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Greek Architecture - Comparative Analysis

( Originally Published 1921 )



A. Plans (p. 76).- Temple plans with few exceptions, such as the Erechtheion (p. 98 F), were simple, well judged, nicely balanced, and symmetrical, but in private houses there was probably considerable variety of treatment as is seen at Athens, Delos, and elsewhere. Plans involving the use of the Orders were generally regular and but rarely extensive or complicated, though certain departures were made from the general rule, either for effect, as in Doric temples, when columns were placed nearer together at the angles (pp. 79 A, 126 B), or for practical purposes as in the Propylaea at Athens (p. 111 H), where the central intercolumniation was increased, possibly for the passage of chariots in the Panathenaic procession. Greek temples might be described as Egyptian temples turned inside out ; for, whereas in an Egyptian temple the courts and columned halls were enclosed by a high girdle wall, in a Greek temple the single naos was surrounded by those external, open colonnades which are its special charm. The Greeks employed the circular plan for open-air theatres and occasionally for other buildings, such as the Tholos, Epidauros (p. 76 E), and the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates, Athens (p. 106 A), while the octagonal plan was adopted for the Tower of the Winds, Athens (p. 106 F).

B. Walls.—Walls were solidly constructed of blocks of stone or marble which largely determined their character (p. 104 A). These blocks were often held together by metal cramps without mortar and so the joints between the blocks had to fit with great accuracy, while the glistening wall surface was obtained by the laborious process of rubbing down by slaves. When marble was not abundant, coarse-grained limestone was sometimes faced with a fine marble stucco capable of taking a high polish, in order to produce the desired smooth surface.

The method of hollow wall-construction was sometimes used, as in the frieze of the Parthenon, to lessen the weight upon the architraves, and perhaps to economise material (p. 87 E, F). The base of a temple was always well defined by a stylobate of steps, giving real as well as apparent solidity to the structure (pp. 8i A, 87 B, 88). Cornices finished the top of the building or the upper part of the entablature, and in temples, which were one storey high, there were no intermediate cornices, although string courses or horizontal bands of moulding were sometimes introduced, as in the Temple of Zeus Olympius, Agrigentum (p. 82 L). Whereas in Egyptian temple architecture walls are the chief external features, in Greek temple architecture columns are the chief external features, and even the naos itself is screened by the ubiquitous Greek columns. Towers as such are unusual in Greek architecture, except along the lines of fortified walls, such as those at Messene, praised by Pausanias. There were a few monuments which were tower-like in character, such as the lofty Mausoleum at Halicamassos (p. 113 C, L) and the Lion Tomb at Cnidos (p. 114, A, C), both of which had pyramidal roofs. '

C. Openings.—Greek architecture was essentially a trabeated style, and openings were square-headed and spanned by a lintel. Trabeated construction necessitated severity of treatment and columns were expressly placed close together to support lintels or architraves of stone or marble, as these materials have little capacity to resist transverse strain. Openings are sometimes narrowed towards the top, as in the doorway of the Erechtheion (p. 115 D). Facades of windowless temples, which would otherwise have been monotonous, were varied by alternation of light and shade, produced by the succession of free-standing columns and the shadows in the openings between them.

D. Roofs.—The inclination of the pediments was governed by the slope of the roof, which in temples was carried by the naos wall and surrounding colonnade, supplemented in larger buildings by columns in the naos, as at Paestum (p. 81 n). The timber rafters of the roof were covered externally with thin marble slabs and the marble ceilings of the peristyle were enriched by lacunaria or panels (p. 79 E).

E. Columns.—Temples are one storey high, and columns, with their entablature, comprise the entire height of the buildings except in some interiors, as the Parthenon (p. 87 F) and the Temple of Poseidon, Paestum (p. 81 n), where an upper range of columns was introduced into the naos to support the roof.

The Orders (p. 116), which have been fully dealt with, may be summarised as follows :

The Doric (p. 78) is the sturdiest of the Orders, and its finest examples are in the Parthenon and the Theseion (p. 89).

The Ionic (p. g6) was more slender, and two typical examples are in the Erechtheion (p. Too) and the Temple on the Ilissus (p. 99).

The Corinthian (p. 107), with its elaborate capital, was little used by the Greeks, the best-known examples being the. Monument of Lysicrates, Athens (p. 108) and the Olympieion (p. 111) upon which the Romans founded their own special type of capital.

Caryatids (pp. 123 J, 863) and Canephora (pp. 123 D, 863) ordraped female figures, probably suggested by the " Osiris " columns of Egypt (pp. 32 B, 38 H), were sometimes used as columns or supports, as at the Erechtheion, Athens (pp. 92 B, 123 ).

F. Mouldings.—Mouldings are an architectural device whereby, with the help of the light and shade they produce, definition is given to the salient lines of a building (pp. 119, ). Thus the delicacy of moulded contours is in proportion to the strength of sunlight in any given country, always making due allowance for national tendencies and the possibilities of material. Greek love of refinement found full opportunity for expression in graceful mouldings in the sunny climate of Greece ; the Roman character, in a somewhat similar climate, displayed itself in more pronounced mouldings ; while in grey and sunless England mouldings became coarser to secure sufficient shadow to throw up their lines. Greek mouldings were refined and delicate in contour, due first to the fine-grained marble in which they were carved, and secondly to the clear atmosphere and continuous sunshine which produced strong shadows from slight projections. Though the sections of these mouldings were probably formed by hand, they approach very closely to various conic sections, such as parabolas, hyper-bolas, and ellipses. As a general rule the lines of the carving on any Greek moulding correspond to the profile of that moulding and thus emphasise it by the expression of its own curvature in an enriched form. The examples given of mouldings taken from the Parthenon, Erechtheion, and elsewhere may be studied (pp. 119, 120).

The following is a classified list of the most important Greek mouldings compared with Roman (p. 119).

(a) The cyma recta (Hogarth's " line of beauty ") which is often carved with honeysuckle ornament, whose outline corresponds with the section (pp. 119 G, 120 Q).

(b) The cyma reversa (ogee) when enriched is carved with the water-leaf and tongue (pp. 119 H, 120 N, Q).

(c) The ovolo (egg-like) when enriched is carved with the egg and dart, or egg and tongue ornament (pp. 119 F, 120 L, 9).

(d) The fillet, a small plain face to separate other mouldings (p. 119 A), is usually without enrichment.

(e) The astragal or bead serves much the same purpose as the fillet, but approaches a circle in section. It is sometimes carved with the " bead and reel " or with beads, which, in fact, gave the name to the moulding (p. 119 B).

(j) The cavetto is a simple hollow (p. 119 D).

(g) The scotia is a deep hollow which occurs in bases, and is generally not enriched (p. 119 E).

(h) The torus is really a magnified bead moulding which, when enriched, is carved with the guilloche or plait ornament, or with bundles of leaves tied with bands (p. 119 L).

(i) The bird's-beak moulding occurs frequently in the Doric Order, and gives a deep shadow (pp. 119 K, 120 A, E).

(j) The corona, or deep vertical face of the upper portion of the cornice, was frequently painted with a Greek " fret " ornament (p. 119 C).

G. Ornament (pp. 123, 124, 125).-Greek ornament is specially refined in character, and on it architectural ornament of all succeeding styles has been based. The acanthus leaf and scroll play an important part in Greek ornamentation (p. 105 C). The leaf from which these were derived grows in the south of Europe in two varieties. The " acanthus spinosus," preferred by the Greeks, has pointed, narrow lobes, V-shaped in section with deeply drilled eyes giving a sharp, crisp shadow (p. 105 D). The " acanthus mollis," preferred by the Romans, has broad, blunt tips, flat in section (p. 105 E). The leaf was used principally in the Corinthian capital (p. 105), and is also found in the capital (pp. 105 G, 106) and crowning finial of the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates (p. 125 E). The scroll which accompanies the leaf and acts as a stalk is usually V-shaped in section with sharp edges. The anthemion, palmette, or honeysuckle ornament (p. 125 A) was a favourite Greek decoration, and was largely used to ornament with capitals (p. 125 L), cyma recta mouldings (p. 119 G), and neckings of columns as in the Erechtheion (p. 93 D). It is also frequently employed on stele-heads and antefixae (pp. 123 G, 124 D, 125 D).

Greek sculpture, which has never been excelled, may be classified as follows : (a) architectural sculpture which includes friezes (pp. 85 N, 125 H), tympana of pediments (p. 86 C), acroteria at the base and summit of pediments (p. 86 A, B), sculptured metopes (pp. 85 A, C, 125 K, M), Caryatids (pp. 92 B, 123 J), and figure sculptures, as the " Gigantomachia" of the Altar of Zeus at Pergamon in Asia Minor ; (b) sculptured reliefs, as seen on the stele (p. 123 G) ; (c) free-standing statuary, consisting of groups, single figures, bigas (two-horse chariots) or quadrigas (four-horse chariots) (p. 113 C, L).

Colour, of which many traces are left, was largely used on buildings (p. 72). In many instances stone, brick, and even marble were covered with carefully prepared cement, to receive paintings or colour decoration, especially in buildings of the Doric Order, and this cement stucco was capable of such high polish that Vitruvius mentions that it would reflect like a mirror.



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