Ancient Greece: Late Classical & Hellenistic

Ancient Greece: Late Classical & Hellenistic

Review of Key Works of Ancient Greece from the Late Classical and Hellenistic Periods
Brief overview of the Peloponnesian Wars: 0:14-1:14
Praxiteles, Aphrodite of Knidos: 2:02-4:45
Overview of Hellenistic Period and Style: 4:46-6:40
Battle of Issus (Alexander Mosaic): 6:41-9:25
Gallic chieftain killing himself and his wife (Roman copy after bronze original from Pergamon): 9:26-10:28
Dying Gaul (Roman copy): 10:29-11:25
Great Altar of Zeus from Pergamon: 11:26-13:17
Laocoön: 13:18-14:41

Hi! This lecture reviews some of the key works from
the Late Classical and Hellenistic periods associated with each Greece, so we're
moving out of the classical period when we see the height of power in Athens, and we move into a period of the Peloponnesian War, so the
Peloponnesian War is a period where fighting goes in stages over a period of about
thirty years so from about 431 BCE to 404 BCE. The Peloponnese is an area around
here, and basically you had cities either siding with Athens or siding with Sparta, and these
two powers of the area Greece were fighting
one another over this long period. Eventually Athens
will lose, and their government system will
change, and at that point they still remain a
cultural and artistic center, but they're no longer the political
power that they once were during what's considered the Golden
Age or Classical Period of the mid fifth century BCE, so we're entering into a new period politically,
and, in terms of warfare, this is a period that begins to tear Athens apart to a certain
extent, so as we move she is me late
classical period this is a period where we are moving out of
that Classical Style or style that's sometimes considered the
Golden Age style Athens in at the 5th century BCE — when we tend
to think of the style as nearly perfect. So, we're moving toward
strong naturalism in the Classical period. Figures tend to not have a lot of emotion
displayed in their faces, but as we move towards
the Late Classical and Hellenistic period, we will start to see this changed. Works
of art become a little bit less conservative, and we start to see more
emotion, especially in the Hellenistic period. So, the label "Late Classical" typically
indicates to art historians that we're moving into a period of decline, however, we do see some important
artistic contributions during this Late Classical period. And, the work of art that we're going to
focus on is a work by Praxiteles, who's considered a
very significant Late Classical sculptor. The work that we're
seeing here is a Roman copy — remember that a lot of
these works only survive to us as Roman copies because so many of
them were lost as bronze originals, or the originals were just never passed down,
so luckily the Romans appreciated the Greek
aesthetic — the Greek style of sculptures, and created their own copies. So, this is the "Aphrodite of Knidos", so Knidos is a small island over on the side — off the shore of
modern-day Turkey, and the "Aphrodite of Knidos" became very
well known because it was a nude representation at the female form, so if you
recall back to the Archaic period when we saw the "Peplos Kore" who was a female figure who was
very covered up wearing a traditional peplos, so remember that
traditionally the male form could nude — it was
considered quite heroic and beautiful, but the female form in the Archaic period was very much covered up. However, by the 4th century — so this period of about
350 to 340 BCE — we do see some new styles of sculptures
being produced, where we're seeing a nude female. Of course this Aphrodite — the goddess of
love and lust — so it perhaps is considered more
appropriate to have her represented in the nude or at least made it possible. Maiden goddesses like Artemis or like Athena, it would be quite
scandalous if they were represented in the nude, but nevertheless this sculpture
was quite scandalous and eventually people of Knidos
accepted it, and it was probably displayed in some kind of
round temple where people could really move around it, and see it from all sides, so that's one possibility for its
display. The moment that we're seeing here is we're catching her in a moment
either where she's about to bathe or she's just
finishing up her bathing, but it's as if we've caught her, and she
covering up her genitalia. She's reaching for garment — it's
covering up a hydria, which is a vase that holds water. You can just see the handle of it here —
presumably the original would not have this strut connecting it, but
because the Romans typically carved their sculptures out at marbles, and
it lacks a certain amount of strength you need to have these little supports, so the struts provide that support, so this style of sculpture becomes very
important. This style of Venus or Aphrodite covering
herself up — catching her in this moment — we sometimes
call the gesture where she's covering up both genitalia and her breasts as the "Venus pudica" gesture — the
modest Venus pose. So, this would presumably be quite
exciting to kind of catch her in a moment where she least
expects it, so that would add to the excitement of the
sculpture. Next we move into the Hellenistic period, so there was a period when Alexander
the Great becomes quite powerful. Alexander will take control the area southern Greece — his father will take
control of it — Philip will take control then Alexander
comes into power, and they're able to spread the power of the Macedonians throughout the
area of Mesopotamia, through Egypt, all the way
into Persia and over towards Indida, so the empire that
he's able to establish — in a relatively short amount of time — he rules from 336 at the point of the assassination of his
father until his death in 323 BCE. So his period at his death becomes known
as the Hellenistic period: so his death up until the death of
Cleopatra and Marc Anthony at the point when Augustus is coming to
power in Rome. This is known as the Hellenistic period. It's a period when
the Empire of Alexander is broken up into pieces among the generals of Alexander. You
can see there are different parts of the empire here —
here's the part controlled by Ptolemy. There's another part here, another part here, part here, and there were also more independent cities — so Pergamon, for example, had its
own area, and we'll look at Pergamon in just a
second. So, art the Hellenistic period is quite unique
for its drama, its emotion, its interest in violence, and
the extremes of human existence. So, it's usually considered quite an appealing style at because it explores these areas of
human experience and emotion. The Hellenistic period is quite complex
politically because the Empire is broken up into these
different areas, and it's also considered a very important period economically
because areas like Egypt were really thriving during this time, so it's an important period
in multiple facets of history. In terms of artwork this style is
quite exciting and unique. So focusing in here, we are looking at
work that is again a Roman copy — it's a floor mosaic from the city of Pompeii,
which is preserved through the volcanic eruption of Mount
Vesuvius in 79 CE [or AD]. And so luckily it
preserved this floor mosaic, which we believe
originally was a Hellenistic painting that commemorates the Battle of Issus, which was
a battle that Alexander was involved in against Darius III,
who's over here, so easy to you lose Alexander here
because it is a very damaged area, but this is Alexander on the side. This is
Darius III over on this side. We think that it's a
Hellenistic painting — a Hellenistic
painting was the model for this floor mosaic because it has a very earth-toned color
scheme, so it has these light browns, and then
darker browns and yellows. It doesn't have a very detailed
background to it, so we do think that it is based on a
Hellenistic original. Again, there's not much of a landscape,
and there are areas that are missing from the mosaic, but it does give us a sense of the
kind of drama that was incorporated into Hellenistic works of art, so there's
definitely a crowd that's moving about here. You
can see Alexander running into battle here. He's already
stabbed this individual here, but you can see he's already looking past
him onto Darius III, and Darius III is being pushed off of the
battlefield or being carted off the battlefield in his
chariot. You can see his charioteer grabbing onto his whip and whipping the horses, while Darius III is extending his arm, possibly begging for mercy or
hoping for Alexander to retreat. You can see that on his side the
Persian warriors or soldiers are looking rather concerned — its a bit chaotic — and we would expect that Alexander's
soldiers would look quite orderly on this side, but the general idea that they're charging
into battle, whereas the Persians are looking more chaotic. A couple of artistic devices that are
noticeable. You have a horse that's foreshortened, so it's actually going into the picture plane, which is
quite exceptional, and then also you have a figure that gazing into a shield and
seeing his own reflection, so a few elements that have been
incorporated here. The Battle of Issus took place right here —
just to orient you geographically. And then here just zooming in on Darius III. You can see him here, and it's usually easy to differentiate the
Persians from Alexander's troops. They have a specific
style of hat that they're wearing or headdress, and then they also tend to wear
pants — long tunics and pants — it's usually pretty
easy to spot them. And the artist that this [painting] is attributed to — the
Hellenistic original — is Philoxenos of Eretria, however, there have been some other
suggestions, as well. Alright, another work of Hellenistic sculpture,
comes from the "Victory Monument of Attalos I", who reigned from 241-197 BCE, and it's to
celebrate a victory over the Gauls, who were a people that came from the west, and
we're continually harassing different cities around the area of Pergamon. So, Pergamon is located in modern-day Turkey, and at this this is one idea for how the
victory monument would have appeared, but the idea was that the people of Pergamon were finally able to defeat this group of Gauls, and so what we see here is a Gallic
chieftain — rather than being taken captive, he's committing suicide and
having already killed his wife. So, we see her here collapsing. We see him plunging the
dagger into his chest, and little bits of blood are coming down. Again, this is a Roman copy, so we're not seeing the original. We
can see their ethnic difference in the fact that they have choppier hair. He's wearing a mustache or he has moustache, so there are clear
indications that anyone at Pergamon would have been able to you recognize
that these were outsiders. Another figure on the Victory Monument
would have been the "Dying Gaul", so we see him here laying down. He also has a wound. You can see blood coming from this wound on the side. He's wearing a
torque or a kind of rope necklace. He has that same choppy hair and mustache, so
we know that he's an outsider. He's not a person from Pergamon. He's a
a Gallic warrior. He has his trumpet here, and
also he's on his shield, so we know he's at this point of decline,
that he's dying, and this should bring to mind those
dying warriors from the pediments of the Temple of Aphaia at Aegina — those figures that
were collapsing, the life was draining from them, but here we see in the Hellenistic
period an even more naturalistic figure — more detail to muscles and veins
and and more naturalistic proportions, and if
we zoomed in here even closer, you could see that he had deeply undercut
eyebrows, so that adds to the emotion of his appearance. Another work from Pergamon is the "Great Altar of Zeus", which was a large structure —
most if it has now been taken to Germany and is now a museum called the Pergamon
Museum. Inside the upper part recounts the founding of the city, and down below
is a battle between the gods and the giants. So, it was built by
successor of Attalos I. So Attalos remember wanted to commemorate his
victory over the Gauls [with the moument we just saw]. Eumenes II created this large altar
as a way of honoring Zeus. And just as a side note: Pergamon was eventually bequeathed to Rome in 133 BCE So remember that Rome is becoming a
very powerful city and empire at this point. So if we zoom
in on a key scene we see Athena battling Alkyoneos. So this is a scene between the
gods — Athena — and the giants. So these are giant figures here. These are snaky, earthly beings and
so Athena is defeating Aklyoneos by ripping him from the earth, so his mother
Ge down here is trying to save him. You can see her
looking up at Athena and appealing to her, but to no avail. Athena is ripping him
from the earth, and you can see he's snaky legs, and
snaky forms coming out from him, and you can see his deeply undercut eyes
showing his concern and Athena is going to kill him, and we
know that she's going to be victorious because she's being crowned victorious
by the figure of Nike here. Unfortunately a lot of the faces are
damaged but Nike would have had a head, and Athena would have had a face, but
unfortunately those are now missing. And the figure of Athena
here is reminiscent of the figure of Athena on the pediment at
the Parthenon. So both the Dying Gaul and the figure
here are reminiscent of certain examples from
the Archaic and Classical periods, indicating that there's definitely still
a respect for these periods, as we move into the Hellenistic time. And a final Hellenistic work — probably
one of the most famous — currently in the Vatican is the "Laocoon", and this is a work of
art that is believed to be by three sculptors of
Rhodes. There were stories about this work — stories that it was crafted out of a single
piece of marble, but in fact it's probably made of
multiple works or multiple pieces. When this work was first discovered
Michelangelo was actually there when it came out of the earth around the
year 1500 So it was a very impressive
sculpture in ancient past but also was very important in the Renaissance as
well. What we see here is the figure of Laocoon,
who warned the Trojans about accepting the Trojan horse — or accepting the
wooden horse that was a so-called gift of the Greeks, but at that point the gods had already
decided that the Greeks are going to win, so a snake was sent and he was killed, so we
see this moment of a snake about to bite into his hip. We see him
writhing in pain and concern. His body
is muscled and youthful, but his face tends to show his age. We have those deeply undercut eyebrows as well. We see one
of his sons trying to escape, and one that's
about killed. All three figures are joined together
by this snake, and all of them are writhing in pain and definitely showing their concern. So the
story the Trojan War remains relevant as we move along
remains an important story. And next we'll be moving on to the Etruscans.

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