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Essay on Altar of Zeus: New Style to Old Ideas

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Hellenistic art, let alone architecture, was a period of dramatic transformations that deterred greatly from the Greek Classical period. While the Classical Greek concepts were not entirely abandoned, the Hellenistic period expanded the formal horizons with dramatic posing, sweeping lines, and high contrast of light, shadow and emotion, something greatly different from the Classical artists ideas. The conventions and rules of the Classical period gave way to experimentation and a sense of freedom that allowed the artists of the Hellenistic period to explore their subjects from unique points of view that they had not previously done. The Altar to Zeus in Pergamon is the perfect representation of the Hellenistic period. Pergamon contained the Altar to Zeus in the same way that the Athenian Acropolis contained the Parthenon and is considered by the Greek art historian Gisela Richter to be “the most famous altar of Hellenistic times” (Handbook 32). The Altar of Pergamon is uniquely suited as an ideal example of 2nd century Greek culture that is tied to the ideals of the people, and shows off Hellenistic characteristics that define the time just as the Parthenon is a staple in the Classical period. [Stokstad]
The Altar of Zeus currently is on display in Berlin, Germany for anyone to see and it is assumed that the temple was dedicated to Zeus or its purpose, in addition to being a tribute to the Zeus/the gods, was most used for celebration of the Pergamene people over anyone who opposed them. As Richter explains,
“The altar in an open precinct preceded the temple as a place of worship and later remained an essential adjunct of the temple, being placed either inside it, or more commonly outside, facing the entrance. Generally it was ...


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...the Athenian Parthenon’s in some ways its powerful imagery has caused it to be acknowledged it as one of the most wonderful examples of Hellenistic art and architecture.



Works Cited

Cothren, Michael W. "Art of the Ancient Near East." Art History Ancient Art. By Marilyn Stokstad. Fourth ed. Print.

Onians, John. Art and Thought in the Hellenistic Age: The Greek World View 350-50 B.C. London: Thames and Hudson, Ltd., 1979.

Richter, Gisela M. A. A Handbook of Greek Art. London: Phaidon Press, 1967.

---The Sculpture and Sculptors of the Greeks. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1930.

Sakoulas, Thomas. "The Parthenon Frieze." Ancient Greece. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. .

Sakoulas, Thomas. "The Parthenon." Ancient Greece. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. .


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