The ways in which societies have perceived the concept of creativity have changed throughout history, as has the term itself. The ancient Greek concept of art (in Greek, “techne” — the root of “technique” and “technology”), with the exception of poetry, involved not freedom of action but subjection to rules. In Rome, the Greek concept was partly shaken, and visual artists were viewed as sharing, with poets, imagination and inspiration.
Under medieval Christianity, the Latin “creatio” came to designate God‘s act of “creatio ex nihilo” (“creation from nothing”); thus “creatio” ceased to apply to human activities. The Middle Ages, however, went even further than antiquity, when they revoked poetry’s exceptional status: it, too, was an art and therefore craft and not creativity.
Renaissance men sought to give voice to their sense of their freedom and creativity. The first to apply the word “creativity,” however, was the 17th-century Polish poet Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski — but he applied it only to poetry. For over a century and a half, the idea of human creativity met with resistance, because the term “creation” was reserved for creation “from nothing.”
In the 19th century, art took its revenge: now not only was art recognized as creativity, but it alone was. When later, at the turn of the 20th century, there began to be discussion as well of creativity in the sciences and in nature, this was taken as the transference, to the sciences and to nature, of concepts that were proper to art.