What Was the Basis for Determining Beauty in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, beauty was not simply a matter of physical appearance. The Greeks believed that true beauty encompassed both the outer and inner qualities of a person. This belief shaped their ideals and standards of beauty, which were reflected in their art, literature, and philosophy.

The Importance of Symmetry

One of the key principles that formed the basis for determining beauty in ancient Greece was symmetry. The Greeks believed that symmetry was an essential characteristic of beauty, whether it was in the human body or in architecture.

Symmetry refers to a balanced arrangement of parts around a central axis. In terms of human beauty, this meant that the face and body should exhibit harmony and proportion.

The ideal male body was considered to have broad shoulders, a narrow waist, and well-defined muscles. Similarly, the ideal female body was characterized by a small waist, wide hips, and a full bust.

The Golden Ratio

The concept of the Golden Ratio also played a significant role in determining beauty in ancient Greece. The Golden Ratio is a mathematical ratio represented by the number 1.6180339887.. It is believed to represent perfect proportions and harmony.

The Greeks applied this ratio to various aspects of art and aesthetics, including architecture and sculpture. They believed that objects or beings that adhered to the Golden Ratio were inherently more beautiful.

The Face

When it came to facial beauty, Greeks considered certain features to be more desirable than others. A symmetrical face with well-defined features was seen as attractive. They believed that specific facial proportions exemplified divine perfection.

For instance, one common ideal was for the eyes to be perfectly aligned with each other and with the nose. The distance between the eyes was believed to be ideally equal to the width of one eye. The Greeks also admired a straight nose with a well-defined bridge, and lips that were neither too thin nor too full.

The Role of Physical Fitness

In addition to facial features and body proportions, physical fitness played a vital role in determining beauty in ancient Greece. The Greeks valued athleticism and considered it an essential component of beauty.

Athletes who participated in events such as the Olympic Games were highly regarded for their physical prowess. Sculptures and paintings often depicted these athletes with well-toned muscles and athletic physiques.

The Idealized Beauty in Art

Ancient Greek sculptures, such as those created during the Classical period, are renowned for their representation of idealized beauty. These sculptures aimed to capture the perfection and harmony that the Greeks valued so highly.

Sculptures like the Venus de Milo and the Doryphoros (Spear Bearer) exemplify the Greek ideals of beauty. They exhibit symmetrical proportions, balanced physical features, and a sense of movement.


Ancient Greek notions of beauty were deeply ingrained in their culture and influenced various aspects of their society. The emphasis on symmetry, adherence to the Golden Ratio, appreciation for physical fitness, and idealized representations in art all contributed to their understanding of beauty.

In modern times, we can still appreciate and learn from these ancient ideals of beauty as they continue to inspire artists, architects, and thinkers around the world.