1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > Architecture of Asia Minor

(Part 35)

Architecture of Asia Minor

Little was known of the antiquities of Asia Minor until, in 1838 and 1840, Sir C. Fellows discovered in its northwestern corner eleven ruined and deserted cities. It was reasonable to think that in these we should have the missing link between Assyrian and Greek art. But although a few of the sculptures show traces of Assyrian influence, and though the later structures are very similar to those of Greece, the productions of native art seem quite isolated and peculiar. The most ancient remains are considerably later than such masterpieces of skill as the tomb of Agamemnon at Mycenae, and the great works of later times were erected long after the Parthenon.

The earliest works remaining are singularly like the Etruscan graves so often found it Italy. Perhaps the first of these is the tomb at Tantalais near Smyrna, which has simply a square chamber, ceiled with a pointed arch, formed with oversailing courses, and all covered with a tumulus. Like to it is the tomb of Alyattes, king of Lydia, on the bank of the Hermus, near Sardis. It has also one chamber, 11 feet by 8, and 7 feet high, in the centre of a circular pyramid, not sloping directly from the ground, as in Egypt, but having a high moulded stereobate, at the starting some 3/4 mile round. This structure would create no surprise if found in Tuscany; and still more to increase the resemblance to Etruscan work, it appears to have been surmounted by five stone pillars.

Of the tombs which belong to the races between the above and the time when Greek art was introduced or was invented, the rudest are, perhaps, to be found in Caria. They are sarcophagi, and those at Olinda, e.g. are of enormous size, ranged on each side of the street leading to the city. In the simplest form a cavity was made in a great stone or the body, and a heavy lid put over it, coped, or rising as a pediment in centre. Generally they were plain and oblong in shape. In Lycia, chiefly on the banks of the Xanthus,. are found other sepulchres of remarkably singular form. We look in vain for their prototypes, or anything copied from them. The most simple are cut in the steep rocks which invariably overhang the cities, and are often curiously like Elizabethan windows, with mullions and panels some have a Gothic shaped top, which is also peculiar to Lycia, and many are finished with a pediment.

Many of them show evident tracers of having been copied in stone from wooden originals. For they are shown with joints put together with dovetails and pins, and with cornices like the ends of round trees; not actually so constructed, but all carved out of one solid mass.

The designs of these rock-cut tombs were then still further elaborated in the detached monuments. The earlier ones, indeed, are much more simple, and are known as the obelisk tombs, being merely great high blocks of stone or marble, standing on a square base and surmounted by a cornice. They have not the real obelisk form, and have got the name merely on account of their height.

In the grander works, the obelisk is surmounted by a sarcophagus of great size, coped with the pointed arch, with mullions and panels as above detailed, and all bearing signs of a wooden origin. Some are of enormous size, the stones weighing 50 to 80 tons. The different parts of the edifice were hollowed out for coffins, a plan of sepulture little known elsewhere (FOOTNOTE 401-1). These singular tombs are found all through Lycia, but a beautiful variety of them, found only at Xanthus, has the ridge stone grooved to receive an ornamental crest, sometimes richly sculptured.

These singular structures are separated by a wide interval from the forms of Greek art; but that their design was, to some extent, adopted and used by the Greeks, we have various signal proofs. The Harpy tomb, whose sculptures are in the British Museum, is supposed to have been erected to late even as after the capture of Xanthus by the Persians in 547. It has the chief Lycian peculiarities, a base of 6 feet high, carrying a square shaft 17 feet high in one block, weighing some 80 tons, and surmounted by a cap stone of 15 tons weight. Near the top, on each face, was carved the famous Harpy frieze.

Near this was another, known as the Chimaera tomb, having the Gothic headed sarcophagus, and with a sculptured crest. And near to this again, was another of a similar kind, called the Winged Horse tomb.

Doubtless these and other works, both in Lycia and Caria, were wrought by Lycian workmen under Greek guidance, but they seem to have made no lasting impression upon the architecture of the Greeks.

(401-1) The following inscription, though belonging to Greek times, shows how this was done:-- "In the sarcphagus I buried Barilla my wife; and I wish myself to be put in the sarcophagus, and nobody else. In the first compartment lying under it I wish my second wife ad Polychromas my son to be buried; in the other are to be put my other children. Nobody else is to be put either into the sarcophagus or the compartments."

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