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Aristotle says that "the objects of imitation are men in a
state of activity ; " ^ but this is an exaggeration, unless mere
existence be regarded as an activity: indeed, repose, whether
momentary or lengthened, is a favourite motive of Greek art.
And early Greek art, though it loves action, does not love
strained or violent action. Aristotle also observes, in the
same passage, that painters depict men as either better or
worse than they are, or on their actual level. This of course
as it stands is a truism ; but caricature is almost unknown in
Greek art. Even the commonplace in Greek hands ceases to be
trivial, and almost always men are depicted as better than they

It is a saying found in Athenaeus - that early sculpture is a
record or relic of dancing (opxrjfns:). This seems to us a para-
dox, since Greek statues are usually in simple and unstrained
attitudes. In order to understand it, we must consider that the
ihuicing of the Greeks was largely made up of significant poses
and postures ; it included not only violent motions, but any
which had a rhythmical character, whether of arms, body, or
legs. With them any emotion could be represented in dancing,
and statues which embodied those emotions might well seem like
a petrifaction of dancers. Even athletes in Greece did their

1 Poetics, XL, 1.

2 Deipnosophistae, XIV., p. 629.


exercises to the sound of the flute, thus imparting to them what
may fairly be called a musical character.

There are certain phrases and contrasts mostly found in
Aristotle's Poetics which become a sort of stock in trade to
subsequent writers, such contrasts as that between the art
which ennobles and the art which traduces, between ethical
and pathetic art, between harmony and rhythm, and the like.
It will be worth while to briefly examine these formulae. AVe
will begin with the contrast of symmetry and rhythm.

Symmetry (o-v/x/xer/ota) is properly the proportion of one part of
the body as measured against another. Several of the great
sculptors of Greece held, as Leonardo da Yinci held later,
that certain proportions are so beautiful that they should
always be, within certain limits, preserved — the proportion of
the height of the head or the length of the foot to the whole
stature, and the length of parts of the head or the body to
other parts. We know from observation with what remark-
able care and minuteness the Greeks regulated the proportions
of columns and other members of their temples. They had
a strong tendency toward introducing simple mathematical
relations, which may perhaps have been but a human render-
ing of the tendency in nature toward simple curves and pleasing
proportions. It was quite natural that they should transfer
this tendency from architecture to sculpture.

Of symmetry in the strict sense, the mathematical propor-
tion of part to part, we have a remarkable example in the Man
with a Spear, the Doryphorus, of Polycleitus. Of this work
ancient writers tell us that it embodied in a work of art the
views of Polycleitus as to the due proportions of the human
body, on which he also wrote a treatise, as did Leonardo da
Vinci, and we are fortunate enough to have extant copies of


this historic type of symmetry, the best of which is in the
Museum of Naples. This happens conveniently to be two
metres, six feet eight inches, in height, and it has naturally
been submitted to very detailed measurements. It has been
found tliat the length of the foot is .33 metre, or one-sixth of
the height, and the height of the face .20 metre, or one-tenth
of the height. M. Guillaume has carried the analysis farther.
He cites ^ a passage of the great physician Galen, which runs
as follows : " Chrysippus thinks that beauty resides in tlie
proportion of the limbs, that is, in the relation of finger to
finger, of the fingers together to the palm and wrist, of these
parts to the lower arm, of the lower arm to the upper arm, and
of the limbs to one another, as it is written in the canon of
Polycleitus." Comparing with this statement the actual facts
of the statue, M. Guillaume finds that the palm, that is, the
breadth of the hand at the roots of the fingers, does serve as a
common measure of its proportions. This palm is one-third of
the length of the foot, one-sixth of the length of the lower leg,
one-sixth of the length of the thigh, one-sixth of the length
from navel to ear, and so forth.

This is a mere outward and superficial symmetry. But
the term is afterwards used more generally to express grace of
outline in repose.

The term rhythm is less easy to interpret. Brunn held that
as symmetry was the relation of part to part when at rest, so
rhythm was the correspondence of part to part when in motion.
The simplest instance of rhythm in the human body is found
in the fact that wdien in walking the right foot is advanced, the
left arm moves naturally with it, and so balance is preserved.
The Discobolus of Myron (Fig. 13) would be a typical example of

IE. Guillaume, ^Etudes iV Art antique et moderne, Paris, 1888. Rayet,
Monuments de VArt antique, No. 21). Compare Galeu, De plac. Hipp, et
Plat., 5.


the rhythm of balance. It has, however, been pointed out^ that
in use the word has a wider meaning, being applied to clothes,
a cup, letters. The application of the term to balance and ca-
dence in music and poetry is familiar to us : in sculpture it is
now only used by analogy. It would seem that rhythm implies
movement, regular and balanced; but that movement may be
summed up in a sculptured or painted figure, or it may take
place in the eye and mind of the spectator as he passes from
point to point in any production of nature or work of art.
Sprays of a tree are rhythmical, both because they actually put
out a leaf first on one side and then on the other, and because
they lead on the eye in a rhythmical manner. Pediments of
Greek temples are rhythmical when the eye passes from figure
to figure with a certain cadence ; and it is evident, as we shall
see in a future chapter, that pediments and reliefs were planned
with a view to this effect.

Another contrast on which Greek critics dwell is that between
ethos (5^os) and pathos. They tell us that the great schools
of art in the fifth century, the painters Polygnotus and Micon,
the sculptors Pheidias and Polycleitus, appeared to later ages
to be predominantly ethical ; but that when we come to the
artists of the fourth century, the painters Zeuxis and Apelles,
the sculptors Praxiteles and Scopas, this ethical character gives
way to pathos. Ethos in men is that which is permanent and
essential, the underlying foundations of a man's nature as in-
herited by him from his ancestors, and as modified by the
course of his life and action. An ethical portrait shows us a
man as he lives in the world of ideas, apart from any changing
appearances arising from the particular time of life at which
he is portrayed, the precise state of his health, or the impulses
1 E. A. Gardner, Handbook of Greek Sculpture, I., p. 248.


which are at the moment dominant. In this permanent ethical
aspect men may be good or bad, but the great art of Greece
usually depicts only what is good ; . it looks on the better side
of things, and sees rather the best that men might attain to
than the worst to which they might fall. At the same time,
it must be allowed that the Greek physical ideal was more
fleshly than could be accepted by any nation whose thought
and belief had been moulded by Christianity. Greek religion
and morality aimed rather at the mean than the extreme, and
asceticism had no part in thera.

The ethos, which is character, will evidently be differently
represented in different schools. In Greece there were two
main conceptions of it. The Argive and Dorian artists were,
in type, athletic rather than religious or intellectual ; thus the
ethos represented in such works of art as the Doryphorus, and
still more in some of the portraits of boy -victors by Polycleitus,
is indeed thoroughly Greek, representing a disposition at one
with itself and with nature, but stands far from the restless
intelligence of Athens. In the Ionian school we have a some-
what different tendency. The great painter Polygnotus, of
whom ancient critics speak as predominantly ethical, is known
to us from the detailed descriptions of his paintings left us by
the traveller Pausanias,^ whence we can judge that they were
pervaded by a delightful gentleness of sentiment and repose of
treatment. In the works of Pheidias, also a great ethical
sculptor, we may trace a broader and more varied rendering of
character. In the Parthenon frieze we have the gentle order-
liness of Polygnotus. But in the most noted works of the
Master, the Zeus of Olympia, and the Athena Parthenos of
Athens, we may discern a higher strain. These works em-
bodied to the Greek mind the highest qualities of the divine

1 Restored conjecturally by Professor Robert; repeated iu Frazer's PaU'
sanias, Vol. V. See ch. 0,


beings portrayed. Quintilian says that they added something
to the received religion; what this means we shall consider in
chapter VII.

The pathetic schools of sculpture and painting were scarcely
less ideal than were the ethical — the Greek never gave up his
search for the type — but yet they aimed less at what was per-
manent in the figures which they produced, and ventured to
attempt the rendering of more transitory action and feeling.
We find a preparation for the pathetic school of sculpture in
the remark of Socrates to the sculptor Cliton, that the affections
of the soul, Ta TTJs ^vxrjs cpya, may be indicated in sculpture.
The fighting warriors of Scopas are as noble in form as the
athletes of Polycleitus, but they surpass them in expressive-
ness ; alike in face and attitude, they freely embody the expres-
sion of "the delights and the horrors of war." ^ The Hermes,
the Aphrodite, and the Satyrs of Praxiteles do not embody
active pathos or passion, but a gentle contemplative attitude, a
pathos of repose. Later, in the age after Alexander, we have
pathos of a more modern kind, free representations of strong
emotion of all kinds, though even then Greek sculpture never
loses its innate nobility, or sinks to a level which can be called
vulgar. One may fairly say that it idealizes even vulgarity
itself. For example, in the Palace of the Conservators at Kome
there are two noteworthy statues of the Hellenistic age,- one
representing an old fisherman, the other an old shepherdess.
Both are ugly and wrinkled, and the folds of their skin are
portrayed with wonderful fidelity to life. At first sight they
seem mere transcripts from sordid actuality. Yet, on a closer
study, one sees how marvellously they embody the idea of a
life of hardship passed in battling with wind and storm ; and

1 Perhaps Aristotle would have regarded Scopas' warriors as belonging to
the class of Trpd^eis, rather than that of Trddt].

2 In Brunn's series, PI. 393.


they are found, after all, to have an underlying idealism which
one would not always find in a modern rendering of the same
subjects. Their character, if one may use a modern compari-
son, is of the school of Dickens rather than of that of the Police
Gazette. Dickens has also, by some critics, been called a
realist ; if he had been a realist, he would never have been so
fascinating a writer.

I shall not pass on to consider the views of the later Greek
critics of art, some of which are preserved to us by Pliny and
Quintilian, or remain in their original connection, as in the
writings of Lucian; for these views bear upon the works of
particular artists, and can only be satisfactorily discussed when
the productions of these artists are under consideration.^ One
may say generally that whereas the facts preserved for us by
ancient writers on art are valuable, their opinions are not of
great importance. Lucian alone strikes us as having some-
thing of the eye of a connoisseur, the power of analyzing
statue or painting, and seeing its good and bad points.

1 Mr. Stuart Jones' Ancient Writers on Greek Sculpture gives the most im-
portant texts ; Overbeck's Schriftquellen and Sellers' Pliny's Chapters on
the History of Art are more complete.



In dealing witli the principles of Greek art, it is necessary
to begin with architecture, and particularly with the temple.^
The temple, with the image of the deity which it enclosed, was
a unity, including the best results of all the arts — architecture,
sculpture, painting, music, poetry. An examination of its
character takes us straight to the heart of Greek religion and
art, and indeed of Greek civilization.

Before examining the purposes and the structural ideas of
the temple, it may be well to speak briefly of the external
conditions under which it was evolved.

Influence of country and race. In the construction of modern
cities and of great buildings little influence of the natural
features of the surrounding landscape is to be observed. In
this nature has receded and man is predominant. The same
thing is in a great degree true of the vast palaces and temples
of Babylon and Egypt, built in great plains, and making, as
it were, a world independent of them. But in Greece and Asia

1 It is not easy to refer beginners to works on Greek architecture. There is
no satisfactory work in English from the present point of view. Anderson
and Spiers' Greek and Roman Architecture gives facts rather than principles.
The great German works of Botticher, Uhde, Puchstein, and others are for
specialists only. The best books for the general student are vol. vii of Perrot
and Chipiez' L'Art dans VAntiquite, A. Choisy's Hlstoire de I' Architecture,
vol. i, and E. Boutmy's Philosophie de V Architecture en Grece. The last is in
its way admirable; full of brilliant suggestioiis, I am greatly indebted to it
in this chapter.


Minor nature is more prominent and insistent ; the whole coun-
try is made up of rugged mountains divided by narrow valleys
and little plains. The works of man occupy but a small space
in any Greek landscape. And the Greek himself, with won-
derfully keen senses and profound appreciation of his sur-
roundings, would be instinctively, if not consciously, averse
from introducing into the landscape what would be out of
harmony with its lines. Among Swiss mountains to-day one
may notice the same clear adaptation of building to surround-
ings ; the chalet almost seems a natural feature of the view.
Any one who has visited a partially preserved Greek temple
amid its natural surroundings, the temple at Phigaleia,
those of Paestum, that of Segesta, will realize how fatal it
would be to remove these buildings into a landscape of a
different kind. To local influences are largely due the small-
ness of Greek temples, the rigid lines of their construction,
their close dependence upon stone and marble as materials.

Even more clearly stamped upon all Greek buildings than
the influence of place is the influence of the character of the
Greek race. M. Boutmy has emphasized with great force the
fact that the Greek temple could only have arisen among a
race in which the senses were extremely acute and active, and
the mind of a very clear and logical order. It is a triumph of
the senses and the intellect, in every part inviting close
examination, and in every part showing definite purpose and
design. When we examine its parts in detail, we find the
principles of reason doiuinating them all. Herein again we
may contrast it with the religious buildings of the Tigris and
the Xile, where so much is vague and suggestive, so much
traditional and instinctive. The Greek was ever predominantly
a rationalist and an observer.

But though religion in Greece did not take the same domi-
nant and overpowering position which it took in the great


empires of the East, yet the Greek of early times was in his
way thoroughly religious. But in place of a vague awe in the
presence of the unseen, he introduced the tendency to vividly
personify the powers of nature, to make them objective and
definite by means of poetry, of art, and of music. The aston-
ishing humanity which prevails in the Homeric Olympus is
reflected in every part of the world of Greek art. As time
went on the gods were moulded ever more and more after the
fashion of a refined and beautified humanity, until they came
too near to the human level, and men in ceasing to look up
to them ceased to believe in them, and fell back upon the
superstition of the pre-Hellenic ages and races, or upon the
reasoned theism of the philosophers. The whole beauty and
all the history of Greek art belongs to the great national
movement which created an Olympus remarkable not for sub-
limity and awfulness but for human interest and aesthetic

The temple was invented or grew up at a time when the
gods had been thoroughly humanized. The god, or his
accepted surrogate, the image, dwelt in a temple as the king
dwelt in his hall, or megaron, and the forms of the temple
repeat, in the main, but in an enlarged and beautified manner, the
forms of the palace. But when the temple arose, it is quite
clear that the belief in the gods had not begun to decay, that
there was nothing of the familiarity akin to contempt with
which artists and poets in the fourth century treated the
deities of Olympus. Never would vast sums have been
expended, and infinite pains taken, to provide abodes for
deities who were not regarded as in close relations with man,
and a present help in times of trouble. The rationalism of the
philosophers, and the spread of Oriental enthusiasms, in time
destroyed Greek national religion ; but the process was a very
slow one, not completed even in the days of Alexander




the Great. And with religion, art and the drama and literature
generally fell into decay : only philosophy and science survived.

The purposes of the Greek temple may be easily discerned
from the study of its plan ; but besides, those purposes are em-
phasized by all the details of the construction and decoration.
The plan is of extreme simplicity. The building usually con-
sisted of three parts, of which by far the most important

n c) Q C3 o o o o Q o Q o c; o o o q




3 O O


o o




Pa -thenos

-O o-€

'•' ' "" "•"—




O uU





Scale of Metres


Scale of Feet

o 30 6o

I — I — I I I — I — I — ■'■■»'

Fig. 1. — Plan of the Parthenon.!

was the cella, wherein stood the statue of the indwelling deity,
the jewel for which the whole temple was but an ornamented
shrine or box. In the fifth century, at all events, the size and
form of the cella was carefully planned for and adapted to the
display of this image. Smaller chambers in front and behind,
the pronaos and opisthodomos, were mostly used for the stor-
age of the sacrificial vessels belonging to the service of the
deity, and all sorts of objects of value which were dedicated to
him. Sometimes, in addition, the temple was a treasury for the
custody of money, sometimes belonging, as at Delos, to the
1 By Dorpfeld, in Athen. Mittheil, 1881, PI. XII.


landed estate of the God. Outside the cella with its depen-
dencies were porches of approach, and often a corridor sur-
rounded by pillars running all round the edifice.

These simple facts will at once emphasize the contrast be-
tween the ancient temple and the modern church, though the
cathedrals of the Eoman and Byzantine Churches are in less
marked contrast to Greek ways of thought than those of the
Reformed Churches. To the Greeks the cella was primarily
the abode of the deity : there was no congregational worship.
The festivals and processions of the city took place outside
the temples, though often within the sacred temenos, or enclo-
sure. Those who entered the temple came usually as individ-
uals, or in families, to make some offering or to beseech the
favour of the deity. In later times the temple was little but
a museum of art and inscriptions. But in the earlier ages the
very presence of the temple, enshrining the national deity, was
regarded by all as the chief pride of the city, and its guarantee
against foes without and sedition within. The chief deity of
each city represented that city in embodied ideal form, and
was scarcely to be distinguished from the j)ersonification of
the city itself.

Such is the purpose, the informing and active purpose, which
prompted men to erect temples, and to erect them in one fash-
ion rather than another. But in this case, as in others, we
must keep apart the two matters of the purpose or final cause
of the temple and its origins or historic antecedents. In
treating of the construction and decoration of the buildings,
this distinction is essential, and it has often been overlooked.
Thus some archaeologists speak as if all the features of the
temple could be derived from the fact that it was originally
copied from a dwelling-house, and of wooden construction.
Others are disposed to treat it as if it had been thought out
pm^posefully in stone, and every detail calculated to produce a


given aesthetic or religious impression. The true way, as usual,
is the via media. It was purpose which determined the de-
tails of the construction, but tliat purpose often only existed
in unconscious form, as a tendency. And the tendency could
work only under given conditions, and in the direction not of a
fresh creation, but of an adaptation of what already existed.

Let us briefly consider in this light the chief details of the
temple, both of its construction and of its decoration.

In the construction the most notable quality is extreme sim-
plicity and intelligibility. The temple may be compared to a
crystal. At a little distance all its lines seem to be straight,
and they do not cut one another. One finds continual repeti-
tion of single forms, such as the pillar, or alternate forms, as in
the triglyph and metope. The rhythm is 1 : 1 or 1 : 2 ; only sel-
dom 1:2:3. Almost the only Greek temple of any complexity
of form is the Erechtheum, and here we have two or three
small shrines in juxtaposition rather than in union ; each in
itself follows, so far as the conditions of the sacred place al-
low, the regular form.

Another notable feature in the temple, a feature which a mod-
ern critic finds it hard fully to realize or appreciate, is the pains
taken over exact proportions. The subject of proportions in
temples is one which is almost bottomless. In this respect no
two temples are quite alike ; the architects appear to have
spent infinite pains in working out the dimensions of all mem-
bers on some scale, of which the unit was fixed, as a musician
might work out a theme in a given key. The unit was usually
the mean diameter of a column.^ There can be little doubt
that this proves among the Greeks a far finer and acuter
sense of proportion than exists among modern men. We are

iCboisy, I.e., p. 402.



reminded of the rhythmical character of all Greek activities —
how they performed all their atliletic exercises to the sound
of the flute, and even, in some schools of sculpture, constructed
human bodies according to mathematical systems. Want of
proportion, of rhythm, of balance, must have affected the Greek
eye with a far keener sense of dissatisfaction than is quite in-
telligible to us.

Nor was their construction only carefull}^ proportioned ; it
was also in the highest degree rational. Each member of the
building had one function, and only one, which was obvious.
The function of the pillar and the triglyph was evidently to
uphold, and this function is emphasized by their decoration,
which consists entirely of perpendicular grooves or flutings.
The wall, on the other hand, is primarily intended to divide or
enclose ; it is a curtain in stone, and its decoration runs hori-
zontally in narrow bands which remind one of the hem or bor-
der of a curtain. The base of a column is one thing, and its
mouldings suggest its relation to what it has to bear. The
capital of a column is another thing, and its forms are carefully

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