Arts such as architecture, sculpture, pottery, weaving, music, jewellery making, and painting have a long-standing tradition in Greece, where civilisations were already established in pre-historic times.
|Greek pottery - source|
Civilisations with impressive achievements developed during the Bronze Age (3000 – 1150 B.C. approximately) in the Northeastern Aegean, the Cyclades (its trade-mark being the large-sized marble figurines), Crete and the Greek mainland. The civilisations which flourished during the 2nd millennium in the latter two areas, known as the Minoan and Mycenaean respectively, are considered the first two major civilisations of Greece. The architectural remnants, as well as the samples of pottery, stone carving (vessels, sealstones), metallurgy (vessels, weapons), jewellery making and painting (murals) are impressive and representative of these civilisations.
The classical works of art, with their ideal proportions and beauty, expressed the philosophical ideals of their times and were the model of the European Renaissance of the 15th century A.D.
A visit to archaeological sites, museums and monuments all over the country offers a vivid picture of the civilisations in Greece, their achievements in arts and technology from the pre-historic era to modern times.
Religion in Ancient Greece
Greek religion encompasses the collection of beliefs and rituals practiced in Ancient Greece in form of cult practices, thus the practical counterpart of Greek mythology. Within the Greek world, religious practice varied enough so that one might want to look into the Greek religions in detail. The cult practices of the Hellenes extended beyond mainland Greece to the islands and coasts of Ionia in Asia Minor, to Magna Graecia (Sicily and southern Italy), and to scattered Greek colonies in the Western Mediterranean, such as Massilia (Marseille). Greek examples tempered Etruscan cult and belief to influence much of the Roman religion.
There is a scholarly belief that early Greek religion came from, or was strongly influenced by, shamanistic practices from the steppes of Central Asia, brought to the Greek colony of Olbia in Scythia, on the northern shore of the Black Sea, and then all the way down to Greece. The Greeks believed in thousands of gods and goddesses with the most important gods being the gods of athletics.
The Greeks invented athletic contests and held them in honour of their gods. The Isthmos Games were staged every two years at the Isthmos of Corinth. The Pythian Games took place every four years near Delphi. The most famous games held at Olympia, south west of Greece, which took place every four years. The ancient Olympics seem to have begun as early 700 B.C., in honour of Zeus. No women were allowed to watch the games and only Greek nationals could participate. One of the ancient wonders was a statue of Zeus at Olympia, made of gold and ivory by a Greek sculptor Pheidias. This was placed inside a Temple, although it was a towering 42 feet high.
|Antikes Olympia stadium - source|
By 472 B.C., The games at Olympia were lengthened from a one-day festival of athletics and wrestling to five days with many events. The order of the events is not precisely known, but the first day of the festival was devoted to sacrifices. During the middle of the festival 100 oxen were sacrificed in honour of a God. Athletes also often prayed and made small sacrifices themselves.
On the second day, the foot-race, the main event of the games, took place in the stadium, an oblong area enclosed by sloping banks of earth. At Olympia there were 4 different types of races; the first was stadion, the oldest event of the Games, where runners sprinted for 1 stade, which was the length of the stadium (192 m). The other races were a 2-stade race (384 m), and a long-distance run which ranged from 7 to 24 stades (1,344 m to 4,608 m).The fourth type of race involved runners wearing full amour, which was 2-4 stade race (384 m to 768 m), was used to build up speed and stamina for military purposes.
On other days, wrestling, boxing, and the pancratium, a combination of the two, were held. In wrestling, the aim was to throw the opponent to the ground three times, on either his hip, back or shoulder. In ancient Greek wrestling biting and genital holds were illegal.
Boxing became more and more brutal; at first the pugilists wound straps of soft leather over their fingers as a means of deadening the blows, but as the games progressed, hard leather, sometimes weighted with metal, was used. In the pancratium, the most rigorous of the sports, the contest continued until one or the other of the participants acknowledged defeat.
Horse-racing, in which each entrant owned his horse, was confined to the wealthy but was nevertheless a popular attraction. The course was 6 laps of the track, with separate races. The riders at that time took great risks as they did not use stirrups. It was only wealthy people who could pay for such training, equipment, and feed of both the rider and the horses, so whichever horse won it was not the rider who was awarded the Olive wreath but the owner. There were also Chariot races, that consisted of both 2-horse and 4-horse chariots, with separate races for chariots drawn by foals. There was also a race was between carts drawn by a team of 2 mules, which was 12 laps of the stadium track.
Ancient Greek Theatre
The history of the Greek theatre began with festivals honouring their gods. A god, Dionysus, was honoured with a festival called "City Dionysia". In Athens, during this festival, men used to perform songs to welcome Dionysus. Plays were only presented at the City Dionysia festival.
Athens was the main centre for these theatrical traditions. Athenians spread these festivals to its numerous allies in order to promote a common identity throughout the regions.
At the early Greek festivals, the actors, directors, and dramatists were all the same person. After some time, only three actors were allowed to perform in each play. Later few non-speaking roles were allowed to perform on-stage. Due to limited number of actors allowed on-stage, the chorus evolved into a very active part of Greek theatre. Music was often played during the chorus’ delivery of its lines.
Panoramic view of the Greek theatre at Epidaurus - source
Tragedy, comedy, and satyr plays were the standard theatrical forms. Tragedy and comedy were viewed as completely separate genres. Satyr plays dealt with the mythological subject in a comic manner. Aristotle’s Poetics sets out a thesis about the perfect structure for tragedy.
Costumes and Masks
The actors were so far away from the audience that without the aid of exaggerated costumes and masks, they would not be seen. The masks were made of linen or cork, so none have survived. Tragic masks carried mournful or pained expressions, while comic masks were smiling or leering. The shape of the mask along with the architecture of the theatres, amplified the actor’s voice, making his words easier for the audience to hear
|Theatrical masks of Tragedy and Comedy - source|
THE STRUCTURE OF THE EDUCATION SYSTEM
Education in Greece is compulsory for all children 6-15 years old and includes Primary (Dimotiko) and Lower Secondary (Gymnasio) Education. The school life of the students, however, can start from the age of 2.5 years (pre-school education) in institutions (private and public) called "Vrefonipiakoi Paidikoi Stathmi" (creches). In some Vrefonipiakoi Stathmoi there are also Nipiaka Tmimata (nursery classes) which operate along with the Nipiagogeia (kindergartens).
Attendance at Primary Education (Dimotiko) lasts for six years, and children are admitted at the age of 6. Along with the regular kindergartens (Nipiagogeia) and the Dimotika, there is an option of all-day primary schools, with an extended timetable and an enriched Curriculum.
Post-compulsory Secondary Education, according to the reform of 1997, consists of two school types: Eniaia Lykeia (Unified Upper Secondary Schools) and the Technical Vocational Educational Schools (TEE). The duration of studies in Eniaia Lykeia (EL) is three years and two years (a’ level) or three years (b’ level) in the Technical Vocational Educational Schools (TEE). Mutual student transfer from one type of school to the other is possible.
Along with the mainstream schools of Primary and Secondary Education, Special Nipagogeia (kindergartens), Dimotika, Gymnasia, Lykeia and upper secondary classes are available, admitting students with special educational needs. Musical, Ecclesiastical and Physical Education Gymnasia and Lykeia are also an option for students.
Public higher education is divided into Universities and Technological Education Institutes (TEI). Students are admitted to these Institutes according to their performance at national level examinations taking place at the second and third grade of Lykeio. Additionally, students when reaching the age of 23 years are admitted to the Hellenic Open University by drawing lots.