1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > Greek Temples (cont.): Other Features

(Part 56)

Greek Temples (cont.): Other Features

A Greek temple, whose columnar arrangement is simply in antis, whether distyle or tetrastyle, consists of pronaos and naos or cella. A tetraprostyle may have behind it a pronaos and naos. An amphiprostyle has, in addition to the preceding, a posticum, but is not understood to have a second entrance. The porticoes of a peripteral temple are distinguished as the porticus and posticum, and the lateral ambulatories are incorrectly called peristyle. It may, indeed, be here suggested, that as the admixture of Latin with Greek terms in the description of a Grecian edifice cannot be approved of, it would, perhaps, be better to apply the term stoa to the colonnaded platform or ambitus altogether, and distinguish the various parts of it by the addition of English adjectives; or the common term portico would be quite as well front, back, and side, or lateral, prefixed, as the case may be. Within the back and front stoas or porticoes, then, a peripteral temple has similar arrangements in antis, which are relatively termed the pronaos and opisthodomus, with an entrance only from the former; unless there should exist, as there does in the Parthenon, a room or chamber within the opisthodomus, supposed to be the treasury, in which case of door opens into it from the latter. Besides these, a Greek temple consists only of a cell in those which are cleithral, and of a naos, which is divided into nave and aisles, to use modern ecclesiastical terms, in an hypaethral temple.

In comparing the Greek temple with the Egyptian, a marked difference at once appears. The cella is the nucleus of both. But whereas the Egyptian was almost hidden within a series of chambers for the priest, and surrounded by enormous enclosed courts, the Greek was made the one prominent object, and the subject of the highest efforts of art. Nothing was allowed to interfere with it or to abate its predominance. The tympan was the placed in which the highest efforts of the sculptor were placed, the purest example of it being at the Parthenon. At Aegina the figures were entirely detached. Above the pediment at the top, and at the sides, were some very beautiful ornaments -- the acroteria. These were in so prominent a position, and so delicately carved, that very few remains of them are left to us. The roofs were covered with thin slabs, or tiles, of marble, and the ends of the ribs, which covered their joints, were ornamented with antefixae, forming a graceful finish to the flanks. These were mostly of marble, but at Aegina they were of terra-cotta. Further, in order to discharge the water from the utters, were lions’ heads, the original of our gargoyles. The gutters themselves were made on the top member of the cornice. It is singular that we have no accurate description of the interior of a temple, nor any information as to how it was ceiled or, lighted. We know that the cella had often a row of columns round it internally, and that upon this row was a second, as at the temples of Ceres at Eleusis, Minerva at Tegea, Neptune at Paestum, and Jupiter at Aegina. At the temple of the Giants at Agrigentum a row of figures took the place of the upper columns. We may fairly suppose, then, that the first row supported a gallery much as in our Triforia. But as to the roof there is more difficulty. The span would be too great for flat marble beams, and would have a very poor and depressing effect. To obviate this difficulty Mr Fawkener suggest that the ceilings were arched, and a medal which shows the temple of Juno at Samos certainly appears to favour this theory. But another difficulty remains, viz, as to the light, for there were no windows; and the only light, therefore, if no other access for it were made, would have been through the doorway itself, deeply buried behind a massive portico. Vitruvius alludes to this in his third book, where he describes a hypaethral temple as being "sine tecto et sub divo." But he states himself that this arrangement was rare, and if the cella was really in any case open to the sky, one can scarcely imagine how the delicate statues of ivory and gold could have been protected from the weather. At Bassae some remains of roof tiles have been found, the centre part of which were open, and might thus have formed small openings for light. But the difficulty as to the statues remains. Mr Fergusson’s solution of the problem is very ingenious, and so satisfactory that it seems to require only some reference to his arrangement in any of the old sculptures or writers to make it generally received. He supposes that the inner columns supported a sort of clerestory, formed by a channel on each side along the roof. This would give an excellent light, and the statues could easily be protected. This theory does not fulfil Vitruvius’s description ‘sine tecto," but he is generally so inaccurate in his references to Greek work that this objection does not seem to be very formidable.

According to the rules of Vitruvius, all temples should face east and west, and the door should be to the west; but in reality the doors in Ionia, Attica, and Sicily were to the east. The temple at Bassae faces north and south, but it has a side door also. The temple was usually approached by a flight of steps, of an uneven number, so that the worshipper might place his right foot on the first step, and again on the temple floor. The ceilings of the porticoes and colonnades were formed by great beams of marble, and the spaces of the intercolumns were thus limited. This appears to be the reason for the closed colonnade of the temple of the Giants at Agrigentum, as the spaces between the columns, if open, as usual, would have been too wide to be spanned by a flat beam.

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