Greek Society

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The Greek Society
The Greek ways of life, including its cities and religion, introduced some of the cultural models that we still follow today. Greece’s art, science, and military structure personified and made the success of the empire possible. This advanced society flourished in its golden age shortly after defeating Persia in many wars. These Greco-Persian wars included the first clash of civilizations, and the struggle between the man-centered universe and the God-centered universe. The Greek Hoplite army, led by Themistocles and Pericles, was the main disparity between these two ambitious cultures. The Hoplites dominated the opposition by using the advantage of a mixed army, with the light infantry being used along with the hoplites and cavalry. After the first Persian expedition failed in 492 BC with the attempted conquest of Thrace and Macedonia, the Persian leader Darius tried another invasion, but once again the Persians failed at the battle of Marathon. He was pushed all the way back into Persia, with the destruction of his fleet at the battle of Salamis. These encounters, along with the battle of Thermopylae, ended Xerxes’ attempt at conquering Athens. Although Persia held Athens for fourteen years, these three invasions proved to be the downfall of the Persian Empire. The Greek empire also thrived during its golden age because of its talented artists who introduced perspective and a whole new look to Athens. With the help of Phidias and Praxiteles, Athens became a marvel of the Classical Age. Buildings such as the Parthenon and the Statue of Zeus, created by Phidias, attracted many people to Athens with the intent of contributing to the already astounding culture. A view of the Acropolis; “Dominating the entire summit of the Acropolis, of course, was the breathtaking sight of the Parthenon. Designed by the architect Ictinus and master sculptor Phidias, it was 237 feet long, 110 feet wide, some 65 feet high, and incorporated over 22,000 tons of exquisite marble” (Nardo, The Ancient Greeks, 40). Also, drama and literature quickly grew during this time. Important writers of the classical age included Euripides, Aeschylus, and Sophocles. These writers improved the theater of classical Athens with great dramas and comedies. Plays written by these writers include “The Trojan Women,” by Euripides and “The Oedipus Cycle,” by Sophocles. All of these individuals, along with the greater ideas contributed greatly to the extent of Greece and the superiority of its civilization. Greece was the most important society of the Classical Age, because of its advanced culture, methods in science and philosophy, and its revolutionary strategies in warfare.

The introduction of perspective paved the way for revolutionary artists such as Phidias and Praxiteles. Phidias was considered the greatest of Greek sculptors and he became the dominant artistic figure of the fifth century BC. Phidias studied at Hageladas School in Argos and was very well known at an early age. His statue of Zeus was considered a masterpiece and was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Made of gold and ivory, it was regularly oiled so the metals would not crack. Additionally, Phidias sculpted an Aphrodite in Elis and an Athena in Plataiai. Phidias was also an adviser to Pericles and helped him to personify Athens after the Greek victories in the Greco-Persian wars. He created the symbol of Athens, the statue Athena, and he supervised the construction of the Propylaea and the Parthenon. In later life, he was charged with embezzlement and soon after died in prison.

Son of the sculptor Cephisodotos, or Kephisdotos, Praxiteles was the most celebrated artist in the ancient world. Many of his sculptures were copied by Roman marble reproduction. One of his original statues, Hermes in Olympia, with God carrying a young Dionysus as a baby on his arm, has survived. Also, Praxiteles’ bronze statue of Eirine, goddess of Peace, was placed on an Athenean square...
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