1A_Kostof - sixth century B.c this oracle had emerged as...

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Unformatted text preview: sixth century B.c., this oracle had emerged as the general fount of wisdom, the dis- penser of binding advice that softened the harsh ancestral morality of tribal living with a new doctrine of moderation and respect for civilized order. The craggy wild of the site testified to the violent struggle be- tween old underworld forces, like the snake. Pytho, and the young god who in over‘ coming these forces trampled basic fear and made reason triumph. There in the tossed land, over the chasm of the earth, Apollo's temple rose as a trumpet call to measure and self-control. Many of the early temples in mainland Greece and abroad were ded- icated to the Lord Apollo. Colonies were usually established on the advice of his Delphic oracle. The Panhellenic community that such a national church encouraged corresponds with the rise of the polls or city-state at the regional level. The Greeks embraced ur- banism as a matter of choice. The polis did not respond to a major technological ad- vance or the push of commerce. It was not, initially at least, a manufacturing or mar- keting center; if anything, it remained an overgrown agricultural village dependent on the traditional labor of the countryside. The importance of urban organization lies in the desire to go beyond the common law of tribe and clan, to live under controllable institutions of self-government. The Greek city was founded on two con- cepts that typify the turn away from a pa- triarchal and custom-bound society and its burden of aidos, "that vague sense of re- spect for gods and men," as one scholar describes it, "and shame of wrong—doing before earth and sky.” One of these con- ccpts was the right of private property, which spelled the breakdown of the tribal common land. The other concept was in- dividual freedom, the faith in human parity that is the opposite of the self-reducing collectiveness of tribal destiny. The social grouping was now, theoretically at least, one of equals bound by their own decision- making and administered by elected mag- istrates. The hearth became the city, and every Greek became above all a citizen, there to light for the city’s interests and guide its affairs. There was to be no orga- nized military system, any more than there was an organized priesthood. Each man A PLACE ON EARTH carried his own weapons, as each person was ultimately accountable for his or her own good relations with the immortal pro- tectors of the city and its laws. The Greek Temple Greek temples served simultaneously as the symbol of a broad union of Greeks—a union predicated upon a common religion, a common tongue, and the belief in a com~ mon ancestry—and also as the symbol of each city’s special involvement with one of the immortals—Samos with Hera, Ephesos with Artemis, Corinth with Apollo, Athens with Athena. They had, then, both general and particular validity; they distinguished Creek from "barbarian" and one Greek city from the others. The message of the tem- ple to its own audience, from the Tyrrhen- ian to the Black Sea, was that the same ar- chitecture and religious iconography could be used to make very individual state- ments. The message of the temple to the alien world was that of a free people, sub— iect to neither king nor priest: "The whole folk year by year, in parity of service is our king,” as the playwright Euripides was to put it about Athens. In this larger sense, in what it stands for as much as in the way it looks, the temple remains a uniquely Greek achievement. There were, of course, some borrow- ings—both in the built form itself and in the art that enhanced it. Already in the eighth century, the geometric style of the funer- ary vases was being overlaid by a hybrid language of curvilinear designs, plants, and intimidating beasts borrowed from the late phases of Anatolian, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian art. (Fig. 6.7) At the same time, Homer's consolidation of fable into his— toric memory was finding a visual counter- part in the potter’s workshop. It is out of this visual codification of myth, scenes in- volving Herakles or the wily Odysseus, that the formulae of temple art were to emerge. in architecture, however, foreign influ- ence went far beyond the importation of specific motifs. The great “barbarian” les- son was monumentality, the power of an architecture of public scale built of cut stone and made pregnant with communicative sculpture: and the great teacher was Egypt, Fig. 6.7 Greek vase in the "orienlalizing” style, seventh century ac. (Louvre, Paris) a country with which the Greek world had been in close contact at least since the sev— enth century. This lesson in architectural expression swept aside the early folk ex— periments and brought forth the strong, salient form of the Greek temple that we can still see in hundreds of sites throughout the Aegean, southern Italy, and Sicily. it is this luminous stone specter in the landscape Fig. 6.8 Corinth (Greece), temple of Apollo, sixth century B.C.; view of remains. THE GREEK TEMPLE AND “BARBARIAN” ALTERNATIVES that has been, along with Roman law, the Bible, and the plays of Shakespeare, one of the prime staples of the Western imagina- tion. We should distinguish three overlapping stages in the evolution of the Greek tem- ple. 1. To the first stage belong the apsidal chapels prevalent in the obscure period following the Dorian occupation of main~ land Greece. The domestic character of these structures, their literal function as houses of local deities, is evidenced not only in their basic form but also in the fact that some among them included a hearth within the cult room. 2. This initial experimental stage, when the structure of the Greek pantheon was still vague and the Greek nation still unformed, was superseded by a generation of temples noteworthy for two things: their compara- tively larger size and the appearance of the peristyle. The period in question, the eighth and seventh centuries, corresponds with the rise and early success of the polls, wide— spread colonization, and the genesis of a common Creek tradition and faith. The ap- sidal form was now everywhere aban- doned in favor of strict rectangularity. The cult room, or cella, created a tunnel view toward the statue at the far end. This view could be kept clear only by limiting the width of the room. Ampler proportions usually called for a central row of supports, which either blocked the view or forced the statue to one side of the central axis. The peristyle made these internal ar- rangements of minor consequence. (Fig. 6.8) This format portico that surrounded the entire outline of the cella, including the entrance front, may have been employed first in the temple of Hera on the island of Samos, which was built sometime in the early eighth centu ry. So far, the temples we have studied in the Near East fall into two classes. They either have cult rooms which are hermetically sealed from the outside, as is the practice in Egypt, or else the temple envelope is perforated with windows that bring in am- ple light, the solution of Temple | at Hat- tusas. (Figs. 4.18, 5.5) The effect of the peri- style is very different. Rather than opening up the cella walls toward the light, the Greek builder at Samos chose to enshrine this hall within an architectural screen, and 121 in so doing he changed the concept of the temple from a tabernacle of the holy image to an external thing, a form that mattered as a mid‘space object and had visual valid— ity from all sides. The ring of uniform wooden posts outside prevented the long narrow hall from being read as a simple container and obscured the distinction be- tween the open entrance end and the solid end with the cult statue. The house of the deity was on its way to becoming the men‘ ument and talisman for the city. And, in fact, this conceptual advance is what is so rev- olutionary about these early temples. The continuous portico was never wide enough to provide usable space. The practical ad» vantage of being able to extend the eaves beyond the walls, and thus protect the mud- brick structure from rain, had already been recognized in the first stage. Besides, when a generation or two prior to 600 B.C. stone columns began to replace the Wooden posts, and ashlar masonry the mud-brick of the walls, such practical considerations were clearly irrelevant. 3. The shift to permanent materials was completed with the invention of terra-cotta tiles as a new roofing material. Since these tiles were not fastened to the roof but were kept in place by their own weight, the steepness of the roof was moderated to an easy rise, visually more stable and more in tune with the height of the stone columns at the two short ends than the earlier high- pitched gables had been. (Fig. 6.11) These two ends were made to look identical even beyond the perister layer by the addition of a false back porch to the main body of the cella, matching the entrance porch of the east front. (Fig. 6.16) In its plan the cella now resembled the megaron type of Troy II. (Fig. 5.9) Once again, however, it would be per- verse to explain the choice of stone col- umns in the peristyle as the practical re- quirement for the heavy tiles. Masonry structure and tiles both were the outcome of a new vision that required a new tech- nology and had to do with intangible gains, such as community pride and faith in the city’s stability and strength. This mood of confidence that was articulated in the new architecture also accounts for the simulta neous rebirth of large-scale stone scu|p« ture, absent from the Greek scene since the days of Mycenae. Public statues of young men and women singled out for athletic prowess or exceptional virtue began to people the periphery of the temples. (Fig. 6.9) These full-size images were not set up as individual portraits but, instead, existed as civic monuments~—generalized pres- ences honoring the city through its choice citizens. That architecture and sculpture were thought to be integral to this public display of a city's prosperity and glory is suggested by the fact that early architects like Theo- doros of Samos were equally well known as sculptors. They were in charge of the total decorative program of the temples which at this time began to include figured panels in painted terra-cotta (a device probably learned from Assyria) and stone reliefs. The spare, almost heraldic, depiction of famil- iar subjects, the deeds of immortals and half-mortals, completed the statement of the temple, the fabled content of the scenes supplying the citizenry with the archetypes of a shared morality. The very first stone temples seemed to have appeared in the northeastern corner of the Peloponnesus, at places like Corinth and tsthmia, and in outposts within their cultural sphere, like Thermon in the re- mote region west of Delphi. It is surely not fortuitous that this sudden show of con- structive courage should be staged in the area of the Argolid plain where the ruins of the two greatest Mycenaean citadels, Ti— ryns and Mycenae, proclaimed past ac- complishment and invited revival, even though the stone temples showed little formal and technical similarity to this My- cenaean precedent. The initial source, for the mechanics of stone~cutting as well as the conventions of large—scale sculpture, was Egypt. Even the Doric column, the central element of the decorative order that was invented on the spot and was adhered to in mainland Greece and the Western colonies for at least three centuries, favored the Egyptian look. The capital itself may well have been in- spired by the Mycenaean exampies on the triangular relief of the Lion Gate and the facade of the so-called Treasury of Atreus. (Fig. 5.17) But Doric columns did not adopt the peculiarly Minoan-Mycenaean inverse taper; instead, they tapered upward in the A PLACE ON EARTH Egyptian manner. At any rate, the bor- rowed preliminaries were digested within the span of a generation, and the Doric or- der emerged as a quintessentially Greek system of design. So did the Ionic order, some fifty years later than the Doric, in the Greek cities of the eastern Mediterranean. The names of their creators have been preserved in the record: Trophonios and Agamedes, the legendary pair associated with the first stone temple at Apollo's Del- phi; Theodoros, who worked on the huge temple of Hera at Samos, which superseded the timber structure we spoke of above; Chersiphron, the designer of the temple of Artemis at Ephesos. The task they faced, to embrace a technology that differed funda- mentally from the traditional building methods of wood and mud-brick, was comparable to that of lmhotep at Saqqara 2,000 years earlier. Quarrying and transporting the stone were their principal worries; construction techniques and structural soundness were rudimentary. Beginner's caution probably accounts for the overbuilt forms—the thickly spaced peristyle columns (at times mono- lithic), heavy superstructures, massive foundations. Chersiphron, we are told, sought the advice of Theodoros of Samos regarding the Ephesian temple’s stability on its marshy site; he was instructed to put a layer of ashes (packed charcoal, according to another source) beneath the founda- tions to keep the stone blocks from sink- ing. Chersiphron wrote a book about his experiences with the new technology, in which he explained the mechanical device he had used for transporting column drums from the quarry to the site. These were too large to be carried in ox-drawn wagons, so he set them in cylindrical frames of wood that could be pulled along like enormous rollers. (Fig. 6.10) The general attitude in the ancient world was to submerge the identity of the archi- tect in the person of his powerful patron, the king or minister who commissioned the building. This is the case with Mesopota— mian and Hittite architecture. In Egypt, we know a fair number of state architects by name, and we have plenty of evidence that they were held in high esteem and exer- cised considerable power as supervisors of vast and costly public projects. But their 122 Fig. 6.9 Archaic Greek kouros, athlete named Bi- ton, ca, 600 [LC The statue stands over 2 meters (7 feet) high. (Museum, Delphi) THE GREEK TEMPLE AND "BARBARIAN" ALTERNATIVES Fig. 6.10 Two ways of transporting stone build- ing blocks in the sixth century B.c., according to ancient Greek sources; reconstruction drawing. craft was secretive. The architect practiced with the aid of documents, including draw- ings, that were considered to be divinely inspired and were kept in the archives of temples and other official institutions. He was prominent precisely because of this privileged access to occult sources, since literacy was the exclusive attribute of high courtiers and the priesthood. Senmut, the famous architect and intimate of Queen Hatshepsut, boasted of this distinction on the walls of his tomb: “I had access to all the writings of the prophets; there was nothing which I did not know of that which had happened since the beginning.“ The Greek architect was not so exalted, but he was a respected professional whose name was on public record and whose craft was accessible in trade books and trea- tises. His patron was commonly the city, as represented by its governing bodies. These government agencies set the budget and appointed a building commission to work closely with the architect in procuring the designs and in putting the proiect out to contract. The contractors were responsible for cutting and shaping the blocks at the quarry and for transporting them safely to the site. There they would be trimmed down to their final surface for proper fit- ting. The finishing and assembly of the hundreds of premade units were the most exacting responsibilities of the architect. The Doric Order Matters of technique and construction, though obviously important, were not the prime testing ground of Greek architects. The mettle of Greek built form lies in seemly appearance. Greek thinking is at once typal and spe- cific. It takes on an idea (or a form, which is nothing other than a congealed idea), nourishes and perfects it through a series of conscious changes, and in this way in- forms it with a kind of universal validity that seems irrefutable. The process is in fact ideal. that is, based on "the perfection of kind.” It presupposes orderly develop- ment and the practicability of consumma- tion. Greek architecture is, by this defini- tion, conservative. It invented little, and invention was slow. License was disci- plined, and quality filtered through self- imposed restriction. Every building existed within the limits of its norm and was judged 123 against other exponents of this same norm. And because this was so, every building could convey precise meaning against a background of familiarity. The stone temple of mainland Greece and its full decorative panoply, the Doric or- der, was an ideal invention. It did not con- stitute, as a mechanistic view would have it, the gradual translation into masonry of conventional timber forms. It seized upon the possibilities of the new technology to restate the principal theme of religious ar- chitecture as typified by the first peripterai temples of the eighth and early seventh centuries. in so doing, it expressed some of the effects of wood detailing rather than trying to petrify them exactty. It is there- fore not very fruitful to seek precise refer- ences in timber construction for individual elements of the Doric order, to see trig- lyphs as beam ends and columns as tree trunks. It is the contrast and not the trans- ference that needs to be stressed. This is plain when we set side by side the recon- structed elevations of the temple of Ar— temis at Kérkyra (Corfu), about 600 3.32., where the Doric order appeared in full form, and that of the second temple of Hera at Samos from the mid-seventh century, with its flimsy timber armature and its ner- vous verticality. (Fig. 6.11) Once launched, this system of design re- mained fairly stable, except for corrective changes that smoothed out infeliclties of form and heightened the expressive im- pact. This of course is a statement of gen- eral fact. The evolutionary process could have been neither entirely systematic nor predictable. Regions marched at a varying pace and offered different solutions to the same design challenges. On occasion a Doric temple—the temple of Zeus at the Sicilian town of Akragas (Agrigento) is a good instance—would take so many ex- traordinary liberties that it would seem to defy the essential constant of its norm. Fi- nally, we must allow that the results of the evolutionary process could have been very different from what we know them to be. There is no strict determinism in the his- tory of architecture. Tidy amounts of de- velopment can be drawn by historians only because they know how it all came out. and they can therefore rationalize a quirky string of choices so that it seems predestined. F O 25 l__l_—_#l—. 4—. rr—r' ‘fitil — Tl M O 5 IO Fig. 6.11a Samos (Greece), the second temple of Hera, mid-seventh century B.c.: coniectural el< evation. __—___..————~— Let us now take a close look at the Doric temple. The first thing we should notice is that the temple was a supremely artificial construct—a luminous presence of right angles and sharp geometries. It stood apart in the land, a monument of a vital abstrac- tion, eschewing the studied fusion with the natural site, which was the aim of Minoan- Mycenaean design or the city defenses of Hattusas. Greece is devoid of great sweeps of nature like the Egyptian desert, devoid too of grandiloquent mountain chains or broad navigable rivers. The contrasts are dramatic but on an intimate scale: defiles and precipitous valleys that might become contested boundaries between city-states; small cultivable plains boxed in by naked mountains, which are themselves small but also visually explosi...
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