plastic art.
in the design of the Corinthian column is attributed to Callimachus, the idea being suggested, as is said, by an acanthus plant encircling a basket placed above the grave of a Corinthian virgin. This according to Vitruvius, who adds that is was intended “to represent the delicacy of a young girl whose age renders her form more pleasing and better adapted to such ornaments as may add to her natural charms.” But here again we must look to Nineveh for the origin of the Corinthian capital; for in Assyrian sculptures it is clearly shown, while in the temple of Apollo at Miletus, erected at least a century before the lifetime of Callimachus, the acanthus leaf is arranged around the drum of the capital. The Corinthian is the most slender of Grecian columns, with a diameter ten times its height, deep semielliptical flutings terminating at the head in leaves, usually those of the acanthus, and often with double rows and branches rising above each other, the inner branches inclining toward the center where they meet in spiral wreaths and the curved, outer branches supporting the plinth. Thus in the entablature the transition from circular to quadratic forms is skillfully effected, while the richness of elaboration permitted by the introduction of floral designs gave to the Corinthian order the popularity which it has ever since retained.
Still another variety of columnar design was in the Caryatides originally used in the temples of Diana and representing the figures of her virgins. The introduction of human figures in conjunction with columns, or in place of them, was common in Egypt, India, and Persia; but the weight was supported on the uplifted hands, and not on the head as among the Greeks. It was a somewhat questionable style, though occasionally used with such taste that the female form does not seem out of place even when supporting a massive entablature.
And so with the giant frames which partially supported the roof of the great temple at Agrigentum, these being only adjuncts to the masonry, though their place would have been better filled by some purely architectural feature.
Before entering Athens, some further mention may be made of earlier Greek temples, and especially those of Diana at Ephesus and of Hera or Juno at Samos, both of which were essentially Greek and of magnificent proportions. The temple which Herostratus destroyed, and whose ruins were unearthed from beneath some twenty feet of soil, late in the present century, was the finest monument of primitive Ionic art. An octostyle structure of pure white marble, it was 418 by 240 feet around its double row of lofty columns, each of the architrave blocks being 30 feet in length. The frieze was adorned with mythological figures, and many of the pillars were sculptured in high relief to the height of a man above ground, fragments preserved in the British museum showing that here was the workmanship of no common hands. After its destruction in 356, it was rebuilt in still more imposing outlines through contributions from all the cities of Asia Minor, the women of Ephesus selling their jewelry and plate, while many of the columns and other materials came as gifts from oriental monarchs. Alexander the Great it is said, on the night of whose birth the temple was destroyed, offered to pay the entire cost of reconstruction on condition that his name be inscribed on the pediment; but this the people would not permit; for though the conqueror of Greece and of the Orient, Alexander was not an Ephesian. In the days of Augustus it was used not only as a sanctuary, but as a museum and a bank; since nowhere in the world could treasures be more safely lodged than under the protection of Diana of the Ephesians.
To the same period and to the same order as the original temple of Artemis, belongs that of Hera at Samos, embellished and enriched by Polycrates, so that it became the wealthiest and most famous of all Grecian sanctuaries, the costliest gifts of friendly sovereigns and the masterpieces of Hellenic art being stored within its walls. Its dimensions were somewhat smaller than those of the Ephesian structure, which alone could rival it in splendor; but all that now remains is the fragment of a headless column which gives its name to the adjacent promontory of Cape Colonna. The statue of the goddess, like that of Artemis, represented an Asiatic deity, and though later identified with the Hera of the Greek mythology, had none of the queen-like aspect of stately "white-armed” Juno.
Of the first temple of the Pythian Apollo at Delphi, the founding of which belongs to a pre-historic age, no records have come down to us except that it was built of stone. Destroyed by fire in 548, it was reconstructed at a cost of 300 talents, collected from many Grecian cities, the Alkmaeonidae, an exiled Athenian family to whom the contract was awarded, also expending on it much of their private means. A combination of the Doric and Ionic orders, the former prevailing in exterior forms, its front was of Parian marble, its pediments and frieze were richly decorated with mythological sculptures, and on the architraves were many trophies, including gilded shields from the spoils of Marathon. On the walls of the adytum were inscribed the maxims of the seven sages; in the cella, as in Persian temples, fire was forever burning on the consecrated hearth, and here the mystic omphalos pointed to the center of the earth, while seated on a tripod in the adytum, the priestess inhaled the subterranean vapors that inspired her dubious prophecies.
More than all others, the Delphic fane served as a repository of wealth and as a mark for the despoiler, the Phoenicians carrying away the equivalent of $12,000,000 in gold and silver, and yet there remained sufficient to satisfy the rapacity even of Roman free-booters. From its treasures Sulla obtained the means to pay his legions; for the decoration of Roman sanctuaries Nero removed hundreds of brazen images, and for his capital on the Bosphorus Constantine transferred the priceless statues of the Heliconian muses.
Among other ancient temples were those of Zeus and Hera at Olympia, both simple structures of the Doric order, the latter adorned with statuary and reliefs representing the most ancient legendry of the Greeks. On an ivory throne, elaborately carved and richly inlaid with gems, was seated the Olympian Zeus in robes of figured gold, crowned with a wreath of olive, grasping with one hand the scepter, and in the other supporting an image of victory. The god was of majestic figure and with ambrosial curls depending from his broad, commanding brow, embodying the idea as of one who ruled the world without effort and held it at his nod. Above the golden lions of the jeweled footstool, Hercules, Theseus, and other heroes, some of them descending from high Olympus, were engaged in conflict with the Amazons, such legendary combats being the favorite theme of the Greeks, as prefiguring their ultimate triumph over Asiatic races. It was in truth a noble statue and well worthy of the theme and the artificer, for it was one of the two great masterpieces of Phidias, "the sculptor of the gods,” the other being the chryselephantine statue of Athena in the Parthenon.
Until the time of the Persian war Sparta stood at the head of the Hellenic confederacy; but here were no great monuments such as those of Athens and Corinth, even its temple of Athena containing little that was worthy of admiration, while its theater was of rough, hewn blocks, and in its porticos and colonnades were no elements of the picturesque. In truth the fame of Sparta rests almost entirely on her military prowess and on her intense but narrow patriotism. Her great men were eminent as soldiers but as nothing else. Rulers and politicians were abundant; but statesmen were few, and among them were none who belonged to the highest rank. In this nation of warriors we search in vain for any trace of the enlightened policy of Pericles; for any glimpse of the higher civilization to which the Athenians attained. To the latter, and even to other Grecian states, they were almost as inferior as were the Gauls to the great nation which fell under the scourge of Alaric and Genseric. Apart from some rude attempts at sculpture they had neither art nor literature worthy of the name. Oratory and philosophy they despised; letters they held in contempt, and they had neither music nor song, except for the singing of martial or sacred hymns to the accompaniment of the lyre. In a word they were merely a body of valiant and well-disciplined men-at-arms, while even their military reputation was tarnished by a debasing superstition which more than once brought them into discredit among the more cultured communities of Hellas.
Soon after the battle of Plataea the Athenians began to rebuild the city which the Persians had destroyed, adjacent quarries furnishing an abundance of material. Its two parallel walls were of rectangular blocks of uncemented stone, hastily constructed, except those of the harbors of Piraeus and Munychia, built by Themistocles for the protection of the fleet.
Erected amid the central plain of Attica, which is enclosed on three sides by on mountains and on the fourth by the sea, the Athens of the days of Pericles was built around the Acropolis, whose summit had stood the ancient citadel and in part the city itself, but now reserved for temples and other public edifices. Aside from these monuments there was nothing attractive in the new Hellenic capital. Its narrow and winding thoroughfares, unpaved, undrained, and littered with poisonous refuse, were flanked with unsightly dwellings that presented to the street the bare and windowless curtain-wall of a single story of wood or sun-burnt brick. Even the dwellings of the rich were entirely without pretension; for modesty in all that related to themselves and their households was one of the virtues of the community, and to erect a costly edifice for private use would have brought on its owner the contempt of his fellow-citizens. In later times and, especially during the Macedonian period, there were doubtless handsome residences with spacious courts and gardens, and well stored with works of art; but there was never in Hellas anything that could be termed a palace, the people reserving their means for temples and public buildings which, in truth, were on a magnificent scale.
Crowning the western brow of the Acropolis, and approached by a flight of marble steps, 70 feet in width , was the Propylaea, so-called because it formed the vestibule to the gateways of the citadel. It was a structure of Pentelic marble erected a few years after the completion of the Parthenon which it rivaled in beauty of outline and surpassed in originality of design. In the center were hexastyle porticos each with fluted Doric columns 29 feet in height and nearly five in diameter, their ceilings adorned in the most finished style of Hellenic art and supported by blocks of marble resting on the lateral walls. A court thus divided led to the wall of the citadel, pierced with five entrances of which the largest was in the center, those at the extremities smaller than the intervening pair, and all corresponding with the intercolumniation of the porticos. Beyond this was another court leading to the plateau of the Acropolis, and with Doric colonnade and entablature, as in the outer space. As projecting wings on each side were smaller structures, which may have served either as temples or lodges, their moldings brightly colored and their antae with an azure fringe resembling ivy leaf. Yet the uneven style of these buildings, with their entablatures abutting against the walls of the larger edifice, the beauty and simplicity of the group when considered as an architectural composition.
Opposite the southern wing of the Propylaea, Cimon, returning with the spoils of a victorious campaign against the Persians, erected the small but beautiful temple of Nike Apteros, or Wingless Victory. It remained almost intact until near the close of the seventeenth century, when it was destroyed by the Turks and the materials used for the construction of a battery, some portions of the frieze being now preserved in the British museum. In 1835 it was reconstructed from the remains of the original building, those which were lacking being replaced by terracotta casts. Yet the sculptures have been defaced beyond recognition, and in the edifice as now it stands there is little of artistic value.
Towering above the roof of the Propylaea was the colossal bronze statue of Athena Promachos; so-named because the guardian deity of Athens, the personification of pure and perfect womanhood, the queen of the air and the light, the patroness of science and art, was also a warrior "foremost in the fight.” This also was from the hand of Phidias, and as to size the greatest of his works; for including the base it was 70 feet in height, its crested helmet and uplifted spear serving as a landmark for approaching vessels, while so majestic were the proportions and so commanding the features of the virgin goddess that, as is related, the hosts of Alaric shrunk in terror from her gaze. The pedestal is all that now remains, though the figure has often been reproduced from Attic coins.
On the highest of the terraced platform of the Acropolis, on the site of the ancient temple which the Persians had destroyed, was completed in 438 the architectural glory known as the Parthenon, or Virgin's Chamber. Constructed entirely of white Pentelic marble, from the designs of Ictinus, and in the purest style of Doric art, it was intended merely as a monument in honor of Athena and as a storehouse for her treasures, without aiming at magnitude of proportion or novelty of plan; for the main features of the former building were reproduced and its dimensions not exceeded by more than 50 feet. The decorative scheme was entrusted to Phidias but was not entirely the work of his hands; the frieze alone, sculptured in low relief with figures representing the Panathenaic procession, being 520 feet in length.
Most of these sculptures, with casts from other fragments, representing so far as is possible the entire series of Parthenon marbles, have been preserved in the British museum, and in countless reproductions have been made known to the world. On the metopes and pediments were the famous torso of Theseus, the well-known figures of the Fates, and the magnificent head of the steed yoked to the car of Night, with scenes from the legendry of Attica, as the combat between Athena and Poseidon. But the frieze was most remarkable for the classic beauty of its reliefs, color increasing their effect as the Athenians saw them in the days of Pericles. The festival of the Panathenaea, with its attendant procession, was among the most honored of Athenian institutions, its origin dating back to the reign of Cecrops, the Egyptian founder of the city and the author of its religious rites. In the long train which wended its way toward the eastern portal were the beauty and chivalry of Athens, fair maidens and handsome youths in chariots or on prancing steeds, minstrels and musicians, high priests and civic dignitaries, with oxen decked for the sacrifice; for was not Athens the city of Athena, her own city, its possession decreed to her who had produced in the olive the gift most useful to man?
In order to understand the interior arrangement, it should first be stated that the temple was not intended as a place of worship, but, as I have said, for the safekeeping of the treasures of Athena and of her chosen people. Though in front of her statue was a structure resembling an altar, it was probably intended for the victors in Panathenaic contests, who here received their prizes of golden wreaths and vases filled with olive oil. Through a portico of Doric columns was entered the pronaos, where were stored the sacred vessels, and whence a massive doorway led into the hecatompedos, so-called because it was 100 Attic feet in length, the space being divided by rows of pillars into a triple nave, and with another series of pillars forming a double gallery and supporting a partially open ceiling. Here were many vessels and ornaments both of gold and silver such as were used at the festivals, while in the opisthodomus, the rear compartment of the edifice, were the accumulated treasures of the confederacy of Delos, amounting in purchasing power to $100,000,000, as money is now computed.
But the main interest of the Parthenon was in the hecatompedon, with its forest of pillars, its 40 or more colossal statues, its 4,000 square feet of sculptures in relief all executed under the direction of Phidias, and in the adytum, which formed the Parthenon proper, his chryselephantine statue of Athena Parthenos. For this colossal figure, nearly 40 feet in height, representing the goddess in golden drapery and with golden helmet, aegis, and shield, was used metal valued at 45 talents, but so adjusted that it could be removed at will. The undraped portions of the form were of ivory tinted with the hues of life, face, hands, and arms being fashioned with joinings so perfectly wrought that they appeared as though carved from a single piece. The lustrous eyes, gazing straight forward into space, were treated in gems and enamel, and looking up to them was a winged figure of Victory resting on the right hand. The shield, resting on the ground and partially covering the sacred serpent, was richly decorated with battle scenes, and on the pedestal was represented the birth of Pandora in the presence of the gods.
Opposite the Parthenon, and intended seemingly as a relief to its severe simplicity of style was the Erectheium, its slender, graceful Ionic pillars contrasting sharply with the massive Doric columns which they confronted. Standing close to the northern wall of the Acropolis on the site of a former structure destroyed, by the Persians, it was the latest of its classic temples, completed probably on the eve of the Peloponnesian war. In form it differed from the rest, having no portico on its western front, but in its place one projecting north and south in the form of a transept, with the roof of the southern projection supported by Caryatides.
There was no pronaos, the eastern portico, which was somewhat lacking in depth, serving as the fane of Athena Polias and containing one of the most ancient of her statues, for before which a golden lamp was ever burning, this was the most sacred of Hellenic sanctuaries. Here also was the sacred serpent, the guardian of the Acropolis, and in another chamber the olive sprung miraculously from the soil, whence came all the fertile groves of Attica.
Such were the chief architectural monuments of Athens, though elsewhere were other and older monuments, especially those erected by Cimon, one of the wealthiest and most liberal of the Athenians of the classic age. Among them was the Theseum, on an eminence north of the Areopagus, built, it is said, for the tomb of Theseus, and serving at once as a mausoleum, temple, and asylum. It is one of the best preserved of Grecian fanes, being used in the Byzantine period as a Christian church, and now, as a museum of antiquities, containing some of the choicest treasures unearthed by recent explorations. A small but symmetrical hexastyle structure of the Doric order, its principal sculptures were on the metopes of the main facade and those which adjoined them on either side, the figures representing in bold relief the exploits of Theseus and Hercules.
To Pisistratus, cousin to Solon and tyrant of Athens, is attributed the founding of the Olympium, or temple of Zeus Olympius, south of the Acropolis, completed many centuries later during the reign of the emperor Hadrian; for the Athenians would have nothing to do with a monument intended to perpetuate the memory of a tyrant. When finished, chiefly through Hadrian's munificence but also from the gifts of foreign princes, it was one of the grandest edifices in the world, its interior divided into the usual compartments by rows of tall Corinthian pillars, while over the architraves were later suspended the gilded shields which Mummius gathered at the sack of Corinth. In the cella was a chryselephantine statue of Jove more than 40 feet high, the combination of gold, gems, and flesh-tinted ivory imparting such dazzling radiance that the god himself was supposed to dwell in his statue and kindle it with his lightning. Near the Olympium was the sanctuary of the Pythian Apollo, also attributed to the age of Pisistratus, as was the Lyceum, originally a temple of Apollo and probably completed by Pericles. Adjacent to it, but of uncertain origin, was the Gymnasium, the favorite resort of Aristotle and of the earlier disciples of the Peripatetic school, while the Academy with its beautiful gardens, where Plato lived and taught, owed something to the Pisistratids, as did many of the buildings and statues of the Agora and perhaps the Agora itself, where was the center of civic as well as of commercial life. On one side of the marketplace was a colonnade, backed by a supporting wall on which were the paneled paintings side of the marketplace that gave their name to the Stoa Poikile, where Zeno taught his many followers and handled roughly the doctrines of the earlier schools.
Among the most ancient of Athenian records are those of its drama, whose temples were originally rough wooden structures, often merely open platforms erected as the occasion required. It was in such buildings that Thespis acted his successive roles, and that the lust of the tragedies of Aeschylus was exhibited about 500 BC, his rival, Sophocles, who wrested from him the tragic prize some 30 years later, probably finding better accommodation for the collapse of one of these wooden frames led to the erection of a marble, or at least a stone edifice with rock-hewn tiers of seats, where afterward stood the Diony siac theater. Completed and restored, shown as is shown by its sculptures, in the second and perhaps in the third century of our era, this later temple of the drama was of solid masonry and of colossal proportions, large enough for the population of Athens and the strangers who came from afar to take part in the Dionysiac festival. It was roofless but covered with an awning, beneath which were marble thrones for those whom the people honored, and for the people themselves, rows of seats extended in widening curves toward the summit, whence could be clearly seen the hills of "sea-born Salamis."
Of the earlier glories of Corinth, a flourishing center in the days of Homer, and long before his time known as the town of Ephyre, brief mention has already been made. When Athens was merely a village, Corinth was famed throughout the ancient world for her wealth her commerce, her resources, her inventions, and works of art. Here the first trireme was constructed, and through an ingenious device resembling the modern ship railroad vessels were transported across the isthmus to the waters beyond. In subsequent eras the chaste simplicity of Corinthian architecture, which had served as a model for Hellas, gave place to the more florid style which has been so widely imitated. The city was filled with temples theaters, and other edifices, rich in columnar ornamentation and statues of gold and silver, ivory, marble, and bronze; for as the head of the Achaean league and later as the ally of Rome. Corinth became the storehouse of the accumulated treasures of art, shedding luster on the departing glories of Greece.
At the sack and destruction of Corinth by Mummius, after the rupture with Rome, the spoils in gold and silver, in statuary and paintings, in vases, bronzes, and other articles of luxury were sufficient for many shiploads; yet much was sold on the spot and more was wantonly destroyed, or buried in the earth to serve as a quarry of art treasures for future ages. The finest and most sacred of statues were thrown to the ground, and on pictures worth many thousands of drachmas Roman soldiers played games of dice. Images were melted in the fire, so that veins of the base and precious metals were fused together in a single mass, and while the painted vases of the Corinthians are by no means rare, of their bronzes not a single specimen remains. Though rebuilt by order of Julius Caesar, Corinth never regained its former splendor a cluster of huts and a few remains of Doric pillars and of a Roman amphitheater occupying the site of the classic city of the isthmus.
In Asia Minor, in Sicily, in southern Italy, and elsewhere on the shores and islands of the Mediterranean, the Greeks established many colonies, in most of which were temples, theaters, and works of art; for it was the first care of the settlers to erect such buildings as were essential to their religious, civic, and social life. To some of them further reference will be made; for not a few of the colonies rivaled or surpassed the mother country, Syracuse, for instance, founded by Corinth and Corcyra in 735, containing at one time half a million of inhabitants, while the Doric settlement of Agrigentum became as Pindar terms it, "the fairest of mortal cities," famous throughout the ancient world for the grandeur of its public edifices. Sybaris and Croton, which the Achaeans built about 720,—the name of Sybarite becoming a synonym for the voluptuary—were the wealthiest of Italian towns, while the ruins of Paestum, a daughter of Sybaris, betokened her old-time splendors. A hundred years afterward Massalia, now Marseilles, was founded by Phocaean navigators, and Byzantium, later the queen city of the Bosphorus, owed its origin to a roving band of Megarians. Thus for the art of colonization, as for all other arts, the modern world is indebted to the Greeks; nor does it appear that the experience of more than twenty centuries has wrought much improvement on their methods.
The sculpture and statuary of the Greeks have thus far been treated chiefly in connection with temple architecture; but of their plastic art, developed from the carving of rude wooden images into the marvels which Phidias wrought in ivory and gold, some further description is required. At first, as we have seen, their deities inhabited the trunks of trees, or found expression in simple blocks of stone or wood. Castor and Pollux, for example, being represented by two pieces of timber joined together by a ring and fallen, as was said, from the skies. Presently was given to these slabs and boards some tokens of personality; first the limbs and then the entire outline of the human figure, in clumsy doll-like fashion, but often crowned with diadems or decked with jewelry, after being carefully waxed and oiled and painted.
Daedalus, the artificer of the Cretan labyrinth, was the mythic father of sculpture, breathing life into these deified dummies, giving expression to their features, and to their bodies pose and shape. Hence arose the school of sculptors in wood, which preceded the age of marble and bronze, among the disciples of Daedalus being the architect of the Trojan horse, the "instar montis equum" of Virgil, which Pallas taught the crafty Danai how to build. The Pallas of Homer varied but little from the Pallas Athena of the Greeks, and so it was with other gods and goddesses who formed the subjects of Hellenic sculpture, each having special characteristics in dress, equipments, and attendants. Athena, whose principal statue has already been described, appears in saffron colored robes embroidered with scenes representing the strife with the giants. White armed Hera wears a diadem encircling her dark luxuriant hair, and among her attendants is Iris, the spirit of the rainbow and the bearer of heavenly messages to mortal men.
Artemis, queen of the chase, whose tunic, fastened above the knee reveals the symmetry of the fair-limbed goddess,” has her stag-hounds at her side, and in her hands the bow of the virgin huntress or the torch with which she illumines the night. As the personification of female beauty Aphrodite is either undraped or draped only below the waist, the myrtle and rose being her favorite flowers and the dove her favored bird. Yet she becomes the bride of Hephaestus, one-eyed, deformed, and limp, the cunning worker in metals, who has forged so skillfully the thunderbolts of Jove and fashions for the dwellers in Olympus their golden sandals. In Apollo, the god of light and of song, are embodied the vigor and grace of perfected manhood, and Hermes, the fleet-footed herald of Zeus, with his tortoise-shell lyre or golden wand, was ever a favorite theme, inspiring, as is said the sculptor s earliest efforts.
Goddesses were somewhat careful as to their toilet and attire, Hera and others knowing well how to deck themselves in charming costumes, especially when about to play some trick on the gods. Wishing to appear before Zeus in captivating garb, Juno enters the chamber which Vulcan has fashioned, its massive portals fastened by a secret bolt which none but she can draw. First washing carefully her fair limbs, she smoothes them with rich oil,
Ambrosial, soft, and fragrant, which, when touched,
Within Jove's brazen halls, perfumed the air
Of earth and heaven.
Then, with only her hands for comb and brush, she proceeds to arrange her tresses, in what particular style. Homer does not tell us, but partly frizzed, as it would seem, and partly in longer curls,
That clustering hung
Round her immortal brow. And next she threw
Around her an ambrosial robe, the work
Of Pallas, all its web embroidered o'er
With forms of rare device. She fastened it
Over the breast with clasps of gold, and then
She passed about her waist a zone which bore
Fringes an hundred-fold, and in her ears
She hung her three-gemmed ear-rings, from whose gleam
She won an added grace. Around her head
The glorious goddess drew a flowing veil,
Fresh from the loom, and shining like the sun;
And last, beneath her bright white feet she bound
Her shapely sandals.
Thus it will be seen that in Olympian mansions the artist found sufficient inspiration for his most fanciful compositions. "In this panorama of mythology,” says a writer on Greek sculpture, "we may realize how picturesquely the Greeks personified even natural phenomena and passing events. Chronos, or time, was an old man with hoary locks and the reaper's sickle; victory was embodied in a winged female with wreath of laurel, and virtues and vices were animate beings, curiosity being represented by Pandora, the pagan Eve, vengeance by Nemesis, and remorse by the Erinyes, or furies. The representative man of Greece lived in the midst of this religious symbolism, gay, graceful, and in his own sense devout. Poetry was his language, the athletic games and a certain orderly philosophy his education, and art his worship. The muses nourished and taught him; led him into the sphere of harmony, and whispered the secrets of the stars. Nymphs and fauns and dryads peopled his groves, and naiads and tritons his waters. He was at one with nature and she charmed him as a mistress charms a lover; so that existence itself was joy and life a perpetual holiday. Beyond all was a realm of shadows before which imagination slept. On the monumental tablets of the dead are no harrowing scenes of gloom; but sketches only of partings, or pleasing subjects of everyday occurrence, are sculptured above the inscribed names, under each of which is written. Christe, Chaire, 'Friend, farewell!' How simple it all sounds; but to our century how incomprehensible!"
From the poems of Homer, notwithstanding the glamour of romance, more may be learned of the prehistoric sculpture of the Greeks than from the few remains that have come down to us. Thus, while the golden torch-bearers for the palace of Alcinous, and the shield of Achilles, chased with figures of the heavens, the earth, the ocean; the cities, lives, and occupations of man were either poetic fancies or borrowed from oriental nations, it was not so with other descriptions of praehellenic art work. From his writings and those of Hesiod, we learn that the Greeks knew how to carve in ivory and wood, but not as yet in marble; that they were acquainted with all kinds of metal work, except for the casting of bronze and the welding of iron, while weaving and embroidery, as in the figured garments of Andromache, had prepared the way for pictorial art. Most of these processes they had learned from the Assyrians through commercial intercourse with the Phoenicians; for Nineveh was now in the zenith of her artistic as of her political greatness. Probably of Assyrian, and certainly of Asiatic origin, were the decorations of the treasury and tomb of Atreus and the sculptured lions above the gateway of Mycenae, similar figures being found at the entrance of a Phrygian sepulcher.
Corinth, as we have seen, was the mother of purely Grecian art, and here it was that the Greeks first learned how to model in clay, Butades of Sicyon, as Pliny relates, filling in a charcoal profile sketched by his daughter when taking leave of her lover, thus producing the first rude model for the bas-reliefs which later were among the glories of Hellenic sculpture. About the middle of the seventh century the first sculptures in marble were executed at Chios, near which were the famous Parian quarries, Glaucus, it is said, discovering early in this century the art of welding iron, while Clearchus of Rhegium was accredited with the first bronze statue, fashioned of plates beaten out and joined together with nails for a Spartan temple of Jove, his mantle descending on Pythagoras, famed for his group of Europa and the bull. At Argos was a prominent school of sculpture before the age of Pericles. Ageladas, one of its leading exponents, noted for his statues of Zeus and Heracles, numbering among his pupils Myron, Phidias, and Polyclitus.
Endoeus and Antenor, whose works belong to the sixth century, were the first sculptors of the Athenian school, the former, whose Athena in ivory was transferred to Rome in the Augustan era, excelling in sacred statuary, and the latter known chiefly for his bronze group of Harmodius and Aristogiton, erected in the Agora after the expulsion of the Pisistratidae. To a somewhat earlier time belongs Perillus, commissioned by Phalaris of Syracuse, according to the familiar tradition, to construct a brazen bull in which to roast his enemies, and himself becoming the first of the tyrant's victims. The works of Hegesias and Critias, the former also one of the instructors of Phidias, are described by Lucian as strongly and sharply outlined, so that "he who would imitate them must betake himself to hard work, vigil, and water-drinking.” Before the strictly classic age there were several others of note, as Gallon and Onates, by whom were probably executed the statues for the temple at Aegina, and Calamis, who belonged to the age but not to the school, though his female faces atoned somewhat for the rigidity of his figures.
Myron was famous for his scientific treatment of the nude, and also for his animal sculptures, working almost entirely in bronze. More esteemed even than his 'Discobolus,' or quoit-thrower, was the figure of the cow which he fashioned for the Acropolis, numerous epigrams mentioning its life-like aspect, though nothing is known to exist from which it can be reproduced. Full of life and vigor is the disk-player, bending forward and downward with graceful play of curving limb, every muscle being strained for the delivery of the discus, as suggested by the forward movement of the body. Almost as highly valued, though not represented, as is the Discobolus, in modern museums, was his 'Ladas,’ a victor at the Olympic games whose victory costs him his life; for at the moment of supreme effort the last breath is hovering on his lips. Another masterly composition was his 'Marsyas,' the satyr, awed at the sudden appearance of Athena, whose discarded flute he was about to seize as it lay on the ground. The hands are wide apart and the body admirably poised in the sudden check of impetuous motion. Yet while Myron was almost unrivalled in his portrayal of the purely physical, he did not excel in the higher forms of sculpture which give expression to mind and soul. "Corporum tenus curiosus, animi sensus non expressit," says Pliny, who adds that he exaggerated nature to give momentary effect to attitude.
Not only for its sculptors and painters, but for its warriors and statesmen, its poets and philosophers, the age of Phidias was one of brilliant and multiform glories. Returning, after the victories of Salamis and Plataea, the Athenians homeless but with abundant means, had rebuilt their capital on a far more splendid scale than that which the Persians had left in ashes. With promise of liberal rewards, Themistocles had invited the foremost of artificers in Greece and Asia Minor to aid in the task, while Cimon, as we have seen, expended his ample fortune, and to the same purpose were applied the spoils of war and the tribute money of the colonies. Within the fifteen years of Pericles' administration were erected not only the city itself, with its walls more than seven miles in length, its agora and other public edifices, but the great monuments of the Acropolis, the latter under the direction of Phidias. "Thus,” writes Plutarch , five centuries later, "came these sumptuous buildings to be of excellent workmanship, of grace and beauty incomparable, because every man in the exercise of his science did strive to excel others, to make his work appear greatest and most in show. But the thing to be wondered at was their speed and diligence; for whereas everyone thought these works were not likely to be finished in many men's lives and ages, they were all done and finished while only one government continued in credit and authority."
Notwithstanding its magnificent monuments, Athenian civilization in the days of Pericles was simple in the extreme; for though citizens of a great city, the men had none but natural tastes and few but natural wants. There was neither the tyranny of despotism, of priestcraft, nor of fashion; their rulers could be removed at will; their religion was one continuous round of cheerful, innocent festivity; from the gluttony, wine-bibbing, and gross dissipation of the Romans they were entirely free, and as articles of attire they needed only a mantle, a tunic, and a pair of sandals. They had neither domestic nor business cares, and until an hour before sundown, when was taken the only substantial meal of the day, they were free to pass their time discussing politics in the agora, criticizing in the temples the most recent gems of sculpture or listening at the theater to the latest tragedy of Aeschylus or Sophocles. In many of the great scenes portrayed in these works of literature and art, most of the citizens, including the authors themselves, had been among the participants. For his Persae, for instance, Aeschylus, whose description of the battle of Salamis will live as long as the world endures, gathered inspiration solely from his own reminiscences, for he was himself among the combatants. The success of the artist depended less on patrons than on the public, by whom his efforts would be finally judged, for nearly all the best statues were intended to adorn some niche or cella among the temples of the gods. Never perhaps was there a more vigorous and intelligent community than the Athenians of the earlier classic age; nor is it easy for us to realize their many-sided culture and the public spirit which their struggle for liberty had kindled into an intensity of patriotism.
A native of Athens, where he was born about the year 500, Phidias began his career under the instruction of his father Charmides, a painter by profession and belonging to an era when, in technical methods, pictorial art was far in advance of sculpture. Later, as we have seen, he studied with Ageladas of Argos, and it was probably under his instruction that he fashioned the monumental group erected at Delphi to commemorate the battle of Marathon. As the tutelar divinity of Athens and the personification of deified womanhood, Minerva was his favorite subject, his bronze Athena of Lemnos being executed for the Acropolis, his Athena in gold and ivory for the Achaean city of Pellene, and his Athena Areia, in marble and wood with gilded garments, for Plataea. But on the three works already mentioned chiefly rests his fame, and especially the Athena Parthenos, the delight of his fellow citizens, who nevertheless accused him—unjustly as it would seem, though he was never brought to trial—of stealing a part of the gold entrusted to him for the purpose. It was Phidias who gave to statuary and sculpture the qualities which before they lacked, combining the simplicity and freshness of nature with dignity and grandeur of conception, so that it was said if nature herself had been a sculptor, she could have done no better. Especially did he possess the gift of the ideal, gods coming forth from his chisel as though descended from high Olympus amid all the splendors of Olympian majesty. "For Phidias the gods thunder; on him they smile; and who but he has seen the lightning-glance of their countenance?” So declared his many admirers; nor did they greatly exaggerate.
While statues forty feet in height, even if made of ivory and gold, would be somewhat out of place in modern temples, it was not so in the Parthenon, where was combined the most finished workmanship of Phidias, Ictinus, and Callicrates, producing a monument unrivalled for grace of composition, perfection of detail, and complete embodiment of the essential principles of art.
An army of the best workmen in the world was at their command, and though of the famous Parthenon sculptures, few were from the hands of Phidias, most of them were from his designs and all were executed under his superintendence. Not even in the noblest conceptions of Michael Angelo have beauty and majesty been expressed in forms so pure and sublime; for as Zeus stood alone and supreme among the gods, so did Phidias, "the sculptor of the gods,” stand alone and supreme among artists.
Though Phidias was the central figure in classic sculpture, many others were grouped around him; for this was a busy and brilliant epoch, an era of temple building, when ability and zeal were quickly recognized and well rewarded. For the school of Samos Polyclitus, whose works were warmly eulogized by such authorities as Lucian, Aristotle, and Pliny, won some portion of the glories which belonged to the great Athenian sculptor. Though inferior in dignity and majesty of conception, he surpassed him in rendering the symmetry of the human figure, especially in the vigor of youth and with the elastic tread of the athlete. Like Phidias, he grew rich by his art, his statue of Diadumenos, a young victor in the games, raising his hands to clasp the wreath above his head, selling for more than 80 talents, or the equivalent of $100,000, Bronze was his medium for athletes, and marble for gods and women. While the former were strongly and massively built, with powerful limbs and broad expanse of chest, they were so lightly posed as to add grace to the muscular development, which never seemed to be exaggerated. His 'Astragalizontes,' a group of naked boys throwing dice was among the treasures in the palace of Titus, and for his Amazons warlike maidens lusty and fair, he was especially celebrated. But the chryselephantine statue of Hera was his masterpiece, the goddess being draped in golden garments, crowned with a diadem embossed with figures of the graces and seasons, and seated upright on a throne covered with a golden vine.
Alcamenes, a pupil of Phidias, assisted in the decoration of the temple of Zeus at Olympia, and to him are ascribed, but on somewhat doubtful authority, the sculptures on its western pediment, representing the struggles of the Centaurs and Lapilhae. As with Phidias, deities were his favorite theme, and especially did Lucian commend his 'Venus', executed for a temple garden in the suburbs of Athens, while Cicero speaks well of his 'Hephaestus,’ and another valuable work was his chryselephantine statue of Dionysos. Agoracritos, the favorite pupil of Phidias, was best known for his marble statue of Aphrodite, fifteen feet high, carved out of a single block, and crowned with a diadem sculptured in relief. Of those whom Myron instructed Lycios excelled , in suppleness and grace of attitude, Pliny speaking of his 'Boy with a Censer' as equal to the work of his master. A more ambitious composition was the group where Zeus is deciding the contest between Memnon and Achilles. Both were honored with a place on the Acropolis, as also was the bronze Trojan horse of Strongylion, whose statue of an Amazon was so much esteemed by Nero that he never parted with it, even when on his travels.
Of the three Amazons offered in competition for the temple of Diana at Ephesus, that of Polyclitus won the first prize, the Mattel Amazon in the Vatican being probably a copy of the Phidian statue, while the one which Cresilas executed has been preferred to either, engravings on gems and a marble replica in Rome portraying the figure as wounded in the breast, the folds of the chiton falling loosely around the limbs. To Cresilas has also been attributed the portrait bust of Pericles which has served for numerous copies, all showing the broad helmet-covered brow, the short but curling hair and beard, and a grandeur and dignity of mien suggestive rather of Phidias. Of Calhmachus, the inventor of the Corinthian column, it was said that he marred with too much nicety of finish all the stronger points of his compositions; so that he came to be known as "the diluter of art." Sophroniscus, father of Socrates, was a sculptor, as also in early life was his famous son, of whom it need only be said that when wisdom became his mistress, philosophy gained much more than was lost to art.
Scopas and Praxiteles were the chief exponents of the later Attic school, representing a period when the commonweal was no longer the chief concern of the people, when life was more selfish and complex, and when the interests of the citizen were preferred to those of the state. Thus new forms of art were required, especially such as were beautiful, and if with a sensuous beauty, this was preferred to the austere simplicity of the earlier school, how noble so ever its conceptions. The traditions of the past became more pliant, their deities more human; nor was there in the stronger realism and individuality of style which marked the transition from purely contemplative ideals, anything at variance with the true principles of art, so long as it did not tend to weakness or exaggerated sentiment. For the sublimity of the great masters the Athenians had still the utmost reverence; but they could not forever dwell on the sublime, even though it be from the hands of a Phidias.
Scopas first won repute as an architect as well as a sculptor in his native isle of Paros where still he lived when invited to rebuild and decorate the temple of Athena at Tegea—his first important commission Of his sculptures of heroes in pursuit of the Calydonian boar, executed for the front pediment, some fragments have been preserved. Removing to Athens about the year 380, he became famous for his versatility in rendering figures and features, whether human or divine, with infinite variety of sentiment, and always with the sentiment which the subject appeared to invite; for like a skilled musician, he knew how to express himself in varying keys without loss of power or sweetness of tone. Thus in his ‘Aphrodite Pandemos,'—his only work in bronze—representing Venus riding on a goat, he portrayed the purely sensual phase of love, in contrast with which was the marble Aphrodite which afterward graced a Roman temple, declared by Pliny superior to the Cnidian Venus of Praxiteles. Turning from this to his Maenad, a raging bacchante, with head thrown back and streaming hair and garments, holding in her hand the sacred kid which she has slain, we may form some idea of his wonderful range of art. Still another instance was the Apollo Citharoedus which Augustus secured for his temple on the Palatine hill, the eyes upturned in the rapture of music and song, and the head thrown back in dreamy enjoyment of the strains that only the god of the lyre could command.
When more than sixty years of age, it is related that Scopas was invited by Artemisia, queen of Caria, to superintend the sculptural decoration of a monument to her husband at Halicarnassus. It is to these sculptures, unearthed in 1856, that we are chiefly indebted for illustrations of the art of the later classic school. Among other of his works are the romantic composition executed for the temple of Aphrodite at Megara, and that where, attended by sea-nymphs, Thetis, Poseidon, and Achilles are being carried by dolphins and tritons across the waters of the deep. But the masterpiece of Scopas, though by some ascribed to Praxiteles, was the group representing the slaughter of the children of Niobe, of which there is a copy in the Uffizi gallery at Florence. Though of somewhat uneven workmanship, the features and figures, the death-struggle, and the attitudes of terror and anguish are well portrayed in the reproduction. Two of the children lie dying on the ground; others are mortally wounded, and the rest are fleeing from the deadly shafts of an unseen foe like a band of stricken deer, while above all towers the majestic form of the mother, gazing upward with fixed, despairing glance as she attempts to shield her daughter from the coming death.
Aphrodite was the favorite theme of Praxiteles, and the one with which his name is chiefly associated, though his forty or more groups and figures included a large variety of subjects. Most famous of all was the Cnidian Venus, of which the Venus de Medicis and the one in the Capitoline museum are but modified copies. The goddess is represented as rising from the bath and stretching out her left hand toward the drapery at her side; not that she is ashamed of her nudity,—for the face, with the soft smile of its parted lips, is the very personification of innocence—but as though sensitive to the cold. Nevertheless the good people of Cos, for whom it was executed, would give it no place in their temples, selecting instead a draped but inferior statue, the Cnidians securing the treasure which, erected in an open temple amid a grove of myrtle, became the delight of the Greeks, as ever since it has been the delight of the artistic world. For this figure, as for three other Venuses, one of them for a temple at Thespiae, Phryne served as a model; and here it may be said that the physical beauty of the naked female form was regarded by the Greeks as aesthetic and never as sensual; so that a portrait statue of the courtesan was placed in the Thespian shrine, while Apelles further immortalized her charms in his 'Aphrodite Anaduomene.’
Eros, as represented by Praxiteles, was not, as in other sculptures, a sprightly mischievous boy, but a youth of refinement, and with the dreamy expression of one whose love was purely ideal. To this expression, rather than to the avowal of Praxiteles that it embodied the sentiment of his own affection for Phryne may have been due her selection of Cupid as the gem of the masters shop; for the courtesan had loved too often to love over much and especially one nearly thrice her age. Even in the Apollos of Praxiteles their beauty is almost feminine, yet full of tranquil grace; so also with his 'Diadumenos,' a slender form but a perfect specimen of modeling, with expression in every line and curve. A mutilated figure of Hermes, discovered at Olympia in 1877, is one of the best specimens of the sculptor's style. The war-god is unclad and in the bloom of youth, the head of classic shape, a smile hovering on the lips, and his eyes gazing fondly on the infant Dionysos which he carries in his arms, the babe, as appears in the restoration of the figure, resting his hand on the shoulder of the great warrior. Especially noticeable are the surface finish, the play of muscles, and the natural hue of the skin, traces of color in the thickly clustering skin tending to confirm the statement of Pliny that the statuary of Praxiteles was touched by the hand of the painter Nikias. A full-grown figure of Dionysos, with ivy-wreathed thyrsus, is attended by fauns delineated in the mystic combination of human and animal forms which no other artist could produce. Says Hawthorne in his Marble Faun, whose theme was probably suggested by a copy in the Capitol at Rome: "Praxiteles has subtly diffused through his work the mute mystery which so hopelessly perplexes us whenever we attempt to gain an intellectual or sympathetic conception of the lower orders of creation."
Among the many disciples of Scopas was Leochares, whose 'Jupiter Tonans' was placed in the Capitoline temple at Rome, and of whose 'Ganymede' there is a marble copy in the Vatican. Bryaxis was best known for his golden-robed statue of Apollo 'Citharoedos,' though a more original work was his dusky and bejeweled 'Serapis' in precious woods and metals, combining Plutonic attributes with those of the Egyptian goddess of the nether regions. The 'Venus of Melos ', or Milo, discovered by a peasant in 1820 amid the ruins of a buried wall, has been attributed to one of the followers of Scopas, though an inscription, since removed, on a fragment of the plinth claimed it for one Alexandros of Antioch. In the majesty of female loveliness it far excelled all other statues of Aphrodite, commanding but not inviting recognition, as did the lithe coquettish figures of the later Hellenic school. It is draped below the waist, the weight of the form resting in symmetrical poise on the right foot, while the matchless curve of the neck and the small but perfectly chiseled head are in the most finished style of purely classic sculpture.
The sons of Praxiteles, Cephisodotus and Timarchus won repute for their statues of the gods; but of his other disciples little is known except that they were chiefly employed on the portrait sculptures which were the strongest feature of the Macedian era. Meanwhile was established the Argive school, of which Euphranor was the founder and Lysippus of Sicyon the leading exponent, no less than 1,500 figures and groups coming from his workshop, among them the colossal statues of Zeus and Heracles at Tarentum. From his chisel also were the portrait busts of sop and the seven sages of Greece, the 'Labors of Hercules,' the 'Mars Ludovici,' the 'Cupid Bending His Bow’, of which there is a copy in the Capitoline museum, and the reposeful 'Mercury' of whose Naples, in which the supple grace of youth is portrayed with a delicacy of touch worthy of Polycletus, whose “canon of proportion” he adapted to the age in which he lived. His favorite subject was Alexander the Great, a pompous but liberal patron of art, whose vanity was such that none but Lysippus might mould and none but Apelles might paint his portrait. The use of metal imparted luster to the eyes; the hair was in curls resembling the ambrosial locks of Zeus, a twist in the neck being converted, as were other defects, into studied attitudes of grace. Of the marble copies extant the best are in the Louvre, the British museum, and the Capitol at Rome, where the conqueror poses as Helios, the god of the Sun.
Notwithstanding the encomia of ancient writers, the pictorial art of the Greeks was far inferior to their sculpture. While of the former none of the great masterpieces remain from which to draw a comparison, many vases have been preserved on which was employed the best available talent of the classic era, some of them with decorative scheme as near to perfection as anything human can be. Delineations of figure, whether of man or god, are their strongest point, many of the scenes represented being of tragic interest and of surpassing grandeur.
The best of them excel in harmony of proportion, in grace and dignity of composition, and in blending and contrast of forms; yet nearly all are faulty, and some are entirely wanting in gradations of light and shade. This defect is the more remarkable when it is considered that in statuary and architecture the Greeks were thoroughly at home in their treatment of the chiaro-oscuro, and that many of their eminent sculptors were also among the foremost of painters. Phidias, for instance, was a portrait painter before he learned how to work in marble, ivory, and gold; Scopas excelled in both branches, and Polygnotus, the greatest of Hellenic masters until the days of Zeuxis and Parrhasius, one whose improvements formed a new epoch in classic art, is mentioned by Pliny as a sculptor.
In the decoration of their temples the earlier Greeks made no use of pictorial art, and in the poems of Homer it is not even mentioned, though his heroes and heroines are clad in raiment richly embellished with figure embroideries. Battle scenes and the march of armies were among the first themes of painters, one of the oldest pictures representing Darius watching from his throne the passage of the Persian host across the bridge of the Bosphorus. By Polygnotus, a contemporary of Phidias and a friend and protégé of Cimon were executed the mural paintings for the Stoa Poikile, the Theseum and other temples, his art being chiefly decorative, and for the most part representing mythological figures on a flat surface, though with many improvements in form and drapery. By him was executed, as appears from an inscribed epigram of Simonides, the series of 150 figures in the Delphian temple of the Lesche, ordered probably by the Amphyctionic council. They were almost life-size and arranged in rows like the sculptures on a frieze, illustrating, among other subjects, the capture of Troy and the visit of Odusseus to the lower regions, as described by Homer. In one of the temples of the Acropolis, if we can believe Pausanias, were also many of his depictions; for Polygnotus was almost as much esteemed in his day as was the great master of plastic art.
Apollodorus, whose 'Ajax Oileus' was commended by Pliny nearly six centuries after its execution, was regarded as the founder of a new school of painters, introducing the effects of light and shade and the gradations of color which Zeuxis used to much greater advantage. Of the seventeen works that can certainly be ascribed to the latter, though doubtless there the most famous was his 'Helena,' for which were many others, were selected as models five of the most beautiful maidens of Croton, their charms being combined in a figure of ideal loveliness. Of the well-known story of the contest with Parrhasius, there is a variation by Pliny, who states that Zeuxis also painted a boy holding forth a bunch of grapes which the birds mistook for natural fruit; but, said the artist criticizing his own work, if the boy had been as life-like as the grapes, the birds would have kept at a distance. 'Hercules Strangling the Serpents' was one of the strongest of his compositions, as also was his 'Female Centaur with Her Young,' the intensity of its realism causing the spectators to forget the name of the painter, much to the annoyance of Zeuxis, who was one of the vainest and also one of the wealthiest of men, refusing to sell, though he would give away his pictures. But though fame may have turned his head, there is no confirmation of the story which Pliny relates,—that he appeared in public with his name woven on his robes in letters of gold. Parrhasius was also as famous for his vanity as for his art, attiring himself in purple and wearing the golden crown of a monarch; for he claimed descent from Apollo. As appears in his ‘Theseus' and other works, his skill was most apparent in the clearness with which his figures stood forth from the background, his outlines serving as models for many imitators.
In Apelles, it is said, were combined all the best qualities of former and existing schools; yet much of his fame may have been due to his position as court-painter to Philip of Macedon and later to Alexander the Great. Living, as he did, in an age when creative art was a thing of the past, it remained only to invent other means for purposes of finish and effect. Hence, to produce greater harmony of light and shade, and also to render his colors more durable, he used a dark-colored glaze, which softened the sharper contrasts and subdued the more powerful tones.
Of the ‘Heracleis,’ which ranks among his many masterpieces, it is said that though the head was turned backward, the face was as strongly suggested as if it had formed part of the composition. Of his two pictures of Alexander, one represents him in a triumphal car, beside which War is led captive, and the others as in company with Victory and the twin Dioscuri. It was in allegorical groups and figures that Apelles chiefly excelled, the most famous being his 'Aphrodite Anaduomene,’ of whom a second statue remained unfinished at the time of his death.
Of other sculptors and painters mention might here be made, as of Euthycrates, son of Lysippus; Eutychides, of whose statue of Tyche, executed for the city of Antioch, there are several copies extant; Chares, the artificer of the Colossus of Rhodes; Apollonius and Tariscus, whose marble group is reproduced in the ‘Farnese Bull' in the museum of Naples. Pictorial art had also its representatives in the Sicyonian school, Euphranor the Corinthian, an historic painter, standing between it and the Attic, while Protogenes the Rhodian was acknowledged by Apelles as his superior in technique, and well he might be, for he worked several years on each of his pictures. During the later Macedonian period barely a trace of Hellenic genius appears in the degraded and conventional forms of the Hellenistic; for with the extinction of the freedom and patriotism which had inspired that genius, the classic art of Greece was dead.
As to the antiquity of Grecian art there is sufficient evidence in Homer's description of the shield of Achilles, a beautiful specimen of chased and inlaid work, one whose elaborate design could never have been conceived unless the fine arts had reached a certain stage of development. Whether such a man as Homer lived or not, it is extremely probable that the poems which bear his name appeared for the first time, or rather were first recited, not later than the tenth century, though it may be doubted whether at the time of the Trojan war, some 300 years before, there were artists or artificers capable of producing such results.
While historians differ as to the time when the art of working in the precious metals became known to the Greeks, it is certain that they were acquainted with it during the later Pelasgian era. Homer makes frequent mention of vessels of gold and silver; the shield of Nestor was fashioned of gold, and of gold was his double-handled and beautifully ornamented drinking-cup.
The reign of Pisistratus, tyrant of Athens, was in the main beneficial; for his home, his purse, and his estate were always at the service of the poor. Many thousands he employed on public buildings and works; for his revenues were large, derived not only from taxation but from the products of Thracian and perhaps of Laurian mines. Of some of his monuments I have already spoken, and of the first Parthenon, destroyed by the Persians and replaced by the magnificent structure which Pericles reared, it is probable that he was the artificer. He was a patron of literature and art, though there is no good authority for the statement that he collected the poems of Homer in their present form, or that he was the first one to establish a public library in Athens. During his reign and that of his sons and successors, the country was intersected with roads converging on the capital, and from neighboring hills were built the rock-hewn subterraneous channels which still in part supply the capital with water.
Under the tyrant Polycrates, Samos, at first a piratical state, extended her empire over the adjacent coasts and islands, her fleets commanding the archipelago and gathering tribute from many cities. Resolving to make it an artistic and industrial center he invited hither the foremost of Grecian architects, sculptors, and artisans, introducing for the first time the art of diamond-cutting as known to the Babylonians. Among his monuments were the Astypalaea, a citadel whose massive walls, surmounted with turrets, are still in part preserved. Within was the palace where he held court, its apartments adorned with the most costly luxuries of the Orient and the finest creations of Hellenic art. A mole two furlongs in length protected the harbor, where triremes were moored to piers of rock sunk 20 fathoms in the sea, and an aqueduct brought into the city the clear, cool waters from the mountain springs of Ampelus, nearly a mile away.