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Exploring Greek Art: From Iron Age to Classical

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This course deals with sculpture, architecture, painted pottery and wall painting, placing them in their social, political and historical contexts.

We will focus on art and culture of Greece from the Bronze Age to the Byzantine period, but will also discuss topics such as gender and sexuality; burial and society; religion and iconography; landscape and the countryside.

Learning and teaching

Learning and teaching are undertaken by means of small group work.

This is a 10-credit course, so there will be two-hour meetings once a week (20 contact hours in all) which will include group discussion, exercises, source analysis and presentation of material on PowerPoint and DVD.

  1. Introduction: The Artistic and Cultural landscape of Greece
    Introduction to the main themes of the module and outline of the historical background and the most important literary sources.
  2. Bronze Age Art and Archaeology (3500-1100 BC): Crete and the Mainland
    Palaces, Art and Society. Discussion of the Minoan period, socio-political complexities, burials and art of the period. A closer look to art production in Knossos and Mycenae.
  3. From the Age of Iron (1100-700 BC) to the ‘Age of Experiment’ (700-480BC)
    Socio-political developments in the aftermath of the collapse of the Bronze Age Palaces.  Overview of developments in architecture, sculpture and pottery making in the iron Age and Archaic period.
  4. The Classical Period (479-323 BC): History and Culture
    Socio-political developments. Discussion of the changes in society and how they are reflected in the archaeology and art of the period.
  5. Classical Architecture and Sculpture
    The lesson will cover public Buildings and temples in sanctuaries such as Delphi, Olympia, and the Athenian Acropolis. Outline of the Stylistic Development of Classical sculpture, introducing the major artists and the textual evidence for them.
  6. Archaic and Classical Painting and Pottery
    Discusses the poor archaeological evidence we have for wall painting and the rich literary record. How vase painting fills in the gap. Discussion of techniques and iconography of vases. Painting in the Macedonian Tombs.
  7. The Art of the Hellenistic period (323 BC-146 BC)
    Introduction to the sculpture, architecture and painting of the Hellenistic period. Discussion of sites like Pella, Vergina, Dion.  Alexander the Great and his legacy.
  8. The Roman Conquest (146 BC-330 AD): What have Romans left behind?
    Changes in society and culture after the Roman conquest. A look at new cities like Nikopolis. The art of the period with emphasis on sculpture.
  9. Late Antiquity and Byzantium (330 AD- 1453 AD)
    This session concentrates on the painting and sculpture of Late Antiquity and Byzantine period and the major cultural and historical changes.
  10. The Built environment in the Byzantine period: House, Church and the Individual
    This session will look into vernacular and public architecture. We will look closely into Byzantine churches and discuss the impact of the major historical events on art.

The aim is ensure that the classes are enjoyable and stimulating for all. This will encourage the development of knowledge and understanding of the topics and ideas discussed in the course.

Coursework and assessment

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved. Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.

The most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning. Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

You will not have a formal examination but you will be asked to produce some written work (1500 words). This may include a set of short responses to questions (such as a questionnaire or quiz), an article review, a course journal, an oral presentation, or a more extended essay.

Reading suggestions

Key texts

  • Cormack, R. 2000. Byzantine Art. Oxford.
  • Herrin, 2007. J. Byzantium. London & New York.
  • Osborne, R. 1998. Archaic and Classical Greek Art .Oxford
  • Pedley, J.G. 1993. Greek Art and Archaeology. London
  • Preziosi, D. and L. Hitchcock. 1999. Aegean Art and Architecture. Oxford: Oxford University
  • Robertson, C.M. 1981. A Shorter History of Greek Art. Cambridge
  • Stewart, P. 2004. Roman Art. Oxford.
  • Whitley, J. 2001. The Archaeology of Ancient Greece .Cambridge

Recommended texts

  • Alcock, S.E.  and R. Osborne (eds), 2007. Classical Archaeology .Malden MA and Oxford 2007.
  • D'Ambra, E. 1998. Roman Art. Cambridge.
  • Davies, J.K. 1978. Democracy and Classical Greece .Glasgow.
  • Dickinson, O.T.P.K. 1994. The Aegean Bronze Age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Hurwit, J.M. 1985.The Art and Culture of Early Greece, 1100-480 BC. Ithaca NY
  • Hutter, I. 1971. Early Christian and Byzantine Art. London.
  • Jeffreys, E. et al. (eds). 2008. The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies. Oxford.
  • Osborne, R. 1987. Classical Landscape with Figures. London
  • Rodley, L. 1994. Byzantine Art and Architecture. An Introduction. London
  • Smith, T.J. & D. Plantzos. 2012. A companion to Greek Art. Blackwell.
  • J.J. Pollitt, 1972. Art and Experience in Classical Greece .Cambridge
  • J.J. Pollitt, 1990. The Art of Ancient Greece: Sources and Documents .Cambridge.

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.