In Classical Greece, young girls usually grew up in the care of a nurse (25.78.26) and spent most of their time in the gynaikon, the women’s quarters of the house located on an upper floor. The gynaikon was where mothers nursed their children and engaged in spinning thread and weaving (31.11.10). In addition to childbearing, the weaving of fabric and managing the household were the principal responsibilities of a Greek woman. Young women, however, had some mobility in antiquity. For example, retrieving water from the local fountain house was considered not only a woman’s task, but it also offered a woman the opportunity to socialize with other women outside of the house. It was also the responsibility of women to visit the tombs of family members. Typically, they brought offerings and tied sashes around the grave stelai, a custom that is well attested on a number of white-ground Greek lekythoi. Women could attend public speeches and visit certain sanctuaries, such as those of Artemis at Brauron and the Sanctuary of the Nymph at the foot of the Akropolis. However, during any occasion outside of the house, a young woman was expected to be inconspicuous and to be covered around the head to obscure most of her face and neck.
Rising above the typical city-state (or polis) of ancient Greece was a high but accessible hill that functioned at various times in its history as a citadel or sanctuary (and, often, both), a place of refuge and a focus of religious life—an acropolis (literally, high city or city on the height). Although some acropoleis (such as Corinth’s) are geologically more impressive, none is more culturally or historically significant than the Acropolis of Athens.
The agora was the central square in the Greek polis, the setting for political meetings, markets, cults, public entertainment, and civic commemoration. The root meaning of the word is political, derived from the verb agoreuein, to speak in assembly. As a designated space the agora is likely to be as old as the Greek polis, for even the small populations of very early settlements required a central meeting place. The first references occur in epic poetry, where the word denotes an urban space held in common and frequented by male citizens (Odyssey 2.6–257). In its physical form this Homeric agora consisted of a level area brought to life by human activity, and when buildings were added to the agora in later times, the free space continued to be essential. In Homer’s description of the scenes on the shield of Achilles, a city’s elders decide a dispute in the agora while sitting on stones that are arranged in a circle around the two contesting parties (Iliad 18.497–508). The poetic image of a circular political gathering place probably reflects the real existence of such spaces, for several round meeting places of later date have come to light (Metapontum, Paestum, Acragas). Yet even in Homeric times the agora was a multivalent gathering place, not just a political center. In the Odyssey, Homer locates the agora of Scheria , the imaginary polis of the Phaeacians, at the harbor where it would have been a center of maritime commerce, and the same space is also the setting for athletic contests (Odyssey 8.1–198).
Representations of the pharaohs in Egyptian statuary, known from the Early Dynastic to the Roman period had many functions: propagandistic, religious, didactic, commemorative, magical, and decorative. Found in temples, tombs, palaces and—exceptionally—private homes, they are made of various materials: most frequently stone, and less frequently wood, metals, or faience. The surfaces of the statues were usually painted, or sometimes overlaid with gold foil, but only a few statues now have parts of this coating. Like other cult objects, royal statues were believed to be endowed with life, which was granted through the Opening the Mouth ceremony.
The origins of portraiture in ancient Egypt no doubt lie in the belief in eternal life. In the early phases of Egyptian history known collectively as the Predynastic period, there were attempts to preserve the body. In the Old Kingdom, the cadaver was wrapped in linen that was stiffened with resin or plaster. Lifelike details were molded or modeled, creating a sculpture from the body. Throughout Egyptian history, the ever-increasing elaboration of funerary equipment reveals the desire to prepare the deceased for eternity; tomb sculptures represent a personal ideological imperative that preserves the identity of the deceased as a self-presentation of a virtuous life, both to the deities and to humans.
The Academy was a public gymnasium in northwest Athens. Plato taught there, and the Academy remained the centre of Platonic philosophizing until the first century bc. Hence the term ‘Academy’ came to be used to designate Plato’s school; members of the school were called ‘Academics’. (And hence, ultimately, the modern use of the words to describe intellectual institutions and their members.)
Tutankhamun’s Tomb lies in the central area of the Valley of the Kings at Thebes, where it now bears the number KV 62. It was originally made for a private individual, but pressed into service as a royal tomb when Tutankhamun died with his own intended tomb incomplete. It comprises a passageway leading to an antechamber, off which opens a storeroom. To the right is a large room, running at a right angle to the first chamber, its floor lying around a meter lower. This difference in levels was intended to provide sufficient clearance for the items placed in it, surrounding the king’s quartzite sarcophagus.
Most ancient Greek pottery forms were made primarily for local use and are found almost exclusively near where they were produced. Local coarse wares, used primarily in the household, are ubiquitous. A few fine wares, such as Corinthian and Attic, were widely distributed in the Mediterranean at different times and are exceptions. The Etruscans, in particular, were fond of painted Attic pottery for their graves. The provenances of vases sent abroad provide valuable evidence for trade routes. Transport amphorae, the most important of the undecorated vases, are often found in shipwrecks and provide the most useful information.
Awareness of Classical Greek sculpture (ca. 480–330 B.C.) was for many centuries based upon ancient literary texts describing works of art and statues produced during the Roman Empire that were identified as copies or originals of ancient Greek sculpture. Direct knowledge of Classical sculpture based upon examples found in Greece only began in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries when works like the sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens and the Temple of Apollo at Bassae were brought to the attention of scholars, at times overturning the picture that they had formed indirectly of Greek art. Since that time archaeological investigation has produced a more complete picture of Classical Greek sculpture, a picture that is still developing.