Most Greek cities had a theatre. It was in the open air, and was usually a bowl-shaped arena on a hillside. Some theatres were very big, with room for more than 15,000 people in the audience.
All the actors were men or boys. Dancers and singers, called the chorus, performed on a flat area called the orchestra. Over time, solo actors also took part, and a raised stage became part of the theatre. The actors changed costumes in a hut called the "skene". Painting the walls of the hut made the first scenery.
What were Greek plays like?
Greek actors wore masks, made from stiffened linen, with holes for eyes and mouth. Actors also wore wigs. They wore thick-soled shoes too, to make them look taller, and padded costumes to make them look fatter or stronger. The masks showed the audience what kind of character an actor was playing (sad, angry or funny). Some masks had two sides, so the actor could turn them round to suit the mood for each scene.
The best actors and play writers were awarded prizes - a bit like the Hollywood Oscars and BAFTAs today. The most famous writers of plays were Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides for tragedy and Aristophanes for comedy.
Greek sculptors made figures of people and gods. Statues were set up outdoors in towns and inside temples. A statue lasts much longer than a painting, especially when made of a hard stone, such as marble. There were also statues made of wood and bronze (a kind of metal).
Over time Greeks made their statues more lifelike - gods look like human beings. There are figures of people without clothes, and statues of athletes in action (a discus thrower, for example). The Romans collected Greek statues and made copies of them. Many later artists imitated the Greek styles too.
The Greeks believed that architecture (the art of making buildings) was based on mathematical principles. They built beautiful temples. Temple roofs were held up by stone columns and decorated with friezes with carved stone figures. In the British Museum in London, you can see some figures from the Parthenon in Athens. They are known as the "Elgin Marbles".
There were three styles or "orders" of columns in Greek architecture: called Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. Because many architects copied Greek styles, you can see much later buildings (from the 18th and 19th centuries for example) which look "Greek".
The Greeks made pots from clay. They made small pottery bowls and cups for drinking, middle-sized pots for carrying and cooking, elegant vases for decoration, and large jars for storing wine and foods. Potters in the city states of Corinth and Athens made beautiful pottery. They used a watery clay mixture to make figures or decoration on the clay before it was hard. When the pot was baked in a kiln, the areas painted with the clay mixture turned black. Unpainted areas turned red-brown.
Black animal figures are typical of Corinthian pottery. Greek potters also made pottery decorated with red figures on a black background.
Arts festivals and the Oracle
The arts, such as music, singing and poetry, played a part in Greek festivals. The Pythian Games took place near Delphi every four years. Winners got prizes, just like winning athletes.
Delphi was famous for its Oracle. Here Greeks believed the sun-god Apollo answered questions about the future. People came to put questions to the priestess of Apollo. She was called the Pythia. She gave Apollo's answers in a strange muttering voice. What she said often had two or more meanings, so it was hard to say the Oracle was ever wrong.