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Greek mythology is not only interesting however fascinating and educative to the extent that anything creative made from the various period performs a significant role in enlightenment. Two of the most giant periods in the history of Greece are the Hellenistic and Archaic. An evaluation of the artistic pieces from these two durations reveals a lot regarding the political, social and ecological troubles facing the people. This paper uses two creative pieces; Head of Poseidon - a piece from the Hellenistic period and the Libation Bowl from the Archaic period, to unravel and compare the behaviors and traits of the people from these two eras.
The Hellenistic period was a new cultural age that started when Alexander the Great died and Greek royals succeeded him. The Greek royals had court cities and they distributed Alexander's empire among themselves. Throughout this period, Greek was the main language used and this was a source of unification in the Hellenistic world (Burkert 14). As a result of the unification, Greek monarchs became very rich and they prided on art collections, innovations in science, libraries, and on expertise or educated men. The Head of Poseidon is an artistic piece that is quite larger whose masterwork finds its roots in the Hellenistic period.
In Greek, the word 'symposium' means 'drinking together' and the intention is to mark a festive occasion. A libation in Greek was an integral part of such a ceremony and they were symbolic of a sacrifice made to the gods (Picón et al., 13). This was common during the Archaic period, during which there was a substantial increase in the population of Greece. During this period, there were structural and intellectual revolutions which led to the significant transformations in politics, culture, warfare, and international relations. The Libation Bowl, Phiale is one of the artistic pieces from the Archaic period.
The phiale in Greece is normally a shallow bowl made of metal or ceramic material with a bulbous indentation at the center which allows the easy handling of the implement. The Libation Bowl from 550 B. C was made of gilded silver, and since it is taken as a drinking cup it has no handles or feet. The choice of material is symbolic of the value placed on silver as it was used to offer libations for Olympics. The Head of Poseidon was made of bronze because the people had discovered lost wax casting ' one of the methods of developing bronze into beautiful features.
The Libation Bowl was beautified using chisel embossed techniques throughout, which were some of the common methods of beautifying art pieces (Picón et al., 13). The bronze Head of Poseidon was made up of wavy hair and a band at the head (Burkert 39). The band was a symbol of royalty in the Hellenistic period considering that Poseidon was a god. An outstanding aspect present in the head is empty eye sockets which are believed to have some sort of stone but still give the head a particular character. There are also fine lines on both pieces which provide the attention to detail. For instance, the Head of Poseidon contains facial lines that portray the value of the statue while the bowl is chiseled at almost perfect angles to show precision.
In terms of proportionality, the Head of Poseidon is larger than life size to represent the appearance of power and the extravagance that characterizes the Hellenistic period. In as much as Poseidon had a body, he appeared to Odysseus in form of an extra large head in the sea and this is the image upheld by most people during that time. Even Alexander the Great believed in the existence of the gods, and they prayed to them so as to win wars and conquer territories. The libation bowl may not be extremely big proportionally but it has a wide brim so as to allow easy pouring of wine or the substance being used to mark a festival.
Influence of Cultural and Historical Backgrounds
Alexander the Great was among the people who revered symposiums and they would turn the whole celebration into a drunken banquet. Such display was supposed to flaunt their strength and opulence and thus the creation of the Phiale must have obtained his influence from such cultural practices. The Greek culture was also strongly connected to religion and this is why Poseidon was among part of the most significant aspects in the Hellenistic period. During this time, many sailors from Greece relied on Poseidon to sooth the waters of the sea so as to allow them safe passage. The belief in Poseidon is what led the artist to create the Head of Poseidon.
Historical influence is greatly connected to the cultural beliefs and other aspects such as the choice of materials and the expertise used to create art pieces. An analysis of the two pieces portrays fine art work especially in the use of lines. For example, there is a lot of focus on the temple in the Head of Poseidon as that was happening in most art pieces during this historical era (Burkert 39). Similarly, the creator of the Libation Bowl was influenced by the historical holding of symposia which was quite common during the Archaic period. Silver was among the commonest materials used by most artists during this period as a form of graduation from ceramics.
Artist's View of the World
The creator of the Libation Bowl must have seen the world from a celebratory and opulent point of view and that is why he created the item to appear as it is. First, the center is indented so as to allow smooth outpouring of whatever fluid such that none of it remained in the bowl. Additionally, they must have looked at the world from the perspective of extravagant spending and that is why they chose silver as their primary material. Additionally, they must have paid attention to detail due to the embossing technique used to beautify the item.
The creator of the Head of Poseidon must have seen the world from the perspective that it was helpless and thus they needed some sort of idol to be in a position to remember that the gods were always with them. The large size of the head is expected to make a statement that Poseidon is capable of watching over the people. Maybe it was also supposed to remind the politicians and educated men that they were not above the law of the gods.
Similarity of Ideas in Head of Poseidon and Libation Bowl
These two artistic pieces do share some minimal similarity in approaches or use of materials even though they come from two different historical periods. While the Head of Poseidon is made up of bronze as the primary material, the Libation Bowl is made of silver. Both materials were chosen based on availability during that historic period, the significance of the substance and their durability. For example, silver does not rust and so it could be used during libations for several decades. Similarly, silver was the chosen material since it was supposed to display opulence.
Ever since its introduction, libation was a procedure done to culminate a festival or celebration and thus it was a climatic event. The choice of material had to be precise and applicable in that festival. In terms of spirituality, the libation may have been poured during religious events and thus the use of silver which is highly durable. The use of bronze also allowed the artists to place value on the statue and allow it to be long lasting since gods are supposed to be immortal.
Communication from Pieces of Art
The Head of Poseidon and the Libation Bowl are fairly large with the latter being wide enough to hold a substantial amount of fluid. I believe that the artist was communicating opulence using this bowl. The indented center makes it possible to handle the bowl as well as tilt it in the process of pouring. It allows one to pour out everything and this was supposed to communicate the idea that people during such times loved opulence as well as symposiums. The Head of Poseidon is fairly large probably as a way of communicating power. Gods are believed to have super powers and have absurd abilities that are beyond human understanding. That is why Poseidon was able to soothe the seas, controlled floods and earthquakes. Thus, the large head with some form of crown portrays the exceeding power of Poseidon.
Burkert, Walter. Greek Religion. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 1985. Print.
Picón, Carlos A., Joan Mertens R, Elizabeth Milleker J, and Patricia Gilkison. Recent acquisitions, a selection: 1993'1994. Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 52.2 (1994), 13.
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