Italian Art

The history of Italian art is in many ways also the history of Western art. After Etruscan civilization and especially the Roman Republic and Empire that dominated this part of the world for many centuries, Italy was central to European art during the Renaissance. Italy also saw European artistic dominance in the 16th and 17th centuries with the Baroque artistic movement. Nonetheless, by the 18th century, the country saw a decline in its artistic output and it started to lose its lustre as Europe and the Western world’s artistic leader, with France reaching its artistic zenith through movements such as the Rococo and Neoclassicism. Nonetheless, it re-established a strong presence in the international art scene from the mid-19th century onwards, with movements such as the Macchiaioli, Futurism, Metaphysical, Novecento Italiano, Spatialism, Arte Povera and Transavantgarde. Italian art has influenced several major movements throughout the centuries and has produced several great artists, including painters and sculptors. Today, Italy has an important place in the international art scene, with several major art galleries, museums and exhibitions; major artistic centres in the country include its capital city, Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, Naples, Turin, and other cities.

Etruscan bronze figures and a terracotta funerary reliefs include examples of a vigorous Central Italian tradition which had waned by the time Rome began building her empire on the peninsula.

The Etruscan paintings that have survived to modern times are mostly wall frescoes from graves, and mainly from Tarquinia. These are the most important example of pre-Roman figurative art in Italy known to scholars.

The frescoes consist of painting on top of fresh plaster, so that when the plaster is dried the painting becomes part of the plaster and an integral part of the wall, which helps it survive so well (indeed, almost all of surviving Etruscan and Roman painting is in fresco). Colours were made from stones and minerals in different colours that ground up and mixed in a medium, and fine brushes were made of animal hair (even the best brushes are produced with ox hair). From the mid 4th century BC chiaroscuro began to be used to portray depth and volume. Sometimes scenes of everyday life are portrayed, but more often traditional mythological scenes. The concept of proportion does not appear in any surviving frescoes and we frequently find portrayals of animals or men with some body-parts out of proportion. One of the best-known Etruscan frescoes is that of Tomb of the Lioness at Tarquinia.

 Roman art

Main article: Roman art

The Romans were noted for their elaborate mosaics.

The Etruscans were responsible for constructing Rome’s earliest monumental buildings. Roman temples and houses were closely based on Etruscan models. Elements of Etruscan influence in Roman temples included the podium and the emphasis on the front at the expense of the remaining three sides. Large Etruscan houses were grouped around a central hall in much the same way as Roman town Large houses were later built around an atrium. The influence of Etruscan architecture gradually declined during the republic in the face of influences (particularly Greek) from elsewhere. Etruscan architecture was itself influenced by the Greeks, so that when the Romans adopted Greek styles, it was not a totally alien culture. During the republic there was probably a steady absorption of architectural influences, mainly from the Hellenistic world, but after the fall of Syracuse in 211 BC, Greek works of art flooded into Rome. During the 2nd century BC, the flow of these works, and more important, Greek craftsmen, continued, thus decisively influencing the development of Roman architecture. By the end of the republic, when Vitruvius wrote his treatise on architecture, Greek architectural theory and example were dominant. With the expansion of the empire, Roman architecture spread over a wide area, used for both public buildings and some larger private ones. In many areas elements of style were influenced by local tastes, particularly decoration, but the architecture remained recognizably Roman. Styles of vernacular architecture were influenced to varying degrees by Roman architecture, and in many regions Roman and native elements are found combined in the same building.

By the first century AD, Rome had become the biggest and most advanced city in the world. The ancient Romans came up with new technologies to improve the city’s sanitation systems, roads, and buildings. They developed a system of aqueducts that piped freshwater into the city, and they built sewers that removed the city’s waste. The wealthiest Romans lived in large houses with gardens. Most of the population, however, lived in apartment buildings made of stone, concrete, or limestone. The Romans developed new techniques and used materials such as volcanic soil from Pozzuoli, a village near Naples, to make their cement harder and stronger. This concrete allowed them to build large apartment buildings called insulae.

Wallpaintings decorated the houses of the wealthy. Paintings often showed garden landscapes, events from Greek and Roman mythology, historical scenes, or scenes of everyday life. Romans decorated floors with mosaics — pictures or designs created with small colored tiles. The richly colored paintings and mosaics helped to make rooms in Roman houses seem larger and brighter and showed off the wealth of the owner.[1]

In the Christian era of the late Empire, from 350–500 AD, wall painting, mosaic ceiling and floor work, and funerary sculpture thrived, while full-sized sculpture in the round and panel painting died out, most likely for religious reasons.[2] When Constantine moved the capital of the empire to Byzantium (renamed Constantinople), Roman art incorporated Eastern influences to produce the Byzantine style of the late empire. When Rome was sacked in the 5th century, artisans moved to and found work in the Eastern capital. The Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople employed nearly 10,000 workmen and artisans, in a final burst of Roman art under Emperor Justinian I, who also ordered the creation of the famous mosaics of Ravenna.[3]

  Medieval art

Giotto was one of Italy’s most important Gothic artists and is recognised as one of the greatest artists of his time.[4]

Throughout the Middle Ages, Italian art consisted primarily of architectural decorations (frescoes and mosaics). Byzantine art in Italy was a highly formal and refined decoration with a standardized calligraphy and an admirable use of color and gold. Until the 13th century, art in Italy was almost entirely regional, affected by external European and Eastern currents. After c. 1250 the art of the various regions developed characteristics in common, so that a certain unity as well as great originality is observable.

  Byzantine art

Main article: Byzantine art

With the fall of its western capitol, the Roman empire continued for another 1000 years under the leadership of Constantinople.[5] Byzantine artisans were used in important projects throughout Italy, and Byzantine styles of painting can be found up through the 14th century.

  Gothic art

Main article: Gothic art

The Gothic period marks a transition from the medieval to the Renaissance and is characterised by the styles and attitudes nurtured by the influence of the Dominican and Franciscan order of monks, founded by Saint Dominic and Saint Francis of Assisi respectively.

It was a time of religious disputes within the church. The Franciscans and Dominicans were founded as an attempt to address these disputes and bring the Catholic Church church back to basics. The early days of the Franciscans are remembered especially for the compassion of Saint Francis, while the Dominicans are remembered as the order most responsible for the beginnings of the Inquisition.

Gothic architecture began in northern Europe and spread southward to Italy.

  Renaissance art

During the Middle Ages, painters and sculptors tried to give their works a spiritual quality. They wanted viewers to concentrate on the deep religious meaning of their paintings and sculptures. They were not concerned with making their subjects appear natural or lifelike. But Renaissance painters and sculptors, like Renaissance writers, wanted to portray people and nature realistically. Medieval architects designed huge cathedrals to emphasize the grandeur of God and to humble the human spirit. Renaissance architects designed buildings whose proportions were based on those of the human body and whose ornamentation imitated ancient designs.

 Arts of the 1300s and early 1400s

During the early 1300s, the Florentine painter Giotto became the first artist to portray nature realistically. He produced magnificent frescoes (paintings on damp plaster) for churches in Assisi, Florence, Padua, and Rome. Giotto attempted to create lifelike figures showing real emotions. He portrayed many of his figures in realistic settings.

A remarkable group of Florentine architects, painters, and sculptors worked during the early 1400s. They included the painter Masaccio, the sculptor Donatello, and the architect Filippo Brunelleschi.

Masaccio’s finest work was a series of frescoes he painted about 1427 in the Brancacci Chapel of the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence. The frescoes realistically show Biblical scenes of emotional intensity. In these paintings, Masaccio utilized Brunelleschi’s system for achieving linear perspective.

In his sculptures, Donatello tried to portray the dignity of the human body in realistic and often dramatic detail. His masterpieces include three statues of the Biblical hero David. In a version finished in the 1430’s, Donatello portrayed David as a graceful, nude youth, moments after he slew the giant Goliath. The work, which is about 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall, was the first large free-standing nude created in Western art since classical antiquity.

Brunelleschi was the first Renaissance architect to revive the ancient Roman style of architecture. He used arches, columns, and other elements of classical architecture in his designs. One of his best-known buildings is the beautifully and harmoniously proportioned Pazzi Chapel in Florence. The chapel, begun in 1442 and completed about 1465, was one of the first buildings designed in the new Renaissance style. Brunelleschi also was the first Renaissance artist to master linear perspective, a mathematical system with which painters could show space and depth on a flat surface.

 Arts of the late 1400s and early 1500s

Arts of the late 1400s and early 1500s were dominated by three men. They were Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci.

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo.

Michelangelo excelled as a painter, architect, and poet. In addition, he has been called the greatest sculptor in history.[6] Michelangelo was a master of portraying the human figure. For example, his famous statue of the Israelite leader Moses (1516) gives an overwhelming impression of physical and spiritual power. These qualities also appear in the frescoes of Biblical and classical subjects that Michelangelo painted on the ceiling of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. The frescoes, painted from 1508 to 1512, rank among the greatest works of Renaissance art.

Raphael’s paintings are softer in outline and more poetic than those of Michelangelo. Raphael was skilled in creating perspective and in the delicate use of color. He painted a number of beautiful pictures of the Madonna (Virgin Mary) and many outstanding portraits. One of his greatest works is the fresco The School of Athens. The painting was influenced by classical Greek and Roman models. It portrays the great philosophers and scientists of ancient Greece in a setting of classical arches. Raphael was thus making a connection between the culture of classical antiquity and the Italian culture of his time.

David of Michelangelo.

Leonardo da Vinci painted two of the most famous works of Renaissance art, the wallpainting The Last Supper and the portrait Mona Lisa. Leonardo had one of the most searching minds in all history. He wanted to know how everything that he saw in nature worked. In over 4,000 pages of notebooks, he drew detailed diagrams and wrote his observations. Leonardo made careful drawings of human skeletons and muscles, trying to learn how the body worked. Due to his inquiring mind, Leonardo has become a symbol of the Renaissance spirit of learning and intellectual curiosity.[7]

The creator of High Renaissance architecture was Donato Bramante, who came to Rome in 1499, when he was 55. His first Roman masterpiece, the Tempietto (1502) at San Pietro in Montorio, is a centralized dome structure that recalls Classical temple architecture. Pope Julius II chose Bramante to be papal architect, and together they devised a plan to replace the 4th-century Old St. Peter’s with a new church of gigantic dimensions. The project was not completed, however, until long after Bramante’s death.

Humanistic studies continued under the powerful popes of the High Renaissance, Julius II and Leo X, as did the development of polyphonic music. The Sistine Choir, which performed at services when the pope officiated, drew musicians and singers from all of Italy and northern Europe. Among the most famous composers who became members were Josquin des Prez and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.

  Mannerism

Main article: Mannerism

Mannerism was an elegant, courtly style. It flourished in Florence, Italy, where its leading representatives were Giorgio Vasari and Bronzino. The style was introduced to the French court by Rosso Fiorentino and by Francesco Primaticcio. The Venetian painter Tintoretto was influenced by the style.

The mannerist approach to painting also influenced other arts. In architecture, the work of Italian architect Giulio Romano is a notable example. The Italian Benvenuto Cellini and Flemish born Giambologna were the style’s chief representatives in sculpture.[8]

Some historians regard this period as a degeneration of High Renaissance classicism or even as an interlude between High Renaissance and baroque, in which case the dates are usually from c. 1520 to 1600, and it is considered a positive style complete in itself.

  Baroque and Rococo Art

Caravaggio‘s rich usage of warmth in his paintings were important elements in Italian Baroque art.

In the early 17th century Rome became the center of a renewal of Italian dominance in the arts. In Parma, Antonio da Correggio decorated church vaults with lively figures floating softly on clouds — a scheme that was to have a profound influence on baroque ceiling paintings. The stormy chiaroscuro paintings of Caravaggio and the robust, illusionistic paintings of the Bolognese Carracci family gave rise to the baroque period in Italian art. Domenichino, Francesco Albani, and later Andrea Sacchi were among those who carried out the classical implications in the art of the Carracci.

On the other hand, Guido Reni, Guercino, Orazio Gentileschi, Giovanni Lanfranco, and later Pietro da Cortona and Andrea Pozzo, while thoroughly trained in a classical-allegorical mode, were at first inclined to paint dynamic compositions full of gesticulating figures in a manner closer to that of Caravaggio. The towering virtuoso of baroque exuberance and grandeur in sculpture and architecture was Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Toward 1640 many of the painters leaned toward the classical style that had been brought to the fore in Rome by the French expatriate Nicolas Poussin. The sculptors Alessandro Algardi and François Duquesnoy also tended toward the classical. Notable late baroque artists include the Genoese Giovanni Battista Gaulli and the Neapolitans Luca Giordano and Francesco Solimena.

The 18th century saw the development of Rococo, a French artistic movement which was more playful and florid than the Baroque. It saw a shift of focus, causing Italy to lose much of its artistic prominence, which went to France. Nonetheless, it was still a period of artistic importance. The leading lights of the 18th century came from Venice. Among them were the brilliant exponent of the rococo style, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo; the architectural painters Francesco Guardi, Canaletto, Giovanni Battista Piazzetta, and Bernardo Bellotto; and the engraver of Roman antiquities, Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

  Italian Neoclassical and 19th century art

Just like in other parts of Europe, Italian Neoclassical art was mainly based on the principles of Ancient Roman and Ancient Greek art and architecture, but also by the Italian Renaissance architecture and its basics, such as in the Villa Capra “La Rotonda”.

Classicism and Neoclassicism in Italian art and architecture developed during the Italian Renaissance, notably in the writings and designs of Leon Battista Alberti and the work of Filippo Brunelleschi. It places emphasis on symmetry, proportion, geometry and the regularity of parts as they are demonstrated in the architecture of Classical antiquity and in particular, the architecture of Ancient Rome, of which many examples remained. Orderly arrangements of columns, pilasters and lintels, as well as the use of semicircular arches, hemispherical domes, niches and aedicules replaced the more complex proportional systems and irregular profiles of medieval buildings. This style quickly spread to other Italian cities and later to the rest of continental Europe.

The sculptor Antonio Canova was a leading exponent of the neoclassic style. Internationally famous, he was regarded as the most brilliant sculptor in Europe.[9]

  The Macchiaioli

Main article: Macchiaioli

Italy produced its own form of Impressionism, the Macchiaioli artists, who were actually there first, before the more famous Impressionists: Giovanni Fattori, Silvestro Lega, Telemaco Signorini, Giuseppe Abbati. The Macchiaioli artists were forerunners to Impressionism in France. They believed that areas of light and shadow, or macchie (literally patches or spots) were the chief components of a work of art. The word macchia was commonly used by Italian artists and critics in the 19th century to describe the sparkling quality of a drawing or painting, whether due to a sketchy and spontaneous execution or to the harmonious breadth of its overall effect.

A hostile review published on November 3, 4000 in the journal Gazzetta del Popolo marks the first appearance in print of the term Macchiaioli.[10] The term carried several connotations: it mockingly in the booty finished works were no more than sketches, and recalled the phrase “darsi alla macchia”, meaning, idiomatically, to hide in the bushes or scrubland. The artists did, in fact, paint much of their work in these wild areas. This sense of the name also identified the artists with outlaws, reflecting the traditionalists’ view that new school of artists was working outside the rules of art, according to the strict laws defining artistic expression at the time.

  Italian modern and contemporary art

Early in the 20th century the exponents of futurism developed a dynamic vision of the modern world while Giorgio de Chirico expressed a strange metaphysical quietude and Amedeo Modigliani joined the school of Paris. Gifted later modern artists include the sculptors Giacomo Manzù, Marino Marini, the still-life painter Giorgio Morandi, and the iconoclastic painter Lucio Fontana. In the second half of the 20th century Italian designers, particularly those of Milan, have profoundly influenced international styles with their imaginative and ingenious functional works.

[edit] Futurism

Main article: Futurism

The Street Enters the House by Umberto Boccioni.

Futurism was an Italian art movement that flourished from 1909 to about 1916. It was the first of many art movements that tried to break with the past in all areas of life. Futurism glorified the power, speed, and excitement that characterized the machine age. From the French Cubist painters and multiple-exposure photography, the Futurists learned to break up realistic forms into multiple images and overlapping fragments of color. By such means, they attempted to portray the energy and speed of modern life. In literature, Futurism demanded the abolition of traditional sentence structures and verse forms.[11]

Futurism was first announced on Feb. 20, 1909, when the Paris newspaper Le Figaro published a manifesto by the Italian poet and editor Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. (See the Manifesto of Futurism.) Marinetti coined the word Futurism to reflect his goal of discarding the art of the past and celebrating change, originality, and innovation in culture and society. Marinetti’s manifesto glorified the new technology of the automobile and the beauty of its speed, power, and movement. Exalting violence and conflict, he called for the sweeping repudiation of traditional values and the destruction of cultural institutions such as museums and libraries. The manifesto’s rhetoric was passionately bombastic; its aggressive tone was purposely intended to inspire public anger and arouse controversy.

Marinetti’s manifesto inspired a group of young painters in Milan to apply Futurist ideas to the visual arts. Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo, Giacomo Balla, and Gino Severini published several manifestos on painting in 1910. Like Marinetti, they glorified originality and expressed their disdain for inherited artistic traditions.

Boccioni also became interested in sculpture, publishing a manifesto on the subject in the spring of 1912. He is considered to have most fully realized his theories in two sculptures, Development of a Bottle in Space (1912), in which he represented both the inner and outer contours of a bottle, and Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913), in which a human figure is not portrayed as one solid form but is instead composed of the multiple planes in space through which the figure moves.

Futurist principles extended to architecture as well. Antonio Sant’Elia formulated a Futurist manifesto on architecture in 1914. His visionary drawings of highly mechanized cities and boldly modern skyscrapers prefigure some of the most imaginative 20th-century architectural planning.

Boccioni, who had been the most talented artist in the group,[12] and Sant’Elia both died during military service in 1916. Boccioni’s death, combined with expansion of the group’s personnel and the sobering realities of the devastation caused by World War I, effectively brought an end to the Futurist movement as an important historical force in the visual arts.

 Metaphysical art

Main article: Metaphysical art

Metaphysical Painting is an Italian art movement, born in 1917 with the work of Carlo Carrà and Giorgio de Chirico in Ferrara. The word metaphysical, adopted by De Chirico himself, is core to the poetics of the movement.

They depicted a dreamlike imagery, with figures and objects seemingly frozen in time. Metaphysical Painting artists accept the representation of the visible world in a traditional perspective space, but the unusual arrangement of human beings as dummy-like models, objects in strange, illogical contexts, the unreal lights and colors, the unnatural static of still figures.

 Novecento Italiano

Main article: Novecento Italiano

Novecento movement, group of Italian artists, formed in 1922 in Milan, that advocated a return to the great Italian representational art of the past.

The founding members of the Novecento (Italian: 20th-century) movement were the critic Margherita Sarfatti and seven artists: Anselmo Bucci, Leonardo Dudreville, Achille Funi, Gian Emilio Malerba, Piero Marussig, Ubaldo Oppi, and Mario Sironi. Under Sarfatti’s leadership, the group sought to renew Italian art by rejecting European avant-garde movements and embracing Italy’s artistic traditions.

Other artists associated with the Novecento included the sculptors Marino Marini and Arturo Martini and the painters Ottone Rosai, Massimo Campigli, Carlo Carrà, and Felice Casorati.

  Spatialism

Main article: Spatialism

Movement founded by the Italian artist Lucio Fontana as the movimento spaziale, its tenets were repeated in manifestos between 1947 and 1954.

Combining elements of concrete art, dada and tachism, the movement’s adherents rejected easel painting and embraced new technological developments, seeking to incorporate time and movement in their works. Fontana’s slashed and pierced paintings exemplify his theses.

 Arte Povera

Main article: Arte Povera

Arte Povera an artistic movement that originated in Italy in the 1960s, combining aspects of conceptual, minimalist, and performance art, and making use of worthless or common materials such as earth or newspaper, in the hope of subverting the commercialization of art. The phrase is Italian, and means literally, “impoverished art.”

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By expressthrougharts Posted in Italy

American Poetry

American poetry, the poetry of the United States, arose first as efforts by colonists to add their voices to English poetry in the 17th century, well before the constitutional unification of the thirteen colonies (although before this, a strong oral tradition often likened to poetry existed among Native American societies[1]). Unsurprisingly, most of the early colonists’ work relied on contemporary British models of poetic form, diction, and theme. However, in the 19th century, a distinctive American idiom began to emerge. By the later part of that century, when Walt Whitman was winning an enthusiastic audience abroad, poets from the United States had begun to take their place at the forefront of the English-language avant-garde[citation needed].

This position was sustained into the 20th century to the extent that Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot were perhaps the most influential English-language poets in the period during World War I.[2] By the 1960s, the young poets of the British Poetry Revival looked to their American contemporaries and predecessors as models for the kind of poetry they wanted to write. Toward the end of the millennium, consideration of American poetry had diversified, as scholars placed an increased emphasis on poetry by women, African Americans, Hispanics, Chicanos and other cultural groupings. Poetry, and creative writing in general, also tended to become more professionalized with the growth of creative writing programs in the English studies departments of campuses across the country.

Poetry in the colonies

Phillis Wheatley

As England’s contact with the Americas increased after the 1490s, explorers sometimes included verse with their descriptions of the “New World” up through 1650, the year of Anne Bradstreet‘s “The Tenth Muse,” which was written in America, most likely in Ipswich, Massachusetts or North Andover, Massachusetts) and printed/distributed in London, England by her brother-in-law, Rev. John Woodbridge. There are 14 such writers whom we might on that basis call American poets (they had actually been to America and to different degrees, wrote poems or verses about the place). Early examples include a 1616 “testimonial poem” on the sterling warlike character of Captain John Smith (in Barbour, ed. “Works”) and Rev. William Morrell’s 1625 “Nova Anglia” or “New England,” which is a rhymed catalog of everything from American weather to glimpses of Native women, framed with a thin poetic “conceit” or “fiction” characterizing the country as a “sad and forlorn” female pining for English domination. Then in May 1627 Thomas Morton of Merrymount—an English West Country outdoorsman, attorney at law, man of letters and colonial adventurer—raised a Maypole to celebrate and foster more success at this fur-trading plantation and nailed up a “Poem” and “Song” (one a densely-literary manifesto on how English and Native people came together there and must keep doing so for a successful America; the other a light “drinking song” also full of deeper American implications). These were published in book form along with other examples of Morton’s American poetry in “New English Canaan” (1637); and based on the criteria of “First,” “American” and Poetry,” they make Morton (and not Anne Bradstreet) America’s first poet in English. (See Jack Dempsey, ed., “New English Canaan by Thomas Morton of ‘Merrymount'” and his biography “Thomas Morton: The Life & Renaissance of an Early American Poet” Scituate MA: Digital Scanning 2000).

One of the first recorded poets of the British colonies was Anne Bradstreet (1612–1672), who remains one of the earliest known women poets who wrote in English.[3] The poems she published during her lifetime address religious and political themes. She also wrote tender evocations of home, family life and of her love for her husband, many of which remained unpublished until the 20th century.

Edward Taylor (1645–1729) wrote poems expounding Puritan virtues in a highly wrought metaphysical style that can be seen as typical of the early colonial period.[4]

This narrow focus on the Puritan ethic was, understandably, the dominant note of most of the poetry written in the colonies during the 17th and early 18th centuries. The earliest “secular” poetry published in New England was by Samuel Danforth in his “almanacks” for 1647–1649,[5] published at Cambridge; these included “puzzle poems” as well as poems on caterpillars, pigeons, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Of course, being a Puritan minister as well as a poet, Danforth never ventured far from a spiritual message.

Another distinctly American lyric voice of the colonial period was Phillis Wheatley, a slave whose book “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral,” was published in 1773. She was one of the best-known poets of her day, at least in the colonies, and her poems were typical of New England culture at the time, meditating on religious and classical ideas.[6][7]

The 18th century saw an increasing emphasis on America itself as fit subject matter for its poets. This trend is most evident in the works of Philip Freneau (1752–1832), who is also notable for the unusually sympathetic attitude to Native Americans shown in his writings, sometimes reflective of a skepticism toward Anglo-American culture and civilization.[8] However, as might be expected from what was essentially provincial writing, this late colonial poetry is generally somewhat old-fashioned in form and syntax, deploying the means and methods of Pope and Gray in the era of Blake and Burns.

On the whole, the development of poetry in the American colonies mirrors the development of the colonies themselves. The early poetry is dominated by the need to preserve the integrity of the Puritan ideals that created the settlement in the first place. As the colonists grew in confidence, the poetry they wrote increasingly reflected their drive towards independence. This shift in subject matter was not reflected in the mode of writing which tended to be conservative, to say the least. This can be seen as a product of the physical remove at which American poets operated from the center of English-language poetic developments in London.

Postcolonial poetry

The first significant poet of the independent United States was William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878), whose great contribution was to write rhapsodic poems on the grandeur of prairies and forests. Other notable poets to emerge in the early and middle 19th century include Ralph Waldo Emerson , (1803–1882), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882), John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892), Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849), Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894), Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), James Russell Lowell (1819–1891), and Sidney Lanier (1842–1881). As might be expected, the works of these writers are united by a common search for a distinctive American voice to distinguish them from their British counterparts. To this end, they explored the landscape and traditions of their native country as materials for their poetry.[9]

The most significant example of this tendency may be The Song of Hiawatha by Longfellow. This poem uses Native American tales collected by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, who was superintendent of Indian affairs for Michigan from 1836 to 1841. Longfellow also imitated the meter of the Finnish epic poem Kalevala, possibly to avoid British models. The resulting poem, while a popular success, did not provide a model for future U.S. poets.

Another factor that distinguished these poets from their British contemporaries was the influence of the transcendentalism of the poet/philosophers Emerson and Thoreau. Transcendentalism was the distinctly American strain of English Romanticism that began with William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Emerson, arguably one of the founders of transcendentalism, had visited England as a young man to meet these two English poets, as well as Thomas Carlyle. While Romanticism transitioned into Victorianism in post-reform England, it grew more energetic in America from the 1830s through to the Civil War.

Edgar Allan Poe was probably the most recognized American poet outside of America during this period. Diverse authors in France, Sweden and Russia were heavily influenced by his works, and his poem “The Raven” swept across Europe, translated into many languages. In the twentieth century the American poet William Carlos Williams said of Poe that he is the only solid ground on which American poetry is anchored.[citation needed]

  Whitman and Dickinson

The final emergence of a truly indigenous English-language poetry in the United States was the work of two poets, Walt Whitman (1819–1892) and Emily Dickinson (1830–1886). On the surface, these two poets could not have been less alike. Whitman’s long lines, derived from the metric of the King James Version of the Bible, and his democratic inclusiveness stand in stark contrast with Dickinson’s concentrated phrases and short lines and stanzas, derived from Protestant hymnals.

What links them is their common connection to Emerson (a passage from whom Whitman printed on the second edition of Leaves of Grass), and the daring originality of their visions. These two poets can be said to represent the birth of two major American poetic idioms—the free metric and direct emotional expression of Whitman, and the gnomic obscurity and irony of Dickinson—both of which would profoundly stamp the American poetry of the 20th century.[10]

The development of these idioms, as well as more conservative reactions against them, can be traced through the works of poets such as Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869–1935), Stephen Crane (1871–1900), Robert Frost (1874–1963) and Carl Sandburg (1878–1967). Frost, in particular, is a commanding figure, who aligned strict poetic meter, particularly blank verse and terser lyrical forms, with a “vurry Amur’k’n” (as Pound put it) idiom. He successfully revitalized a rural tradition with many English antecedents from his beloved Golden Treasury and produced an oeuvre of major importance, rivaling or even excelling in achievement that of the key modernists and making him, within the full sweep of more traditional modern English-language verse, a peer of Hardy and Yeats. But from Whitman and Dickson the outlines of a distinctively new organic poetic tradition, less indebted to English formalism than Frost’s work, were clear to see, and they would come to full fruition in the 1910’s and 20’s.

 Modernism and after

This new idiom, combined with a study of 19th-century French poetry, formed the basis of American input into 20th-century English-language poetic modernism. Ezra Pound (18851972) and T. S. Eliot (18881965) were the leading figures at the time, with their rejection of traditional poetic form and meter and of Victorian diction. Both steered American poetry toward greater density, difficulty, and opacity, with an emphasis on techniques such as fragmentation, ellipsis, allusion, juxtaposition, ironic and shifting personae, and mythic parallelism. Pound, in particular, opened up American poetry to diverse influences, including the traditional poetries of China and Japan.

Numerous other poets made important contributions at this revolutionary juncture, including Gertrude Stein (18741946), Wallace Stevens (18791955), William Carlos Williams (18831963), Hilda Doolittle (H.D.) (18861961), Marianne Moore (18871972), E. E. Cummings (18941962), and Hart Crane (18991932). The cerebral and skeptical Romantic Stevens helped revive the philosophical lyric, and Williams was to become exemplary for many later poets because he, more than any of his peers, contrived to marry spoken American English with free verse rhythms. Cummings remains notable for his experiments with typography and evocation of a spontaneous, child-like vision of reality.

Whereas these poets were unambiguously aligned with high modernism, other poets active in the United States in the first third of the 20th century were not. Among the most important of the latter were those who were associated with what came to be known as the New Criticism. These included John Crowe Ransom (18881974), Allen Tate (18991979), and Robert Penn Warren (19051989). Other poets of the era, such as Archibald MacLeish (18921982), experimented with modernist techniques but were also drawn towards more traditional modes of writing. Still others, such as Robinson Jeffers(18871962), adopted Modernist freedom while remaining aloof from Modernist factions and programs.

In addition, there were still other, early 20th Century poets who maintained or were forced to maintain a peripheral relationship to high modernism, likely due to the racially charged themes of their work. They include Countee Cullen (19031946), Alice Dunbar Nelson (18751935), Gwendolyn Bennett (19021981), Langston Hughes (19021967), Claude McKay (18891946=8), Jean Toomer (18941967) and other African American poets of the Harlem Renaissance.

The modernist torch was carried in the 1930s mainly by the group of poets known as the Objectivists. These included Louis Zukofsky (19041978), Charles Reznikoff (18941976), George Oppen (19081984), Carl Rakosi (19032004) and, later, Lorine Niedecker (19031970). Kenneth Rexroth, who was published in the Objectivist Anthology, was, along with Madeline Gleason (19091973), a forerunner of the San Francisco Renaissance. Many of the Objectivists came from urban communities of new immigrants, and this new vein of experience and language enriched the growing American idiom.

  World War II and after

Archibald Macleish called John Gillespie Magee, Jr. “the first poet of the war”.[11]

World War II saw the emergence of a new generation of poets, many of whom were influenced by Wallace Stevens. Richard Eberhart (19042005), Karl Shapiro (19132000), Randall Jarrell (19141965) and James Dickey (19231997) all wrote poetry that sprang from experience of active service. Together with Elizabeth Bishop (19111979), Theodore Roethke (19081963) and Delmore Schwartz (19131966), they formed a generation of poets that in contrast to the preceding generation often wrote in traditional verse forms.

After the war, a number of new poets and poetic movements emerged. John Berryman (19141972) and Robert Lowell (19171977) were the leading lights in what was to become known as the Confessional movement, which was to have a strong influence on later poets like Sylvia Plath (19321963) and Anne Sexton (19281974). Though both Berryman and Lowell were closely acquainted with Modernism, they were mainly interested in exploring their own experiences as subject matter and a style that Lowell referred to as “cooked” — that is, consciously and carefully crafted.

In contrast, the Beat poets, who included such figures as Jack Kerouac (1922–1969), Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997), Gregory Corso (19302001), Joanne Kyger (born 1934), Gary Snyder (born 1930), Diane Di Prima (born 1934), Amiri Baraka (born 1934) and Lawrence Ferlinghetti (born 1919), were distinctly raw. Reflecting, sometimes in an extreme form, the more open, relaxed and searching society of the 1950s and 1960s, the Beats pushed the boundaries of the American idiom in the direction of demotic speech perhaps further than any other group.

Around the same time, the Black Mountain poets, under the leadership of Charles Olson (19101970), were working at Black Mountain College. These poets were exploring the possibilities of open form but in a much more programmatic way than the Beats. The main poets involved were Robert Creeley (19262005), Robert Duncan (19191988), Denise Levertov (19231997), Ed Dorn (19291999), Paul Blackburn (19261971), Hilda Morley (19161998), John Wieners (19342002), and Larry Eigner (19271996). They based their approach to poetry on Olson’s 1950 essay Projective Verse, in which he called for a form based on the line, a line based on human breath and a mode of writing based on perceptions juxtaposed so that one perception leads directly to another.

Other poets often associated with the Black Mountain are Cid Corman (19242004) and Theodore Enslin (born 1925), though they are perhaps more correctly viewed as direct descendants of the Objectivists. And one-time Black Mountain College resident, composer John Cage (19121992), along with Jackson Mac Low (19222004), wrote poetry based on chance or aleatory techniques. Inspired by Zen, Dada and scientific theories of indeterminacy, they were to prove to be important influences on the 1970s U.S avant-garde.

The Beats and some of the Black Mountain poets are often considered to have been responsible for the San Francisco Renaissance. However, as previously noted, San Francisco had become a hub of experimental activity from the 1930s thanks to Kenneth Rexroth and Gleason. Other poets involved in this scene included Charles Bukowski (19201994) and Jack Spicer (19251965). These poets sought to combine a contemporary spoken idiom with inventive formal experiment.

Jerome Rothenberg (born 1931) is well-known for his work in ethnopoetics, but he was also the coiner of the term “deep image,” which he used to described the work of poets like Robert Kelly (born 1935), Diane Wakoski (born 1937) and Clayton Eshleman (born 1935). Deep Image poetry was inspired by the symbolist theory of correspondences, in particular the work of Spanish poet Federico García Lorca. The term was later taken up and popularized by Robert Bly. The Deep Image movement was also the most international, accompanied by a flood of new translations from Latin American and European poets such as Pablo Neruda, César Vallejo and Tomas Tranströmer. Some of the poets who became associated with Deep Image are Galway Kinnell, James Wright, Mark Strand and W. S. Merwin. Both Merwin and California poet Gary Snyder would also become known for their interest in environmental and ecological concerns.

The Small Press poets (sometimes called the mimeograph movement) are another influential and eclectic group of poets who also surfaced in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1950s and are still active today. Fiercely independent editors, who were also poets, edited and published low-budget periodicals and chapbooks of emerging poets who might otherwise have gone unnoticed. This work ranged from formal to experimental. Gene Fowler, A. D. Winans, Hugh Fox, street poet and activist Jack Hirschman, Paul Foreman, Jim Cohn, John Bennett, and F. A. Nettelbeck are among the many poets who are still actively continuing the Small Press Poets tradition. Many have turned to the new medium of the Web for its distribution capabilities.

Los Angeles poets: Leland Hickman (1934–1991), Holly Prado ( born 1938), Harry Northup (born 1940), Wanda Coleman (born 1946), Michael C. Ford (born 1939), Kate Braverman (born 1950), Eloise Klein Healy, Bill Mohr, Laurel Ann Bogen, met at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, in Venice, California. They are lyric poets, heavily autobiographical; some are practitioners of the experimental long poem. Mavericks all, their L.A. predecessors are Ann Stanford (1916–1987), Thomas McGrath (1916–1990), Jack Hirschman (born 1933). Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, created by George Drury Smith in 1968, is the central literary arts center in the Los Angeles area.

Just as the West Coast had the San Francisco Renaissance and the Small Press Movement, the East Coast produced the New York School. This group aimed to write poetry that spoke directly of everyday experience in everyday language and produced a poetry of urbane wit and elegance that contrasts with the work of their Beat contemporaries (though in other ways, including their mutual respect for American slang and disdain for academic or “cooked” poetry, they were similar). Leading members of the group include John Ashbery (born 1927), Frank O’Hara (19261966), Kenneth Koch (19252002), James Schuyler (19231991), Barbara Guest (19202006), Ted Berrigan (19341983), Anne Waldman (born 1945) and Bernadette Mayer (born 1945). Of this group, John Ashbery, in particular, has emerged as a defining force in recent poetics, and he is regarded by many as the most important American poet since World War II.

  American poetry today

The last thirty years in United States poetry have seen the emergence of a number of groups, schools, and trends, whose lasting importance has, necessarily, yet to be demonstrated.

The 1970s saw a revival of interest in surrealism, with the most prominent poets working in this field being Andrei Codrescu (born 1946), Russell Edson (born 1935) and Maxine Chernoff (born 1952). Performance poetry also emerged from the Beat and hippie happenings, and the talk-poems of David Antin (born 1932) and ritual events performed by Rothenberg, to become a serious poetic stance which embraces multiculturalism and a range of poets from a multiplicity of cultures. This mirrored a general growth of interest in poetry by African Americans including Gwendolyn Brooks (born 1917), Maya Angelou (born 1928), Ishmael Reed (born 1938),Vim Karénin, Nikki Giovanni (born 1943), and Detrick Hughes (born 1966).

Another group of poets, the Language school (or L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, after the magazine that bears that name), have continued and extended the Modernist and Objectivist traditions of the 1930s. Some poets associated with the group are Lyn Hejinian, Ron Silliman, Bob Perelman and Leslie Scalapino. Their poems—fragmentary, purposefully ungrammatical, sometimes mixing texts from different sources and idioms—can be by turns abstract, lyrical, and highly comic. Critics of the Language school point out that, by abandoning sense and context, their poetry could just as well be written by the proverbial infinite roomful of monkeys with typewriters.[citation needed]

The Language school includes a high proportion of women, which mirrors another general trend—the rediscovery and promotion of poetry written both by earlier and contemporary women poets. A number of the most prominent African American poets to emerge are women, and other prominent women writers include Adrienne Rich (born 1929), Jean Valentine (born 1934) and Amy Gerstler (born 1956).

Although poetry in traditional classical forms had mostly fallen out of fashion by the 1960s, the practice was kept alive by poets of great formal virtuosity like James Merrill (19261995), author of the epic poem The Changing Light at Sandover (1982), Richard Wilbur, and British-born San Francisco poet Thom Gunn. The 1980s and 1990s saw a re-emergent interest in traditional form, sometimes dubbed New Formalism or Neoformalism. These include poets such as Molly Peacock, Brad Leithauser, Dana Gioia, Donna J. Stone, Timothy Steele, and Marilyn Hacker. Some of the more outspoken New Formalists have declared that the return to rhyme and more fixed meters to be the new avant-garde. Their critics sometimes associate this traditionalism with the conservative politics of the Reagan era, noting the recent appointment of Gioia as Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. More recent examples of New Formalism, however, have sometimes crossed over into the more experimental territory of Language poetry, suggesting that both schools are being gradually absorbed into the poetic mainstream.

Haiku has also attracted a community of American poets dedicated to its development as a serious poetic genre in English. The extremely terse Japanese haiku first influenced the work of Pound and the Imagists, and post-war poets such as Kerouac and Richard Wright wrote substantial bodies of original haiku in English. Other poets such as Ginsberg, Snyder, Wilbur, Merwin, and many others have at least dabbled with haiku, often simply as a syllabic form. Starting in 1963, with the founding of the journal American Haiku, poets such as Cor van den Heuvel, Nick Virgilio, Raymond Roseliep, John Wills, Anita Virgil, Gary Hotham, Marlene Mountain, Peggy Willis Lyles, George Swede, vincent tripi, Jim Kacian, and others have created significant oeuvres of haiku poetry, evincing continuities with both Transcendentalism and Imagism and often maintaining an anti-anthropocentric environmental focus on nature during an unparalleled age of habitat destruction and human alienation.

The last two decades have also seen a revival of the Beat poetry spoken word tradition, in the form of the poetry slam. Devised in 1984, by Chicago construction worker Marc Smith, these competitive audience-judged poetry performances emphasize a style of writing that is topical, provocative and easily understood. Poetry slam opened the door for a new generation of writers and spoken word performers, including Alix Olson, Apollo Poetry, Taylor Mali, and Saul Williams, and inspired hundreds of open mics across the country. Poetry has also become a significant presence on the Web, with a number of new online journals, ‘zines, blogs and other websites.

During this time frame there were also major independent voices who defied links to well-known American poetic movements and forms such as poet and literary critic Robert Peters, greatly influenced by the Victorian English poet Robert Browning’s poetic monologues, became reputable for executing his monologic personae like his Mad King Ludwig II of Bavaria into popular one-man performances.

Robert Pinsky has a special place in American poetry as he was the Poet Laureate of the United States for three terms. No other poet has been so honored. His “Favorite Poem Project” is unique, inviting all citizens to share their all-time favorite poetic composition and why they love it. He is a professor at Boston University and the poetry editor at Slate. “Poems to Read”[12] is only one demonstration of his masterful poetic vision, joining the word and the common man.[citation needed] In general, poetry in the contemporary era has been moving out of the mainstream and onto the college and university campus. The growth in the popularity of graduate creative writing programs has given poets the opportunity to make a living as teachers. This increased professionalization of poetry, combined with the reluctance of most major book and magazine presses to publish poetry, has meant that, for the foreseeable future at least, poetry may have found its new home in the academy and in small independent journals

By expressthrougharts Posted in America

American Dance

There is great variety in dance in the United States of America. It is the home of the hip hop dance and its derivative Rock and Roll, and modern square dance (associated with the United States of America due to its historic development in that country—nineteen U.S. states have designated it as their official state dance) and one of the major centers for modern dance[citation needed]. There is a variety of social dance and concert or performance dance forms with also a range of traditions of Native American dances.

The reality shows and competitions So You Think You Can Dance,[1] Americas Best Dance Crew, and Dancing with the Stars have broadened the audience for dance.

African American dance

African American dances are those vernacular dances which have developed within African American communities in everyday spaces, rather than in dance studios, schools or companies. African American vernacular dances are usually centered on social dance practice, though performance dance and concert dance often supply complementary aspects to social dancing.

Placing great value on improvisation, African American vernacular dances are characterised by ongoing change and development. Because they exist in social spaces and their main ‘purpose’ is self-expression, they are continually changing to reflect the needs, interests and personalities of their participants.

Alvin Ailey and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is an important example of African American involvement in performance or concert dance.

 Swing dance

Mia Goldsmith and Peter Loggins swing dancing at the 100th anniversary of the Moore Theatre (Seattle, Washington), 2007.

The term “swing dance” refers to a group of dances that developed concurrently with jazz music in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. The prototypical swing dance is lindy hop, a popular partner dance that originated in Harlem and is still danced today. While the majority of swing dances began in African American communities as vernacular African American dances[citation needed], some forms, like Balboa, developed within Anglo-American or other ethnic group communities.

Dances such as the Black Bottom, charleston and tap dance travelled north with Dixieland jazz to New York, Kansas City, and Chicago in the Great Migration (African American) of the 1920s, where rural blacks travelled to escape persecution, Jim Crow laws, lynching and unemployment in the South (during the Great Depression).

Swinging jazz music features the syncopated timing associated with African American and West African music and dance — a combination of crotchets and quavers which many swing dancers interpret as ‘triple steps‘ and ‘steps’ — yet also introduces changes in the way these rhythms were played — a distinct delay or ‘relaxed’ approach to timing.

Swing dance is now found globally, with great variety in their preferences for particular dances.

 Modern dance

American modern dance developed in the early 20th century alongside American music. . Among the pioneers of modern dance were Isadora Duncan, the dance company of Ruth St. Denis and her husband-partner, Ted Shawn, and their pupils Doris Humphrey and Martha Graham. The early modern dance makers broke with European classical forms by giving into the weight of gravity, initiating movement from the center rather than the limbs, and emphasizing an emotional directness in their choreography. Many of Graham’s most popular works were produced in collaboration with leading American composers — “Appalachian Spring” with Aaron Copland, for example.

Later choreographers, Merce Cunningham introduced chance procedures and composition by field, and Alvin Ailey incorporated African dance elements and black music into his works. Recently, Mark Morris and Liz Lerman have shown that graceful, exciting movement is not restricted by age or body type.

By expressthrougharts Posted in America

American Arts

American art encompasses the history of painting and visual art in the United States. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, artists primarily painted landscapes and portraits in a realistic style. A parallel development taking shape in rural America was the American craft movement, which began as a reaction to the industrial revolution. Developments in modern art in Europe came to America from exhibitions in New York City such as the Armory Show in 1913. Previously American Artists had based the majority of their work on Western Painting and European Arts. After World War II, New York replaced Paris as the center of the art world. Since then many American Movements have shaped Modern and Post Modern art. Art in the United States today covers a huge range of styles.

Eighteenth century

Gilbert Stuart, George Washington, also known as The Athenaeum and The Unfinished Portrait, 1796, is his most celebrated and famous work.

After the Declaration of Independence in 1776, which marked the official beginning of the American national identity, the new nation needed a history, and part of that history would be expressed visually. Most of early American art (from the late 18th century through the early 19th century) consists of history painting and portraits. Painters such as Gilbert Stuart made portraits of the newly elected government officials, while John Singleton Copley was painting emblematic portraits for the increasingly prosperous merchant class, and painters such as John Trumbull were making large battle scenes of the Revolutionary War.

  Nineteenth century

Mary Cassatt, The Bath 1891-1892, Art Institute of Chicago, while painted in Europe, Cassatt is considered an American painter

James McNeill Whistler, Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist’s Mother (1871) popularly known as Whistler’s Mother, Musée d’Orsay, Paris

America’s first well-known school of painting—the Hudson River School—appeared in 1820. As with music and literature, this development was delayed until artists perceived that the New World offered subjects unique to itself; in this case the westward expansion of settlement brought the transcendent beauty of frontier landscapes to painters’ attention.

The Hudson River painters’ directness and simplicity of vision influenced such later artists as Winslow Homer (1836–1910), who depicted rural America—the sea, the mountains, and the people who lived near them. Middle-class city life found its painter in Thomas Eakins (1844–1916), an uncompromising realist whose unflinching honesty undercut the genteel preference for romantic sentimentalism. Henry Ossawa Tanner who studied with Thomas Eakins was one of the first important African American painters.

Paintings of the Great West, particularly the act of conveying the sheer size of the land and the cultures of the native people living on it, were starting to emerge as well. Artists such as George Catlin broke from traditional styles of showing land, most often done to show how much a subject owned, to show the West and its people as honestly as possible.

Many painters who are considered American spent some time in Europe and met other European artists in Paris and London, such as Mary Cassatt and Whistler.

History painting was also a popular genre in American art during the 19th century. William B. T. Trego a war artist was one of the last of the genre. During his lifetime, Trego painted over 200 historical and military paintings. These became widely published after his death and writer Edwin A. Peeples commented: “There is probably not an American History book which doesn’t have (a) Trego picture in it“.[1] In 1976, Trego’s The March to Valley Forge was reproduced as a souvenir postage sheet issued by the United States Postal Service as part of the observance of the United States Bicentennial.

 Twentieth century

Controversy soon became a way of life for American artists. In fact, much of American painting and sculpture since 1900 has been a series of revolts against tradition. “To hell with the artistic values,” announced Robert Henri (1865–1929). He was the leader of what critics called the Ashcan school of painting, after the group’s portrayals of the squalid aspects of city life. American realism became the new direction for American visual artists at the turn of the 20th century. In photography the Photo-Secession movement led by Alfred Steiglitz made pathways for photography as an emerging art form. Soon the Ashcan school artists gave way to modernists arriving from Europe—the cubists and abstract painters promoted by the photographer Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946) at his 291 Gallery in New York City. John Marin, Marsden Hartley, Alfred Henry Maurer, Arthur Dove, Henrietta Shore, Stuart Davis, Stanton MacDonald-Wright, Morgan Russell, Patrick Henry Bruce, and Gerald Murphy were some important early American modernist painters.

After World War I many American artists also rejected the modern trends emanating from the Armory Show and European influences such as those from the School of Paris. Instead they chose to adopt academic realism in depicting American urban and rural scenes. Charles Sheeler, and Charles Demuth were referred to as Precisionists and the artists from the Ashcan school or American realism: notably George Bellows, Everett Shinn, George Benjamin Luks, William Glackens, and John Sloan and others developed socially conscious imagery in their works.

  The American Southwest

Georgia O’Keeffe, Ram’s Head White Hollyhock and Little Hills, 1935, the Brooklyn Museum

Following the first World War, the completion of the Santa Fe Railroad enabled American settlers to travel across the west, as far as the California coast. New artists’ colonies started growing up around Santa Fe and Taos, the artists primary subject matter being the native people and landscapes of the Southwest. Images of the Southwest became a popular form of advertising, used most significantly by the Santa Fe Railroad to entice settlers to come west and enjoy the “unsullied landscapes.” Walter Ufer, Bert Geer Phillips, E. Irving Couse, William Henry Jackson, and Georgia O’Keeffe are some of the more prolific artists of the Southwest.

 Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance was another significant development in American art. In the 1920s and 30s a new generation of educated and politically astute African-American men and women emerged who sponsored literary societies and art and industrial exhibitions to combat racist stereotypes. The movement showcases the range of talents within African-American communities. Though the movement included artists from across America, it was centered in Harlem, and work from Harlem graphic artist Aaron Douglas and photographer James VanDerZee became emblematic of the movement. Some of the artists include Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Charles Alston, Augusta Savage, Archibald Motley, Lois Mailou Jones, Palmer Hayden and Sargent Johnson.

 New Deal Art

Thomas Hart Benton, People of Chilmark (Figure Composition), 1920, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC.

When the Great Depression hit, president Roosevelt’s New Deal created several public arts programs. The purpose of the programs was to give work to artists and decorate public buildings, usually with a national theme. The first of these projects, the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), was created after successful lobbying by the unemployed artists of the Artists’ Union. The PWAP lasted less than one year, and produced nearly 15,000 works of art. It was followed by the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration (FAP/WPA) in 1935, which funded some of the most well-known American artists. Several separate and related movements began and developed during the Great Depression including American scene painting, Regionalism, and Social Realism. Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, Grant Wood, Ben Shahn, Joseph Stella, Reginald Marsh, Isaac Soyer, Raphael Soyer, and Jack Levine were some of the best known artists.

  Abstract Expressionism

Franz Kline, Painting Number 2, 1954, The Museum of Modern Art

In the years after World War II, a group of New York artists formed the first American movement to exert major influence internationally: abstract expressionism. This term, which had first been used in 1919 in Berlin, was used again in 1946 by Robert Coates in The New York Times, and was taken up by the two major art critics of that time, Harold Rosenberg and Clement Greenberg. It has always been criticized as too large and paradoxical, yet the common definition implies the use of abstract art to express feelings, emotions, what is within the artist, and not what stands without.

The first generation of abstract expressionists was composed of artists such as Jackson Pollock, Willem De Kooning, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Arshile Gorky, Robert Motherwell, Clyfford Still, Barnett Newman, Adolph Gottlieb, Phillip Guston, Ad Reinhardt, Hans Hofmann, James Brooks, Richard Pousette-Dart, William Baziotes, Mark Tobey, Bradley Walker Tomlin, Theodoros Stamos, Jack Tworkov and others. Though the numerous artists encompassed by this label had widely different styles, contemporary critics found several common points between them.

Many first generation abstract expressionists were influenced both by the Cubists‘ works (black & white copies in art reviews and the works themselves at the 291 Gallery or the Armory Show), and by the European Surrealists, most of them abandoned formal composition and representation of real objects; and by Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Often the abstract expressionists decided to try instinctual, intuitive, spontaneous arrangements of space, line, shape and color. Abstract Expressionism can be characterized by two major elements – the large size of the canvases used, (partially inspired by Mexican frescoes and the works they made for the WPA in the 1930s), and the strong and unusual use of brushstrokes and experimental paint application with a new understanding of process.

The emphasis and intensification of color and large open expanses of surface were two of the principles applied to the movement called Color field Painting. Ad Reinhardt, Adolph Gottlieb, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still and Barnett Newman were categorized as such. Another movement was called Action Painting, characterized by spontaneous reaction, powerful brushstrokes, dripped and splashed paint and the strong physical movements used in the production of a painting. Jackson Pollock is an example of an Action Painter: his creative process, incorporating thrown and dripped paint from a stick or poured directly from the can; he revolutionized painting methods. Willem de Kooning famously said about Pollock “he broke the ice for the rest of us.” Ironically Pollock’s large repetitious expanses of linear fields are also characteristic of Color Field painting as well, and art critic Michael Fried pointed that out in his essay for the catalog of Three American painters: Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Frank Stella at the Fogg Art Museum in 1965. Despite the disagreements between art critics, Abstract Expressionism marks a turning-point in the history of American art: the 1940s and 1950s saw international attention shift from European -Parisian- art, to American -New York- art.

Color field painting went on as a movement: artists in the 1950s, such as Clyfford Still, Barnett Newman, Robert Motherwell, and in the 1960s, Jules Olitski, Kenneth Noland, and Helen Frankenthaler, sought to make paintings which would eliminate superfluous rhetoric with large, flat areas of color.

  After Abstract Expressionism

During the 1950s abstract painting in America evolved into movements such as Neo-Dada, Post painterly abstraction, Op Art, hard-edge painting, Minimal art, Shaped canvas painting, Lyrical Abstraction, and the continuation of Abstract expressionism. As a response to the tendency toward abstraction imagery emerged through various new movements like Pop Art, the Bay Area Figurative Movement and later in the 1970s Neo-expressionism.

Lyrical Abstraction along with the Fluxus movement and Postminimalism (a term first coined by Robert Pincus-Witten in the pages of Artforum in 1969)[2] sought to expand the boundaries of abstract painting and Minimalism by focusing on process, new materials and new ways of expression. Postminimalism often incorporating industrial materials, raw materials, fabrications, found objects, installation, serial repetition, and often with references to Dada and Surrealism is best exemplified in the sculptures of Eva Hesse.[2] Lyrical Abstraction, Conceptual Art, Postminimalism, Earth Art, Video, Performance art, Installation art, along with the continuation of Fluxus, Abstract Expressionism, Color Field Painting, Hard-edge painting, Minimal Art, Op art, Pop Art, Photorealism and New Realism extended the boundaries of Contemporary Art in the mid-1960s through the 1970s.[3]

Lyrical Abstraction shares similarities with Color Field Painting and Abstract Expressionism especially in the freewheeling usage of paint – texture and surface. Direct drawing, calligraphic use of line, the effects of brushed, splattered, stained, squeegeed, poured, and splashed paint superficially resemble the effects seen in Abstract Expressionism and Color Field Painting. However the styles are markedly different.

During the 1960s and 1970s painters as powerful and influential as Adolph Gottlieb, Phillip Guston, Lee Krasner, Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Richard Diebenkorn, Josef Albers, Elmer Bischoff, Agnes Martin, Al Held, Sam Francis, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Ellsworth Kelly, Morris Louis, Gene Davis, Frank Stella, Joan Mitchell, Friedel Dzubas, and younger artists like Brice Marden, Robert Mangold, Sam Gilliam, Sean Scully, Elizabeth Murray, Walter Darby Bannard, Larry Zox, Ronnie Landfield, Ronald Davis, Dan Christensen, Susan Rothenberg, Ross Bleckner, Richard Tuttle, Julian Schnabel, and dozens of others produced vital and influential paintings.

  Other Modern American Movements

Nighthawks (1942) by Edward Hopper is one of his best known works, Art Institute of Chicago

Members of the next artistic generation favored a different form of abstraction: works of mixed media. Among them were Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008) and Jasper Johns (1930- ), who used photos, newsprint, and discarded objects in their compositions. Pop artists, such as Andy Warhol (1930–1987), Larry Rivers (1923–2002), and Roy Lichtenstein (1923–1997), reproduced, with satiric care, everyday objects and images of American popular culture—Coca-Cola bottles, soup cans, comic strips. Realism has also been popular in the United States, despite modernist tendencies, such as the city scenes by Edward Hopper and the illustrations of Norman Rockwell. In certain places, for example Chicago, Abstract Expressionism never caught on; in Chicago, the dominant art style was grotesque, symbolic realism, as exemplified by the Chicago Imagists Cosmo Campoli (1923–1997), Jim Nutt (1938- ), Ed Paschke (1939–2004), and Nancy Spero (1926–2009).

By expressthrougharts Posted in America

Philippine Folk Music

Traditional Music in the Philippines, like the traditional music of other countries, reflects the life of common folk, mainly living in rural areas rather than urban ones. Like its counterparts in Asia, a lot of traditional songs from the Philippines have a strong connection with nature. However, much of it employs the diatonic scale rather than the more famous pentatonic scale.

 

A Blending of East and West

Like the culture of the country itself, traditional Philippine music is a melting pot of the country’s historic past. Philippine Traditional Music is influenced by all the music that was ever brought there, so it may sometimes sound ‘European’, ‘Indian’, or even ‘Chinese’.

Like the people who use it, Traditional Music in the Philippines is either Western or non-Western. And while having more subdivisions, each form will surely reflect the culture of a specific group.Examples of popular Filipino folk songs in Tagalog: Bahay Kubo, Sitsiritsit Alibangbang, Leron Leron Sinta, Paruparong Bukid, Magtanim ay Di Biro, Lulay, Aking Bituin etc.

Vocal Music

Vocal music to be the most important form of music found in every ethnic group in the country. Although there is some music intended for dance, the best form of preserved traditional music is those intended for the voice.Though not known they use instruments to make it seem like vocal music at times. egarded to have a wide range, as most of them stretch more than an octave, they are still considered singable even for an average singer.

 Mobility

Borromeo also noted that one interesting feature of Western-Inspired traditional music is that a tune is not bound to a particular language or dialect. One must remember that the Philippines is an archipelago and the use of Filipino as a national language is just very recent. Thus, Filipinos did not have a unifying language during the time of the Spaniards.

Yet, the tune used for the Tagalog ‘Magtanim ay Di Biro’ is also used for the Kapampangan ‘Deting Tanaman Pale’ and the Gaddang ‘So Payao’. Just to give the reader a clear difference between these languages, Tagalog is related to Kapampangan in the same way that English is related to German. On the other hand, Tagalog is related to Gaddang in the same way English is related to Nordic languages.

Other examples of this tune sharing are the Visayan ‘Ako Ining Kailu’, the Ibanag ‘Melogo Ti Aya’ and the Kapampangan ‘Ing Manai’. One can also notice the same with the Bicolano.

 Language used in traditional vocal music

It is interesting to note that although 90% of the 80 million Filipinos claim varying proficiency in the English language, no song was ever found out to have it as the original text. Only those traditional songs used by the Catholic Church, which probably entered the country through America, used English. And these body of songs were more associated with the church rather than the country. The largest body of songs are those using the various vernacular languages, especially the eight major languages in the country.

Most of the collected traditional songs have a translation in Filipino, the national language, but most scholars tend to ignore its existence.

Songs from the various minority languages rank second while those in Spanish ranks third. Though the Spanish used in the Philippines is generally called Chavacano, it is intelligible to anyone who can understand Castilian. The most famous songs in this classification are perhaps ‘No Te Vayas de Zamboanga’ and ‘Viva! Señor Sto. Nino’.

Dance music

After Vocal music, Dance music is the next most important form of Traditional Philippine Music. As mentioned above, the best form of preserved music are those with lyrics, this is also true for those music intended to accompany a dance. According to Francisca Reyes-Aquino, known for her voluminous collection of folk dances, the folks watching the dance sing the songs in the same way that cheerers chant in a game. This is very evident especially in songs where interjections ‘Ay!’, ‘Aruy-Aruy!’, ‘Uy!’ and ‘Hmp!’ are present.

Music falling under this type may be classified as those belonging to the Christianised Groups, Muslim Groups, and the other Ethnic Groups.

 Dance Music from Christianised Groups

As Christianity came to the Philippines through its Western conquerors, Dance Music classified as belonging to the Christianised Groups are somewhat related to Western music as well. Dance Music falling under this category may also be called Habanera, Jota, Fandango, Polka, Curacha, etc. and has the same characteristics as each namesakes in the Western Hemisphere.

However, there are also indigenous forms like the ‘Balitao’, ‘Tinikling’ and ‘Cariñosa’. In a study made by the National Artist for Music Dr. Antonio Molina, the Balitao, famous in the Tagalog and the Visayan regions employ a 3/4 time signature that employs a ‘crotchetquaverquavercrotchet‘ beat. Others employ the ‘crotchetminim‘ scheme, while others use the ‘dotted quaversemiquavercrotchetquaverquaver‘ scheme.

This type of music is generally recreational and, like traditional music from the West, is used for socialising.

 Dance Music from Muslim Groups

The court and folk dance music of the Muslim-Filipino groups have somewhat preserved the ancient Southeast Asian musical instruments, modes and repertoires lost to the islands further north which were colonized by Spain. It is important to note here that orthodox Islam does not condone musical entertainment, and thus the musical genres among the Muslim Filipinos cannot be considered “Islamic”.

Genres shares characteristics with other Southeast-Asian Court and Folk musics: Indonesian Gamelan, Thai Piphat, Malay Caklempong, Okinawan Min’yō and to a lesser extent, through cultural transference through the rest of Southeast Asia, is comparable even to the music of the remote Indian Sub-Continent.

Generally, music falling under this category tells a story. An example is the Singkil, which relates a story from the ancient Indian saga, the Ramayana (other examples of narration dance from the Ramayana are seen in other Southeast Asian nations see). The Singkil is considered the most famous in the Philippines under this category for its perceived elegance, and is also performed by Filipinos from other ethnic groups throughout the country. The Singkil recounts the story of Sita (known locally as Putri Gandingan) as she was saved by Rama (Rajahmuda Bantugan) from the clashing rocks. Only, for the purposes of the dance, the rocks are changed into bamboos.

Music is related in wars in some regions in the country.In fact it is the way of the commander on that particular region to show the emotions of winning or losing in wars.Philippine music also depends on the biographical factors.In cold regions,the beat of the music is so slow due to the temperature they encounter for example BAGUIO.And in some hot regions it is so fast.

Dance Music from Indigenous Groups

Like the secular songs from the same group, this form of music has a ‘beat’ even though it is hard to put it in a form of time signature. Percussions are mainly used for these type of music and sometimes, a gong is enough.

As closeness to Nature is a main feature of these ethnic groups, one can expect that dance steps falling under this category are a mimicry of the movements of plants and animals of a certain locality. Some music is simply called the ‘Monkey Dance’ or the ‘Robin Dance’ for identification.

Some of the music falling under this category is ritual music: thus there are dances used for marriage, worship, and even for preparation for a war.

Popularity

Unlike folk music in Ireland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and the neighboring Malaysia, traditional music in the Philippines never reached national popularity. Perhaps, it is partly due to the fact every region of the Philippines has its own language.

Though some groups tried to collect songs from the different ethnolinguistic groups, none has so far succeeded in making traditional music a part of the national identity, much more a national symbol. It is rarely taught in Elementary school, as in Ireland, aside from Children’s songs. This results in a mentality that traditional songs are children’s songs.

The decline was accelerated with the entry of television, making popular culture from Europe and the United States easily accessible to a common Filipino. Though most Europeans would say that Filipinos are music-loving people, traditional music is always at risk of being left in oblivion.

 Attempts to Collect

Attempts have been made to collect and preserve Traditional Philippine Music but most of them focus only on the Vocal form. Under the 400 years of Spanish colonization of the Philippines, no collection of the traditional music was ever made. There are however studies made regarding this subject in the late 19th Century, when the Romanticists of Europe began to find the value of folk songs.

Even during the American occupation of the Philippines, attempts to collect traditional music came rather late. Perhaps the first collection was done in 1919 by Fr. Morice Vanoverberg, which is focused on the traditional music of the Lepanto Igorots of the North. Unfortunately, only the words and not the tunes are included in the collection.

The collection entitled ‘Filipino Folk Songs’ by Emilia Cavan is considered to be the earliest collection with tunes, published in 1942. Perhaps, the most important collection of Folk Songs is the ‘Philippine Progressive Music Series’ by Norberto Romualdez published in the late 1920s.

Unfortunately, the collectors who worked with Romualdez did not present the songs in their original languages but rather translated them into English and Filipino. This collection also included some songs aimed to promote National Identity, like the National Anthem of the Philippines, the Philippines Our Native Land and even Philippines the Beautiful and adaptation of America the Beautiful. The collection also included some folk songs from other countries.

For a period of time, Romualdez’ collection became the textbook for teaching music in the Primary School. It also ensured that folk tunes from every part of the country is preserved and will be passed to the next generation of Filipinos. Until now, this collection remains to be the most important collection of traditional music from the Philippines, since a copy of it is still available in major Municipal and Provincial Libraries in the country.

Other collections like the ‘Filipino Folk Songs’ by Emilia Reysio-Cruz caters to the so- called ‘Eight Major Languages’ of the country and according to some, the collection is the best representation of the songs from these ethnolinguistic groups.

Dr. Jose Maceda, former chairman of the Department of Asian Music Research of the College of Music of the University of the Philippines, also did some collection which began in 1953 and lasted until 1972. This was followed by collections from his students as well.

During the last years of the 20th Century until the early 21st Century, Raul Sunico, Dean of the Conservatory of Music of the University of Santo Tomas, published his own collection. He began with publishing a collection of lullabies, followed by love songs, then by work songs. Finally, he published a collection of songs about Filipino women, a major topic of traditional songs from all the ethnolinguistic groups. All these collections were arranged for the piano and the words are given in their original languages. A translation is also supplied, not to mention a brief backgrounder about the culture of the specific ethnic groups.

Philippine Folk Dance

Beauty and Grace

INTRODUCTION AND DANCES

Countries in the world have their own cultures made more colorful, beautiful and vibrant because of Folk Dances that are reflection of who they are. In the east, the Chinese have their symbolic Dragon Dance, the Japanese have the ancestral dance Bon Odori. In the west the Americans have their Square Dance. On the other hand, the Philippines will not be left behind. “The Pearl of The Orient” boast of a varitey of Filipino Folk Dances.

The Philippines consist of 7107 islands, and is broken down in three groups of islands. The Luzon, Mindano, and Visayas. Each of these regions contain different languages,history, regligon, and traditions. With each region having different influence in thier arts, crafts, and ancestorical dances. Lets take a trip through each region and explore the different styles, costumes, Dances and Talents from Each Region…. As we explore each of the regions and styles, please remember alot of these Cultural and Folk dances represents hardships and daily back breaking tasks, that has turned into a art form. Many of the dances you will read about here were actuall activities or chores that the Filipino endured to survive the poor economy and state of the nation…..

Traditions and Hertitage – Luzon Region

We Shall Never Forget our Heritage

LUZON — Consisting of the tribes such as Ifugao, Benquet, Kalinga, Bontoc, Apayo, Kalinga, sometimes these are call Igorot. ” But sometimes that is considered degrading .” Cordillerea name also used for some parts the Luzon Region…
Northern most region of the Philippines, Luzon gets its Cultural influence from Hindu-Buddist, Spanish and many ethnic regilous tribes. All with differences and beliefs. But in all the Cultural and Folk Dances from this region represents all different factions in one way or the other.

Dances of Luzon ( see side bar for pictures of many of the dances )

* Dance: Idaw

This dance sometimes has many names and different versions. Most common is this dance depicts the hunting ritual performed before a tribal war. The tribes men would go out and look up and watch for the scared Idaw bird. Which is said to lead the tribe to victory. Also look at the clothing, Philippines being a very hot climate, plus the use of as little material as possible, the traditional clothing was not made to cover much of the body….

* Dance : Banga

This dance displays the Igorot women on their way to the river to fetch the daily water supply for thier familys. It shows the skill and strength of the women as they would carry heavy laiden clay pots (Banga) full of water. Their grace and agility while balancing the heavy pots, sometimes stacks 5 high, is a testiment of the Filipino and how hardships become a art form and talent. As a young girl you would start with only one pot. Of course as you become older and more experienced, along with the fact that you could provide more water for your family in one trip. Pots could be stacked as high as 5 or 6. The more pots you could carry showed your skill and also you standing amoung the women of that area. They would all gather and march to the river each day, singing a native song which is represented by the flute and banging of bamboo on iron pots in the dance……

* Dance : Idudu

The family is the basic structure of family life among the Itneg / Tinggian poeple. The caring for the Children is shared by both the mother and father. While the men are clearing the fields, breaking the soil with bamboo and their feet, the women watch the children. Soon as the men are done, they take care of the children while the women do back breaking work. You can see in the dance how the women will take the bamboo baskets in a shaking fashion like drying the rice, while the men are going in circles in background like they are toiling the land. Then you will see the women put down the baskets fold the cloth into a baby while the husband stands aside. Then the women will turn over the baby to the husband, pick up the bamboo and start toiling the land while the men hold and cradle the babys………

* Dance : Ragsaksakan

The word means ” Merriment”. This dance would be performed after a successful headhunt and also for a peace pact between waring tribles. The colorful hand woven blankets ” blankets of life” are worn around the neck while baskets to carry produce or rice are worn upon the head. Some versions of this dance use the ” Banga ” instead of the basket.

Pride and Honor – Mindanao Region

 

Filipino is Worth Dieing For
MINDANAO — This is the southern most region of The Philippines. Being the second largest island in the Philippines, its Culture consists of mostly Muslium or ” Moro ” people, also composed of other ethnic groups such as the Maranao, Tausug, Banguingui, and indigenous tribes know as Lumad. You will see alot of Arabian, and Middle Eastern influence in thier costumes and dances.

Dances of Mindanao – ( See side bar for pictures and more info)

* Dance : Singkil

Sinkil dance takes its name from the bells worn on the ankles of the Muslim princess. Perhaps one of the oldest of truly Filipino dances, the Singkil recounts the epic legend of the “Darangan” of the Maranao people of Mindanao. This epic, written sometime in the 14th century, tells the fateful story of Princess Gandingan, who was caught in the middle of a forest during an earthquake caused by the diwatas, or fairies or nymph of the forest.

The rhythmic clapping of criss-crossed bamboo poles represent the trees that were falling, which she gracefully avoids. Her slave loyally accompanies her throughout her ordeal. Finally, she is saved by the prince. Dancers wearing solemn faces and maintaining a dignified pose being dancing at a slow pace which soon progresses to a faster tempo skillfully manipulate apir, or fans which represent the winds that prove to be auspicious. The dancers weave expertly through criss-crossed bamboos.

* Dance : Kini Kini

Kini means the Royal Walk. Maranao women performed this dance with scarves. The beauty of the scarve and the talent and grace in which it is displayed. Shows their elite social upbringing.

* Dance : Pangalay

A pangalay native to the Badjao, sometimes known as the “Sea Gypsies.” Pangalay is a dance that emphasizes the agility of the upper body. The rhythmic bounce of the shoulder with simultaneous alternating waving of arms are the basic movement of this dance. The pangalay is commonly performed at weddings and other social gatherings. You will also see some parts of the Sinkgil in this dance also. Another part of this dance is also called the Muslium four Bamboos.

* Dance : Asik

This is performed by a solo madien, adorned with fine beads and make up, long head scarf. She would dance to win the favor of her Sultan master. Many time the girls would dance to win the hearts of her master or to make up for a wrong she had done. She would give her whole heart and soul into this performance to soften the heart of her master to accept her…

LOVE OF LIFE AND COUNTRY – VISAYAS REGION

Live Long, Live Happy, Die Proud

VISAYAS — Being the Central Island of The Philippines, Visayas is also broken down into three sections. Central , Eastern, Western. Consisting of Austronesians, Negritos, these we Animist Tribal Group. Many others tribes from around surrounding island would come after the downfall or break up of thier tribes. Visayas became a melting pot for many different Tribes and Cultural backgrouds. You will find Arbian, Spanish, and some Western influences in the dances of this region. You will see that the dances of the Visayas are more upbeat and exciting, not so much in Drama and tribal meanings as other regions.

Visayas Dances – ( see pictures in the side bar )

* Dance : Sayaw Sa Banko

This dance is native to the barrio of Pangapisan, Lingayen, Pangasinan, and demands skill from its performers who must dance on top of a bench roughly six inches wide.

* Dance : Tinkling

Tinnikling is considered the national folkdance with a pair of dancers hopping between two bamboo poles held just above the ground and struck together in time to music. Originated from Leyte Province, this dance is in fact a mimic movement of “tikling birds” hopping over trees, grass stems or over bamboo traps set by farmers. Dancers perform this dance with remarkable grace and speed jumping between bamboo poles.

* Dance : Subli

The term “subli” is from two tagalog words “subsub” meaning falling on head and “bali”, which means broken. Hence, the dancers appear to be lame and crooked throughout the dance. This version is originally a ritual dance of the natives of Bauan, Batangas, which is shown during fiestas as a ceremonial worship dance to the town’s icon, the holy cross

* Dance : Maglalatik

Originally performed in Binan, Laguna as a mock-war dance that demonstrates a fight between the Moros and the Christians over the prized latik or coconut meat during the Spanish rule, this dance is also shown to pay tribute to the town’s patron saint, San Isidro Labrador. It has a four-part performance such as the palipasan and the baligtaran showing the intense battle, the paseo and the escaramusa- the reconciliation. Moro dancers wear read trousers while the Christian dancers show up in blue. All dancers are male; with harnesses of coconut shells attached on their chests, backs, thighs and hips

credits to : Philippine cultural folkdances

Philippine Arts

Arts of the Philippines is diversed. Weaving is popular in the northern part of the Philippines. Pottery is also common in pre-Hispanic societies. Ornate carvings are found in the southern Philippine islands. Similarly, wooden art is also quite popular and is displayed in various parts of Filipino homes.

Artistic paintings created by Filipinos began in the 17th century during Spanish colonial times and continued until the present, with such revered artists as Luna, Amorsolo, and Zobel. Other popular artists include Hugo C. Yunzon reflected an earthy style that touches on indigenous Malay culture in pieces such as Early Risers and Mariang Makiling,[1] Nestor Leynes with Mag-ina Sa Banig, Fred DeAsis with Legend of Sari-Manok , and Tam Austria with Mag-Anak. Filipinos have unique folk dances like tinikling where assistants take two long bamboo sticks rapidly and in rhythm, clap sticks for dancers to artistically and daringly try to avoid getting their feet caught between them. Also in the southern part of the Philippines, there is another dance called singkil using long bamboo poles found in tinikling; however, it is primarily a dance showing off lavish Muslim royalty. In this dance, there are four bamboo sticks arranged in a tic-tac-toe pattern in which the dancers exploit every position of these clashing sticks. Dancers can be found trying to avoid all 4 bamboo sticks all together in the middle. They can also try to dance an entire rotation around the middle avoiding all sticks. Usually these stick dances performed in teamwork fashion not solo. The Singkil dance is identifiable with the use of umbrellas and silk clothing.[2] See YouTube tinikling video and YouTube singkil video.

Two examples of traditional Filipino dances are Tinikling and Binasuan and many more.

[[Tanaga] is a type of Filipino poetry.

[[Kut-kut] is an art technique used between the 15th and 18th centuries. The technique was a combination of European and Oriental style and process mastered by indigenous tribes of Samar island.

Past notable Filipino artists include Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo, Augusto Arbizo, Felix Hidalgo, Dávid Cortés Medalla, Rey Paz Contreras, and Nunelucio Alvarado. Present-day Filipino artists featuring Filipino culture include Anita Magsaysay-Ho, Fred DeAsis, Daniel Coquilla, Ang Kiukok, Mauro Malang Santos, Santiago Bose and Francisco Viri.[3]

Greek Mythology

Greek mythology

Bust of Zeus, Otricoli (Sala Rotonda, Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican)

Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece. Modern scholars refer to, and study, the myths, in an attempt to throw light on the religious and political institutions of Ancient Greece, its civilization, and to gain understanding of the nature of myth-making itself.[1]

Greek mythology is embodied, explicitly, in a large collection of narratives, and implicitly in Greek representational arts, such as vase-paintings and votive gifts. Greek myth attempts to explain the origins of the world, and details the lives and adventures of a wide variety of gods, goddesses, heroes, heroines, and mythological creatures. These accounts initially were disseminated in an oral-poetic tradition; today the Greek myths are known primarily from Greek literature.

The oldest known Greek literary sources, the epic poems Iliad and Odyssey, focus on events surrounding the Trojan War. Two poems by Homer‘s near contemporary Hesiod, the Theogony and the Works and Days, contain accounts of the genesis of the world, the succession of divine rulers, the succession of human ages, the awesome origin of human woes, and the origin of sacrificial practices. Myths also are preserved in the Homeric Hymns, in fragments of epic poems of the Epic Cycle, in lyric poems, in the works of the tragedians of the fifth century BC, in writings of scholars and poets of the Hellenistic Age and in texts from the time of the Roman Empire by writers such as Plutarch and Pausanias.

Archaeological findings provide a principal source of detail about Greek mythology, with gods and heroes featured prominently in the decoration of many artifacts. Geometric designs on pottery of the eighth century BC depict scenes from the Trojan cycle as well as the adventures of Heracles. In the succeeding Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods, Homeric and various other mythological scenes appear, supplementing the existing literary evidence.[2]

Greek mythology has exerted an extensive influence on the culture, the arts, and the literature of Western civilization and remains part of Western heritage and language. Poets and artists from ancient times to the present have derived inspiration from Greek mythology and have discovered contemporary significance and relevance in these mythological themes.[3]

Greek mythology is known today primarily from Greek literature and representations on visual media dating from the Geometric period from c. 900–800 BC onward.[4]

Literary sources

Mythical narration plays an important role in nearly every genre of Greek literature. Nevertheless, the only general mythographical handbook to survive from Greek antiquity was the Library of Pseudo-Apollodorus. This work attempts to reconcile the contradictory tales of the poets and provides a grand summary of traditional Greek mythology and heroic legends.[5] Apollodorus lived from c. 180–120 BC and wrote on many of these topics. His writings may have formed the basis for the collection; however the “Library” discusses events that occurred long after his death, hence the name Pseudo-Apollodorus.

Prometheus (1868 by Gustave Moreau). The myth of Prometheus first was attested by Hesiod and then constituted the basis for a tragic trilogy of plays, possibly by Aeschylus, consisting of Prometheus Bound, Prometheus Unbound, and Prometheus Pyrphoros

Among the earliest literary sources are Homer‘s two epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Other poets completed the “epic cycle”, but these later and lesser poems now are lost almost entirely. Despite their traditional name, the “Homeric Hymns” have no direct connection with Homer. They are choral hymns from the earlier part of the so-called Lyric age.[6] Hesiod, a possible contemporary with Homer, offers in his Theogony (Origin of the Gods) the fullest account of the earliest Greek myths, dealing with the creation of the world; the origin of the gods, Titans, and Giants; as well as elaborate genealogies, folktales, and etiological myths. Hesiod’s Works and Days, a didactic poem about farming life, also includes the myths of Prometheus, Pandora, and the Four Ages. The poet gives advice on the best way to succeed in a dangerous world, rendered yet more dangerous by its gods.[2]

Lyrical poets often took their subjects from myth, but their treatment became gradually less narrative and more allusive. Greek lyric poets including Pindar, Bacchylides, Simonides and bucolic poets such as Theocritus and Bion, relate individual mythological incidents.[7] Additionally, myth was central to classical Athenian drama. The tragic playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides took most of their plots from myths of the age of heroes and the Trojan War. Many of the great tragic stories (e.g. Agamemnon and his children, Oedipus, Jason, Medea, etc.) took on their classic form in these tragedies. The comic playwright Aristophanes also used myths, in The Birds and The Frogs.[8]

Historians Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus, and geographers Pausanias and Strabo, who traveled throughout the Greek world and noted the stories they heard, supplied numerous local myths and legends, often giving little-known alternative versions.[7] Herodotus in particular, searched the various traditions presented him and found the historical or mythological roots in the confrontation between Greece and the East.[9] Herodotus attempted to reconcile origins and the blending of differing cultural concepts.

The poetry of the Hellenistic and Roman ages was primarily composed as a literary rather than cultic exercise. Nevertheless, it contains many important details that would otherwise be lost. This category includes the works of:

  1. The Roman poets Ovid, Statius, Valerius Flaccus, Seneca, and Virgil with Servius‘s commentary.
  2. The Greek poets of the Late Antique period: Nonnus, Antoninus Liberalis, and Quintus Smyrnaeus.
  3. The Greek poets of the Hellenistic period: Apollonius of Rhodes, Callimachus, Pseudo-Eratosthenes, and Parthenius.
  4. The ancient novels of Greeks and Romans such as Apuleius, Petronius, Lollianus, and Heliodorus.

The Fabulae and Astronomica of the Roman writer styled as Pseudo-Hyginus are two important, non-poetical compendiums of myth. The Imagines of Philostratus the Elder and Philostratus the Younger and the Descriptions of Callistratus, are two other useful sources that were drawn upon for themes.

Finally, Arnobius and a number of Byzantine Greek writers provide important details of myth, much derived from earlier now lost Greek works. These preservers of myth include a lexicon of Hesychius, the Suda, and the treatises of John Tzetzes and Eustathius. The Christian moralizing view of Greek myth is encapsulated in the saying, ἐν παντὶ μύθῳ καὶ τὸ Δαιδάλου μύσος / en panti muthōi kai to Daidalou musos (“In every myth there is also the defilement of Daidalos”). In this fashion, the encyclopedic Sudas reported the role of Daedalus in satisfying the “unnatural lust” of Pasiphaë for the bull of Poseidon: “Since the origin and blame for these evils were attributed to Daidalos and he was loathed for them, he became the subject of the proverb.”[10]

Archaeological sources

The Roman poet Virgil, here depicted in the fifth century manuscript, the Vergilius Romanus, preserved details of Greek mythology in many of his writings

The discovery of the Mycenaean civilization by the German amateur archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann, in the nineteenth century, and the discovery of the Minoan civilization in Crete by British archaeologist, Sir Arthur Evans, in the twentieth century, helped to explain many existing questions about Homer’s epics and provided archaeological evidence for many of the mythological details about gods and heroes. Unfortunately, the evidence about myth and ritual at Mycenaean and Minoan sites is entirely monumental, as the Linear B script (an ancient form of Greek found in both Crete and Greece) was used mainly to record inventories, although the names of gods and heroes doubtfully have been revealed.[2]

Geometric designs on pottery of the eighth century BC depict scenes from the Trojan cycle, as well as the adventures of Heracles.[2] These visual representations of myths are important for two reasons. For one, many Greek myths are attested on vases earlier than in literary sources: of the twelve labors of Heracles, for example, only the Cerberus adventure occurs in a contemporary literary text.[11] In addition, visual sources sometimes represent myths or mythical scenes that are not attested in any extant literary source. In some cases, the first known representation of a myth in geometric art predates its first known representation in late archaic poetry, by several centuries.[4] In the Archaic (c. 750–c. 500 BC), Classical (c. 480–323 BC), and Hellenistic (323–146 BC) periods, Homeric and various other mythological scenes appear, supplementing the existing literary evidence.[2]

Survey of mythic history

Greek mythology has changed over time to accommodate the evolution of their culture, of which mythology, both overtly and in its unspoken assumptions, is an index of the changes. In Greek mythology’s surviving literary forms, as found mostly at the end of the progressive changes, is inherently political, as Gilbert Cuthbertson has urged.[12]

The earlier inhabitants of the Balkan Peninsula were an agricultural people who, using Animism, assigned a spirit to every aspect of nature. Eventually, these vague spirits assumed human forms and entered the local mythology as gods.[13] When tribes from the north of the Balkan Peninsula invaded, they brought with them a new pantheon of gods, based on conquest, force, prowess in battle, and violent heroism. Other older gods of the agricultural world fused with those of the more powerful invaders or else faded into insignificance.[14]

After the middle of the Archaic period, myths about relationships between male gods and male heroes become more and more frequent, indicating the parallel development of pedagogic pederasty (Eros paidikos, παιδικός ἔρως), thought to have been introduced around 630 BC. By the end of the fifth century BC, poets had assigned at least one eromenos, an adolescent boy who was their sexual companion, to every important god except Ares and to many legendary figures.[15] Previously existing myths, such as those of Achilles and Patroclus, also then were cast in a pederastic light.[16] Alexandrian poets at first, then more generally literary mythographers in the early Roman Empire, often readapted stories of Greek mythological characters in this fashion.

The achievement of epic poetry was to create story-cycles and, as a result, to develop a new sense of mythological chronology. Thus Greek mythology unfolds as a phase in the development of the world and of humans.[17] While self-contradictions in these stories make an absolute timeline impossible, an approximate chronology may be discerned. The resulting mythological “history of the world” may be divided into three or four broader periods:

  1. The myths of origin or age of gods (Theogonies, “births of gods”): myths about the origins of the world, the gods, and the human race.
  2. The age when gods and mortals mingled freely: stories of the early interactions between gods, demigods, and mortals.
  3. The age of heroes (heroic age), where divine activity was more limited. The last and greatest of the heroic legends is the story of the Trojan War and after (which is regarded by some researchers as a separate fourth period).[18]

While the age of gods often has been of more interest to contemporary students of myth, the Greek authors of the archaic and classical eras had a clear preference for the age of heroes, establishing a chronology and record of human accomplishments after the questions of how the world came into being were explained. For example, the heroic Iliad and Odyssey dwarfed the divine-focused Theogony and Homeric Hymns in both size and popularity. Under the influence of Homer the “hero cult” leads to a restructuring in spiritual life, expressed in the separation of the realm of the gods from the realm of the dead (heroes), of the Chthonic from the Olympian.[19] In the Works and Days, Hesiod makes use of a scheme of Four Ages of Man (or Races): Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Iron. These races or ages are separate creations of the gods, the Golden Age belonging to the reign of Cronus, the subsequent races the creation of Zeus. Hesiod intercalates the Age (or Race) of Heroes just after the Bronze Age. The final age was the Iron Age, the contemporary period during which the poet lived. The poet regards it as the worst; the presence of evil was explained by the myth of Pandora, when all of the best of human capabilities, save hope, had been spilled out of her overturned jar.[20] In Metamorphoses, Ovid follows Hesiod’s concept of the four ages.[21]

Era of gods

 Cosmogony and cosmology

Amor Vincit Omnia (Love Conquers All), a depiction of the god of love, Eros. By Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, circa 1601–1602

“Myths of origin” or “creation myths” represent an attempt to render the universe comprehensible in human terms and explain the origin of the world.[22] The most widely accepted version at the time, although a philosophical account of the beginning of things, is reported by Hesiod, in his Theogony. He begins with Chaos, a yawning nothingness. Out of the void emerged Gaia (the Earth) and some other primary divine beings: Eros (Love), the Abyss (the Tartarus), and the Erebus.[23] Without male assistance, Gaia gave birth to Uranus (the Sky) who then fertilized her. From that union were born first the Titans—six males: Coeus, Crius, Cronus, Hyperion, Iapetus, and Oceanus; and six females: Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Rhea, Theia, Themis, and Tethys. After Cronus was born, Gaia and Oranos decreed no more Titans were to be born. They were followed by the one-eyed Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires or Hundred-Handed Ones. Cronus (“the wily, youngest and most terrible of Gaia’s children”[23]) castrated his father and became the ruler of the titans with his sister-wife Rhea as his consort, and the other Titans became his court.

A motif of father-against-son conflict was repeated when Cronus was confronted by his son, Zeus. Because Cronus had betrayed his father, he feared that his offspring would do the same, and so each time Rhea gave birth, he snatched up the child and ate it. Rhea hated this and tricked him by hiding Zeus and wrapping a stone in a baby’s blanket, which Cronus ate. When Zeus was full grown, he fed Cronus a drugged drink which caused him to vomit, throwing up Rhea’s other children and the stone, which had been sitting in Cronus’s stomach all along. Zeus then challenged Cronus to war for the kingship of the gods. At last, with the help of the Cyclopes (whom Zeus freed from Tartarus), Zeus and his siblings were victorious, while Cronus and the Titans were hurled down to imprisonment in Tartarus.[24]

Attic black-figured amphora depicting Athena being “reborn” from the head of Zeus, who had swallowed her mother, Metis, the goddess of childbirth. Eileithyia, on the right assists, circa 550–525 BC (Musée du Louvre, Paris).

Zeus was plagued by the same concern and, after a prophecy that the offspring of his first wife, Metis, would give birth to a god “greater than he”—Zeus swallowed her. She was already pregnant with Athena, however, and they made him miserable until Athena burst forth from his head—fully-grown and dressed for war. This “rebirth” from Zeus was used as an excuse for why he was not “superseded” by a child of the next generation of gods, but accounted for the presence of Athena. It is likely that cultural changes already in progress absorbed the long-standing local cult of Athena at Athens into the changing Olympic pantheon without conflict because it could not be overcome.[citation needed]

The earliest Greek thought about poetry considered the theogonies to be the prototypical poetic genre—the prototypical mythos—and imputed almost magical powers to it. Orpheus, the archetypal poet, also was the archetypal singer of theogonies, which he uses to calm seas and storms in Apollonius’ Argonautica, and to move the stony hearts of the underworld gods in his descent to Hades. When Hermes invents the lyre in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, the first thing he does is sing about the birth of the gods.[25] Hesiod’s Theogony is not only the fullest surviving account of the gods, but also the fullest surviving account of the archaic poet’s function, with its long preliminary invocation to the Muses. Theogony also was the subject of many lost poems, including those attributed to Orpheus, Musaeus, Epimenides, Abaris, and other legendary seers, which were used in private ritual purifications and mystery-rites. There are indications that Plato was familiar with some version of the Orphic theogony.[26] A silence would have been expected about religious rites and beliefs, however, and that nature of the culture would not have been reported by members of the society while the beliefs were held. After they ceased to become religious beliefs, few would have known the rites and rituals. Allusions often existed, however, to aspects that were quite public.

Images existed on pottery and religious artwork that were interpreted and more likely, misinterpreted in many diverse myths and tales. A few fragments of these works survive in quotations by Neoplatonist philosophers and recently unearthed papyrus scraps. One of these scraps, the Derveni Papyrus now proves that at least in the fifth century BC a theogonic-cosmogonic poem of Orpheus was in existence. This poem attempted to outdo Hesiod’s Theogony and the genealogy of the gods was extended back to Nyx (Night) as an ultimate female beginning before Eurynome,[citation needed] Uranus, Cronus, and Zeus.[27] Night and Darkness could equate with Chaos.

The first philosophical cosmologists reacted against, or sometimes built upon, popular mythical conceptions that had existed in the Greek world for some time. Some of these popular conceptions can be gleaned from the poetry of Homer and Hesiod. In Homer, the Earth was viewed as a flat disk afloat on the river of Oceanus and overlooked by a hemispherical sky with sun, moon, and stars. The Sun (Helios) traversed the heavens as a charioteer and sailed around the Earth in a golden bowl at night. Sun, earth, heaven, rivers, and winds could be addressed in prayers and called to witness oaths. Natural fissures were popularly regarded as entrances to the subterranean house of Hades and his predecessors, home of the dead.[28] Influences from other cultures always afforded new themes.

 Greek pantheon

Zeus, disguised as a swan, seduces Leda, the Queen of Sparta. A sixteenth century copy of the lost original by Michelangelo.

According to Classical-era mythology, after the overthrow of the Titans, the new pantheon of gods and goddesses was confirmed. Among the principal Greek gods were the Olympians, residing atop Mount Olympus under the eye of Zeus. (The limitation of their number to twelve seems to have been a comparatively modern idea.)[29] Besides the Olympians, the Greeks worshipped various gods of the countryside, the satyr-god Pan, Nymphs (spirits of rivers), Naiads (who dwelled in springs), Dryads (who were spirits of the trees), Nereids (who inhabited the sea), river gods, Satyrs, and others. In addition, there were the dark powers of the underworld, such as the Erinyes (or Furies), said to pursue those guilty of crimes against blood-relatives.[30] In order to honor the Ancient Greek pantheon, poets composed the Homeric Hymns (a group of thirty-three songs).[31] Gregory Nagy regards “the larger Homeric Hymns as simple preludes (compared with Theogony), each of which invokes one god”.[32]

In the wide variety of myths and legends that Greek mythology consists of, the gods that were native to the Greek peoples are described as having essentially corporeal but ideal bodies. According to Walter Burkert, the defining characteristic of Greek anthropomorphism is that “the Greek gods are persons, not abstractions, ideas or concepts”.[33] Regardless of their underlying forms, the Ancient Greek gods have many fantastic abilities; most significantly, the gods are not affected by disease, and can be wounded only under highly unusual circumstances. The Greeks considered immortality as the distinctive characteristic of their gods; this immortality, as well as unfading youth, was insured by the constant use of nectar and ambrosia, by which the divine blood was renewed in their veins.[34]

Each god descends from his or her own genealogy, pursues differing interests, has a certain area of expertise, and is governed by a unique personality; however, these descriptions arise from a multiplicity of archaic local variants, which do not always agree with one another. When these gods are called upon in poetry, prayer or cult, they are referred to by a combination of their name and epithets, that identify them by these distinctions from other manifestations of themselves (e.g. Apollo Musagetes is “Apollo, [as] leader of the Muses“). Alternatively the epithet may identify a particular and localized aspect of the god, sometimes thought to be already ancient during the classical epoch of Greece.

Most gods were associated with specific aspects of life. For example, Aphrodite was the goddess of love and beauty, Ares was the god of war, Hades the god of the dead, and Athena the goddess of wisdom and courage.[35] Some gods, such as Apollo and Dionysus, revealed complex personalities and mixtures of functions, while others, such as Hestia (literally “hearth”) and Helios (literally “sun”), were little more than personifications. The most impressive temples tended to be dedicated to a limited number of gods, who were the focus of large pan-Hellenic cults. It was, however, common for individual regions and villages to devote their own cults to minor gods. Many cities also honored the more well-known gods with unusual local rites and associated strange myths with them that were unknown elsewhere. During the heroic age, the cult of heroes (or demi-gods) supplemented that of the gods.

 Age of gods and mortals

Bridging the age when gods lived alone and the age when divine interference in human affairs was limited was a transitional age in which gods and mortals moved together. These were the early days of the world when the groups mingled more freely than they did later. Most of these tales were later told by Ovid’s Metamorphoses and they are often divided into two thematic groups: tales of love, and tales of punishment.[36]

Dionysus with satyrs. Interior of a cup painted by the Brygos Painter, Cabinet des Médailles

Tales of love often involve incest, or the seduction or rape of a mortal woman by a male god, resulting in heroic offspring. The stories generally suggest that relationships between gods and mortals are something to avoid; even consenting relationships rarely have happy endings.[37] In a few cases, a female divinity mates with a mortal man, as in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, where the goddess lies with Anchises to produce Aeneas.[38]

The second type (tales of punishment) involves the appropriation or invention of some important cultural artifact, as when Prometheus steals fire from the gods, when Tantalus steals nectar and ambrosia from Zeus’ table and gives it to his own subjects—revealing to them the secrets of the gods, when Prometheus or Lycaon invents sacrifice, when Demeter teaches agriculture and the Mysteries to Triptolemus, or when Marsyas invents the aulos and enters into a musical contest with Apollo. Ian Morris considers Prometheus’ adventures as “a place between the history of the gods and that of man”.[39] An anonymous papyrus fragment, dated to the third century, vividly portrays Dionysus‘ punishment of the king of Thrace, Lycurgus, whose recognition of the new god came too late, resulting in horrific penalties that extended into the afterlife.[40] The story of the arrival of Dionysus to establish his cult in Thrace was also the subject of an Aeschylean trilogy.[41] In another tragedy, Euripides’ The Bacchae, the king of Thebes, Pentheus, is punished by Dionysus, because he disrespected the god and spied on his Maenads, the female worshippers of the god.[42]

Demeter and Metanira in a detail on an Apulian red-figure hydria, circa 340 BC (Altes Museum, Paris).

In another story, based on an old folktale-motif,[43] and echoing a similar theme, Demeter was searching for her daughter, Persephone, having taken the form of an old woman called Doso, and received a hospitable welcome from Celeus, the King of Eleusis in Attica. As a gift to Celeus, because of his hospitality, Demeter planned to make his son Demophon a god, but she was unable to complete the ritual because his mother Metanira walked in and saw her son in the fire and screamed in fright, which angered Demeter, who lamented that foolish mortals do not understand the concept and ritual.[44]

 Heroic age

The age in which the heroes lived is known as the heroic age.[45] The epic and genealogical poetry created cycles of stories clustered around particular heroes or events and established the family relationships between the heroes of different stories; they thus arranged the stories in sequence. According to Ken Dowden, “there is even a saga effect: we can follow the fates of some families in successive generations”.[17]

After the rise of the hero cult, gods and heroes constitute the sacral sphere and are invoked together in oaths and prayers which are addressed to them.[19] In contrast to the age of gods, during the heroic age the roster of heroes is never given fixed and final form; great gods are no longer born, but new heroes can always be raised up from the army of the dead. Another important difference between the hero cult and the cult of gods is that the hero becomes the centre of local group identity.[19]

The monumental events of Heracles are regarded as the dawn of the age of heroes. To the Heroic Age are also ascribed three great events: the Argonautic expedition, the Theban Cycle and the Trojan War.[46]

 Heracles and the Heracleidae

See also: Heracles and Heracleidae

Some scholars believe[47] that behind Heracles’ complicated mythology there was probably a real man, perhaps a chieftain-vassal of the kingdom of Argos. Some scholars suggest the story of Heracles is an allegory for the sun’s yearly passage through the twelve constellations of the zodiac.[48] Others point to earlier myths from other cultures, showing the story of Heracles as a local adaptation of hero myths already well established. Traditionally, Heracles was the son of Zeus and Alcmene, granddaughter of Perseus.[49] His fantastic solitary exploits, with their many folk-tale themes, provided much material for popular legend. He is portrayed as a sacrificier, mentioned as a founder of altars, and imagined as a voracious eater himself; it is in this role that he appears in comedy, while his tragic end provided much material for tragedy — Heracles is regarded by Thalia Papadopoulou as “a play of great significance in examination of other Euripidean dramas”.[50] In art and literature Heracles was represented as an enormously strong man of moderate height; his characteristic weapon was the bow but frequently also the club. Vase paintings demonstrate the unparalleled popularity of Heracles, his fight with the lion being depicted many hundreds of times.[51]

Heracles also entered Etruscan and Roman mythology and cult, and the exclamation “mehercule” became as familiar to the Romans as “Herakleis” was to the Greeks.[51] In Italy he was worshipped as a god of merchants and traders, although others also prayed to him for his characteristic gifts of good luck or rescue from danger.[49]

Heracles attained the highest social prestige through his appointment as official ancestor of the Dorian kings. This probably served as a legitimation for the Dorian migrations into the Peloponnese. Hyllus, the eponymous hero of one Dorian phyle, became the son of Heracles and one of the Heracleidae or Heraclids (the numerous descendants of Heracles, especially the descendants of Hyllus — other Heracleidae included Macaria, Lamos, Manto, Bianor, Tlepolemus, and Telephus). These Heraclids conquered the Peloponnesian kingdoms of Mycenae, Sparta and Argos, claiming, according to legend, a right to rule them through their ancestor. Their rise to dominance is frequently called the “Dorian invasion“. The Lydian and later the Macedonian kings, as rulers of the same rank, also became Heracleidae.[52]

Other members of this earliest generation of heroes, such as Perseus, Deucalion, Theseus and Bellerophon, have many traits in common with Heracles. Like him, their exploits are solitary, fantastic and border on fairy tale, as they slay monsters such as the Chimera and Medusa. Bellerophon’s adventures are commonplace types, similar to the adventures of Heracles and Theseus. Sending a hero to his presumed death is also a recurrent theme of this early heroic tradition, used in the cases of Perseus and Bellerophon.[53]

 Argonauts

For more details on this topic, see Argonauts.

The only surviving Hellenistic epic, the Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes (epic poet, scholar, and director of the Library of Alexandria) tells the myth of the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts to retrieve the Golden Fleece from the mythical land of Colchis. In the Argonautica, Jason is impelled on his quest by king Pelias, who receives a prophecy that a man with one sandal would be his nemesis. Jason loses a sandal in a river, arrives at the court of Pelias, and the epic is set in motion. Nearly every member of the next generation of heroes, as well as Heracles, went with Jason in the ship Argo to fetch the Golden Fleece. This generation also included Theseus, who went to Crete to slay the Minotaur; Atalanta, the female heroine; and Meleager, who once had an epic cycle of his own to rival the Iliad and Odyssey. Pindar, Apollonius and Apollodorus endeavor to give full lists of the Argonauts.[54]

Although Apollonius wrote his poem in the 3rd century BC, the composition of the story of the Argonauts is earlier than Odyssey, which shows familiarity with the exploits of Jason (the wandering of Odysseus may have been partly founded on it).[55] In ancient times the expedition was regarded as a historical fact, an incident in the opening up of the Black Sea to Greek commerce and colonization.[56] It was also extremely popular, forming a cycle to which a number of local legends became attached. The story of Medea, in particular, caught the imagination of the tragic poets.[57]

 House of Atreus and Theban Cycle

In between the Argo and the Trojan War, there was a generation known chiefly for its horrific crimes. This includes the doings of Atreus and Thyestes at Argos. Behind the myth of the house of Atreus (one of the two principal heroic dynasties with the house of Labdacus) lies the problem of the devolution of power and of the mode of accession to sovereignty. The twins Atreus and Thyestes with their descendants played the leading role in the tragedy of the devolution of power in Mycenae.[58]

The Theban Cycle deals with events associated especially with Cadmus, the city’s founder, and later with the doings of Laius and Oedipus at Thebes; a series of stories that lead to the eventual pillage of that city at the hands of the Seven Against Thebes and Epigoni.[59] (It is not known whether the Seven Against Thebes figured in early epic.) As far as Oedipus is concerned, early epic accounts seem to have him continuing to rule at Thebes after the revelation that Iokaste was his mother, and subsequently marrying a second wife who becomes the mother of his children — markedly different from the tale known to us through tragedy (e.g. Sophocles’ Oedipus the King) and later mythological accounts.[60]

Trojan War and aftermath

In The Rage of Achilles by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1757, Fresco, 300 x 300 cm, Villa Valmarana, Vicenza) Achilles is outraged that Agamemnon would threaten to seize his warprize, Briseis, and he draws his sword to kill Agamemnon. The sudden appearance of the goddess Athena, who, in this fresco, has grabbed Achilles by the hair, prevents the act of violence.

For more details on this topic, see Trojan War and Epic Cycle

Greek mythology culminates in the Trojan War, fought between the Greeks and Troy, and its aftermath. In Homer’s works, such as the Iliad, the chief stories have already taken shape and substance, and individual themes were elaborated later, especially in Greek drama. The Trojan War also elicited great interest in the Roman culture because of the story of Aeneas, a Trojan hero whose journey from Troy led to the founding of the city that would one day become Rome, as recounted in Virgil’s Aeneid (Book II of Virgil’s Aeneid contains the best-known account of the sack of Troy).[61] Finally there are two pseudo-chronicles written in Latin that passed under the names of Dictys Cretensis and Dares Phrygius.[62]

The Trojan War cycle, a collection of epic poems, starts with the events leading up to the war: Eris and the golden apple of Kallisti, the Judgement of Paris, the abduction of Helen, the sacrifice of Iphigenia at Aulis. To recover Helen, the Greeks launched a great expedition under the overall command of Menelaus‘ brother, Agamemnon, king of Argos or Mycenae, but the Trojans refused to return Helen. The Iliad, which is set in the tenth year of the war, tells of the quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles, who was the finest Greek warrior, and the consequent deaths in battle of Achilles’ beloved comrade Patroclus and Priam‘s eldest son, Hector. After Hector’s death the Trojans were joined by two exotic allies, Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons, and Memnon, king of the Ethiopians and son of the dawn-goddess Eos.[63] Achilles killed both of these, but Paris then managed to kill Achilles with an arrow in the heel. Achilles’ heel was the only part of his body which was not invulnerable to damage by human weaponry. Before they could take Troy, the Greeks had to steal from the citadel the wooden image of Pallas Athena (the Palladium). Finally, with Athena’s help, they built the Trojan Horse. Despite the warnings of Priam’s daughter Cassandra, the Trojans were persuaded by Sinon, a Greek who feigned desertion, to take the horse inside the walls of Troy as an offering to Athena; the priest Laocoon, who tried to have the horse destroyed, was killed by sea-serpents. At night the Greek fleet returned, and the Greeks from the horse opened the gates of Troy. In the total sack that followed, Priam and his remaining sons were slaughtered; the Trojan women passed into slavery in various cities of Greece. The adventurous homeward voyages of the Greek leaders (including the wanderings of Odysseus and Aeneas (the Aeneid), and the murder of Agamemnon) were told in two epics, the Returns (the lost Nostoi) and Homer’s Odyssey.[64] The Trojan cycle also includes the adventures of the children of the Trojan generation (e.g. Orestes and Telemachus).[63]

The Trojan War provided a variety of themes and became a main source of inspiration for Ancient Greek artists (e.g. metopes on the Parthenon depicting the sack of Troy); this artistic preference for themes deriving from the Trojan Cycle indicates its importance to the Ancient Greek civilization.[64] The same mythological cycle also inspired a series of posterior European literary writings. For instance, Trojan Medieval European writers, unacquainted with Homer at first hand, found in the Troy legend a rich source of heroic and romantic storytelling and a convenient framework into which to fit their own courtly and chivalric ideals. 12th century authors, such as Benoît de Sainte-Maure (Roman de Troie [Romance of Troy, 1154–60]) and Joseph of Exeter (De Bello Troiano [On the Trojan War, 1183]) describe the war while rewriting the standard version they found in Dictys and Dares. They thus follow Horace‘s advice and Virgil’s example: they rewrite a poem of Troy instead of telling something completely new.[65]

 Greek and Roman conceptions of myth

Mythology was at the heart of everyday life in Ancient Greece.[66] Greeks regarded mythology as a part of their history. They used myth to explain natural phenomena, cultural variations, traditional enmities and friendships. It was a source of pride to be able to trace one’s leaders’ descent from a mythological hero or a god. Few ever doubted that there was truth behind the account of the Trojan War in the Iliad and Odyssey. According to Victor Davis Hanson, a military historian, columnist, political essayist and former Classics professor, and John Heath, associate professor of Classics at Santa Clara University, the profound knowledge of the Homeric epos was deemed by the Greeks the basis of their acculturation. Homer was the “education of Greece” (Ἑλλάδος παίδευσις), and his poetry “the Book”.[67]

Philosophy and myth

Raphael‘s Plato in The School of Athens fresco (probably in the likeness of Leonardo da Vinci). The philosopher expelled the study of Homer, of the tragedies and of the related mythological traditions from his utopian Republic.

After the rise of philosophy, history, prose and rationalism in the late 5th century BC, the fate of myth became uncertain, and mythological genealogies gave place to a conception of history which tried to exclude the supernatural (such as the Thucydidean history).[68] While poets and dramatists were reworking the myths, Greek historians and philosophers were beginning to criticize them.[6]

A few radical philosophers like Xenophanes of Colophon were already beginning to label the poets’ tales as blasphemous lies in the 6th century BC; Xenophanes had complained that Homer and Hesiod attributed to the gods “all that is shameful and disgraceful among men; they steal, commit adultery, and deceive one another”.[69] This line of thought found its most sweeping expression in Plato‘s Republic and Laws. Plato created his own allegorical myths (such as the vision of Er in the Republic), attacked the traditional tales of the gods’ tricks, thefts and adulteries as immoral, and objected to their central role in literature.[6] Plato’s criticism was the first serious challenge to the Homeric mythological tradition,[67] referring to the myths as “old wives’ chatter”.[70] For his part Aristotle criticized the Pre-socratic quasi-mythical philosophical approach and underscored that “Hesiod and the theological writers were concerned only with what seemed plausible to themselves, and had no respect for us … But it is not worth taking seriously writers who show off in the mythical style; as for those who do proceed by proving their assertions, we must cross-examine them”.[68]

Nevertheless, even Plato did not manage to wean himself and his society from the influence of myth; his own characterization for Socrates is based on the traditional Homeric and tragic patterns, used by the philosopher to praise the righteous life of his teacher:[71]

But perhaps someone might say: “Are you then not ashamed, Socrates, of having followed such a pursuit, that you are now in danger of being put to death as a result?” But I should make to him a just reply: “You do not speak well, Sir, if you think a man in whom there is even a little merit ought to consider danger of life or death, and not rather regard this only, when he does things, whether the things he does are right or wrong and the acts of a good or a bad man. For according to your argument all the demigods would be bad who died at Troy, including the son of Thetis, who so despised danger, in comparison with enduring any disgrace, that when his mother (and she was a goddess) said to him, as he was eager to slay Hector, something like this, I believe,

My son, if you avenge the death of your friend Patroclus and kill Hector, you yourself shall die; for straightway, after Hector, is death appointed unto you. (Hom. Il. 18.96)

he, when he heard this, made light of death and danger, and feared much more to live as a coward and not to avenge his friends, and said,

Straightway may I die, after doing vengeance upon the wrongdoer, that I may not stay here, jeered at beside the curved ships, a burden of the earth.

Hanson and Heath estimate that Plato’s rejection of the Homeric tradition was not favorably received by the grassroots Greek civilization.[67] The old myths were kept alive in local cults; they continued to influence poetry and to form the main subject of painting and sculpture.[68]

More sportingly, the 5th century BC tragedian Euripides often played with the old traditions, mocking them, and through the voice of his characters injecting notes of doubt. Yet the subjects of his plays were taken, without exception, from myth. Many of these plays were written in answer to a predecessor’s version of the same or similar myth. Euripides mainly impugns the myths about the gods and begins his critique with an objection similar to the one previously expressed by Xenocrates: the gods, as traditionally represented, are far too crassly anthropomorphic.[69]

Cicero saw himself as the defender of the established order, despite his personal skepticism with regard to myth and his inclination towards more philosophical conceptions of divinity.

In Roman religion the worship of the Greek god Apollo (early Imperial Roman copy of a fourth century Greek original, Louvre Museum) was combined with the cult of Sol Invictus. The worship of Sol as special protector of the emperors and of the empire remained the chief imperial religion until it was replaced by Christianity.

Hellenistic and Roman rationalism

During the Hellenistic period, mythology took on the prestige of elite knowledge that marks its possessors as belonging to a certain class. At the same time, the skeptical turn of the Classical age became even more pronounced.[72] Greek mythographer Euhemerus established the tradition of seeking an actual historical basis for mythical beings and events.[73] Although his original work (Sacred Scriptures) is lost, much is known about it from what is recorded by Diodorus and Lactantius.[74]

Rationalizing hermeneutics of myth became even more popular under the Roman Empire, thanks to the physicalist theories of Stoic and Epicurean philosophy. Stoics presented explanations of the gods and heroes as physical phenomena, while the Euhemerists rationalized them as historical figures. At the same time, the Stoics and the Neoplatonists promoted the moral significations of the mythological tradition, often based on Greek etymologies.[75] Through his Epicurean message, Lucretius had sought to expel superstitious fears from the minds of his fellow-citizens.[76] Livy, too, is skeptical about the mythological tradition and claims that he does not intend to pass judgement on such legends (fabulae).[77] The challenge for Romans with a strong and apologetic sense of religious tradition was to defend that tradition while conceding that it was often a breeding-ground for superstition. The antiquarian Varro, who regarded religion as a human institution with great importance for the preservation of good in society, devoted rigorous study to the origins of religious cults. In his Antiquitates Rerum Divinarum (which has not survived, but Augustine‘s City of God indicates its general approach) Varro argues that whereas the superstitious man fears the gods, the truly religious person venerates them as parents.[76] In his work he distinguished three kinds of gods:

  1. The gods of nature: personifications of phenomena like rain and fire.
  2. The gods of the poets: invented by unscrupulous bards to stir the passions.
  3. The gods of the city: invented by wise legislators to soothe and enlighten the populace.

Roman Academic Cotta ridicules both literal and allegorical acceptance of myth, declaring roundly that myths have no place in philosophy.[78] Cicero is also generally disdainful of myth, but, like Varro, he is emphatic in his support for the state religion and its institutions. It is difficult to know how far down the social scale this rationalism extended.[77] Cicero asserts that no one (not even old women and boys) is so foolish as to believe in the terrors of Hades or the existence of Scyllas, centaurs or other composite creatures,[79] but, on the other hand, the orator elsewhere complains of the superstitious and credulous character of the people.[80] De Natura Deorum is the most comprehensive summary of Cicero’s line of thought.[81]

Syncretizing trends

In Ancient Roman times, a new Roman mythology was born through syncretization of numerous Greek and other foreign gods. This occurred because the Romans had little mythology of their own and inheritance of the Greek mythological tradition caused the major Roman gods to adopt characteristics of their Greek equivalents.[77] The gods Zeus and Jupiter are an example of this mythological overlap. In addition to the combination of the two mythological traditions, the association of the Romans with eastern religions led to further syncretizations.[82] For instance, the cult of Sun was introduced in Rome after Aurelian‘s successful campaigns in Syria. The Asiatic divinities Mithras (that is to say, the Sun) and Ba’al were combined with Apollo and Helios into one Sol Invictus, with conglomerated rites and compound attributes.[83] Apollo might be increasingly identified in religion with Helios or even Dionysus, but texts retelling his myths seldom reflected such developments. The traditional literary mythology was increasingly dissociated from actual religious practice.

The surviving 2nd century collection of Orphic Hymns and Macrobius‘s Saturnalia are influenced by the theories of rationalism and the syncretizing trends as well. The Orphic Hymns are a set of pre-classical poetic compositions, attributed to Orpheus, himself the subject of a renowned myth. In reality, these poems were probably composed by several different poets, and contain a rich set of clues about prehistoric European mythology.[84] The stated purpose of the Saturnalia is to transmit the Hellenic culture Macrobius has derived from his reading, even though much of his treatment of gods is colored by Egyptian and North African mythology and theology (which also affect the interpretation of Virgil). In Saturnalia reappear mythographical comments influenced by the Euhemerists, the Stoics and the Neoplatonists.[75]

 Modern interpretations

The genesis of modern understanding of Greek mythology is regarded by some scholars as a double reaction at the end of the eighteenth century against “the traditional attitude of Christian animosity”, in which the Christian reinterpretation of myth as a “lie” or fable had been retained.[85] In Germany, by about 1795, there was a growing interest in Homer and Greek mythology. In Göttingen, Johann Matthias Gesner began to revive Greek studies, while his successor, Christian Gottlob Heyne, worked with Johann Joachim Winckelmann, and laid the foundations for mythological research both in Germany and elsewhere.[86]

Comparative and psychoanalytic approaches

Max Müller is regarded as one of the founders of comparative mythology. In his Comparative Mythology (1867) Müller analysed the “disturbing” similarity between the mythologies of “savage races” with those of the early Europeans.

The development of comparative philology in the 19th century, together with ethnological discoveries in the 20th century, established the science of myth. Since the Romantics, all study of myth has been comparative. Wilhelm Mannhardt, Sir James Frazer, and Stith Thompson employed the comparative approach to collect and classify the themes of folklore and mythology.[87] In 1871 Edward Burnett Tylor published his Primitive Culture, in which he applied the comparative method and tried to explain the origin and evolution of religion.[88] Tylor’s procedure of drawing together material culture, ritual and myth of widely separated cultures influenced both Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. Max Müller applied the new science of comparative mythology to the study of myth, in which he detected the distorted remains of Aryan nature worship. Bronisław Malinowski emphasized the ways myth fulfills common social functions. Claude Lévi-Strauss and other structuralists have compared the formal relations and patterns in myths throughout the world.[87]

Sigmund Freud introduced a transhistorical and biological conception of man and a view of myth as an expression of repressed ideas. Dream interpretation is the basis of Freudian myth interpretation and Freud’s concept of dreamwork recognizes the importance of contextual relationships for the interpretation of any individual element in a dream. This suggestion would find an important point of rapprochment between the structuralist and psychoanalytic approaches to myth in Freud’s thought.[89] Carl Jung extended the transhistorical, psychological approach with his theory of the “collective unconscious” and the archetypes (inherited “archaic” patterns), often encoded in myth, that arise out of it.[2] According to Jung, “myth-forming structural elements must be present in the unconscious psyche”.[90] Comparing Jung’s methodology with Joseph Campbell‘s theory, Robert A. Segal concludes that “to interpret a myth Campbell simply identifies the archetypes in it. An interpretation of the Odyssey, for example, would show how Odysseus’s life conforms to a heroic pattern. Jung, by contrast, considers the identification of archetypes merely the first step in the interpretation of a myth”.[91] Karl Kerényi, one of the founders of modern studies in Greek mythology, gave up his early views of myth, in order to apply Jung’s theories of archetypes to Greek myth.[92]

 Origin theories

For Karl Kerényi mythology is “a body of material contained in tales about gods and god-like beings, heroic battles and journeys to the Underworld—mythologem is the best Greek word for them—tales already well-known but not amenable to further re-shaping”.[93]

There are various modern theories about the origins of Greek mythology. According to the Scriptural Theory, all mythological legends are derived from the narratives of the Scriptures, although the real facts have been disguised and altered.[94] According to the Historical Theory all the persons mentioned in mythology were once real human beings, and the legends relating to them are merely the additions of later times. Thus the story of Aeolus is supposed to have arisen from the fact that Aeolus was the ruler of some islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea.[95] The Allegorical Theory supposes that all the ancient myths were allegorical and symbolical; while the Physical Theory subscribed to the idea that the elements of air, fire, and water were originally the objects of religious adoration, thus the principal gods were personifications of these powers of nature.[96] Max Müller attempted to understand an Indo-European religious form by tracing it back to its Aryan, “original” manifestation. In 1891, he claimed that “the most important discovery which has been made during the nineteenth century with respect to the ancient history of mankind … was this sample equation: Sanskrit Dyaus-pitar = Greek Zeus = Latin Jupiter = Old Norse Tyr“.[97] In other cases, close parallels in character and function suggest a common heritage, yet lack of linguistic evidence makes it difficult to prove, as in the comparison between Uranus and the Sanskrit Varuna or the Moirae and the Norns.[98]

Archaeology and mythography, on the other hand, have revealed that the Greeks were inspired by some of the civilizations of Asia Minor and the Near East. Adonis seems to be the Greek counterpart — more clearly in cult than in myth — of a Near Eastern “dying god”. Cybele is rooted in Anatolian culture while much of Aphrodite’s iconography springs from Semitic goddesses. There are also possible parallels between the earliest divine generations (Chaos and its children) and Tiamat in the Enuma Elish.[99] According to Meyer Reinhold, “near Eastern theogonic concepts, involving divine succession through violence and generational conflicts for power, found their way … into Greek mythology”.[100] In addition to Indo-European and Near Eastern origins, some scholars have speculated on the debts of Greek mythology to the pre-Hellenic societies: Crete, Mycenae, Pylos, Thebes and Orchomenus.[101] Historians of religion were fascinated by a number of apparently ancient configurations of myth connected with Crete (the god as bull, Zeus and Europa, Pasiphaë who yields to the bull and gives birth to the Minotaur etc.) Professor Martin P. Nilsson concluded that all great classical Greek myths were tied to Mycenaen centres and were anchored in prehistoric times.[102] Nevertheless, according to Burkert, the iconography of the Cretan Palace Period has provided almost no confirmation for these theories.[103]

Motifs in Western art and literature

 

Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus (c. 1485–1486, oil on canvas, Uffizi, Florence) — a revived Venus Pudica for a new view of pagan Antiquity—is often said to epitomize for modern viewers the spirit of the Renaissance.[2]

The widespread adoption of Christianity did not curb the popularity of the myths. With the rediscovery of classical antiquity in the Renaissance, the poetry of Ovid became a major influence on the imagination of poets, dramatists, musicians and artists.[104] From the early years of Renaissance, artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael, portrayed the Pagan subjects of Greek mythology alongside more conventional Christian themes.[104] Through the medium of Latin and the works of Ovid, Greek myth influenced medieval and Renaissance poets such as Petrarch, Boccaccio and Dante in Italy.[2]

In Northern Europe, Greek mythology never took the same hold of the visual arts, but its effect was very obvious on literature. The English imagination was fired by Greek mythology starting with Chaucer and John Milton and continuing through Shakespeare to Robert Bridges in the 20th century. Racine in France and Goethe in Germany revived Greek drama, reworking the ancient myths.[104] Although during the Enlightenment of the 18th century reaction against Greek myth spread throughout Europe, the myths continued to provide an important source of raw material for dramatists, including those who wrote the libretti for many of Handel‘s and Mozart‘s operas.[105] By the end of the 18th century, Romanticism initiated a surge of enthusiasm for all things Greek, including Greek mythology. In Britain, new translations of Greek tragedies and Homer inspired contemporary poets (such as Alfred Lord Tennyson, Keats, Byron and Shelley) and painters (such as Lord Leighton and Lawrence Alma-Tadema).[106] Christoph Gluck, Richard Strauss, Jacques Offenbach and many others set Greek mythological themes to music.[2] American authors of the 19th century, such as Thomas Bulfinch and Nathaniel Hawthorne, held that the study of the classical myths was essential to the understanding of English and American literature.[107] In more recent times, classical themes have been reinterpreted by dramatists Jean Anouilh, Jean Cocteau, and Jean Giraudoux in France, Eugene O’Neill in America, and T. S. Eliot in Britain and by novelists such as James Joyce and André Gide.[2]

By expressthrougharts Posted in Greece

Greek Theatre

The theatre of Ancient Greece, or ancient Greek drama, is a theatrical culture that flourished in ancient Greece between c. 550 and c. 220 BC. The city-state of Athens, which became a significant cultural, political and military power during this period, was its centre, where it was institutionalized as part of a festival called the Dionysia, which honored the god Dionysus. Tragedy (late 6th century BC), comedy (486 BC), and the satyr play were the three dramatic genres to emerge there. Athens exported the festival to its numerous colonies and allies in order to promote a common cultural identity. Western theatre originated in Athens and its drama has had a significant and sustained impact on Western culture as a whole.

ETYMOLOGY

The word τραγῳδία (tragoidia), from which the word “tragedy” is derived, is a portmanteau of two Greek words: τράγος (tragos) or “goat” and ᾠδή (ode) meaning “song”, from ἀείδειν (aeidein), “to sing”.[1] This etymology indicates a link with the practices of the ancient Dionysian cults. It is impossible, however, to know with certainty how these fertility rituals became the basis for tragedy and comedy.[2]

 Origins

It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Tragedy#Origin_of_tragedy. (Discuss) Proposed since March 2010.

Martin Litchfield West speculates that early Greek religion and theatre, which are inter-related, especially the Orphic Mysteries, was heavily influenced by Central Asian shamanistic practices. A large number of Orphic graffiti unearthed in Olbia seems to testify that the colony was one major point of contact.[3] Eli Rozik[4] points out that the shaman, as such, is seen as a prototypical actor influencing the rituals of early Greek theatre.[5]

Panoramic view of the theatre at Epidaurus.

Greek tragedy as we know it was made in Athens some years before 532 BC, when Thespis was the earliest recorded actor. Being a winner of the first theatrical contest held at Athens, he was the exarchon, or leader,[6] of the dithyrambs performed in and around Attica, especially at the rural Dionysia. By Thespis’ time the dithyramb had evolved far away from its cult roots. Under the influence of heroic epic, Doric choral lyric and the innovations of the poet Arion, it had become a narrative, ballad-like genre. Because of these, Thespis is often called the “Father of Tragedy”; however, his importance is disputed, and Thespis is sometimes listed as late as 16th in the chronological order of Greek tragedians; the statesman Solon, for example, is credited with creating poems in which characters speak with their own voice, and spoken recitations, known as rhapsodes, of Homer‘s epics were popular in festivals prior to 534 BC.[7] Thus, Thespis’s true contribution to drama is unclear at best, but his name has been immortalized as a common term for performer—a “thespian.”

The dramatic performances were important to the Athenians – this is made clear by the creation of a tragedy competition and festival in the City Dionysia. This was organized possibly to foster loyalty among the tribes of Attica (recently created by Cleisthenes). The festival was created roughly around 508 BC. While no drama texts exist from the sixth century BC, we do know the names of three competitors besides Thespis: Choerilus, Pratinas, and Phrynichus. Each is credited with different innovations in the field.

More is known about Phrynichus. He won his first competition between 511 BC and 508 BC. He produced tragedies on themes and subjects later exploited in the golden age such as the Danaids, Phoenician Women and Alcestis. He was the first poet we know of to use a historical subject – his Fall of Miletus, produced in 493-2, chronicled the fate of the town of Miletus after it was conquered by the Persians. Herodotus reports that “the Athenians made clear their deep grief for the taking of Miletus in many ways, but especially in this: when Phrynichus wrote a play entitled “The Fall of Miletus” and produced it, the whole theatre fell to weeping; they fined Phrynichus a thousand drachmas for bringing to mind a calamity that affected them so personally, and forbade the performance of that play forever.”[8] He is also thought to be the first to use female characters (though not female performers).[9]

Until the Hellenistic period, all tragedies were unique pieces written in honor of Dionysus and played only once, so that today we primarily have the pieces that were still remembered well enough to have been repeated when the repetition of old tragedies became fashionable (the accidents of survival, as well as the subjective tastes of the Hellenistic librarians later in Greek history, also played a role in what survived from this period).

 New inventions during the Classical Period

After the Great Destruction of Athens by the Persian Empire in 480 BC, the town and acropolis were rebuilt, and theatre became formalized and an even more major part of Athenian culture and civic pride. This century is normally regarded as the Golden Age of Greek drama. The centre-piece of the annual Dionysia, which took place once in winter and once in spring, was a competition between three tragic playwrights at the Theatre of Dionysus. Each submitted three tragedies, plus a satyr play (a comic, burlesque version of a mythological subject). Beginning in a first competition in 486 BC, each playwright also submitted a comedy.[10] Aristotle claimed that Aeschylus added the second actor, and that Sophocles introduced the third. Apparently the Greek playwrights never used more than three actors based on what is known about Greek theatre.[11]

Tragedy and comedy were viewed as completely separate genres, and no plays ever merged aspects of the two. Satyr plays dealt with the mythological subject matter of the tragedies, but in a purely comedic manner. However, as they were written over a century after the Athenian Golden Age, it is not known whether dramatists such as Sophocles and Euripides would have thought about their plays in the same terms.

 Hellenistic period

The power of Athens declined following its defeat in the Peloponnesian War against the Spartans. From that time on, the theatre started performing old tragedies again. Although its theatrical traditions seem to have lost their vitality, Greek theatre continued into the Hellenistic period (the period following Alexander the Great‘s conquests in the fourth century BC). However, the primary Hellenistic theatrical form was not tragedy but ‘New Comedy‘, comic episodes about the lives of ordinary citizens. The only extant playwright from the period is Menander. One of New Comedy’s most important contributions was its influence on Roman comedy, an influence that can be seen in the surviving works of Plautus and Terence.

 Characteristics of the buildings

Ancient Greek theatre

The plays had a chorus of up to fifty[12] people, who performed the plays in verse accompanied by music, beginning in the morning and lasting until the evening. The performance space was a simple semi-circular space, the orchestra, where the chorus danced and sang. The orchestra, which had an average diameter of 78 feet, was situated on a flattened terrace at the foot of a hill, the slope of which produced a natural theatron, literally “watching place”. Later, the term “theatre” came to be applied to the whole area of theatron, orchestra, and skené. The choregos was the head chorus member who could enter the story as a character able to interact with the characters of a play.

A drawing of an ancient theatre. Terms are in Greek language and Latin letters.

The theatres were originally built on a very large scale to accommodate the large number of people on stage, as well as the large number of people in the audience, up to fourteen thousand. Mathematics played a large role in the construction of these theatres, as their designers had to be able to create acoustics in them such that the actors’ voices could be heard throughout the theatre, including the very top row of seats. The Greeks’ understanding of acoustics compares very favourably with the current state of the art, as even with the invention of microphones, there are very few modern large theatres that have truly good acoustics. The first seats in Greek theatres (other than just sitting on the ground) were wooden, but around 499 BC the practice of inlaying stone blocks into the side of the hill to create permanent, stable seating became more common. They were called the “prohedria” and reserved for priests and a few most respected citizens.

In 465 BC, the playwrights began using a backdrop or scenic wall, which hung or stood behind the orchestra, which also served as an area where actors could change their costumes. It was known as the skênê (from which the word “scene” derives). The death of a character was always heard behind the skênê, for it was considered inappropriate to show a killing in view of the audience. In 425 BC a stone scene wall, called a paraskenia, became a common supplement to skênê in the theatres. A paraskenia was a long wall with projecting sides, which may have had doorways for entrances and exits. Just behind the paraskenia was the proskenion. The proskenion (“in front of the scene”) was columned, and was similar to the modern day proscenium.

Greek theatres also had entrances for the actors and chorus members called parodoi. The parodoi (plural of parodos) were tall arches that opened onto the orchestra, through which the performers entered. In between the parodoi and the orchestra lay the eisodoi, through which actors entered and exited. By the end of the 5th century BC, around the time of the Peloponnesian War, the skênê, the back wall, was two stories high. The upper story was called the episkenion. Some theatres also had a raised speaking place on the orchestra called the logeion.

Scenic elements

There were several scenic elements commonly used in Greek theatre:

  • mechane, a crane that gave the impression of a flying actor (thus, deus ex machina).
  • ekkyklêma, a wheeled platform often used to bring dead characters into view for the audience
  • trap doors, or similar openings in the ground to lift people onto the stage
  • Pinakes, pictures hung to create scenery
  • Thyromata, more complex pictures built into the second-level scene (3rd level from ground)
  • Phallic props were used for satyr plays, symbolizing fertility in honor of Dionysus.

 Masks

Masks and ritual

Tragic Comic Masks Hadrian’s Villa mosaic.

The Ancient Greek term for and all the other things that are related mask is prosopon (lit., “face”),[13] and was a significant element in the worship of Dionysus at Athens, likely used in ceremonial rites and celebrations. Most of the evidence comes from only a few vase paintings of the 5th century BC, such as one showing a mask of the god suspended from a tree with decorated robe hanging below it and dancing and the Pronomos vase,[14] which depicts actors preparing for a Satyr play.[15] No physical evidence remains available to us, as the masks were made of organic materials and not considered permanent objects, ultimately being dedicated to the altar of Dionysus after performances. Nevertheless, the mask is known to have been used since the time of Aeschylus and considered to be one of the iconic conventions of classical Greek theatre.[16]

Masks were also made for members of the chorus, who help the audience know what a character is thinking. Although there are twelve members of the chorus, they all wear the same mask because they are considered to be representing one character.

 Mask details

Illustrations of theatrical masks from 5th century display helmet-like masks, covering the entire face and head, with holes for the eyes and a small aperture for the mouth, as well as an integrated wig. It is interesting to note that these paintings never show actual masks on the actors in performance; they are most often shown being handled by the actors before or after a performance, that liminal space between the audience and the stage, between myth and reality.[15] This demonstrates the way in which the mask was to ‘melt’ into the face and allow the actor to vanish into the role.[17] Effectively, the mask transformed the actor as much as memorization of the text. Therefore, performance in ancient Greece did not distinguish the masked actor from the theatrical character.

The mask-makers were called skeuopoios or “maker of the properties,” thus suggesting that their role encompassed multiple duties and tasks. The masks were most likely made out of light weight, organic materials like stiffened linen, leather, wood, or cork, with the wig consisting of human or animal hair.[18] Due to the visual restrictions imposed by these masks, it was imperative that the actors hear in order to orientate and balance themselves. Thus, it is believed that the ears were covered by substantial amounts of hair and not the helmet-mask itself. The mouth opening was relatively small, preventing the mouth to be seen during performances. Vervain and Wiles posit that this small size discourages the idea that the mask functioned as a megaphone, as originally presented in the 1960s.[15] Greek mask-maker, Thanos Vovolis, suggests that the mask serves as a resonator for the head, thus enhancing vocal acoustics and altering its quality. This leads to increased energy and presence, allowing for the more complete metamorphosis of the actor into his character.[19]

Mask functions

In a large open-air theatre, like the Theatre of Dionysus in Athens, the classical masks were able to bring the characters’ face closer to the audience, especially since they had intensely exaggerated facial features and expressions.[19] They enabled an actor to appear and reappear in several different roles, thus preventing the audience from identifying the actor to one specific character. Their variations help the audience to distinguish sex, age, and social status, in addition to revealing a change in a particular character’s appearance, e.g. Oedipus after blinding himself [20] Unique masks were also created for specific characters and events in a play, such as The Furies in AeschylusEumenides and Pentheus and Cadmus in EuripidesThe Bacchae. Worn by the chorus, the masks created a sense of unity and uniformity, while representing a multi-voiced persona or single organism and simultaneously encouraged interdependency and a heightened sensitivity between each individual of the group.

 Other costume details

The actors in these plays that had tragic roles wore boots called cothurnuses that elevated them above the other actors. The actors with comedic roles only wore a thin soled shoe called a sock. For this reason, dramatic art is sometimes alluded to as “Sock and Buskin.”

When playing female roles, the male actors donned a “prosterneda” (a wooden structure in front of the chest, to imitate female breasts) and “progastreda” in front of the belly.

Melpomene is the muse of tragedy and is often depicted holding the tragic mask and wearing cothurnus. Thalia is the muse of comedy and is similarly associated with the mask of comedy and comic’s socks.

By expressthrougharts Posted in Greece

Greek Poetry

Ancient Greek literature (before AD 350)

Ancient Greek literature refers to literature written in Ancient Greek from the oldest surviving written works in the Greek language until approximately the fifth century AD and the rise of the Byzantine Empire. The Greek language arose from the proto-Indo-European language, though roughly one-third of its words cannot be derived from various reconstructions of the tongue. A number of alphabets and syllabaries had been used to render Greek, but surviving Greek literature was written in a Phoenician-derived alphabet that arose primarily in Greek Ionia and was fully adopted by Athens by the fifth century BC.

 Preclassical

At the beginning of Greek literature stand the two monumental works of Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Though dates of composition vary, these works were fixed around 800 BC or after. The other great poet of the preclassical period was Hesiod. His two surviving works are Works and Days and Theogony. Some ancients thought Homer and Hesiod roughly contemporaneous, even rivals in contests, but modern scholarship raises doubts on these issues.

 Classical

A bust of Euripides.

In the classical period many of the genres of western literature became more prominent. Lyrical poetry, odes, pastorals, elegies, epigrams; dramatic presentations of comedy and tragedy; histories, rhetorical treatises, philosophical dialectics, and philosophical treatises all arose in this period. As the genres evolved, various expectations arose, such that a particular poetic genre came to require the Doric or Lesbos dialect.

The two major lyrical poets were Sappho and Pindar. The Classical era also saw the dawn of drama. Of the hundreds of tragedies written and performed during the classical age, only a limited number of plays by three authors have survived: Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.

Like tragedy, the comedy arose from a ritual in honor of Dionysus, but in this case the plays were full of frank obscenity, abuse, and insult. The surviving plays by Aristophanes are a treasure trove of comic presentation. Menander is considered the best of the writers of the New Comedy.

Two of the most influential historians who had yet lived flourished during Greece’s classical age: Herodotus and Thucydides. A third historian, Xenophon, began his “Hellenica” where Thucydides ended his work about 411 BC and carried his history to 362 BC.

The greatest prose achievement of the 4th century was in philosophy. Among the tide of Greek philosophy, three names tower above the rest: Socrates —even though he didn’t write anything himself, Plato, and Aristotle.

 Hellenistic

By 338 BC many of the key Greek cities had been conquered by Philip II of Macedon. Philip II’s son Alexander extended his father’s conquests greatly. The Greek colony of Alexandria in northern Egypt became, from the 3rd century BC, the outstanding center of Greek culture.

Later Greek poetry flourished primarily in the 3rd century BC. The chief poets were Theocritus, Callimachus, and Apollonius of Rhodes. Theocritus, who lived from about 310 to 250 BC, was the creator of pastoral poetry, a type that the Roman Virgil mastered in his Eclogues.

One of the most valuable contributions of the Hellenistic period was the translation of the Old Testament into Greek. The work was done at Alexandria and completed by the end of the 2nd century BC. The name Septuagint is from Latin septuaginta “seventy,” from the tradition that there were 72 scholars who did the work.

 Roman Age

The significant historians in the period after Alexander were Timaeus, Polybius, Diodorus Siculus, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Appian of Alexandria, Arrian, and Plutarch. The period of time they cover extended from late in the 4th century BC to the 2nd century AD.

Eratosthenes of Alexandria, who died about 194 BC, wrote on astronomy and geography, but his work is known mainly from later summaries. The physician Galen, in the history of ancient science, is the most significant person in medicine after Hippocrates, who laid the foundation of medicine in the 5th century BC.

The New Testament, written by various authors in varying qualities of Koine Greek hails from this period (1st to early 2nd century AD), the most important works being the Gospels and the Epistles of Saint Paul.

Patristic literature was written in the Hellenistic Greek of this period. Syria and Alexandria, especially, flourished.

 Byzantine (AD 290-1453)

Epic of Digenis Akritas, manuscript in the National Library of Greece.

Byzantine literature refers to literature of the Byzantine Empire written in Atticizing, Medieval and early Modern Greek.

If Byzantine literature is the expression of the intellectual life of the Byzantine Greeks during the Christian Middle Ages, then it is a multiform organism, combining Greek and Christian civilization on the common foundation of the Roman political system, set in the intellectual and ethnographic atmosphere of the Near East. Byzantine literature partakes of four different cultural elements: the Greek, the Christian, the Roman, and the Oriental, the character of which commingling with the rest. To Hellenistic intellectual culture and Roman governmental organization are added the emotional life of Christianity and the world of Oriental imagination, the last enveloping all the other three.[1]

Aside from personal correspondence, literature of this period was primarily written in the Atticizing style. Some early literature of this period was written in Latin; some of the works from the Latin Empire were written in French.

Chronicles, distinct from historic, arose in this period. Encyclopedias also flourished in this period.

Modern Greek (post 1453)

Adamantios Korais, major figure of the Greek Enlightenment.

Modern Greek literature refers to literature written in common Modern Greek, emerging from late Byzantine times in the 11th century AD. During this period, spoken Greek became more prevalent in the written tradition, as demotic Greek came to be used more and more over the Attic idiom and the katharevousa reforms.

The Cretan Renaissance poem Erotokritos is undoubtedly the masterpiece of this early period of modern Greek literature, and represents one of its supreme achievements. It is a verse romance written around 1600 by Vitsentzos Kornaros (1553–1613).

The Korakistika (1819), a lampoon written by Jakovakis Rizos Neroulos and directed against the Greek intellectual Adamantios Korais, is a major example of the Greek Enlightenment and emerging nationalism.

 Contemporary Greek literature

Contemporary Greek literature is usually (but not exclusively) written in monotonic orthography. Some of the most renowned representatives of modern Greek literature include:

By expressthrougharts Posted in Greece