AskDefine | Define severe

Dictionary Definition

severe adj
1 intensely or extremely bad or unpleasant in degree or quality; "severe pain"; "a severe case of flu"; "a terrible cough"; "under wicked fire from the enemy's guns"; "a wicked cough" [syn: terrible, wicked]
2 very strong or vigorous; "strong winds"; "a hard left to the chin"; "a knockout punch"; "a severe blow" [syn: hard, knockout]
3 severely simple; "a stark interior" [syn: austere, stark]
4 unsparing and uncompromising in discipline or judgment; "a parent severe to the pitch of hostility"- H.G.Wells; "a hefty six-footer with a rather severe mien"; "a strict disciplinarian"; "a Spartan upbringing" [syn: spartan, strict]
5 causing fear or anxiety by threatening great harm; "a dangerous operation"; "a grave situation"; "a grave illness"; "grievous bodily harm"; "a serious wound"; "a serious turn of events"; "a severe case of pneumonia"; "a life-threatening disease" [syn: dangerous, grave, grievous, serious, life-threatening]
6 very bad in degree or extent; "a severe worldwide depression"; "the house suffered severe damage"

User Contributed Dictionary



From severus.


  • a UK /sɪˈvɪə/


  1. Very bad or intense.
  2. Strict or harsh.

Derived terms


very bad or intense
  • Finnish: ankara, raju, tuima
  • Hungarian: komoly, súlyos
  • Japanese: 厳しい
  • Polish: poważny
strict or harsh
  • Finnish: ankara, vaikea
  • Hungarian: szigorú
  • Japanese: 厳しい
  • Russian: суровый



severe f plural
  1. feminine plural of severo

Extensive Definition

The Severe style, or Early Classic style, was the dominant idiom of Greek sculpture in the period ca. 490 to 450 BCE. It marks the break down of the canonical forms of archaic art and the transition to the greatly expanded vocabulary and expression of the classical moment of the late 5th century. It was an international style found at many cities in the Hellenic world and in a variety of media including; bronze sculpture in the round, stelae, and architectural relief. The style perhaps realised its greatest fulfilment in the metopes of the Temple of Zeus, Olympia.
The term "severe style" was first coined by Gustav Kramer in his Uber den styl und die Herkunft der bemahlten griechischen Thongefasse (1837, Berlin) in reference to the first generation of red figure vase painters, the name has since Vagn Poulsen’s 1937 study Der strenge stil become exclusively associated with sculpture.


There is no firm chronology for the Severe style, the dating of early 5th century BCE sculpture is approximate and consequently its first appearance has been conjectured to be at some point between 525 and 480 BCE.The one exception to this general rule of uncertainty is the Tyrannicide group; a replacement for the bronze created by Antenor in 514 to commenorate the assassins of the tyrant Hipparchus was sculpted by Kritios and Nesiotes and dated in an inscription of 477/6 BCE. This piece, now known only from Roman copies preserves the poses and facial features familiar from archaic art and combines it with a novel treatment of multiple viewpoints, feeling for mass, and anatomical observation that distinguishes it as one of several Athenian transitional works. Another is the Kritian boy, c. 480 BCE whose distribution of weight onto one leg, lowered right hip, and inclination of head and shoulders exceeds the formulas of the late Archaic kouroi marks a step toward the greater naturalism and individualisation of the Classical – as B. S. Ridgway puts it: no longer a type but a subject.
The depredations of war and the sumptuary laws of Solon ensured that very little sculpture was practiced at Athens in the first half of the 5th century, instead we have to look to others cities to trace the development of the Severe style. We can observe the general characteristics of the period on its greatest masterpiece the Temple of Zeus, Olympia, attributed to the Olympia Master. Here we find a simplicity of forms, especially in dress and the absence of decoration, a feeling of heaviness both in the gravity of the body and the “doughy” cloth of the peplos. Indeed this era sees a shift from the use of the Doric chiton to the Ionic peplos whose irregular groupings and folds better express the contours of the underlying body. We can also witness on the pediments of the temple the slight pout typical of this time where the upper lip projects a little over the lower and a volume to the eylids, a striking departure from the fixed Archaic smile of the 6th century and suggestive perhaps of the brooding pathos also typical of the idiom. There is further experimentation with the expression of emotion on the metopes of the temple depicting the labours of Herakles, an experiment not pursued by later Classical art.
Of the Severe artists whose names have come down to us there are in addition to Kritios and Nesiotes already mentioned also Pythagoras, Kalamis and most notably Myron. The latter, a native of Eleutherai, was a late practitioner of the style active in the 450s and 440s and the author of two identifiable sculptures that have survived in copies: his Discobolus and the Athena Marsyas group. Both seemingly original in composition, these works capture several of the chief characteristics of the style in its feeling for the dramatic moment, its rhythm and balance of masses, and the embodiment of feeling through the pregnant gesture.
Why this naturalising trend should emerge in early 5th Century Greek art has been a matter of much scholarly speculation. Renate Thomas summarises the contending views thus: The significance of the Late Archaic period remains unclear. Is it already a response to the awakening sense of personal value, which will then be held back during the Sever Style through a self-imposed discipline (Schefold), or has there developed, since the Late Archaic period, a new and freer spirit, which, however, becomes clearly visible only in the Severe or even in the Classical style (G. v. Lucken, E. Langlotz, B. Schweitzer)? Did the “Discovery of the Mind” in the sixth century produce two different effect (Schachermeyr), one of which produces new sets of laws through reflection upon traditional norms? Or does only the strong freedom of movement in the figurative art of the Late Archaic period, the self-confident recognition of personal individuality, go back to a change in the sixth century, while the causes of the “purified world of forms” of the Severe Style are others?

List of works



  • V. H. Poulson, Der strenge Stil, Copenhagen 1937
  • V. Knigge, Bewegte Figuren. Figuren d. Großplastik im Strengen Stil, Diss. München 1965
  • F. Schachermeyr, Die frühe Klassik der Griechen, Stuttgart 1966
  • B. Sismondo Ridgway, The Severe Style in Greek Sculpture, Princeton, N. J. 1970
  • R. Tölle-Kastenbein, Frühklassische Peplosfiguren, Mainz 1980
  • R. Thomas, Athletenstatuetten der Spätarchaik und des Strengen Stils., Rome 1981
  • R. R. Holloway, The Severe Style, New Evidence and Old Problems, in: Numismatica e antichità classiche, Quaderni Ticinesi 17, 1988.
severe in German: Strenger Stil

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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