Greek Art & Culture

Civilization is the sum total of the material and cultural achievements of a group of people. Culture and arts are two concepts that are closely interwoven, as art is the characteristic expression of the culture of a given period. Arts such as architecture, sculpture, pottery, weaving, music, jewellery making, and painting have a long-standing tradition in Greece, where civilizations were already established in pre-historic times.

Little is known to date about the Paleolithic period in Greece, but quite a lot about the subsequent Neolithic period (7th – 4th millennia B.C. approximately) and its civilization, which is found mainly in areas such as Thessaly and Macedonia.

Civilizations with impressive achievements developed during the Bronze Age (3,000 – 1150 B.C. approximately) in the Northeastern Aegean, the Cyclades (its trade-mark being the big-sized marble figurines), Crete and the Greek mainland. The civilizations which flourished during the 2nd millennium in the latter two areas, known as the Minoan and Mycenaean respectively, are considered the first two major civilizations of Greece. The architectural remnants (e.g. palaces), as well as the samples of pottery, stone carving (vessels, sealstones), metallurgy (vessels, weapons), jewellery making and painting (murals) are impressive and representative of these civilizations.

During historic times, the civilisations of the Geometric (9th – 8th centuries B.C.) and the Archaic periods (7th – 6th centuries B.C.) are considered forerunners of the culture of the classical period (5th – 4th centuries B.C.). The classical works of art, with their ideal proportions and beauty, expressed the philosophical ideals of their times and were the model of the European Renaissance of the 15th century A.D. During the subsequent Hellenistic (3rd – 1st centuries B.C.) and Roman times (1st century B.C. – 3rd century A.D.) Greek civilization developed within the framework of big kingdoms and an empire, respectively.

Again within the framework of an empire, Greek civilization developed during the Byzantine period – early, middle and late – (4th -15th centuries A.D.), while in more recent times civilization is marked by the Ottoman domination and the first steps of the new Hellenic state after the War of Independence of 1821.
A visit to archaeological sites, museums and monuments all over the country offers a vivid picture of the civilizations in Greece, their achievements in arts and technology from the pre-historic era to modern times.

The rock of the Acropolis with its natural spring, the “Klepsydra” and its caves (mostly on its northern side) has been inhabited since Neolithic times. During the Mycenaean Age, it was fortified with Cyclopean walls which protected the King’s palace and the residences of the senior officials on the summit.

In early historical times, the palace was superseded by a temple dedicated to Poseidon, god of the spring and to Athena, goddess of the olive tree. In archaic times, the temple was twice destroyed and rebuilt. On the second occasion (in the years of the Peisistratids towards the close of the 6th century B.C.), it was adorned with excellent carved gables while a second temple, dedicated to Athena, began to be built further south on the rock.