Floor | Greek Art
Classical Art Gallery
The years before and after 500 BCE signified a social and cultural transformation for Greece: in 510, the tyrannical rule of the Peisistratid family in Athens came to an end. The concept of isonomia introduced by the aristocrat Kleisthenes reduced the influence of the nobility by giving all citizens equal political rights. For the first time, a great percentage of the population participated in the government, thus paving the way for the development of democracy in Athens. To be sure, this was limited to Athenian men: women, slaves, and immigrants were excluded. The victories over the Persians at Marathon (490), Salamis (480), and Plataea (479) created a new Greek identity. All of this is reflected in art. Sculpture propagated a new, self-determined image of humanity. Public monuments and buildings celebrated political achievements and above all, in Athens, democracy. In the tragedies and comedies performed at Athenian state festivals, myth and contemporary history were combined to shape civic identity.