The sculpture of the Greeks and Romans represents one of the major arts of antiquity. It is diverse in its function. Greek monumental sculptures were developed on the islands of the Aegean and Crete in the middle of seventh century B. C. The adaptation of figures and technologies are borrowed from the Near East and Egypt make a new artistic idiom suitable to the needs of the individual city-states and the Greek sanctuaries. In around a century and a half, the developments rapidly led to the birth of Classical art that show the distinctiveness of the human figure.
Sculpture was the perfect means for the expression of the new Classical ideal. There are three major periods of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures which are differentiated by their style and their function. The earliest sculptures appear in the Archaic period around 8th – 7th century BC. The sculptures illustrate form of small figures of men, animals, and gods in bronze, clay, or stone the usually standing or seated. The form is called Daedalic with a form of big heads, frontal figures, and triangular faces.
In the late of the 7th century the Greeks aware of the Egypt sculpture and they change to make larger figures in hard white marble from the Cyclades islands. There are two main types of the figure, “the kouroi” who are naked males standing with one foot forward, hands to sides, and the korai, who are dressed in women. They are used for decorating buildings or dedications for the grave markers. Each type shows the development of sculptural style throughout the rest of the archaic period. The second period is classical period takes place in the early 5th – 4th century BC.
Greek artists begin to attempt to make human and animal figures more realistically. This requires careful understanding of the model, emotion in faces, and different ages as well as the anatomy of how a body adjusts to a pose and how a body looks like in violent motion. The Early Classical figure, sometimes called the Severe Style, which is exemplified in the sculptures for the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. Much of the best work are made by bronze, but for the most part are from surviving marbles.
The sculpture usually are produced for civic monuments, royal family groups, grand monuments used for celebrating success, placed in the Greek sanctuaries of Delphi and Olympia, and also there are many athlete statues and groups for the game winners. The latest period from 4th – 1st century BC is Hellenistic. Hellenistic sculptures are more natural and realistic expressed emotional conditions, suffering and pain. The artists emphasize moral and religious values, but took it further in a sense that the mundane viewpoint became more important. Moreover, the sculptures show feelings, inner character, and experiences.
The apparent trend of this period is an attraction on violence and eroticism. Hellenistic sculptures show an admiration in female beauty and also express many characteristics of the classical Hellenic style. They are mostly made of marble and bronze. Hellenistic are made as statues used in public buildings and in public spaces. Statues are made as objects for a political, religious, and social function. For its dedication, each statue is originally for specific occasion and purpose such as cult for worship of God, funerary, honorific, and votive.