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Persian influence on Greece (10)
Persian and Greek cultures did not exist in isolation. There was cross-fertilization.
The present article contains a description of Persia's influence on Greece.
This is the last part of the article; the first
one can be found here.
The second type of emulation can be found in the Parthenon frieze and the caryatids. The difference is twofold: in the first place, the caryatids and the frieze are not based on something tangible like rhyta or tents; in the second place, not only a from, but also a general idea are copied. In the Parthenon frieze, the Persian ideal of "unity under the king" has been "translated" to Greece. The image and idea were adapted to Greek tastes, which made the work of art more accessible. In the caryatids, the original image (a bull or a feline) has been ignored and only the essence, the general idea, is copied - to women. Apparently, the Greeks found women better motifs to show subjection than animals.
Summing all up, a case can be made for the existence of Persian influence on Greek art. The same can be said for politics. The Athenians and Persians both were masters of the Greek towns in Ionia, and since the Athenians had no experience in ruling an empire (whereas the Persians stood in a long tradition), they copied Persian measures. Therefore, they copied the tribute system, organized their navy like their enemies did, and appointed episcopi to control the subject towns.
It was the obvious thing to do. After all, it is sound policy to make
use of knowledge developed by others. Nineteenth-century European historians,
however, have often ignored the Persian contribution to Greek culture.
They believed in a "Greek miracle" and were unable to conceptualize oriental
influences. (They had more or less the same perspective on European history,
which had developed -in their view- autonomously.) Cultural contacts were
ignored. Today, in a world in which cross-fertilization and clashes between
cultures can no longer be ignored, scholars are more interested in cultural
contacts. This perspective does more justice to the complexities that existed
when two cultures encountered each other.
Architecture: Parthenon frieze
Politics: Delian League