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The Ancient World: Art of Ancient Times

The art of ancient times is not merely a story of dead people and civilizations gone forever. Filled with contradictions, tragedies, and moments of glory, it reveals the lives of former generations, which define current customs and traditions. Moreover, the striking similarities in various aspects emphasize its importance in understanding today’s world and finding the right character development directions. From Ancient Greece and Rome, the issues of life and death, wealth and poverty, women’s role in society, and attitude towards certain illegal activities have been among the pressing ones. Studying classical art encourages people to raise relevant questions and search for answers to them, therefore improving their moral image.

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The first topic deserving specific attention is the attitude towards women and their role in social life. Despite the common opinion of male dominancy in ancient times, Haynes mentions that women are “woven into the fabric” of the major stories. It is fascinating to see their significance thousands of years ago. The women were the inspiration for their men, the reasons for bloody wars like Helen, and the symbol of peaceful life presented by Penelope. Even the most extraordinary building of Ancient Greece is named Parthenon, meaning “virgin, unmarried woman” (An Introduction to the Parthenon and Its Sculptures). On the other hand, a relatively different story is painted by some women’s actual living conditions in the Roman Empire. Visiting the ancient brothel in the recovered Pompeii, one might notice the terrible conditions in which those girls worked and their dingy rooms reminding prison cells (Pompeii: Life and Death with Mary Beard. Timeline 00:27:15-00:29:00). Thus, the reflections of such different attitudes teach the new generations not to repeat past errors and ensure that women occupy the deserved place in society.

Another valuable topic raised by the art of ancient times is the issue of wealth and poverty. Many would traditionally believe that Greece or Rome were the countries characterized by extreme social divisions with the rich enjoying abundant treasures and the poor lacking food and essential resources. However, this is a stereotype, and the true story is substantially different. The study of human remains in Pompeii demonstrated no signs of any nutrition deficiency, meaning that everybody had had the opportunities to stay healthy (Pompeii: Life and Death with Mary Beard. Timeline 00:30:00-00:31:00). Moreover, poor people and even slaves had the chance for significant advancements in society. A perfect example is an emperor’s doctor whose name suggests that he was initially a slave. Finally, at the moment of death, the rich and the poor were found in the same cellar trying to escape from the overwhelming natural force. Everybody tried to help each other, and no locks were present to keep the safe harbor free for the elite. That is a good lesson of genuine compassion and collaboration for wealthy people in today’s world.

A fascinating aspect of ancient art is the level of intelligence conveyed by it. The reconstruction of the Parthenon demonstrated the outstanding technological advancement of Greek architecture. They produced thousands of marble pieces with the precision of tenths of a centimeter, which is about the hair width (Secrets of the Parthenon 00:11:00-00:12:00). Moreover, the optical refinements and ideal proportions could nowadays be reconstructed only using modern computer technologies. Besides, the knowledge was not the privilege of only a few people. As demonstrated by the Pompeii recoveries, even the ordinary citizens had a good view of the world surrounding them. Nowadays, over two millennia past those times, many countries’ trend is in providing higher education only for a narrow group of people capable of paying for it. Thus, ancient times offer a substantially more humanistic approach, in which knowledge was available to everyone, and intelligence was a highly reputable value in society.

Finally, classical art inherently raises questions of life and death, along with a compassionate attitude towards others. Pompeii’s example reminds everyone of the unconquerable forces of nature, which could bring an end to cities and civilizations. Still, it provides some good examples of humanism and willingness to support the weak. Among the findings made in the cellar, there were remains of twins, one of whom suffered from a severe disease, possibly syphilis (Pompeii: Life and Death with Mary Beard. Timeline 00:21:45-00:23:30). It is worth noting that such a person was not rejected from the refuge, even being one of the poor. On the contrary, evidence suggests that he received years of medical care. This glance at the social and family support shows the high level of humanity achieved by the community. In the end, rich and poor, old and young, male and female lay in the same grave close to each other. This tragic story reminds us of the genuine values of compassion and moral integrity, which should guide anyone’s life.

Reviewing the aforementioned, it is reasonable to mention that ancient art addresses the variety of issues important in today’s world. It teaches a valuable lesson of the right approach to wealth distribution in the community, showing that everybody had the primary resources for ensuring health and well-being even thousands of years ago. This was supplemented by general education and the desire to bring up knowledgeable people. The provision of deserved opportunities for representatives of various social layers would be a proper step in modern development. Therefore, raising the questions of equality and the right attitude towards others, life, and death, compassion, and punishment, the ancient art makes the modern generation inherently more humane.

Stereotypes

Stereotypes are a crucial aspect in determining anyone’s attitude towards other people and events. Being generally accepted as accurate, they provide certain initial points of view for a person to make further judgments before obtaining comprehensive information on the subject. However, playing the role of a universally applicable guide, such stereotypes often lead to misunderstanding the real characteristics and personalities. This statement is exceptionally accurate when the relations between various sexes are concerned due to the numerous prejudices in this area. The traditional approach pictures women as emotional, while men are considered to be rational and cool-headed. Still, such attitudes are an excessively broad generalization, and their use in personal relations is most likely to be an unfavorable and destructive factor.

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On the one hand, women are often crucially different from the stereotype, picturing them as mostly emotional and intuitive. Many of them have reached senior positions within state administrations and commercial companies, where being logical and smooth-tempered is an essential part of the job. A perfect example would be Margaret Thatcher, who served as the British prime minister for the longest time in the twentieth century and became known for her strict management style and uncompromising policies. Moreover, even in Ancient times, when the society was predominantly masculine, and women’s role was rigorously defined, their characteristics were different from the given preconceived notion. The Greeks’ symbol of wisdom was their highly-venerated goddess Athena, who was also painted like a warrior (Beard). Besides, Homer described several of his female characters like the ones engaging in traditionally male affairs and exerting the relevant qualities. The Amazons and their queen were among the greatest combatants, and Hecuba became known for planning and implementing an act of cruel and well-arranged revenge for her murdered son. Thus, the traditional generalization of women characters has proven itself completely inappropriate.

On the other hand, men are supposed to exert the qualities of bravery and rationality. It would seem likely that traditional art should support such a point of view. Indeed, the review of ancient epics shows men as heroic characters bravely fighting against their enemies. However, a more detailed study reveals that their image is not that flawless. For example, Achilles, who was among the most prominent Greek heroes of the Trojan War, was often directed by rage and emotions. Being offended by King Agamemnon, he refused to participate in the combat and even sent his friend in his armor, who would further die. Today, when men’s regular duties require significantly less courage and physical strength, their characters change even more. Unfortunately, numerous stories of rage outbursts and crimes of passion committed by men have become evidence of such a trend. Therefore, men should also not be characterized as always rational and logical per the existing stereotype.

As the discussion above shows, neither men nor women satisfy the given perceptions of their characters. All people are individuals with their specific traits, points of view, and lifestyles. Besides, personal interactions, especially romantic ones, constitute a powerful force changing anyone’s behavior, and their effects should not be underestimated. Thus, judging the other one by an existing stereotype means failing to reveal the true personality, which is a proven and dependable way to destroy any relationship.

Parthenon in Athens

Among the numerous monuments of ancient art, one stands out for the perfection of its shape and implementation, for the symbolism of its creation, and its further tragic history. It is the Parthenon in Athens, which was built in the V century BC to demonstrate the power of the empire and the advancements of its social organization. The article providing an overview of the temple and the film about the story of its reconstruction and the engineering marvels of its design deserves a specific review.

The article by the British Museum gives a general overview of the Parthenon and its history (An Introduction to the Parthenon and Its Sculptures). Naming the monument a centerpiece of the Acropolis emphasizes its importance as a symbol of the Golden Age of Athens. An interesting finding is related to the contents of the frieze running around the building. Unlike the existing traditions of displaying gods and myth heroes, it contained images of the ordinary people in the way they wanted to be remembered by the generations. Besides, the author gives some insight into the complicated further history of the temple. Mentioning thousands of years of looting and conversions, the article provides the tragic story of destruction without going much into its causes. Further developing this theme, it may be noted that throughout centuries Parthenon also became a symbol of reckless attitude of people towards their art masterpieces.

The ideas provided in the article are further developed by the video, which is specifically worth noting for two valuable aspects (Secrets of the Parthenon). First, it gives a view of the monument as an embodiment of democracy, which was the highest advancement of Greek society. The decision on every building was made through a popular vote. That could also explain the previously mentioned freeze content as the ordinary people had both the desire and the power to immortalize themselves. Second, the author dwells on the engineering marvels of the temple. Mentioning that it took over thirty years to restore the monument built within eight or nine years, the author praises the achievements of the Greeks. Moreover, the precision of the building and the brilliance of the optical refinement system are recognized to be unmatched even with all the modern technologies. It is fascinating how people could make such accomplishments over two thousand years ago. Although the topic is not covered in the video, the most probable answer is education, making Parthenon a tribute to it.

Combined, the article and the video discussed above paint a story of the outstanding monument. Its height and width are an evocation of the ideal proportions derived from the human body. The timeline of its creation and the sad picture of its further destruction, which are so well revealed in the given sources, make it a symbol of both achievements and recklessness. Constituting the true icon of western civilization, Parthenon has become the most copied structure throughout the world, with its lines recognizable in the US Supreme Court, the French Parliament, and numerous other buildings.

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Works Cited

Haynes, Natalie. “Women and Goddesses of the Trojan War.” The British Museum. 2019, Web.

Beard, Mary. “5 Powerful Women in Ancient Greece and Rome.” The British Museum. 2017, Web.

“An Introduction to the Parthenon and Its Sculptures.” The British Museum. 2018, Web.

“Secrets of the Parthenon.” YouTube, uploaded by Carmen. 2015, Web.

“Pompeii: Life and Death with Mary Beard. Timeline.” YouTube, uploaded by Timeline – World History Documentaries, 2018, Web.

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