Greek Art

3474 Words14 Pages
Greek Art

The portals to immortality-Greek Grave Steles To us who live in modern times the ‘melancholic look’ that we find in the sculpture of cemeteries throughout the world is something we take for granted. Although its authenticity has been lost to us, this so-called look can be traced back to 5th century Greek funerary sculpture. For us it is only natural to associate such a look with death. However, as the above verse elaborates, the Greeks viewed death somewhat differently from the way we do. To them death freed their souls and brought true happiness: then why does their grave sculpture look so pensive and thoughtful? It is because unlike today where the dead are only represented figuratively in a sobbing angel or mournful cherub, the Greeks depicted their dead as they were in life - life which was full of uncertainties and burdens but also with simple pleasures that made it all worth while. The Greeks successfully combined these two juxtaposed experiences, and harmonized its contradictions to portray in steles the individual, whose simplicities and complications was a reflection of the bitter-sweetness of life. No where is this combination more successful than in the Greek grave stele of the 5th century before Christ. The 5th B.C. encompassed two distinct periods: the early classical and the high classical. However both these periods shared the uniquely contradicting, constantly explorative, and modestly idealistic vision of life, which made the subjects of the stele, at their moment of death, all the more human to the observer. Neither the previous Archaic period, nor the following 4th century, or the preceding civilizations quite so convincingly capture for the observer the poignancy of death the way a fifth century BC stele could. The period of the 5th century B.C. is sometimes referrd to as the golden age, which is the height for Greek art and civilizations; and ironically has its beginning and ending in war! “The 480 B.C. marked the defeat of the Persians and 404 B.C. the beginning of the pelopannasian war and the collapse of Athenian democracy. ” Perhaps the culturally significant buildings and sculptures that were destroyed and the many lives that were lost during the long war with Persia might made grave monuments and stele all the more personal to the Greeks during this time. For whatever reason Greek stele of this particular period, between two historically significant moments (480-404), stand-alone in more ways than one.
Open Document