Greece Archaic Period (776-480 BCE)

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Dipylon Oenochoe
Lady of the Auxerre
Sacred Gate Kouros
Kleobis and Biton
Peplos Kore
Red-figure pottery
Dying Warrior
Kritios Boy

‘Archaic Greece’ is used as the term for the period that bridged the Greek Dark Ages up until the second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BCE. Thus it commenced in the 8th c BCE and around the time of the foundation of the Olympic Games (776 BCE). It was followed by the Classical Period.

Greeks settled around the Mediterranean and the Black Sea coasts, as far as Marseille in the west and Trapezus in the east (aka Trapezuntus a town of ancient Arcadia). By the end of the archaic period Greeks were an integral part of a trade network around the entire Mediterranean.

One scholar suggests the period began and ended with a revolution. It opened with a political revolution as the network of poleis, or city-states was defined. It ended with the cultural and intellectual revolution of Classic Greece.

During the archaic period the Greek alphabet evolved, the earliest surviving Greek literature was written, though sadly little in the way of a history of the time has been found. Artistically it was a time for monumental sculpture and red-figure pottery. Militarily the hoplite (citizen soldiers) became the core of Greek armies and used its phalanx formation to be effective in war while applying fewer soldiers.

The institutions of a democracy were implemented under the statesman Solon, and the law reformer Cleisthenes, paving the approach used in the Classical period.


Image source: ancient.eu

The Dipylon oinochoe (wine jug) inscription is a short text carved on an ancient Greek pottery vessel dated to c740 BCE.
This is the oldest known example ofuse of the Greek alphabet.
It was discovered in the Dipylon Cemetery Athens. It is on show at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.
This 65 cm limestone sculpture Lady of the Auxerre aka Kore of Auxerre; Kore means maiden. It was discovered in the vault of the Museum of Auxerre (hence its name) without provenance. She has the narrow waist of a Minoan-Mycenaean goddess, her stiff hair suggests Egyptian influence. Similar styles have been noted in styles have been found outside Crete as well as in Rhodes, Corinth and Sparta.
She has been dated to 650-615 BCE. The hand positions indicate it is not the goddess Persephone, and it has been postulated that she might be a depiction of an actual deceased person. It is today on show at the Louvre.

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

This scupture is called the ‘Sacred Gate Kouros’, the the Sacred Gate is at the ancient Kerameikos cemetery of Athens. The Sacred Way passed through the Sacred Gate on the southern side of the cemetery, passed through towards Eleusis.
A kouros refers to a free-standing ancient Greek sculpture, that first appeared in the Archaic period in Greece and depict nude male youths.
Dated to 600-590 BCE, it is held by the Kerameikos Archaeological Museum in Athens.
Kleobis and Biton are two Archaic Greek kouros brothers from Argos whose stories date back to about 580 BCE. These were discovered at Delphi and are attributed to Polymedes of Argos.

Herodotus’ Histories (1.31) tells their story. When Solon was asked by Croesus to name the happiest person in the world, he named these two. When their mother, a temple priestess, had difficulty getting to a festival, they yoked themselves to pull her cart. She prayed to Hera to reward them, they slept and never woke, their reward was death!

Image source: khanacademy.org

Image source: Wikimedia commons

This Archaic Period sculpture is called Moschophorus, literally meaning the calf-bearer. [Kriophoros statues depict a man carrying a sheep on his shoulders.] The calf is assumed to be sacrificial.
It was excavated (late 19th c) in fragments at the Acropolis of Athens. The statue, dated c560 BCE is estimated to have originally measured 1.65m high. It is now in the Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece.
Nudity was the artistic convention of the era, but his light cloak suggest he is a respectable individual. He wears a typical Archaic smile.
The ‘Peplos Kore’ is one of the most well-known examples of Archaic Greek art. The 118 cm-high girl is fabricated in white Parian marble. It was made around 530 BCE and was originally colourfully painted. The peplos refers to the heavy woollen shawl-like fabric over her shoulders and kore means a girl or young female. She was discovered at the Athens Acropolis, as were a number of other kore statues dating to early 6th century BCE.
Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: britannica.com

The ornamentation on Greek pottery was narrative rather than decorative.

Originally a black-figure style had evolved, using a glossy black pigment on the clay’s orange-red, with the details incised.

In the Archaic Period this largely switched to red-figure where the background was blacked in to leave the figures red. The details were painted rather than incised.

Red-figure pottery had two periods: From 530-480 BCE and from 480-323 BCE. Early vases depicted scenes from daily life, or heroic and Dionysiac (sensual and emotional) scenes. The figures were decorative rather than naturalistic.
This ‘Dying Warrior’ marble statue is a Pediment Sculpture from the Temple of Aphaia. It is believed to represent a Trojan hero, probably Laomedon. The temple was created c505–500 BCE.

Image source: joyofmuseums.com

Image source: Wikimedia commons
The Kritios Boy is the first statue from classical antiquity known to use contrapposto. That is, a human figure standing with its weight on one foot, so that the shoulders and arms twist off-axis from the hips and legs in the axial plane. This allows the depicted human body to express a psychological disposition. The attribution to Kritos is vague.
It is 117 cm tall and is on show at the Acropolis Museum in Athens Greece.

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