Standards of beauty in the Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece, a civilization that never as no other before has given so much importance to the research of beauty and harmony, to the discover of ideal beauty and of the agreement that there is between it and the moral. In fact, in the Greek culture the aesthetic appearance has always had great consideration, and it has been associated, for several times, to the moral and other values such as justice and measure.

“THE FAIREST IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL”

– Oracle of Delphi

So, since in Ancient Greece the concept of beauty was associated to the idea of good, it is not so surprising see how the heroes and divinity of the Greek mythology were often characterized by a overwhelming beauty. Beauty that, especially in literature texts, was stereotyped to splendid candid complexion, crystalline blue eyes and golden blonde hair.

Not only, there were stereotypes about aesthetic beauty also in art and sculpture. The female body was represented with soft shapes, round buttocks, long legs, long and wavy hair and gentle face; and in the same way, also, the male body followed well defined standards of beauty: athletic physique, six-pack, muscular legs and omnipresent Greek nose. These were the aesthetic ideals of Greek beauty that were always been considered immortal and unchangeable. An example is the neoclassical art that brings back to light the elegant and sober exemplars of beauty belonging to Ancient Greek. But is it true that the aesthetic canons of that era are immortal?

Today’s society shows us how not many things are changed from the past, that the Greek ideal of beauty survives also in our days and it still have strong roots in our minds and in our civilization. There are still the same stereotypes. The male body is considered beautiful and handsome if it is slim and muscular, and a man that has vigorous physique is considered virile and attractive. Same for the female body, today as in the Ancient Greece, the beauty of a woman is appreciated if she has firm buttocks and bosoms, a face characterized by childish traits and mature features. The only thing that change, talking about the ideal female body, is the size. The rounded, soft and prosperous shapes of the antiquity are now replaced by a size two.

ANDY : So none of the girls here eat anything?

NIGEL : Not since two became new four and zero became the new two.

-“THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA”

Old and new standards of beauty come together and, even if today the Greek world and its beauty ideal, especially for women, seams too far away from us, it is not like this.

We just have to considered that, according to Pythagoras the ideal of beauty was associated to ideas of symmetry and proportions, as today we think that a body to be perfect has to follow certain measures and ideal body basis.

What is mutated is the concept of “kalòs kài agathòs”, that means the combination between beauty and goodness that have characterized the Homer heroes of the Greek mythology.

Plato, returning to what Pythagoras said about mathematical concepts, amplify the prospective and classify the beauty following a hierarchy where: at the bottom there was the physical beauty and at the top the beauty itself. The physical beauty was the one which he criticized, defining it as pure appearance; the body was for him a prison for the soul. For the philosopher the beauty did not refer just to the beauty of the bodies, that he rejected, but he extended it also to other moral and civic virtues. And, if we look at it, what he condemned is what condemn us today; everyone of us is imprisoned in its own body. Only what appears is taken into account, and as a consequence, it is what we really care about. The physical aspect takes over the rest and make us slaves of a society that always tries to find the perfect beauty.

So why can’t we stop to look back at ancient Greek world to understand that beauty is not just a quality of the body but also of the soul: it is an harmonious mix between aesthetic and moral.

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