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Greek Architecture - The Ionic Order

( Originally Published 1921 )

The Ionic Order (p. 93) is specially remarkable for its volute or scroll capital, which, like so many other decorative motifs, may have been derived from the Egyptian lotus (p. 94 B), which must have undergone sundry modifications on its way from Egypt through Assyria to Asia Minor (p. 94 E). The spiral is also found in Mycenaean jewellery and domestic articles as early as B.C. 800, and this might be sufficient to account for its adoption at a later period in Greece. The early Ionic capitals at Lesbos, Neandria (p. 94 M) and Cyprus (p. 94 A) exhibit volutes of a distinctly vegetable type with a palmette interposed, and there are Ionic capitals at Delos (p. 94 J), Naukratis (p. 94 K), Delphi (p. 94 L), and Athens which would seem to form a link between these and later types.

The nautilus shell (p. 94 D) with its simple spiral and the ram's horns with their voluptuous curls (p. 94 G) are examples of nature's spirals which were at hand for the observant architect ; and scrolls, which were no doubt derived from nature, are ' seen on Egyptian wall paintings (p. 94 F), Cypriote vases (p. 94 H), and bronze armour plates (p. 94 N). The bracket capital (p. 94 C) shows a simple device for decreasing the bearing of the architrave which may have been suggested by timber forms, as at Ephesus (p. 103 C), where the volutes have a great projection.

Ionic columns, including capital and base, are usually about nine times their lower diameter in height and have twenty-four flutes separated by fillets and not by arrises or sharp edges as in the Doric column. The earlier examples, however, have shallow flutes separated by arrises, and the flutes number as many as forty in the Archaic Temple at Ephesus (p. 93 A) and at Naukratis, and forty-four at Naxos. The moulded base (p. 120 11) usually consists of an upper and lower torus, divided by a scotia and fillets, but there is no square plinth, The Asiatic treatment consisted of an upper torus and scotia only, and in the later examples a lower torus was added, making what is known as the Attic base. The capital consists of a pair of volutes or spirals, about two-thirds the diameter in height, on the front and back of the column, connected at the sides by the cushion, sometimes plain and sometimes ornamented, and on the front and back by an echinus moulding carved with the egg and dart, and a bead moulding. The outline of the volutes was shaped either by hand or by geometrical devices (p. 94 Q, R, s), or even by twisting a string round an inverted cone or common whelk shell (p. 94 1'). The treatment of the capitals of the angle columns; in which it was necessary to show volutes on two adjacent faces, was very skilfully effected (p. 93 B, D, E, F), while an unusual development was to make the angle capital with volutes facing all four sides, by joining the two adjacent volutes at an angle, as in the Temple at Bassae (pp. 91 B, C, F, 93 C).

The Ionic entablature varies in height, but is usually about one-fifth of the whole Order (p. 93). It consists of (a) architrave, usually formed as a triple fascia, in three planes like superimposed beams ; (b) frieze, sometimes plain, but often ornamented by a band of continuous sculpture (pp. 93 C, 97 H, L, M, 104 A) ; (c) cornice, with no mutules, but usually with dentil ornament, reminiscent of squared timbers, surmounted by the corona and cyma recta moulding.

The Doric Order provided a setting for sculpture in its frieze where the sculptured metopes were framed in by the triglyphs, whereas the Ionic incorporated it with the Order itself in the form of continuous carved friezes.

The principal examples of the Ionic Order, found on the mainland in Greece and in Asia Minor, are set forth below.


Archaic Temple of Artemis, Ephesus B.C. 550

Temple on the Ilissus, Athens B.C. 484

Temple of Nike Apteros, Athens B.C. 438

Temple of Apollo Epicurius, Bassae B.c. 430

The Erechtheion, Athens (p. too) B.C. 420—393

Temple of Dionysos, Teos B.C. 350

Temple of Hera, Samos B.C. 350

The Philippeion, Olympia (external) B.C. 338

Temple of Artemis, Ephesus (p. tor) B.C. 330

Temple of Apollo Didymaeus,near Miletus B.C. 335—320

Temple of Athena Polias, PrienE B.C. 320

The Temple on the Ilissus, Athens (B.C. 484), (pp. 93 B, 97), which was amphi-prostyle tetrastyle and stood on a stylobate of three steps, was entirely destroyed by the Turks in A.D. 1780. The naos was only 15 ft. 4 ins, square, and the columns, 14 ft. 8 ins. high including base and capital, supported an entablature 4 ft. high. The restored view (p. 97 C) will give a good idea of the appearance of these smaller temples.

The Temple of Nike Apteros, Athens (B.C. 438), (pp. 104 A, 110 B, H), of which Callicrates was the architect, is a most exquisite small Ionic temple dedicated to " Wingless Victory." This temple of Athena Nike is picturesquely perched on the south-western spur of the Acropolis, and the platform of rock on which it stands was surrounded on three sides by a marble balustrade 3 ft. 2 ins. high, enriched with very fine sculpture dating from B.C. 425-400. The sacrificial altar of the goddess stood to the east in front of the temple entrance. This little temple, which is only 23 ft. high to the apex of the pediment, stands on a stylobate of three steps and is amphi-prostyle tetrastyle in plan, with a naos which is only 13 ft. 9 ins. by 12 ft. 5 ins. The Ionic columns of the east and west porticoes, resembling the internal columns of the Propylaea, are 1 ft. 9 ins. in diameter and 13 ft. 6 ins. high, and are placed two diameters apart—an arrangement known as systyle intercolumniation. The celebrated frieze, in high relief, is 18 ins. high, and originally consisted of fourteen slabs, four of which are in the British Museum. The temple was taken down by the Turks in A.D. 1687 and built into a battery on the Acropolis ; but in A.D. 836, on the demolition of the battery, the materials were recovered and the temple was reconstructed on its original site.

The Erechtheion, Athens (B.C. 420–393) (pp. Iv, 75, 92 B, 93 D, 98, 123 J), of which Mnesicles was the architect, stands on the Acropolis north of the Parthenon, on the site of an older temple burnt in B.C. 480 by the Persians. The temple was regarded with special veneration, as it contained memorials connected with the religion of the State, viz. the sacred olive tree that Athena called forth in her contest with Poseidon, the salt well produced by the trident of Poseidon, the tomb of Cecrops, the Xoanon or primitive statue in olive-wood of Athena Polias, as well as the golden lamp of Callimachus and spoils taken from the Persians. It is unusual and irregular in plan (p. 98 F) owing to the sloping site and the inclusion of three distinct shrines within its walls, and, as it has no side colonnades, it is called " apteral." The arrangement of the interior, which measures 61 ft. 3 ins. by 31 ft. 6 ins., is still a matter of conjecture. The eastern portion contained the shrine of Athena Polias, guardian of the city, the western portion those of Erechtheus and Poseidon, while the Pandroseion was probably included within the temenos or sacred precincts to the west of the temple proper. There is an eastern Ionic hexastyle portico, a northern Ionic tetrastyle portico, and a southern Caryatid portico, a variety of treatment which indicates the unusual and peculiar character and purpose of this temple. In the eastern portico (pp. 93 D, 98 B), which probably formed the principal entrance, the columns are two diameters apart (systyle). The northern portico is 10 ft. lower than the eastern and gave access to the western naos. It projects westward of the main building, and the columns, 2 ft. 9 ins. in diameter and 25 ft. high, are three diameters apart (diastyle) and are arranged in a manner unlike that in any other Greek building. The angle columns in both porticoes have the volutes arranged to show on both facades. The southern or Caryatid portico (pp. 92 B, 98, 123 J) was probably a raised tribune, as it has only a small entrance on its eastern side, from which steps led down to the western naos. The six draped female figures or Caryatids, 7 ft. 9 ins. high, are spaced like the columns of the northern portico, but on a solid marble wall about 8 ft. above the level of the terrace, and they support an unusual entablature on which rests the marble roof. All the figures face southwards ; the three western lean on the right and the three eastern on the left leg, thus correcting the same optical illusion as in the facade of the Parthenon. The second Caryatid from the west is in the British Museum, and is replaced in the building by a terra-cotta copy (p. 92 B).

The exterior, in marble from Mount Pentelicus, owes much of its character to the sloping site and unusual, irregular disposition of the three porticoes, unlike in style, height, and treatment, and the restoration (p. 98 A) gives a good general idea of its appearance, though it would seem that the Caryatid portico did not actually project westward as shown. The north portico is a very ornate example of the Ionic Order. The capital has a plaited torus moulding between the volutes, once inlaid with coloured stones or glass, and bronze embellishments were formerly affixed to other parts of the capital. The spiral of the volute was carved with intermediate fillets, while the cushions or sides have mouldings of the bead and reel pattern, and the abacus has the egg and tongue ornament. The neckings of the columns have the " anthemion, palmette, or honeysuckle ornament, which is also applied to the antae (p. 125 L) and carried round the entire building under the architrave (p. 125 A). The shafts of the columns have an entasis, and on the upper torus of the bases are plaited enrichments. The carving of brackets, architrave, and cornice of the doorway (p. 115) in this portico is of the utmost delicacy and has become a model for later designs. The Ionic Order of the eastern portico, of which one column is in the British Museum, is similar but not so ornate (p. 93 D). The main building is crowned with an entablature 5 ft. high, with the usual triple division of architrave, frieze, and cornice, with water-leaf and egg and tongue carving. The skyline was accentuated by the acroterion ornaments of the pediments and the antefix to the marble roofing slabs. The frieze of porticoes and main building was of black Eleusinian marble, to which sculptured figures of white marble were attached by metal cramps, a method of showing up the sculpture which in other temples was frequently produced by the use of colour. The pediments appear to have been devoid of sculpture.

The Erechtheion has passed through various vicissitudes. In the Roman Period four Ionic half-columns, angle ant, and three windows were added to the west wall. It was transformed into a church in the time of Justinian, and after the Turkish annexation it was used for a harem. In A.D. 827, during the Greek revolution, the north portico, coffered ceiling, and other parts were destroyed, only three of the Caryatid figures remaining in position. In A.D. 1838 the walls were partially restored, and in A.D. 1845 the Caryatid portico was re-erected, but in A.D. 1852 a storm damaged the building, overthrowing the upper half of the western wall together with the engaged Roman columns.

The Temple of Artemis, Ephesus (B.C. 356) (p. 103), known as the Hellenistic temple, stood on the site of two or more previous temples, and of the archaic temple designed by Chersiphron (B.C. 550) and burnt down B.C. 400. This archaic temple was either restored or rebuilt by the architects Paeonius and Demetrius 'of Ephesus, but was again destroyed by fire on the night of Alexander's birth (B.C. 356). The columns of this archaic temple (pp. 93 A, 103 C), about 51 ft. 7 ins. high, are shown as restored from fragments now in the British Museum. They have elaborate moulded bases, with sculptured drums and shafts of forty flutes with arrises between them. The capitals are unusual, with echinus, spiral, and moulded abacus, and are no less than 10 ft. long, with a width of about 4 ft. only, and are presumed to have been derived from a timber original (p. 94 C). The Hellenistic temple was erected from designs by Deinocrates in the time of Alexander the Great, and Scopas was the master sculptor. The Temple of Artemis was the centre of the Pan-Ionic festival of the Asiatic colonies, as the Parthenon was of the Panathenaic festival in the motherland. It was regarded as one of the seven wonders of the world, and arrogated to itself almost every public function. It had special priests and priestesses, besides a multitude of image makers, poets, and soothsayers ; it had vast revenues ; it offered asylum for fugitives ; it was a museum, a treasury, and even a bank. The building, according to Dr. Murray's restoration based on Pliny's account, rested on a lower stylobate of four steps with an additional flight at each end, placed between the first and second rows of columns, in order to reach the upper platform. The plan (p. 103 B), as conjecturally restored by Mr. A. E. Henderson, also with the aid of Pliny (A.D. 23-79), differs from that by Dr. Murray, and is dipteral octastyle, with double ranges of twenty columns on each flank. In addition to the naos he shows a pronaos, epinaos, treasury, and stairs in the thickness of the wall to the roof. Pliny mentions that the temple had 100 columns, thirty-six of which were sculptured on the lower drum, and it is assumed by Mr. Henderson that the sixteen columns at either end and the four columns in antis were treated with square pedestals (p. 103 E), and that the rest of the columns had moulded bases (p. 93 E). The naos, which contained the statue of Artemis, is believed to have had superimposed columns to carry the roof. The building must have been one of the most impressive among Greek temples, and was noted for the sculptures, probably suggested by the archaic temple, on the square pedestals and circular drums. The restoration from a drawing by Mr. A. E. Henderson (p. 103 A) will give some idea of its magnitude and magnificence, situated within a temenos and placed upon a high stylobate with the impressive porticoes reached by central flights of steps: The front sixteen columns, 54 ft. in height, described by Pliny as 6o Greek ft., are shown with sculptured pedestals and drums, while behind are the peristyle columns of the same height but without pedestals or drums (p. 93 E). The entablature is restored without a frieze, as was usual in Asia Minor ; the pediment is flanked by acroteria and encloses a sculptured tympanum representing Artemis mothering her devotees, who are bringing offerings, while the crowning acroterion represents the goddess enthroned. None of the superstructure is left standing of this great Temple of Artemis, which played its part in one of the last living dramas of the pagan world in its stand, against Christianity preached by S. Paul at Ephesus (Acts xix). It is for ever associated in the popular mind with that cry of a lost cause : " Great is Diana of the Ephesians I " In spite of partial ruin by the Goths (A.D. 262) the temple and its cult seem to have lasted till the Edict of Theodosius closed all pagan temples (A.D. 369). It was then its grim fate to supply materials for the new cathedral of S. John, while all that remained on the ancient site was buried deep in silt till it was unearthed by the architect Wood in A.D. 86g. Descriptions by Pliny, broken fragments in the British Museum, excavations by Wood and Hogarth, restorations by Murray and Henderson, scholarly criticisms by Lethaby, and the vivid sketch in the Acts of the Apostles, all help us to visualise, not this temple-marvel merely, but also the civic life with whose varied aspects it was associated. Some of its architectural features were transferred. to other buildings, notably the eight dark-green marble columns which now separate nave from aisles in S. Sophia, Constantinople (p. 229). There are also fragments from the Orders of both temples in the British Museum.

The Temple of Apollo Didymaeus, Miletus (B.C. 335-320)-(pp. 76 N, 106), was the design of Paeonius of Ephesus and Daphne of Miletus. The original archaic temple had an avenue of seated figures, with a lion and sphinx at the entrance, as dedicatory offerings to Apollo, and ten of these figures, with the lion and sphinx, are in the British Museum. This archaic temple was destroyed by the Persians under Darius on the suppression of the Ionic revolt, B.C. 496. The second temple (pp. 76 N, 1(36) on the site is referred to by Strabo, who says, " In after times the inhabitants of Miletus built a temple which is the largest of all, but which on account of its vastness remains without a roof, and there now exist inside and outside precious groves of laurel bushes." This building was dipteral decastyle on plan, and the naos was hypthral. It had a very deep pronaos, with an ante-chamber beyond and stone stairs on either side. At the western end of the naos Messrs. Rayet and Thomas discovered the foundations of a shrine. The naos walls were ornamented with Ionic pilasters, 6 ft. wide and 3 ft. deep, resting on a continuous podium, ranging with the peristyle level. These pilasters were crowned with capitals of varied design, and between them there was a sculptured band of griffins and lyres (p. 106 J). On either side of the doorway at the eastern end were half-columns with Corinthian capitals, in which the acanthus leaves were unusually placed and the central volutes undeveloped (p. 106 L). The peristyle columns of the Ionic Order are fluted, and the bases are of varied design, being octagonal with carved panels on each face (p. 106 M).

The Temple of Athena Polias, Priene (B.C. 320) (pp. 93 F, 97), near Miletus, was picturesquely situated in a walled enclosure, like a fortified town, and containing a theatre and stadium. The temple shown on the restored plan (p. 97 K) is a peripteral hexastyle example, with II columns on the flank. The Ionic columns are 4 ft. 3 ins. in diameter, and had a height of 40 ft., supporting an entablature 9 ft. 8 ins. in depth. Some of the Ionic capitals, anta capitals, and cornice mouldings, showing great delicacy of workmanship, are in the British Museum.

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