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Roman Architecture - Rectangular Temples

( Originally Published 1921 )

Roman temples are an amalgamation of Etruscan and Greek types ; for while in many respects they resembled the Greek, the typical prostyle portico and podium were derived from Etruscan temples (p. 138). There are several types, of which the most characteristic is pseudo-peripteral (p. 143 H), which, instead of side colonnades, has half-columns attached to the walls with a prostyle portico in front. The steps to the principal entrance were flanked by massive, low walls which were an extension of the lateral podium, and they frequently supported groups of statuary (p. 143 G). Greek peripteral temples were normally twice as long as their width, but Roman temples were much shorter in proportion, while the cella itself, used as a treasure house and as a museum for Greek statuary, frequently occupied the whole width of the building. The intercolumniation was sometimes wider than in Greek temples, and then the architrave and frieze were built in voussoirs as flat arches, but this treatment was unnecessary where walls supported the entablature. Nothing definite is known as to the cella ceilings, but they may have been coffered, as in the colonnades ; of timber beams, as in the basilicas ; or vaulted, as in the Temple of Venus and Rome at Rome (p. 148 C, E), the Temple of Diana at Nimes (p. 14:8 G, J, L), and the Temples at Spalato (pp. 176, 183 n). The absence of a surrounding colonnade and continuous stylobate resulted in a certain loss of unity, as compared with Greek temples, which were more-over generally isolated so as to be visible on all sides. Roman temples were intended to be seen from the forum which they faced, and the entrance was emphasised by the deep portico and steps, while there was no attempt at orientation, as in Greek temples.

The Temple of Fortuna Virilis, Rome (B.C. 100) (p. 143 A, B, C) is pseudoperipteral tetrastyle with a deep Ionic portico in the Etruscan manner, but Greek influence is evident in the refined carving of the frieze. The cella occupies the whole width between the columns. This temple was converted into the church of S. Maria Egiziaca (A.D. 880), and its portico was enclosed and windows were inserted.

The Temple of Mars Ultor, Rome (B.C. 42–2) (p. 144), in the Forum of Augustus, was dedicated to Mars the Avenger by Augustus in fulfilment of his vow to avenge the death of Caesar. It was one of the largest of Roman temples, with columns 58 ft. high, of which only three and a pilaster remain, with a portion of the architrave (p. 144 B, D). The cella was nearly square, and had internal columns and pilasters, and an apsidal recess—one of the earliest instances of a feature afterwards adopted in Early Christian churches. It stood in front of the Quirinal Hill in a peribolus surrounded by a wall some 100 ft. high, of peperino stone and ornamented with niches for statues (p. 144 A).

The Temple of Concord, Rome (pp. 139 B, 140 A), rebuilt by Augustus, (B.C. 27—A.D. 14), had an unusual plan with an extensive cella. Here too windows occur on each side of a hexastyle portico, which formed a spacious covered platform.

The Temple of Castor and Pollux, Rome (A.D. 6) (pp. 139, 147) had been dedicated in B.C. 482 to the twin gods in gratitude for their aid at the Battle of Lake Regillus in B.C. 496, and was rebuilt by Tiberius as part of his Forum. This peripteral temple, formerly known as that of Jupiter Stator, had an octastyle portico on a raised podium, 22 ft. high, faced with Pentelic marble and filled in solid except for a space left for a treasure chamber, which was also used for testing weights and measures. The three existing columns of Pentelic marble are 48 ft. 5 in. high and have unique Corinthian capitals in which the central volutes intertwine, and between these and the angle volutes rises a tendril from which foliage is carried along the abacus (p. 147 D). The entablature, 12 ft. 6 1/2 ins. high, has an architrave with carved mouldings, a plain frieze, and a cornice enriched with modillions, dentils and cymatium, and lion heads throw off rain-water. The angle (p. 147 C) shows a clever arrangement of ornamental features.

The Maison Carree, Nimes (A.D. 14) (p. 144) is the best-preserved Roman temple in existence. It is raised on a podium 12 ft. high with steps only on the entrance facade, and it is pseudo-peripteral prostyle hexastyle, with Corinthian columns supporting a rich entablature.

The Temple of Diana, Nimes (p. 148) is probably a misnomer for a nymphaeum connected with therm. The cella walls have internal Corinthian columns, supporting an entablature from which springs a stone-ribbed barrel vault, the thrust of which is counteracted by smaller continuous vaults over the side aisles. Light was probably introduced through a semicircular window at the end of the barrel vault. It is one of the four vaulted Roman temples in Europe and is covered with stone slabs (p. 148 J), and is probably a prototype of the vaulting of many southern French Romanesque churches (p. 277).

The Temple of Vespasian, Rome (A.D. 94) (pp. 139 B, 140 A), erected by Domitian, stood beside the Temple of Concord, and had a prostyle hexastyle Corinthian portico, of which only three columns remain.

The Temple of Venus and Rome, Rome (A.D. 123–135) (p. 148), of which little remains, was designed for Hadrian by Apollodorus of Damascus, and was raised on a platform about 540 ft. by 340 ft., which was entered through gateways in a surrounding colonnade of nearly zoo columns of Egyptian granite and porphyry, which formed a magnificent frame to this imposing temple (p. 148 B). The plan was pseudo-dipteral decastyle, and was unusual in that it had two cellas with apses placed back to back, and there was a pronaos at each front. The cella walls, faced with monolithic columns and with niches- for statues, were of extra thickness to take the thrust of the semicircular coffered vault, and the two apses for the statues of Venus and Rome had semi-domes which still exist. The plan (p. 148 A) gives the usually accepted arrangement of this building. The restoration (p. 148 B) shows the temple in its temenos surrounded by a peribolus of columns with its Pentelic columns, sculptured pediments, and a great roof, covered with gold-plated bronze tiles, which were stripped off by Pope Honorius (A.D. 625) to cover the basilican church of S. Peter.

The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, Rome (A.D. 141) (pp. 139, 143 D, E, F) is prostyle hexastyle, and has a deep portico, reached by steps between the podium walls, leading into a spacious cella, 57 ft. 2 ins. wide, with plain external walling without attached columns. The pediment was destroyed and the upper part altered when it was converted into the Church of S. Lorenzo in Miranda in A.D. 1602.

The Temple of Saturn, Rome (A.D. 284) (pp. 139, 143 G, H, ) is a pseudoperipteral prostyle hexastyle example of a debased type, in a commanding position close to the Capitol. The temple is raised on a podium 12 ft. 3 ins. high and steps lead to the portico of granite columns, 30 ft. 4i ins. high, of which only eight remain with Ionic capitals having typical angle volutes, but the pediment no longer exists. The architrave mouldings were omitted along the front to admit of the inscripton.

The Great Temple, Baalbek (A.D. 131–161) (p. 151), erected in the reign of Antoninus Pius, forms part of the magnificent temple group which rears its massive form high above the plain, below the hills of Lebanon, and stands as a testimony to the power of Roman rule in Syria and to the establishment of Roman State religion wherever the legionaries planted the Imperial standards. It was raised on a high platform, approached by steps which lead to a dodecastyle Corinthian portico " in antis." Three doorways opened into a hexagonal forecourt with rectangular exedrae on either side, each fronted with four columns. Another three-fold portal led into the main court, 38o ft. square, with rectangular and semicircular exedra on three sides, all fronted with columns. The wall enclosing the main court rises 70 ft. above the plain, and the substructure of the Great Temple is formed of gigantic blocks of stone on the western side. Three of these are known as the Trilithon, and are about 64 ft. long, 11 ft. thick, and 13 ft. high, and 50o tons in weight. The Great Temple itself, also constructed of large blocks without cement, faces the main court, and stands on a podium 17 ft. above it. It was dipteral decastyle, and the unfluted Corinthian columns, of which only six remain, are about 65 ft. high and 7 ft. in diameter, carrying an entablature 13 ft. 3 in. high. The temple was much damaged by Theodosius the Great (A.D. 379–395), and later by Arabs and Turks.

The Temple of Jupiter, Baalbek (A.D. 273) (p. 151), which stands beside the Great Temple, is peripteral octastyle, with fifteen columns on each side, and is approached on the east by steps between wing walls. The interior has fluted Corinthian half-columns, supporting a returned entablature, with two tiers of niches between the half-columns. Some authorities think that the cella had a coffered stone vault, and there was a vaulted sanctuary approached by steps from the cella. Some coffering with medallions and busts of gods and emperors still remains in position in the peristyle ceiling.

The Great Temple of the Sun, Palmyra (restored A.D. 273), with its single peristyle of giant Corinthian columns, stood on a raised platform in the centre of a colonnaded court, and was approached from the town through a long street of columns, which ended in a triumphal arch.

The Temple of AEsculapius, Spalato (A.D. 300) is a small prostyle tetrastyle temple within the palace of Diocletian.

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