The Impact of Individuality
Whether a person sees himself as an autonomous individual or a subservient drone within a society is something that can influence the course of that particular culture. Conversely, it can be debated that it is the influence of the society that determines the view of individuality held by its people. Where one civilization’s focus on the individual may be instrumental in its success, another may thrive by subverting individuality and treating all of its members as interconnected parts of one greater whole. The Ancient Greeks and the Ancient Persians viewed the role of the individual within society very differently. By studying the art of the Ancient Greeks and the Ancient Persians, such as the Bust of Pericles in Athenian art and the depiction of Xerxes in Persian art, it is possible to gain an understanding of how the members of each society viewed themselves in relation to the other members of society and their respective leaders. It also provides an understanding of how those perceptions affected the society as a whole and determined its eventual fate.
Individuality was revered in Ancient Greece. As part of the culture, each individual saw himself as a contributing, yet autonomous member of society. The Bust of Pericles depicts the Athenian leader as an everyman. True, the piece is classical in nature and therefore does not show any physical flaws, but neither is the leader elevated to the status of a deity. Actually, the Greeks saw man a creature of such importance, that they created their deities after their own image. In contrast, the depictions of Xerxes I, ruler of the Persian Empire, show a society that sees themselves very differently than they see their leader. They depict an individual who is not only twice the size of a normal person; he is someone who has been elevated to the status of a god. His subjects are shown following him with an umbrella to shield him from the sun. In other depictions he is shown to be...
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