Beauty for ancient thinkers existed both in form, which is the material world as it is, and as embodied in the spirit, which is the world of mental formations.
The classical terms in use to describe beauty were kalon (Grecian) and pulchrum (Latin).
During this time there existed a woman, known as Helen of Troy, who was known as the most beautiful, which is presumably the most beautiful within the Greek world. Her existence is dated to about 1250, one source specifically shows around 1188 B.C., this being the date of an astronomical occurrence during the Trojan War. Knowledge of her stems, primarily, from within the work of Homer known as the Iliad, c.850 or 750 B.C.
In an irreverent recollection from history, pertaining to this philosopher and beauty, there is a story which has passed into posterity on how Thales was mocked by a servant girl recognised for her beauty, after finding himself to have fallen into a well while looking upward at stars .
In one fragment of Heraclitus's writings (Fragment 106) he mentions beauty, this reads : To God all things are beautiful, good, right...
Pythagoras conceived of beauty as useful for a moral education of the soul.
The Pythagoreans conceived of the presence of beauty in universal terms, which is, as existing in a cosmological state, they observed beauty in the heavens.
Pythagoras wrote of how people experience pleasure when aware of a certain type of formal situation present in reality, perceivable by sight or through the ear. Pythagoras discovered the underlying mathematical ratios in the harmonic scales in music.
The classical concept of beauty is one which exhibits perfect proportion (Wolfflin). In this context the concept belonged often within the discipline of mathematics.
An idea of spiritual beauty emerged during the classical period, beauty was something embodying divine goodness, while the demonstration of behaviour which might be classified as beautiful, from an inner state of morality which is aligned to the good.
The writing of Xenophon shows a conversation between Socrates and Aristippus. Socrates discerned differences in the conception of the beautiful, for example, in innanimate objects, the effectiveness of execution of design was a deciding factor on the perception of beauty in something. By the account of Xenophon, Socrates found beauty congruent with that to which was defined as the morally good, in short, he thought beauty coincident with the good.
Beauty is a subject of Plato' in his work Symposium. In the work, the high priestess Diotima describes how beauty moves out from a core singular appreciation of the body to outer appreciations via loved ones, to the world in its state of culture and society (Wright) . In other words, Diotoma gives to Socrates as explanation of how love should begin with erotic attachment, and end with the transcending of the physical to an appreciation of beauty as a thing in itself. The ascent of love begins with one's own body, then secondarily, in appreciating beauty in another's body, thirdly beauty in the soul, which cognates to beauty in the mind in the modern sense, fourthly beauty in institutions, laws and activities, fifthly beauty in knowledge, the sciences, and finally to lastly love beauty itself, which translates to the original Greek language term as auto to kalon. In the final state, auto to kalon and truth are united as one. There is the sense in the text, concerning love and beauty they both co-exist but are still independent or, in other words, mutually exclusive, since love does not have beauty since it seeks beauty. The work toward the end provides a description of beauty in a negative sense.
Plato also discusses beauty in his work Phaedrus, and identifies Alcibiades as beautiful in Parmenides.
Platonic thought synthesized beauty with the divine.
Scruton (cited: Konstan) states Plato states of the idea of beauty, of it (the idea), being something inviting desiriousness (c.f seducing), and, promotes an intellectual renunciation (c.f. denouncing) of desire. For Alexander Nehamas, it is only the locating of desire to which the sense of beauty exists, in the considerations of Plato.
Aristotle defines beauty in Metaphysics as having order, symmetry and definiteness which the mathematical sciences exhibit in a special degree.
In De Natura Deorum Cicero wrote: the splendour and beauty of creation , in respect to this, and all the facets of reality resulting from creation, he postulated these to be a reason to see the existence of a God as creator.
During the Italian Renaissance Vasari aligned himself to the classical notion and thought of beauty as defined as arising from proportion and order.