1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > Greek Corinthian Order of Architecture: Origins

(Part 49)

Greek Corinthian Order of Architecture: Origins

The traditionary tale Vitruvius relates regarding the invention of the Corinthian capital (about Callimachus) and the basket on the grave of the Corinthian virgin), is the only reason for the name it bears. His account of the origin of this third species of columnar composition is even more absurd than what he gives of the other orders. He says that it was arranged "to represent the delicacy of a young girl whose are renders her figure more pleasing and more susceptible of ornaments which may enhance her natural beauty."

With much more reason might be Doric be called the Corinthian order; for, as previously stated, the oldest existing example of that style is at Corinth; whereas there is nothing, either in ruins or authentic records, to prove that the latter was ever known in that city.

Columns with foliated capitals are not of early date in Greece; earlier examples exist in Asia Minor, and foliage adorns the capitals of columns in some of the Pharaonic monuments of Egypt. In the Assyrian sculptures, however, the Corinthian capital is clearly shown. The interior of the temple of Apollo Didymaeus, at Miletus in Ionia, exhibits the earliest example of the acanthus leaf arranged round the drum of a capital in a single row, surmounted by the favourite honeysuckle, but that edifice was constructed about a century before Callimachus is understood to have lived.

The only perfect columnar example in Greece itself of this species of foliated capital is of later date than, and is a great improvement on, that of Miletus; it is the beautiful little structure called the choragic monument of Lysicrates at Athens. (Plate XII. figs. 1m,2,3.)

Specimens of square or antae capitals enriched with foliage are less uncommon in Greece than of circular or columnar capitals; but they are almost invariably found to have belonged to the interior of buildings, and not to have been used externally.

In considering Greek architecture, it is necessary to bear in mind that it ceases almost immediately after the subjection of Greece to the Roman power; for though there are many edifices in that country in the style of columnar arrangement of which we are now speaking besides those referred to, they belong to Roman, not to Greek architecture. The earliest of them, perhaps, and certainly the least influenced by Roman taste, is the structure called the tower of the Winds, or of Andronicus Cyrrhestes, at Athens. The Agora, or Doric portico, as it is sometimes designated, in the same city, is a spurious example of Greek Doric, evidently executed under the Roman domination.

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