Date: 19 April 2009
Three Ancient Architectures
The architectural designs and elements of ancient Greece, Egypt and Mesopotamia have many notable similarities. This could be because of the similarities in the ancient empires’ cultures (giving more importance to religion), environment and resources (the extensive use of reeds and mud bricks) or simply a result of their influences on each others’ aesthetic content in their designs. Either way, the ancient civilizations’ architectural designs have surely inspired and begun the architectural advancement of today’s times. Greek Architecture
When referring to Greek architecture, as a rule, it pertains to their public buildings for in contrast to their Aegean predecessors, the Greeks of the historical periods devoted less attention to their private dwellings, whether houses and palaces for the living or tombs for the dead (Dinsmoor 38). For private shelter for the people, the traces are sufficient to indicate that the Dorians must have begun with the circular nomadic hut (65). The simplicity of these living quarters of the Dorians, an ancient tribe in Greece, which gave way to the Doric style, could not be held true for their public places.
As of these public buildings, those of religious character occupy most prominent places, first of all their temples and altars to which were subsequently added the treasuries, propylaea, votive monuments, stoas, theater and other adjuncts of the sacred temenos (Dinsmoor 38). Most of the buildings were temples and altars for the many gods of ancient Greeks. Unlike the private dwellings, these public places, some roofed while others are unroofed, were more elaborate and they consisted of several wings. Perhaps the concept of an enclosed and roofed space forming the actual temple or home of the God originated in the more highly organized east (Dinsmoor 40). One of these temples is the Temple of Athena at Syracuse in Sicily. This temple only shows a portion of the stone sill now. The original construction and a later repair, are fully represented in the roof terracotta (44). The Greeks themselves retained vague traditions of the crude forms and ephemeral materials of their earliest temples; thus they recorded that the first temple of Apollo at Delphi was constructed of laurel boughs and the second of wax and feathers (41). The other temple plans consisted only of the pronaos and cella, perhaps with an adytum behind: the walls generally of mud-brick well exposed to the weathers on three sides of the building very inadequately protected by the slightly overhanging eaves (47). To add more grandeur to the temples, the façade was extended to the flank and rear, which resulted to a colonnade portico surrounding the temple. In this way, the Greek temple gradually assumed its characteristic columnar form and embodied the fundamental principle of Greek architecture, the post and lintel system (47).
Apart from temples, the monumental requirements of the Greeks of primitive times were limited to a few types of structures of simple form and cheap material (64-65). Other forms of public building were the unroofed purely political open-air meeting places. One of these was the Pnyx at Athens “where a bema or rostrum and some seats were carved from the rock of a hill, but most of the citizens stood or sat upon ground artificially leveled and raised with the help of a terrace wall (Robertson 164). Roofed places like the Bouleuterion or Council House at Olympia and Lesche or Club House of the Cnidians at Delphi were also examples of ancient Greek architecture. The Bouleuterion is consisted of two almost identical wings (north and south) and a smaller central building (163). On the other hand, the Lesche was a plain rectangular room, measuring externally about thirty –one by sixty-one feet which was probably entered by a door in the middle of one long side (164).
In studying Greek architecture, it is also necessary to...
Cited: Dinsmoor, William Bell. The Architecture of Ancient Greek: An Account of Its Historic
Development. New York: Biblo and Tannen, 1973.
Hamlin, Talbot. Architecture through the Ages. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1940.
Hitchcock, H. R. et al. World Architecture: An Illustrated History. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963.
Kimball, Fiske and George Harold Edgell. A History of Architecture. New York:Harper & Brothers, 1918
Okada, Yasuyoshi. “Pseudoperipteral Temples in Late-Antiquity Mesopotamia”. Al-
Rafidan,18 (1997), 281-285.
Robertson, D. S. A Handbook of Greek and Roman Architecture. Ambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1959
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