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Greek Architecture - Public Buildings

( Originally Published 1921 )



The Agora, or open-air meeting-places for the transaction of business, were large spaces surrounded by stoae or colonnades, giving access to the public buildings, such as temples, basilicas, stadia, and palaestrae or gymnasia.

Stowe (pp. 75 C, 97 K) played an important part in the open-air life of the Greeks, and were formed to protect pilgrims visiting the shrines, to connect public monuments, and for shelter in open spaces. The most important were the Stoa Poecile, or Echo Colonnade, Olympia, about 300 ft. by 30 ft., the two at Epidauros to shelter patients at the shrine of AEsculapius, and the three at Delphi.

The Stadion was the foot racecourse in cities where games were celebrated, and it was eventually used for other athletic performances. It was usually straight at the end used for the starting-place, and semicircular at the other, and was always 600 ft. long, although the feet varied in length in different States. It was sometimes planned with its length skirting the side of a hill, so that the seats could be cut out of the hill slope as at Olympia, Thebes, and Epidauros ; or else it was constructed on the flat, as at Delphi, Athens, and Ephesus. The Stadion, Athens, commenced B.C. 331 and finished by Herodes Atticus, has recently been restored, and is said to accommodate between 40,000 and 50,000 people.

The Hippodrome was a similar type of building used for horse racing, and was the prototype of the Roman circus. Probably the first mention in literature of racing with horses is in Homer's " Iliad," XXIII, lines 212-65o, giving incidents from the chariot-races at the funeral games in honour of Patroclos. The four-horse chariot race seems to have been begun in the Olympic games as early as the 23rd Olympiad, and there were similar races at all the Greek national games.

The Palaestrae or gymnasia, as at Olympia, Ephesus, and Pergamon, were prototypes of the Roman thermae, and comprised courts for athletes, tanks for bathers, exedrae for lecturers, and seats for spectators.

The " Sanctuary of the Bulls," Delos (p. 123 C, E, F, H) is 219 ft. long by 30 ft. wide. It is an unusually shaped structure used in connection with the temple rites, and here, according to tradition, the religious dance of the Delian Maidens took place. There is a long hall with a sunken area in the centre, at the end of which steps lead down to a lower chamber through an entrance flanked by Doric columns with recumbent bulls carved on the capitals.



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