Greek, Etruscan & Roman Art: The Classical Collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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The Prehistoric Civilizations of
Greece and Crete

THE Aegean civilizations of the prehistoric era endured even longer than the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome, ca. 6000-1100 B.C. Though their historical pace is leisurely in comparison, much of their art can stand unashamedly with the best of classical art.

The explorations of Dr. Heinrich Schliemann at Mycenae in 1876 and of Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos from 1900 on revealed the wealth and power of these Mainland and Cretan cultures for the first time. Since then a number of excavations have defined the successive cultural phases of Aegean prehistory for these five thousand years, phases which range from tentative Neolithic attempts at organizing village life to the brilliant cosmopolitanism of the late Bronze Age.

From the name of Minos, who according to Greek tradition, was king of Knossos and ruled the Aegean with his fleet, Evans proposed the name "Minoan" for the culture of Crete in the Bronze Age, with nine subdivisions: Early Minoan I, II, and III (ca. 2700-1900 B.C.), Middle Minoan I, II, and III (ca. 1900-1580 B.C.), and Late Minoan I, II, and III (ca. 1580-1100). A similar though not identical scheme of "Helladic" periods for the Mainland of Greece and "Cycladic" periods for the Aegean islands has come into common use.1 At the distant end of history the Neolithic or Late Stone Age, before the Bronze Age, has again been subdivided into Early and Late; at the close of the Bronze Age the declining phases of Minoan and Helladic culture are called Subminoan or Submycenaean.

Crete itself lies on the main trade routes between Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Anatolia, and Greece, so that foreign styles and techniques are often influential in the formation of its own highly individual art. Since Crete was never invaded, being protected as well as linked to the outer world by its surrounding seas, Minoan civilization developed rapidly from ca. 2700-1400 B.C., freely choosing whatever it found attractive in Egyptian and Mesopotamian art. The Greek Mainland, on the other hand, was subjected to a series of semi-barbaric invasions from the North and East, so that its artistic development is characterized by sudden spurts and setbacks. The Cyclades Islands have been less thoroughly explored than the other two areas of Aegean culture, but they seem to

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1
See the chronological chart at the beginning of this book.

-11-

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Greek, Etruscan & Roman Art: The Classical Collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Preface ix
  • Contents xiii
  • The Classical Collection 1
  • Bibliography 6
  • The Prehistoric Civilizations of Greece and Crete 11
  • The Early Iron Age 28
  • The Period of Oriental Influence 36
  • The Archaic Period 46
  • The Fifth Century: First Half 85
  • The Fifth Century: Second Half 118
  • The Fourth Century 137
  • Hellenistic and Graeco-Roman Periods 165
  • The Art of the Etruscans 189
  • Roman Art 217
  • Greek and Roman Textiles 278
  • Index 285
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