The Archaic Period was an era in Ancient Greece from 750-480 BCE that followed the Homeric Age.[1]

During the Archaic Period, two of the dominant poleis, or city states, formed: Athens (ca. 700 BCE) and Sparta (ca. 650 BCE). The aristocracy, or the wealthy land-owners, were the government of the poleis, and they taxed the peasants who bought land, causing severe debts between peasants and aristocrats. Additionally, the Greek civilization began expanding throughout the regions along the Western Mediterannean Sea in an age of colonization and the spread of Pan Hellenism.[2]

The art of the Archaic Period featured both pottery and sculptures, both of which had evolved massively from what pottery and sculpture were in the Geometric Period . Archaic Pottery was clay-colored, with humans painted in black. The humans looked much more realistic, compared to the angular shapes that represented humans in Geometric Art . In sculpture, human sculptures like the kouros (a male youth), were rigid and posed almost completely vertical, with no shifts in weight or posture, which was idealistic.[3]

Archaic Art of the Metropolitan MuseumEdit

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Archaic Period Terracotta vase in the form of a duck, 600-500 BCE

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Archaic Period Rhodian Terracotta plate, ca. 600 BCE

The photograph directly on the right is of a terracotta vase shaped like a duck from the Archaic Period. It was crafted between 600-500 BCE. The duck reflects the ideals of Ancient Greek Archaic Art because the parts of the duck that usually show expression (the head) are black while the insignificant parts of the duck (the body) are red with black spots. The head is the most important part of the vase, because it's the part that shows expression. The other forms of pottery during the Archaic Period that had humans were clay-colored pots with black-colored humans. The humans were the most significant part of the art form, yet they were colored black, like the head of the duck. Overall, one of the most defining characteristics of Archaic pottery is that the significant designs or parts of the art are painted black, rather than a brighter clay-colored color.[4]

The bottommost photograph on the right is of a Rhodian (from Rhodes) terracotta plate from the Archaic Period. It was crafted around 600 BCE. Since there is no focus in the terracotta plate like usual Archaic pottery art forms, the only feature that can define the plate as Archaic is that the black patterns around the elliptical figures in the center of the plate are similar to the patterns on the Geometric Period's pottery: very basic and redundant designs. The plain, Geometric black patterns are one of the few Geometric Period aspects of art that survived through to the Archaic Period. The patterns established a sense of clarity and order within the art form, as the art in the Archaic Period was idealistic.

Idealism of the Archaic Period is best represented in the sculpture of the Archaic Period. The sculptures were rigid and almost completely vertical, like a tree trunk. They were nude, which was ideal, and boasted no fine, intricate details that may indicate any realism. A recurring theme in Ancient Greek art that was focused on humans was that with less details, the less realistic the human was, and therefore, the human was ideal, or supernatural. Perhaps the humans depicted in Archaic Period sculptures were idealistic due to the Pan Hellenism that spread during the time. The spread of culture allowed Greek people from different poleis to interact and realize that they spoke the same language, practiced the same religion, and shared similar ideals. This lead to a form of patriotism, which unified the Greek people. Because of this unification, the Greek people may have felt powerful enough to feel godly, or divine, leading them to sculpt images of themselves that were supernatural, or idealistic.


  1. Gloria Fiero, The Humanistic Tradition(New York: McGraw Hill, 2011), 116.
  2. The Civilization of the Greeks, 61-63.
  3. Gloria Fiero, The Humanistic Tradition(New York: McGraw Hill, 2011), 116-117.
  4. Gloria Fiero, The Humanistic Tradition(New York: McGraw Hill, 2011), 116-117.

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