Ancient aesthetics

Aesthetics were of great importance to much of the ancient world.

Plato and Aristotle, School of Athens. Raffaello Sanzio.[1]

Aesthetics Definition and HistoryEdit

Aesthetics is defined as the perception of art, design or beauty.[2] Aesthetics is derived from the Greek word "aisthetikos" [3] defined as a perception of the senses.[4] In aesthetics, there is a process of individual analysis, perception and imagination.[5] Perception is defined as an individual's neurophysiological process of awareness and interpreting external stimuli.[6] Therefore, aesthetics is highly subjective and differs by individual.[7]

Aesthetics can also be used as a synonym to define taste or style[3] encapsulating artistic expression and activities such as rhetoric, tone, harmony, painting, composition art and music.[5] Aesthetics also encapsulates the look, feel, or sound of natural forms.[5] Aesthetics also encompasses the science of how an individual or a society perceives, feels, senses or knows an external stimuli.[6]

As a philosophy, aesthetics was developed in 18th century Germany by Emmanuel Kant.[8] However, Greek and Roman philosophers such as Aristotle[9] and Plato [10] engaged in the rhetorical debate of aesthetic perception and properties as a separate branch of philosophy in defining the parameters of art and beauty.[8][8] Ancient aesthetics shows the origin of aesthetic debate and influences modern aesthetic definitions.[5]

Ancient civilizationEdit

Ancient is defined as an early historical period that is identified by the oldest known civilizations.[11] Ancient history is the study of life and events during this period.[11]

Civilizations that fall under classification of ancient are: Ancient Greece (800 B.C. and 500 B.C.), the Incas (1438 A.D – 1532 A.D.), the Aztecs (1345 A.D – 1521 A.D), the Romans (550 B.C. – 465 B.C.), the Persians (550 B.C. – 465 B.C.), Chinese civilization (1600 B.C.E. – 1046 B.C.E.), Mayan civilization (2600 B.C. – 900 A.D.), Ancient Egypt (3100 B.C.E. – 2686 B.C.E.), Indus Valley civilization (3300 B.C. – 1900 B.C.) and Mesopotamia (3500 B.C. – 500 B.C.) [12]

Ancient Greek aestheticsEdit

Bronze Zeus or Poseidon. Athens, Greece.[13]

Ancient or archaic Greece is the time period between 800 B.C. and 500 B.C.[14]


Beauty in ancient Greece (800 – 300 B.C.E.) was referred to as κάλλος. The history of ancient Greek aesthetics spans centuries. Philosophical theories of beauty through this era are proportion, functionality and form.[8]

Greeks GodsEdit

Influence of beauty was derived from the gods.[8] who took a divine human form and inspired their perception of beauty. Temples were created to worship gods contained their lifelike images.[15]


Ancient Greeks focused on the aesthetic form of the ideal human body.[15] captured through the art.[16] Sculptures were initially inspired by the monumental art of the Ancient Egyptians.[15] Sculptures were considered at their peak of aesthetics when the human form was captured in a unique way and emphasized a divine or godlike quality. Proportion, poise and perfection of the human form were the artistic and aesthetic ideals.[17] Stone and bronze monuments are iconic of this civilization.[17]

Ancient Egyptian aestheticsEdit

Ancient Egyptian Art and Beauty.[18]


Ancient Egyptians regarded physical beauty of the utmost importance and performed rituals to enhance their appearance.[19] Recovered artifacts support ancient Egyptian beauty ideals[20] including makeup, copper and silver handheld mirrors, and combs. Makeup was created using siltstones palettes to grind minerals such as green malachite or kohl.[20] Human hair was used to create extensions and wigs.[20] Jewelry enhanced beauty such as a string of beads and carnelian pendants in the shape of poppy heads.[20]

The afterlife and tombsEdit

The Ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife. Tombs were created for the dead and decorated with the highest form of their aesthetic principles.[21] Mummy masks and coffins emphasized painted eyes lined with dramatic black outlines.[20]


  1. ^ Sanzio, Raphael (November 15, 2018). "Crooped of The "School of Athens"". Wikipedia Commons.
  2. ^ Shelley, James (2017), Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), "The Concept of the Aesthetic", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2017 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2018-11-15
  3. ^ a b "What is Aesthetics?". The Interaction Design Foundation. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  4. ^ "Aesthetics – By Branch / Doctrine – The Basics of Philosophy". Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  5. ^ a b c d "Greek and Roman Aesthetics – Classics – Oxford Bibliographies – obo". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  6. ^ a b "perception | Definition of perception in English by Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries | English. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  7. ^ Faucault, Michael (November 10, 2018). "Aesthetics, Methods and Epistemology" (PDF). monoskop.
  8. ^ a b c d e Celkyte, Aiste. "Ancient Aesthetics". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
  9. ^ Sartwell, Crispin (2017), Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), "Beauty", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2017 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2018-11-15
  10. ^ Leszl, Walter G. (2006-10-01). "Plato's attitude to poetry and the fine arts, and the origins of aesthetics". Études platoniciennes (3): 245–336. doi:10.4000/etudesplatoniciennes.997. ISSN 2275-1785.
  11. ^ a b "Definition of ANCIENT". Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  12. ^ "List of ancient civilizations". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  13. ^ "User:Jebulon – Wikimedia Commons". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  14. ^ "Ancient Greece". HISTORY. Retrieved 2018-11-14.
  15. ^ a b c "How Art Made the World . Episodes . More Human than Human . Ancient Greece and the Naked Body | PBS". Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  16. ^ "How Art Made the World . Episodes . More Human than Human . Ancient Greece and the Naked Body | PBS". Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  17. ^ a b "Ancient Greek Sculpture". Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  18. ^ "User:Estere13 – Wikimedia Commons". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  19. ^ "BBC – History: Egyptians". Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  20. ^ a b c d e Sooke, Alastair. "How ancient Egypt shaped our idea of beauty". Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  21. ^ "How Art Made the World . Episodes . More Human than Human . Egyptian Need for Order | PBS". Retrieved 2018-11-12.