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Egyptian Architecture

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



A COMPLETE Story of Architecture would require to cover as great a period of time as the story of man himself, for architecture is coeval with man. Man's earliest instinct would prompt him to provide himself with food and shelter, and in constructing for himself a shelter or dwelling, as a protection from the elements, he began to perpetrate architecture. Before the days, therefore, of reading and writing, prehistoric man began to write a story of his life and time in the form of buildings, which, from earliest times, have been a reflection of his character and of his mode of life.

Unfortunately, the efforts of our earlier ancestors in the field of architecture have entirely disappeared. It was not until man, in the course of civilization, became a mighty builder, and not that only, but a builder in materials of an imperishable nature, that he was able to leave behind him monuments to tell the story of his life to future ages. Thus it comes about that it is impossible to trace the growth of the art from its earliest beginnings, and to follow its development as it grew in importance. The oldest memorials of which we have records—the tombs and temples of ancient Egypt—were the work, not of a race of primitive men, but of a nation which had already attained a knowledge of the art of construction which later builders have never surpassed.

The waters of the Nile are the head-waters of architecture. On the banks of this stream—the cradle of the art—the colossal piles of these early builders still command the wonder of all who see them; while the most ancient of them, the pyramids, have remained unchallenged for five thou-sand years as the greatest of all architectural undertakings. With these works of the mysterious inhabitants of the Nile valley begins the history of architecture, so far as our knowledge of it can ever go.

No other country bears such testimony as Egypt to the great historical value of architecture. Other nations of antiquity have, possibly, been equally powerful, or as highly civilized; but they have failed to leave behind them any enduring monuments to record their greatness—no literature in stone or marble—and they have disappeared from the pages of history. Not so the Egyptians. There is a " voicefulness " in these old tombs and temples along the banks of the Nile which gives reality and life to the history of the men who built them. Hence the unique interest which attaches to the architecture of Egypt. These temples, these walls, that have so long been " washed by the passing waves of humanity," pre-sent a reliable record of the social and religious life of their builders, whose life-story would other-wise have been totally lost in obscurity. Egypt claims the attention of students of architecture, too, by reason of having produced monuments which, for massiveness and grandeur, have never been excelled in the world's history Yet Egyptian architecture must ever remain, to some ex-tent, a subject by itself ; it occupies no very important place in the story of the architecture which chiefly concerns us—that of Europe. It is a strange fact that, with the exception of the few features which were borrowed by the Greeks, all the characteristic forms of Egyptian architecture have become obsolete ; the Greeks, moreover, in adopting any feature, so modified and improved it that it became, in reality, their own. Greece, not Egypt, was the true parent of European architecture; yet the colossal monuments of the Nile valley had weathered thirty centuries be-fore Grecian architecture had left its cradle.

In almost all countries we find that the chief structures are the outcome of the nation's religious beliefs. Such was the case in Egypt from the earliest times. Nothing reveals the character of the nation so clearly as its. religion; nothing has a more permeating influence upon its architecture. The Egyptians were essentially a religious people, with a very lengthy catalogue of deities; they themselves spoke of their " thousand gods," and, in addition to their many principal deities, they paid religious regard to animals. Cats, dogs, and many of the common animals were held sacred; at death their bodies were embalmed, and interred in specially constructed tombs. When a sacred bull, or Apis, died, the funeral would be on an elaborate scale, costing as much as $100,000 in modern money. The remains were embalmed, placed in a solid granite sarcophagus weighing fifty tons or more, and deposited in one of the long galleries hewn out of the solid rock.

It will be readily seen, then, that this phase of the nation's religion was productive of a vast amount of architectural work. But of far greater importance in its influence upon the architecture of the country was the belief held by the Egyptians regarding man's life after death. While the bad soul was sentenced to a round of migrations into the bodies of unclean animals, the good soul, as its reward, was made the companion of Osiris for a period of three thousand years. At the end of this time it returned to earth, re-entered its former body, and again lived the life of a human being. Thus it was most desirable that, when the long allotted period had expired, the soul should be able, on returning to earth, to find the body which it was to re-enter.

The natural outcome of this belief was the process of embalming, and the erection of tombs which might be relied upon to last out the span of three thousand years, and to safeguard the body during that period.

The most colossal, and almost the oldest, of these sepulchral monuments are the mysterious structures with which, among the inhabitants of Europe, the name of Egypt has always been associated—the Pyramids. The largest, and the best known, of these are the three at Ghizeh, near Cairo, built respectively by Cheops (or Suphis), Chephren, and Mycerinus. The pyramid of Cheops, generally known as the" Great Pyramid," is the most important of the three. Its builder was a tyrant of the fourth dynasty (d r. 3700 B.C.), who closed all the temples and forced his subjects to labor for years at this gigantic structure, which was to serve in due course as his tomb. The pyramid has a square base, 755 feet in length, covering an area of about thirteen acres, or twice the extent of St. Peter's at Rome. The four sides were of the form of equilateral triangles, sloping towards and meeting at the top, at a height of 481 feet above the level of the platform. Limestone was chiefly used in its construction, upon a base of solid rock, but over this was an exterior facing of polished granite, every vestige of which has now disappeared. The internal passages are still lined with highly polished granite slabs, fitted together with astonishing accuracy.

The entrance was at the point marked A, about 7 feet above the original base, and was care-fully concealed, extraordinary precautions having been taken to prevent the tomb from being entered. From the entrance a passage slopes down to a chamber,. B, cut in the solid rock 120 feet below the natural surface of the ground. The object of this chamber is not apparent; possibly it was intended as a blind. A corridor, turning off at C, leads up to the royal burial-chamber, D, situated almost in the centre of the structure.

Below this is a third room, called the " Queen's Chamber," though there is no authority for the name. The chambers and corridors are interesting constructionally, for they show the methods adopted by these early engineers for bridging over openings in order to resist a superincumbent weight. The central corridor is 28 feet high, with a ceiling formed by courses of masonry which overhang one another successively until they meet at the top. In the case of the "King's Chamber," in which the royal sarcophagus was deposited, marvelous ingenuity was displayed in making the roof strong enough to prevent the weight overhead from crushing through. Five enormous stone slabs were fixed, as we see in the illustration, with a small chamber between each of them ; these were surmounted by a rudimentary arch, formed by two massive lintels tilted in such a way as to meet over the centre of the opening,

How this colossal enterprise was carried out in all its details continues to be an excellent subject for speculation. The limestone quarries, which provided the bulk of the stone, were situated at El Massarah, a distance of fifty miles from Ghizeh ; the red granite could not have been quarried nearer than Assouan, upon the banks of the Nile, 500 miles away. The blocks of stone could be readily floated down the stream upon rafts ; thence it is probable that they were slowly moved into position by means of rollers, being gradually raised to the required height along an inclined plane or embankment constructed for this purpose. It is stated that 100,000 men were employed upon the Great Pyramid for a period of twenty years; so that the raising of such an embankment, though a gigantic undertaking, would represent but a small portion of this vast amount of labor. Many of the blocks of stone measure 30 feet in length and weigh as much as fifty tons, yet they were worked with the greatest exactitude ; the polished granite slabs which line the corridors are fitted together with such accuracy that it is almost impossible to detect the joints. Similar accuracy was observed in the setting out of the structure. Professor Petrie's measurements show that the lengths of the sides varied from 755 feet 7.7 inches to 755 feet 9.4 inches, the extreme difference being 1.7 inches only!

Such a vast, unremunerative work could only have been undertaken by a selfish tyrant who was utterly regardless of the sufferings of his people. At this period there were no prisoners of war, so that the burden of the task fell upon the shoulders of the king's "free" subjects. The royal oppressor failed, however, in the one object to which his efforts were directed—the safe preservation of his embalmed remains. The secret of the prison-house was discovered, the tomb rifled, and the royal dust scattered to the four winds of heaven. In the words of Byron's doggerel :

Let not a monument give you or me hopes, Since not a pinch of dust remains of Cheops.

The custom of embalming led to the erection of a vast number of smaller tombs, many of which are found in the neighborhood of the pyramids, for this locality was originally the necropolis of the ancient city of Memphis. These tombs were usually rectangular, with sloping sides, like a pyramid with the top cut off. Internally the walls were decorated with paintings illustrating the every-day life which the occupant had led, the evident intention being to make him feel as much " at home " as possible in his tomb. These paintings have been invaluable in enabling us to realize the exact conditions of life which prevailed at the period. The material employed in the construction of the tombs was limestone, but the constructive methods were evidently borrowed from wooden originals.

As will be seen later, this imitation, in stone, of wooden methods of construction had a remarkable influence upon later forms of architecture. It will be seen that the interest attaching to these earliest structures of Egypt is mainly historical, for they can lay claim to little architectural merit, in the true sense of the word. The object which the builders had in view was to make their monuments, not beautiful, but everlasting; and to this end all the refinements were sacrificed.

Architecture was treated by them as one of the exact sciences rather than as a fine art. In the tombs of a later period, however, belonging to the twelfth dynasty (cir. 2200 B.C.) a more fully developed architectural style is seen. At Beni-Hasan, on the east bank of the Nile, in Middle Egypt, are several tombs of this period, cut in the vertical face of the rock, in which we find the first examples of an important architectural feature which subsequently influenced the architecture of Greece, and, through it, of Europe.

The general view of one of these tombs shows a portico with two columns. The whole has been carved out of the solid stone, and two piers have been left in order to give support, or the appearance of support, to the overhanging rock. It will be noticed that the portion above the columns has been squared to the form of a lintel. Over this appears a row of dentils, or tooth-like projections, which are eminently suggestive of the ends of rafters, such as would be used in timber construction. The columns are of a form seldom seen in Egypt : they taper towards the top, and are surmounted by a square slab, or "abacus," which has the appearance of transmitting the weight from the lintel. Some of them are polygonal, with sixteen or thirty-two sides, each side being slightly concave, in the manner of the "flutes" of the Greek columns, which we shall be considering in the next chapter.

If these shafts be compared with the columns of the Greek Doric order (p. 40), it will be seen that there are some notable points of resemblance —the square abacus, the fluted surface, and the tapering outline. A similar form of column was used at a later date at Karnak, but it did not find favor among the Egyptians, and was subsequently discarded by them. Yet this special form was destined to take an important place in the architecture of Europe, for the columns of Beni-Hasan appear to be the prototypes of the columns of the Greek Doric order. It is strange that the discriminating Greeks should have selected for further development the very feature which the great Egyptian builders had rejected. Certain it is, however, that the form reappeared, in a less crude state, in the earliest Doric temples of the Greeks about the seventh century B.C., and that, in the hands of the Greek masters, it was afterwards endowed with such beauty and refinement that it became the most perfect architectural feature in existence.

The ceiling of the Beni-Hasan tombs, although cut out of the solid rock, is divided by lintels into three spaces, curved in the form of segments of a circle, in evident imitation of an arched, or vaulted, ceiling. Arched construction finds no place in the great buildings of the Egyptians; but that these old builders were familiar with the true principles of the arch has been proved by the discovery of magnificent brick vaulting of the sixth dynasty (cir. 3400 B.C.), and the still earlier barrel-vaulted passage in a king's tomb of the third dynasty (cir. 4200 B.C.), discovered in 1901 by Professor Flinders Petrie.

Between the date of the Beni-Hasan tombs and the great Theban period of the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties—an interval of five centuries—little progress appears to have been made in architecture. During part of this period Egypt —or, more correctly, Lower Egypt—was in the hands of the " Shepherd " invaders, of whom we know little. Throughout their long rule they were hated by the Egyptians, and they left few permanent memorials behind them; but with the expulsion of the " Shepherd " kings began an era of great architectural activity lasting for four hundred years, down to the period assigned to the exodus of the Jews (i.e. from 1700 to 1300 B.C.). This was the great temple-building age, the " Theban period," which witnessed the culmination of Egyptian power and artistic greatness, and produced the greater number of the noblest buildings in the country. Constructively, how-ever, there was a falling-off from the precision and careful work of the earlier periods. The masonry was hastily and clumsily wrought, angles were inaccurately set out, and columns irregularly spaced; in many respects the work bears marks of carelessness and haste which detract considerably from their merit. In spite of technical defects, however, the buildings of this period were noble works which still remain the chief glory of Egyptian architecture.

The cause of this architectural revival is not far to seek. Before the period of the " Shepherd " kings, and during their rule, the inhabitants of the Nile valley had not been a fighting nation. But when Aahmes ascended the throne of Upper Egypt (cir. 1700 B.C.), he set himself the task of ridding the country of the invaders, and, after pursuing them into Palestine, completely routed them. As a result of this victory, many thousands of slaves were brought back by the king on his return to Egypt. These advantages, and various successes over the Syrians, whetted the appetites of the Egyptians for further conquests, and they henceforth became a nation of conquerors. Under Thothmes III. (cir. i600 B.C.) their "sphere of influence " advanced by leaps and bounds. Each year witnessed new expeditions, which brought into the country not only enormous quantities of treasure, but vast numbers of prisoners of war—for the object of the king was to capture rather than to kill. This wholesale importation of captives had an immediate effect upon the architecture of the country. By their forced labor Thothmes was enabled to erect temples and other vast structures which placed him in the first rank of Egyptian builders.

The great city of this period was Thebes—the " hundred-gated Thebes " of Homer—which was practically the capital of the country. Memphis, situated farther north, nearer to the delta of the Nile, vied with Thebes in the magnificence of its temples; but its remains which have come down to us are comparatively unimportant, owing to the fact that the site has been used as a quarry for the supply of materials to Cairo and adjoining modern towns. Thebes, however, was more fortunately situated: no great city has sprung up in its neighborhood, and its buildings have suffered only from the wasting hand of time, more merciful than that of man.

The great building monarchs of the Theban period were Thothmes III., Amenhotep III., Seti I., and Rameses II., each of whom endeavored to surpass the efforts of his predecessor with some "new temple, nobler than the last." Their names, it will be seen, appear in connection with the greatest temple structures of this era.

The most imposing of all the Theban buildings was the great temple at Karnak, ', zoo feet long, around which were grouped several smaller ones; at Luxor, two miles farther south, was another vast palace-temple. The groups on the opposite bank of the river included the sepulchral temple of Amenhotep III.—second only to that of Karnak—and the Ramessium, built entirely by the great Rameses.

The principal work of Thothmes was the re-building of a portion of the great temple at Karnak. Isolated examples of this master-builder's work are familiar to Europeans. In front of the grand entrance to the temple at Karnak he erected two obelisks; one of these, which now stands before the church of S. John Lateran in Rome, is the largest and most splendid monument of its kind extant. He built, or added to, temples at Heliopolis, Abydos, Denderah, Memphis, and many other places both in Egypt and in Nubia. An obelisk of this monarch has been re-erected at Constantinople; another, which stood originally at Heliopolis and afterwards at Alexandria, is now to be seen on the Thames Embankment, where it is known as " Cleopatra's Needle "; its companion has crossed the Atlantic and has been erected in New York.

Amenhotep continued the building of the temple at Karnak, and erected a vast new temple, of which, however, hardly a trace remains, for it has suffered from the inundations of the Nile; but an enduring memorial of the king, and of an architect bearing the same name, survives in the two mutilated colossi, fifty-six feet high, of which one has been known, since the days of the Greeks, as the " vocal Memnon."

By far the greatest and most impressive of all the buildings of this period was the grand temple of Ammon at Karnak. Like many of the mediaeval cathedrals, this was the work of successive kings and generations; its walls and columns, covered with inscriptions, furnish almost a complete history of the Theban kings.

The temple was begun by Usertesen I., the great king of the twelfth dynasty (cir. 2400 B.C.). After an interval of several centuries, Thothmes I. continued the work, adding a courtyard surrounded by a colonnade of Osirid pillars. Thothmes III. constructed a magnificent columnar hall, 143 feet by 53 feet—dimensions which had never before been approached in a building of this form. He also set to work to restore the ancient sanctuary of Usertesen, reverently preserving all the lines of the old building, and recording the details of the restoration in an inscription on the walls.

But the great glory of the temple was the Hypostyle Hall of Seti I. (cir. 1350 B.C.), familiar to all travelers in modern Egypt, the most imposing structure of the kind in the world's history. The hall measured 340 by 170 feet, its massive roof being carried by 134 columns in sixteen rows; the shafts of the two central rows, which supported the higher portion of the roof, were more than 6o feet high and almost 12 feet in diameter. " No language," writes Fergusson, "can convey an idea of its beauty, and no artist has yet been able to reproduce its form so as to convey to those who have not seen it an idea of its grandeur. The mass of its central piers, illumined by a flood of light from the clerestory, and the smaller pillars of the wings gradually fading into obscurity, are so arranged and lighted as to convey an idea of infinite space ; at the same time the beauty and massiveness of the forms, and the brilliancy of their colored decorations, all combine to stamp this as the greatest of man's architectural works, but such a one as it would be impossible to reproduce, except in such a climate and in that individual style in which, and for which, it was created."

This wonderful hall was almost entirely built during the reign of Seti I. Upon his death, it was completed by his son Rameses II., better known to Bible-readers as the Pharaoh of the Oppression. He added the fifty-four columns on the south side. In the methods of construction there are distinct evidences of deterioration as compared with much of the work of the more ancient Egyptians. Where, at an earlier date, monolithic columns of red granite would have been used, we find at this period soft sandstone built up in drums. Thus, in order to insure the strength of the columns, it was necessary to make them excessively massive, and by this they lost more of grace than they gained in dignity.

It would have been impossible for the Egyptian monarchs to erect such stupendous structures but for the fact that they were able, through their victorious wars, to bring into the country vast numbers of captives, whose lives were spent in forced labor upon these public works. In a series of interesting tomb-drawings, referring to the building of this temple at Karnak, we find depicted the tasks upon which the prisoners were continuously occupied. Some are busy kneading clay ; others either make bricks in wooden moulds or spread them in rows to bake; others carry on the building operations. By the side are explanations of the drawings; part of the inscription is worth quoting: " We see the captives who were carried away as prisoners in very great numbers; they work at the building with skilful fingers. Their overseers show themselves in sight : these attend with strictness, obeying the word of the great skilful lord of the works; . they are re-warded with wine and all kinds of good dishes; they perform their service with a mind full of love for the king; they build for Thothmes III. a holy of holies. May it be rewarded to him through a number of many endless years! The overseer speaks thus to the laborers at the building : ' The stick is in my hand ; be not idle.' " Such a picture enables us to realize the conditions under which these colossal buildings laboriously came into existence—the slave population toiling unceasingly at the point of the goad, while the task-masters, by their exacting severity, earned for themselves a share of the good things of this life.

After the period of the Exodus (cir. 1300 B.C.) a change came over the land : the Egyptians lost a great number of their slaves, and, as a result or a coincidence, the era of temple-building practically ended with the reign of the great Rameses.

At Karnak the chief object of each monarch was to surpass, in extent and magnificence, the buildings of his predecessors, without regard to congruity of plan. But in the Ramessium at Thebes, a temple wholly built by the great Rameses, we see the plan of a typical temple of the period. The facade was formed by two massive pyramidal towers (pylons), between which was the entrance doorway; in many cases this facade was situated obliquely with regard to the temple building.

The doorway gave access to a great fore-court, flanked by colonnades, which in turn led to an inner court, smaller than the first, but more richly decorated with statuary. Both courts were open to the sky.

Beyond these we reach the Hypostyle Hall—the chief feature in the larger temples. In the centre of this, two rows of lofty columns sup-ported the higher portion of the roof, the remainder of the space being occupied by ranges of smaller columns. The central portion of the roof was higher than at the sides, an arrangement which allowed light to be admitted through perforated stone panels, fixed in the wall which connected the upper portion of the roof with the lower, in the manner of the clerestory windows of Gothic architecture. Beyond this hall were several smaller chambers, which appear to have been set apart for use by the king or the priests.

The columns were brilliantly colored, and their capitals were varied to suit the positions in which they were placed, with due regard to the light; those of the lofty and well-lighted central pillars were bell-shaped, but the columns at the side had bud-shaped capitals—wide at the base and tapering towards the top—a form which allowed the decoration, lighted from above, to be seen to advantage.

After the Exodus ensued a long period of decay and inactivity lasting for almost a thousand years, until the old glories of Egypt were, to some extent, revived by the Ptolemies. Under their rule and, later, under the Romans, the land enjoyed again a season of great prosperity. Temples were erected which vied in size and splendor with those of the great Theban age. Of these, none is more beautiful than the temple of Isis at Philae, the plan of which is a striking illustration of the disregard of accuracy and of regularity which characterized many buildings of the Egyptians. As evidence of the conservatism of this old nation of builders, it is interesting to note that the structures of this period bear no trace of Greek or Roman influence, either in the architectural details or in the decorations which covered the walls ; so that, until their true place in history was assigned to them through the interpretation of the hieroglyphic inscriptions, some of the Ptolemaic buildings were considered to be anterior to those of the great Theban period. The Greeks and the Romans were accustomed to set out their works with. great accuracy; but at Philae the Egyptians evidently worked to their own methods, for there are hardly two parallel walls, or a right angle, in the building. Imposing temples of this period are found also at Denderah and at Edfou—the latter the most perfectly preserved temple in Egypt.

We have seen that in the temple-structures of the Egyptians one of the most important features was the column. Its constant use within the buildings was probably encouraged, as tending to add to the prevailing air of mystery which the priests made it their business to foster. To some extent it was necessitated by the constructive system employed, for the great stone slabs which formed the roof required strong support at frequent intervals. The column thus gradually be-came the chief medium for obtaining decorative effect.

Many varieties were used; they were invariably massive, and rarely exceeded six diameters in height. The shaft tapered towards the top, and was usually either circular or clustered; sometimes it was fluted, as at Beni-Hasan. In many examples the column was reduced in diameter at the base, the point where the greatest strength was required; this, and the use, above the capital, of an abacus of smaller dimensions than the shaft itself, tended to give it an overgrown, bulky appearance, making it look, as it were, weak through excess of strength. The chief forms of capitals in use were (a) the bell-shaped capital (central columns, Karnak), which produced many graceful forms, and to which, as we shall see later, the early Corinthian capitals of the Greeks bore a striking resemblance; (b) the clustered lotus bud, representing a cluster of unopened buds of the lotus flower (with this capital a clustered column was used) ; and (c) the palm capital. Most of these forms were derived from plant-life. In Egypt, at the present day, bundles of reed plastered with mud may frequently be seen in use as columns; several small bundles, each tightly bound, are banded together and form a shaft sufficiently rigid to support heavy weights. This primitive arrangement was copied, probably first in wood, and later in stone, and is undoubtedly the origin of the clustered and banded lotus column.

For the interior of the temples, color, rather than form, was relied upon for decorative effect. In the dim light of the columnar halls, moldings and carving could not have been seen to advantage, and brilliant coloring was essential. The walls and columns were covered with a profusion of hieroglyphic inscriptions and of paintings, in which the designs were either outlined or cut in low relief before the color was applied. Where coarse sandstone had been used in the erection of the building, a smooth surface for the color was obtained by the use of stucco, with which the imperfections of the stone were filled up.

Next in antiquity to the civilization of the Nile valley was that of the great kingdom which was established along the banks of the Euphrates —Assyria.

Unlike the monumental structures of Egypt, the Assyrian remains have survived only in a fragmentary state, for little save the foundations is left of the enormous palaces of this once mighty kingdom. Excavations which have been carried on at Nineveh the capital, and at Khorsabad, have revealed almost complete plans of the royal dwellings, showing that they were of remarkable extent and magnificence. Portions of the great gateway of the palace of Khorsabad may be seen in the British Museum. The immense scale of this portal, with its human-headed winged bulls 19 feet high, enables us to form some opinion of the massive grandeur which characterized these vast buildings of the Assyrians. Owing to the extensive use of sun-dried bricks in lieu of harder materials, the structures lacked the durability of the Nile valley temples. So far as can be determined from the bas-reliefs and the structural remains, the architecture—apart from the applied ornamental forms—had comparatively little artistic merit.

That the Assyrians, like the Egyptians, under-stood the principles of the arch has been proved by a fine arched gateway, discovered by M. Place at Khorsabad, and by remains of arched drains and of brick vaulting. On existing bas-reliefs are found representations of domed buildings, from which it may be assumed that this form of roof was not unknown, though it is improbable that it was used to any extent.

The prominent feature in Egyptian temples—the column—did not occupy an important place in the architecture of the Assyrians; with the exception of the bas-reliefs, the existing remains reveal no trace of its use. On the sculptures a form of column, with small volutes, is represented, which may claim to be the prototype of the column of the Greek Assyrian column.

The interior walls of the palaces were lined, to the height of about 10 feet, with alabaster slabs, on which were represented, in low relief, battle and hunting scenes and mythological subjects. Many of these slabs are to be found in the chief museums of Europe.

With the Persians who, under Cyrus (536 B.C.), became masters of these older monarchies, another style of architecture was developed which attained great magnificence under Darius and Xerxes. Before their period of conquest the Persians had been simple in their mode of life, with little architecture of their own. Under later monarchs, very different in character from the great conqueror Cyrus, they acquired luxurious habits, and soon surpassed even the Assyrians in the splendor and the extent of their palaces. Persian splendor and luxury culminated in the great capital at Persepolis, or Takht-i-Jamshyd (the Throne of Jamshyd), as it is still called by the inhabitants of the district, after its mythical founder and ruler. In the treasury of this great city it is said that Alexander, on his entry, found wealth to the amount of thirty millions sterling.

Here the chief buildings rested upon vast platforms and terraces carved out of the solid rock, which still remain, while almost every vestige of the mighty halls and palaces which covered them has disappeared. With the exception of a few ruins, hardly a monument remains to mark the desolate site of the old luxurious civilization -:

The Lion and the Lizard keep
The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep: And Bahram, that great Hunter—the Wild Ass
Stamps o'er his head, but cannot break his sleep.

The great hall of Xerxes at Persepolis was undoubtedly one of the most extensive and imposing buildings of ancient times, having an area of 350 by 300 feet, or almost twice the area of the great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak. Its roof was supported by lofty columns, no less than 64 feet in height, 4 feet 6 inches in diameter, fluted, and slightly tapering. Many of the capitals were of remarkable design, in the shape of a double bracket, formed by the forepart of two bulls placed back to back. Frequently between the bracket and the column, as in the illustration, a bell shaped capital was introduced—very similar to one of the Egyptian forms—and, above this, a weak and clumsy feature consisting of a bundle of vertical scrolls. These scrolls are not unlike the volutes of the Greek Ionic capital (p. 49), but set vertically instead of horizontally. The wooden beams which supported the roof appear to have rested in the hollow space between the necks of the bulls. These curious capitals may be seen in the rock-cut tomb of Darius, carved out of the foot of the mountain adjoining the terraces, in which is represented, on a small scale, a copy of one of these colossal halls.

But although the vast empire of Persia, stretching from the Indus on the east to Thrace and Egypt on the west, absorbed almost every kingdom with which its hosts came into conflict, its architecture had little influence upon succeeding styles, or upon that of Europe. Far different might have been the result had the invading hordes over-flowed Europe, and not been successfully resisted by those brave Greeks who -:

Breasted, beat Barbarians, stemmed Persia rolling on,
Did the deed, and saved the world, for the day was Mara.

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