In the heroic times, the Homeric poems, especially the Odyssey, attest the refinement and skill to which many of the imitative arts of Grecian civilization had attained. In embroidery, the high-born occupation of Helen ad Penelope, were attempted the most complex and difficult designs; and it is hard to suppose that these subjects could have been wrought upon garments with sufficient fidelity to warrant the praise of a poet who evidently wrote from experience of what he had seen, if the art of DRAWING had not been also carried to some excellence - although to PAINTING itself the poet makes none but dubious and obscure allusions. Still, if, on the one hand , in embroidery, and upon arms (as the shield of Achilles), delineation in its more complex and minute form was attempted, - and if, on the other hand, the use of colours was known (which it was, as applied not only to garments but to ivory), it could not have been long before two such kindred elements of the same art were united. Although it is contended by many that rude stones or beams were the earliest objects of Grecian worship, and though it is certain that in several places such emblems of the Deity preceded the worship of images, yet to the superstitious art of the rude Pelasgi in their earliest age, uncouth and half-formed statues of Hermes are attributed, and the idol is commemorated by traditions almost as antique as those which attest the sanctity of the fetiche . In the Homeric age, SCULPTURE in metals, and on a large scale, was certainly known. By the door of Alcinous, the king of an island in the Ionian Sea, stand rows of dogs in gold and silver - in his hall, upon pedestals, are golden statues of boys holding torches; and that such sculpture was even then dedicated to the gods is apparent by a well-known passage in the earlier poem of the Iliad; which represents Theano, the Trojan priestess of Minerva, placing the offering of Hecuba upon the knees of the statue of the goddess. How far, however, such statues could be called works of art, or how far they were wrought by native Greeks, it is impossible to determine . Certain it is that the memorable and gigantic advance in the art of SCULPTURE was not made till about the 50th Olympiad (B. C. 580), when Dipaenus and Scyllis first obtained celebrity in works in marble (wood and metals were the earliest materials of sculpture). The great improvements in the art seem to have been coeval with the substitution of the naked for the draped figure. Beauty, and ease, and grace, and power, were the result of the anatomical study of the human form. ARCHITECTURE has bequeathed to us, in the Pelasgic and Cyclopean remains, sufficient to indicate the massive strength it early acquired in parts of Greece. In the Homeric times, the intercourse with Asia had already given something of lightness to the elder forms. Columns are constantly introduced into the palaces of the chiefs, profuse metallic ornaments decorate the walls; and the Homeric palaces, with their cornices gayly inwrought with blue - their pillars of silver on bases of brass, rising amid vines and fruit-trees, - even allowing for all the exaggerations of the poet, - dazzle the imagination with much of the gaudiness and glitter of an oriental city . At this period Athens receives from Homer the epithet of "broad-streeted:" and it is by no means improbable that the city of the Attic king might have presented to a traveller, in the time of Homer, a more pleasing general appearance than in its age of fame, when, after the Persian devastations, its stately temples rose above narrow and irregular streets, and the jealous effects of democracy forbade to the mansions of individual nobles that striking pre-eminence over the houses of the commonalty which would naturally mark the distinction of wealth and rank, in a monarchical, or even an oligarchical government.
X. About the time on which we now enter, the extensive commerce and free institutions of the Ionian colonies had carried all the arts just referred to far beyond the Homeric time. And, in addition to the activity and development of the intellect in all its faculties which progressed with the extensive trade and colonization of Miletus (operating upon the sensitive, inquiring, and poetical temperament of the Ionian population), a singular event, which suddenly opened to Greece familiar intercourse with the arts and lore of Egypt, gave considerable impetus to the whole Grecian MIND.
In our previous brief survey of the state of the Oriental world, we have seen that Egypt, having been rent into twelve principalities, had been again united under a single monarch. The ambitious and fortunate Psammetichus was enabled, by the swords of some Ionian and Carian adventurers (who, bound on a voyage of plunder, had been driven upon the Egyptian shores), not only to regain his own dominion, from which he had been expelled by the jealousy of his comrades, but to acquire the sole sovereignty of Egypt (B. C. 670). In gratitude for their services, Psammetichus conferred upon his wild allies certain lands at the Pelusian mouth of the Nile, and obliged some Egyptian children to learn the Grecian language; - from these children descended a class of interpreters, that long afterward established the facilities of familiar intercourse between Greece and Egypt. Whatever, before that time, might have been the migrations of Egyptians into Greece, these were the first Greeks whom the Egyptians received among themselves. Thence poured into Greece, in one full and continuous stream, the Egyptian influences, hitherto partial and unfrequent.