Friday, July 31, 2009


Well, I though that we could need a smile before leaving the classical period. This cup from around 480 Bc should provide that.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A classical Vessel

This is a beautiful example of a red-figure vessel from around 420-410 Bc. Notice that the style changed (the change stared already around 530 Bc) in the late archaic age from black figures on red background (simply called black-figure) and in the classical period was red-figure much more popular. Compare to this vessel posted a few weeks ago.

The motif of today's vessel is simple enough - a satyr (obviously excited) chasing after a woman, a quite common motif.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Great drains

Not only art and culture flourished during the classical period - we also find technical improvements such as the great drains (dating from the early 5th century Bc), seen here, in the agora. The drain itself was, as in many other cases, originally a river, a common phenomena in the ancient world. It may be noted that many of the rivers that once crossed the Athenian plain still are being used in this manner.


I cannot date this piece but it is a of a type common through out the classical period. A Herm is a statue in the shape of the plain pillar with a (normally erected) penis and a head on the top - the head is broken of here but it is easy to imagine how it once looked.

The specific use of these pillars are still debated but they are generally considered to be boundary markers.

So called Air godess

I want to present this piece before moving on, as it has been identified as an air goddess. I do not know what this identification comes from and I want to highlight how difficult it can be to say exactly what the motif of a statue is. Some Gods have very easily recogniziable attributed, some less easily noticeable traits but after that, we move into a very dark realm of educated guesses and interpretations. Even so, there are typologies and series that makes identifications that seems like miracles possible.


Niobi was a woman in Greek mythology who boasted about how she had 14 children compared to Leto, a daughter of two titans, who only had two - Apollon and Artemis. The twin gods wasn't too happy about this and decided to kill Niobis children (the Niobids), Apollon shoting the seven sons and Artemis the seven daughters. This sculpture from 440-430 Bc show us one of these Niobids right before her death.

Torso of Apollo

This piece, dating to ca 425 Bc, is part of a what used to be a statue of Apollo. Notice the feminine traits and shapes - it is sometimes difficult to determine if it is the male god or a female deity.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Diadoumenos

This Diadoumenos (A youth tying a band around his head after an athletic victory) is a Roman copy of an earlier Greek original in bronze (ca 430 Bc) by Polykleitos. It is unfortunately common that bronze statues only survive like this, as Roman copies in marble (this one in pentelic marble)- yet again we should appreciate that we they survive at all!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Kleroteria

This is a Kleroteria, a device used in ancient Greek (read: Athens) to randomly select judges for trials.

IT was working as follows; Each slot was filled with a bronze ticket (pinakla) that was carried by citizens that were eligible for jury duty. Then on top right of the machine would a funnel be places with black and white balls - these would, in random order, fall down through a tube. They were then to be released one by one, a white one indicating that the row it represented would be serve as judges for the day, a black one that they wouldn't.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


There once was a curious custom in Athens called "ostracism". Ostracism was a process where. once a year, one citizen could then be exiled for a period a 10 years without loosing his citizenship of property - it was a safety measure against power hungry and ambitious politicians. The name derives from Ostrakon which means shard of pottery since this was the material that you wrote a name on.

All these pieces of ostraka spells one single name: Themistocles - a leading Athenian exiled in 472 or 471.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Ceramic vessels of all kinds are one of the most common finds (or to be honest, the most common) from this period. Here's an example, described as "Child's burial in a clay pipe of the type used in aqueducts". Dubious as that description is, I can at least assure you that the large pipe really is a water conduit - but most likely for urban transportation, not what we would call an aqueduct today. The finds here are dated to the 5th century Bd and were found in the Kerameikos area during the end of the 19th century (1891-92).

Monday, July 20, 2009

Book review

A book review of The Roman Triumph by Mary Beard I wrote only a short while ago was recently "published" at, feel free to read it and to visit the site in general.

The Hephaisteion

There where of course other impressive buildings in Athens during the classical period than the ones at the Acropolis cliff. This is one of the best preserved, the temple of Hephaistos and Athena at the edge of the Agora on the Kolonos Agoraios hill. Notice that it's sometimes called Theseum after the friezes depicting the deeds of this Athenian heo - most of the pieces depicts the labours of hercules though, buy they are badly worn down by time.

Anyway, as a quick summery, this is a classical temple in the Doric order, constructed between the 450's and 415 Bc. The long construction time may be due to a number of reasons such as more or less constant warfare and that the Parthenon was prioritized. Yet, this was an important project as we can guess by the fact that the temple was built almost completely in marble and that the cult statues (Hephastios and Athena) was made by Alkmenes, a pupil of Phidias(who made the great Athena in the Parthenon) between 421 and 415 Bc.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


I actually had a close up on how the caryatids are placed at the Erechteion. Notice though that these are, just as a great number of other ancient pieces in the field, are modern copies while the originals are to be found in museums. Yet, they clearly show you how they were used. Another place where you find a lot of copies is Pompeii. If you ever go there, notice how many tourists there are, taking shots of the famous (copy) faun (in Casa del Fauno). It's actually attracting thieves too from time to time, and the authorities have to replace it with regular intervals.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

What to do with all the stones?

There are, unfortunatley, much that we cannot reconstruct on the acropolis cliff in Athens. This is one solution for all the architectural elements found out of context.


As promised, here's a Caryatid (around the 120's Ad). It's not Greek though, but to be found in Hadrianus villa at Tivoli. Hadrianus was, as you may know, very influenced and inspired by the Greek arts.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


This is another important building at the Athenian acropolis cliff, the Erechteion (constructed between the 430's and 406 Bc). Very unorthodox in plan is it a clear Ionian building and counterweight to the Parthenon, which once contained cults to Athena, Poseidon and Erechtheus (an ancient, mythical, Athenian king).

And interesting theory considering the buildings unusual shape is that it is modelled on early Mycenaean palaces - some remains has been found under it.

It is perhaps, today, most known for the caryatids (pillars shaped as females, I will try to post these later) which holds up one of the walls.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Parthenon & The Classical Period

Well, I won't keep you on hold any longer, we're now going into the classical period - and chances are good that we'll stay here for quite a while. I always get the feeling that 90% of all Greek finds are from this period, and I believe that they actually do make up a big portion of the archaeological remains.

Anyway, the Parthenon. Posting it as my first picture may be a little mainstream but it is, no doubt, the most well-known ancient monument from this period. You may remember that I mentioned a little while ago that another temple was under construction right before the Persian wars, being destroyed when Athens was taken. It was decided after that incident that the acropolis should be kept in it's ruined state to remind the Athenians about the disaster, but that was a policy difficult to keep up with as the city grew richer and more powerful. Thus is 447 BC a new temple was begun as a part of the major building program by Perikles in the city at this time. It (the cella, or inner central room, and cult image) was dedicated in 438 BC and the pediment sculptures in 432 BC.

There are, of course, an infinite number of details I could mention here, measurements, architectural curiosities and anecdotes, but that is for yourself to find out if you're interested. And I encourage you to do so.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Ludovisi Throne

The purpose of the monument (dated to 480-470 BC) is still unclear even as it's called a throne. Yet, as we cannot decipher it's use, we can identify it's motif- it is the birth of Aphrodite.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Temple of Hera II

This is one of the other temples in Poseidonia (Paestum), slightly younger than Hera I (Picture here, foreground, ca 550 BC) and the temple of Athena posted a little while ago. This last temple (Hera II) dates from about 470-460 BC and you can easily spot the developments - the columns are "better" proportioned and more classical in style just as the building in general.The change is as easily spotted on plans of the temples. (taken from the internet, the size does not resemble the real difference between them)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A statue base, third side

Oh well, I could have just have posted all these three at once, but what the heck. Here's the third side (the front), depicting two wrestlers. I can't really remember the rules but reckon that they were a little bit harsher than today. It was either the eyes or testicles that were off limits.

The fourth side of this piece is un-carved - a reasonable guess is that it once stood up against a wall or in some other way that prevented the backside from being seen.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A statue base, side two

This is another side of the same base as yesterday. Here we see several youths engaged in some kind of activity, which has been interpreted as athletic (unspecified).

Friday, July 10, 2009

A statue base

I will, embarrassingly, have to go back to the archaic period for a moment as I found this beautiful statue base among my photos. This is thus the kind ob bases that (at least some) of the statues previously shown stood at. This piece is from ca 510 BC and was, as you can see, painted. This side depicts two youths arranging a cat vs. dog fight.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Artimisan Zeus or Poseidon

This, one of the most famous Greek pieces preserved, was created somewhere around 460-450 BC (and is categorized as a peice from the period of transition). I'm not going to write anything elaborate on the details of the identification (There is no agreement on which God this should be, Zeus of Poseidon? The key lie in the lost weapon wielded in the right hand) , but I think that it is important to notice that not even a famous find like this is securely identified - it is notoriously difficult to provide such identifications for a great deal of pieces.

Anyway, it's a beautiful statue and well worth a picture in my opinion.

I would also like to explain why I want to go through some artifacts from this "period of transition". The answer is very simple - when I was taught Greek art I received the impression that the art changed almost over night from archaic to classical. That is of course not the case, and this period of transition is therefore important.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The last kouros

The tile to this image is true in two aspects. It's no only the last kouros I will post for a long time, but it has also been called the very last kouros created. This is due to it's shape and form - many have interpreted this as the breaking point between archaic and classical sculptural styles. It is thus dated to around 490-480 BC.

We will also after this piece move on the the classical period, but not without considering the phase of transition for a few days. My apologies for not posting more ceramic vessels first though, I have a lot of pictures of such artifacts but they are notoriously difficult to date.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

An archaic remain on the Athenian acropolis

This is actually one of the very last (maybe even the last) visible remains of the archaic age on the acropolis cliff in Athens.

As you might expect, this picture holds more than the eye might see at first. Notice the huge stone drums that the wall is built up by - these are column drums.

There was, before the Parthenon was built another temple planned. The foundation was laid out before the outbreak of the second Persian war (480-479) but raised when the enemy took Athens. Some of the gathered material was found to be useful still when the constructed of the Parthenon was begun some 30 years later, some other parts were deemed useless. These useless pieces was the incorporated into the cliffs defensive walls, seen here at the north side of the acropolis. They can also be seen at the top of the cliff if you walk by the wall.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Developments in vessel designs

This is a decent example of how the motif on ceramics changed during the archaic period. Here is a vessel from between 530 and 520 BC, with black figures on red - a charecteristic of attic vessel decorations from this time.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A sphinx

This is another archaic grave statue, this time a sphinx. The import of this creature from the Asia came during the orientalizing period and even as they to a great extent disappear from ceramics they keep on being popular in this sort or context. This one is dated to around 560 BC.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A lion

This mighty beast was once set up to mark a tomb in Corinth. It dates from somewhere between 600 and 550 BC and was, when new, brightly painted in yellow and blue. I have seen reconstructions and it's quite horrid I tell you!

Friday, July 3, 2009


The geography would be one essential formative force in the development of Greece, during any and all time periods. I have overlooked this so far but I felt that this could be a good day to post a picture reminding you of that. This is the Argolic golf and it's, as you can see, bordered by mountains. This means that inland transports are very difficult and this has the effect that travel by sea is much faster and cheaper.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A later kouros

I post this picture at the risk of being repetitive - you may see the close resemblance to the one I posted only a few days ago. That is actually my intention as I want to show you how the type develops during the period.

This statue is called the Anavysos Kouros (after where it was found, in Anavysos) and dates from ca 530 BC (70 year later than the other one). Notice how the body now is rendered in a much more naturalistic way, but still very much in the same shape - it is still, no doubt, a kouros.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A lovers gift

Most people doesn't know about it, but in Greece a (presumably dead) rabbit was a lovers gift from an older man to a younger. Here is a depiction of a young man with such a gift from ca 500 BC and we actually know his name - Krates. This is tahnks to an inscription saying Krates on one side and kalos (handsome) on the other. The word kalos is normally used to describe a young man as beautiful rather than a woman.

This way to name sought after youths was common between the mid 6th century and the end of the fifth, we know a great deal of such young lovers by name - and they change rapidly!