The ancient Greek philosopher Protagoras best described the basis for his civilizations art and architecture when he stated, “Of all things the measure is man.” Greek culture emphasized the beauty of the human body, and created idealized male and female forms still used today. A majority of Greek sculpture and architecture includes depictions of the human body, usually to pay homage to a particular god or goddess. The ancient Greeks placed this importance on the human body because the Gods which they worshipped were anthropomorphic, or believed to appear as people. The Greeks believed that each god was flawless, and since the gods took human form, the body which he or she inhabited could be nothing less than aesthetically perfect. Greek sculptors developed an ideal model of human proportion when they created sculptures of the gods. This idealized form can be seen in Polykleitos’ sculpture, the Doriforus. Polykleitos used the canon, or a set of relationships and ratios for the human body, in his sculpture. This symmetry and proportion that existed in the idealized human form found in Greek sculpture was reflected in the civilizations architecture as well. For example, buildings such as the Parthenon in Athens show the
The customs and conditions that shape a society directly influence the civilizations art and architecture, and the culture of ancient Greece was no exception. Even the types of buildings constructed differed from those erected by other ancient civilizations. The clean lines and detailed surface emphasize the precise outlines of Greek sculpture, a major reason for the popularity of granite as a material for the cultures architecture. The ancient civilizations belief that the human body was a beautiful object also helped to differentiate their architecture from that of other major cultures. Greeks had no political figures equivalent to the Egyptian pharaoh, because of this they had no reason to build tombs and palaces to celebrate their rulers. Greek architects were able to solve complex visual problems, and successfully make the Parthenon a temple worthy of the goddess that it honors, Athena. Both works result in a three dimensional object that can be observed with equal interest from all sides. This resulted in the development of a formulaic approach to sculpture and architecture. The temple is placed on an axis to allow it to be seen from several different vistas, all of which accentuate the relation of ends to sides. The architects of the Parthenon compensated for optical illusions to make the building appear perfectly constructed from a distance. The ancient Greeks also created the first democratic government, a system which promoted equality for all men in Greece. For example, when the straight lines of a building are seen from far away, such as the center of Athens, they appear to sag and distort. An example of this successful relationship between a public external space and a sacred internal space can be seen in what many consider to be the culmination of classical Greek architecture, the Parthenon. The architects also addressed several problems associated with the buildings location.