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Starożytna Grecja, wprowadzenie

Black-figured amphora (wine-jar) signed by Exekias as potter and attributed to him as painter 540-530 B.C.E. (The British Museum)
Achilles killing the Amazon Queen Penthesilea, 540-530 B.C.E., black-figured amphora (wine-jar), signed by Exekias as potter and attributed to him as painter, 46 cm tall, Athens, Greece © Trustees of the British Museum. Penthesilea brought her Amazon warriors to help the Trojans defend their city, but was killed in combat with Achilles, the greatest of the Greek warriors.
Starożytni Grecy mieszkali w wielu krajach wokół morza Śródziemnego, od Turcji do południowej Francji. Mieli bliskie kontakty z innymi ludami, takimi jak Egipcjanie, Syryjczycy i Persowie. Grecy mieszkali w oddzielnych państwach-miastach, ale posiadali wspólny język, religię i przekonania;

Grecja Epoki Brązu

Map of Greece showing Mycenae
Podczas Epoki Brązu ( około 3200-1100 p.n.e ) wiele kultur rozwijało się na Wyspach Cyklady, na Krecie i w Grecji kontynentalnej. Byli głównie rolnikami, ale handel przez morze, szczególnie surowymi materiałami - takimi jak Obsydian ( szkło wulkaniczne ) i metalami, był wzmożony.
Rozkwit kultury Mykeńskiej w Grecji Kontynentalnej nastąpił w Epoce Późnego Brązu, od około 1600 do 1100 p.n.e . Nazwa pochodzi od części Myken, gdzie kultura została rozpoznana po wykopaliskach Heinrich'a Schliemann'a w 1876 .
Pottery stemmed bowl decorated with a procession of riders in chariots, Mycenaean, about 1400-1300 B.C.E., 42 cm high, Cyprus © Trustees of the British Museum
Ceramika rozpoczęła się od formy miseczki ozdobionej sceną procesji w rydwanach. Sztuka Mykeńska, około 1400-1300 p.n.e., 42 cm wysokości, Cypr, Grecja.
© Powierzona British Museum. Górną część wazonu pokrywa fryz rydwanów, ciągniętych przez konie o wydłużonej sylwetce, na których siedzi woźnica i pasażer. Takie wazowe przedstawienia procesji rydwanów mogły być inspiracją dla współczesnych fresków, które zdobią ściany Mykeńskich pałaców.
Okres Mykeński Grecji epoki Późnego Brązu postrzegany był przez Greków jako "wiek bohaterów" i mógł stanowić historyczne tło dla wielu historii późniejszej mitologii Greckiej, włączając epopeję Homera. Przedmioty i dzieła sztuki z tego okresu zostały znalezione na powierzchni całego kontynentu Greckiego oraz wysp Greckich. Charakterystyczna dla sztuki Mykeńskiej ceramika była rozprzestrzeniona szeroko wzdłuż wschodniej części Morza Śródziemnego. These show the beginnings of Greek mythology being used to decorate works of art. They come from about the same time that the epics of Homer were reaching the form in which we inherit them, as the earliest Greek literature.
The collapse of Mycenaean civilization around 1100 B.C.E. brought about a period of isolation known as the Dark Age. But by around 800 B.C.E. the revival had begun as trade with the wider world increased, arts, crafts and writing re-emerged and city-states (poleis) developed.

The Strangford Apollo, c. 500-490 B.C.E., 101 cm high, perhaps from Cyclades, Aegean Sea © Trustees of the British Museum
The Strangford Apollo, c. 500-490 B.C.E., 101 cm high, perhaps from Cyclades, Aegean Sea
© Trustees of the British Museum
Archaic period
Two of the most distinctive forms of free-standing sculpture to emerge during the Archaic period of Greek art (about 600-480 B.C.E.) were statues of youths (kouroi) and maidens (korai).
Kouros (the singular form) is a term used to describe a type of statue of a male figure produced in marble during the Archaic period of Greek art. Such statues can be colossal (that is larger than life) or less than life size. They all have a conventional pose, where the head and body can be divided equally by a central line, and the legs are parted with the weight placed equally front and back. The male figures, usually in the form of naked young men, acted both as grave markers and as votive offerings, the latter perhaps intended to be representations of the dedicator. The female figures served similar functions, but differed from their male counterparts in that they were elaborately draped.
The mouth is invariably fixed in a smile, which is probably a symbolic expression of the arete ("excellence") of the person represented. It used to be thought that all kouroi were intended as representations of the god Apollo. However, although some may be intended as representations of gods or heroes, many were simply grave markers. The kouros was not intended as a realistic portrait of the deceased, but an idealized representation of values and virtues to which the dead laid claim: youthful beauty, athleticism and aristocratic bearing, among others.

Classical period

By around 500 B.C.E.  "rule by the people," or democracy, had emerged in the city of Athens. Following the defeat of a Persian invasion in 480-479 B.C.E., mainland Greece and Athens in particular entered into a golden age. In drama and philosophy, literature, art and architecture, Athens was second to none. The city’s empire stretched from the western Mediterranean to the Black Sea, creating enormous wealth. This paid for one of the biggest public building projects ever seen in Greece, which included the Parthenon.
Ancient Greece also played a vital role in the early history of coinage. As well as making some of the world’s earliest coins, the ancient Greeks were the first to use them extensively in trade.

Marble portrait of Alexander the Great, Hellenistic Greek, 2nd-1st century B.C.E.,37cm high, Alexandria, Egypt © Trustees of the British Mus
Marble portrait of Alexander the Great, Hellenistic Greek, 2nd-1st century B.C.E.,37cm high, Alexandria, Egypt © Trustees of the British Museum
Hellenistic period
Following the death of Alexander and the division of his empire, the Hellenistic period (323-31 B.C.E.) saw Greek power and culture extended across the Middle East and as far as the Indus Valley. When Rome absorbed the Greek world into its vast empire, Greek ideas, art and culture greatly influenced the Romans.
Alexander was always shown clean-shaven, which was an innovation: all previous portraits of Greek statesmen or rulers had beards. This royal fashion lasted for almost five hundred years and almost all of the Hellenistic kings and Roman emperors until Hadrian were portrayed beardless.
The British Museum collection includes objects from across the entire Greek world, ranging in date from the beginning of pre-history to early Christianity in the Byzantine era.
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© Rada Powiernicza Muzeum Brytyjskiego

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