The Greeks were obsessed with beauty and held specific beliefs about the ideal human form. They considered the human form to be the ideal form in the universe because even the gods took on human form. The male body was considered to be the most ideal human form, with specific measurements that were the ideal for each bodily feature. The female body, although considered inferior to the male body, was also considered beautiful and perfectly suited for her particular role.
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Athleticism and muscularity was a virtue in the Greek male body. The perfect male body required intense physical training. Every Greek city had a gymnasium, where men went to develop their bodies and compete with other men in physical competitions. The second century essayist Lucian admonished men to exercise their bodies vigorously to earn the ideal male form: tanned, firm, symmetrical and vigorous. Without exercise, Lucian warned that the body would take on undesirable female attributes, becoming pale, flabby and weak.
Symmetry and Balance
The ideal male form was neither thin nor fat, but well-balanced. The ideal man consisted of a series of mathematical measurements including an ideally sized chest, forearm, waist, thigh, hip, calf, biceps and neck. The ancient Greeks referred to the Adonis Muscle, which was a complex ratio of symmetrical measurements on the male body. The idea was that sexual attractiveness was based on science and it could be figured out through proper mathematical calculations.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle said that every ideal form can only be imagined with its function in mind, and it is impossible for an object to exist without a definite relation to its function. Therefore, the female body was the ideal form for its primary function, motherhood, even if it was considered inferior to the male ideal form. Gannon University's Sarah Lynn Andrews says Greek female statues showed women as round and youthful, "a tapered waist connected high connical breasts and curvaceous thighs." This was the ideal female form, perfectly fashioned for the function of motherhood.
Sexualised Female Form
Before the fourth century B.C, artwork of Greek women were always shown in clothing. But the ideal woman of motherhood gradually became an idealised sexual figure. The revolutionary sexualised female ideal was the nude Aphrodite of Melos, a sculpture dating from 323 to 331 B.C. and now on display at the Louvre.
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