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Ancient Greece : a sketch of its art, literature & philosophy viewed in connexion with its external history from earliest times to the age of Alexander the Great online

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Online LibraryH. B. (Henry Bernard) CotterillAncient Greece : a sketch of its art, literature & philosophy viewed in connexion with its external history from earliest times to the age of Alexander the Great → online text (page 22 of 46)
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by old writers become very numerous, but of many nothing
survives but the name. For our object it will be enough to
limit ourselves to what can be illustrated by extant monuments.
Of these relics there are several well-defined types, in which we
trace the evolution from the primitive idol to a statue of high
artistic value.

(i) The first of these types is a figure whose lower half,
though no longer a mere column or block, is columnar, with the

1 Homer frequently uses cognate words (8ai8d\eos, Bai8d\Xeiv 1 &c.) in
connexion with artistic decoration, but only mentions Daedalus as the maker
of a dancing-ground for Ariadne. With ' Daedalus ' cf. the half -mythical
sculptor ' Smilis ' (o-fiiXrj = sculptor's chisel).

* Something analogous can be said of Giotto.


58. Statue^from^the Braxchidae Temple

59.^The ' Harpy Tomb '



legs undefined and entirely hidden by a stiff, shapeless skirt,
below which the feet protrude side by side. The arms are
attached to the sides, the drapery has no real folds or texture,
but is a solid mass marked with conventional lines. The head-
dress is of an Egyptian or Oriental character, generally with
broad flat masses of hair hanging down in front of each shoulder.
This type is well illustrated by the ' Naxian Artemis ' (Fig. 50)
discovered in Delos, where Nicandra of Naxos dedicated the
image to the goddess, and by a similar, but headless, statue
found near the site of the great Hera temple in Samos.

(ii) Secondly, there are heavily draped seated figures
which, in early examples, seem, as has been said, to form one
solid piece with the block or throne on which they sit. Of
this type the Branchidae statues (which are in the British
Museum) offer fine examples. The specimen given in Fig. 58
is inscribed with the name ' Chares of Teichiussa/ probably
some great Milesian, possibly a tyrant of Miletus long before
its destruction by Darius in 494. (See Note A at the end of
this book for the Branchidae temple.)

The Cretan statue given in Fig. 6 was perhaps of the same
character. The lower half is wanting, but not only the flat
masses of pendent (probably false) hair but also the general
pose remind one forcibly of seated Egyptian statues. It is the
only specimen extant of Cretan sculpture of this period, and
shows perhaps the style of the followers of Daedalus, such as
Dipoenus and Scyllis, who are said to have introduced statuary
(c. 580) from Crete into the Peloponnese. This statue is
perhaps considerably older than any of those from the temple
of the Branchidae.

(iii) Thirdly, we have winged figures, possibly an imitation J
from Oriental art. In classical Greek art wings are rare, as
being unnatural. In Oriental art we often have four or six
wings, and it seems just possible that the oldest Greek Victory
(Nike) extant may have had six. It is a very uncouth thing,

1 For wings in Greek sculpture I may perhaps refer to an appendix in my
edition of Virgil's Aeneid, i. (Blackie&Son). In later sculpture Victory, Cupid,
and Death are winged. See Fig. 119 and p. 419.



but is highly interesting as one of the first Greek statues with
unmistakable legs — legs, too, that are bent. Perhaps the
goddess was represented flying. From small bronzes that
repeat the type it seems probable that the figure floated,
suspended by the drapery. Its wings were probably coloured.
It has a rather sour archaic smile and an elaborate system of
forehead curls and pendent tresses. It is also interesting
because it may be the actual statue referred to by Aristophanes,
who says that Achermus of Chios was the first to make a
winged Nike. It was discovered in Delos, whither many
statues were sent as offerings from other Aegaean islands,
and a pedestal was discovered near it on which were the names
of Micciades and Achermus, the Chian sculptors, whose date
is about 570. Winged figures occur also on vases and in other
art-relics of this period. They are sometimes purely decora-
tive (as perhaps on the Clazomenae sarcophagus, Fig. 45),
sometimes they represent a winged Artemis, sometimes
Harpies, Fates {>c>ipe?), genii, or evil spirits. The finest
example of this (of about 550) is the famous ' Harpy tomb,'
a monument evidently of Greek (Ionic) work, but discovered
in Lycia and now in the British Museum (Fig. 59). The
winged bird-like figures are doubtless death-goddesses who are
carrying away the souls of the dead. The central portion
represents probably Hades, the king of the lower world, or
else a deceased hero, receiving gifts — a motive found on many
Greek tombs, the earliest examples being very ancient Spartan
gravestones. x These sculptures formed a part of the frieze of
a massive square monument, some 30 feet high. The relief
was elaborately painted, but the colours have quite disap-
peared. From frescoes on the internal walls of the sepulchral
chamber it seems as if the monument was used in early
Christian times by a ' Stylite ' (a hermit who lived on the top
of a column).

(iv) Fourthly, we have draped figures, mostly female, in
which the arms are, in later examples, no longer attached to the
sides, but bent and projecting forward (made of a separate

1 Cf. the (later) stele of Hegeso, Fig. 106.


piece and inserted) or crossed over the body ; and the left foot
is almost always advanced. In these statues the drapery
is no longer massive and conventional, but treated with a
skill that shows a very great advance. Of this type we have
striking examples in the fourteen female statues excavated
some twenty-seven years ago on the Acropolis (p. 228). Their
date is probably about 520 to 500.

(v) Lastly, a large number of later archaic Greek statues
belong to what is called the 'nude male' type. 1 They are
full length, and fully developed in limb, and show great ana-
tomical knowledge and artistic skill. They seem not seldom to
represent the god Apollo 2 (thence are commonly known as
' Apollos '), but are evidently sometimes statues of athletes.
Nude ' Apollos ' of this type have been found in Naxos,
Thera, Melos, and other places. A very striking early example,
now at Munich, was found at Tenea (between Corinth and
Mycenae). It has the antique Egyptian ' wig ' and the
archaic grimace, but the anatomy is finely treated. The
finest examples, however, come from Boeotia, especially from
the sanctuary of Apollo on Mount Ptoon. They are archaic
in style, but give evidence of a careful study of the human body,
and are the first distinct intimations of that mastery of the
Greeks in statuary which has never been approached. In
connexion with these ' Apollos ' should be mentioned the
statues of athletes. We hear of wooden statues of athletes
erected at Olympia about 540, and one at Phigaleia perhaps
as early as 560. The chief makers of athlete statues were
the sculptors of Argos and Sicyon. Ancient writers speak of
the great pre-eminence of these schools, and doubtless their
statuary, which consisted at this epoch mainly of avSpiavre?
(' men-portraits ') rather than a-yak/mara or avaQ^jULara (images
for worship or dedication), had a very great influence on
Attic art. Unfortunately — perhaps because they worked
mostly in bronze, which tempted the plunderer — nothing of

1 These various types are given by Professor E. Gardner in his Handbook
of Greek Sculpture.

* A colossal nude Poseidon was found at Sunion in 1906.

P 225


any importance, except a bronze statuette of a very heavily
built athlete, has survived, and we must content ourselves
with the facts that the Argive Ageladas 1 was the master of
two of the most illustrious Athenian sculptors, Pheidias and
Myron, as well as of Polycleitus (who himself was perhaps an
Argive), and that Canachus of Sicyon made for the Branchidae
temple a bronze Apollo which was carried off by Darius and
restored b}^ Seleucus.

The reliefs on Attic tombstones of this period may be men-
tioned in connexion with portrait sculpture. Of these the
most interesting is that of Aristion (Fig. 51), probably the same
Aristion who proposed giving a bodyguard to Peisistratus
(c. 560) . Although archaic in style, it shows the very delicate
modelling and finish for which the early Athenian school is so

Thus, very faintly and discontinuously amidst all the
complexities of the subject, we are able to trace the evolution
of the statue of the classical period from the primitive Koavov.
In doing this we have left unnoticed some very important
facts connected with the use of statuary for architectural
purposes. I shall, therefore, add a few words about, firstly,
the sculptures from the ancient temple at Selinus ; secondly,
the archaic sculptures excavated on the Athenian Acropolis ;
and, thirdly, the Aeginetan marbles.

(1) On the site of the most ancient of the temples at Selinus,
in Sicily (see Note A), have been discovered some metopes
(rc-liefs on a Doric frieze) which are probably the oldest extant
perfect specimens of Greek architectural sculpture. Origi-
nally they were coloured and had a dark blue background,
but only faint traces of colour remain. They date from about
600, and are thus some half-century older than the Croesus
column, and still older than the 'Harpy tomb' (Figs. 52, 59).
Three of the earliest of them, casts of which are to be seen in
the British Museum, represent Perseus cutting off the Gorgon's

1 See Hdt. v. 72 for the Olympian victor (c. 520) whose statue by Ageladas
was seen at Olympia by Pausanias. As Ageladas also made a statue of Zeus
for the Messenians at Naupactus in 459, he must have lived and worked to
a great age.


Metope from temple at Selinus



head, Heracles carrying the Cercopes 1 suspended like rabbits
to the two ends of a pole, and a chariot with its four horses
facing the spectator — a clever bit of perspective. Some of
the figures are exceedingly uncouth, misproportioned, and dis-
torted, and the faces repulsive with their goggle eyes and mean-
ingless stare, but they are interesting as being original Greek
work (Selinus having been founded by Megara), and showing
no such evidence of Egyptian, Cretan, or Oriental influence
as is noticeable in much of the early sculpture that we have
been considering. The Selinus metope of which Fig. 60
gives a representation is from another temple, and is perhaps
of somewhat later date (say about 580). It is of very much
more artistic conception and execution, and has considerable
dignity and vigour and delicacy in detail, although it is
thoroughly archaic in its outlines and perspective. The subject
— Europa being carried by the bull across the sea (intimated
by a dolphin) from Phoenicia to Crete — seems to point to
Cretan workmanship or influence.

(2) After the departure of the Persians, who had twice
(in 480 and 479) sacked Athens and had burnt or broken down
as far as they could every temple and monument, the Athenians
at once set to work to rebuild on a more magnificent scale,
and in order to obtain a larger area on the Acropolis they
erected (on the advice of Cimon or Themistocles) strong walls
on the upper slopes and filled in the spaces between these
walls and the top of the hill, using for this purpose the relics
of the old temples — such as the ancient temple of Athene
Polias — which had stood on the summit. During the years
1882-87 these spaces were thoroughly searched, and many
statues and inscriptions and architectural fragments were
excavated, which have thrown a great deal of light on the
question of Athenian sculpture in the sixth century. The
most important of these finds are (a) remains of the pediments
of some very ancient temples, (b) remains of the pediment
of the temple of Athene Polias— rebuilt by Peisistratus — and
(c) a series of fourteen female statues, more or less perfect.

1 For these mischievous little gnomes see Rawlinson's note to Hdt. vii. 216.



(a) The ancient pediments (to be seen in the Acropolis
Museum at Athens) are of yellow limestone (ftoros). One
represents Heracles killing the Hydra ; in another he is wrest-
ling with Triton, the ' old man of the sea,' while from the other
corner is advancing — perhaps against Zeus, who was his great
adversary — the horrid monster Typhon, with three human
heads and busts (reminding one of Dante's Geryon, whose
face was that of a just man), and a winged body with inter-
woven snakes for feet, and a long dragon tail. All these
monsters were originally painted in bright reds and blues
and greens, like terra-cottas, and set against a coloured back-
ground. They doubtless date from a time earlier than that of
Peisistratus — probably from about the same period as that of
the Selinus sculptures. So shocking to the modern Hellenist
does their barbarous monstrosity appear — especially when
imagined in their pristine glare of colour — that some suppose
them to be products of the Dark Age, and to have been buried
out of sight long before the advent of the Persians, as offensive
to public taste. Perhaps one was the pediment of the ancient
shrine of Athene Polias before it was rebuilt by Peisistratus.

(b) The pediment of the old temple of Athene was in Parian
marble. Its fragments have been successfully reconstructed
into a ' gigantomachia ' — a battle between Athene and giants.
Three she has overthrown, and is striking at one with her
spear while she holds extended the aegis — originally gorgeously
decorated with red and blue and green scales. The date of
this marble pediment may be about 540. It was probably
erected by Peisistratus when he turned the old shrine of Athene
into a Doric temple (see Note A) .

(c) Fourteen female draped statues in Parian marble
(eight of them with heads) were excavated, mostly from the
filled-up space between the Erechtheion and the north-western
wall of the Acropolis. What they represent, whether priestesses
or donors or dedicated portraits, is unknown. Perhaps they
stood in or near the old temple of Athene. They are all in
slightly different attitudes, but all are erect, with left foot
advanced and forearm projecting horizontally, as if they held


some offering in the hand (Fig. 37). The dress — evidently
that which prevailed at Athens in the age of Peisistratus —
consists of a long crimpled Ionic chiton, fastened above the
upper arm with small brooches (irepovai, fibulae) or buttons,
and a peplos, doubled and fastened over the right shoulder
by fibulae. In some cases the peplos is wanting ; in others it
is fastened, like a Doric chiton, over both shoulders. The
drapery, of which parts were richly decorated and coloured,
is of exquisitely delicate and elaborate workmanship, though
in this, as in the type of face and otherwise, there is a great
difference between the earlier and the later of these statues.
Some have the goggle eyes and meaningless stare or grimace
of archaic sculpture ; in others the face shows considerable
character and is very finely modelled, giving evidence of a
great advance in the direction of that feminine grace and
delicacy which is one of the characteristics of early Attic
sculpture, and to which, when wedded to the manly vigour of
the athletic Argive school, we owe the development of the
highest types of Greek plastic art — those which we associate
with the names of Pheidias, Myron, and Praxiteles.

Before the excavations on the Acropolis we possessed scarcely
any relics of Athenian sculpture during the period preceding
the Persian wars. Nor was this surprising, for the Persians
were not only intensely embittered against Athens and therefore
wreaked their vengeance by wholesale destruction, but they
were also fire-worshippers and therefore iconoclasts. In
Asia Minor the Ephesian temple was the only one spared by
Xerxes, and in Attica every shrine and every image was
destroyed or mutilated. This explains the total disappearance
of many buildings and works of art mentioned by ancient
writers. And much that was made of valuable material
and was transportable was doubtless carried off to the East.
This probably accounts for the disappearance of the bronze
four-horse chariot which is said to have been erected on the
left hand of the steps leading up to the Acropolis, as a trophy l
of the victorious Chalcidian campaign of 506. It certainly

1 Pericles probably set another in its place.



does account for the temporary disappearance of another
work of art — the bronze statues of the tyrannicides Harmodius
and Aristogeiton, made by the sculptor Antenor, whose name
occurs on what is believed to be the basis of the largest and
best preserved of the ' Tanteu ' (' Aunts ') — to use a name
that has been given to the draped female statues lately de-
scribed. These bronze tyrannicides were carried off by Xerxes,
but restored to Athens by Alexander the Great, or one of his
successors, and were seen by Pausanias standing in the
Athenian Agora side by side with the marble statues (possibly
replicas from memory) which had been erected at once (c. 477)
to retrieve the loss. Now for the most part of the six
centuries between the age of Xerxes and that of Pausanias these
groups — one in bronze and the other in marble — were among
the most familiar sights in Athens. They seem to have been
spared even by the rapacious Sulla, and by Caligula and Nero
himself, but possibly found their way to Constantinople
with the bronzen Athene and the Olympian Zeus of Pheidias.
Anyhow, they disappeared. But not many years ago re-
productions of one of the groups on a vase and a coin and a
marble chair (now at Broom Hall, in England) led to the
recognition of two statues in the Naples Museum (Fig. 61)
as copies — it is uncertain whether of Antenor's bronzes or the
marbles of Critius and Nesiotes. Probably Antenor's statues
(if we may judge from the ' Tante ' attributed to him) were
much more archaic in style than these dramatically animated
figures. It should be remarked that the figure with the
chlamys on the left arm is that of Aristogeiton, the elder of
the two tyrannicides, and that the original statue had a bearded
head, for which in modern times a youthful beardless head of
fourth-century work has been substituted.

The last Athenian statue that I shall mention here belongs
as regards date rather to the next period, for Calamis, the
sculptor who probably made it, was born only some ten years
before Pheidias and survived him (having, it is said, made a
statue to Apollo, the »Stayer of Evil, to commemorate the
cessation of the great plague of 430). Calamis is classed by








ancient writers among the greatest Greek sculptors, and the
list of his works is long. He made many famous statues of
gods, and was also celebrated for his horses. He is said to have
been an Athenian, and his style was probably that of the
earlier Attic school, which, as we have seen, was distinguished
for its grace and delicacy rather than for athletic muscularity
and vigour. Of his works we possessed until lately not one
single specimen, and it is by no means certain that we now
possess one, but it seems likely — especially as he is known to
have accepted various commissions from Hiero of Syracuse
and to have made him several bronze horses. The statue in
question (Fig. 74) is an exceedingly fine bronze which was
found at Delphi about fifteen years ago. It represents a
youthful charioteer, who stood originally on a chariot at rest, to
judge from fragments of the horses that have been found. The
tranquil, self-possessed dignity of the figure, the careful and
graceful treatment of the long charioteer robe, and the ex-
ceedingly delicate modelling of the arms, hands, and feet offer
a striking contrast to the bold, Michelangelesque work of the
Peloponnesian athletic schools. Upon the basis a fragmen-
tary inscription contains the word polyzalos (' much-loved '),
which may be a name ; and possibly the group was dedicated
by Polyzalus, brother to Hiero. This high-bred youth is
therefore possibly Polyzalus himself or some younger member
of the princely Syracusan family. It is known that Hiero
won chariot-races at Olympia.

(3) The so-called Aeginetan marbles, remains of the two
pediments of the temple of Athene (or, if we may infer so from
an inscription found on the site, the temple of a local goddess
named Aphaia), were discovered in 181 1. Casts are to be seen
in the British Museum, but the originals are in the Glyptothek
at Munich, restored and reconstructed by the Danish sculptor
Thorwaldsen (Fig. 63). A more successful reconstruction (the
models of which are also in the Munich Museum) has been made
by Professor Furtwangler, who in 1901 excavated further frag-
ments. He divides the combatants into groups, and makes
the archers shoot towards the corners instead of towards the



centre, where Athene stands, and nils up the two corners
with two prostrate bodies. The scene of the west pediment is
evidently some episode in the Trojan War in which Aeginetan
heroes (Aeacidae, such as Ajax and Achilles ?) took part, and
the subject of the east pediment seems to be the earlier expe-
dition against Laomedon of Troy made by Heracles and
Telamon, king of Aegina. Both the figures of Athene are stiff
and archaic. Possibly they are old statues belonging to the
temple before the erection of the other figures — which date
evidently from the years following the battle of Marathon.
Some of the figures had bronze armour originally. At this
epoch paint or gilt was used only for dress, ornaments, eyes, lips,
and hair. The nude was mostly represented by plain or tinted
marble. Its surface was very often oiled and polished and
slightly coloured, both in the case of Parian and also in that of
the somewhat yellower Pentelic (Attic) marble, which came
into use during the fifth century. The glittering white of
Carrara marble, unrelieved by any colour, as we see it in
modern sculpture galleries, would have seemed repellently
cold and inartistic to the Greek. The dismay that we gene-
rally feel at colour in statuary and architecture may be an
evidence of very refined sensibility, but it is essentially un-

The sculptor of these pediments is not' known for certain,
but probably it was Onatas, the most celebrated of the Aeginetan
school, which was evidently closely related to the Pelopon-
nesian schools of athletic sculpture. Before Onatas, another
famous Aeginetan sculptor, Smilis, had made the Samian
Hera ; and ancient writers give us to understand that Aegina
in early times was famed for its sculptors, but of this we possess
almost no evidence except these Aeginetan marbles ; and the
Aeginetan school, even if famous, was short-lived, for the
existence of Aegina as an independent state was blotted out
by Athens in 455. Onatas is said to have made statues for
many cities both in Greece and Western Hellas, and, like
Calamis, to have received commissions from Hiero for bronze
horses and charioteers. He also made warrior groups for

62. Temple of Aphaia, Aegixa

63. Aegixa Pediment



dedication at Olympia and Delphi. It is therefore very
probable that the pediments of the Aegina temple were his
work. They show remarkable anatomical knowledge. The
modelling of the limbs is exact and firm. But the faces are
those of mere fighters or athletes, entirely devoid of higher
human interest, and, except perhaps technically, these
specimens of Aeginetan art stand lower than many older
sculptures, and very much lower than the best Attic art of
the next period







IN the last chapter the thread of the narrative was dropped
at the arrival of Darius at Sardis after his Thracian and
Scythian expedition of 512. He had left Megabazus with
an army of 80,000 men in Thrace, the greater part of winch,
as well as Paeonia, to the west of the Strymon, was brought
under Persian dominion and remained tributary to the Great
King for some fifteen years.

When Darius left Sardis for Susa he appointed his brother
Artaphernes satrap of the western province of the Persian
Empire. The Greek cities on the mainland were governed by
Greek tyrants who were responsible to this Persian satrap at
Sardis. For some years things went on quietly. Then came

Online LibraryH. B. (Henry Bernard) CotterillAncient Greece : a sketch of its art, literature & philosophy viewed in connexion with its external history from earliest times to the age of Alexander the Great → online text (page 22 of 46)
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