Department of Anthropology


Bulfinch's Age of Fable

Chapter XXXIV
The Druids - Iona


Chapter XXXIV
The Druids  - Iona

The Druids were the priests or ministers of religion among the ancient Celtic nations in Gaul, Britain, and Germany. Our information respecting them is borrowed from notices in the Greek and Roman writers, compared with the remains of Welsh and Gaelic poetry still extant.

The Druids combined the functions of the priest, the magistrate, the scholar, and the physician. They stood to the people of the Celtic tribes in a relation closely analogous to that in which the Brahmans of India, the Magi of Persia, and the priests of the Egyptians stood to the people respectively by whom they were revered.

The Druids taught the existence of one God, to whom they gave a name "Be'al," which Celtic antiquaries tell us means "the life of everything," or "the source of all beings,:" and which seems to have affinity with the Phoenician Baal.  What renders this affinity more striking is that the Druids as well as the Phoenicians identified this, their supreme deity, with the Sun.  Fire was regarded as a symbol of the divinity.  The Latin writers assert that the Druids also worshipped numerous inferior Gods.  They used no images to represent the object of their worship, nor did they meet in temples or buildings of any kind for the performance of their sacred rites.  A circle of stones (each stone generally of vast size) enclosing an area of from twenty feet to thirty yards in diameter, constituted their sacred place.  The most celebrated of these now remaining is Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain, England.

These sacred circles were generally situated near some stream, or  under the shadow of a grove or wide-spreading oak. In the centre of the circle stood the Cromlech or altar, which was a large stone, placed in the manner of a table upon other stones set up on end. The Druids had also their high places, which were large stones or piles of stones on the summits of hills. These were called Cairns, and were used in the worship of the deity under the symbol of the sun..

That the Druids offered sacrifices to their deity there can be no doubt.  But there is some uncertainty as to what they offered, and of the ceremonies connected with their religious services we know almost nothing.  The classical (Roman) writers affirm that they offered on great occasions human sacrifices; as for success in war or for relief from dangerous diseases.  Caesar has given a detailed account of the manner in which this was done.  "They have images of immense size, the limbs of which are framed with twisted twigs and filled with living persons.  These being set on fire, those within are encompassed by the flames."  Many attempts have been made by Celtic writers to shake the testimony of the Roman historians to this fact, but without success.

The Druids observed two festivals in each year. The former took place in the beginning of May, and was called Beltane or "fire of God."  On this occasion a large fire was kindled on some elevated spot, in honor of the sun, whose returning beneficence they thus welcomed after the gloom and desolation of winter.  Of this custom a trace remains in the name given to Whitsunday in parts of Scotland to this day. Sir Walter Scott uses the word in the Boat Song in the Lady of the Lake:

"Ours is no sapling, chance-sown by the fountain,
Blooming at Beltane in winter to fade."

The other great festival of the Druids was called "Samh'in," or
"fire of peace," and was held on Hallow-eve (first of November),
which still retains this designation in the Highlands of
Scotland. On this occasion the Druids assembled in solemn
conclave, in the most central part of the district, to discharge
the judicial functions of their order. All questions, whether
public or private, all crimes against person or property, were at
this time brought before them for adjudication. With these
judicial acts were combined certain superstitious usages,
especially the kindling of the sacred fire, from which all the
fires in the district which had been beforehand scrupulously
extinguished, might be relighted. This usage of kindling fires
on Hallow-eve lingered in the British Islands long after the
establishment of Christianity.

Besides these two great annual festivals, the Druids were in the
habit of observing the full moon, and especially the sixth day of
the moon. On the latter they sought the mistletoe, which grew on
their favorite oaks, and to which, as well as to the oak itself,
they ascribed a peculiar virtue and sacredness. The discovery of
it was an occasion of rejoicing and solemn worship. "They call
it," says Pliny, "by a word in their language which means 'heal-
all,' and having made solemn preparation for feasting and
sacrifice under the tree, they drive thither two milk-white
bulls, whose horns are then for the first time bound. The priest
then, robed in white, ascends the tree, and cuts off the
mistletoe with a golden sickle. It is caught in a white mantle,
after which they proceed to slay the victims, at the same time
praying that god would render his gift prosperous to those to
whom he had given it. They drink the water in which it has been
infused, and think it a remedy for all diseases. The mistletoe
is a parasitic plant, and is not always nor often found on the
oak, so that when it is found it is the more precious."

The Druids were the teachers of morality as well as of religion.
Of their ethical teaching a valuable specimen is preserved in the
Triads of the Welsh Bards, and from this we may gather that their
views of moral rectitude were on the whole just, and that they
held and inculcated many very noble and valuable principles of
conduct. They were also the men of science and learning of their
age and people. Whether they were acquainted with letters or not
has been disputed, though the probability is strong that they
were, to some extent. But it is certain that they committed
nothing of their doctrine, their history, or their poetry to
writing. Their teaching was oral, and their literature (if such
a word may be used in such a case) was preserved solely by
tradition. But the Roman writers admit that "they paid much
attention to the order and laws of nature, and investigated and
taught to the youth under their charge many things concerning the
stars and their motions, the size of the world and the lands ,
and concerning the might and power of the immortal gods."

Their history consisted in traditional tales, in which the heroic
deeds of their forefathers were celebrated. These were
apparently in verse, and thus constituted part of the poetry as
well as the history of the Druids. In the poems of Ossian we
have, if not the actual productions of Druidical times, what may
be considered faithful representations of the songs of the Bards.

The Bards were an essential part of the Druidical hierarchy. One
author, Pennant, says, "The bards were supposed to be endowed
with powers equal to inspiration. They were the oral historians
of all past transactions, public and private. They were also
accomplished genealogists."

Pennant gives a minute account of the Eisteddfods or sessions of
the bards and minstrels, which were held in Wales for many
centuries, long after the Druidical priesthood in its other
departments became extinct. At these meetings none but bards of
merit were suffered to rehearse their pieces, and minstrels of
skill to perform. Judges were appointed to decide on their
respective abilities, and suitable degrees were conferred. In
the earlier period the judges were appointed by the Welsh
princes, and after the conquest of Wales, by commission from the
kings of England. Yet the tradition is that Edward I., in
revenge for the influence of the bards, in animating the
resistance of the people to his sway, persecuted them with great
cruelty. This tradition has furnished the poet Gray with the
subject of his celebrated ode, the Bard.

There are still occasional meetings of the lovers of Welsh poetry and music, held under the ancient name. Among Mrs. Heman's poems is one written for an Eisteddfod, or meeting of Welsh Bards, held in London May 22, 1822. It begins with a description of the ancient meeting, of which the following lines are a part:

"----- midst the eternal cliffs, whose strength defied
The crested Roman in his hour of pride;
And where the Druid's ancient cromlech frowned,
And the oaks breathed mysterious murmurs round,
There thronged the inspired of yore! On plain or height,
In the sun's face, beneath the eye of light,
And baring unto heaven each noble head,
Stood in the circle, where none else might tread."

The Druidical system was at its height at the time of the Roman invasion under Julius Caesar. Against the Druids, as their chief enemies, these conquerors of the world directed their unsparing fury. The Druids, harassed at all points on the main-land, retreated to Anglesey and Iona, where for a season they found shelter, and continued their now-dishonored rites.

The Druids retained their predominance in Iona and over the adjacent islands and main-land until they were supplanted and their superstitions overturned by the arrival of St. Columba, the apostle of the Highlands, by whom the inhabitants of that district were first led to profess Christianity.


One of the smallest of the British Isles, situated near a ragged and barren coast, surrounded by dangerous seas, and possessing no sources of internal wealth, Iona has obtained an imperishable place in history as the seat of civilization and religion at a time when the darkness of heathenism hung over almost the whole of Northern Europe. Iona or Icolmkill is situated at the extremity of the island of Mull, from which it is separated by a strait of half a mile in breadth, its distance from the main-land of Scotland being thirty-six miles.

Columba was a native of Ireland, and connected by birth with the princes of the land. Ireland was at that time a land of gospel light, while the western and northern parts of Scotland were still immersed in the darkness of heathenism.  Columba, with twelve friends landed on the island of Iona in the year of our Lord 563, having made the passage in a wicker boat covered with hides.  The Druids who occupied the island endeavored to prevent his settling there, and the savage nations on the adjoining shores incommoded him with their hostility, and on several occasions endangered his life by their attacks.  Yet by his perseverance and zeal he surmounted all opposition, procured from the king a gift of the island, and established there a monastery of which he was the abbot.  He was unwearied in his labors to disseminate a knowledge of the Scriptures throughout the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and such was the reverence paid him that though not a bishop, but merely a presbyter and monk, the entire province with its bishops was subject to him and his successors.  The Pictish monarch was so impressed with a sense of his wisdom and worth that he held him in the highest honor, and the neighboring chiefs and princes sought his counsel and availed themselves of his judgment in settling their disputes.

When Columba landed on Iona he was attended by twelve followers whom he had formed into a religious body, of which he was the head.  To these, as occasion required, others were from time to time added, so that the original number was always kept up.  Their institution was called a monastery, and the superior an abbot, but the system had little in common with the monastic institutions of later times.  The name by which those who submitted to the rule were known was that of Culdees, probably from the Latin "cultores Dei" worshippers of God.  They were a body of religious persons associated together for the purpose of aiding each other in the common work of preaching the gospel and teaching youth, as well as maintaining in themselves the fervor of devotion by united exercises of worship.  On entering the order certain vows were taken by the members, but they were not those which were usually imposed by monastic orders, for of these, which are three, celibacy, poverty, and obedience, the Culdees were bound to none except the third.  To poverty they did not bind themselves; on the contrary, they seem to have labored diligently to procure for themselves and those dependent on them the comforts of life. Marriage also was allowed them, and most of them seem to have entered into that state.  True, their wives were not permitted to reside with them at the institution, but they had a residence assigned to them in an adjacent locality.  Near Iona there is an island which still bears the name of "Eilen nam ban," women's island, where their husbands seem to have resided with them, except when duty required their presence in the school or the sanctuary.

Campbell, in his poem of Reullura, alludes to the married monks of Iona:

" -----The pure Culdees
Were Albyn's earliest priests of God,
Ere yet an island of her seas
By foot of Saxon monk was trod,
Long ere her churchmen by bigotry
Were barred from holy wedlock's tie.
'Twas then that Aodh, famed afar,
In Iona preached the word with power.
And Reullura, beauty's star,
Was the partner of his bower."

In one of his Irish Melodies, Moore gives the legend of St. Senanus and the lady who sought shelter on the island, but was repulsed:

"Oh, haste and leave this sacred isle,
Unholy bark, ere morning smile;
For on thy deck, though dark it be,
A female form I see;
And I have sworn this sainted sod
Shall ne'er by woman's foot be trod.

In these respects and in others the Culdees departed from the established rules of the Romish Church, and consequently were deemed heretical.  The consequence was that as the power of the latter advanced, that of the Culdees was enfeebled. It was not, however, till the thirteenth century that the communities of the Culdees were suppressed and the members dispersed. They still continued to labor as individuals, and resisted the inroads of Papal usurpation as they best might till the light of the Reformation dawned on the world.

Ionia, from its position in the western seas, was exposed to the assaults of the Norwegian and Danish rovers by whom those seas were infested, and by them it was repeatedly pillaged, its dwellings burned, and its peaceful inhabitants put to the sword.  These unfavorable circumstances led to its gradual decline, which was expedited by the supervision of the Culdees throughout Scotland.  Under the reign of Popery the island became the seat of a nunnery, the ruins of which are still seen.  At the Reformation, the nuns were allowed to remain, living in community, when the abbey was dismantled.

Ionia is now chiefly resorted to by travellers on account of the numerous ecclesiastical and sepulchral remains which are found upon it.  The principal of these are the Cathedral or Abbey Church, and the Chapel of the Nunnery. Besides these remains of ecclesiastical antiquity, there are some of an earlier date, and pointing to the existence on the island of forms of worship and belief different from those of Christianity.  These are the circular Cairns which are found in various parts, and which seem to have been of Druidical origin.  It is in reference to all these remains of ancient religion that Johnson exclaims, "That man is little to be envied whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plains of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer amid the ruins of Iona."

In the Lord of the Isles, Scott beautifully contrasts the church
on Iona with the Cave of Staffa, opposite:

"Nature herself, it seemed, would raise
A minister to her Maker's praise!
Not for a meaner use ascend
Her columns or her arches bend;
Nor of a theme less solemn tells
The mighty surge that ebbs and swells,
And still between each awful pause,
From the high vault an answer draws,
In varied tone, prolonged and high,
That mocks the organ's melody;
Nor doth its entrance front in vain
To old Iona's holy fane,
That Nature's voice might seem to say,
Well hast thou done, frail child of clay,
Thy humble powers that stately shrine
Tasked high and hard but witness mine."


We have seen throughout the course of this book how the Greek and Norse myths have furnished material for the poets, not only of
Greece and Scandinavia, but also of modern times.  In the same way these stories have been found capable of artistic treatment by painters, sculptors, and even by musicians.  The story of Cupid and Psyche has not only been retold by poets from Apuleius to William Morris, but also drawn out in a series of frescoes by Raphael, and sculptured in marble by Canova. Even to enumerate the works of art of the modern and ancient world which depend for their subject-matter upon mythology would be a task for a book by itself. As we have been able to give only a few illustrations of the poetic treatment of some of the principal myths, so we shall have to content ourselves with a similarly limited view of the part played by them in other fields of art.

Of the statues made by the ancients themselves to represent their greater deities, a few have been already commented on. But it must not be thought that these splendid examples of plastic art, the Olympian Jupiter and the Athene of the Parthenon, represent the earliest attempts of the Greeks to give form to their myths in sculpture.  Our most primitive sources of knowledge of much of Greek mythology are the Homeric poems, where the stories of Achilles and Ulysses have already taken on a poetic form, almost the highest conceivable. But in the other arts, Greek genius lagged behind. At the time when the Homeric poems were written, we find no traces of columned temples or magnificent statues.  Scarcely were the domestic arts sufficiently advanced to allow the poet to describe dwellings glorious enough for his heroes to live in, or articles of common utility fit for their use.  Of the two most famous works of art mentioned in the Iliad we must think of the statue of Athene at Troy (the Palladium) as a rude carving perhaps of wood, the arms of the goddess separated from the body only enough to allow her to hold the lance and spindle, which were the signs of her divinity.  The splendor of the shield of Achilles must be attributed largely to the rich imagination of the poet.

Other works of art of this primitive age we know from descriptions in later classical writers.  They attributed the rude statues which had come down to them to Daedalus and his pupils, and beheld them with wonder at their uncouth ugliness.  It was long thought that these beginnings of Greek sculpture were to be traced to Egypt, but now-a-days scholars are inclined to take a different view. Egyptian sculpture was closely allied to architecture; the statues were frequently used for the columns of temples.  Thus sculpture was subordinated to purely mechanical principles, and human figures were represented altogether in accordance with established conventions.  Greek sculpture, on the contrary, even in its primitive forms was eminently natural, capable of developing a high degree of realism.  From the first it was decorative in character, and this left the artist free to execute in his own way, provided only that the result should be in accordance with the highest type of beauty which he could conceive. An example of this early decorative art was the chest of Kypselos, on which stories from Homer were depicted in successive bands, the reliefs being partly inlaid with gold and ivory.

From the sixth century before Christ date three processes of great importance in the development of sculpture; the art of casting in bronze, the chiselling of marble, and the inlaying of gold and ivory on wood (chryselephantine work).  As early Greek literature developed first among the island Greeks, so the invention of these three methods of art must br attributed to the colonists away from the original Hellas.  To the Samians is probably due the invention of bronze casting, to the Chians the beginning of sculpture in marble.  This latter development opened to Greek sculpture its great future. Marble work was carried on by a race of artists beginning with Melas in the seventh century and coming down to Boupalos and Athenis, the sons of Achermos, whose works survived to the time of Augustus. Chryselephantine sculpture began in Crete.

Among the earliest of the Greek sculptors whose names have come
down to us was Canachos, the Sicyonian. His masterpiece was the
Apollo Philesios, in bronze, made for the temple of Didymas. The
statue no longer exists, but there are a number of ancient
monuments which may be taken as fairly close copies of it, or at
least as strongly suggestive of the style of Canachos, among
which are the Payne-Knight Apollo at the British Museum, and the
Piombino Apollo at the Louvre. In this latter statue the god
stands erect with the left foot slightly advanced, and the hands
outstretched. The socket of the eye is hollow and was probably
filled with some bright substance. Canachos was undoubtedly an
innovator, and in the stronger modelling of the head and neck,
the more vigorous posture of the body of his statue, he shows an
advance on the more conventional and limited art of his

As Greek sculpture progressed, schools of artists arose in
various cities, dependent usually for their fame on the ability
of some individual sculptor. "Among these schools, those of
Aegina and Athens are the most important. Of the former school
the works of Onatus are by far the most notable.

Onatus was a contemporary of Canachos, and reached the height of
his fame in the middle of the fifth century before Christ. His
most famous work was the scene where the Greek heroes draw lots
for an opponent to Hector. It is not certain whether Onatus
sculptured the groups which adorned the pediments of the temple
of Athena at Aegina, groups now in the Glyptothek at Munich, but
certainly these famous statues are decidedly in his style. Both
pediments represent the battle over the body of Patroclus. The
east pediment shows the struggle between Heracles and Laomedon.
In each group a fallen warrior lies at the feet of the goddess,
over whom she extends her protection. The Aeginetan marbles show
the traces of dying archaism. The figures of the warriors are
strongly moulded, muscular, but without grace. The same type is
reproduced again and again among them. Even the wounded scarcely depart from it. The statues of the eastern pediment are probably later in date than those of the western, and in the former the dying warrior exhibits actual weakness and pain. In the western
pediment the statue of the goddess is thoroughly archaic, stiff, uncompromisingly harsh, the features frozen into a conventional smile. In the eastern group the goddess, though still ungraceful, is more distinctly in action, and seems about to take part in the struggle. The Heracles of the eastern pediment, a warrior supported on one knee and drawing his bow, is, for the time, wonderfully vivid and strong. All of these statues are evidence of the rapid progress which Greek sculpture was making in the fifth century against the demands of hieratic conventionality.

The contemporary Athenian school boasted the names of Hegias,
Critios, and Nesiotes. Their works have all perished, but a copy
of one of the most famous works of Critios and Nesiotes, the
statue of the Tyrannicides, is to be found in the Museum of
Naples. Harmodius and Aristogeiton killed, in 514 B.C., the
tyrant-ruler of Athens, Hipparchus. In consequence of this
Athens soon became a republic, and the names of the first rebels
were held in great honor. Their statues were set up on the
Acropolis, first a group by Antenor, then the group in question
by Critios and Nesiotes after the first had been carried away by
Xerxes. The heroes, as we learn from the copies in Naples, were
represented as rushing forward, one with a naked sword flashing
above his head, the other with a mantle for defence thrown over
his left arm. They differ in every detail of action and pose,
yet they exemplify the same emotion, a common impulse to perform
the same deed.

At Argus, contemporary with these early schools of Athens and
Aegina, was a school of artists depending on the fame of the
great sculptor Ageladas. He was distinguished for his statues in
bronze of Zeus and Heracles, but his great distinction is not
through works of his own, but is due to the fact that he was the
teacher of Myron, Polycleitos, and Pheidias. These names with
those of Pythagoras and Calamis bring us to the glorious
flowering time of Greek sculpture.

Calamis, somewhat older than the others, was an Athenian, at
least by residence. He carried on the measure of perfection
which Athenian sculpture had already attained, and added grace
and charm to the already powerful model which earlier workers had
left him. None of his works survive, but from notices of critics
we know that he excelled especially in modelling horses and other
animals. His two race-horses in memory of the victory of Hiero
of Syracuse at Olympia in 468 were considered unsurpassable.
However, it is related that Praxiteles removed the charioteer
from one of the groups of Calamis and replaced it by one of his
own statues "that the men of Calamis might not be inferior to his
horses." Thus it would appear that Calamis was less successful
in dealing with the human body, though a statue of Aphrodite from
his hand was proverbial, under the name Sosandra, for its grace
and grave beauty.

Pythagoras of Rhegium carried on the realism, truth to nature,
which was beginning to appear as an ideal of artistic
representation. He is said to have been the first sculptor to
mark the veins and sinews on the body.

In this vivid naturalness Pythagoras was himself far surpassed by
Myron. Pythagoras had seen the importance of showing the effect
of action in every portion of the body. Myron carried the
minuteness of representation so far that his Statue of Ladas, the
runner, was spoken of not as a runner, but as a BREATHER. This
statue represented the victor of the foot-race falling,
overstrained and dying, at the goal, the last breath from the
tired lungs yet hovering upon the lips. More famous than the
Ladas is the Discobolos , or disc-thrower, of which copies exist
at Rome, one being at the Vatican, the other at the Palazzo
Massimi alle Colonne. These, though doubtless far behind the
original, serve to show the marvellous power of portraying
intense action which the sculptor possessed. The athlete is
represented at the precise instant when he has brought the
greatest possible bodily strength into play in order to give to
the disc its highest force. The body is bent forward, the toes
of one foot cling to the ground, the muscles of the torso are
strained, the whole body is in an attitude of violent tension
which can endure only for an instant. Yet the face is free from
contortion, free from any trace of effort, calm and beautiful.
This shows that Myron, intent as he was upon reproducing nature,
could yet depart from his realistic formulae when the
requirements of beautiful art demanded it.

The same delight in rapid momentary action which characterized
the two statues of Myron already mentioned appears in a third,
the statue of Marsyas astonished at the flute which Athene had
thrown away, and which was to lead its finder into his fatal
contest with Apollo. A copy of this work at the Lateran Museum
represents the satyr starting back in a rapid mingling of desire
and fear, which is stamped on his heavy face, as well as
indicated in the movement of his body.

Myron's realism again found expression in the bronze cow,
celebrated by the epigrams of contemporary poets for its striking
naturalness. "Shepherd, pasture thy flock at a little distance,
lest thinking thou seest the cow of Myron breathe, thou shouldst
wish to lead it away with thine oxen," was one of them.

The value and originality of Myron's contributions to the
progress of Greek sculpture were so great that he left behind him
a considerable number of artists devoted to his methods. His son
Lykios followed his father closely. In statues on the Acropolis
representing two boys, one bearing a basin, one blowing the coals
in a censer into a flame, he reminds one of the Ladas, especially
in the second, where the action of breathing is exemplified in
every movement of the body. Another famous work by a follower of Myron was the boy plucking a thorn from his foot, a copy of which is in the Rothschild collection.

The frieze of the Temple of Apollo at Phigales has also been
attributed to the school of Myron. The remnants of this frieze,
now in the British Museum, show the battle of the Centaurs and
Amazons. The figures have not the calm stateliness of bearing
which characterizes those of the Parthenon frieze, but instead
exhibit a wild vehemence of action which is, perhaps, directly
due to the influence of Myron.

Another pupil of Ageladas, a somewhat younger contemporary of
Pheidias, was Polycleitos. He excelled in representations of
human, bodily beauty. Perfection of form was his aim, and so
nearly did he seem to the ancients to have attained this object
that his Doryphoros was taken by them as a model of the human
figure. A copy of this statue exists in the Museum of Naples
and represents a youth in the attitude of bearing a lance, quiet
and reserved. The figure is rather heavily built, firm,
powerful, and yet graceful, though hardly light enough to justify
the praise of perfection which has been lavished upon it.

A companion statue to the Doryphorus of Polycleitos was his
statue of the Diadumenos, or boy binding his head with a fillet.
A supposed copy of this exists in the British Museum. It
presents the same general characteristics as the Doryphorus, a
well-modelled but thick-set figure standing in an attitude of

What Polycleitos did for the male form in these two statues he
did for the female form in his Amazon, which, according to a
doubtful story, was adjudged in competition superior to a work by
Pheidias. A statue supposed to be a copy of this masterpiece of
Polycleitos is now in the Berlin Museum. It represents a woman
standing in a graceful attitude beside a pillar, her left arm
thrown above her head to free her wounded breast. The sculptor
has succeeded admirably in catching the muscular force and firm
hard flesh beneath the graceful curves of the woman warrior.

Polycleitos won his chief successes in portraying human figures.
His statues of divinities are not numerous: a Zeus at Argos, an
Aphrodite at Amyclae, and, more famous than either, the
chryselephantine Hera for a temple between Argos and Mycenae.
The goddess was represented as seated on a throne of gold, with
bare head and arms. In her right hand was the sceptre crowned
with the cuckoo, symbol of conjugal fidelity; in her left, the
pomegranate. There exists no certain copy of the Hera of
Polycleitos. The head of Hera in Naples may, perhaps, give us
some idea of the type of divine beauty preferred by the sculptor
who was preeminent for his devotion to human beauty.

Polycleitos was much praised by the Romans Quintilian and Cicero,
who nevertheless, held that though he surpassed the beauty of man
in nature, yet he did not approach the beauty of the gods. It
was reserved for Pheidias to portray the highest conceptions of
divinity of which the Greek mind was capable in his statues of
Athene in the Parthenon at Athens, and the Zeus of Olympus.

Pheidias lived in the golden age of Athenian art. The victory of
Greece against Persia had been due in large measure to Athens,
and the results of the political success fell largely to her. It
is true the Persians had held the ground of Athens for weeks, and
when, after the victory of Salamis, the people returned to their
city, they found it in ruins. But the spirit of the Athenians
had been stirred, and in spite of the hostility of Persia, the
jealousy of neighboring states, and the ruin of the city, the
people felt new confidence in themselves and their divinity, and
were more than ever ready to strive for the leadership of Greece.
Religious feeling, gratitude to the gods who had preserved them,
and civic pride in the glory of their own victorious city, all
inspired the Athenians. After the winter in which the Persians
were finally beaten at Plataea, the Athenians began to rebuild.
For a while their efforts were confined to rendering the city
habitable and defensible, since the activity of the little state
was largely political. But when th leadership of Athens in
Greece had become firmly established under Theistocles and Cimon,
the third president of the democracy, Pericles, found leisure to
turn to the artistic development of the city. The time was ripe,
for the artistic progress of the people had been no less marked
than their political. The same long training in valor and
temperance which gave Athens her statesmen, Aristides and
Pericles, gave her her artists and poets also. Pericles became
president of the city in 444 B.C., just at the time when the
decorative arts were approaching perfection under Pheidias.

Pheidias was an Athenian by birth, the son of Charmides. He
studied first under Hegias, then under Ageladas the Argive. He
became the most famous sculptor of his time, and when Pericles
wanted a director for his great monumental works at Athens, he
summoned Pheidias. Artists from all over Hellas put themselves
at his disposal, and under his direction the Parthenon was built
and adorned with the most splendid statuary the world has ever

The Parthenon was fashioned in honor of Athene or Minerva, the
guardian deity of Athens, the preserver of Hellas, whom the
Athenians in their gratitude sought to make the sovereign goddess
of the land which she had saved. The eastern gable of the temple
was adorned with a group representing the appearance of Minerva
before the gods of Olympus. In the left angle of the gable
appeared Helios, the dawn, rising from the sea. In the right
angle Selene, evening, sank from sight. Next to Helios was a
figure representing either Dionysus or Olympus, and beside were
seated two figures, perhaps Persephone and Demeter, perhaps two
Horae. Approaching these as a messenger was Iris. Balancing
these figures on the side next Selene were two figures, representing Aphrodite in the arms of Peitho, or perhaps Thalassa, goddess of the sea, leaning against Gaia, the earth.  Nearer the centre on this side was Hestia, to whom Hermes brought the tidings. The central group is totally lost, but must have been made up of Zeus, Athene, and Vulcan, with, perhaps, others of the greater divinities.

The group of the western pediment represented Athene and
Poseidon, contesting for the supremacy of Athens. Athene's
chariot is driven by Victory, Poseidon's by Amphitrite. Although
the greater part of the attendant deities have disappeared, we
know the gods of the rivers of Athens, Eridanas and Ilissos, in
reclining postures filled the corners of the pediment. One of
these has survived, and remains in its perfection of grace and
immortal beauty to attest the wonderful skill that directed the
chiselling of the whole group.

Although the gable groups have suffered terribly in the historic
vicissitudes of the Parthenon, still enough remains of them to
show the dignity of their conception, the rhythm of composition,
and the splendid freedom of their workmanship. The fragments
were purchased by Lord Elgin early in this century and are now in
the British Museum.

The frieze of the Parthenon, executed under the supervision of
Pheidias, represented one of the most glorious religious
ceremonies of the Greek, the Pan-Athenaic procession. The
deities surround Zeus as spectators of the scene, and toward them
winds the long line of virgins bearing incense, herds of animals
for sacrifice, players upon the lute and lyre, chariots and
riders. On the western front the movement has not yet begun, and
the youths and men stand in disorder, some binding their mantles,
some mounting their horses. The frieze is noteworthy for its
expression of physical and intellectual beauty which marked the
highest conceptions of Greek art, and for the studied mingling of
forcible action and gracious repose. The larger part of this
frieze has been preserved and is to be seen at the British

The third group of Parthenon sculptures, the ornaments of the
metope, represents the contest between centaurs and the Lapithae
with some scenes interspersed of which the subjects cannot now be
determined. The frieze is in low relief, the figures scarcely
starting from the background. The sculptures of the metope, on
the contrary, are in high relief, frequently giving the
impression of marbles detached from the background altogether.
They were, moreover, colored. Or course, Pheidias himself cannot
have had more than the share of general director in the
sculptures of the metope; many of them are manifestly executed by
inferior hands. Nevertheless, the mind of a great designer is
evident in the wonderful variety of posture and action which the
figures show. Indeed, when we consider the immense number of
figures employed, it becomes evident that not even all the
sculptures of the pediments can have been executed entirely by
Pheidias, who was already probably well advanced in life when he
began the Parthenon decorations; yet all the sculptures were the
work of Pheidias or of pupils working under him, and although
traces may be found of the influence of other artists, of
Myron, for example, in the freedom and naturalness of the action
in the figures of the frieze, yet all the decorations of the
Parthenon may fairly be said to belong to the Pheidian school of

The fame of Pheidias himself, however, rested very largely on
three great pieces of art work: The Athene Promachos, the Athene
Parthenos, and the Olympian Zeus. The first of these was a work
of Pheidias's youth. It represented the goddess standing gazing
toward Athens lovingly and protectingly. She held a spear in one
hand, the other supported a buckler. The statue was nine feet
high. It was dignified and noble, but at the time of its
conception Pheidias had not freed himself from the convention and
traditions of the earlier school, and the stiff folds of the
tunic, the cold demeanor of the goddess, recall the masters whom
Pheidias was destined to supersede. No copy of this statue
survives, and hence a description of it must be largely
conjectural, made up from hints gleaned from Athenian coins.

Pheidias sculptured other statues of Athene, but none so
wonderful as the Athene Parthenos, which, with the Olympian Zeus,
was the wonder and admiration of the Greek world. The Athene
Parthenos was designed to stand as an outward symbol of the
divinity in whose protecting might the city had conquered and
grown strong, in whose honor the temple had been built in which
this statue was to shine as queen. The Olympian Zeus was the
representative of that greater divinity which all Hellas united
in honoring. We may gain from the words of Pausanias some idea
of the magnificence of this statue, but of its unutterable
majesty we can only form faint images in the mind, remembering
the strength and grace of the figures of the pediments of the
temple at Athens. "Zeus," says Pausanias, "is seated on a throne
of ivory and gold; upon his head is laced a garland made in
imitation of olive leaves. He bears a Victory in his right hand,
also crowned and made in gold and ivory, and holding in her right
hand a little fillet. In his left hand the god holds a sceptre,
made of all kinds of metals; the bird perched on the tip of the
sceptre is an eagle. The shoes of Zeus are also of gold, and of
gold his mantle, and underneath this mantle are figures and
lilies inlaid."

Both the Olympian Zeus and the Athene were of chryselephantine
work offering enormous technical difficulties, but in spite of
this both showed almost absolute perfection of form united with
beauty of intellectual character to represent the godhead
incarnate in human substance. These two statues may be taken as
the noblest creations of the Greek imagination when directed to
the highest objects of its contemplation. The beauty of the
Olympian Zeus, according to Quintilian, "added a new element to

In the works of art just mentioned the creative force of the
Greeks attained its highest success. After the death of Pheidias
his methods were carried on in a way by the sculptors who had
worked under him and become subject to his influence; but as
years went on, with less and less to remind us of the supreme
perfection of the master. Among these pupils of Pheidias were
Agoracritos and Colotes in Athens, Paionios, and Alcamenes. Of
Paionios fortunately one statue survives in regard to which there
can be no doubt. The Victory erected to the Olympian Zeus shows
a tall goddess, strongly yet gracefully carved, posed forward
with her drapery flattened closely against her body in front as
if by the wind, and streaming freely behind. The masterpiece of
Alcamenes, an Aphrodite, is known only by descriptions. The
pediments of the temple at Olympia have been assigned, by
tradition, one to Alcamenes, one to Paionios. They are, however,
so thoroughly archaic in style that it seems impossible to
reconcile them with what we know of the work of the men to whom they are attributed. The group of the eastern front represented
the chariot races of Oinomaos and Pelops; that of the western,
the struggle of the Centaurs and Lapithae. In the latter the
action is extremely violent, only the Apollo in the midst is calm
and commanding. In both pediments there are decided approaches
to realism.

In Athens, after Pheidias, the greatest sculptures were those
used to adorn the Erechtheion. The group of Caryatids, maidens
who stand erect and firm, bearing upon their heads the weight of
the porch, is justly celebrated as an architectural device. At
the same time, the maidens, though thus performing the work of
columns, do not lose the grace and charm which naturally belongs
to them.

Another post-Pheidian work at Athens was the temple of Nike
Apteros, the wingless Victory. The bas-reliefs from this temple,
now in the Acropolis Museum at Athens, one representing the
Victory stooping to tie her sandal, another, the Victory crowning
a trophy, recall the consummate grace of the art of Pheidias, the
greatest Greek art.

Agoracritos left behind him works at Athens which in their
perfection could scarcely be distinguished from the works of
Pheidias himself, none of which have come down to us. But from
the time of the Peloponnesian war, the seeds of decay were in the
art of Hellas, and they ripened fast. In one direction
Callimachus carried refined delicacy and formal perfection to
excess; and in the other Demetrios, the portrait sculptor, put by
ideal beauty for the striking characteristics of realism. Thus
the strict reserve, the earnest simplicity of Pheidias and his
contemporaries, were sacrificed sacrificed partly, it is true,
to the requirements of a fuller spiritual life, partly to the
demands of a wider knowledge and deeper passion. The legitimate
effects of sculpture are strictly limited. Sculpture is fitted
to express not temporary, accidental feeling, but permanent
character; not violent action, but repose. In the great work of
the golden age the thought of the artist was happily limited so
that the form was adequate to its expression. One single motive
was all that he tried to express a motive uncomplicated by
details of specific situation, a type of general beauty unmixed
with the peculiar suggestions of special and individual emotion.
When the onward impulse led the artist to pass over the severe
limits which bounded the thought of the earlier school, he found
his medium becoming less adequate to the demands of his more
detailed and circumstantial mental conception. The later
sculpture, therefore, lacks in some measure the repose and entire
assurance of the earlier. The earlier sculpture confines itself
to broad, central lines of heroic and divine character, as in the
two masterpieces of Pheidias. The latter dealt in great
elaboration with the details and elements of the stories and
characters that formed its subjects, as in the Niobe group, or
the Laocoon, to be mentioned later.

These modern tendencies produced as the greatest artists of the
later Greek type Scopas and Praxiteles.

Between these, however, and the earlier school which they
superseded came the Athenian Kephisodotos, the father, it may be
supposed of Praxiteles. His fame rests upon a single work, a
copy of which has been discovered, the Eirene and Ploutos. In
this, while the simplicity and strictness of the Pheidian ideal
have been largely preserved, it has been used as the vehicle of
deeper feeling and more spiritual life.

Scopas was born at Paros, and lived during the fist half of the
fourth century. He did much decorative work including the
pediments of the temple of Athena at Tegea. He participated also
in the decoration of the Mausoleum erected by Artemisia to the
memory of her husband. In this latter, the battle of the
Amazons, though probably not the work of Scopas himself, shows in the violence of its attitudes and the pathos of its action the
new elements of interest in Greek art with the introduction of
which Scopas is connected. The fame of Scopas rests principally
on the Niobe group which is attributed to him. The sculpture
represents the wife of Amphion at the moment when the curse of
Apollo and Diana falls upon her, and her children are slain
before her eyes. The children, already feeling the arrows of the
gods, are flying to her for protection. She tries in vain to
shield her youngest born beneath her mantle, and turns as if to
hide her face with its motherly pride just giving place to
despair and agony. The whole group is free from contortion and
grandly tragic. The original exists no longer, but copies of
parts of the group are found in the Uffizi Gallery at Florence.

The Niobe group shows the distinction between Scopas and
Praxiteles and the earlier artists in choice of subject and mode
of treatment. The same distinction is shown by the Raging
Bacchante of Scopas. The head is thrown back, the hair loosened,
the garments floating in the wind, an ecstacy of wild, torrent-
like action.

Of the work of Praxiteles we know more directly than of the work
of any other Greek sculptor of the same remoteness, for one
statue has come down to us actually from the master's own hand,
and we possess good copies of several others. His statues of
Aphrodite, of which there were at least five, are known to us by
the figures on coins and by two works in the same style, the
Aphrodite in the Glyptothek, and that of the Vatican. The most
famous of all was the Aphrodite of Cnidos, which was ranked with
the Olympian Zeus and was called one of the wonders of te world.
King Nicomedes of Bithynia offered vainly to the people of Cnidos
the entire amount of their state debt for its possession. Lucian
described the goddess as having a smile somewhat proud and
disdainful; yet the eyes, moist and kindly, glowed with
tenderness and passion, and the graceful lines of the shoulders,
the voluptuous curves of the thighs, are full of sensuous
feeling. The goddess, as represented in coins, stood beside a
vase, over which her drapery is falling, while with her right
hand she shields herself modestly. The head of Aphrodite in the
British Museum, with its pure brows, its delicate, voluptuous
lips, and sweet, soft skin, is, perhaps, the nearest approach
which we possess to the glorious beauty of the original.

Other Aphrodites, the draped statue of Cos among them, and
several statues of Eros, representing tender, effeminate youths,
illustrate further the departure which Praxiteles marks from the
restraint of Pheidias. Another of his masculine figures is the
graceful Apollo with the Lizard. The god, strong in his youthful
suppleness, is leaning against a tree threatening with his darts
a small lizard which is seeking to climb up. Still another type
of masculine grace left us by Praxiteles is his statue of the
Satyr, of which a copy exists in the Capitoline Museum. The
Satyr, in the hands of Praxiteles, lost all his ancient
uncouthness, and became a strong, graceful youth, with soft, full
form. In the Capitoline representation the boy is leaning easily
against a tree, throwing his body into the most indolent posture,
which brings out the soft, feminine curves of hips and legs. In
fact, so thoroughly is the feminine principle worked into the
statues of the Apollo, the Eros, and the Satyr, that this
characteristic became considered typical of Praxiteles, and when,
in 1877, was discovered the one authentic work which we possess
of this artist, the great Hermes of Olympia, critics were at a
loss to reconcile this figure with what was already known of the
sculptor's work, some holding that it must be a work of his
youth, when, through his father, Kephisodotos, he felt the force
of the Pheidian tradition, others that there must have been two
sculptors bearing the great name of Praxiteles.

The Hermes was found lacking the right arm and both legs below
the knees, but the marvellous head and torso are perfectly
preserved. The god is without the traditional symbols of his
divinity. He is merely a beautiful man. He stands leaning
easily against a tree, supporting on one arm the child Dionysus,
to whom he turns his gracious head with the devotion and love of
a protector. The face, in its expression of sweet majesty, is
distinctly a personal conception. The low forehead, the eyes far
apart, the small, playful mouth, the round, dimpled chin, all
bear evidence to the individual quality which Praxiteles infused
into the ideal thought of the god. The body, though at rest, is
instinct with life and activity, in spite of its grace. In
short, the form of the god has the superb perfection, as the face
has the dignity, which was attributed to Pheidias. Nevertheless,
the Hermes illustrates sensual loveliness of the later school.
The freedom with which the god is conceived belongs to an age
when the chains of religious belief sat lightly upon the artist.
The gods of Praxiteles are the gods of human experience, and in
his treatment of them he does not always escape the tendency of
the age of decline to put pathos and passion in the place of
eternal majesty.

The influence of Scopas and Praxiteles continued to be felt
through a number of artists who worked in sufficient harmony with
them to be properly called of their school. To one of these
followers of Praxiteles, some say as a copy of a work of the
master himself, we must attribute the Demeter now in the British
Museum. This is a pathetic illustration of suffering
motherhood. There is no exaggeration in the grief, only the calm
dignity of a sorrow which in spite of hope refuses to be

Another work of an unknown artist, probably a follower of Scopas,
is the splendid Victory of Samothrace, now in the Louvre. The
goddess, with her great wings outspread behind her, is being
carried forward, her firm rounded limbs striking through the
draperies which flutter behind her, and fall about her in soft
folds. Vigorous and stately, the goddess poises herself on the
prow of the ship, swaying with the impulse of conquering daring
and strength.

Another statue which belongs, so far as artistic reasoning may
carry us, to the period and school of Praxiteles, is the so-
called Venus of Milo. The proper title to be given to this
statue is doubtful, for the drapery corresponds to that of the
Roman type of Victory, and if we could be sure that the goddess
once held the shield of conquest in her now broken arms we should
be forced to call the figure a Victory and place its date no
earlier than the second century B.C. However this may be, the
statue is justly one of the most famous in the world. It
represents an ideal of purity and sweetness. There is not a
trace of coarseness or immodesty in the half-naked woman who
stands perfect in the maidenly dignity of her own conquering
fairness. Her serious yet smiling face, her graceful form, the
delicacy of feeling in attitude and gaze, the tender moulding of
breast and limbs, make it a worthy companion of the Hermes or
Praxiteles. It seems scarcely possible that it should not have
sprung from the inspiration of his example.

The last of the great sculptors of Greece was Lysippos of Sikyou.
He differed from Pheidias on the one hand and from Polycleitos on
the other. Pheidias strove to make his gods all god-like;
Lysippos was content to represent them merely as exaggerated
human beings; but therein he differed also from Polycleitos, who
aimed to model the human body with the beauty only which actually
existed in it. Lysippos felt that he must set the standard of
human perfection higher than it appears in the average of human
examples. Hence we have from him the statues of Heracles, in
which the ideal of manly strength was carried far beyond the
range of human possibility. A reminiscence of this conception of
Lysippos may be found in the Farnese Heracles of Glycon, now in
the Museum of Naples. Lysippos also sculptured four statues of
Zeus, which depended for their interest largely on their heroic

Lysippos won much fame by his statues of Alexander the Great, but
he is chiefly known to us by his statue of the athlete scraping
himself with a strigil, of which an authentic copy is in the
Vatican. The figure differs decidedly from the thick-set, rather
heavy figures of Polycleitos, being tall, and slender in spite of
its robustness. The head is small, the torso is small at the
waist, but strong, and the whole body is splendidly active.

The changes in the models of earlier sculptors made by Lysippos
were of sufficient importance to give rise to a school which was
carried on by his sons and others, producing among many famous
works the Barberini Faun, now at the Glyptothek, Munich. The
enormous Colossus of Rhodes was also the work of a disciple of

But from this time the downward tendency in Greek art is only too
apparent, and very rapid. The spread of Greek influence over
Asia, and later, in consequence of the conquest of Greece by
Rome, over Europe, had the effect of widening the market for
Greek production, but of drying up the sources of what was vital
in that production. Athens and Sikyou became mere provincial
cities, and were shorn thenceforth of all artistic significance;
and Greek art, thus deprived of the roots of its life, continued
to grow for a while with a rank luxuriance of production, but
soon became normal and conventional. The artists who followed
Lysippos contented themselves chiefly with seeking a merely
technical perfection in reproducing the creations of the earlier
and more original age.

At Pergamon under Attalus, in the last years of the third
century, there was something of an artistic revival. This
Attalus successfully defended his country against an overwhelming
attack of the Gauls from the north. To celebrate this victory,
an altar was erected to Zeus on the Acropolis of Pergamon, of
which the frieze represented the contest between Zeus and the
giants. These sculptures are now to be found in Berlin. They
are carved in high relief; the giants with muscles strained and
distended, their bodies writhing in the contortions of effort and
suffering; the gods, no longer calm and restrained, but
themselves overcome with the ardor of battle. Zeus stretches his
arms over the battle-field hurling destruction everywhere.
Athene turns from the field, dragging at her heels a young giant
whom she has conquered, and reaches forward to the crown of
victory. The wild, passionate action of the whole work remove it
far from the firm, orderly work of Pheidias, and carry it almost
to the extreme of pathetic representation in sculpture shown by
the Laocoon.

The contests with the Gauls, the fear inspired by the huge forms
of the barbarians, seem to have influenced powerfully the
imaginative conceptions of the sculptors of the school of
Pergamon. One of the most famous works which they have left is
the figure long known as the Dying Gladiator, of which a copy
exists in the Capitoline Museum. This represents a Gaul sinking
wounded to the ground, supporting himself on his right arm. It
is remarkable for its stern realism. The pain and sense of
defeat comes out in every feature. Moreover, the nationality of
the fallen warrior is clearly expressed in the deep indentation
between the heavy brow and the prominent nose, in the face,
shaven, except the upper lip, in the uncouth, fleshy body, in the
rough hands and feet. Usually the artist preferred to hint at
the race by some peculiarities of costume. Here nothing but
uncompromising realism of feature will satisfy the sculptor. A
companion piece to the Wounded Gaul, though less famous, is the
group of the Villa Ludovisi, which represents a Gaul, who has
slain his wife, in the act of stabbing himself in the neck.

In addition to inspiring the sculptures at Pergamon, Attalus
dedicated to the gods of Athens a votive offering in return for
the help which they had given him. This was placed on the
Acropolis at Athens. It consisted of four groups, representing
the gigantomachia or giant combat, the battle of the Amazons, the
battle of Marathon, and the victory of Attalus. Figures from
these survive, a dead Amazon at Naples and a kneeling Persian at
the Vatican being the best known.

Another state which became famous in the declining days of Greek
art was the republic of Rhodes. The Rhodian sculptors learned
their anatomy from Lysippos, and caught their dramatic instinct
from the artists of Pergamon. Two of the most famous sculpture
groups in the world were produced at Rhodes, the Laocoon, now
at the Vatican, and the Farnese Bull, now at Naples. The former
was the work of three artists, given by Pliny as Agesandros,
Athanodorus, and Polydorus. It has been accepted as one of the
masterpieces of the world, but as we shall see, it is manifestly
a work of a time of decadence.

The Laocoon illustrates excellently the extreme results of the
pathetic tendency. The priest Laocoon is represented at the
moment when the serpents of Apollo surround him and his two sons, born through their father's sin, and bear them all three down to
destruction. The younger son, fatally bitten, falls back in death agony. The father yields slowly, his desperation giving way before the merciless strength of the serpents. The elder son shrinks away in horror though bound fast by the inevitable coils.

The Laocoon shows the pathetic tendency at its utmost. The
technical difficulties have been overcome with astonishing
success, and though the combination of figures is impossible in
life, it is marvellously effective in art. But the group
depends for its interest purely on the accidental horror of the
situation. There is no hint in the sculpture of the motive of
the tragedy, no suggestion of ethical significance in the
suffering portrayed. It does not connect itself with any
principle of life. In this way the work became a superb piece of
display, a TOUR DE FORCE of surprising composition but with
little serious meaning.

The same judgment may be extended to the Farnese Bull, the work
of Apollonius and Tauriscos, artists from Tralles who lived at
Rhodes. This group represents the punishment of the cruel Dirke
at the hands of the sons of Antiope. The beautiful queen clasps
the knee of one of the sons praying for grace, while the other
boy is about to throw over her the noose which is to bind her to
the bull. Antiope stands in the background, a mere lay figure,
and scattered about are numerous small symbolical figures. Like
the Laocoon the Farnese Bull exhibits surprising mastery of
technical obstacles, but, like the Laocoon, it falls short of
true tragic grandeur. In a greater degree than the Laocoon it
trenches upon the province of painting. It is more complicated
in its subject-matter; and the appearance in the group of many
small subsidiary figures, which in a painting might have been
given their proper value, being in the marble of the same relief
and distinction as the major characters, give a somewhat absurd
effect. The little goddess who sits in the foreground, for
instance, is smaller than the dog. Again, there is less of the
motive shown than in the Laocoon. The group is seized at the
moment preceding the frightful catastrophe, but that moment is as
full of agony as the succeeding ones, and in addition there is
the feeling of suspense and oppression that comes from the
unfinished tragedy. Altogether, the group, in spite of the
marvellous technical skill shown in details, is a failure when
judged on general lines. Its interest lies in momentary and
apparently ummotived suffering, not in any truly serious
conception of life.

With the conquest of Greece by Rome, the final stage of Greek art
begins. But the vigor and originality had departed. The
sculptors aimed at and attained technical correctness, academic
beauty of form, sensuous feeling, perfection of details, but they
lost all imaginative power. A good example of the work of this
period is found in the Apollo Belvidere now in the Vatican. This
famous statue is an early Roman copy of a Greek original. It
represents the god advancing easily, full of vigor and grace. It
is marvellously correct in drawing, but quite without feeling of
any kind.

Another work of this period is the sleeping Ariadne of the
Vatican. This represents a woman reclining in a studied
sentimental attitude, her arms thrown about her head, her body
swathed in its protecting drapery. To the same period also
belongs almost the last notable work of Greek art, the degenerate
and sensuous conception of the Venus de Medici. In this statue
the goddess stands as if rising from the sea, her attitude
reserved, yet coquettish and self-conscious. The form is
technically perfect, graceful, and soft in its refinement, but
compared with the earlier Aphrodites it is an unworthy successor.

Still another famous statue is the Borghese Gladiator, of Agasius
of Ephesus, now in the Louvre. The statue is merely a bit of
display, an effort to parade technical skill and anatomical
knowledge. The gladiator throws his weight strongly on his right
leg, and holds one arm high above his head, giving to his whole
body an effect of straining. The figure is strong and wiry.
Agasius was distinctly an imitator, as were most of the artists
of this age, among whom must be reckoned the skilful sculptor of
the crouching Venus, also in the Louvre. The goddess is shown as
bending down in graceful curves until her body is supported on
the right leg, which is bent double. The form is strong and
healthy, graceful and easy in its somewhat constrained posture.

During all of this final period Greek art was very largely influenced by the relations which existed between Greece and Rome.  About the year 200 B.C. the Roman conquest of Greece led to an important traffic in works of art between Rome and the Greek cities.  For a time, indeed, statues formed a recognized part of the booty which graced every Roman triumph.  M. Fulvius Nobilior carried away not less than five hundred and fifteen.  After the period of conquest the importation of Greek statues continued at Rome, and in time Greek artists also began to remove thither, so that Rome became not only the centre for the collection of Greek works of art, but the chief seat of their production.  At this time the Roman religious conceptions were identified with those of Greece, and the Greek gods received the Latin names by which we now know them.  The influence of the Greeks upon Rome was very marked, but the reflex influence of the material civilization of Italy upon Greek art was altogether bad, and thus the splendor of classical art went out in dilletantism and weakness.

The destruction of the Roman Empire by the barbarians makes a break in the artistic history of the world.  Not for many centuries was there a vestige of artistic production.  Even when in Italy and France the monks began to make crude attempts to reach out for and represent in painting and sculpture imaginative conceptions of things beautiful, they took their material exclusively from Christian sources.  The tradition of classical stories had nearly vanished from the mind of Europe.  Not until the Renaissance restored the knowledge of classical culture to Europe do we find artists making any use of the wealth of imaginative material stored up in the myths of Greece.  Then, indeed, by the discovery and circulation of the poets of mythology, the Greek stories and conceptions of characters, divine and human, became known once more and were used freely, remaining until the present day one chief source of material and subject-matter for the use of the painter and sculptor.


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