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artistic works have existed for almost as long as humankind: from early pre-historic art to contemporary art; however, some theorists feel that the typical concept of "artistic works" fits less well outside modern Western societies.One early sense of the definition of art is closely related to the older Latin meaning, which roughly translates to "skill" or "craft," as associated with words such as "artisan." English words derived from this meaning include artifact, artificial, artifice, medical arts, and military arts.For example, music imitates with the media of rhythm and harmony, whereas dance imitates with rhythm alone, and poetry with language.The forms also differ in their object of imitation.
Lastly, the forms differ in their manner of imitation—through narrative or character, through change or no change, and through drama or no drama.
Art has been defined as a vehicle for the expression or communication of emotions and ideas, a means for exploring and appreciating formal elements for their own sake, and as mimesis or representation.
Art as mimesis has deep roots in the philosophy of Aristotle.
The dialogue Ion suggests that Homer's Iliad functioned in the ancient Greek world as the Bible does today in the modern Christian world: as divinely inspired literary art that can provide moral guidance, if only it can be properly interpreted.
With regards to the literary art and the musical arts, Aristotle considered epic poetry, tragedy, comedy, dithyrambic poetry and music to be mimetic or imitative art, each varying in imitation by medium, object, and manner.
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Until the 17th century, art referred to any skill or mastery and was not differentiated from crafts or sciences.