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Dimitris Plantzos

After a long hiatus following the collapse of the palatial civilizations of the Bronze Age, wall and panel painting was reintroduced to Greece during the Early Iron Age. The first archaeological finds date from the advanced 7th century bce and include mural fragments and clay plaques used to decorate temples. Early examples (down to the early 5th century bce) are polychrome, with strong outlines and flatly painted surfaces without any sense of volume or depth of field. Their themes are often taken from myth, contemporary warfare, and religious rituals; inscriptions are customarily used to name the figures or scenes depicted.A series of breakthroughs occurred in the 5th century bce. Composition became more sophisticated, an innovation attributed to Polygnotus of Thasos; shading and tonal contouring were introduced toward the end of the century, allegedly invented by Apollodorus of Athens. Painters often acquired high social status, as we may infer from stories about Zeuxis of Heraclea or Parrhasius of Ephesus. According to later authorities, the 4th century bce saw the greatest achievements of Greek painting and some works from this era, mostly from burial monuments, survive.


Under Philip II, son of Amyntas III, king of Macedon between 360/59 and 336 bce, one of the greatest transformations in ancient Greek history took place. What had so far been a peripheral area gained hegemony over most of the Greek world. The historical premises for the conquest of the Persian empire and the birth of the Hellenistic world were established, as Philip planned the Greek-Macedonian campaign against Persia, which was led, after his death, by his son Alexander III (“the Great”). Philip left his successors the permanent heritage of a revolutionary military reform, an effective ruling class, and a hegemonic system based on the combination of royal government and civic autonomy.

Ancient authors associated the age of Philip II and Alexander (3) “the Great” with one of the most impressive turning points in ancient history. In little more than thirty years a previously irrelevant region first gained the leadership of the entire Greek world, then conquered a veritable world empire. Such an impressive development was hard to imagine at the time when Philip took power.