In that mathematics would lead to the

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my essay I plan on dealing with the various aspects of the architecture of the
Greek and the Roman temples that they built in ancient times, from; the form,
the materials that were used, the technology and the siting of the temples
built by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Under each aspect I hope to compare and
contrast the two differing styles of the Greeks and the Romans and how these
differences and similarities affected the buildings which they created.


temple represents the flower of Greek architecture.’ (Wycherley, 1962, p. 87)
The Greeks built their temples in what would be considered the classical
architectural style. Logic and order were at the heart of Greek architecture.
Mathematics determined the symmetry as this was their way of creating buildings
which were pleasing to the eye, the Greeks believed that mathematics would lead
to the optimum visual effect. Luxurious shrines contained peripteral temples, which were built in the typical oblong style of most
Greek temples, with the temple being roughly twice as long as it was wide. The
majority of the temples built were quite small, ranging from 10m to 30m,
however some temples like the Parthenon were 60m long and 30m wide. A few were
even greater than 100m long and 50m wide. The typical floor plan of the temple
consisted of a colonnade of columns on all four sides, a front and a back
porch. The front porch was called a pronaos and the back porch was called an
opisthodomos. The Greek temples contained a main room called a cella which
contained an altar for religious purposes, and sometimes one or two
antechambers which served the purpose of storage for the gifts and offerings of
the people. The temples consisted of a masonry base which served to raise the
temple above the surrounding land, bringing them closer to their gods and
serving to signify it’s importance. The base usually consisted of three steps,
the lower two steps were called the stereobate and the top step was called the
stylobate. The colonnade of columns that surrounded the temple were primarily
built in the form of the Ionic and Doric order, with the most decorative feature
being the fluting along the columns, the purpose of this was because the Greeks
preferred to keep their design fairly simple but still have it signify strength
in every element of it, similarly the architrave was always kept plain, with no
decorative or ornamental features carved in to it as a way of signifying it’s
strength. However while quite plain these elements were still known for their
beauty which came from its grandeur and nobility. Greek ornament was used more
as an applied in their temples, especially when compared to the Romans who
thoughtlessly and vulgarly used ornamental features in their design. This style
or ornament was to become a favourite in later centuries, right up until the
twentieth century. The Greeks built their temples in quite a free and more
adaptable architectural style than the Romans, which were typically highly
elaborate both in their design and their architectural planning. The Greeks
differed from the Romans in that they built with more common sense than
planning, thus resulting in buildings of less complexity but very well made.
Early Greek temples were built with a flat roof supported by columns, but after
the start of walls being made from stone the Greeks moved to build roofs with a
slight slope.


‘The Greeks had
nothing to equal the basilicas and other great vaulted or domed structures of
the Romans.’ (Wycherley, 1962, p. 120) When it comes to the form of the Roman
temples, it is clear that their style of temple architecture drew a lot of
inspiration from the temple architecture that the Greeks had developed over the
centuries. It is quite apparent in the temples that they built that the Greeks
had been a large influence on them as they designed their temples, from the
large use of columns, even though structurally they weren’t necessary anymore,
the fact that their temples contained a main room which was called a cella and
which contained an altar for religious ceremonies. Also the basic design was
quite similar with primarily rectangular bases in plan and pitches roofs.
However where the Romans came into their own architecturally was in the way
that they developed the basic designs and ornaments of their temples. Unlike
the Greeks, the Romans did not feel that the temples should be plain buildings,
instead they felt that the more elaborate features would better allow them to
represent and worship their gods. The Romans retained the basic elements that
the Greeks had in their temples. Such as raising the temple on a podium, with
steps leading up to its main function area, columns surrounding the temple, a
main function room and minor rooms for storage. However the Romans developed
these basic elements to be both more practical for the use of the temple and to
be an overall more beautifully designed building. In the case of the raised
podium, the Romans made it a greater height and created a number of rooms
underneath the temple to be used for storage among other things, they also
changed the Greeks design of the surrounding steps, with a single staircase at
the front leading to the porch. The Romans were also quite against the use of
Doric and Ionic columns, as they were considered too plain and instead the
Romans almost always used the Corinthian order when it came to their columns.
The Romans continued to use decoration in other areas and features of their
temples, so much so that in the end it was not tolerated to have any wall,
column or other feature bare. Noticeably the architrave, a feature always kept
clean by the Greeks as a way to emphasize the strength of the temple was
eventually covered over in Roman decoration. Eventually the Romans began to
incorporate round structures into their temples as they provided and appealing
grace and pleasing ornamental element not found in the architectural style of
the Greeks. In many Roman temples we can see both the survival of the essential
Greek form and the typical Roman changes. For example the raised podium with a
staircase leading up to the portico, another example is switch from a colonnade
of columns to the engagement of the columns along the side walls of the cella,
also in some cases the end of the cella is semi-circular in shape and vaulted
in concrete, as seen in the Temple of Venus, in Rome and Baths of Diana, in

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When it came to the
siting of their temples, both the Greeks and the Romans had similar reasoning
behind where they placed their temples, which was mainly driven by a sacred purpose. In
the case of the Greeks the temple was placed within the boundaries of their
sacred shrine. The shrines were not locations of a religious merit but instead
were sanctified because of their physical features, such as caves, hill-tops,
the sea, or were sanctified as a result of the grave of their king or dead
heroes. Similarly with the Romans, their sites were chosen for sacred purposes.
The placement of their first temple was on Capitoline Hill, was ‘set there by
divine intelligence.’ (Kostof, 1995, p.191) Titus Livius recalled how a human
head was discovered in a ditch during the building of this first Roman temple,
“with all the features in perfect condition. There could be no doubt that the
discovery meant that this place would be at the head of the empire and the
world.” The Romans based their sacred locations in order to connect them to or
bring them closer to the gods that they worshipped. These locations in turn
became central to the siting of their temples.


Greek temple’s construction and design was very much based on the raw materials
which were available locally. While Greece did not have many forests native to
its’s land, it was fortunate that it had limestone in plentiful supply and high
quality white marble was also readily available. Large deposits of clay which
was necessary for roof tiles and architectural and sculptural decoration were
also spread through the country. However before 650BCE no Greek temples were
built using finished stone, but as a result of a reestablishment of trade links
between Greece and the Egypt the Greek designers and masons came to an
understanding and familiarity with Egypt’s stone building and construction
methods. This resulted in monumental architecture and sculpture becoming widely
used in Greece. In the later part of the 7th century slowly there
was a replacement of wooden structures with stone structures. During this
period of change the Greek architects decided to create a basic architectural
template for the design of their temples and other important public buildings.
The first order developed was the Doric Order, this was later followed by the
Ionic Order and then the Corinthian Order, each one with its own set of rules
on the characteristics and sizes for the columns, upper facades and decorative
features for their buildings. The Greeks mainly used limestone for the main
structural features of the temples, such as the columns, pillars and the walls,
terracotta for the roof tiles and marble was used for ornamentation. Usually
there was an architect who oversaw the build of each temple, and was
responsible for each aspect of the build, from the masons, to the labourers, to
the sculptors and the painters. When it came to the actual construction of the
temple, the stone that was used was precisely cut by the master stone masons so
that the stone blocks would all fit perfectly into place without the need for
the use of mortar. Once the blocks were cut they were then hoisted into their
positions by large labour forces. The temples were built with a masonry base.
While the Greeks underwent the process of switching to stone construction
temples began to be given masonry walls, made out of local stone rubble, the
cella and any antechambers were also made from stone. The earlier Greek temples
were designed and built with a flat thatched roof as a result of the columns
being unfit to carry greater weights. But after the walls began to be built
from stone the Greeks were able to design and build temples with slightly
sloped roofs which were built using ceramic terracotta tiles as the walls were
able to carry heavier loads. While it was common knowledge among the Greek
architects about the “arch” and the “vault” as building techniques, the Greeks
used them rarely, if ever. Instead of using these methods the Greeks opted for
the use of the “post and lintel” technique, which involved the use of vertical
uprights, either columns or post, and supporting horizontal beams, the lintel.
This Method is known to date back to the earliest Greek temples and while this
method did work, it wwas quite a primitive construction method of roofing as it
required the use of a large number of columns or posts for support. The stone
columns themselves were made up of a number of smaller pieces which were set
one on top of the other with no use of mortar, however in some cases they were
locked together with the use of bronze pegs. The columns usually narrowed as
they got nearer to the top. However the Greeks noticed that the columns looked
as though they were concaved and weak, so to fix this the columns were built so
that the thickest part of the column was about one third of the way up. The
roof of the temple is supported by the entablature, it was made up of a series
of tiers and was supported by the columns.


earliest built buildings of the ancient romans were built using a material
known as tuff, which was a volcanic rock which varied in its hardness and was
able to be worked using bronze tools. As the Romans developed their buildings
and construction methods, they began to use harder locally available stones
such as albani. Then the Romans progressed to the use of limestone, the type
they used was called travertine and was mined in Tivoli. The Romans used marble
purely for decorative and ornamental purposes, like facing or sometimes
mosaics. The Romans made use of various coloured marbles and other stones,
which we can see in the remains of Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli. Before the Greeks
influenced the architectural style and construction techniques of the Romans,
they were firstly influenced by the construction methods of the Etruscans, who
were known for their use of the ‘arch’ and the ‘vault’. These techniques
brought the direction of Roman engineering far away from the Greeks who used
the ‘post and lintel’ method in the construction of their temples. The Romans
had three techniques when it came to vaulting, all of which used simple
geometric forms. The techniques were; the semi-circular barrel vault, the
segmental vault and the groin vault. Their vaults were usually covered with
tiles. Eventually the vault was further developed by the Romans to the ‘dome’. The
dome technique opened up new possibilities to the Roman architects as they were
now able to create large open spaces in their temples, an example of which is
Hadrian’s Pantheon in Rome. These techniques were enhanced further upon the
Roman’s development of concrete.


temples that were built by the Greeks and Romans help to give us small glimpses
into the structure of their society. In the case of the Greeks it is clear that
they highly valued nature and the earth, as their choice of siting was as a
result of the natural features that existed on those locations. Also it is
obvious that intellect was a major part of their society, because the design of
their buildings were based of mathematics, which they believed would help them
to achieve the most eye-pleasing temple possible, also all of their
construction techniques came very much out of common sense and logic. They also
did not believe that a building had to be overly complex or ornamental in order
for it to be considered beautiful, instead simplicity and strength were
features that were more desired by the Greeks. The Romans however were a very
different society with very different values to that of the Greeks. Religion
was clearly of high importance to the Romans as they went to great lengths in
order to insure that their temples were sited and designed in a way that would
in their mind be the best way of honouring their gods. They highly regarded beauty
in their society, going to great lengths to make all features of their temples
highly decorative and elaborate. The Romans were also great intellects as they
were able to take techniques and building methods of other cultures and develop
them greatly, to the extent that the techniques and the methods, as well as the
materials that they developed are still in use to this day.


Categories: Sculpture


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