Purpose, enhance their principle of arete: the notion
Purpose, meaning, and values altered the backbone of an ancient Athenian society during its Golden Age (477 to 431 B.C.E). Under the rule of Pericles, this extraordinary age yielded remarkable ways to flourish their ideals through their artistic expressions. In ancient Athens, their arts served as the key aspect for the development of their cultural ideals. Many of their arts were not only for practicing their religious beliefs, but also to cultivate a sense of purpose. Furthermore, Ancient Athenian artists embedded their cultural ideals through portraying their gods in humanistic qualities, symbolizing perfection and harmony in their temples, and depicting the true nature of human beings in their theaters. With the growth of new arts, ancient Athenians placed a high value in fostering their humanistic ideals in their portrayal of the gods. Many Athenians followed the concept of “man is the measure of all things” to seek a more broad significance of humanism. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy website quotes Plato on the idealized concept of human beauty: Starting from individual beauties, the quest for universal beauty must find him mounting the heavenly ladder, stepping from rung to rung—that is, from one to two… and from bodily beauty to the beauty of institutions, from institutions to learning, and from learning in general to the special lore that pertains to nothing but the beautiful itself—until at last he comes to know what beauty is (Sartell). Many sculptors evaluated their belief of the ennoblement of man through sculptures. Greek artists believed that the beauty of a human body was considered divine and should be used to portray their gods in human form. Their philosophy of humanism exerted the importance of glorifying a man and enhancing the sculptor’s full potential (“Art and Architecture”). The Athenians believed that glorifying a god in humanistic form creates a symmetrical effect on the glorification of a mortal man. The outcome produces a sense of diversity with mortal men and the divinity he worships.Ancient Athenian purpose of depicting their gods in human form was to enhance their principle of arete: the notion of excellence. This catalyst propelled Athenian culture even further, introducing a more philosophical way of looking at art. They encouraged many of their sculptors to devote themselves in the portrayal of the gods so they could build up their self-confidence and admire their artwork. Many artistic sculptors, such as Phidias developed his skill in realistic and beautiful portrayal of human form. He incorporated human form in his sculptures of goddesses, muscled warriors and athletes (Guisepi). Phidias was famous for his statues of Athena (c. 438 BCE) and Zeus (c. 456 BCE) which were placed in the Parthenon of Athens and the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. Working diligently in his sculptures, Phidias’s statue of Zeus at Olympia was honored as one of the Seven Wonders of Ancient World. Therefore, portraying their gods in humanistic form was not only a way to honor their gods, but also a way to enhance their ideal of pushing their citizens to strive for excellence in artistic mastery. Despite representing their gods in humanistic form, ancient Athenians incorporated their ideal of balance and harmony in their architecture. Ancient Athenians believed that the concept of building in a punctilious way brought harmony and balance in their temples. For example, Vitruvius, a Roman architect, spoke about the Greek ideals of harmony and perfection: Architecture consists of Order, which in Greek is called taxis, and arrangement, which the Greeks name diathesis, and of Proportion and Symmetry and Decor and Distribution which in the Greeks is called oeconomia. Order is the balanced adjustment of the details of the work separately, and as to the whole, the arrangement of the proportion with a view to a symmetrical result. Proportion implies a graceful semblance: the suitable display of details in their context. This is attained when the details of the work are of a height suitable to their breadth, of a breadth suitable to their length; in a word, when everything has a symmetrical correspondence. Symmetry also is the appropriate harmony arising out of the details of the work itself: the correspondence of each given detail to the form of the design as a whole. As in the human body, from cubit, foot, palm, inch and other small parts come the symmetric quality of eurhythmy (Sartwell).While these details were incorporated in some entities, one of the most important of the temples was the Parthenon. The temple encompassed the the importance of perfection and power, proving that when one accomplishes the aspect of true perfection, they would achieve huge amounts of power. Moreover, the nature of Greek monumental architecture enhanced their ideal of spreading pride to citizens throughout their cities. The Athenians believed that they were the most civilized culture among the others and that their architectural achievements were bound to creating a sense of cultural pride. As sculptures and architecture took a huge position in their culture, Ancient Athenians concerned their interest in the use of entertainment. They created many theaters and used drama as a way of portraying what it truly means to be a human being. They enhanced their drama as an important way of human striving. Ancient Athenians created the concepts of comedy and tragedy in their theaters to emphasize the unavoidable limits one might go through in their life. The first comedies were used to mock men in power for their foolishness. Much later man play writers, such as Menander, wrote comedies about people.Another form of drama was tragedy. Tragedy dealt with conflicts such as loss, love, pride, and abuse of power. Many tragedies portray a story of a protagonist who goes through some terrible crime without realizing his actions. Then, as he slowly understands what he has done, his circumstance start to arise. In his work “Poetics”, Aristotle defines tragedy as the “…purification of such emotions” (“Tragedy-Examples and Definition of Tragedy”). Although, tragedy made people feel a sense of pity and terror, it also made them aware of the virtue in suffering. He called this overwhelming experience ‘catharsis’. Tragedies and comedies allowed for the restoration of people’s hearts, giving them a sense of happiness and compassion. From portraying their gods in humanistic form, symbolizing harmony in their temples and depicting the true natures of human beings, Athens showed great effort in creating a culture that was based on their cultural ideals. Their main objective of looking at the order of nature and incorporating their philosophical thoughts in their arts was a huge focus in Ancient Athens. They wanted their citizens to strive for success, to feel a sense of pride, and to restore their spirit. In conclusion, ancient Athenians incorporated their ideal of feeling significance in their art, for they believed that art was not just an object but a way of representing the essence of something.