The Greeks decided very early on that the human form was the most important subject for artistic works. Seeing their gods as having human form, though there was little difference between the Gods and the people in art—the Greeks saw the human body as sacred.
Bronze shield found at Delphi in Greece, circa late 8th century BC
Both marble and bronze are easy to form and very workable; as in most ancient cultures there were no doubt also traditions of sculpture in wood about which we know very little, other than acrolithic sculptures, usually large, with the head and exposed flesh parts in marble but the clothed parts in wood.
Many copies of the Roman period are marble versions of works originally in bronze.
Chryselephantine sculptures, used for temple cult images and luxury works, used gold, most often in leaf form and ivory for all or parts (faces and hands) of the figure, and probably gems and other materials, but were much less common, and only fragments have survived.
The Classical period saw a revolution of Greek sculpture, sometimes associated by historians with the popular culture surrounding the introduction of democracy. The Classical period saw changes in the style and function of sculpture, along with a dramatic increase in the technical skill of Greek sculptors in depicting realistic human forms. Poses also became more natural.
From about 500 BC, Greek statues began increasingly to depict real people, as opposed to vague interpretations of myth.
The Classical Period also saw an increase in the use of statues and sculptures as decorations of buildings.
The transition from the Classical to the Hellenistic period occurred during the 4th century BC.
During this period, sculpture again experienced a shift towards increasing naturalism. Common people, women, children, animals, and domestic scenes became acceptable subjects for sculpture, which were commissioned by wealthy families for the decoration of their homes and gardens.
At the same time, new Hellenistic cities springing up in Egypt, Syria, and Anatolia required statues depicting the gods and heroes of Greece for their temples and public places. This made sculpture, like pottery, an industry.