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Greek Culture


Greek culture emerged from the 2000 BC Mycenaean and Minoan civilisations and continued to develop into Classical Greece. The Byzantine Empire, or Eastern Roman Empire, of the Middle Ages ushered in the arts of Greece. The Ottoman Empire also had a great impact on Greek civilisation, but the War of Independence revitalised Greece and gave rise to a single entity of its rich culture.


The arts and architecture of Ancient Greece have had an enormous impact on Western art to the present day.

Byzantine architecture and art played an important part in early Christianity, and still plays a significant role in the Orthodox Christian nations of Eastern Europe and Eurasia.

Because of decay and destruction in the course of history, only minor collections of ancient Greek art has survived, including sculpture, architecture and minor arts, such as pottery, coin design and gem engraving.

Remains of ancient Greek architecture are known throughout Greece and also exist alongside more modern examples.

Two Classical orders of ancient Greek architecture existed in the country: the refined and ornamented Ionic, and the solid and restrained Doric. The Ionic style eventually developed into the more ornate Corinthian style.

The form of ancient Greek temples, built of marble or limestone in a rectangular shape surrounded by colonnades, remains a popular style today.

The arch was familiar to the Trojans but was not widely used, contrary to later Roman buildings. Examples of ancient Greek architecture which have survived today include the Erechtheum and Parthenon in Athens.

Roman structures founded on the Greek model can be seen in such structures as the Pantheon in Rome, built by Apollodoros of Damascus, a Greek architect. Byzantine architecture flourished from the rise of Christianity under Constantine to the fall of the empire in 1453 and Ottoman Turks.

Typical features of Byzantine architecture include Grecian cross layouts, which comprise Byzantine capitol-style columns and a central dome surrounded by a number of smaller domes.

After the Greek Revolution and Neo-Classical revival, a Neo-Byzantine style flourished, which interacted with traditional Byzantine villa architecture and produced a form peculiar only to modern Greece.

Much like other modern capitals, the Modernist and Post-Modernist architecture of Greece revived the landscape of cities, including several new buildings by Santiago Calatrava for the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Only a small number of ancient Greek paintings have survived. Many painters made their creations on wooden panels, but after the 4th Century most of these paintings disappeared because they were not preserved. Only a few have been discovered at Lefcadia and Kazanlak in Ancient Thrace.

However, many ancient Greek sculptures have survived, such as those of the Greek master sculptors Praxiteles and Phidias. The Romans frequently imitated these sculptors and their followers.

In the 4th and 5th Century, many sculptured pagan idols were destroyed as an act of piety. In the Middle Ages, many ancient marble sculptures were burned and bronze statues melted.

Some of the marble statues were spared from destruction but were either forgotten or buried. Religious Art was created in the Byzantine era, with mosaics and icons decorating religious buildings.

El Greco was an artist who created paintings and sculpture in a liberated form in response to the 16th-century Mannerist and Byzantine art; colours and style which inspired such 20th-century artists as Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock.

The 18th and beginning of the 19th Century saw artists from the Ionian Islands play a major role in the Italian Renaissance and Baroque style.

New styles and developments emerged in the first decades of the 19th Century which revitalised ancient Greek art, but at the same time also followed European traditions, seen in the academic Realism (Munich School) movement.

The works of this period were attributed to such artists as Nykiphoros Lytras and Theodoros Vryzakis.

A friend and contemporary of Picasso, the painter Demetrios Galanis, achieved recognition in France for his work in Realism, which earned him a lifelong membership in Academie Francaise.

Nikos Engonopoulos was both a painter and poet, and also won international acclaim with his Surrealist concepts. In the late 1960s, Dimitris Mytras and Yiannis Psychopedis worked in the field of European Critical Realism.

In the Modernist and Post-Modernist periods, Greece continued to contribute to the ancient sculptural tradition with such contributors as the philosopher Costas Axelos and the famous sculptor Constantine Andreou.