Inspired essentially by the human body, Greek artists created an art on a human scale and focused on the human form, in contrast with earlier ancient civilizations which had always concentrated on the unreachable world of the gods.
In ancient Egyptian religion, the god Thoth was the creator of writing, and therefore of artistic representation, which was considered magical and potentially alive.
Necessarily perfect from the outset, this art created in the service of the gods and the dead was constrained by fundamental principles that were essential to the balance of the universe. Egyptian conservatism in this field for over three thousand years is thus not hard to understand: within such a highly structured framework, innovation was minimal and risky.
In Greece, however, all human creation was striving toward perfection, and constant improvement was necessary to win the favor of difficult and capricious gods. The concept of “agon,” or competition, was the driving force behind Greek society, spurring artists from every city to make constant innovations from generation to generation. Thus in less than seven centuries the simple forms of the Geometric style were to evolve into figures such as the Venus de Milo and the Borghese Gladiator.
And thus too, over the last millennium BC, Greek civilization was to lay the foundations for the whole of Western art.