greek personality in archaic sculpture () || iii. the orientalizing period

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  • III. T H E O R I E N T A L I Z I N G P E R I O D

    IN SPITE of the strife and turmoil, the tragic war-ring of gods and men, in spite of treachery and cruelty and tragic destiny, an invincible serenity rules the Iliad and has given its tone to all genuine Greek epics : the serenity of untroubled belief in the existing order, established and upheld by divine Power that governs gods, heroes and ordinary mortals alike. This is not the place to enlarge upon a theme which has been discussed by scholars of the highest authority. Of late years, R. K. Hack has treated it in a few illuminating pages.1 But it is important to point out the inherent resemblance between this Homeric outlook and the essential spirit of Geometric art which, in all exter-nals, seems diametrically opposed to the epic treatment of the world and the life of men. Underlying appar-ently almost lifeless rigidity, the very core of Geomet-ric art is the active acceptance of an ordered and bal-anced system, accepted and enforced without hesita-tion or wavering, and running its untroubled course for three or four centuries. Thus, the apparent con-trast between earliest Greek poetry and contemporary decorative art is solved by a deeper unity which reaches the very roots of Hellenic genius. And such an insight relieves us of the painfully illogical conception that a race supremely gifted for all the arts should have ex-pressed itself, at the same time, in such divergent, or even antagonistic ways.

    Epic poetry was able to flourish through many suc-ceeding centuries, fulfilling one of the various aims of Greek poetic expression. The Geometric style could

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  • 37 not have lived on, without becoming petrified, sterile, and thus quite inadequate for the plastic tendencies of Greek art, as they grew and spread and gained intensi-ty. Thus it was most fortunate for the entire Hellenic development that the ancient tree was not allowed to wither and dry up in peace, but was, at a crucial mo-ment, buffeted by powerful winds blowing from the East. There again are outward and visible signs of a spiritual revolution which, in poetry, finds convincing expression in Hesiod. Of course material reasons contributed drastically to such a revulsion. Very real distress and unrest led, or forced, men to question the old order and strive for a new one, to abandon the homeland to which Greeks have always clung with most tenacious love, and found new fragments of Hel-las in far-off colonies. Besides, an insatiable curiosity impelled them, rather like the English in modern times, to explore foreign countries, customs and civilizations, without ever losing the serene conviction of their cul-tural superiority. All these various factors produced a new Greek personality, in the second half of the eighth century. And Greek art could not but reflect such a transformation. It was not the rapid expansion of Greek trade, during this period, that was primarily responsible for the profound artistic change: oriental influences might have had the same effect during the preceding century, when the Phoenicians transmitted them, had the Greeks then been susceptible to such in-fluences. It was only when Hellenic personality had slowly changed, that what had formerly been precious exotic trinkets, eagerly admired and coveted, but not imitated, gained the mysterious power which releases the deep creative forces of a new style. This style was

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  • 38 GREEK PERSONALITY by no means subservient to foreign art, with a few ex-ceptions discussed below (p. 76) . Nobody could call Greek art of the latter eighth and seventh centuries oriental in the way Gothic or Rococo radiated from their French homeland, or the Chinoiseries of the eighteenth century copied Chinese models. The in-fluence of Far Eastern drawing on Whistler would be more to the point, if comparisons were not always "lame". What I should like to make quite clear is that what we call, appropriately enough, the Greek Or-ientalizing style, is by no means an offshoot of oriental art, in the sense of Syro-Phoenician dependence on Egypt and Assyria, but a new great period of Greek art, as essentially Hellenic as any, differing from oth-ers merely in the force with which oriental influences struck the old Geometric order and caused its disinte-gration. This is one of the most decisive facts in the history of ancient art.

    The process differed from one Greek area and ra-cial division to another. Although our knowledge of some important regions, especially Eastern Ionia and Aeolia, is still entirely inadequate, we can distinguish and define the Orientalizing styles of the Dorian Main-land, Attica, Crete, and at least some of the other Ae-gean islands. The ceramic evidence is by far the most plentiful, in the majority of cases, and helps us to put the plastic remains, which are often scanty, in their proper context.

    1. The East Insufficient exploration and tribal differences pro-

    duce a very irregular picture of this region where the rise of oriental influences would be most interesting to

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  • IN ARCHAIC SCULPTURE, CH. III 39 trace, owing to the immediate neighborhood of un-Hellenic, wealthy realms like Lydia and Phrygia. The thorough destruction of archaic Ephesus and Miletus, wth their great sanctuaries of Artemis and Apollo, is especially regrettable. It deprives us of adequate archaeological evidence for the period when Ionian elegiac and lyric poetry flourished, in its own home-land ; though we shall see that Sparta makes up for this loss, to a certain extent.

    On the other hand, Eastern Ionia has preserved the only extant evidence of what a great Greek sanc-tuary looked like in the eighth and seventh centuries, while the appearance of the larger sacred precincts, in the rest of the Aegean area, is almost entirely un-known, before the very end of this period. No build-ings of any importance can be traced, beyond the late seventh century, either at Delphi or Olympia, Dlos or Athens. The Argive Heraeum is too completely de-stroyed to offer any idea of the great early temple which must have stood on the huge terrace. And though sacred buildings of Geometric or sub-Geomet-ric times have been discovered in increasing numbers on other sites, they are mostly small and artistically insig-nificant. Nor do I know of a single instance where a satisfactory idea of the sanctuary as a whole can be gained, except at Samos, where Buschor's excavations of the Heraeum have yielded amazing results, due to a subtle technique elaborated during many successive campaigns, in spite of unusual obstacles; for the de-struction has been almost as bad, at Samos, as on any other Ionian site.2

    Over the remains of a Mycenaean settlement, an altar of modest size (ca. 2.50 1.50 m) was erected,

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  • 40 GREEK PERSONALITY soon after 1000 B.C., and enlarged and remodeled six times, during the succeeding four centuries.8 Altar II probably marks the time when the miraculous rude image of the goddess, tied up in branches of the sacred lygos bush (see below, p. 46 ) , was discovered, accord-ing to a legend handed down through the ages ( Meno-dotus in Athenaeus XV. 672) . Hera was always wor-shipped at Samos as the bride of Zeus, and thus her im-age was periodically bathed in the river Imbrhsos, which in early times flowed into the sea, at the bottom of a gentle slope leading down eastward from the al-tar. For the rest of the year, the wooden xoanon could not be left exposed to the weather, but must have been housed in a hut, of however modest dimensions. Its remains have disappeared, but a very ancient path or road, which the excavators call the West Way, led to it from the altar ; and there is every probability that a cylindrical block of limestone, found to the West of the altar, once carried the sacred image, in a square sinking on its top.4 This would be by far the oldest base of a statue extant in Greece.

    We can fortunately form an approximate idea of this venerable cult image. A few small terracotta cop-ies were found in the Heraeum, and late coins of Sa-mos show what is evidently the same figure, with the peculiar cross-bands which held the lygos branches. It stands beside the later cult statue of Hera ; and as this was no doubt a good deal larger than life, we may ac-cept the coin's evidence that the ancient xoanon was of considerable size. But it appears to have been very rude and primitive; its size alone would not afford proof of a monumental Greek sculpture in the ninth century (see above, p. 17) .

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  • IN ARCHAIC SCULPTURE, CH. III 41 On the other side of the Samian altar, the East Way

    ran down to the bank or mouth of the Imbrasos, which shifted its bed so rapidly, in this marshy lowland, that the East Way was superseded by a Southeast Way, within a century. In the meantime, the first temple had arisen: quite an imposing structure for its age, probably around 800 B.C. I t was a long, narrow, rectangular building, the earliest Hekatompedos known to us, since it measures just a hundred feet.5 One row of thirteen columns divided the cella into two equal aisles, the base of the cult image, preserved in part, stood behind the last of these columns, while the first was