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Personification, Symbolism and Convention Analysis in Ancient Greek

The Ancient Greece has relation with many literary works, especially English Literature, our material which is being studied now. It is caused by its art that influented areas in Europe. In this paper we will show you about the Ancient Greece issues based on Religion and Art in Ancient Greece  by Ernest A. Gardner , in chapter VII.

The conquest of Alexander made the language and civilization spread over the eastern world  including the artistic of Greek  pantheon which then had been modified by local belief and other influence. In the result, Greek civilization, which is famous with its religion and art was very essential in the region.
Hellenistic, the important point of this issues. Hellenistic is sourced from Hellen, terminology which is used by greek  to mention their ethnic. Johann Gustav Droysen, historical expert from Germany said that it refers to the spreading of Greece civilization to other nation which was’t subjected by Alexander The Great. There are two tendencies in Hellenistic and GrĒ½co-Roman : academic generalization and excessive realism. For illustration, theatrical art was combined with academic work  and throughout are to be seen traces of eclecticism. Traditions in the fourth and fifth century was not lost, but they had succeeded to mix it with new inspiration and other sources. What’s the new ? What’s happened in Greece ? They will be explained below.

Alexander and personification in Hellenistic
            Hellenistic age not only the traditions of earlier art, but the direct influence of master of the fourth century, the Praxitelean cult of beauty for its own sake, the passion and dramatic force of Scopas, and the preference for allegorical subjects and for statues of colossal size, in the art of Lysippus.
            Personification had been seen, indeed. For example, in the statue of Cephisodotus of Peace nursing the infant. In the same way, there was interesting thing, the name of city that was influenced by art religious in the fifth century. Athena, for example, as the goddess of the city. The goddess was, indeed, in some ways  representative of what was best in her chosen people; but she was not a mere symbol of its character and its greatness. She existed before it, and would continue though it should disappear from the earth, unlike with the fortune of Antioch, whose very existence was bound up with that of the city.
            Though some examples of this occur earlier, especially in the case of heroes or founders of cities, these are not placed on a founder of cities. But the surprising fact that Alexander, the man who was brave in war and strong to enlarge his conquest, made him able to take superhuman achievement so that Alexander was plaed on a level of gods. After welcoming his advent at the same time as that of Demeter, the poet addresses him thus :

“ Other gods are either far away, or have no ears, or they exist not, or have no care for us. But we see thee, a present deity, not of wood or stone, but real; therefore we pray to thee. “

            So, we can say that the original gods that was venerated by Greek was starting to shift to be new inspiration. From Alexander as we know that he is called “The Great” was the realy human not other gods before that there was a transformation to human form. It was occurred by his marvelous.
            Another personification may be seen in the recumbent figures of river-gods ―notably that of the Nile, with his sixteen cubits, as babies, playing around him. River-gods were indeed an object of worship from early times in Gree, and so appear on coins and elsewhere; but this figure of the Nile is not like the earlier gods, who were  looked upon as the givers of increase and fertility; it is a mere allegorical impersonation of the river. And the attributes and accessories of such a figure, the crocodile and hippopotamus, the sphinx and corn and horn of plenty, are all of them symbolic allusion such as are suitable to such a frigid personification.

Symbolism and convention
            The addition of new and strange divinities which cult is often mixed with magic or mystic rites is the symbolism in Greece. Then from this symbolism as the feature of convention. Starting from a  belief, such as is common to many primitive religions in superhuman  power or sanctity of certain  object, were enable by their vivid anthropomorphic imagination first to think of the gods as in  like form to themselves, and then to make their images in human shape.
            And as their art progressed towards the power of making a physical type of perfect beauty to serve as the means of expression of this “human from divine” and also to skill in expressing character by means of human figure and feature. It became possible for them to embody in their great statues the various ideals of divinity which belonged to their gods.


            According to all issues that we have read above, these are the conclusion of this chapter.
  • Personification refers to the realization of greek traditions, including statue,gods and anthropomorphism.
  • Greek had a movement concept from gods in earlier to new inspiration of gods. Gods which is transformed to human form, then it was changed. Alexander, for example, was the divine human form and real physicaly.
  • Symbolism refers to fact evidence that was occurred in the symbol was regarded as a mere convention.

* This material had been presented in my Background of English Literature Class successfuly by my group


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    The writer has attention towards Linguistics. It makes him focus on Linguistic research since he was in Bachelor Degree. He is now studying in Master of Linguistics. He is a researcher staff and Literature Division in "Balai Penelitian dan Kajian Sosial". He always watches and participates in many events, then writes them in this blog. He also develops his talent in music with Solo Jazz Society, a Jazz community in Solo, Indonesia. So, enjoy....!! Thanks

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