Greek Sculpture: The Archaic Period - John Boardman (2016)

Chapter 2. Greece and the Arts of the East and Egypt

Greece is a poor country. Its mineral resources are slight and its farmland neither extensive nor very fertile. In the 8th century BC the growing population had to look overseas for the materials to satisfy the new appetite, and eventually even for new homes for families whose own lands had become too small or uncomfortable for them. Contact had never been quite lost with other Mediterranean shores and it remains a matter for discussion who was responsible for developing new and fruitful exchanges with the East. These seem never to have been much diminished with Cyprus, where Greeks had settled at the end of the Bronze Age and of whose expertise in metallurgy the Aegean remained well aware. New exotica from or via Cyprus appear in 10th-century Lefkandi, but this was perhaps less a new start than a significantly more deliberate exchange, and its concentration in Euboea may well indicate that it was the fruit of Greek enterprise; easterners need not have been so choosy geographically and Euboea was not as obvious a goal as, say, Crete. Merchant-adventurers from Euboea and the Greek islands, and from the east, were travelling routes well known to both Greeks and easterners at the end of the Bronze Age. Both may have been hungry for materials, the Greeks also for exotica to answer the new status of elite families, such as the occupants of the Lefkandi building. The Phoenicians were beginning to prospect westwards in search of materials for their masters in Assyria and for their own comfort.

There was no priority in exchange of goods, east–west. We shall see that eastern craftsmen could find a home or refuge in Greece. A plethora of Greek pottery in North Syria in the 8th century shows that the Greeks came to concentrate on the wealth of Syria/Assyria, perhaps a more passive market than Phoenicia, and what they acquired there was to revolutionize their material culture, and perhaps more. The prime site is the port at the mouth of the River Orontes, the access point from the Aegean to Mesopotamia, at Al Mina, backed by major inland cities whose Bronze Age counterparts had also dealt with Greeks and Cyprus (Atchana). Only the mishellenist denies the probability of at least a seasonal Greek presence there, given the proportionate volume of Greek pottery compared with other eastern sites, and the effects of the flow of goods to the Greek world and not beyond; there were fewer mishellenists in ancient Syria than there are among scholars today.

At the same time as this enterprise which had been bringing a trickle of Eastern bronzes and jewellery into the Greek world even before 800 BC, there were other arrivals of even greater potential. These were troubled times in the Near East and it seems that it was not only goods but craftsmen that were attracted westwards into Greek lands. In Cretan Knossos it appears that a group of Syrian artists had established a workshop for jewellery [34] and the working of hard stones and decorative bronzes, and their distinctive style can be recognized here and elsewhere in the island for over a century. But although Cretan vase painters copied their patterns, other artists did not learn their techniques, which died with them. A similar group had perhaps worked in Euboea, and another in Attica, shorter-lived [35], while in another part of Crete Syrian bronzesmiths inaugurated an important school best known for the votive shields with animal-head bosses fashioned for dedication in the Idaean Cave [36]. But it is not the immigrants, or at least not those whom we can detect, who had the most profound effect. The role of the Phoenicians in all this must have been relevant, as the major, but not the only, seafarers of the east, but it is difficult to assess. Their own art was heavily Egyptianizing but theirs were not the styles that were to effect change in Greece, and even Greek adoption of the Phoenician alphabet was most probably effected via Syrians (who had adjusted the letters to their own language) on the east-west routes. But in their voyages west the Phoenicians were perforce using Greek ports and some lingered.

34 Gold crescent pendant from Knossos, with human heads and birds. The eyes of the Orientalizing cable pattern were once filled with amber paste. About 800 BC. Width 5 cm. (Heraklion)

35 Gold earring pendants with patterns in wire and granulation, and settings for inlays of rock crystal or amber. 8th century BC. Diameters 3 cm. (London 1960,1101.18)

36 Bronze shield, a dedication in the Idaean Cave in Crete. A lion-headed boss, surrounded by animal friezes. Width 31 cm. (Heraklion)


The Greeks acquired from the East expensive consumer goods, including works decorated in styles utterly foreign to the conventions of Greek Geometric art. We find especially bronze bowls decorated in low relief with animals and figure scenes, and ivory plaques carved in low relief as fittings for furniture or toilet articles. Several of these have survived on Greek sites, and there was no doubt much, woven or in perishable materials, which has not. All these things had their effect on both the style of Greek artists’ work and the range of their repertory of figure and animal decoration. We can study this most easily in the changes which took place on decorated pottery, but there were other studios, not obviously initiated by immigrant craftsmen but dependent at first on Eastern forms and techniques, soon mastered and translated into what we can recognize as a purely Greek style. Hammered work in bronze is prominent, especially for the lion and griffin heads which project like lugs or handles on the deeper cauldrons of Eastern type which are coming to replace the open tripod cauldrons of Geometric Greece [29]. There are soon several Greek workshops producing these fine decorative attachments, the later examples being cast and not hammered. The motif is Syrian but the treatment is Greek, and Greek artists soon elaborate the monster’s high ears, forehead knob, gaping beak and sinuous neck into an entirely new decorative form [37]. The same happened to the solid-cast siren attachments for cauldrons, which are quickly naturalized Greek, translating the puffy Eastern features of the god in a winged disc into angular Greek ones for a creature more like what would later be called a siren [38]. In these, as in all other instances of borrowing or inspiration from the East, the Greek artist was discriminate in what he took, and he very soon adapted the new subjects according to his own sense of composition or pattern into forms which went beyond the more repetitive designs on the Eastern bronzes or ivories which had prompted them. The subjects themselves, of course, had lost their meaning since the models did not travel with explanatory labels. But we may be sure that they were chosen because they could be reinterpreted to suit Greek life and thought, and from them Greek artists were soon to be able to offer images for mythical creatures whose physical appearance had hitherto depended on song alone.

37 Three or six bronze griffin heads were fastened below the rims of Orientalizing bronze cauldrons dedicated in Greek sanctuaries. These are cast Greek versions of hammered Syrian prototypes. Late 7th century BC. From Olympia. Height 36 cm. (Olympia B 945)

38 Cast bronze siren attachment from the rim of a cauldron, facing in. Essentially it is a body supported by a winged disc – an eastern motif – but the head is Greek. From Olympia. Early 7th century BC. Width 15 cm. (Olympia B 1690)

Ivory too was brought from the East and Egypt. Already in a Geometric grave in Athens we find a group of ivory maidens, naked as the Syrian odalisques or goddesses who inspired them, but slimly built, with sharp features – the Geometric artist’s translation of an Eastern physique – and with Greek meanders on their caps [39]. There were various schools of Orientalizing ivory-workshops in Greece. Those in the East Greek islands and on the shore of Asia Minor (Ionia), which was an area which the Greeks had settled in the Dark Ages, produced work closer to the Eastern prototypes [40]. This can be observed both in the subjects and in the treatment of the human figure, which is fuller and rounder – a persistent feature of East Greek art. From East Greece (on Samos) also we have a few examples of small wooden figures carved in a manner very like the ivories [60]. Small carvings travelled far in the Greek world: an oriental type of god and lion was found at Delphi, and on Samos the kneeling youth may resemble more closely works of mainland Greece, but is the figure attachment to an instrument of a type which is certainly East Greek [41]. It is still difficult to locate the workshops for many of the ivories of this period and not always too easy to be sure that we are not dealing with imports in unfamiliar Eastern styles, but some subjects are soon to be taken from Greek myth [42].

39 Ivory figure of a woman from a grave in Athens, one of a set of various sizes, serving as handles for mirrors or the like. Late 8th century BC. Height 24 cm. (Athens 776)

40 Ivory lion of Assyrian type from Old Smyrna. Late 7th century BC. Length 5.5 cm. (once Ankara)

41 Ivory kneeling youth from Samos, perhaps a fitting from the arm of a lyre. The eyes, earrings and pubic hair were inlaid in other material. Late 7th century BC. Height 14.5 cm. (Samos)

42 The two women with their clothes slipping from them are the daughters of Proitos, sent mad by the goddess Hera to range the land of Argos waylaying travellers. Ivory relief. About 600 BC. Height 13.5 cm. (New York 17.190.73)

In mainland Greece the Geometric stone seals were being replaced by ivory seals. Some of these took the form of recumbent animals, with the intaglio devices on the base – a Syrian form but a Greek usage. Others – the majority – are discs with simple animal patterns on one or both sides. This wealth of work in ivory in the 7th century is not to be matched in any later period.


The most obvious effects of the Orientalizing revolution are observed in a field largely ignored by the Easterner but which, as we have already seen, meant much to the Greeks. Few if any Greeks saw the figure painting on Assyrian walls, but on the imported bronzes and ivories the Greeks found an art which was as conventional as their own Geometric, though far more realistic. The strictly profile or frontal views were the rule but the masses of the body were more accurately observed, and anatomical detail stylized into more realistic patterns. They also found a variety of floral devices such as Geometric art had shunned, both as the principal subject of a pattern and as subsidiary decoration. Changes in the varieties of background-filling motifs used in figure scenes suggest that foreign textiles too might have been influential. These new styles had their effect in different ways in the various pottery-producing centres of Greece, as in the other arts. The animals may have done little more than enliven or even energize what they decorated though the monsters soon found a role in Greek myth; the human figures allowed more implicit narrative than had the Geometric; while the floral carried both a message of fertility and provided near-abstract motifs in which the artist could build essays in design-symmetry and create framing patterns which were to become an integral element in Greek art.

In Corinth, a powerful state guarding the landward approach to the Peloponnese from the north as well as the east–west passage across a narrow isthmus, the Geometric styles of Athens had been matched, as in other Greek states, but figure scenes were generally avoided and instead we see a fondness for precise drawing of simple Geometric patterns. This meant that without a strong tradition in Geometric figure drawing, like the Athenian, Corinthian artists were perhaps the more prepared to accept the new figure styles, and the intricate floral friezes. These they adapted in various ways [43]. The silhouette style of Geometric figure painting was also inadequate when it came to the detailing of eyes, manes and muscles and to showing overlapping figures in vigorous action. The Corinthian painters invented a new technique in which the figures are drawn still in silhouette but details are incised, to show the pale clay beneath in thin clear lines. Red and white paint came to be used also to pick out odd features, like ribs or hair [44]. This new technique we call black figure, and it is practised first on vases called Protocorinthian by archaeologists (to distinguish them from the later Archaic Corinthian series). It could have been inspired by the incised decoration of Eastern bronzes and ivories; the only alternative technique, as we shall see, could have been outline drawing or a greater disposition of colour than was available to simple vase painting. At its very best the style is miniaturist, and tiny figures barely one inch high are painted – etched, rather – on the small perfume-flasks (aryballoi) which seem to have been one of the most important products of Corinth’s potters’ quarter [45]. Larger figures are rarely attempted, but a version without the incision was used to decorate with figures the clay metopes on some 7th-century architecture in central Greece (e.g. at Thermon). The decoration is set in friezes round the vase, as it had been in the preceding period. Animals are the main subjects (lions, goats, bulls and birds), but there are some new monsters too, re-introduced from the East – sphinxes, griffins and similar creatures. These, and the lions, had already appeared on some Geometric vases but then their forms had been geometricized by the artists [23]. Now the new conventions are observed; their bodies fill out, jaws gape, tongues loll, ribs and muscles bulge. Some Eastern models are still closely observed, and the Syrian type of lion gives place to the pointed-nose Assyrian. The background is filled with small dot rosettes or abstract motifs just as on the Geometric vases where linear patterns were used to fill the gaps which the painter would not leave empty. The creatures generally pace aimlessly round the vase, but sometimes they are posed heraldically facing each other over a floral, itself a version of the Eastern Tree of Life. There are very few scenes with human figures but towards the middle of the 7th century we find more heroic episodes as well as a number of battle scenes showing the latest hoplite tactics with disciplined ranks of bronze-clad soldiers [46]. Floral friezes – the Eastern lotus and bud or palmette – appear on the shoulders of the vases, while below the main frieze there may often be a smaller one with a row of animals or a hare-hunt. At the base upward-pointing rays recall the spiky lotus blossoms which decorate the rounded bases of many Eastern and Egyptian vases.

43 A Protocorinthian perfume-flask (aryballos) with the new outline-drawn repertory of animals and florals including a stylized Eastern Tree of Life. About 700 BC. Height 6.8 cm. (London 1969,1215.1)

44 A Protocorinthian jug (olpe) with friezes of sphinxes and animals, including dogs chasing a hare, in the black-figure technique with the characteristic dot-rosettes. About 640 BC. Height 32 cm. (Munich 8964)

45 A Protocorinthian perfume-flask (the Macmillan aryballos) with its neck moulded as a lion’s head. The friezes have florals, a fight, riders, a hare-hunt and rays – all on a vase barely 7 cm high. From Thebes. About 650 BC. (London 1889,0418.1)

46 A detail from the Protocorinthian ‘Chigi vase’ in Rome showing hoplite soldiers closing in battle to the music of flutes. There is freer use of colour here (reds, browns and white) and the usual animal friezes are suppressed. About 650 BC by the same painter as [45]. Found at Veii. Height of frieze 5 cm. (Rome, Villa Giulia)

The Orientalizing vase painting of Athens presents far less of a contrast with what went before. The new patterns and subjects are admitted, but more slowly. The black-figure technique is not adopted, and the details of figures are rendered by line drawing instead of silhouette for heads [47], and eventually for whole figures. White paint is sometimes used for details (Corinth at this time preferred red) and even a spot of incision here and there. The figures themselves – even of the Eastern sphinxes and the Greek centaur – are still rendered very much in the Geometric manner with angular features and bodies [48]. The filling ornament is still largely Geometric and the floral patterns are translated into geometrical structures rather than simply copied as at Corinth.

47 Fragment of a Protoattic clay plaque dedicated to Athena at Sunium, showing marines on a ship, with a steersman. By the Analatos Painter. About 700 BC. Length 16 cm. (Athens)

48 A Protoattic vase with Sphinxes, a piper with dancers, and chariots. For patterning the Athenian artist used stippling and scales, with outline drawing and very little incision (on the horses). By the Analatos Painter. About 690 BC. Height 80 cm. (Louvre CA 2985)

At first sight these Athenian vases (called Protoattic) look more primitive and outdated beside the Protocorinthian, and they certainly did not travel so far in the Greek world or have the same influence. But they have significant and important redeeming features. Firstly, the monumental character of the Geometric grave-marking vases is not forgotten. On the new vases the figures sometimes stand over half a metre tall and they present problems of drawing which the miniaturist Protocorinthian painters never had to face. Secondly, the tradition of human figure drawing ensured the continued appearance of narrative or genre scenes as well as the inevitable incursions of Orientalizing animals and monsters. Thirdly, the technique allowed a far more pictorial treatment and balance of the dark and light masses both in the general composition and the individual figures. This is enhanced by the mid-7th century by the use of white paint in the so-called Black and White Style [49]. It leads naturally to experiments with broad masses of other colours, or colour washes to cover flesh parts or drapery. This measure of polychromy is something new on Greek vases, but resembles the Thermon metopes already mentioned. It is also short-lived since it presented technical difficulties. In the 7th and early 6th centuries it was exploited less in Athens than in the Greek islands, where vases of a style and technique analogous to the Athenian were being made. In Crete and occasionally in the islands there was a vogue for vases modelled partly as animals or as human heads. The griffin top to the jug from Aegina [50] follows a type more familiar to us in bronze. The outline style was practised also in parts of the Peloponnese, despite the proximity of Corinth, as at Argos. It may have been emigrant Argive artists who introduced the style to the Greek colonies in Sicily. On some island vases we can follow the outline, polychrome style until well into the 6th century [51, 52].

49 The one-eyed giant Polyphemos (Cyclops) is blinded by Odysseus and his companions in his cave having been reduced to a drunken stupor (whence the cup he clutches). On the neck of a Protoattic grave vase found at Eleusis. Odysseus is differentiated by the colour of his body. There is a little incision for hair, beards and fingers but the basic colour scheme is black and white. About 650 BC. Height of figures about 42 cm. (Eleusis)

50 The griffin jug from Aegina was painted on one of the Cycladic islands. The lion with its prey is an Eastern motif but the grazing horses go back to Greek Geometric. The griffin is inspired by bronzes such as [37]. Notice the floral attachments to the Geometric triangles at the base. About 675 BC. Height 39 cm. (London 1873,0820.385)

51 A ‘Melian’ (probably Parian) vase. On the neck women watch a duel over armour. From the body we see part of a lyre-playing Apollo, probably with Artemis and Leto, in a divine chariot with winged horses. A brown wash is used on male flesh. About 620 BC. Height of neck 22 cm. (Athens 3961)

52 A plate from the north Greek island of Thasos, probably made in Naxos. Bellerophon, on the winged horse Pegasus, attacks the Chimaera, which has a lion’s body, a goat’s head on its back, and a serpent tail. About 650 BC. Diameter 28 cm. (Thasos)

The simpler outline-drawn styles were affected by the East Greek cities, who were even slower to abandon Geometric patterns and figures. A decorative animal frieze style – the Wild Goat Style, named after its most popular beast – is adopted in about the middle of the 7th century, probably first in Ionia though it was long called Rhodian. It is unpretentious, but in general effect very different from the styles of mainland Greece and has been thought to owe something to Eastern tapestry patterns. It too survives well into the 6th century [53].

53 A Wild Goat vase (though without the goats!) from East Greece. The Orientalizing lotus and bud frieze is typical but there is more colour than usual on the animals. About 580 BC. (Vienna IV. 1622)


The conventions of Greek Orientalizing art, which we best observe on the vases, determine also the decoration of other objects and other materials. Besides the painted vases there are large clay jars with decoration in low relief. These are best known in Crete, Boeotia and in the Greek islands, and the scenes on them, freely modelled or impressed, introduce us to some new subjects in the artist’s repertory, including the Trojan Horse [55]. Engaging small vases in the shape of animals or heads were made as perfume-flasks, and we have already seen the necks of vases moulded as griffins’ or lions’ heads. Clay and bronze figurines reflect the styles of larger works in stone, and painted clay revetments begin to appear, to protect the wooden parts of buildings, or as decoration on temples and altars [56]. Sheet-bronze is often used for the sheathing of parts of furniture or weapons. On it we find the early technique of hammering with beaten details, for floral or figure scenes. A different technique involves incision of detail lines and appears at its best on the decorative cut-out plaques made in Crete [54] and a number of shield blazons found at Olympia. One offers a characteristic Greek treatment of an Eastern monster, tamed and domesticated: a mother griffin suckling her young [57].

54 Cut-out bronze plaque in very low relief with incised details, of a type peculiar to Crete. Two huntsmen, one with a wild goat (ibex) on his shoulders. About 630 BC. Height 18 cm. (Louvre MNC 689)

55 The neck of a clay relief vase found on Mykonos. The Trojan Horse, on wheels, the Greeks within it shown as through windows out of which they hold their weapons. Others have dismounted already. The body of the vase has panels showing the slaughter at Troy. About 650 BC. Height of frieze 35 cm. (Mykonos)

56 The monstrous Gorgon with her child, the winged horse Pegasus, on a clay relief which may have decorated the end or side of an altar at Syracuse. Her kneeling pose is the Archaic convention for running or flying. Her face is that of a humanoid lion. About 600 BC. Height 55 cm. (Syracuse)

57 Cut-out bronze plaque from Olympia, with incised details, showing a mother griffin with her young. This was probably the blazon from a wooden shield. About 600 BC. Height 77 cm. (Olympia)

The stone seals which were being cut at the end of the Geometric period were replaced in the Peloponnese by ivory. In the islands, however, an unexpected source inspired an important new school of stone-seal engravers. Fine Mycenaean and Minoan seals found in plundered tombs or in fields were studied by artists on Melos, who copied the shapes of the stones and, as soon as they had mastered the technique (on softer stones), some of the distinctive motifs. For the most part, however, they used the Orientalizing animal and monster devices which we see on island vases [58]. These Island Gems – once mistaken for prehistoric – provide a continuous tradition of engraving until well into the 6th century, when a new source introduces new shapes and initiates a more fruitful tradition. In the islands again, and East Greece, goldsmiths exploit to the full their newly mastered techniques in some of the finest decorative jewellery we have from antiquity [59].

58 An Island Gem of serpentine showing a lion and a dolphin. About 600 BC. Length 2.2 cm. (Paris, BN N 6)

59 A gold roundel. On the petals are pairs of gold flies, human (Daedalic) heads and bulls’ heads. Probably made in one of the Greek islands (Melos?) in about 625 BC. Width 4 cm. (Paris, BN)


Of larger works of art in this early period we know very little. Wall-paintings there may have been, but we can only guess about them from their hypothetical influence upon vase painting, and the influence might as easily have passed the other way. Wooden sculpture there must have been and there are literary references to early cult statues of wood (xoana) but they were probably very primitive in appearance, although they could have been large. Nothing wooden has been preserved except for a few statuettes from the waterlogged temple site on Samos [60]. The hammered bronze sheathing of wooden statuettes at Dreros, in Crete, displays forms akin to other early Orientalizing hammered work in bronze and gold, of 8th-century date.

60 A wooden loving couple from the Heraeum of Samos showing a god and goddess, perhaps Zeus and Hera, with the eagle between their heads. A heavily orientalized Greek style of about 620 BC. Height 18 cm. (Samos)

Soft limestone can be carved almost as easily as wood, and there are stray examples of relief work in an early Orientalizing style, again from Crete. One of the new techniques introduced from the East had been the use of the mould for clay plaques and figures. This means of mass production helped to canonize and stereotype proportions for figures and, especially, the features of a facing head. The type is close to that of the Eastern naked goddess (Astarte) plaques, some of which reached the Greek world and were copied there, although the whole figure of the goddess was soon given clothes and identified as Aphrodite. But the face is still thoroughly Greek, alert and angular unlike the podgy Easterner. The type – we call it Daedalic after the mythical craftsman Daedalus – is most commonly met on the mould-made clay figures and plaques, but it is found also on other objects – bronzes [61], ivories, gold jewellery, stone lamps – and, more important, it is used for limestone statuettes. These are either independent figures [62], or they appear in the round, standing or seated, as the sculptural embellishment of temple buildings (as later at Prinias, in Crete) which at about this time began to attract this type of decoration.

61 Bronze statuette of a man carrying a ram, from Crete. The head is Daedalic, the dress Cretan. Late 7th century BC. Height 18 cm. (Berlin 7477)

62 Limestone statuette (the Auxerre Goddess) of typical Daedalic type with layered wig-like hair. The incised lines on the dress outlined areas of colour. The shawl is Cretan. About 630 BC. Height 62 cm. (Louvre 3098)

This is the fashion of around and after the mid-7th century, but even the largest examples of figures carved in the Daedalic style are little more than decorative statuettes [62], until a new influence promotes a new scale. This brings us to Egypt and the common recognition that the next phase of Greek sculpture owed much to the arts of the Nile valley. Taken in isolation the innovations – scale, pose, technique – could be derived from Greek experience, but taken together, and with the well-recorded new Greek awareness of Egypt, it is clear that the prime source of inspiration lay there.

Greek mercenaries had been allowed to settle in the Nile delta after the mid-7th century and a trading town was soon established by the East Greeks and Aeginetans at Naucratis. This brought Greeks and Greek artists into closer contact with the arts of Egypt. There had been close contact much earlier, in the Bronze Age, but thereafter there had been only minor import and some Greco-Egyptian production of bric-à-brac on Rhodes. They were likely to have been impressed by what was least familiar to them – the massive stone statuary and architecture – and this may have been enough to set sculptors on a new course. They had to face the challenge of both size and material, for the Egyptian figures were often of the hardest stones – porphyry and granite – and often far more than lifesize. The Greeks looked to the fine white marble which could be so easily quarried on their islands. The scale may have been less of a novelty. The main function of a temple had become to serve as the house (oikos) for the god – or at least for his cult image. It is likely that temple sizes and statue sizes were related, so there may have been many large wooden figures in Greek temples already. The Egyptian hardstone statues were always worked by abrasion and their sculptors had no iron tools; but the Greeks had hardened iron tools which could work marble. The early sculptors of the new style were remembered as being Cretan, and Crete had the tradition in stone statuary, but the island had no white marble so the new schools were naturally established on the marble islands, where there were also (on Naxos) supplies of abrasive emery. The Egyptians laid out their statues according to a prepared grid drawn on the side of the stone block, which was initially to enable copying from a sketch to a full figure, but which also helped establish a fixed canon of proportion which was roughly realistic. Greeks may have for a while adopted the same system, but it is elusive.

The style of the new figures – of white marble and lifesize or more – is still Daedalic, for these were the only conventions for statuary which the Greek artists could at that time employ for statues of women. We have early marble examples from Samos and Delos (the dedication of Nikandre). But there is little more in the way of statuary of women for at least a generation, except for some small marble goddesses with lions who support water-basins (perirrhanteria) which are probably Peloponnesian in origin and inspiration [63]. The males too at first follow the Daedalic conventions for the head, but the body is shown naked (except often for a belt), long-limbed, one foot set just before the other in a pose which lent stability, and had been used before in bronze statuettes. In this it owes nothing to the Egyptian stone figures which stand rigid with vertical back and rear leg, with a supporting pillar, and only stand free if small and in softer material, such as wood. The earliest of these statues of youths – kouroi – are from the islands and there is a distinguished group from Attica from about and after 600 BC [64]. At this early date the anatomical detail is translated into pure pattern – ears, knee-caps, ribs – not related organically to the body, which is itself foursquare, perceptibly newly released from the rectangular block from which it had been painstakingly chipped. Some are truly colossal, several at three metres, and a Naxian dedication on Delos at eight metres.

63 A perirrhanterion basin from Isthmia, the sanctuary of Poseidon near Corinth. The women, perhaps each an Artemis, stand on lions holding them by lead and tail. Late 7th century BC. Restored drawing, about 1.26 m high without base. (Corinth)

64 Marble kouros (part of face, including nose, the left arm and leg restored) dedicated to Poseidon at Sunium. About 590 BC. Height about 3 m. (Athens 2720)

Monumental stone architecture in Greece may have owed the same source of inspiration as the sculpture – Egypt. The effect was felt at about the same time, but the development was slower and is best discussed in the next chapter. It must be mentioned here because these two phenomena mark an important stage in the progress of Greek art: the establishment of new crafts in which the Greek artist was to find his most fully satisfying media of expression.

The motley of 7th-century Greek art is as confusing as it is brilliant. Local schools flourish and propagate individual new styles. New techniques are learnt. The Greek artist took note of the exotic and grandiose works of those older civilizations with which his world was now in regular contact. He borrowed and adapted as he thought fit, imposing his native sense of pattern and standards of precision on foreign forms. These, in their countries of origin, were relatively stereotyped, serving palatial and priestly needs. The small-town life of Greece surely encouraged far more innovation in the crafts than would have been tolerated in more monolithic societies, and this must account for much of the innovation and speed of progress. But there were times in the early period when foreign stereotypes may have stifled even more rapid progress; I think of the tyranny of the mould, and uncompromising incising techniques of drawing. However, observation of the East and Egypt determined all progress. This is the period in which Greece was not the teacher, but the taught. But it is equally important to remember the strength of a tradition which had its beginnings far earlier than the perceptible influence of new ideas from overseas, and was able to translate the new ideas into forms in which we may try to recognize the origins of Classical art.