7 PROTOGEOMETRIC AND GEOMETRIC ART

The history of Greek poetry before Homer is at best a reconstruction from various pieces of evidence; the literature itself is lost. For art we are in a better position, since, besides other isolated survivals, we have a continuous series of decorated pottery bridging the period between the full glory of the Mycenaean palaces and the new flowering of Greek archaic art in the seventh century, and pottery is in no sense a minor art. Even the less attractive products of the Minoan and Mycenaean potter were evidently highly prized, since they not only travelled to distant places but were preserved there long after their date of fabrication.1 The same was true of Attic Protogeometric pottery which, as we have seen, rapidly spread over the Greek world and beyond, and very early also the new ceramic products of Ionia are found far away from their place of manufacture. Pottery in Athens was a major art now as later; but for us its contribution is even more important now than later, because for the dark centuries no literature survives and we have not even records, as we have for the Mycenaean age. Yet Attic pottery faithfully preserves the memory of a spiritual revolution, a new pride in craftsmanship, a new feeling, therefore, for the function of the vase and its parts, a new organization of its decoration in ever more complicated systems, and in the eighth century the reintroduction of figure decoration with entirely new principles of stylization.

Two main subjects claim our attention, because both of them may tell us something about the poet as well as about the artist. The first is the composition of abstract designs into a rhythmical decoration related to the shape of the vase. The history of composition can be traced from the late Mycenaean period through Sub- Mycenaean and Protogeometric to Geometric. The vase-painter

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1
Cf. above p. 30.

-187-

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