1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > Greek Architecture - Introduction. Cyclopean Architecture.

(Part 36)

Greek Architecture - Introduction. Cyclopean Architecture.

Hitherto, we have found that, in each country, the artistic forms used in the earliest periods descended to later times, which embodied to some extent the traditionary forms bequeathed to them. Even the Egyptian pyramids, unarchitectural as they are, were copied down to the 7th or 8th century in Nubia, and the earliest columnar architecture clearly shows itself as simply the beginning of a series of works extending from 2000 B.C. even to the Caesars.

But in Greece the earliest works are entirely separated from the later by an absolute break both in architectural forms and construction. In various parts of Greece and of Italy, specimens of rude walling are found of such remote antiquity, that they are, as by common consent, referred to the fabulous ages, and, for want of a more distinctive term, are called Cyclopean.

Now it appears, from the concurring evidence, in the opinion of most antiquaries, that a people who have been called Pelasgi, or sailors, migrated from Asia Minor, or the coast of Syria, at a very early period, and possessed themselves of various countries, some of which were unoccupied, and others inhabited buy Celtic tribes. Professor Heeren, who affixes dates to the various migration, expressly says that the Pelasgi were of Asiatic origin. "Their first arrival in the Peloponnesus was under Inachus, about 1800 B.C. and according to their own traditions," he says, "they made their first appearance in this quarter as uncultivated savages. They must, however, at an early period have made some progress towards civilisation, since the most ancient states, Argos and Sicyon, owed their origin to them; and to them, perhaps with great probability, are attributed the remains of those most ancient monuments generally termed Cyclopic." He adds, that the Hellenes, a people of Asiatic origin also, expelled the Pelasgi from almost every part of Greece, about 300 years after their first occupation of it; the latter keeping their footing only in Arcadia and in the land of Dodona, whilst some of them migrated to Italy, and others to Crete and various islands. the arrival of the Egyptian and Phoenician colonies in Greece, Professor Heeren thinks, was between 1600 and 1400 B.C.

The most ancient specimen of Cyclopic walling is found at Tiryns, near Mycenae. It is composed of huge masses of rock roughly hewn and piled up together, with the interstices at the angles filled up by small stones, but without mortar or cement of any kind.

The next species is in stones of various sizes also, shaped polygonally, and fitted with nicety one to another, but not laid in courses. Specimens of this are found at Iulis and Delphi, as well as at the places already mentioned, in Greece, and in various parts of Italy, particularly at Cossa, a town of the Volsci. This also was constructed without mortar.

The mode of building walls, which took the place of that, is not called Cyclopean; it is in parallel courses of rectangular stones, of unequal size, but of the same height. This was, however, often used in combination with the polygonal, as in one very beautiful specimen at Rhamnus. The parallel masonry is common in the Phocian cities, and in some parts of Boeotia and Argolis. To that succeeded the mode most common in, and which was chiefly confined to, Attica. It consists of horizontal courses of masonry, not always of the same height, but composed of rectangular stones.

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